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Quest for Glory Journal
Entries for Shapeir
by Soulforge (a.k.a. Manegirl)
A.K.A. "The Challenge" : Play one game day per day and journalize it

:: Return To Spielburg's Journal Entries ::
:: Skip Ahead To Tarna's Journal Entries ::
:: Skip Ahead To Mordavia's Journal Entries ::
:: Skip Ahead To Silmaria's Journal Entries ::


Day 23

My name is Marcus Donnelly, Hero of Spielburg. At long last, my friends and I have reached the city of the southern sands- Shapier! And what a fine, beautiful place it is! Quite different from home, that's for sure.

As before, Shameen and Shema run an inn known as the Katta's Tail Inn. A very nice and cozy establishment, and the best part? Because I helped them out, I get to stay here for free! Though honestly, I'd be willing to pay anyway out of kindness but Shameen refused me. Oh well, it's the thought that counts, ja? I talked to Abdulla before breakfast, and he told me of an old friend, Arus Al-Din, the Emir (which in Shapierian just means commander) is missing, with his brother now on the throne and their sister city is in trouble as their fountain has dried up. That can't be good! Water is important in a desert, don'cha know. There must be something I can do to help out!

I didn't do much today, just walked around the city and spoke to the people there, getting to know them from the various peddlers to the city guards to the shopkeepers. I met Alichica who sells various bits and bobs and he carries a Map and Compass that I intend to buy tomorrow. Funny, he looks familiar and I don't know why. I think I saw him in a couple talkie picture shows with a few other guys.

I met the various Katta peddlers around the city- not all of them mind you, there are still a couple plazas I haven't visited yet -like Lisha who sells flowers, Sitar who plays the pungi to charm his snake friend Hissa and make lovely exotic music, Toshur who sells nice pots, Tashtari who sells things of brass- that lamp looked interesting... -, Saba who sells pretty baskets, Lasham who sells plants, and two Kattas named Scoree and Sloree who sell food.

It's odd. I can't help but feel I know them too! But, closer still than Ali, whom looked passingly familiar to me, these two I feel like we've actually met somewhere, long ago. There's a sense of recognition in their eyes as well. i didn't dare say anything out loud about it though, feeling I should keep this to myself. I'm probably just kidding myself. They're just ordinary Kattas, and I'm just thinking too hard about this. I mean, it's not like they aren't really Kattas but casting an illusion to look like Kattas even though they're really humans with powerful Magic so they can "fit in" better. Right?

Uh... anyway. Continuing on! Gods, what wrong with me?! Not even here a day and already Sol is on to me!

I also talked to the shopkeepers. Harik Attar, the Apothecary Druggist, who is happy to sell me various pills. No, not medical pills! I mean pills like for Vigor, Healing and Mana! Well, I guess Healing Pills are medical, but that's not my point. Oh, and he sells Poison Cure pills as well! There are nasty Scorpions out there that I'll need to watch out for- they'd kill me easy with that tail, so I hear. And given my last venture with stabbing poisoned weapons, I'd... rather not repeat that again. And the other shopkeeper I talked to was, oddly, a gnome. Frankly, I'd rather sit and chat with this Keapon Laffin guy than Zara any day. The guy loved to make puns and rhymes on a silver. He ran the local Magic Shop, as you might expect with my mentioning of Zara, and while he had nothing useful for me, I was glad to meet him anyway. His shop is stuffed with various little oddities like some metal thing that burns toast to something called an Orat On A Stick, stuff that I'm SURE is from another time or even another world! Outstanding! And speaking of unexplained things, I also recall something else I saw earlier as we headed to Shapier. I saw what looked like a metal disk with wings and made entirely out of metal shoot past our magic carpet in the blink of an eye! I wonder what that was?

Aside from that, I spent the rest of my day walking through the streets of Shapier, trying to find the moneychanger named Dinarzad. I found her surprisingly easily and exchanged my Gold for Dinars. Dinarzad... mmmm... what a babe! Maybe I'll ask her out sometime, so long as I remember to look in her eyes and not lower. I'm keeping one Gold coin on hand, and I plan to put it in the back of this journal of mine as a memory of home, just like that flower from Erana's Peace I have pressed into the back of the journal. I think I might start keeping one coin from every place I go in my journal as a keepsake. But while the coin is just for fun, I keep the flower for sentimental reasons.

Unfortunately, while I had a relatively easy time getting there, getting back to the inn was another matter altogether. I kept getting turned around and running in circles until I ended finally getting back to the Fountain Plaza and heading straight for the Inn. By that time, it was midnight and Mani was high in the sky. I was exhausted by that point, but I ended my day on a high note as Shameen and Shema shared tea with me. I told them about Willowsby, my home town, while they told me more about Arus.

It is exactly one year since he vanished and his brother took over Rasier. His brother is oppressive and drove the Kattas out of Rasier, and they had to seek refuge in Shapier. The Sultan, Harun al-Rashid, is a kind and just man and sent his army to Rasier to stop this tyranny.

None of those men returned home. They never even reached the gates, and were suddenly decimated by a great sandstorm that appeared out of nowhere! The Sultan thinks this isn't a coincidence. It's said that there's a possibility that the storm was magical in nature. The Sultan is deeply concerned, but doesn't dare send more men for fear he'll lose them as well. There is a pit in my stomach, as I'm reminded of my mother. She protested against me going to Spielburg, since I am her only son, and after losing my father, she's become rather protective of me. I can't say I blame the Sultan for wanting to protect his men either. All the Sultan can do is shelter the people who've fled Rasier and there's talk of a prophecied Hero that can restore the city to her glorious splendor.

I know who they're talking about, given that I remember Abdulla mentioning that Shapier needed Heroes too. Once again, the fate of Gloriana rests on my shoulders, I fear. Will I stand tall to meet danger once more? Of course I shall! I'm a Donnelly- we were born to be Heroes! Tomorrow, I shall sharpen Shamgar, my father's sword, and I shall continue my Quest for Glory!

~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~





Day 24

Had a much more interesting day today. I explored more of the city- I swear, twisty little passages all alike here! -and came across a few things that caught my eye. Though luckily, I now have a trusty Magic Map that teleports me to everywhere in the city! Those pulling sensations sure are strange though.

I found the Palace Plaza and met two more Katta merchants,
tiram (he sells carpets) and Sashanan (who sells jewelry). I noticed he got my attention about a very nice pin that's a sapphire set in gold. It matches my eyes, he told me. I tried to barter for it for twenty something minutes -500 Dinars?! Seriously?!- but I eventually gave up on it. I feel like I'll need it, but not now. Not yet.

I also bought other things I felt I needed, though I really don't know exactly why I felt I needed them, but I bought them anyway. Intuition, I suppose. I never know when I might need a lamp, a bag or a pot of dirt. An adventurer must ALWAYS be prepared, after all!

Let's see... what else did I do today? Ah! I visited the Astrologer named Abu al-Njun today. He told me some ominous things were on the rise. Something about a Dragon and a Scorpion and a Dark Hand. The Eye has passed over the Shadow, which will bring evil upon us. Only a Hero can stop this from coming to pass. I have the feeling that Finn would enjoy talking to this guy, him being so mystical and all. I asked him about my own future, and told him of my past in Spielburg, and he told me to come back some other time as his analysis would take awhile.

I also came across an Enchantress in Shapier named Aziza this morning! I tried my best to be as polite as I could and it paid off. She has a more serious demeanor than, say, Erasmus or Keapon Laffin, but I like her regardless. With the power of Water, she can scry and heal and conjure illusions! I bet Finn would love to meet her and learn new spells! She told me more of Rasier, that her scrying has been blocked there so she doesn't know the whereabouts of Arus. However, I asked her about elementals just out of curiousity and she told me that they're formed when Magic shapes an element -Air, Earth, Water or Fire- into a living creature. They cannot necessarily be killed but they can be weakened by their contrasting element. I thanked her for this information and then left.

Before visiting Aziza, I visited Harik again, and asked him about Fire and Earth, and he showed me that the Earth was consumed by the flames in his brazier and that Fire is attracted to incense! Hmmm! I'll have to remember this for later, I'm sure! I also bargained for some Poison Cure pills just in case I got caught in a nasty situation like a Scorpion or someone like Bruno. In fact, I bargained for EVERYTHING I could buy for now in the city, yes, even the dirt. Who says only a Bard has a golden tongue, ja?

In the Fighter's Plaza, I came across two more Kattas named Mirak (who sells leatherwork) and Kiram (who sells clothing). I also found the Weapon Shop at last. It is run by a ripped warrior named Issur of the House of Ushur, who would fit right at home in Willowsby's Guild. I asked him what he had for sale and... he...

He said for 100 dinars that he could get me a new sword if I traded Shamgar for it.

I gritted my teeth and angrily refused! No!! I will NEVER give up this sword for anything! It's been in my family for countless generations, and it's the only connection to father I have left after he died! This sword is like an extension of myself, of the strength of my ancestors and I feel like I am as powerful as Thor himself when I wield it in battle!

And he wants me to just GIVE that to him?! NEIN!! NIMMER!!

I left in a huff. But not before asking about the bellows outside. He refused to give it to me and I feel I'm not strong enough to take him on in a fight. Yet. I'll show him, that schwert deib!

My last stop for the day was the Adventurer's Guild Hall. It is run by a woman named Uhura who is even a stronger Fighter than I am! She easily bested me in battle today, and I consider her a worthy opponent. She hailed from the land of Tarna, specifically a tribal village of the Simbani people, where women are either wives or warriors but not both. She has a baby boy named Simba, so how is she's still a warrior then? Simple. She became a Warrior back home, came here to Shapier and met Simba's father and is still considered a Warrior even though she has a baby. Loopholes are fun!

There is one more person I met today. He is a Liontaur named Rasha Rakeesh SahTarna. And he took one look into my eyes and said to me, "Ehren? Have you been reborn?"

I was utterly baffled by that and explained that, no, Ehren was my father's name... then it clicked. He knew my father?! And then Rakeesh told me what his profession was. He was a Paladin.

I stood there in awe, even moreso when he showed me his sword at his side named Soulforge. In a flash, I see the blade light up in a glorious blue flame and suddenly I remember my dream from several weeks ago! the sword my father carried in the dream clearly was not Shamgar, but different and it was bathed in azure fire as well! I knelt before Rakeesh in reverence and asked him if he could train me. He said he would IF I acted in Honor and had a strong Will- the very essence of my soul! -then he would show me The Way of the Paladin. He told me a Paladin must always be humble, and willing to make sacrifices, even their own life if need be. The Way is not to be taught, but earned becous one is pure and Right. The road is long and hard as a Paladin, he tells me. There might be times where I regret my choice, but he tells me I must be strong and endure it. I said that I would gladly if that's what it took.

I still remember the day we got wind of father's death ten years ago. The men who brought his body home said that he died with Honor, and at the time, I didn't know what they meant other than he went down swinging like any Northerner would! now I know he was much greater than that. I always thought Paladins were long gone from the world, yet here there is one sitting in front of me! And I have the chance to become one of them- to live my dream of not only becoming a Hero but a Paladin as well! We are the bringers of Light to this world, the Schattenjagers if you will, and I intend to not fail Rakeesh nor my father's memory so long as I can still draw breath!!

Gods give me strength!!

After that, I headed back to the Katta's Tail Inn. Sharing tea with Shameen and Shema once more, I discussed the Famous Adventurer's Correspondance School I went to before I left for Spielburg. It's amazing how much a small pamphlet helped me so much in my journey.

We also discussed a little further about why Shameen and Shema came to Spielburg. There is an ancient prophecy that states that a Hero from the North would come to dismiss prophecies and bring Rasier out of darkness. Kattas apparently do not believe in predestiny, but that Fate (called Wyrd or Orlogg in my country) resides in themselves, and if anything omens portray a certain outcome but they don't come to pass on their own. It wasn't the prophecy of the Baron who led me to Spielburg, but a poster in the Guild Hall, after all. After the Sultan pulled back his army to keep them away from rasier, Shameen and Shema packed their bags and headed North to search for such a Hero.

I'm lying back in my comfortable, soft bed in the inn as I'm writing this and every time I close my eyes, I see blue flames. I must harness them for my own, I shall!

~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~





Day 25

Had a bit of a shorter day today. I trained with Uhura more and once again, she beat me. However, I'm not as mad as I was with the Weapon Master because she's actually not nearly as haughty and is a good sport. I bought some flowers earlier this morning and she liked them, saying they'd be good for a salad. Heh.

I bargained for some more pills. Healing, Stamina and Poison Cure. Though I might have over did it since I went past my weight limit. I'm tough though, I can handle it!

I also talked to Rakeesh more today, asking about why his leg was bandaged. He said several years ago, he fought for his homeland against a Demon whom had a poisonous tail. He was struck by it and it shattered the bone in his leg, that wouldn't be healed even with Magic. Now, he walks with a limp and doesn't fight anymore. Through his efforts, he found out the Demon had been summoned by a Wizard who was also a Demon and he managed to drive them back to their own world. But it was only temporary, so Rakeesh left Tarna and journeyed out in the world to find a way to beat them more effectively.

That's when he met his mentor. She taught him the Way of the Paladin and passed down Soulforge to him, and with that, he headed home with new strength. Just in time for another Demon invasion, of course! As Rakeesh told me the story, I remembered that father left to help out an old friend of his in a foreign land, as much as he didn't want to go because I was young at the time and there was a chance he wouldn't come home. That turned out to be true. I still miss him to this day, but I'm proud he fought well and helped Rakeesh as best he could before he died. Rakeesh was proud to know him as a friend. When I asked him on how he fell, Rakeesh grew silent and looked away. I feel like there's something he's not telling me, but I decided not to press the matter.

I went back to the Astrologer today, and he told me my future: It is dark. Darkness will lead me to a tomb, and I shall walk in fire, earth, water and air, through temptation and despair and desperation. If I do not combat it, darkness shall prevail. He asked if I'd considered getting out this Hero business, and I refused.

I also did a good deed in helping out a beggar named Shihhad, giving him several dinars and a few centimes as well. It does my heart good to see a man smile in pure joy like that. I may be a bit of a brute at times, but even I have a heart.

Talked to both Keapon and Harik today as well, and I made a point to go get some components and the "whirl of a Dervish" somewhere in my journey.

And speaking of that, I FINALLY left the city today! I came across another slightly familiar guy with a mustache whom I haggled to pay 20 dinars for a Saurus to ride on in the desert.

Yes. I'm serious. The creatures that bit and clawed their way into me back in Spielburg can apparently be tamed to be ridden. And according to the guard named Uns al-Wujud at the front gate, they can fight alongside their rider! Pretty nice, ja?

So OF COURSE, I get a dud Saurus that's a damn COWARD as soon as he spots danger and bucks me off! ARRRGH!! Curse you, Roget! Aw well, at least Shamgar tasted blood at last! A Brigand fell to my steel today. Ironic, given that they were my worst enemy at the beginning of my journey in Spielburg aside from Cheetaurs and Saurus Rexes.

While journeying out in the desert- I didn't travel far just on the borders today -I came across two things that caught my eye. One was a Griffin asleep on a cliff, which I know what that is because my Uncle Jasper runs the inn in Willowsby called the Silver Griffin Inn. I got a feather from it. A giant feather could come in handy!

The second thing was a little more grim. On the far border of the desert, I came across a peculiar tree. It looked very much a lady raising her arms. I went to Aziza about it, and she told me the story.

Long ago, in the old days, there was a time where women wore veils and nothing but wives and chattel to men. However, one woman named Julanar wished with her very heart and soul to be a Healer and at last her father gave in to her pleas and taught her to heal, despite the men who were being taught as well, taunting her. Thus, Julanar removed her veil forever. Many distrusted her and refused her services, or even tried to take advantage of her.

One day, a man came to her, saying his brother needed her help as he was dying. She didn't quite trust this man, but duty called. She was led to their camp, and there she realized she'd been tricked and it was all a lie. Brigands. I'd rather not say what they did to her, but I think you can probably guess. She escaped the next day and they hurried after her. But then, just when they'd almost caught up to her, she cried out for help and a Djinn answered her call and turned her into the tree I saw.

Aziza told me that I could be the one who could bring back her soul and free her heart from wood. She needs kindness, a bit of Magic and some love. I must remind her of what it means to be human again. With all my heart and by my Will, I vow that I shall help Julanar as best I can!

I headed back to the Katta's Tail Inn after that, and was entertained greatly by the Poet Omar. His poem spoke of dooms of Fire, Air, Earth and Water that would ravage the city unless a Hero combatted them. See? My intuition was right on the money.

I spoke to Omar afterwards about a many great things from Shapier to his translator friend Ja'Afar, to himself and even Paladins and Heroes. By the time I was done and he bid me farewell, it was the middle of the night once again.

And once again, I joined Shameen and Shema for tea and a chat. I told them of my journey through Spielburg Pass and Shameen brought up the subject of Shamgar. I showed it off to them and made note of the runes on the blades, which symbolize different things such as certain Gods like Thor or Freyr or Tyr and give this sword power. Shema told me, continuing their story, that when Shameen decided to head North that she didn't know how to react. She'd always been more of a homemaker than an adventurer and the prospect of leaving home with no real way to know where they were going frightened her greatly. Gods, she reminds me of mother so much I'm getting homesick already. However, for her lifemate to travel alone would make her even more anxious than before so she went with him. Despite seeing so many lands and cultures on their travels, she couldn't help but feel homesick.

I have the feeling that I'll be experiencing that more and more often as my adventures continue. But I will not falter, for both mother's and father's sake.

~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~





*there appears to be blood dripped onto this page*

Day 26

Had another short day. I mostly just trained myself with Uhura a couple times- still can't quite beat her but we both can tell I'm getting better at fighting, I'm hitting harder and moving my feet quicker.

However, when I awoke this morning, Shameen gave some troubling news. A Fire Elemental has been in the city. The first Doom spoken by Omar is here.

I went to Aziza about it and she told me that I must contain it somehow in order to stop it from rampaging and burning down the city. Water oughta do the trick! I just have to wait for it to appear...

Aside from that, I explored out in the desert some more and came across a Dervish! He's certainly a very... strange man, but wise. I got the whirl Keapon wanted, and talked with him about everything I could think about that he might know and he brought up some interesting things:

"Difference between beard and world is one whirls around tree, the other whirls around me." I smiled at that, as it reminded me of Yggdrasil, the World Ash that connects all the Worlds together, of which there are Nine. at least, that's what I'm believing he's saying.

"Wise men learn much by saying little." True that.

"Your saurus is like reflection in pool; both but seem to be real." Hmmm... interesting thing to say. Perhaps, if they'll let me, I can bring Roget to meet Aziza?

"Water is the liquid of life, and a mirror to the soul." Again, I think I should talk to Aziza about Roget. I'm suspicious now.

After that, I left and it soon grew dark. I felt uneasy about it and could almost hear a faint humming sound on the wind, which sent shivers down my spine. I defeated another Brigand, and killed two Scorpions as well, taking their tails for Harik tomorrow.

However, as I was heading back home, my ears picked up the sounds of snarling and howling. Jackalmen! They must have smelled me, smelled my blood, and knew I was weakened! Nevertheless, I drew Shamgar and prepared for battle.

It did not end well. I knew I could take on multiple enemies, the Goblin Camp in Spielburg proved that. There were only what, five? Whereas I could take on eight Goblins at once.

Still though, these mongrels worked as a team and ganged up on me unlike the Goblins who just stood back and waited their turn to fight me. There were just too many of them, and i quickly grew so exhausted that everything hurt... and then I found myself on my back, fatally wounded by deep slashes in my chest. I didn't even have the strength to keep a grip on my sword and it dropped to the sands. I knew nothing more after that.

I faced my father in Valhalla once more, and this time I hung my head in shame. Some Hero I was, couldn't even fight off anthromorphized dogs with swords when I killed an Ogre, and even a couple Trolls back in Spielburg. "You need to be stronger if you intend to uphold my legacy, Marcus." I nodded and was silent as he continued. "Rakeesh told you that a Paladin must make sacrifices, yes?" I nodded. "Then, please, I need you to do something for me, no matter how difficult it will be."

I looked up and into his eyes and nodded affirmatively. "I will do whatever it takes, father, if that means I'll make you proud."

"Very well, then. I need you to trade Shamgar for Issur."

I was appalled! "What?! But... but, father, I-!"

"You need to let me go, son. It's time for you to move on. For all these years, you've been in my shadow and wanted to be just like me, but what I'm asking you is that you grow into your own person and make your own destiny, not just following in my footsteps."

"But... if I turn in Shamgar, I'll lose what I have left of you, father!" I admit, I had tears in my eyes now.

"No!" He replied firmly with a glare that could melt steel. He jabbed a finger into my chest, "I live on through YOU, Marcus, NOT my blade! Understood?!"

Reluctantly, I nodded and sighed deeply. "Good," he said as he put a hand on my shoulder. "Stay strong, Marcus. You should be coming back from the brink soon. Make me proud."

"I will, father."

I heard that voice in my mind again. "Restore." Then next thing I know, I'm back where I was before, a Scorpion clacking it's pincers at me. 'I won't take my chances,' I thought as I soundly dealt the beast it's own sting. I found Roget and headed straight for home.

After eating dinner at the Katta's Tail Inn, I joined Shameen and Shema for tea around the middle of the night. It's almost become habit now.

I talked a little bit about my adventure in Spielburg, but I have become more interested in their story than my own. Leaving their friends and family was difficult, but their spirits were raised when they saw how supportive they were of their quest. Selling their inn so they could buy supplies for Spielburg, their kinsmen said they would support them whenever they needed it. Heading toward the Citadel of Petallumier in the North, they took another caravan around the coast of the Med Sea then North again to the Kingdom of Sangerhafen and then Vakia. Every time they reached a new land, they sent back word to their families, telling them where they were.

I feel a bit guilty now, as I haven't done that for my own family- as small as it is, what with only my mother, my uncle and I believe I have cousins elsewhere in the world. -and as much as I'm sure word has gotten around of my exploits, a letter to home from me would be nice as well.

As I prepare to sleep until morning, my mind sees visions of fire both red and blue. Tomorrow, I shall catch one of the dancing flames but for the other, my soul will be tested. I can only hope I am worthy.

~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~





Day 27

There are only two things of note I did today that are important. Actually, three, though the last is... embarassing. At least to me.

The first is that, as soon as I stepped outside, I was greeted by the Fire Elemental wrecking havoc in the Gate Plaza! How lovely! Remembering what Aziza told me yesterday, I lured the Fire Elemental away from the Plaza with the incense I bought from Harik and into the streets. Coaxing it, I managed to lure it far enough to use one of my waterskins to shrink it into a tiny little flame. Then I put down my lamp I bought earlier -stupid dented dull worthless piece of brass! Grrr!- and the little Fire Elemental went right in. Whee! I have a Magic Lamp! No Djinn inside it, but I can use this as a torch if I need to.

The second is that, I trained with Uhura a bit. And... with a heavy heart, I traded Shamgar for Issur's sword. "Just TAKE it!" I told him. The scimitar he gave me was, admittedly, a real fine piece of work. But, it's not the same. Still, I must respect my father's wishes and forge my own destiny. This is just the first, very shaky step.

The third is that, while out training in the desert, I went wandering around until it was dark, killed another Scorpion and a Brigand, and then... I heard a howl! Excited over the prospect of getting payback after last night, I draw my scimitar and face my enemy!

A single Jackalman.


I fall in battle once and you give me ONE measly Jackalman to fight?! Is Odin telling me I'm a wimp, because I beat it easily! Come on, I'm tougher than that!! Guh!

I'm a Donnelly, for Thor's sake! I took on a Troll- SEVERAL! -and WON! Why do you direct a SINGLE Jackalman to me and not the whole pack?! The ONLY reason I died was because I was weakened from previous battles and they ganged up on me! But tonight? I was fine!! I can handle it, just send me something stronger! PLEASE!!

...Why have I got the feeling that I'm gonna regret that someday? Oh boy...

After that, I headed back to the Katta's Tail Inn and had my midnight tea session with Shameen and Shema. They continued their story of their journey to Spielburg.

Travelling to Sangerhafen from Shapier took several months, and because Winter was coming, it became even more difficult as Kattas are desert people not used to cooler climates. I'm the exact opposite, really. They travelled northwest through Sangerhafen and kept asking themselve how far they had to go. The answer came in the Adventurer's Guild in Wien.

A Hero Wanted poster for the Barony of Spielburg Valley hung on the wall.

~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~





Day 28

Another short day. Surprisingly though, it was actually a good one.

I awoke screaming from a horrible nightmare, all tangled up in my sheets. I KNEW I shouldn't have been ranting and raving about that Jackalman last night, because guess what?

I asked for the Aesir to send me a challenge, right? Something stronger? Well, in my dreams, they did just that!

I found myself out in the desert again. Roget was there, but I soon heard to telltale shuffling of someone or something coming towards me and I look to see a Scorpion heading towrds me. Of course, even in my dreams, Roget bucks me off and heads for the dunes leaving me alone with my opponent. I best my enemy quickly, taking the tail. Then, as soon as I start walking to find Roget again, I hear someone running up behind me! Another battle! I whirl around, drawing my sword and face a Brigand. Again, killed rather quickly and I begin to wonder what the point of all this is.

The Gods send another challenge at me. A Terrorsaurus! And then after that, a Jackalmen pack! Then several Brigands! Then three Terrorsauruses! A Ghoul! Then two more! Then more Jackalmen!

And keep in mind, I was on my feet constantly! I couldn't stop to rest at all, because I kept getting attacked! I was getting tired. Still, I couldn't stop to rest. I had to keep fighting.

And fighting. And fighting. And it just. Kept. Going! Soon, I found myself surrounded by foes, from Brigands to Terrorsauruses to Jackalmen to Ghouls to Scorpions to creatures I fought in Spielburg like Cheetaurs, Mantrays, Saurus Rexes and Trolls to even monsters I'd never even seen before like giant red worms and flying snakes and Draugrs and some slug like thing with tentacles that I don't even wanna know what it is and miniature Dragons and Goons and GAAAAH!!

And just when I thought it couldn't get any worse... it did. Suddenly, the ground started rumbling and the enemies I had yet to clash with ran off screaming bloody murder. I started to chase after them, despite me being wounded and exhausted by so many battles at once and calling them cowards. But then, the trembling got even worse and I had trouble standing up and then the ground cracked open and from out of the crevice came...!

A pizza box.

Naturally, I was confused. What's so frightening about a box of food? Were the Gods rewarding my efforts with a nice meal to help recover my energy? I certainly needed it, as I clutched at myself all over, trying to stop myself from bleeding so much. I even tried to be smart and take some Healing and Stamina Pills, but I had none on me. I open the box and sure enough, there's just a nice looking pizza sitting in there. Suddenly though, I feel a sharp jab in my spine! I cried out and my mind flashed back to Bruno's knives, but I wasn't dead. Not yet. With a wince and turn my head to see a Scorpion skittering away, I tried to rush after it so it wouldn't bother me, but suddenly I found my legs wouldn't work and I collapsed. I reach for my Poison Cures, nothing there. Of course. And then I heard a sound like goo and something grabbed my leg! I turn my head and start screaming in horror as the pizza comes to life! It grows and grows until it's ten feet tall, twenty feet, it grows arms and a torso and tentacles at where it's feet should be and a head as well! It lifts me up and I hang upside down by one of the tentacles wrapped around my leg. I struggle and shout for it to let me go but it just squeezes me with a fist instead. Gasping for air and trying to look at where it's eyes should be I asked what it was. It answered, "I am the Pizza Elemental, Hero," it spat out the last word like it was an insult, "Tsk tsk, some Hero you are, can't even fight off swarms of enemies like these. You asked for a challenge, something stronger, yes?"

"I... never asked... for..." I wheezed, seeing spots before my eyes as its grip tightened around my waist. I gasped as I felt my ribs crack.

"Well," the Elemental said, "HOW'S *THIS* FOR A CHALLENGE!?" and threw me down, hard, to the sand. It might as well have been rock, because it hurt with that much force. I lay there, barely able to move. My heart raced and then faltered as I bled out and my breathed became ragged. My vision swam and I saw darkness start to overcome me.

Still, I had to fight back. I reached for my fallen scimitar and gripped it tightly as I staggered to my feet and stumbled onto one knee. "Oh, how humble of you," the Pizza monster said mockingly, "to kneel to me, Paladin! But does the fire of Honor truly run through your veins, or will it simply be ashes without a spark in your eyes? Stand up and fight me, Hero! Do you see? This is what your Gods have rewarded your arrogance with! You're nothing but a proud, tempermental brute who just wants his daddy's approval! But guess what? He's dead! And you... you're nothing like him at all and you never will be!"

"And you talk too much..." I muttered. I didn't want to hear it. He asked me to repeat that, and I looked up and yelled, "YOU TALK TOO MUCH!!" and somehow I managed to stand up and point my shaking sword at him as a challenge. With all my strength, I rushed and stabbed and slashed my adversary despite the poison weakening me greatly. I heard it laugh as my sword barely made a mark on it, and it swung down and socked me in the gut sending me rolling. I heard a rib break and I gritted my teeth to keep from crying out again. I coughed and blood splattered the ground and I could scarcely breathe!

I hear a whistling sound from above and something heavy and warm hits my back. Oh joy, now pizzas are falling from the sky and squishing me! Wonderful!

I can't go on for much longer, I realize. And my heart sinks even lower as I see the Pizza Elemental envelop itself in a light green glow and heals off the scratch damage I did to it. It swings and punches me again and again, sometimes grabbing and squeezing with its tentacles too. The poison rushes quicker through my body with every blow done to me, and my pulse weakens to a crawl and I collapse once more. Barely able to even keep my eyes open, I see it grab me with it's tentacles again.

I hear a loud *SNAP!* and know nothing more.

Naturally, I was not expecting my day to go on much better after that horrible nightmare. My hands shook and I was rather jumpy as I sat down and thanked Shema for my breakfast. She noticed this, and put her hand on my shoulder to comfort me. I didn't tell her what happened last night, but I think she knew by the look she gave me. With nary a goodbye to Shameen, I left the inn for the day and heading off for the Guild, wanting to take my mind off it. At least Uhura won't break me in half.

I must be getting good! I actually managed to beat her in a match for once! I half heartedly laughed as she told me I was strong enough to beat a Jackalmen pack now, since they wrecked me not two days ago. Still, I was glad I could overcome some sort of obstacle today. It made me feel a little better even if I did have to fight her two or three times in a row before I succeeded in beating her.

I headed off for the Weapon Shop after that, and arm wrestled him again. If I remembered correctly, the first Doom was Fire and the second was going to be Air and each Elemental was going to have to be contained in something like it, like my Fire Elemental in my Magic Lamp. If Air was next, then how about the Bellows above the Weapon Shop? I surmised. Well, I was actually surprised to find that I'd actually beaten Issur and got the Bellows as well as four Dinars for my trouble! Score!

After that, since there was nothing going on in Shapier, I headed off to the desert to train, hoping there weren't swarms of enemies to meet me.

As I wandered to and fro on Roget, I became lost in thought. If I truly wished to become a Paladin, then I simply must keep a short leash on this Godsblasted temper of mine. I thought I did after Brauggi, but it seems to have come back in full force here. I need to calm down, and think with my head not my fists. I may be from the North, but I always hated the stereotype of my people that we're all stupid brutish barbarians who rush into things without thinking of consequences. I know it's honorable to die fighting, but even we fear someone who's gone Berserker. They simply don't stop until their bloodlust wears off, and while that may be useful for a King who has hired them for their army, there's really no telling what they decide to do once they start to rage.

From now on, no matter who I face, I shall appreciate any effort we give in battle. Even a little training goes a long way, after all.

I finally came across an actual Terrorsaurus today! I beat it, though it did manage to beat me up a bit. I'll wear these scars with pride as always! And as Mani rose, I heard howls. Three Jackalmen I killed this night, and Thor be praised, I barely was harmed at all. I appreciated that, since I still had the nightmare on my mind and the events of the other night have made me leary. I went around, searching for a Ghoul or something to fight, but sadly no luck. I decided to practice my Throwing arm again, something I haven't done at all since coming here and really, I should be focusing on all of my attributes, not just my swordplay.

Since I was already out and about, I ushered Roget to walk to where Julanar was. Now that I knew her story, I felt sad for her. I vowed that I would help her, and so I began that process. I watered her roots, and I just started talking to her.

I told her everything. And I do mean everything from my past back home in Willowsby, to my adventures in Spielburg, to about my quest to become a Hero and possibly a Paladin like my father, to my adventures here in Shapier thus far and of all the friends I've made here. Especially Rakeesh, whom I honor greatly. I told her of how tough it is to be a Hero, even admitting that I was missing Finn and Rico and how much they were missing by staying home. Still, I told her that I would become strong and promised her that I would do whatever I could to help her.

After I was done talking and practically lost my voice after doing it nonstop, she turned around to look at me. I smiled at the progress and said softly, "There we go, Julanar. Do you remember anything, dear?" There was no reply. I sighed and hugged her, whispering for her to stay strong and that I'd be back some other time to help her along. Baby steps.

I commanded Roget to go home after that, and headed for the Katta's Tail as per usual. However, I was quite surprised by what Shema served me tonight.

Sauerkrawt and knockwurst.

I was touched when she told me she'd made it specially for me to keep me from feeling too homesick, plus perhaps comfort me after that nightmare had me so badly shaken up this morning. Sometimes things like this make even a bad start to your day worthwhile. I thanked her profusely and she smiled sweetly at me as she walked away. I ate wholeheartedly, even if I admit I wasn't the biggest fan of knockwurst and sauerkrawt, but even with that in mind, the fact that she'd done this for me to pick me up when I was down made me love her all the more.

As per our ritual- after nearly a week here I might as well call it that -midnight struck and I joined Shameen and Shema for tea and chatting. They continued their story. They told me that while Kattas CAN fight, they usually don't because they're so little and see it as a last resort rather than like us humans who seek battles for glory. They were never more miserable than when they were venturing through the Dragon Smoke Mountains to reach Spielburg, since the caravan refused to go through as it was winter and it was notoriously difficult to traverse, especially since there were monsters up there in those months as well. Their hearts were gladdened as they finally reached Spielburg Valley.

As I lay down on my bed and rest, I say a prayer to the Gods that Shameen and Shema will be blessed with long, happy lives and good business for their inn. May their kittens be many, and may their food never spoil. May they live in a time of peace and prosperity, and may they always find joy in even the simplest things. Shema certainly did that for me today, and I cannot help but express my gratitude for her kindness.

~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~





Day 29

I know I've been saying this a lot, but it was another rather short day for me.

I was greeted by Shameen and Shema, as per usual. As she set down my breakfast, she told me that she'd hoped I slept well. After that great day yesterday, which was capped by that pick-me-up she gave me last night? I hadn't felt better in what felt like forever! I felt I had to do something for her, so if I remember to do so, I shall buy her flowers as a thank you for her being so kind. After all, I was the Hero of Spielburg. I was a tough Fighter, and a Donnelly, and we usually can get by on our own just fine, but sometimes even the greatest warriors and shieldmaidens need a bit of help getting back on their feet. Shema didn't have to do that for me, but she did, and I am forever grateful to her.

But, of course, I said all this yesterday, and I doubt you want to hear me singing her praises again.

I was greeted with a familiar face as I came out the door- Shihhad, begging as usual. "Centime for the poor, Effendi? Centime for the poor?" he asked, holding out his cup. I looked at him and checked my backpack, noticing one thing was slightly amiss in my inventory, which I was sure to regret someday if my adventures continued. I told him, "Stay here, I shall be back soon." and I used my Magic Map to go to the Apothecary. There, I bargained for Poison Cure Pills and a TON of them until I ran short of money. I thanked Harik and left for the Gate Plaza.

Out all the money I had left, I had 7 Dinars and 15 Centimes. I gave every last one to Shihhad. It was a sacrifice to give away all I had like that, but I felt like it was worth it just to make someone who was worser off than me have a brighter day.

As usual, I went to the Guild to practice again, finding Rakeesh there. I bowed respectfully to the Liontaur and said, "Greetings, Master Rakeesh."

However, he held up his hand and replied, "No, Marcus. I am no "master" of yours, only your friend and comrade."

"But you will be more than that, if I become a Paladin. You *will* be my master, as I am just your student and nothing more."

"You are also my friend, Marcus. I don't treat friends like they're servants and you shouldn't have to feel like one. We're equals."

"But you were King at one point, weren't you? I should be showing you the utmost respect like I do our Jarl at home!" I exclaimed.

"I stepped down from the throne fifteen years ago, my friend. I am a warrior, and a polite and respectable one, yes, but you don't need to scrap and bow to me. Am I clear?"


"Good. Now then," he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small leather bag. "You've done this city a great service, and the Sultan has sent you a reward for defeating the Fire Elemental. Here, take it."

I did so and stared at it in my palm. I made a decision then and there. I handed it back. "I cannot accept this reward. I... I don't need it. I can make money in other ways other than this. And really," I frowned, "there are others out there in this city who could use fifty Dinars more than I ever could. Forgive me, but I feel I must decline this offer."

Rakeesh took back the pouch and he smiled proudly at me. "You show great honor in this decision, Marcus. Ehren would have been proud."

I breathed deep, "I'm not so sure he would be if he saw how I acted a couple nights ago."

"What did you do?" Rakeesh asked, cocking an eyebrow. I told him what happened with the disappointing Jackalman encounter and then delved, as much as I hated to retell it, my horrible nightmare I had that very night. "I've decided that I must be more humble, not complain if a fight is easy and instead, should appreciate the effort both my opponent and I give and that I'm still here alive and well. Even a little training goes a long way, right?"

Rakeesh nodded. I crossed my arms and sighed as I looked down at the floor, "I know being a Hero isn't easy, and becoming a Paladin makes things even harder. You notice anything different about me lately, Rakeesh?"

He pointed out my scimitar and asked where Shamgar was, since he knew how important that sword was to me. "Shamgar is gone, Rakeesh. I shall never grasp that runed imun-laukr that was wielded by my ancestors ever again..." I explained my brush with death and how I met my father. Rakeesh listened quietly and just let me talk. He looked saddened when I repeated what father said to me about letting go, and nodded in understanding.

"Do you still mourn?" I asked. "Do you still miss him?"

Rakeesh nodded. "More than you'll ever know. I still remember his final words to me before he passed from this world." I leaned in closer, curious. "He told me in his dying breath, 'If you should ever meet my son, please take care of him.' I promised him that I'd do so, then he died."

My eyes widened at this as I processed what that meant. He wanted Rakeesh to take care of me like he was part of my family. Rakeesh and father were such close friends, that in his final moments, he made Rakeesh my godfather. "I'm glad to have met you, Marcus," he said. "I look at you, and I see my old friend alive once more."

I smiled at that. "And may I hold up to that standard."

"So father was northern warrior?" Uhura asked me as she leaned up against the wall. I nodded and she smiled, "You fight like one. Very good. Come on, you and me practice more. Make father proud, both of them." I gladly obliged, and won another match against her. I felt great!

Aside from that, I went back to Aziza and spoke to her about the Air Elemental coming our way. She said that the essence was freedom of movement, and the only way to defeat it was to keep it grounded to Earth. Literally, since Earth was it's weakness. I thanked her for this information and then left.

I then went back to the Fountain Plaza. What I heard there was something I shan't soon forget. Omar spoke his poems again, and this one reached into the very core of my soul.

And they ask, "What is a Hero?",
though the answer's very clear,
He's the one who faces danger
when the darkness hovers near.

He will face the fiercest foe
when another needs his aid,
He will dare to defy Death
even though he is afraid,
He works not just for glory
and he does it not for gain,
But because he knows that others
will be shared a greater pain.

He won't always follow orders,
for he dares to answer, "Why?",
And unless he likes the reason,
he refuses to comply,
He will brave the battle boldly
even though he may not win,
He will face his fate unflinching,
for he is a Paladin.

And they ask, "What is a Hero?",
though the answer's evident,
He's the one who faces death
knowing that his life's well spent.

Do I even NEED to explain why that poem struck a cord in me? I don't think so. Anyway, after that they left, and I noticed something. Omar had dropped his purse. Inside were 6 dinars and 25 centimes, and a scrap of paper saying, "Quelling Chaos from Shapier, Driving Darkness from Rasier."

Hmm... I have the feeling that means something.

So what else did I do today? Nothing much other than train in the desert for a few hours. Sol set and Mani rose, and I came across my first Ghoul! I bested it easily- didn't even lay one scratch on me! -and took it's claws. I believe this is the first Undead I've ever fought. I also took the skull with me, and I intend to give it to Uhura tomorrow. Aside from that, fought Scorpions and Brigands like usual. Nothing too special, but a nice bit of training. Oh, and I worked on my Throwing a bit as well.

After that, I headed off for the Katta's Tail Inn. You know the drill by now. I sat and drank tea with Shameen and Shema and they continued on with their story. Their caravan stopped in Spielburg and they went to the Adventurer's Guild and asked about the Hero of Spielburg and where they went. Sadly, there was no such person. The Valley was still cursed and the Baron was beset with despair. The master of the caravan told them that because of the snow, they had to head back to Wien because it was so thick and made travel through the Dragon Smoke Mountains impossible. Not wanting to risk that icy cold weather again, Shameen and Shema held out hope that the Hero would arrive soon and used their remaining funds to open up the Hero's Tale Inn.

I know how this story ends, and I was glad to witness it.

~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~





*this day's handwriting isn't as neat, the person writing had trembling hands as he wrote*

Day 30

Had an... interesting day. As I awoke and ate my breakfast, Shema informed me that her cousins Tiram and Sashanan couldn't set up their stands in the Palace Plaza this morning.


The second Doom spoken of by Omar, the Air Elemental, is here. I could have SWORN I heard loud gusts of wind last night as I slept.

I went outside, intending to head straight away to the Palace Plaza to get it out of the way quickly, but I was surprised to find that Roget was there to greet me! Licking my face like my dog, Geri, at home, the guard asked to PLEASE put him away as he couldn't get him to budge. It's almost like he was waiting for me. Still, bad saurus! Bad! Still... I can't help but feel that there's something more to him. The Dervish has me suspicious, plus Roget's unusual behavior makes me wonder.

I headed for the Palace Plaza by Magic Map and sure enough, there was the Air Elemental, a twirling, twisting, turning, wavering, winding, writhing, wriggling, wafting, whisking, whirling, spiralling, swirling siphon of zephyr. What a windbag! Or perhaps an airhead?

See, Finn? I can look up stuff in the thesaurus too, which is how I named Roget the Saurus! Ha! You don't have to live in a library to have a big vocabulary. Yes, I'm dead serious, Finn literally lives in the Willowsby Library as the upper level contains his living quarters. I just ruined my joke, I know. I'm sorry.

Rico's the one with the sharp wit, not me.

Anyway, blowing away the Air Elemental was quite a *breeze*, if I may say myself. In gust a snap, I had the gale brought down to earth and then sucked up into my Bellows!

You wanna know why I am resorting to puns and jokes right now? To attempt to calm down. Why am I needing to calm down?

Don't you just hate it when your nightmares come true?!

After I sparred with Uhura, she said I might have start teaching HER lessons soon! After that, I headed out for the desert for my daily training regimen as usual.

That was the worst mistake I could have ever made today.

So I'm wandering around the desert, looking for Brigands and Scorpions to test my skill on, right? After a few fights here and there, I spot another Brigand out of the corner of my eye and, like normal, Roget bucks and I fall off.

However... as I'm pacing back and forth and waiting for the Brigand to appear... he never does. I go back and forth and can't find him anywhere. I go up on the dunes and back down again to the mountains to see if I can find him or at least get Roget back.

Neither of those things happen.

I am completely utterly alone.

So what do I do? I head East and start walking, both by the mountains and up on the dunes.

I run into several fights, which help me greatly in my swordmanship and money. I've noticed it takes me only five consecutive stabs to kill a Brigand. Yes, I've counted. About six to eight for a Scorpion, if I remember. No idea on the other beasties yet.

After awhile, I start to get worried. I'm facing the North, so I should be either coming up on Shapier, the Griffin's nest or Julanar, right?

Nothing. Just more sand. No sounds other than wind, and my own footsteps and breathing and the sound of my heartbeat as my fears of being completely lost begin to rise up in my mind.

Lost. I'm lost!!!

I head off in the other direction, South, but that doesn't do any good either! I start walking in all directions, just desperately trying to find ANY sort of landmark, even if it's just the saurus shaped rock, at least that would tell me where I was. Nope! Just more sand!

My footsteps echoed 'water" in my ears. The sun beats down on my head and scorches my throat with every breath. I start hallucinating...

For one thing, I see several signs in the desert: "Downtown Shapier next exit", "Alberquere (or whatever), 15,000+ miles", "Hours are 5:00 AM-8:00 PM" none of them help.

I see corpses in the sand, one of a bearded young man dressed in chainmail and yellow, and the other is a much older man with grey hair and dressed in red. But whenever I get close to either of them, thinking I can help, they disappear. Mirages! Wonderful!

I came across a FRIGGING GOLF TOURNAMENT while I was out there! But of course, as soon as I got into a fight with a nearby Brigand- though humorously I thought, 'Oh! Are you here to play golf too? Oh wait, you're attacking me, never mind.' -sure enough as soon as I turn back, the golfer is gone.

I wander for quite literally HOURS, wasting the entire day trying to get back. Damn that cowardly mount of mine!! Why must you literally drop me into danger like this?!

The sun sets and night falls. I'm extremely tired at this point, having fought so many battles it's not even funny! It gets me training and money, yes, but *come on*! Even Thor can probably take only so much punishment! I was so exhausted, that it actually started to take a toll on my health! Why did I not take a Vigor pill since I had dozens? Because I still had the vain faint hope that, over that next set of dunes was a place I could rest and I didn't want to be wasteful.

Then I hear the howls. Jackalmen! I groan and fight them. There must have been a huge chunk of them nearby as I was attacked by Jackalmen multiple times!

But, by this point? I don't care. I'm just... tired. So tired... I just want this to end!

The Jackalmen grant my request. For once, I welcome death's sweet embrace as I grow cold and all goes black.

Finally! FINALLY I get a moment to rest.

I am restored back to this morning, safe and well. I do wonder who keeps bringing me back, how and why? I'm from the North! dying in battle is one of the greatest ways to die where I'm from!

Am I... immortal? Will I never truly know the peace of death due to whoever is healing me? Am I just a puppet to their desires, killing me and raising me over and over, just that they can "try again" in meddling in my life? Can I refuse to brought back or am I forced back into my body no matter what? What of my friends, does this effect them too? Am I cursed or is this a blessing? Is this from the Gods or something entirely different? Why me? What's so special about me?

I don't know anymore.

After coming back, I avoided the desert like the plague. I didn't want to experience THAT again today. So what did I do instead? I sold the claws to Harik, and I practiced with Uhura all day which really helped my physique and she's just a fun person to be around.

Also, another hair raising experience I had today was...

I don't even know how to describe this! One second I was talking to Uhura, the next, I heard what sounded like glass shattering. Really REALLY loud shattering! And I kept hearing it, louder and louder! I asked Uhura, but she didn't hear anything. It got so loud that it hurt just hearing it! And then I heard rumbling, like earth shattering rumbling all around!

I saw a gigantic crack appear in Guild's wall widen, and then I saw it open... and there was nothing but darkness behind it. Everything around me rippled and began to fade away as the darkness consumed all I saw. I tried to run, but the darkness became faster and faster in its pursuit of my heels.

I turn to look and my eyes widen in horror as I see everything- EVERYTHING! -quite literally break in front of me and the darkness overtakes everything, swallowing it like it never existed. As if all the Worlds came crashing down...

'The world is broken! Yggdrasil is uprooted! It's Ragnarok upon us! Oh Gods WHY?! I had so much I wanted to do with my life!!' are what I remember thinking as the darkness catches up to me.

I black out.

I awaken on the Guild floor with Uhura shaking me. "You alright, Hero? You look scared then pass out."

Passed out? Was... was that just a dream? I don't even know. I assure her I'm fine as I sit up and check over myself. She looked unsure, as she probably knew I'd had a rather stressful week and might have been working too hard. It was getting close to sunset, so I left after reassuring her multiple times that I was fine just shaken. Just... what in the name of Loki just happened?!

Just before I went back to the inn, I stopped by Scoree and Sloree's stand to buy a TON of rations for myself. What? I had multiples of every other item an Adventurer like me needed, so no use going hungry right? A day may come that I'm not going to make it back to the inn before midnight when they close and I need to be prepared. I also bought flowers for Shema, keeping my promise to thank her for the other day.

And! As a nice end to a rather stressful day, I got to watch Shema dance! "When Shema dances, fires awaken in Katta." Shameen once told me. Shema told me that the dance was originally used to prepare men for battle and for fertility. But now it's just for fun.

It was quite a lovely and enticing dance and I think she did an awesome job, and I applauded loud and long and hard for her. Now I had two reasons to give her the flowers, which she appreciated.

Of course, I ended my day with mightnight tea with Shameen and Shema. What, were you expecting me to skip over that? Never. The Katta couple knew that setting up the Hero's Tale Inn meant that they had no more funds to continue their journey but really, they wouldn't be able to survive the Winter if they didn't settle down somewhere to make a living. Before the caravan left, they wrote a letter their kin back home, telling them that they were okay and safe in Spielburg. They paid the caravan master to send it back to Shapier. Katta communities are very close knit, and if the letter reached them then they'd do anything to help.

I feel guilty. I haven't wrote anyone back home and they probably are wondering about me. Oh sure, I'm sure news and rumors are abound, but wouldn't it be better to have an actual letter from me to my mother, telling her of my progress and giving a factual account of what I've done as a Hero in both lands so far?

I'm gonna try to find some time to do so as soon as this adventure is over. I'll write to Rico and Finn too, Finn especially because I can ask him for researching in his books about things I've pondered today. May Bragi, God of Poetry, guide my quill as always.

~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~





Day 31

Ever had one of those days where things are just... bleagh? I had one of those days today. I guess I shouldn't be complaining since I had a very stressful day yesterday, but it's kinda jarring to go from a stressful day where I was on high alert for most of the day, panicked and worn down so much that I honestly didn't care if I died from thirst or fighting... to a day where nothing of interest happened to me. At all.

Well, actually that's not entirely true. For one thing, I've finally mastered that scimitar at last! And I have to admit, as much as I prefer Shamgar, it IS a rather nice sword. It has a different... feel to it. Shamgar was a broadsword which I knew exactly how to utilize, but holding a scimitar was a completely different thing and I noticed it felt lighter for one thing. I felt like I'd have to learn the way of the sword all over again since it felt so new.

I trained with Uhura as I am want to do every day. A nice practice, but nothing too spectacular.

For another, I went to talk to Aziza today about the Earth Elemental. The essence of Earth is strength, which can only be stopped by flame which hungers for all. My mind went back to Soulforge, Rakeesh's sword, when she mentioned Fire. After all, I still have my Magic Lamp, but I doubt I could hurt anything with that. The day I wield Soulforge is forthcoming, I feel, and I await that day with gladness!

I also finally asked her about something I've been wondering for awhile. I asked her about Djinn. According to her, they're creatures of Magic and mischief that can be either good or evil. There are five kinds- Djinn live in the clouds and grant wishes, Djann live in mountains and shapeshift into animals, Shaiten live in water which makes them extremely rare, and Ifreet prefer the desert and are beings of fire. Hmmm... that sounds suspiciously similar to the Elementals, doesn't it? The most powerful Djinn is the Marid, who isn't associated with any element. "And who is the most powerful Marid of all? Surely, there must be a master of them if they're that powerful?"

"There is one, Marcus. He is called... Iblis."

In just speaking that name, I felt a chill run down my spine.

"A thousand years and a year ago, Iblis sought world domination and summoned an army of malevolent Djinn to aid him, creating his own city to face off against Shapeir and destroy it. However, their wise and powerful Magician Sultan, Suleiman bin Daoud summoned up his own army of Djinn to combat him, starting the Djinn War. However, Suleiman knew that Iblis couldn't be killed, so he sealed him away in a statue and placed him in the ruins of his city, where it can never be found. To protect it, he placed an item in the ruins to watch over it and make sure Iblis never escapes."

I had a bad feeling about this. I thanked her for the tea and left.

Other than that, I didn't do much other than ride Roget to the southern mountains and back several times in the desert until night came. Then I headed back to the inn.

And of course, I ended the day with a nice tea break with Shameen and Shema. They continued their story. Not long after the caravan left the Valley, the snow blocked the pass in town, seperating Spielburg from everyone else. Shameen and Shema mostly stayed huddled in the inn, since there were very few places to go in town and the forest was dangerous and cold. Their inn had very little business, and they were only saved by Shema's excellent cooking.

I'm reminded of Fimbulwinter, the intro to Ragnarok. If the winter in Spielburg was this bad, imagine what the endless winter at the end of the world will be like according to the tales I know!

Brrr! Or rather, let's NOT think of it! I may wish to be one of the Einherjar, but... even I shall tremble when that horn is blown. Because when that happens, my time will be up.

~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~





Day 32

Another dull day.

I just trained up my Throwing and Strength a bit. I feel that not even Uhura is difficult anymore now that I'm so strong. I won't jinx it again by asking the Gods, "Give me something stronger to fight!" because we all know how THAT turned out, right? But, still, I feel no rumblings under my boots. All the Kattas are happy that I saved them from the Air Elemental, but... I feel like something should be happening. I'm a Hero, for Tyr's sake!

But... I won't complain too much, since I know that I'll have a stressful day tomorrow if I do. That's happened twice now, and I'd rather not have that happen again lest I go mad.

Oh yeah, Roget showed up outside the Guild Hall today. For the love of Loki's balls, would you STOP that, Roget?! Hmmm... the guard said he was running around the city looking for me. He's rather smart for a saurus, isn't he?

Uhura says that they might need a new Guildmaster soon. Once the trouble in Shapeir leaves, so shall she. And so shall I hopefully. Maybe. I'm a little restless these days, can you tell?

After that not so harrowing day, I headed off for the inn for dinner and tea as usual. I let them continue their story. While they stayed in Spielburg, they took ample time to learn about the valley's history. The Baron had shut himself away after his children were captured, and the Brigands were running wild due to their leader shaping them up to be an actual threat. Learning of this was most unsettling as they didn't know if their letters arrived safely home or not, and without traders and tourists, that meant no money to leave Spielburg. Spielburg Pass FINALLY opened up a few weeks before I arrived, and they finally welcomed their first guest.

Gee, I wonder who that was?

I wrote letters to Mother, Finn and Rico tonight to partially satiate my boredom and partially because I've been meaning to do this anyway. I shall not transcribe them tonight, partially due to them being personal and partially to me just being too tired to do so right now. Remember, I'm doing this whole Midnight Tea thing on PURPOSE because at least I can end off my day nicely no matter what.

~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~





Day 33

Today went by rather quickly. Don't ask me why, but it did. I'm not complaining. Shema told me that a caravan would be passing by soon, and that was going to be my one shot at getting to Rasier. She worries for her cousin, Sharaf, who is the one Katta left in Rasier and he is a member of the Underground who is working to bring down their oppressors and bring back the old ways. Sharaf's name means "Honor", which I consider very fitting.

Second verse same as the first- I trained with Uhura more and practiced my Throwing skill. Rakeesh wasn't there today, he was talking to the Sultan about the Elementals, thinking that more will be here soon.

Aside from that, I saw something... weird today. While I was riding Roget I saw what looked like a GIGANTIC bird that roared and it never moved its wings as it flew. It was flying faster than anything avian I'd ever seen, and appeared to be made of some sort of black metal. Then it just disappeared in an instant.

Am I... going mad? I keep seeing mirages everywhere, my saurus's behavior is weird, and I'm suspicious of a Katta couple that seem oddly familiar to me yet don't seem to recognize me. I don't even know anymore.

Anyway, after that I headed back to the inn. Omar spoke his poems again, telling the tale of me vanquishing the Fire and Air Elementals respectfully and how I was considered a Hero even here. I puffed up in pride at that, I'll admit. After the reading, Omar motioned me near and gave me a reward of fifty dinars. I attempted to give it back, trying to be humble, but he insisted I keep it and that I deserved it. He just won't take no for an answer.

After that, I had my Midnight Tea, then listened to Shameen and Shema. Their kin hadn't forgotten them and sent trade items with the first caravan heading for Spielburg. That was Abdulla's cavern. He was trusted with the items to help them get out of Spielburg. He hoped to strike it rich as he'd be the first merchant in the Valley. But... we all know how *that* ended.

*the next page is a transcript of one of the letters that Marcus sent home*

Dear Mother,

I hope that this letter finds you well and safe at home. How are you doing without me? I hope the tales of my exploits in Spielburg have reached home by now, but in case they haven't, then let me know in your reply and I'll tell you the story.

I am now in the Sultanate of Shapeir, way down south from home. I'm shaping up to becoming a Hero here as well, and I've made quite a few friends. Shameen, Shema, Abdulla, Uhura, Harik, Keapon, Rakeesh.

Actually, Rakeesh is actually someone I'd like to talk about. He is a Liontaur- a half lion half man person (I don't dare call him a beast or a creature because that would be incredibly rude). Believe it or not, he's a Paladin! He can help me fufill my destiny! And if that wasn't enough, I learned that father was one as well! Here's something I've wondered since finding this out?

Why didn't you tell me?

You watched me grow up and idolize father, he was my Hero and still is to this day. He was a Fighter, the Captain of our Jarl's Guard and now I learn he was a Paladin, one of the legendary warriors of old. And yet you never told me?

I still miss him, you know. I've become strong in my journey and will just keep getting stronger so long as I still breathe. I want to make him proud of me.

Rakeesh has told me that his final words as he died were that if Rakeesh ever met me that he'd be in charge of taking care of me since father couldn't do anymore. In those final words, he instigated Rakeesh into our family, my godfather. Needless to say, I am honored to have him in our family.

I am in the process of becoming a Paladin, as you might have guessed. Rakeesh tells me that I must act with Honor. Alright, that shouldn't be so hard since I'm naturally a very nice person. Most of the time anyway. However, I must also be willing to sacrifice things, even it means my own life.

I had an incident a few days ago where I was knocked out by monsters. I'm fine now, so don't worry. But, while I was out, I met my father. He told me that in order to be the best I can be, I have to let him go. And that means I have to get rid of Shamgar. With a heavy heart, I have done so, and picked up a scimitar. It's a rather nice sword, I'll admit, but it's not the same. He told me to not imitate him and grow into my own person, which this is the first shaky step in my journey.

Paladinhood cannot be taught, but must be earned because one is pure. Because one is Right.

I dream of blue fire. I can only hope I am worthy to wield it someday.
Wish me luck in both my endeavors of Hero and Paladin.

Your Son, Marcus.


~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~





Day 34

Wow! I can definetely say I had an exciting day today!

I awoke to the sound of rumbling underneath me. I asked Shameen what was going on and he confirmed my suspicions.

The third Doom as spoken by Omar, the Earth Elemental, is here.

Tell me something. Is it wrong that when I left for the Guild Hall this morning, I had a maniacal grin on my face?

I saw Rakeesh there with Uhura and Simba and straight away I think he knew what I was going to ask. "The Earth Elemental is here, Rakeesh. May I please borrow Soulforge to combat it?"

Seeing how eager I was, he smiled and pulled the sword out from its shealth, and instantly it was awash in dazzling blue fire. I took it gladly.

I tested it in my hand. Swing, thrust, parry, spin, slash! I've never felt such power before! I watched the flames dance upon the blade and I smiled. It just felt... Right when I held it. I sense a presence deep within the blade, calling to me, guiding me as I sought to bring Justice upon my foe.

I turn back to Rakeesh and kneel before him, bowing my head like I remember father doing when he approached our Jarl. "I cannot thank you enough for this, Rakeesh. So, thank you! Vielen dank! Thakka fyrir, Rakeesh! I won't let you down, I promise!"

I heard Rakeesh chuckle and put his hand on my shoulder. "Karibu, sharifu asikari." I later learned that meant in East Fricanan, "You're welcome, honorable warrior."

Just in case, I practiced with Uhura a bit before going. I now can easily fight her without breaking a sweat. I AM good, aren't I?

Sorry. I don't mean to brag.

I wandered the streets, keeping low to the ground to sense rumbling so I could be prepared. Then, I heard it!

A massive pile of rock and earth, shaped like a burly man, rose up from the very stones of the alley and stomped towards me. My heart pounded- it was HUGE! Still though, I vowed to show no fear as I drew Soulforge and readied it for battle!

I slashed, and the fire cut deep into the Elemental's torso, making it howl in pain. In retaliation, it punched the ground and I fell backwards, my head hitting the pavement with a crack. As I lay in a daze, I saw it burrow back into the ground and the rumbling stopped.

I recovered and jumped to my feet. I yelled, "Hey! Come back here, you schwein! I'm not done with you!" and I hurried after him.

I heard the rumbling and again my adversary appeared, looking a little more weakened even if I'd only gotten one slash in. I managed to land in more slashes and swings, rellishing the sound of grand vidar slicing through stone like it was parchment. I then reeled and cried out as his fist punched me in the nose, then I was sent flying into the wall by another blow, cracking my ribs! I gasped in pain as I slumped to the floor. By Odin's beard, that hurt! I staggered to my feet and faced him again. Another fist knocked me off my feet, but I continued to get back up. And another, and another! He grabbed and threw me down to the ground, slammed his fist into the ground again and again, trying to keep me down. Still, I wasn't going to give up and let him win!

I was getting angry now. NEVER piss off a Donnelly!

I finally gave into my rage and charged forward with a mighty battle cry! "FOR SHAPEIR!!!!"

Adrenaline ran through my veins, my heart raced and I breathed fast and hard. He was still hitting me, I heard cracking, but I didn't care about the pain anymore! All I saw was red, all I wanted was to pound this thing to dust! Soulforge's flame burned as brightly as the fire in my eyes, every slash and swing finding its mark perfectly.

"Die! Die!! DIE!! DIE!! DIE!!! DIIIIEEEE!!!!" I yelled at the top of my lungs. I heard the Earth Elemental roar in agony as it was worn down by the fire, a mixture of dirt, pebbles and battle sweat at my feet.

Finally, FINALLY with a groan like that of a felled tree and a deafening crash, the Earth Elemental toppled and disintegrated into dirt before me. I wheezed and gasped for air and chuckled. It was done.

I quickly gathered him up in a bag so he wouldn't be able to regenerate and run away again.

My adrenaline left me at that moment, my injuries catching up to me. I hobbled back to the Guild Hall, as it was nearby. Everything hurt. I tasted copper in my mouth. I stumbled through the doorway, doubling over, the pain bringing me to my knees. I coughed and saw blood on my hand.

Rakeesh rushed over to me, worry made clear on his face. I looked up and smiled, handing him back Soulforge. "Done," I croaked. I remember falling over and closing my eyes, after which I blacked out.

When I awoke, I was staring up at the ceiling and lay on my back. Taking several deep breaths, I suddenly realized that I felt much better. I looked around and saw Rakeesh laying down next to me. "Thank Heka you're alright," he said softly. "I was so worried."

I frowned as I noticed that not only was Uhura not around, but Rakeesh looked very tired. "How long was I out?"

"Only a couple minutes."

"Where's Uhura?"

"She left to go find the Druggist. I tried to tell her that I could handle this on my own, but she was already running out the door. I managed to Heal you with my Will."

"Are you alright? You look exhausted."

Rakeesh rubbed his eyes and nodded. "A Paladin has several abilities in their arsenal. All of them take up their energy or stamina, Healing especially as the more grievous the wounds, the more energy it will take to heal them. Yours were extremely serious."

"So a Paladin can Heal..." I said out loud. I looked him over again. Gods, he looked terrible! I think he needed more rest than i did! If healing me took that much out of him, was it possible he could have...?

I voiced my concerns. "Rakeesh, you could have killed yourself trying to help me!"

"What did I tell you about Paladins willing to make sacrifices for others, Marcus?"

I shook my head. "No. I wouldn't be able to bear it if I knew you'd died to save my life." I hung my head, "I've already lost my father, I won't lose you too." I looked straight into his eyes, "Promise me, Rakeesh. Promise me that, if something like this ever happens again, that you won't risk your life for mine."

He sighed, "I can't promise that, Marcus. I am a true Paladin through and through, and I must protect those who need my aid at any cost. Even if I must die, I die happy, knowing that they're safe from harm."


"Now," he looked at me intensely, "Let's switch this around, shall we? What if it were me? Or someone else you know? Or someone you've never met? Would you be willing to give it your all to protect them and keep them alive and safe, even if it means you'd be crippled? Shunned because you did what was right rather than lawful? Or, worse case scenario, killed?" he paused then asked, "You're from the North, am I correct?"

I nodded. "Ja, Northeast Kriegland."

He cocked an eyebrow. "Isn't it a grand thing in your country to fall in battle, to die a Hero? That if you do, then the... Valkyries, I believe? take you to a place in the afterlife where you drink and make merry and happily fight forevermore with your comrades?"

"Valhalla," I answered, "the Allfather's mighty Hall where we, the Einherjar, train by day for Ragnarok and feast at Odin's tables by night. There is another Hall run by Freyja as well, Folkvangr. She leads the Valkyries, so I hear, and she gets half the slain warriors while Odin gets the other half. Hel, we even have a kenning, a figure of speech, for an... honorable death called... flame-farewelled..." I trailed off as I realized what I'd just said. I facepalmed.

"If you've been raised from birth in the hopes of dying an honorable death so that you may one day meet this Odin or Freyja, then why are you worried so much about me? If I live a full life with Honor, then you should feel glad if I die protecting someone, as it is seen as a wonderful thing to die fighting where you're from."

I thought about it and sighed. "You're right. I'm sorry I reacted like that, Rakeesh."

He patted my shoulder and smiled warmly. "Don't be sorry, I can tell you care." I couldn't help but smile back. "If you're willing to do things for the greater good, then you'll be a fine Paladin indeed." I nodded in agreement.

Uhura burst through the doors just then, dragging a very flustered Harik by the arm behind her. "In here, bwana! He's-" she then noticed me sitting up and looking perfectly fine. "...Oh. He look good. I worried so I fetched Druggist."

"Now now, ma'am," said Harik, "I'm still going to check him over just in case." He did so then said, "Amazing! I cannot find a single injury on him! But, how?" he looked at Rakeesh.

"I healed him with my abilities as a Paladin, Harik Attar."

"Are you alright, sir? You seem a little worse for wear yourself."

"Don't worry about me, I just need to rest. That Heal took a lot out of me."

"I cannot thank you enough, Rakeesh. I'll repay you for this someday, I can assure you," I said as I got to my feet.

Rakeesh held up his hand. "No need, Hero. I ask for no reward, I'm just doing my job."

I smiled as I walked out of the door and into the Fighter's Plaza again. Rasha Rakeesh Sah Tarna: Humble as can be.

And *this* was just my morning, by the way! By the time I'd gotten to the Saurus Lot to get Roget, it was midday.

I looked at the bag of Earth Elemental I had with me. I was reminded of what Aziza told me about Julanar. A gift of Kindness, a gift of Magic and a gift of Love.

Uns, the day guard, told me that the Dervish wished to speak to me about something. Something about a beast.

'But first,' I thought, 'I have a friend to meet.' With that thought in mind, I spurred Roget to head East.

Every plant needs three things to grow and prosper. One, sunlight. Two, water and three, good soil. As I spread the dirt of the Earth Elemental around Julanar's roots, I figured that since regular dirt did well, that Magic soil would work even better!

I just started talking to her again, telling her all about all the troubles her city has, my slaying of the Earth Elemental and how Rakeesh saved me. I told her that there is still Magic in our beautiful world and that there are people here who still remember and care about her.

She must have heard me, because I saw her branches blossom with leaves. I smiled as it was progress. I hugged her once more and said quietly, "I cannot do much more for you, my dear. I can only pray to Freyja that someone will be able to save you from your wooden prison someday, and that person will love you with all their heart and soul." I let go and looked at her, "I wish you good health and fair weather, Julanar."

Julanar's leaves rustled lightly as me speaking her name broke through to her at last. I grinned as I saw a purple fruit magically appear on one of her branches and dropped into my hands. How sweet! She gave me a present!

As I rode away to the Oasis, I looked back and I swear to you I saw her smile.

I reached the Oasis and asked the Dervish about the Beast. He said that it was enchanted and needed help and he told me exactly where to find it.

Enchanted, huh? Perhaps I could... dispel that? Back to Shapeir I went! I went straight to Harik's Apothecary and asked about ingredients to a Dispel Potion. Turns out, I already had the stuff I needed! The Griffin Feather and Fruit from Julanar.

Following the directions the Dervish gave me, I soon reached a cage made of iron on the middle of nowhere. And inside was what looked somewhat like a chimera of a scorpion, a panther, and a snake. Roget wouldn't go anywhere near it, and seeing it jump up and snarl at me as it approached, I can't say I blame him for once.

I then made a huge mistake that would cost me dearly. I looked into the creature's eyes. Huge, burning eyes that bore into my very soul. I heard a subtle voice in my mind whisper, "Come closer, much closer. Come closer and release me, free me. Come closer and trust me. Look into my eyes and trust me."

How could I say no to that?

As soon as I opened the cage though, I felt indescribable agony as his claws sliced and disemboweled me. I felt it only for a few seconds, before I grew numb... and so cold.

I am Restored back to before I made that foolish decision and decided to do what I came for instead. I gave him food and water out of kindness then administered him the first of three Dispel Potions I had.

The beast twitched and writhed, then was engulfed in a bright flash and standing before me was not a monster but a man! A very rude one.

He told me he didn't know who I was or why I saved him, but that I shouldn't expect to be rewarded for it. He told me his name was Al Scurva, apprentice Sorceror to a man named Ad Avis.

For some reason, that name sent an ominous chill down my spine. Ad Avis had transformed him into that monster as punishment. "Do not think he will be unaware of your interference. He will be watching you from now on." he told me.

He told me that I must not go anywhere near Ad Avis unless I had some sort of protection from spells or I'm very quick otherwise I'll end up like he did. There is some sort of ritual Magic he has planned for when the moon arises between the Scorpion's claws and the Dragon's teeth. Whatever he's planning on doing, I shouldn't be here to witness it.

"Ad Avis awaits you in Rasier." And with that he teleported away, but not before briefly popping back into view to say thanks for the food and water.

I felt a sense of dread come over me as I said to Roget, "Heim!"

After that long day, I at last returned to the inn for dinner and Midnight Tea. Shema, to cap off a really nice and productive day once again, served me sauerkrawt and knockwurst! How sweet of her! I think I'm actually starting to like the way she makes it too! I cannot thank her enough!

As was my usual end of the day, I had tea with Shameen and Shema. The robbery hit them all hard like a punch to the gut. It would have been one thing to have the letter never arrive or their kin not bothering to help them, but to have their way of escaping Spielburg so close yet be snatched from them like pulling out a rug was too much for them. There were times where Shameen questioned how long this journey would be and whether it was really worth it, and none made him question this more than now.

*the next page is a transcript of one of the letters that Marcus sent home*

Dear Finn,

I hope that this letter finds you well as always.

How is your training going, Finn? Are you practicing enough? Learned anything new? I hope you've become braver since I saw you last. You have such potential for great things, yet because you're so timid, you don't bother to awaken that potential in you.

I'm having a nice time in Shapeir. You definitely would love this place! There are Wizards here, Finn! Wizards who practice their Magic freely and walk the streets without fear! Sure, they have to be careful where they aim, but that's just common sense really. In fact, one of the Wizards name Keapon Laffin, told me that there's actually a Magic school called the Wizards Institute of Technocery here in the city somewhere! You always wish to further your arcane studies, right? Wouldn't that just be *perfect?!*

This is a land full of Magic, Finn. I feel you'd want to stay here forever.

However, can you do me a favor? Would you kindly do some research on the library on a subject for me, if you can find it? Immortality is what I seek.


Your friend, Marcus.


~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~





Day 35

Didn't do all that much today. Just more training for me. However, after that exciting day yesterday, I actually don't really mind for once since I should focus on recovering from yesterday. As exciting as yesterday was, I think I deserve a little rest.

Huzzah! I am super strong and agile now! My Strength can be pushed no further! I AM INVINCIBLE!!! HAHAHAHAHA!!!! For now anyway.


I also worked on my Throwing skills and buffed them quite a bit as well! Hooray!

Oh! There IS one thing I saw that was... interesting today. I went to the Guild Hall this morning as usual, and Uhura told me that I had a note left for me. "If you know what's good for you, you will obey orders. We will leave them here. If you don't follow them, you'll be sorry. We are watching you."

That... sounds like a threat! Oh dear! But, they didn't even GIVE me instructions on what I'm supposed to do!! Wonderful.

I talked to Rakeesh a little more today. We discussed a little about Tarna.

"So, tell me about Tarna."

"Tarna is my kingdom. It lies to the south of here in East Fricana. It is a vast, beautiful land rich in vegetation and wildlife. It is run by us, the Liontaurs. The kingdom had been built by humans, but by the time we arrived, most of them had been killed in various wars. We protected them, and we've been at peace ever since. We rule over the city, proud and strong. My brother is on the throne now."

"You have a brother?"

"Yes. Rajah is his name. After I left to combat the Demons, I abdicated the throne. Three years passed, and my brother was ruler through the Rites of Rulership."

My eyebrows raised. "Rites of Rulership, huh?"

"It is how we decide on who shall rule our kingdom. Only Liontaurs may enter. It is a series of challenges, with the final challenge being a fight again the previous king to the death."


"I am the one Liontaur in our history to willingly step down from the throne. I am also the one Liontaur to become a Paladin."

"Huh! So do you have other family?"

"I am happily married to a lovely Liontauress named Kreesha Mar Asha, whom is a Magic User in the city and is part of the Council of Judgement. I also have a daughter named Reeshaka whom is a powerful warrior, and Shakra whom is a Wizard like his mother."

"Like Finn? Nice!"


"Ah. I haven't told you much about me, have I?" And I proceeded to tell him all about my friends Finn and Rico, I even whispered what his "profession" was, as I trusted him well enough.

After that, I made small talk with him and then left for the desert and trained my Throwing. After that, I head back to the inn for dinner and Midnight Tea.

Despite their sorrow, they felt deeply for Abdulla. After all, it was partially their fault for his plight. In kindness, they offered him free room and board, and he swore to them that if he ever got back his goods from the Brigands that he'd take them wherever they'd want to go. He may appear to be foolish, but he understands the value of friendship very well.

I know the feeling. Friends are indeed valuable when you're feeling like giving up, because the best ones pick you up, dust you off and remind you that you're a better person than you think. I don't think I'd be here, let alone sane, if I didn't have them.

*the following page is a transcript of another letter that Marcus wrote to home*

Dear Rico,

I hope this letter finds you safe and well.

How's your job going, buddy? Being good, I hope? heh heh.

I'm having a great time in Shapeir, and I think you would too! This city is huge - like it's a labyrinth with lots of people. Several people to, uh, practice your work on.

Lots of places to creep and hide in the shadows, especially at night. I know you'd like that! Plus... there're pretty ladies here!

And did I ever tell you about Elsa from Spielburg? I'd think she'd like you. don't know why, but I do.

Anyway, hope you're doing okay, bud. Don't get caught.

Your Friend, Marcus.


~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~





Day 36

Short and simple day today.

I awoke to find Abdulla sitting at the table, looking worried. I knew that look. The final Doom upon Shapeir as spoken by Omar, the Water Elemental, was here at last. I went to Aziza immediately to figure out what to do.

The essence of Water is attraction, and it is lured by any nearby water sourse, sucking it up for it's own energy. If not stopped, it'll drain the city dry and we'll all die of thirst! It's weakness is Air.

With this knowledge, I headed for the Fountain Plaza. Sure enough, there she was dancing and playing in the Fountain. That fiendish watery tart!

I had a plan formulated in my head, but I didn't get to execute it first hand because before I knew it, she'd grabbed me and gave me a VERY deep, passionate kiss! A kiss of death that drained all the water from my body!

The last thing I remember is hearing myself hit the ground. I swear I heard my bones rattle as I breathed my last.

And believe it or not, this happened to me TWICE!

Anyway, my plan was simple. It goes to wherever there's water nearby, right? So, what I did was I dropped down one of my waterskins, took my Magic Bellows and blew her away from the fountain and she was absorbed right into it happily. Huzzah!

Shapeir is safe AT LAST!! HOORAY!!! Still, of course, my journey is not over yet. I got a caravan to catch in a couple days, after all!

Aside from that, I practiced my Throwing a bit more and... when I went to the Guild Hall today, I got another note. "Tomorrow night is your last night. You'll get your final orders then. Be seeing you." Hmmm... final orders for what?

I headed back to the inn after that for dinner and Midnight Tea as usual. However, this time was a bit different. For once, I had company other than Shameen and Shema- Abdulla!

I smiled in reminiscence as the story continued. A week since Abdulla's arrival... another face appeared. He was a young man, a tad cocky and overconfident, and armed with a Northerner's sword with runes on the blade and a shield carrying his family's crest. They'd been afraid to embrace hope again after Abdulla's, but they could tell that he looked to be a kind person and was certainly determined to help.

Gee, I wonder who THAT was?!

Abdulla smiled too, clearly happy that I came to Spielburg when I did. I am too.

*the following page is another transcript of a letter that Marcus sent home*

Dear Guild Master,

I can hope this letter finds you safe and well at home.

I'm in the land of Shapeir, Gildemeister! I'm trying my best to become a Hero. And if it wasn't for you and father, I certainly wouldn't be here if it wasn't for your teachings.

Father got me started, you helped me figure out my skills, and I finally got to put them to the test through my adventures in both nearby Spielburg and now here! And it's all thanks to you, Gildemeister!

Imagine if you will, if I never decided to become a Fighter and meet you. I certainly wouldn't be the man I'd be today. I can't tell you how many times the techniques you taught me saved my tail. I am eternally thankful for all you've done to help me grow strong. I have the feeling that my adventures will not stop here, and I shall keep training and getting stronger.

And when people ask me, "How are you so strong, Marcus?"

I'll tell them all about my training under you!

Anyway, just writing to express my appreciation for you training me for all these years!

You may have been tough on me- as tough you can really be on a nine year old anyway -but I think it was worth it in the end!

If I ever have a son or daughter, I'll be sure to use your methods to teach them the way of the sword as best I can.

Thank you, Gildemaster! Just thank you for everything!

Your Student, Marcus

~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~





Day 37

Nothing much happened today, save training my Throwing skill.

However!! Tonight was a LOT more fun!

What?! I did something tonight OTHER than eat and have tea with friends?! Say it isn't so!!

Going to the Guild Hall this morning, Uhura told me I got a note pinned to the door with an old sword, which really ticked her off. "Tell your friend I will show him where to stick it the next time."

The note said: "At nightfall tonight, go to the door at the end of 'Saif Darb' off 'Askeri Darb.' Obey, or you'll regret it."

AHA! At last I can see what this is about!

So, I trained up for a few hours, then napped until evening, ate, and then left for where the instructions told me to go. And, if I may admit something here. I've actually been rather lazy these past two weeks and a day I've been here. I haven't been walking around the city very much, instead I've just been using my Magic Map to teleport everywhere. I know the basic streets of each Plaza, but not much else. So, I actually went down Saif Darb instead of Askeri Darb like I was supposed to. Luckily, I just turned around and everything was fine.

At the end of my instructed street, lay nothing but an open door. I approached and a booming voice spoke to me, "Enter the darkness!"

So I did. "Stand where you are. You now face the most important decision of your life... are you a man or just a craven coward? Stand and obey, or now run away!"

I stood at attention, stiff as a guard. Then suddenly someone grabbed me and knocked me over the head and dragged me away!

I came to in a bright room and found myself shackled to the wall! And to make matters worse? I'd lost my equipment! And to make matters worse?! I saw a Bedouin, armed and dangerous and heading right towards me!!

I had only a few seconds to retrieve my stuff! I broke my bonds and barely managed to dodge my adversary's sharp scimitar! I retrieved my own, then ran to instigate the battle properly.

Whoever these people are, they're nuts for putting me in a situation like this!

I actually feel a bit bad for my opponent, thinking back on this now, since I've been training so much I was able to beat him fair and square, knocking him off his feet and onto his back, his sword knocked away. He lay still and silent.

"Oh my! Are you alright?" I asked worriedly. There was no reply. I must have knocked him out.

Suddenly, I heard several voices yell out, "Kill him!!! Kill him!!! Kill Him!!!"

I looked down at my enemy. He'd been incapacitated, clearly unable to fight. I look at him and I can't help but remember myself being in this exact same situation, and all I could do is look on helplessly as that sword, or claw or club or lightning bolt came down for the final blow and death came upon me swift and final.

It's only through some sort of divine intervention that I'm even here at all. I should be joining my comrades and family in Vahalla or Folkvangr, but I'm not.

He doesn't get that sort of second chance.

He was a worthy opponent, just like Toro was. He fought well.

I wish to become a Paladin with all I am. They must be pure, and do what is Right, ja? I've not been all that humble lately, my temper is not being kept in control all that well, and I am merciless in battle. I have the heart of a Paladin, yet the brains of a Fighter. I need to change that once and for all, starting tonight.

I shall show mercy to this man.

I throw down my sword, and it falls to the floor with a clang. I shake my head. "No. I shall not kill him! I beat him fair and square in this fight, and I will not kill someone who is clearly in no shape to battle. My enemies may have cut me down, but they have no honor. I however, do."

Someone clapped my shoulder and I came face to face with Issur. He called me a turkey and said NEVER to show mercy to your enemy. Walid, my opponent, stood up and agreed. I frowned and clenched my fist intending to shout in protest, but I kept my cool. For once.

Still, despite my "failure", I am now a member of the EOF- the Eternal Order of Fighters! Brother Saurus, at your service! I've paid five dinars for membership and... hey! Wait, what?! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?! No, really, I'm confused!!! I... I just gave all my money to Shihhad this morning! I'M BROKE!!! HOW DO I HAVE FIVE DINARS IN MY PACK?! What, did someone slip five dinars into my pocket in the minute or so I was out?!

I'm utterly BAFFLED here!!

I... I think I'm just... going to go celebrate my initiation into the Order and just not think of this anymore on this late night.

Wait... I do feel tired, and I've been here awhile, I'm sure.

I missed my Midnight Tea!!! NIEN!!!

Shameen... Shema... I'm sorry. I need a drink.

See you tomorrow, kitties.

~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~





Day 38

Well, this is it. My final day in Shapeir is over.

I just... I can't believe it's finally over.

I'm gonna miss this place.

I went around the city one more time, just to get one last look, and everywhere I went, Katta and humans thanked me graciously and wished me luck on my trip to Rasier. I thanked all the merchants and shopkeepers for their help likewise, because after all, if it wasn't for them, I couldn't have saved Shapeir so easily. Harik told me that I might need to buy extra pills, until I reminded him that I did just that not a week or so ago, so there was no need to overdo it. I'm a tough guy, I can handle a few bruises. I survived the Earth Elemental, after all, nothing in Rasier can be worse than that.


Anyway, I stopped by the Guild Hall one last time to say my goodbyes and appreciation to Uhura and Rakeesh, and Rakeesh actually surprised me! Remember how I said he didn't fight anymore because of his leg? Well, this day was an exception. He and I actually sparred! And man, was that fun! Not only was he a wonderful opponent, but he also gave me some nice tips! Whereas Uhura gave me advice on how to survive here, like, "Scorpions twitch their tails before striking with their poison," or "Don't watch my weapon, watch my eyes! they'll show you where I'll strike!" which is great advice, I was must more interested on what Rakeesh said since his advice was specifically on the sword.

"When fighting against a sword, do not let a swing catch you off guard. You can be disarmed that way."

"Do not let yourself be distracted by thoughts. Let yourself be one with your weapon."

One with my weapon... I like the sound of that!

After we were done, he said one more thing to me: "You are good, very good. Soon you will be a master with your sword. However, the real battle is not always won by a swing or a thrust. To fight with Honor is not always easy. Sometimes the Way of Honor will seem foolish to those that have none. Nevertheless, without Honor, there is no victory. With Honor, there is no defeat."

I smirked and told him, "i know what you mean already, Rakeesh. did I tell you what I did last night?"

"No, you haven't. The day just started."

"Well, over the past three days, I've been getting messages here at the Guild Hall, telling me to go to a certain place in the city at night..." and so I told him what I did last night, about the EOF and Walid.

He smiled proudly. "You made the right decision, Marcus." He then proceeded to give me this 'look' with a knowing twinkle in his eye. I smile thinking back on that as he'd already made his final decision by then, I feel.

"Hm? Something on your mind, Rakeesh?" I asked. He kept his mouth shut.

I then went to Aziza's and another surprise happened! As I went in, Aziza congratulated me on becoming a Hero and she told me she'd worked some Magic last night and that she'd gotten information about Rasier and wanted to discuss this with me.

And then... I heard a familiar and elongated "Groooooooooonnnnk!!!" behind me! Yelping in fright, I whirled around saw Roget standing in the doorway! WHAT IS UP WITH THIS DAMN LIZARD?!

Nevertheless, Aziza invited in my scaly green mount to sit down at her table. I wonder if I can FINALLY figure out what's up with him?

We sat down and Aziza cast her Far-seeing spell. She somehow, without me telling her about Roget at all, confirmed my suspicions about him.

There IS something wrong with him! He's not an ordinary saurus.

Roget looked into the pool... and reeled back in shock at whom we saw.

Aziza said it was the Emir Arus al-Din.

Wow... I... I feel really bad now. No wonder he was such a coward. No wonder he kept following me in Shapeir. No wonder he seemed so intelligent for a giant lizard with a saddle meant only for being a foreign pack mule.

He'd been enchanted into this shape by... someone in shadow.

I'm reminded of a story I heard as a boy, where a Prince from a faraway land went to go save a princess and her kingdom. At one point, he saw two visions in an oracle's pool, one being him infiltrating the castle in secret to stop her evil vizier, and another was of a person in a shadowy black cloak. Seeing that in Aziza's pool reminded me of that story. Quite interesting!

Aziza told me that she'd be keeping Roget- er, Arus here for safety. And my mission? Find a way to break his enchantment! So that's my goal: Save Rasier from tyranny, and put the old Emir back the throne!

By my Will, so shall it be done!!

After I learned this, I headed back to the Katta's Tail Inn for that final time. Omar was there, speaking his final poem that told of the plight that fell Rasier and wishing me luck from everyone that I'd succeed in dispelling the darkness with light.

Omar gave me a reward from the Sultan of 100 Dinars for defeating the Earth and Water Elemental. I looked down at the shining gold in my hand and shook my head. I had everything I needed already, so I really had no use for it anymore.

I explained this, telling him about how I wished to be humble and that others needed this more than I, but he held up his hand and insisted I take it regardless as there was nothing wrong with having a little money on hand. After all, I never know if I might wish to purchase something in Rasier. Fair enough, I suppose.

After that, I had a nice dinner as usual. And, after much MUCH apologizing profusely from me for missing , I joined my friends Shameen and Shema for Midnight Tea. My final one. I'm already feeling sad just by thinking about it again.

I listened close to Shameen as he told the last parts of their story. While my memory is still rather good, I thought it was nice to see it through another's eyes, so to speak.

Like most of Spielburg's citizens, they were very impressed over how this young man was able to break the curse of Elsa Von Spielburg and subsequently, the Valley itself. The Brigand Fortress wasn't conquered by just brute strength, but courage and resourcefulness. They were shocked to see this young man solve their trouble in such a short time, not even a month! when they'd been troubled for so long.

When the man agreed to accompany the Kattas to Shapeir, he wore an awkward smile as they jumped for joy. To them, he'd done more than just be their companion, but he was able to help them return home with pride and gave them a sense of purpose in the hardships of their journey to search for a Hero over the past year.

And so, as I go bottoms up with my tea, we have come full circle. The journey Shameen and Shema made for the future of their homeland has now ended. Mine is about to begin.

It begins tomorrow. I can only hope I can succeed in my quest once more. Thor give me strength!

~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~







Dancing popcorn time!


Have some extra amusement, but don't forget to come back!





*this entry is less neatly written as writing in a journal while riding a saurus isn't easy*

Day 39

Woo! What a nice day!

I was woken up early by Shameen who told me the caravan was about to leave. Shema gave me one last goodbye and a hug as well as some food and supplies- including extra clothes for some reason -and the Inn was STUFFED with Katta merchants, some I've never even met before who worked in the streets, all of them wishing me luck and safe travels.

I have a new saurus! She's still green- I think red or purple would be better as I'd be able to differentiate between her and Arus, but whatever -and I've decided to call her Merriam! Yes Finn, another book joke, sue me! She is a gift from the Sultan himself. How nice!

I rode out into the sands and beheld a mass of saurii and their riders, all being led by their Caravan Master, who is a huge Centaur! They ride on before Sol rises. I stop to watch the alf rodull rise and warm me up before leaving to join up with the caravan.

And then as not too long after I fell in formation with them... we got attacked by THOUSANDS of Brigands!!!!

So what do we do? We draw our weapons and fight, of course!

And what a fight it was!

I was actually reminded of my nightmare, having thousands of enemies on my tail never ending, but... this time was different. I had confidence in my abilities, and even better, I wasn't alone this time. My caravan companions stood beside me on saurusback, battling with mighty war cries, wielding scimitars.

I don't remember much of the fight to be honest, I was only acting on instinct after awhile, and everything was a red blur. Bodies piling up everywhere, mostly from my sword, none could escape my fury! Still nonetheless, I think I made my ancestors proud! I just LOVE the smell of victory in the morning!

The rest of the caravan fought well, but sadly despite our efforts, we lost several of them to the battle. I can only hope that whatever Gods they worship here bless them and sent their spirits to a peaceful place.

I shall pray for our fallen comrades tonight. Hopefully the Caravan Master won't mind.

Still, we must keep moving regardless, despite our losses. Rasier needs a Hero, and I'm gonna be the man to do it, mark my words!

~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~





*this entry looks like rats have nibbled on it, Marcus has attempted to write around the rips and thusly this entry looks rather cluttered*

Day 40

Oh my, what a fun day I've had. I bid farewell to the Caravan Master, handing him my four letters to my friends and family before leaving. He reared as I waved and they continued onward over the dunes until I could see them no more.

I can only hope their journey is a safe one.

It was mid afternoon when I finally saw Rasier, and... well, it certainly was Shapeir's twin alright, but more... dingy from what I could see out there. Still, like it or not, I have to help in any way I can. I'm a Hero, it's what I do.

I went in, and surprisingly I got a welcoming party! A very harsh one. I came face to face with Khaveen, the Captain of the Guard. Strict, arrogant man! Smacked me twice because I didn't have a Visa and that I didn't answer right away when he asked to comply with the rules. Through gritted teeth, I nodded.

Khaveen is the exact opposite of my father. Ehren Donnelly was Captain of the Guard in Willowsby, serving under our good Jarl. He told me that he'd done so well in his service, that our Jarl even asked him if he wished to become a Thane. He declined, as he told me, because he liked his job as Captain plus I think he feared of being tied to the town and thusly couldn't stay a Paladin. Of course, that's just my theory, and for all I know, I'm wrong and he just prefered being a Captain. I really have no way of knowing unless I meet him in Valhalla again, and I don't want that to happen again. As much as I'd enjoy fighting alongside my kinsmen and preparing for Ragnarok, I think I'm perhaps a little young to die.

Rasier. Quite a dreary place, aye. Certainly different yet familiar to me after seeing Shapeir.

I walked into the Blue Parrot Inn and through the hazy smoke I saw it looked very much like the Katta's Tail except... dirtier. A hush fell over the bar as I walked in, and I had that sense that I wasn't welcome here. "This guy's been out in the sun so long, his hair's gone yellow!" I heard the bartender laugh. I ignored him.

My eyes fell on a man, dressed in green with a fez. I've heard that if I ever meet someone with a fez, that I should talk to them as they might have useful information. Sure enough, he beckoned me over and ordered me a drink. I drank some Rasierian Coffee and winced- it's certainly no Beetle Juice, that much is certain. He told me his name was Signor Ferrari. I took away one thing in our one sided conversation- Don't try to be a Hero here unless you want to make enemies with, well, everybody.

After that, he asked some very probing questions. "So, tell me about yourself, boy. Where are you from?"

"I am an adventurer from the North, a land of ice and snow. That's all you need to know, Signor."

"Got any family, Marcus?"

I narrowed my eyes at him. "Why do you care?"

"Just curious, my boy. I like to get to know whom I'm working with."

"I'd rather not say, for their protection."

"Oh please, you're safe with me, Marcus."

"No," I replied sternly.

"Hmph! Fine. Be an enigma, then."

I ignored most of his questions after that, and just gave him a look that said "Why should I tell you?"

"You are a very closed lipped individual. You hold your drink rather well," Ferrari told me. I smirked at that. Of course I can hold my drink well, my mother is a barmaid at the Silver Griffin. She taught me everything I needed to know about alcohol as soon as I was old enough at fourteen.

"Lets hope you can handle Rasier as well as your drink, young man."

"I can only pray that the Gods protect me here."

"Feh," Ferrari snorted, "you'll need more than prayers to some deities if you ever met the one who really runs our fair city. The Emir is but a stepping stone, you see, for the one behind the throne."

I raised my eyebrows at this. "So Khaveen isn't-"

"No. Even he has a master."

I gulped at this, already having an idea who Khaveen's "master" was. "So... tell me about yourself, Signor."

He cocked his eyebrow at me. I could almost hear him thinking, 'What? So you tell me nothing of yourself, yet you ask the same of me? You're a strange man.'

Regardless he said, "I came here a year and a half ago. A man of my stature has problem making a profit out of any situation. It is not profit that brought me here, though."

"Oh really?" I asked, a sly grin on my face as I leaned forward.

"I came seeking... ah, I see I am boring you. Enough of that subject."

"Come now, Ferrari," I whispered, "Nobody's listening. You can trust me."

"Can I, Marcus?"

"I may not be of your... profession, Signor Ferrari, but I know someone who is. He's a dear friend of mine back home, and while I may not get much use out of what you're seeking, I know that he will. So please, tell me."

He crossed his arms. "If your friend wants to know my plight so badly, then send him to me. I'm in need for someone with cat like tread and nimble fingers, and as you can see," he pointed to himself, "I'm not exactly the type who has those qualities."

"No, I suppose not," I replied as I shook my head. 'But, he lives up North, and the caravan I was on was the only one that went anywhere near Rasier. Perhaps I'll send him a letter once all this is over and everything calms down."

"You do that. I made arrangements for you to have a room here at the Blue Parrot. Be sure you come back before nightfall, there is a curfew here."

"Danke." And with that, I left to explore the city.

To my horror, I realized that my Magic Map no longer worked, so therefore I had to walk.

I went looking for the Fountain Plaza and, like in Shapeir, it was just straight ahead. My heart sank as I saw what was in front of me. The fountain was cracked and dry as a bone. Lifeless. All I heard was the wind in my ears. I tried to put some of my own water in the fountain, but it was no use. I expected the water to swirl and bubble up, but for all my generosity, it just remained a dull puddle.

Going around the city was easier than it's sister city, for a lot of the passages were closed off with boards and messages stating various rules about the city.

"You must carry your Visa at all times!" All times? What about into bed or in the bath?

"Everything not mandatory is forbidden!" What's mandatory?

"The smuggling of water is a capital crime!" Um, I would consider it to be a helpful thing. I doubt Khaveen would help anyone.

"Any order from a guard is a rule!" So if a guard ordered me to dance for his amusement, that would be a rule?

"All Fed-Ex packages must be out by 2:30!" In the morning or afternoon? And out, how? Out of the city? Given out to customers?

"Ignorance of the law is no excuse!" Hmph! Well, excuse me but I'm a foreigner! how am I supposed to know?

"You are being watched!" Wonderful, as if I wasn't already feeling uncomfortable here!

"Rules must be obeyed! Follow the system!" Your "system" is stifling the life out of the bricks and mortar of the city making it shrivel up like a raisin! Gah!

"Some men are more equal than others!" ...Y'know, way back in the old days when Gloriana was young, my people thought like that. We kept slaves known as Thralls in our households, provided we were a higher social class such as a peasant or noble. We ceased that once we realized that we had no right to demean someone like that, no mattter their status in life or where they came from. This certainly helped Rico, since his family is rather poor and they'd be even worse off if they were Thralls since they would have absolutely NOTHING to their name and it'll belong to their master for who knows how many generations.

Gods, it's amazing anyone is still here at all! I wouldn't be surprised if somebody managed to-

I came across another rule. "Suicide is punishable by death!" HOW DOES THAT EVEN WORK?! Suicide means you off yourself! You're dead! How can they punish you any further if you're already dead?!

Ach, these people, by Tyr's hand! I have to stop this! I WILL end this! I make this my vow, my oath by the Gods themselves, if I should ever falter in my duty as a Hero, then may Thor's lightning strike me dead!

Aside from that, I saw nothing much else interesting. I went to the Palace Plaza, but nothing was there but more guards. Is it odd that I actually feel a bit bad for them? I mean, all the people I saw in Shapeir were wearing bright clothes, which makes these not only look foreboding and drab but it must be exceedingly hot in those uniforms.

I headed back to the Blue Parrot where Ferrari awaited me like before. He sat me down, and told me of the days back when Rasier was more lively with people and merchants and the water flowed freely from the magic fountain. Until Khaveen and his master came and ruined everything. The weak either perished or fled under the new order, while the strong had to adapt. According to Ferrari, I am plenty strong, but can I adapt?

Just then, a man approached us. He, like everyone else here, looked shady and suspicious. His name was Ugarte.

Ugarte helps the people of Rasier attain the unattainable. Water and information. He had the latter for me.

He told me that apparently Khaveen doesn't greet everyone at the gates. I was... expected. Someone is apparently VERY interested in my actions, it seems, and Khaveen has told all his men to watch me always.

There is a prophecy that will be fufilled and that someone thinks I may be The One. All Ugarte knows is that it involves someone waiting someone else to open a door to... somewhere. Ugarte didn't bother learning more as he felt that things dealing with Magic are best left alone.

My blood turned to ice at that. It all was coming together now!

The sandstorm that decimated the Sultan's troops. The sudden appearance of Elementals in Shapeir. The enchantment of Arus. The blocking of Aziza's Far-seeing. The words of Al Scurva.

All of it was done by some sort of Magic. I know now why the people in my hometown fear the usage of Magic, since it can be used for such nefarious purposes such as what Ad Avis is doing. Though I do not think all Magic is wicked, I do know that it can be used for Good or Evil. If I only believed the latter, I wouldn't be friends with Finn, and if I only believed the former then I probably wouldn't be here at all.

Ugarte noticed my "deer in the torchlight" look and left, as clearly his service was done and he had to get back to work.

After that revelation, I decided to go to bed.

Still though, I cannot get rest right now. Khaveen is out there. Ad Avis is out there. Always watching me. I feel eyes on my back, but every time I look, I just see the blank, grey walls.

I can't give in to paranoia. I won't! I need to be strong. For everyone's sake. I just need to sleep and not think of it anymore. If I can even manage that at all since I know there are rats in here as they keep nibbling at my journal pages

Ad Avis awaits me here... but will I be ready to face him?

~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~





*once again, rats have been chewing on this entry*

Day 41

Another "fun" day. I got the experience of witnessing Khaveen arrest someone today.

That someone? Well, I go to the Fountain Plaza and I find Ugarte cornered by Khaveen and his Guard! "Smuggling water is a capital crime", and I was witnessing it.

I attempted to rush over and help, but I felt steel dig into my ribs and I didn't want to risk being being run through. All I could do was watch as Ugarte was exposed by Khaveen and subsequently dragged off screaming his innocence, to the Emir's Palace to be tortured for his crimes.

I can only pray the end is swift for him and Hela welcomes him with open arms.

With nothing else left to do, I headed back to where I came from. Then, I stopped as I came near a doorway. A woman dressed in green poked her head out cautiously and beckoned me to follow her if I truly was a Hero like they said. I did so, and met the eyes of a beautiful girl with dark hair named Zayishah.

She wished for me to give her my clothes. I asked why, and she told me she wanted to get out of this city as she was being made to marry Khaveen. I don't blame her for wanting to leave!

"Khaveen is a brutal man," she told me, "I do not like the way he looks at me. One day, he took my father and I down to the dungeons to watch the torturing of prisoners. He had the same kind of look as he watched their pain."

I shuddered. "Who is your father?" I asked.

"My father is the current Emir, Ali al-Din Hasan. He'd never overthrow my uncle, no matter what you've heard. He's just a puppet to Ad Avis. I hate him more than Khaveen! It's all his doing that Uncle Arus is gone and Rasier is the terrible place it is now. He was my uncle's vizier, and he only wants two things in life: complete Power and Control! He will stop at nothing to gain those!"

"I know. I hope to meet Ad Avis soon."

Her eyes widened in fear. "What?!"

"He has to be stopped!" I exclaimed, "I don't care what I have to do, but I made the gods a promise, an oath, that I'd bring an end to this! Even if it means my own life."

She nodded and gave me a small smile. "You're a brave man, Effendi. But, you must be careful. Ad Avis is a master of Magic and loves to show his power. Why, he's even boasted that soon he'll take over the world."

"The ritual... opening a door to somewhere... scorpion's claws and dragon's teeth... yes, it all makes sense..." I muttered to myself.

"What?" she asked.

"Nothing, milady. If I may ask, why are you veiled? I thought those days had passed eons ago."

Zayishah sighed. "All the women must wear veils now, and live in the harem of the Emir. It is forbidden now for a man to speak to a woman, unless she's his wife, daughter or mother. Ad Avis hates women, you see."

"Why is that?"

"None know, Effendi. Now then, to business," and she held open her arms. I began to undo my vest but then I remembered something. Shema! She'd packed me some extra clothes in my backpack! I just handed those to her instead.

She smiled wide and took them gladly, going behind her curtain to change. I probably shouldn't admit this, but I will anyway. The curtain was made of gauze and, well... I just couldn't help staring, okay?! She's a very, VERY lovely woman and I got to see every bit of her for just a moment. Ah~!

She came back out after those few blissful seconds, fully dressed like me, even fixing her hair. "How do I look? Do you think this'll fool anybody? It's so nice not to have to wear a stupid veil," she asked, attempting to imitate my voice.

I nodded and grinned at her. She smiled back briefly but soon dropped it and said, "I just need one more thing."


"I must have your Visa, Effendi, to complete my disguise," she replied, sounding grim.

I thought about it. If I didn't have my Visa, it would be impossible to leave and there was a chance I could be arrested myself. Still, for the sake of both cities, I must do my duty regardless and so I handed it to her. "Thank you ever so much, Effendi!" she beamed. Then she pulled out a mirror and handed it to me. "I want you to have this. If you show this mirror to any of the women in the Emir's Palace, they will help you."

I bowed to her. "Thank you, Zayishah. May luck be with you on your journey."

"And with you, Hero."

And with that, she left. The woman in green spoke again, "I would suggest waiting until she clears the alleyway, Effendi."

"Yes ma'am. Who are you, if I may ask?"

"I am Mayzun," she stated, "Zayishah's servant and friend. And her slave since Ad Avis made slaves."

I clenched my fists. "Dark Magic, hatred of women, terrorizing the populace of Rasier, slavery, does it never end with this schwein?!" Mayzun shook her head gravely.

She pounded her fist into her palm, "Khaveen will never marry Zayishah. I will kill him myself before he can get his hands on her!"

"Well, if all goes well, I might just kill him myself if he crosses paths with me again."

"Be careful if you do," she cautioned, "He's not a Captain for nothing, you know. He can fight with the best of them."

I gave her a smile and drew my sword. "I think I can handle him!"

I left not soon after, and headed back to the Blue Parrot. Having nothing better to do, I hung out by the bar and waited for nightfall to go to bed.

I need a plan. I must confront Ad Avis one way or another soon, but how? He's a Wizard and I have no Magic Mirror to reflect back his spells nor am I a Magic user myself. I bet if Finn were here, he could help me somehow. But what else can I do?! I'm running out of time!!

Ach! I need sleep! maybe the answers will come to me in a dream...

~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~





*this entry was written with a shaky hand, teardrops staining the parchment in various places*

Day 42

Where did I go wrong?

I truly am a fool to think I could make a difference here, because, in the end everything will be destroyed all because of me.

To those whom might find my body someday, I shall explain what has happened...

I awoke this morning to find Ferrari sitting at his table as usual. The patrons at the bar went silent as I went by. "It has been a pleasure doing business with you, Mr. Donnelly, but I fear we must say farewell."

"Farewell?" I asked, "Signor, don't tell me you're leaving! I haven't notified my friend about you yet!"

"It's not I who's leaving today..." was all he said.

"What are you talking about, Ferrari? I'm not intending to leave here until I'm either dead or having finished my work."

He didn't answer, and he ignored my gaze. Fed up with him, I went out the door, not even bothering to say goodbye to Wilmer the bartender...

...And I came face to face with some of the city guards. They immediately surrounded me and told me that I was under arrest. "Wait!!!" I cried, "What's my crime?!"

They didn't answer me and I was dragged away to the Emir's Palace. I was taken down to the dungeons to be searched, beaten and questioned by the guards. I'm not one to spill secrets from my lips easily, and because of that, well, I might have a few new scars from this. These I won't wear proudly, I can assure you. According to the guard who threw me into my cell, I was going to be questioned personally by Khaveen. Pleasant.

I wasn't alone in my cell though. In the corner sat a Katta sitting on some hay, watching me suspiciously with big green eyes. He looked like he'd been recently beaten as well. I approached him and greeted him gently but he just stayed quiet. Just then, I noticed something the guards had missed... "Please, Katta, we need to get out of here. I need you to trust me, alright?"

I showed him the sapphire pin, and as the sun caught the jewel, it shined brightly. The Katta's eyes lit up in joy and he smiled. "That pin can only be seen by a friend, such is it's Magic. you must be very trusted by my people to have this! Hero-Friend, I am Sharaf and part of the Rasier Underground."

I bowed before the Katta. "It is an honor to meet you, Sharaf. Shema was asking of you."

"Shema? How is she?"

"She and her lifemate are fine, but they worry for you."

Sharaf sighed. "I know they do, but I must help our homeland. I could have run to Shapeir like the others to get to safety, but I decided to stay and put myself at risk and take back our home. It's the honorable thing to do. Shameen understood that, which is why he left with Shema to bring back a Hero to help us."

I nodded and smiled. "I understand. Honor means putting others before yourself, even if means you'll be harmed. To show mercy and compassion, even to those who don't deserve it. To fight not for glory or gain or what is lawful, but what is Right and Good in the world."

Sharaf's smile grew wider and he nodded. "You are human, but you understand Honor like one of us."

"I certainly hope I do, because I wish to become a Paladin. I can only hope Rakeesh considers me worthy."

"I wish you luck in that endeavor, Effendi."

"So, tell me about the Underground."

"We are a group of city folk and some guards who seek to rebel against Khaveen and the Emir and despose of them, to take back our homeland. We were fine until someone in our community betrayed us and I was caught. But, we can't do much good if we're in here, can we?"

"Nien, we can't." I turned and looked at the cell door. Then with all my strength, I rammed myself into the door, bursting it wide open with a clang! Sharaf followed me out and I quickly grabbed all my equipment and put it away. Sharaf and I went down into the secret tunnels of the Palace, then after some time, we reached the streets once more and Sharaf and I parted ways. He advised me not to return to the Blue Parrot Inn, since the guards will be looking everywhere for me. I obliged and just decided to go and find somewhere safe to lay low for awhile. Maybe find the headquarters of the Underground somehow.

Hahaha. I am a fool for thinking I had any sort of hope this night. For as soon as I turned a few street corners... I found HIM.

My head is now clear of the fog that had been stuffed into my mind like a meat pie, and I remember everything now. I remember this man was Ad Avis, the Wizard behind everything that had gone wrong in both Shapeir and Rasier.

He spoke to me, his voice low, pleasant and as gentle as mother did whenever I was ill as a child. "Marcus, I am your friend. Remember your friend, Ad Avis. Remember my voice. Remember my face. Trust me, I am your friend,"

I remember attempting to struggle but to no avail. It was like I was rooted to the spot. I wanted to to look away, but...

"Marcus, I am your friend. I am your friend, and you trust me. Trust in my words. Trust in my eyes. Look in my eyes, and trust me." I couldn't help but look into his eyes. His glowing, snake like eyes. If only I knew back then what would transpire for me as his words whirled in my head...

"Marcus, I am your friend," he told me a third time, "Obey now your friend, Ad Avis. Obey now my words. Obey now my voice. Trust in your friend and Obey me." What a fool I am! I believed him. His eyes seemed gentle, his smile warm like I remembered father's was.

"Marcus, you know me. I am your friend, Ad Avis, who helped you escape from the dungeons of Rasier. Together we seek to aid our friend, Emir Arus. I was his trusted Vizier, remember?" I remember now that story about that prince who went to a faraway land also had a Vizier like him, one who gained the trust of the people then when he had them in his grip, he crushed their hopes like a bug under a heel. Oh, I considered him a humble, gentle man back then but I was wrong.

"To end the evil reign of Khaveen and restore our friend the Emir Arus, together we must go out into the desert. We must journey to the Forbidden City, and recover the Magic item that will break the spell upon the Emir. we NEED to get the statue of Iblis!" I'm weak minded. Stupid! I should have said no! I should have remembered what Aziza told me about Iblis because then I wouldn't be in this situation now!

"You remember the statue of Iblis, don't you? It has remarkable powers, and can break any spell it touches. We need to take the statue to Arus, our friend. Together, let us save the city of Rasier!" Why was I not strong enough to resist?! His eyes are what did it, their gaze was like a snake. Al Scurva pulled the same trick to get me to open his cage and disembowel me.

We eventually reached the Forbidden City after the sun had set. Ad Avis, i remember, was very frustrated as he couldn't open the door no matter how magic spells he casted. I heard him say the prophecy:

"For one thousand years and a year,
Iblis shall be bound,
Beneath the tombstones of the city that he once did found.
Then comes a Hero from the Northland,
led unto despair,
Passing through the door unopened, that he will find there."

He asked me what I could do about it, as the Moon wasn't due to rise between the Scorpion and the Dragon until tomorrow. Then, I reached into my backpack for anything useful, as I wanted to help this man, and came across the mirror that Zayishah had given me. Shining it on the door, with the moon reflecting on it, the door disappeared.

With a triumphant smile, Ad Avis spoke the last part of the prophecy which still rings in my ears even now:
"And at last the Hero 'He Who Waits Behind' shall see,
While Iblis rises by the Dark One and the light shall flee.
By the name of Suleiman, so shall this be!"

With that, I was told to go inside and did so obediantly like a dog. I was in complete darkness as the haze started leaving my head, so I FINALLY put my Magic Lamp to good use as a torch.

I went through several rooms. The first was a river with two waterfalls and some logs, lit by a strange light green glow all around. I do remember falling to my doom into the Water and getting Restored a few times before getting the timing for my jumps correct. I then was obstructed by a hole in the wall that sucked in air. Remembering the Air Elemental, I knocked down the rocks, preventing the Air from escaping.

The second was a room full of lava and geysers shooting up Fire like I was in Muspellheim! I passed this one by dumping some of my Water onto myself, having remembered the Fire Elemental, and stopping my excessive sweating.

The third was a cavern made of stone and Earth. I reached a cliff and jumped down. It hurt, but I knew how to fall thankfully. I was greeted by a door, and a deep, echoing voice spoke,

"None shall enter,
None shall pass,
but he who speaks the name of Power.

I thought back for a moment, thinking of all the powerful people I knew of. The Sultan, the Emir, Aziza, Erasmus, Ad Avis, Khaveen, Iblis... but then I remembered the one everyone revered and respected back in Shapeir. I took a deep breath and shouted with all my might, "SULEIMAN!"

The fourth room was filled with treasures beyond wonder! Gold, jewels, armour, swords, everything I could possibly want was here! I reached out to grab the armour, and suddenly I felt a deep, burning shock run through me and I saw every part of me dissolve into dust! Then I knew nothing more. I was Restored back to where I was, and decided not to fall into temptation and greed. I'd rather not experience that again.

The fifth and final room is where I am now. And where everything fell apart. All that was in the room was a winding pathway, leading up to a pedestal, lighting up the room in an eerie green glow.

Before I could even process what was happening, I realized my legs were moving on their own accord up the path.

At the end sat a statue made of crystal, small enough to fit in my hand. I remember seeing a dark, swirling mass inside. This was the Statue of Iblis!

But... as soon as I reached out to grab it...

Ad Avis Teleported in and snatched it! He wore a malicious grin and laughed, "Fool! Some Hero you are! A pawn of the very man you sought to destroy! Thanks to your help, I now have that through which I can summon the greatest destructive power ever known- Iblis himself!"

As everything I had done came rushing back into my mind, my heart sank into my toes. I was and am a fool! What kind of Hero would play into a villain's hand like this?! Oh how I wish Tyr would reign justice upon Ad avis, but I fear not even the Gods can help me now.

He looked at the statue then back at me. "Do you know how long I've waited for this moment, Hero? Seventy years! Seventy years I have served the Dark Master while watching for the stars to align. Seventy years I have spent learning the Magic that controls men's minds and waiting for a fool to fufill the prophecy for me."

Seventy years?! He doesn't look a day over his forties or so! What IS this man? Is he even human? And now he's told me he has a master too?! can this day get even more worse?!

"Tonight, as the moon arises between the Scorpion's Claws and Dragon's Teeth, I shall begin the ritual that shall make me the Master! I will control Iblis, and thus control the world. While you, pawn of Prophecy, shall remain behind in this tomb. you shall be, 'He Who Waits Behind.'"

My eyes widened in horror and I attempted to speak, to scream, to protest, but nothing came out of my throat but a weak gasp. I attempted to lunge at him, but a blast of Magic power struck me and sent me flying into the wall.

As I slumped over in pain, I watched in horror as boulders came down to block the door! I am trapped!

Ad Avis laughed uproariously, looking at me like I was prey to him. "Farewell, Hero!" With that, he was gone.

I've tried moving the boulders, but even my immense Strength skills won't have them budge.

All I can do is sit here and write in the light of my Magic Lamp. I'm just… thinking back on my life, about all I've done. Becoming a Fighter like father, becoming a Hero in Spielburg, journeying here, meeting Rakeesh and learning the Way of the Paladin. Was all that for nothing? Was my fate as dictated by the Norns as they do all of us when we're babies, to have it end this way? In failure? I don't know anymore.

There's nothing I can do here! I can't move the rocks no matter how hard I try, I can't Teleport as I'm not a Magic User… I'm well and truly stuck here!

I just want to say something, to those who might find this someday.

I'm sorry. I'm sorry for everything.

Finn? I'm sorry I ever called you a coward. You'll make a wonderful Wizard someday, you just need to get out there in the world and explore. I was glad to know you. Make the world shine bright with your power after I'm gone.

Rico? I'm sorry I ever made you think you couldn't trust me. I wish you luck in your raids, and may Loki guide your trickery well. I was proud to be your friend. May you always be sly and cunning as a fox, but never lose your wits. Keep walking that fine line.

Gildemeister? I'm sorry I failed you. I wasn't strong enough to stop him. You were the best teacher I ever had and ever will have. I cannot thank you enough for all you've done, not that it'll help me much here. May we meet again in Valhalla someday, though given my circumstances, I doubt I'll reach it now.

Mother? I'm sorry I didn't listen to you. I wouldn't be in here if I did, I'd still be safe at home. Please, mother, don't mourn me. I don't think I'd be able to bear it to see you weep again. Please, stay strong! I love you, mother.

I feel so tired.

I'm seeing things, clearly. There's a glint nearby…

~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~





Day 43

A wise old King once said, "Everything dark will lead into something light."

In the depths of crushing despair and darkness, I had forgotten that. Yet, in the end, that's exactly what happened, and it has ended up being one of the best days of my life.

That tiny glint was the light I needed.

It turned out to be a ring. Sticking it on my finger, I brought it up to the lamplight, turning it around to read... "'He Who Waits Behind'? But, isn't that-!" then suddenly in a loud POOF a cloud of bluish purple came out of the ring!

And then, to further baffle me, the cloud spoke! "I may grant you three wishes, oh Master of the Ring. What is your first wish?"

"Wait, wait, wait... what's going on here? Who are you, exactly?"

The Djinni made a motion as to bow and replied with a smile, "I am the Djinni of the Ring. Suleiman asked for someone to stay here and make sure Iblis wouldn't escape. I volunteered. Suleiman made me 'He Who Waits Behind' and despite all the othe Djinni laughing at me, he told me I'd do fine. But," he sighed, "as you can see, I didn't do my job very well."

"Djinni of the Ring... was put here to make sure Iblis didn't escape... wait, so YOU'RE whom Aziza was talking about then!"

"Who's Aziza, Master?"

"She's an Enchantress in Shapeir. So you are He Who Waits Behind, huh?"

"That's my title by Suleiman, yes Master."

"So what shall I call you then? What is your actual name?"

The Djinni smacked his forehead. "Gosh, Master! It's been so long I can't even remember! You should just call me Djinni."

"Very well. So if you are HWWB, then what about the Prophecy spoken of by Ad Avis? Was it wrong?"

"Hmmm... what did he say?"

I recited the Prophecy of Suleiman like I'd heard it. Djinni burst into laughter. "Oh, Master! You needn't have worried at all! That's not the Prophecy of Suleiman!"

"Really?!" I asked, "Then what does it really say?"

"Um, well... I... don't exactly remember, Master. I've been trapped in that Ring a very, very long time, don't you know."

I hung my head and sighed disappointed. "So, you grant wishes, huh?"

Djinni nodded and smiled. "You can wish for health, prowess or teleporting to Iblis."

I perked up at that. "Wait, teleportation to Iblis?! You can get me out of here?!"

"That I can, Master!" Djinni said proudly. "But perhaps you should wish for other things as well? You're gonna need all the help you can get, ya know."

"Very well then, Djinni, I shall take your advice. I wish for healing, please!"

Djinni snapped his smoky fingers and in an instant I felt completely revitalized as my wounds closed and healed up. I feel strong again!

""Gee, it's so nice when my magic actually works! It's not exactly my forte. You still have two wishes left, Master."

"I wish for Vitality, please!"

I felt stronger, like I'd done intense training! How wonderful!

"And lastly..." I paused for dramatic effect, "I wish for teleportation! Take me to Iblis!"

Djinni grinned wide and raised his arms, his stubby poofs for hands glowing with Magic. "In the name of Suleiman bin Daoud, the Binder, and by my power as He Who Waits Behind: Take us to Iblis!"

With a bright flash and a rush of wind, I found myself back in Rasier! It was nighttime still, and I recognized it as the Palace Plaza. "This is the closest I could get, Master! I sense powerful Magic here. We must hurry!" I heard Djinni say frantically.

Just then, I heard a whisper from the alleyway and Sharaf suddenly came up to me and said, "The Underground is prepared to attack the Palace. If you intend to go in there, we'll provide a distraction."

I nodded seriously. "Thank you, Sharaf!"

"Please, you must hurry! We don't want you to get caught in the midst of our battle."

"I won't," I said. I broke into a run and dashed toward the Palace.

I quickly looked around- the Palace was heavily guarded. I noticed a small blue cloth tied to the upper levels and a eunuch patrolling the parapet. Thinking quickly, I drew my sword and slay the guards at the front as quickly as I could before forcing open the doors, ignoring the eunuch's cries for help and reinforcements.

Slipping into the shadows of the hallways, Djinni led me quickly to a room with a balcony, overlooking a rather familiar Captain talking with a guard. He mentioned the people were revolting and complaining that Ad Avis chose NOW of all times to perform a magical ritual and he was set to guard the door when he'd rather be leading his troops against the rebels.

After the guard left, I smiled down at Khaveen. 'He's mine!' I thought to myself as I jumped and rolled down to the floor.

He heard the thud as I landed and turned around, drawing his blade. "So, you managed to escape. Ad Avis doesn't know everything, it seems."

He and I locked eyes as I drew my sword. "Good. I've been waiting for this moment."

I smiled wide, eager to fight as well. "So have I, Khaveen. So have I! Let's dance!"

I went for a thrust. He blocked with his shield. I slashed, and he parried. I spun and double-triple slashed, and he blocked every one. I swung downwards, intending to cut his stomach open, and he and I locked blades.

I snarled in his face and leaned into my stance, trying to get him off balance, when suddenly I cried out in pain as he stomped my foot, making me reel! That gave him time to swing... and although I ducked, he managed to strike my sword hand, knocking my sword from my grasp and flinging it upwards. I remembered Rakeesh's words, "Do not let a swing catch you off guard. You can be disarmed that way."

As my sword clattered to the floor, I went to grab it but stopped as Khaveen held his sword close to my chest, threatening to run me clean through if I made any wrong moves. Khaveen smiled mockingly and with confidence in his eyes. "Ha! some Hero you are! That was easy. Too easy. I'm disappointed in you, boy. Now, yield to me and grovel on the floor. I might consider sparing your life. Yield!"

I glared at him and shook my head in defiance. "Nien."

He glared back, pressing in the blade so I could feel the cold steel touching my chest. "When I say yield, you yield!"


"I said YIELD!!!" he shouted. He pressed harder now, piercing my skin enough than he drew blood.

I gritted my teeth through the pain and growled, "Go on, Khaveen. I dare you to kill me in cold blood, you unehrenhaft schwein!!"

"I accept your challenge!" Khaveen raised his sword high to sever my head from my neck... and I ducked just in time to pick up my sword and managed to successfully block the backswing with my shield. I jumped backwards from another slash and swung high. The clashing of steel and swift swooshes of wind as we swung and parried our swords again and again was music to my ears!

I was wounded, I knew. My blood rushed in my ears, and I occasionally saw it drip onto the floor in small pools. But I didn't care. There was a fire burning in my very soul that reflected in my eyes. By Thor's hammer, I was actually having FUN with this!

Khaveen must have noticed, as he tried dirty tactics again, any sort of technique he knew, trying to get me to falter and slip up. Anything to wipe that maniacal smile off my face! But I wouldn't be deterred this time!

Not soon after, I'd caught him off guard and knocked his sword out of his hand. It went upwards and landed at his feet. Whose laughing now, huh?!

Khaveen's smile had long since gone away, having been replaced with worry and, dare I say it, perhaps a bit of fear.

I cleared my throat, "Ahem! Excuse me, Captain. Aren't you going to get your sword?"

He looked at me utterly baffled. "What? You're not going to kill me, boy? I am at your mercy!"

I frowned and replied, "Not in cold blood. Unlike you, I have a sense of Honor and fair play."

"Honor? Pleagh!" Khaveen spat, "What use is that? I'm no goody goody, I get along just fine without it!"

I tsked, "'Sometimes the Way of Honor will seem foolish to those that have none,' if I may quote my mentor. Now then," I pointed down and ordered firmly, "Get. Your. Sword!"

He complied and snatched up his blade again. "Hmph, so you think you're skilled enough for a rematch? Don't expect me to hold back on you."

I smiled again. "I never asked for you to hold yourself back, Captain. After all, 'without Honor, there is no victory. With Honor, there is no defeat.'"

Khaveen's eyes met mine and he growled, "We'll see about that!"

And so, the real battle began! Khaveen jumped and slashed down, I jumped back and block just in time as to not have my skull cleaved in two. I slashed twice, and he yells in pain as I cut deep and draw blood.

He stabs me in the stomach and I hold back a wail. His blade collides with my head and I stumble, but rolled out of the way of his downward swing to slice me in half.

I recovered, blocking another blow. Khaveen attempted bringing his sword down on my shield, trying to force me down on my knees and lose balance again. There is a loud clang and sparks fly as steel grinds against iron, but I don't give in!

With all my strength, I push my shield forward and bash him hard enough that he got the wind knocked out of him and fell over! I jumped up and slashed down but he parried as he got up and we clashed again.

He got out of the blade lock and swung upwards, and I saw him grin as his blade made a deep gash in my chest. I screamed and was sent sprawling onto the floor. My heart beat wildly in my ears as I saw my hands coated in my own blood, and I quickly got up before he could cut me down again.

I ducked another swing and parried with one of my own. I jumped and spun, and slashed Khaveen's ribs. He screamed and stumbled, and I took the opportunty to ram my shield in his face and I heard him howl as well as a satisfying crack as he collapsed again!

He rolled and recovered and swung low to slash at my ribs, swift as an arrow's flight and I doubled over in agony. I rolled out of the way of another swing that surely would have cut off my head, and saw that Khaveen looked rather run down by this point. On the other hand, I wasn't doing so good either.

My heart skipped a beat, and I began to feel cold. My legs struggled to hold me up and the puddles of blood had now grown into a much larger pool. As I looked down for that moment, I began to feel dizzy and saw spots before my eyes as I coughed and wheezed. The chill started to numb everything else. It was all becoming too much for me. I was dying!

I had to end this NOW.

Khaveen noticed my condition and lunged forward, intending to do the same to me as I was about to do to him.

I backstepped and blocked, and as Khaveen's sword collided with my shield, making sparks fly once more, with a loud cry I thrust my blade forward. My blade went straight into his chest, running him through.

Khaveen looked at me in shock, then down at my sword then back at me again. As I pulled it out, his eyes rolled back and he fell to his knees with his eyes closed. I chuckled weakly as I stood in front of him, and as I heard his breathing slow, I imparted one more bit of wisdom to him, "Never mess with a Donnelly, Captain."

And then I sliced off his head!

What? I had to make sure he stayed dead. Unintentional rhymes are fun!

I downed a Healing Pill or two quickly, which made me feel a bit better. Enough to feel like I could take on another challenge if I were careful.

So, of course, as soon as I try to break down the door, I get blasted by a Magic ward! So I down ANOTHER Healing pill, and bust down the doors!

I saw Ad Avis by the large windows, chanting and waving his arms around a large pentagram drawn on the floor with a candle at each point. Every time one of the candles lit up, a part of the pentagram would glow and Iblis's statue would shake and rumble as if he were trying to struggle out of his bonds.

Dodging the nearby statue who'd decided tonight that he intended to come to life and attack me, I knew exactly what I had to do. Djinni yelled in my ears, "Hurry, Master! Iblis will soon be free!" and as quickly as I could muster, I kicked one of the candles over and I sighed in relief as the spell stopped.

But it wasn't over yet! A scream of anger came from Ad Avis and I saw his hands begin to glow and he yelled, "YOU! MY SPELL IS BROKEN! YOU WILL DIE!!" And I found myself getting blasted repeatedly by fireballs! How fun!

Pushing past the pain of the fire scorching me, I attempted to get up close and personal with the Wizard... only for a barrier of fire to spring up before me! Frustrated, I ran through it as if it were nothing and Ad Avis locked eyes with me for but a moment and before he could blast another spell... he found himself falling. As I pushed him out the window with all my might, I heard him scream, "Dark Master, help meee~!" and then, there was silence.

At last, my legs gave out on me and I slumped against the window and sat down on the floor. I was exhausted beyond belief, so I just sat there for a few minutes as I recovered and let my brain process all that had happened.

I'd done it.

Through the odds were stacked high against me, I'd won.

Djinni poofed out of my Ring and cheered, "We did it! Hurray!" He floated over to the little statue of Iblis and said, "Thank you, Master. Now I can take Iblis back to his tomb where he will be safe for another thousand years and a year."

I swear to you, when Djinni said those words, that I saw the little form of what would have been Iblis shake and writhe within the crystal as if enraged that his plans had been foiled before he was poofed away.

Djinni's bright green eyes lit up suddenly and he exclaimed, "I remember now! I remember the Prophecy of Suleiman!"

I sat up straighter and asked, "Really? What is it then?"

He cleared his throat and recited it like so:

"One thousand years and a Year,
so shall Iblis be caught,
In the tombstones of the City,
where he and I once fought.
Until moonlight has been captured,
twixt the Scorpion and Drake,
Then comes a Hero from the North,
and ancient powers wake.

Led and followed by a Dark One,
guide to deceit and despair,
Passing through the Trial by Fire,
Trials of Water, Earth and Air;
Passing through the Door unopened,
barrier that yields to none,
By my name of Suleiman,
So shall this be done!

Come at last unto betrayal,
and to 'He Who Waits Behind',
Seek ye then to capture Iblis
'ere he rises unconfined
Else shall come the night eternal,
Darkness overshadows Light,
Unless a Hero seeks the darkness,
and restores the wrongs to right."

Then with a final farewell, he poofed away. I leaned back and thought about the Prophecy and what it meant, smiling a little. So my fate had been preordained, my destiny as woven by the Norns was that it would be I who'd save all of Shapeir. I wasn't destined to fail like I'd thought, and still, even today, thinking about that gives me comfort in the knowledge that sometimes fate isn't so cruel.

With the help of Mayzun, we eventually found Ali al-Din Hasan, hiding in his bedroom. It took a bit of persuading from me and several harsh remarks from Mayzun to get him to come to his senses and restore the city. At the light of Dellingr, he announced to the people of Rasier that the evil reign of Khaveen and Ad Avis was over. The city rejoicing was almost deafening but man, did it feel good to hear!

The Emir began a very boring speech that I didn't even bother to listen to let alone transcribe, so I left to finish my quest.

I looked down at the lifeless fountain in the Plaza, and brought out my waterskin with the Elemental inside that I'd captured what seemed like ages ago, setting her free in the fountain. Instantly, the water began to flow again! And as the sun rose higher, I watched in amazement as the sun began to glint off the wrecked grey stone, making them glow bright and it was if the sun itself was reflected off the bricks as it instantly changed to look just Shapeir. Twin sister cities, indeed! Just then, Shameen, Shema and Abdulla arrived on the flying arpet we used to get to this land, saying that the Sultan had summoned me to his Palace.

I stood before the Sultan Harun al-Rashid to be judged. "Will anyone speak for this Stranger from the North?" Ja'afar asked.

Shameen and Shema stepped forward to speak for me. Shameen spoke first, then Shema. "We are Shameen and Shema, keepers of the Katta's Tail Inn. When the Katta were driven from Rasier, we journeyed to the Northland in search of a Hero."

"We met Marcus."

"Through his courage and skills, he restored the Baron's son and daughter and banished the wicked Baba Yaga."

"And thus he became the Hero of Spielburg."

"He journeyed back with us to Shapeir. Here he defeated the elementals of Fire, air, Earth and Water to save out city."

"He is a true Hero," Shema concluded. I smiled and hugged them both.

"Who will speak for this Hero of Spielburg?" Ja'afar asked.

Walid stepped forward to speak for me. "I am Walid, a guard of the Palace and a member of the Eternal Order of Fighters. This man vanquished me in a fair fight and demonstrated great skills in combat. When I lay helpless upon the ground, he was given orders by the members of the EOF to kill me. Instead, he showed me mercy. This man is a true Hero." I shook hands with Walid firmly and he smiled.

"Who will speak for this man of mercy?" Ja'afar asked.

Aziza stepped forward to speak for me. "I am the Enchantress Aziza. This man of his own free will went into the desert and sought the plant-woman Julanar. Through his kindness and compassion, he allowed Julanar to forget the pain and suffering of her past and to again face life with joy. This man also found a caged beast in the desert. Though it was wicked and most foul, marcus Donnelly turned aside its wickedness and restored its humanity. We shall hope it may learn from the kindness of the Hero. This man is a true Hero." I thanked her politely and nodded humbly.

"Who will speak for this man of compassion?" Ja'afar asked.

Zayishah stepped forward to speak for me. "I am Zayishah, daughter of the Emir Ali Al-Din Hasan. In order to escape the repression of my homeland, Rasier, I asked this stranger for aid. At the risk of his own life, he helped me escape from the city. He is a true Hero." She put her hand on my shoulder and kissed my cheek, making me turn a little red.

"Who will speak for this man of courage?" Ja'afar asked.

Arus, still in his Saurus form, stepped forward to speak for me. "Then let him have a voice that he may speak," Ja'afar declared.

Conveniently enough, someone had found a comb of Arus's which made the Dispel Potion work perfectly. Arus's altered form was engulfed in a bright light and he was restored back into his natural human form at last. "When Ad avis transformed me into a Saurus, I lost all hope of returning to my own form. Yet this man showed me his courage, kindness, and Honor, and I knew that Marcus would restore me." I bowed my head and whispered an apology for all I had said about him as a Saurus, but he said it was fine. Water under the bridge.

"Who will speak for this man of Honor?" Ja'afar asked.

A hush fell over the assembly as the Sultan himself stepped forward to speak for me. Feeling honored in his presence, I knelt before him and kept silent. "I am Harun al-Rashid, Sultan of the land of Shapeir. I am the Poet Omar, Teller of tales for all to hear. By the words which have been spoken, by the deeds that have been done, I proclaim this man a Hero," he gently lifted my chin up so I was looking him straight in the eyes and concluded his poem, "I now call this man my son."

The Palace erupted in cheers and merriment. Tears of happiness filled my eyes as Ja'afar handed me a sapphire pendant inset in gold, but I didn't let them fall until what happened next. I hugged Harun and he hugged back and Ja'afar asked for the last time as he quieted everyone down, "Is there anyone now who will speak for this son of the Sultan?"

Rakeesh stepped forward and said, "I shall speak for Marcus Donnelly." All eyes including mine were drawn to him, and I knelt before my mentor. Rakeesh's voice was strong and firm, yet I could detect the pride in his voice that reminded me so much of father's when I was younger and mastered a skill under his training, "This man has shown courage in the face of great danger, kindness to the weak, generosity to the poor, honesty in dealing with others, and Mercy to his enemies. He is a man of great Honor," I saw him draw his sword and my eyes widened not in fear but in excitement for what he was planning to do. I looked up into his eyes as my heart fluttered in my chest and I smiled as he made his announcement, "I, Rasha Rakeesh SahTarna, give to Marcus Donnelly my sword, 'Soulforge'." He tapped the blade on both my shoulders and I was told to arise as Rakeesh handed me the sword. He then spoke the words I shall always hear in my heart and mind with fondness and joy, even years down the road. "You are now a Paladin."

The cheers begin again! I let my tears fall then, embracing him tightly, burying my face in his mane and whispering, "Thank you!" repeatedly to him. I heard him lightly chuckle and patted my back. 'You're welcome, Marcus. I know how much this goal meant to you ever since we first met."

"I'll never forget this, I promise!" I sniffled as I pulled away and wiped my eyes. "I'll make you and father proud, I swear it!" Rakeesh smiled and nodded.

I raised Soulforge up high above my head, and it burst into dazzling blue flames. Somewhere up in Asgard, I'm sure father is smiling proudly. I can only hope I live up to his legacy.

I'm sitting in my new bedroom now, after a long celebratory feast, looking out my window at the stars and the desert below. Rakeesh told me that I'm to begin my training in the Way of the Paladin starting tomorrow. Shapeir may be safe, but a Paladin's work is never truly done until the day they breathe their last. If there is a problem out there in the world, we are charged to go and help out in any way we can, with no deed being too small to be insignificant or too large to back down from.

I hope, though I highly doubt it'll happen, that I can start small like I did here in Shapeir. I mean, it's not like my next adventure is going to thrust me into a flipping war with me having to fight against horrifying creatures to save whatever land I go to next.


~Taken from the Journal of Marcus Donnelly of Willowsby.~