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Quest for Glory Journal
Entries for Tarna
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 ::
:: Return To Shapeir's Journal Entries ::
:: Skip Ahead To Mordavia's Journal Entries ::
:: Skip Ahead To Silmaria's Journal Entries ::


Day 44

My name is Marcus Donnelly, Hero of Two Lands, Prince of Shapeir and Paladin protege.

Ever had one of those times? Y'know, the one where you SWEAR something extraordinary happened to you, yet nobody believes you because it's just too out of left field?

Before I get into the meat of this day I've had, I want to tell those who might read this someday something.

Well, it has been three months since the death of Ad Avis. Three months since I have gone from the son of a Captain of the Guard in Northeast Kriegland, to being declared the Prince of Shapeir and Hero of Shapeir. Three months since I have achieved my life's dream of becoming a Paladin under my godfather, Rasha Rakeesh Sah Tarna.

After these three months, I have discovered something... interesting.

I awoke one morning to watch the sunrise as I often did, only, the city looked a bit different as Sol warmed the sands of my new home. Shapeir- my beautiful, lovely city -looked like as if someone had taken a brush and painted over the entire landscape! I watched the sun move over the clay, brick and mortar of my city and saw it light up in bright reds and pinks, with the sand shining like gold waves.

My city... she was gorgeous!

I felt like I had to show this to someone- anyone! -and so rushed out of my bedroom and ran towards my adopted father's chambers. "Papa! Father! Come, you must look at our city!" I called as I dashed down the hall. Suddenly though, I skidded to a stop and backed up a few steps.

Now, over the course of these past few months I have had my full reign of the Palace and the city. By now I knew every nook and cranny of the streets, and could wander the Palace blindfolded using only my other senses to know where I was. I knew this land and it's place of leadership like the back of my hand.

Yet, in all my careful observance and learning about the layout of this place, I'd never seen this. I never have seen this door at all in all my walkarounds of the Palace. I would have noticed if the servants were building a new room, wouldn't I? The sounds of hammers and saws, dust cluttering the floor, the sounds of barking orders and so on. Yet this had completely slipped beneath my radar.

Curious as to where this door led, I started to open it. Immediately as I placed my hand on the wood, I felt a sense of Magic about it. Something powerful was behind that door.

I found myself in a blank room, no furniture at all, just empty floors and the ceiling above me. That's not what was interesting, what was interesting was the people I saw inside the room.

There were nine people in the room, all dressed like artists and wearing aprons covered in paints of various colors, delicately painting the room in the same splendorous style that I saw outside. They all turned to look at me as I walked in.

"Uh, Jeff?" one of the guys- named Jerry by the nametag apparently -finally spoke up. "I think we've been spotted."

Jeff sighed and facepalmed, "What are you doing here, Marcus?"

I shrugged. "I was just about to visit my father's quarters to let him- wait, you know me?" I raised my eyebrows.

"Yes," Dana said. "We all know who you are. We know everything about you, Hero."

I gulped, "Everything?"

Jay, Darrin, Tim, Frank and Mustafa nodded. Roger gave a sly grin.

"So you're artists?" I asked, trying not to dwell on the fact that these guys knew all about me. "Your work is very nice."

"Thanks!" Darrin replied, picking up his paint jar and returning to the wall he was painting.

I glanced at it. "VGA paint?"

"Yep! We're making some changes around here, Marcus," Tim said with a nod. "VGA is what's making our shining city of the sands look so nice outside."

I nodded. "It's beautiful! But... how are you able to do this?"

"They work under me," said a voice behind me. It was female with a certain authoritive tone. I turned around to see before me a very familiar Katta.

"Sloree? You know these guys?"

Sloree nodded and smiled. "I didn't know you were such a wonderful artist."

Her smile widened. "I am more than that, Hero. You could also say I am a Wizard of some great renown, as are my companions here." She snapped her claws and suddenly, all my suspicions were confirmed. The illusion broke and revealed it's true form. In a flash, there stood before me not a cat, but a lady dressed in bright Shapeirian garb.

"So it WAS you I saw in Spielburg!"

She nodded. "Aye, my husband and I."

"So," I asked, tilting my head, "What are you? How are you able to do this?"

"Let's just say Scoree and I have power beyond your comprehension, Hero. The power to shape and weave reality into a new world."

"Huh? So, wait, are you...?"

"No, we're not THAT powerful, Marcus."

"But you were able to make-!"

"As a last resort, Hero. We had no other choice."

"What? What are you talking about?"

"Perhaps another day I shall tell you of the War, but for now, enjoy your new adventures in VGA. I ask that you be strong. Don't let the darkness break you, no matter what, alright?"

I smirked. "I'm a Paladin. Don't doubt me just yet."

"It's not me doubting you that you should worry about," she frowned, "We all have our dark sides, Marcus. We all have fears and doubts and dark thoughts in our hearts. Someday, Hero, you will stand alone and face off against that and it will overwhelm you to the point of madness. But you must not let it break you."

"I won't, my lady. I promise."

"Promises mean nothing if you cannot keep them. Not many can face off against their own shadow and win."

I looked at her serious." I am a Donnelly, Sloree! I was born for things like this!"

Sloree gave me a smile. "I can only hold out hope that you can fufill that. I wish you good luck, Prince of Shapeir."

"Thank you, ma'am." I said with a bow.

Suddenly, I found myself out in the corridor again when I looked up. I soon found Papa and tried to tell him what I'd found.

He didn't believe me. No one did. They just acted like this whole VGA thing was always there.

Needless to say, I was a tad irritated by that! I wondered briefly if it was all just a dream, but nay, just looking around at the surroundings tells me all I need to know.

I was quite relieved to find a letter addressed to me from Aziza, asking me to come to her home. It certainly would be something to take my mind off things!

And to make things better, I ran into Rakeesh while there. He and I exchanged pleasantries and we sat down in front of Aziza's table where she manipulated her Water Magic.

She then proceeded to... retell me things I already knew.

"As you know, three months ago in Rasier the evil Ad Avis attempted to unleash the djinni Iblis in order to rule the world..."

With a wave of her hand, she recreated a vision of the past like I'd seen her do several times before. Ad Avis's chamber to be specific.

However, as she spoke, I frowned as I noticed something was a little... off about her scene...

"Ad Avis stood before his hexagram, preparing to unleash the foul Iblis to do his bidding..."

I raised a finger, "Why are the candles lit?"

"What?" she asked, stopping her dramatic narration for a moment.

I pointed to the scene. "Why are the candles lit?! Iblis would be free if that were true!"

"Well, did you expect me to remember that?" Aziza said, crossing her arms and continuing.

"'Hear me, O Dark Powers! Light the darkness and bind Iblis to me forever!'" I heard vision!Ad Avis yell. Then I saw me running in.

"Wait a second!" I held up my hand to stop her again, "One, why am I dressed in what I'm wearing now when this is meant to be a flashback? and two, where's the statue? I specifically remember there being a statue."

"The statue not being there doesn't matter, Marcus. And as for your clothes, I figured it would seem more familiar."

I rolled my eyes and thought, 'Not if we're being accurate here!'

"You entered the room and broke the Seal of Suleiman by moving the candle." I nodded.

"'You idiot! You have destroyed my spell. Now you shall be destroyed!"

Vision!Ad Avis set up his Fire Circle spell. "'Fool, you cannot hurt me now, and I shall send thee to thy death!'"

I butted in again. "How archaic. He never said either of that. He said, 'YOU! MY SPELL IS BROKEN! YOU WILL DIE!' and started blasting me with Flame Darts THEN brought up the Fire Circle."

"It doesn't have to be completely accurate, Marcus. My point is still being made," Aziza said with a frown. Rakeesh cocked an eyebrow at me.

I watched the mini me push Ad Avis off the roof. "'No, no! Master, help me!'"

"You passed through the raging flames and sent Ad Avis falling to his doom."

"Why is the brazier on the wrong side? Why is the wall so low? I could have easily fallen off that if I tripped or something."

Aziza just glared at me.

Rakeesh spoke up, "For the record, Marcus, *I* have not seen these circumstances before, so this is not a problem to me. It's called 'Creative License'."


"Anyway," Aziza said, clearing her throat, "When Ad Avis died, his magical power was released, and I could sense the moment of his death. Such a release of power could be felt by skilled Magic Users all over the world. Still there is some mystery concerning the death of Ad Avis," she paused, "His body was never found. And I don't know who or what removed it now where it is now. This could have darker results than intended."

I became quiet as I contemplated her words. A chill ran down my spine and I shivered and muttered, "'Dark Master, help me...'" to myself. Rakeesh put a hand on my shoulder, looking at me concerned. "I'm fine, Rakeesh. Don't worry."

Aziza gestured to Rakeesh and explained my mission. "Rakeesh now desires to return to his home in Tarna. Last night, I recieved a message from the Sorceress Kreesha..."

"Please tell Rakeesh that he is needed in his homeland. There is talk of war here, and I believe only Rakeesh can bring peace now. I believe that there is more than just the anger of warring tribes... I fear that the Demons are returning to our world."

My blood ran cold at that last sentence. 'Demons... father...'

"I suggest that you accompany Rakeesh while he is in Tarna, Marcus, if you truly wish to be a Hero. If there are indeed Demons returning, the death of Ad Avis might have caused this. You know what to do."

I nodded gravely and glanced down at the sword at my side. I unsheathed Soulforge, letting it alight in flames and just stared at it. I took a deep breath and nodded again, then left to go home.

The time quickly came for me to finally leave Shapeir. I swear I saw tears in Papa's eyes as he thanked Rakeesh and Uhura for their services. Yes, Uhura is leaving as well, little Simba in her arms.

The tears welled up even further when he looked at me. "My son, it breaks my heart to see you leave," I felt my eyes get a little misty at that, remembering my mother back home having the same reaction, "but you will ALWAYS have a home in Shapeir."

He then handed something to me that looked familiar. "Wait... isn't that my family shield, Papa?"

He nodded and handed it to me. I looked it over and smiled. They'd really worked on this old thing! It'd been shined, gotten the dents and scratches knocked out of it, and had been reforged to look better. I noticed they really went into detail! Bordering the edge were the runes that were engraved into Shamgar's blade, the top half of the shield still had my family crest but also there were words that said near the top in my native Germanian, "Remember Your Roots", while the bottom half of the shield contained the al-Rashid crest with words in Shapeirian says, "Strength in Honor" near the bottom. In the middle of it all was the All Seeing Eye. "Your old shield has had an enchantment placed upon it so that no magical attacks shall harm you."

"Oh Papa..." I said softly, as I hugged him tightly. "Thank you. Thank you for everything you've ever done for me. I never would have gotten this far without you. I love you, Papa."

I heard him sniffle. I don't recall ever actually saying that to him before, or since. I finally broke away as the portal appeared. I took one last look at the Palace I once called home and then stepped through.

Portal travel is something I've never been able to get used to. It just feels like too much a rush to be in one place one second then move to another that quickly. More convenient than a ship or horse? Oh certainly! But that doesn't mean I feel comfortable to do it often.

Rakeesh immediately went over to a Liontauress in a blue headress with a wise look in her eyes and embraced her. This must have been Kreesha. Rakeesh introduced Uhura and Simba, and after that, they both left to travel home to their village. He then introduced me. "I have given him my sword, Kreesha. He has the makings of a true Paladin." I looked bashful.

"A Paladin?" Kreesha replied with a respectful nod which I returned, "It is a great honor indeed for yoy to come here. Your skills may be most useful in preventing war here."

"I'll try my best, ma'am. Although, I have not been a student of Rakeesh's for very long. My Powers are weak."

"Act in honor, and you shall grow strong, Marcus," Rakeesh said to me. "We shall journey to Uhura's village in a few days to see about this war between the Simbani and the Leopardmen."


"Magic Users. Shape changers who dwell in the jungle. In the meantime, I shall spend a couple days finding more information about this war."

Kreesha spoke up again, "The leader of the Simbani came to Tarna recently to ask us for aid in fighting the Leopardmen. The Council of Judgement decided to investigate."

"The Council of Judgement? Who are they?"

"They are the ones who make the rules here in our kingdom. We can discuss this later. Rakeesh," she turned back to her love, "there is something you should know: the Council sent out a peace mission to speak with the Leopardmen. But..." she held back a sigh, "it was not successful. They were ambushed in the night, and only one man survived. And... Rakeesh... Reeshaka was their guard."

I saw a look of horror and sorrow cross my mentor's face for just a moment. "Is she... dead as well?"

Kreesha shook her head. "I do not know. I cannot detect our daughter my Magic. I feel she is alive, but that could just be the wishes of a mother's heart."

I stayed quiet during this, not even moving. I once again thought of my mother back home and how close I'd been to being a lost child myself when I was trapped in the Forbidden City. My heart was in my throat as I thought of how she would have reacted to hearing of my death. She would have been just as devistated, I'm sure.

Deciding to leave them be, I soon left for the city to explore. Unfortunately, while the city is great for exercise being built on plateaus, I sadly am not permitted to explore everywhere like I did with Shapeir. The Eastern section is Liontaurs only.

So instead, I explored down in the bazaar, mingling with the merchants. Ta'me al'Asal is the Honey Seller, AnForda and Son are the- ahem!- "antique sellers", Zaituni bin Duhn is the Oil Merchant, Fanaka Kisu is the Weapons Dealer, then there's the Bead Seller, the Fishmonger, the Rope Man, Kalb the Meat Seller who just so happens to be an anthropmorphized canine whom I'm very surprised doesn't eat his own profits but seems like a sweet fellow regardless, the Amulet Peddler, the Tailor Woman, and lastly Shallah whom is a Katta selling Wood Carvings of animals. I noticed I had a letter from Shema in my pack which was addressed to him, and after giving it to him and telling about my Shapeir adventure, he dicided to give me one of his carvings- a leopard -for free! Which works out especially well as I hadn't gone to the Money Changer as of yet and they don't accept Dinars here.

The Rope Man did hear an interesting rumor though, war talk aside, that there was a Thief running around in Tarna... hmmm...

After that, I went back upstairs to discover the Apothecary. I was greeted by a totally cosmic fellow named Salim Nafs. We chatted for a bit, recognizing the name. Nafs was actually the name of our Healer back home, Janan being Salim's sister. I told him about my adventures in Shapeir as well, and he perked up when i mentioned Julanar!

See, he'd been having this dream lately where he's in the desert and comes across this poor tree that wants to dance with him and as they dance, she turns into a woman! According to him, he's going to catch the next caravan out of here once this war has ended! Oh, and he's also got some ingredients for a Dispel Potion! Water from a special pool, a fruit from a vine, and something called a gift from the "Heart of the World". Also, he wants a feather from a Honey Bird so he can make more Healing Pills. I can handle both easily, I'm sure!

After this very long day, I went over to the Inn called the Welcome Inn. There I met Janna, the lovely waitress. We chit chatted and I turned on my charm and I believe I stole her heart. I also came across a Clown and some guy named Oliver- claimed he was a "programmer" of something. Another one of Sloree's Wizard companions?

After that long, harrowing day, I am now resting in my rented room, paid courteously by Kreesha. This bed is very soft and comfy and I feel I need some rest after all this.

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





Day 45

The day went by slower, but it was more interesting.

Remember that Thief the Rope Man mentioned? Well, shock of all shocks, I met him in the streets this morning! He stole from the Money Changer!


REALLY, SIR?! I think even my buddy Rico would be smart enough to not steal from people in broad daylight! Wait until dark!

Thinking quickly, I just so happened to be right next to the Fruit Seller's basket and knocked the burgler off his feet as he tripped on them.

Dazed from hitting his head, the guard grabbed him and took him away to be on trial by the Council of Judgement. I was summoned as well as Rakeesh. The Council of Judgement, according to Kreesha, contains six of the wisest Liontauresses in all of Tarna-

The Speaker is eloquent and sits closest to their king so they can voice his opinion as well their own. It is her who makes the announcements for all to hear.

The High Priestess of Sehkmet is the one who speaks the words of the Gods, or in the case of Tarna, Goddess of this land, Sehkmet. We've met before, but I'll get back to that.

The Mother helps represents the older generation of Liontaurs and has more years of experience than I can count, taking care of her young with a firm yet fair paw.

The Youth is on the other side of the spectrum from the Mother, in that she is chosen not for her wisdom, but her popularity and represents the younger generation of Liontaurs.

The Warrior serves as the Captain of the Fricanan Guard and is, as you might expect, the best fighter and hunter. She is a lady of action, and is rather hot headed apparently. She'd fit in perfectly with my family.

Ad lastly there is The Wizard, held by my godmother, Kreesha! she delves into the arcane and gathers infomation due to her abilities that the Council would otherwise not have.

Now, according to the Laws of Tarna, it is against the law to steal from others. Harami, as the Speaker addressed him, had broken this rule...

"You have shown yourself to be without honor. Do you have anything to say before being named honorless?"

Harami snirked, "Hey, big deal."

The Speaker frowned and announced, "Very well. By the Laws of Tarna and Judgement of the Council, you, Harami, are thusly deemed honorless. So you have acted, and so you shall be. Leave us."

Harami left the hall with seemingly not a care. Then they all looked at me with stern eyes. I cast mine downward.

The Warrior spoke up. "The Prince of Shapeir did willing knock over the basket of fruit that was being sold by Samra bin Balah to stop the honorless one."

The speaker told me, "Prince of Shapeir, you also have violated the laws of Tarna. It is forbidden to damage the goods of another, and so you must repay the merchant for every piece of fruit that was damaged."

I nodded and hung my head.

Rakeesh then said, "I will pay on the Prince's behalf." Made me sigh in relief as I STILL hadn't visited the Money Changer's stall yet and nobody accepts Dinars here. The speaker warned me to heed theirs laws from now on, and I accepted that with a nod.

Then the King himself wished to speak with us both! My heart pounded as I stood before the tough, strong Liontaur. I set my jaw and stood firm at attention. In a deep growling tone, Rajah Sah Tarna said, "You may enter the presence of Rajah Sah Tarna."

Rakeesh replied in his more noble voice, "Rajah Sah Tarna, I stand before you."

"You stand before me in honor, Rakeesh Sah Tarna."

Rakeesh nodded in respect and gestured to me. "This is Marcus Ehren Donnelly, Prince of Shapeir." I bowed my head and stayed silent.

Rajah huffed, "Rakeesh, you brought along this Prince of Shapeir, but how can a mere human help us bring peace to Tarna?" he looked back at me, unimpressed, "So, human, you have imitated Rakeesh and have become a Paladin. Tell me, why did you follow him here? Do you not think Rakeesh is good enough to handle this?" he gave a short laugh at my sudden slack jawed expression at his words, "You grow too old, Rakeesh, if you must depend on a mere human to help you. You have grown cowardly in your old age and it seem your honor has failed you."

I snapped my jaw shut and gritted my teeth, pointing my finger at him. "You dare?! You DARE insult my master like this!? Rakeesh is the bravest and most just person I know! Honor flows through his veins like blood goes through mine, and it is that Honor that has kept him going all these years! When the Demons attacked Tarna, who was leading the charge in both wars? He was!"

"That, human, was many years ago."

"Aye, it was! But does it matter? If it wasn't for him, Tarna would not stand today! And you wouldn't be sitting on that throne, looking down upon me! If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't even be here at all, for he saved my life in Shapeir and it was through him that I was able to defeat the Earth Elemental with this sword I now carry," I drew Soulforge and let it blaze, "Honor is something my family values highly and it's always been my dream to become a Paladin like in the days of yore. Rakeesh is a Paladin because he stands for what is Right in our world. He is NOT weak! Old doesn't mean weakness nor cowardice! If anything, it means he's stronger than most of us here because he's survived through mercy and kindness, not blood and carnage!"

"ENOUGH!" Rajah roared, "That is enough of your blathering, human!" he looked back at Rakeesh, "You need a human to speak for you now, Rakeesh?"

Rakeesh gave me a look that said 'We'll discuss this later!' and replied, "I need not defend myself to you of all people, Rajah."

Rajah frowned. "Rakeesh, I would have figured you of all of us would be calling for war, not peace. Your daughter is lost! Killed by the Leopardmen! Do you not seek revenge, brother?"

Rakeesh shook his head. "We do not know for sure if she is dead or not, Rajah. When we know for certain, I shall deal with this matter myself. I do not wish the horrors of war to come down upon my kingdom again! Revenge for the sake of revenge is pointless. Mindless revenge is pure stupidity."

Rajah snarled, "Rakeesh, you-! Human! Leave us at once, I wish to speak further with Rakeesh."

I bowed and said farewell.

After that, I explored a little more of the city, going up higher until I reached an entrance that lead to a Temple.

This was the Temple of Sekhmet, the Goddess of Tarna. Caved on the walls were images of Anubis weighing the souls of the dead in Tu'at, the Fricanan underworld. The smells of incense and smoke filled my nose, and the place was eerily lit by crackling braziers.

The biggest attraction however, was the statue. A tall Liontauress dressed in a ceremonial headress towered over everything. Walking over to it, even if was just a statue, I felt humbled and knelt before her.

Just then I heard footsteps and came face to face with the High Priestess. She wasn't happy to see me and ordered me to leave. However...

The temple itself shook as the statue moved! A deep rumbling voice came from it's mouth, and it's eyes glowed blood red. "In my Temple, you shall speak only MY words- not your own, Beloved."

The High Priestess trembled before her diety and clammed up. Sehkmet's eyes bored into mine and I heard her voice echo in my mind as she spoke these words, "Human, Doer, Changer of Worlds,Releaser of Darkness, thou hast not yet been judged, and a future cannot be weighed."

Bringer of Darkness? Me?! But... Paladins are meant to drive back darkness, not carry it within them! Oh Gods...!

"Yet thou hast already created a future for Weal or Woe. Should it be Woe, then the towers of Tarna shall fall and the blood of my Liontaurs shall flood the savanna. For the Darkness before us rises from the Darkness behind you, and you must confront that Darkness. Yet more I cannot see, until you are judged."

I breathed deep and nodded. I mentally asked, 'How may I serve you, and bring light to Tarna?'

"Leave us now, and return with the Gem of the Guardian. You then shall be weighed and judged, and a future can be seen."

'It shall be done, Sehkmet.'

I felt my legs moving on their own, forcing me to leave.

After that, I went down to the Bazaar and FINALLY exchanged my Dinars for Royals and Commons! Logically, I bought mostly rations since I knew I was going to travel soon, meat, fish, fruit and such. I also bought some oil and honey and five throwing daggers, the oil for Soulforge to keep it from rusting, the honey for Salim, and the daggers for "just in case" and to practice my Throwing. I think I might buy some rope as well later.

After chitchatting with the merchants, the guards and Kreesha, I ran back to my room. I have a meeting tomorrow, after all!

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





Day 46

I awoke as the sun rose, and headed off for my meeting (what we call a "thing" in my country) immediately. There, the Council of Judgement retold the report I already had heard from Janna, Kreesha and others:

The Council had sent out a peace mission to speak with the Leopardmen, but was ambushed in the night. Only one man survived, Khatib Mukar'ram and he's traumatized and in bad shape. There were signs of a struggle and their guard, Reeshaka, is considered either captured by the Leopardmen or dead. The Warrior wants revenge, the High Priestess wishes to not involve the Council in human affairs, and Kreesha has sensed Demonic activity.

Kreesha disagrees, as we humans are as much the people of Tarna as the Liontaurs are. Still however, the Warrior desires revenge and earning Honor through the glory of battle.

...A few months ago, I would have thought the same back when I was a Fighter. Now I see things differently.

Rakeesh told the Council that, by his Honor, he swore to bring peace to Tarna lest he be banished forevermore from the kingdom and be considered "Honorless." We both swore an oath that we'd bring peace or die trying.

We stood before King Rajah once more. Needless to say, he wasn't too happy about his brother putting his Honor on the line for humans. However, Rakeesh said that he has always pledged his Honor to save lives and that he is a Paladin first and foremost, and a Liontaur second.

Rajah then looked at me and asked, "Do you know what it means to pledge your Honor, human?"

I nodded, attempting to keep calm after my... rather strong outburst yesterday. "Honor means that you are humble and do what is Right, not what is Lawful. Honor means that you put others needs before your own, even if it means you shall be hurt or killed yourself. Honor means you face whatever stands in your path with courage, even if you don't win. Honor means making sacrifices for the greater good. Honor means to strive for peace, not war. In earlier times, I would have agreed with your Warrior, that the only way to gain Honor is through battle, yet since becoming a Paladin, I see now that there are other ways to gain surrender and peace without bashing people's faces in. There is a... profession, I suppose you could say, in my country, called a Berserker. They are warriors as well, letting their bloodlust guide them, slaughtering all that stand in their way, whether they be friend or foe, noble or peasant. While they can be useful if serving under a Jarl or King, there's no telling truly what they will do. With all that power to become practically untouchable and cut through your enemies like paper, comes the price of your mind, even if only temporarily. Rakeesh is right: seeking revenge is a bad idea that will only lead to even more bloodshed than is needed."

Rajah frowned at me. "When I want a lecture upon Honor from you, I will ask for it, human."

"But, you did ask for it," said Rakeesh. "You asked him if he knew what it meant to pledge his Honor and he told you yes."

"It was a yes or no question, and when I want your comments, Rakeesh, I shall ask for them. If I wish for Tarna to go to war, then she shall go to war! Though you are my brother, if I must strip you of your Honor to achieve this task, then I shall."

Rakeesh sighed in exasperation and requested that he only wait until Rakeesh and I do our damndest to stop this war. Rajah agreed, but not for long he said. We were then dismissed and Rakeesh met me outside the gates.

As we walked, Rakeesh explained about his homeland. Most of the animals, from the zebras to the tigers, will ignore an adventurer like me. However, there are of course, other things that would seek to harm me. I would be surprised if that wasn't the case. However, as of today, Rakeesh would be protecting me.

Rakeesh explained that the more Honor I attained, the more Powers I would gain. Some of which I already knew from Shapeir, like Soulforge's flame and Healing after he saved my life. Others however, intrigued me such as the ability to stop an enemy in it's tracks and calm it down, or even make their morale lower until all they can do is retreat. There is a skill that in a flash of light, all Undead are harmed, the ability to read a person's Aura (man I bet Salim would LOVE that!), and there are even Powers that protect again Magic or physical attacks or even can raise my own.

There are more, apparently, but Rakeesh did not know what they were just yet. After a few hours, we saw the sun was setting and stopped to make camp. In the distance, I could see something in a small valley. That was the Simbani Village.

For awhile, we sat in silence and ate the food we brought. I was staring into the campfire, my face blank when Rakeesh asked, "Something on your mind, Marcus?"

I looked down and muttered, "I'm sorry how I acted yesterday. It was... disrespectful to shout at your brother like that. It's just that, when I heard him call you a coward like that, especially given all the praise from the people i've met here and given the society I grew up in, something in me just... snapped for a moment there and I started flapping my gums and attempting to defend you as if you were my child when clearly you can stand up for yourself. In my country, we consider being called a coward a great insult. If you lost your Honor in my country, you would be called Nith, what you call Honorless, and would withstand punishment and be treated as if you were sick in more ways than one. You'd be seen as an outlaw. That's the last thing I'd want to happen to you!" I sighed, putting my head in my hands. "I don't know if I can do this, Rakeesh. I wasn't expecting my first 'assignment' as a Paladin to be 'Stop a Odindamned war!'" I looked up at my mentor, whom I loved as if he were my own father and then asked, "Rakeesh... was my father ever like this?"

Rakeesh gave a small smile in reminiscence and nods. "More than you know, Marcus. Something his temper would go off so badly, I swear he had steam coming out of his ears. He once told me that being hot blooded runs in his family all the way from the beginning of their line, though he never knew exactly why. With Ehren, I could certainly believe that. He had this sort of fire within him that was never sated, never burnt out. I took him as just a person who had an intense passion for life, which he did, but he told me that it was a gift from his Gods that he had such a strong Will. He told me that we, as Paladins, are blessed by them with immense power and Honor so that we can carry out their justice when the Gods aren't there themselves."

"How did the first Paladin come to be, I wonder?"

"No one knows truly, Marcus. Though Ehren did bring up something he knew about his family line that was rather interesting."

I leaned forward, listening. "Every descendant of the main Donnelly family line, not counting when they split into different families and followed their own path, has become a Paladin at least once every generation, being taught the Way since childhood and striving to fufill it by at least age sixteen."

My eyebrows raised. "Really?! So... why was I not taught then? Was there..." I looked down again, "something wrong with me? Did father not consider me worthy?"

Rakeesh shook his head. "There was nothing wrong with you, Marcus, it was just... too dangerous."

"Dangerous? Who? What? Where? When?"

Rakeesh looked at me seriously and spoke in a low tone. "Let us just say that, several years ago, there was a time when all Paladins lived in fear. Though I have not detected the presence for quite some time, Ehren feared it. Feared that it would find him, find you, and slaughter you without mercy."

"How..." I gulped, "How many years ago was this?"

"It's been at least twenty years since then."

My heart dropped and my eyes widened. Twenty years ago... I was just a baby learning how to walk! This... thing was willing to murder a baby?!

"So, for your sake, Ehren 'retired' from being a Paladin, hanging up his sword and shield."

"Shamgar and the shield of my forefathers."


"Yet the world is safe now?"

"The day the world is safe is the day Paladins die."

"Yes, but I meant from that... thing."

"Yes, Marcus. Now then," Rakeesh went over to lie down, "Let us sleep for awhile, shall we?"

I laid down as well, feeling drowsy myself. Closing my eyes, I dreamt of father and Rakeesh when they were younger, imagining my father die gloriously in battle like I'd been told.

Still, something in my deepest heart told me there was more to this than I thought...

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





Day 47

We awakened and continued our journey. While the Fricana savannah is nice to look at, aside from Rakeesh mentioning of some sort of Magic Lake to the south (Erana?), the trip wasn't very exciting. Since Rakeesh told me that he'd be protecting me from danger, there was no chance of a monster attacking us. Since I already discussed Paladin things with him last night, I figured I shouldn't ask again since it would be very redundant.

Finally, at long last, we have reached the Simbani Village. The day guard, Mngoje, told us from all corners of the village, from the cattle pens to the huts, they bid us welcome. What a nice guy!

Well, we finally met Uhura again and she introduced us to the Laibon, their leader named Mkubwa. Rakeesh explained why we were here, and the Laibon responded, "Mzuri, Warrior Rakeesh. Bring the Leopardman chief to his knees before me and you shall have this peace you pledge."

Rakeesh asked why he had such hatred for the Leopardmen and he told us that they were sneaky, only came out at night and used Magic. Apparently the Simbani are leery of Magic.

Finn would hate this place, I'm sure. He already has to keep his powers secret to the townspeople because he'd either be driven out or killed. Here, things weren't much different. It's kinda sad, really. Hopefully that never happens to me.

The reason the Simbani are calling out for war is because, apparently, the Leopardmen stole something of great value to them: the Spear of Death.

Just from hearing that title, I am instantly reminded of Gungnir, Odin's spear. Made by the Sons of Ivaldi, a family of Dvergar (an ancient term for Dwarf in my country) under the guise of a master blacksmith Dvergar named Dvalin, the trickster God of Mischief named Loki manages to get them to make partially in retribution for cutting off Sif's hair (Sif being the wife of Thor and Goddess of Prosperity). This tale is also the origin of where Freyr's fine ship, Skidbladnir, came from as well as Sif's new locks. Sometime later in the tale, it is said that Loki made a bet with a Dvergar named Brokkr that his brothers, Eitri and Sindri, couldn't make items that were nearly as good as the ones the Sons of Ivaldi made. Taking up that bet, they were able to create three items: Gullinbursti, Freyr's boar. Draupnir, Odin's Magic ring that can duplicate itself nine times, which no disrespect meant but that's not very impressive, and lastly, Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor. The Aesir loved them, and thusly Brokkr won the bet. However, there was a catch: Loki bet his head, yes, but they had to cut it off without harming his neck. Since they couldn't do that, they sew Loki's mouth shut to silence him for awhile.

That was a very long winded explanation for that spear. I apologize.

Long story short, the Laibon wishes to pay in blood, not words unless he gets the Spear of Death back and will not budge on the matter.

After resting in Uhura's hut for a bit, we all went outside into the village where the people were celebrating our arrival, killing a young bullock- from the Laibon's own herd no less! -in Rakeesh's honor! Several hours of partying later, Rakeesh and I finally headed back to our hut to rest.

Rakeesh told me that he was going to leave at dawn to head back to Tarna to speak with Kreesha more about Demons and persuade Rajah for more time.

I took a deep breath. I needed to get this out now, lest I never know. I remembered what Kreesha had told me about Demons: beings of Magic and brawn who lived off fear and bloodshed.

Years ago, as Rakeesh told me, Demons had come to this realm. He was a Warrior back then, King of Tarna. He travelled far and wide, searching for a way to defeat them after driving them back for awhile. Then, in Gaza, he met his mentor. It was her who taught him the Way of the Paladin, passing down Soulforge to him and now to me. Invigorated and now wiser, Rakeesh journeyed home only for the Demons to attack once more. This time, he wasn't alone. His mentor, himself, father and his mentor were there alongside him, all Paladins, all strong. It was there that Rakeesh was wounded by one of the Demons who struck with a poisoned tail, giving him a permanent limp in his stride. It was also there where my father fell in battle. The Demon Wizard who was their leader was driven back and swore revenge on Rakeesh. Now it seems that revenge was going to be carried out.

"Rakeesh?" He looked at me, eyebrows raised.

As much as I wanted to know, I found myself struggling to get the words out. "If I... ever come across one of these Demons, I need to know how to fight them... and not end up like my father."

"Soulforge's flame is magical, Marcus. It can harm things that normally cannot be harmed except by Magic. When I wielded it during the second attack, alongside my companions, most of the Demons fled in terror. Those that did not were slaughtered by us."

"Did Shamgar flame too?"

"Yes, Marcus it did. Both of Ehren's swords did. He had a sabre he got whilst in training with his mentor, having gotten it from an assassin who made an attempt on her life and named it Skyfire."

I nodded. Yes, I remember seeing him leave with two swords and a shield on his back.

"Depending on the situation, he either fought with sword and shield or both swords in his hands."

I smiled at that. Father was smarter than he looked. My smile faded however as I steadied myself to ask, "So... if he was such a great warrior, then... how did he fall? What happened during that battle, Rakeesh?"

Rakeesh looked down and began wringing his hands. "It was a war, Marcus. Good people die in war."

I frowned and replied, "I need to know, Rakeesh. He died in battle, alright, I get that. but there's obviously something you're hiding about that day. So, what happened?"

Rakeesh shook his head. "It's not something I wish to discuss right now, Marcus. Just drop it."

"No. I *need* to know what happened!"

He looked up at me with intensely burning eyes and softly asked, "Why?"

"In my country, yes, we mourn our dead who fall in battle, but we also celebrate them. We tell their stories and adventures to our children, so that even though they are gone, they will not be forgotten. I need to know of my father's last stand. I need to know that I'm the son of not only a Captain, but a Hero who fought bravely until his last breath who helped save East Fricana."

"You're not going to like my answer, Marcus. You won't be able to handle it, given how much I know you loved your father, thinking of him as the bravest man in all of Gloriana."

I shook my head. "I can take it. Tell me."

"Alright. I killed him, Marcus."

There was dead silence as I processed what he just said. I sat there, frozen in shock and my eyes widened in disbelief. Rakeesh... my master... my mentor... the one I consider my family... killed my father?!

I'm not sure how long I sat there, but I remember I was finally able to croak out the words, "Why?! How could you?!"

"Marcus, let me-!"

"Why?! I thought you and him were best friends! HOW COULD YOU DO THAT TO HIM?! HOW COULD YOU JUST BETRAY HIM LIKE THAT?!"

"Marcus, be quiet! I-!"


Rakeesh snarled and roared, "SILENCE!!!"

I felt a chill run through me and suddenly found myself backing away in fear, shimmying up against the wall and cowering, wanting to run but knew I wouldn't last a night in the wilderness scared and alone. I felt that if I didn't follow up on that order, he'd make me regret it, so I shut my mouth. And I listened.

Uhura poked her head through our door and asked if everything was alright. Rakeesh and I nodded, explaining that I got overtly emotional over something and that everything was fine. I'd just foolishly decided to yell and accuse Rakeesh of doing things he'd never done, all out of anger and disbelief. Uhura then left, probably intending to ask me what went down tomorrow after everything has calmed down. It's amazing I didn't wake up the entire village.

Rakeesh was taking deep breaths and glaring at me harshly. "Let me speak, if you're willing to keep your mouth shut."

I nodded quickly.

He spoke slowly and as calmly as he could, "Good. Now... let me explain what happened. Your father fought as bravely as any man from the North I'd ever seen, and he never backed down, never gave up until he could no longer stand. The fire in him still burned strong even as the Demons came at him faster and harder than before. Still though, the flame never faltered..." he paused and I leaned forward in anticipation, "...until he recieved a mortal wound. I heard him cry out in agony and turned to see my old friend, my shieldbrother, had been run through the back by a Demon's tail tipped with poison."

I sat back and closed my eyes briefly, cringing. "Continue on."

"It was then that I saw his resolve break for just a moment, as he glanced down at his torso and watched the poison drip down his armor. There was a moment where all seemed to go numb and quiet, then I saw him snarl and the spark returned to his eyes. He gripped his swords once more and let out a battle cry that we all could hear from wherever we stood, and he rushed back into the fray, intending to take down as many Demons as he could in his rage before the poison overwhelmed him."

I just nodded and kept quiet.

"I do not know exactly how many Demons fell by Ehren's hand, but by the time the dust settled and knew the battle was over, I managed to find him, surrounded by his enemies, most if not all dead by then. The Demon Wizard was long gone by this point, and The Poisoner slain. One of us made sure of that, though it really doesn't matter whom. I reached Ehren and tried to rouse him, thinking I could do something to save him... but there was nothing to be done now," Rakeesh's voice grew thick and I swear I saw tears in his eyes.

I felt a little misty eyed myself and hugged him, trying to comfort him. "Rakeesh. You don't have to tell me more. I understand."

He shook his head and gave a heavy sigh, "No, Marcus. I need to finish what happened. I'm too far along now."

Shame and guilt gripped my heart as I looked at him so forlorn and sorrowful. What have I done?!

"Ehren opened his eyes, his breathing shallow and weak, and looked around at the carnage. Then he looked up and he smiled at something I couldn't see but he could. He told me that the Valkyries were going to take him away to Valhalla."

I vigorously nodded and whimpered, "He deserved it."

"I saw him stiffen in pain as the poison continued through him, agony seen clear in his eyes. He looked then, not at me, but at Soulforge. 'End this,' he croaked in desperation, 'please for the love of the Gods, end this now!' I, in all my selfishness, told him no. I didn't want to kill him. He shouldn't die by my hand. But there was nothing else I could do for him. He knew he was suffering and dying slowly regardless. If I killed him myself, running him through with my sword, his death would be swift. I drew Soulforge from it's sheath and told him I was sorry. Through his pain, he managed to smile and told me not to blame myself for this. He didn't hate me for this, in fact he was grateful. The last thing he'd see would be me, and he couldn't think of a finer man to see him off in his fibal moments. However, before the blade pierced his heart, he told me he had one last request. 'Name it and it shall be done,' I said, and he replied, 'If you should ever meet my son, Marcus, please take good care of him.' I promised I would and then performed my duty. The fire and spark in his eyes went out almost instantly with his dying breath and he went limp and still. His face looked peaceful, relieved even, and I knew he'd died happy. He'd fallen like a warrior should, his last moments painless and swift, and his famiily was safe in hands he could trust."

He sucked in a deep breath through his nose. "We gave him a funeral like they did in his homeland, putting his body on a boat and setting the vessel ablaze and sending it down the river and over a waterfall. I only hope we did it right."

I nodded and sniffled. "You did. Believe you me, you did it fine. He fights and feasts in Odin's Hall happily with his ancestors."

Rakeesh didn't bother asking me how I knew that exactly, but accepted my answer anyway.

"Is that all?" I asked. He nodded. I wept and hid my face in my hands. "What have I done?!" I sobbed, "I... I'm a horrible person! I shouldn't have said anything! I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!"

Rakeesh held me close and rubbed my back, letting me cry and blubber. "I knew you were bound to ask me again, eventually. You're stubborn. Ehren was too."

I looked up at him. "How do you cope?"

He gave me a small smile. "I look at you, Marcus. I see you, see how you react to things, how passionate you are about being a Paladin, how you act in kindness to others so well... and I see your father. I meant it when I mistuck you for Ehren when we first met, as you remind me so much of him when he lived, not only looks but your actions as well. And it brings me joy seeing that, because in a way, Ehren lives on through you and it's almost like he never left this world."

I broke out into a big grin and hugged him again. "Father told me that as well, when Shamgar was lost to me. I hope he's proud."

I heard Rakeesh chuckle, "If you were my son, I certainly would be. As your godfather, I am very proud of you, son."

"Asante... baba. Naku penda, Rakeesh."

We broke apart and went back to our beds. My eyelids began to get heavy from that draining ordeal and I covered my yawn. Rakeesh smiled at me as I laid down, and I whispered a goodnight to him. "Goodnight," he said tiredly, "I'll see you in Tarna if you're around. I wish you luck, and safe travels."

My eyes fluttered closed and i muttered, "Danke."

I then fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

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





Day 48

Rakeesh, as he said, left at dawn. I barely remember hearing him say farewell.

So. I am now on my own in this new land.

I did a few things today, mainly in the village. I made a new friend in Yesufu, the Laibon's son, who is working to become a Warrior soon. but for now, he helps guard and plays a game called Awari where you move colored stones to eachother's goals trying to get as many as you can so you can win.

I'm terrible at Awari. I lost twice. That is all.

I told Yesufu about my adventures in Shapeir, which impressed him. He knew Ad Avis was bad, being a Wizard and all Magic Users are bad, after all. I looked at him sadly and said, "I'm friends with a Magic User back home. He wouldn't harm anyone, ever!"

Yesufu didn't believe me.

After that, I found a place to practice throwing spears in the village. Uhura helped me and explained that this was part of the Initiation that the Simbani people test to see if the young men and women have what it takes to be considered Warriors, and thusly adults in the tribe. I'm not too bad at it, actually! All that Throwing practice in Shapeir paid off it seems! Uhura told me that, because the Simbani don't use swords like us from Kriegland do as you can't throw a sword, that they're trained as soon as they can walk to throw spears.

Next came the Bridge. Made up of several logs tied together, this is according to Uhura, another part of the Initiation. The competitors must try to knock eachother off balance, by shifting their weight or hopping up and down, making the logs shake and making it harder to stand upon. I practiced for a bit, but I keep falling. Makes me way too dizzy. However, crossing hand over hand below is a nice Strength training exercise.

I decided to go outside the village today. Rakeesh had mentioned a magical lake and I was determined to find it today. A few hours of walking, and I found it!

Erana was here! Wonderful! I missed her presence in Shapeir so it's nice to have a warm, comforting feeling around again... even the cheetah I saw resting on the rock was tame and gentle. I felt like I could stay there for hours, just listening to the cool bubbling of the Pool of Peace, the birds softly chirping, resting in the shade of the trees.

Rakeesh mentioned that Paladins are in tune to the Essential Rightness of the Universe. As I close my eyes and take in the scents and feel the pulse of Gloriana underneath me, I feel that this is what he meant. Being here, everything just feels... Right. Peaceful. Rakeesh described Erana as a Paladin in all but name, and I can certainly believe that.

Oh, before I left the Pool, I got some of the Water for Salim! One ingredient down.

Oh! Also, as I was heading back to the village to sleep, I encountered my first two enemies in combat! A Croc and a Giant Ant! And MAN, was that funny! Now that I have Soulforge, I feel so powerful! I barely got scratched AND got two Royals from the Croc's corpse! Hahaha!

I got back to the village, greeted the night guard named Usiku, and visited Uhura a bit. I told her about what I was yelling about to Rakeesh. "Father died proud Warrior. Hero should be proud too."

"I am, Uhura. I just... never expected him to die like that. At least his final moments were peaceful. He lived a great life."

After that, I went to bed myself after this simple day.

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




*the entry seems nice and normal at first, but as the entry goes along, the writing becomes more sloppy as if something is wrong...*

Day 49

Had an interesting day. I awoke in my hut and met someone new in the village- The Storyteller! He basically serves as, well, our equivalent of a Bard or Skald here. According to him, "Stories be many things. Stories be lies. Stories be truths. Stories be quests. Stories be ways of looking at the world with different eyes."

He offered to tell a couple stories. The first was of a Magic Drum. A Thief in the night stole their Spear, disrupting the peace within the tribe. Who was the Thief? None know. Then one night, one of their Warriors is found, holding a Magic Drum. He says the words "Leopardmen" then dies. Who killed the Warrior and why did he die? None know.

Another story of his is told. One about a certain Warrior woman. She left home to have a baby. A place where Warriors can be also wives and vice versa. The people miss her greatly. She returns, a baby boy in her arms, yet still she remains a Warrior. None can claim her now. Will this change her people's views on Warriors and wives? making them able to be called both? None know.

The last one told is the tale of two Warriors. Both friends training together and excited for their Initiation. Until a pretty woman comes to the village. Then they fight and bicker and try their best to beat eachother in their Initiation. One boy falls off the Bridge and dies. One boy becomes a Warrior. The lady marries another and the Warrior has no friends. So who really won the Initiation and who lost? None know.

After that, I trained my Throwing with me and Uhura having a friendly contest that served as good training for the Initiation. And I also did more Strength training under the Bridge.

Color me surprised when, as I was coming up the hill to leave for the day, that the Elder Mngoje told me something interesting. The Simbani now have a prisoner in their village! Specifically, a Leopardman!

"Huh? I... was just there, Mngoje. I never saw any Leopardman down there."

Mngohe looked at me funny "We just caught him this morning, bwana."

"But, I was just there. I didn't see anybody except the Storyteller! And Uhura."

Mngoje's eyebrow raised in confusion. Sighing, I trekked back down and, sure enough there was a Leopardman down there

They didnt say much to me..

So I leff the viallge again. Got into some more fights; and by that I mean one. An ant. THAT POOPED ON ME!! WHY?!

Encounteerd some meerbats. Cute lil buggers. They were near some vines- specifically spiky pooooisonous vines. How do I know...

i got wrapped in them myself. Not fun. That is all. And I saw the fruit I wanted too. Gona get it toomorro for salim.

Head ing bac to Tarna after that, I met... Khatib. The Survivor. Poor man really is hurtin bad...

He told me they were 7 in al. Reshakra was one of course. He remembers claws screams eyes, wanting his soul, wanting to hurt him.

his wyrds swirled in my mind and they hurt me to..

Nyetmares he suffers from

Talked to Kreesha abut Demons and Rashajah.Kin Is stubborn. magick drawn estward by orb thing.. most envistage son

Looked-at-journal.Speling iz baad writing is badd why? whats wrong with me?!

Wwhats hapening to me?!

Am i... no. No, I need to fucus! FOCUS!! GADGODSDAMN ITNEEDTOcleerCLEARheadNEEd--help..


So sleepy no... ant go to bed die otherways!fog in brancant think help me

help me
apotecry salin\

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





*this entry is neater and, thankfully, error free but it seems to be written more lazily as Marcus is a bit tired*

Day 50

I forcefully awakened by someone shaking me and stuffing something down my throat. I swallowed and opened my eyes. Salim was hovering over me, as was Janna. The thing that was stuffed into me was a Poison Cure Pill.

Janna had found me passed out on the floor this morning and had rushed to get Salim who worked his stuff to help me. Turns out I'd been incredibly lucky, as another hour or so and I would have surely died. I would have done this myself, but, I felt so tired I could hardly function or think properly at all.

So after Salim scolding me about not just hobbling over to his place- which was right next door mind -and getting treatment there, and reassurance from me that, yes, I was okay, I set off on my adventures once more.

I didn't stray very far from Tarna much today, just to be safe. I visited the place where I found the Meerbats yesterday, and saw them again, jumping over the vines. Unfortunately, not only did I get stuck again, but so did one of the younger Meerbats! Oh no! Worrying moreso about him that myself, I took out Soulforge and slashed at it once more, making the vines disappear. The little Meerbat was freed and went back to his family. I felt a little bad for the little fellow- he kinda reminded me of Rico, actually. Always getting his nose into trouble as a kid. I felt something painful and knew I'd gotten poisoned. Again. Though it didn't feel as bad as last night.

Nevertheless, a Paladin must put others before himself. And so, I decided to give one of my Healing Pills to the little guy. He took it gladly and then dived into his hole. But before I left, I noticed that they'd given me a present! It was the fruit from the poisonous vine I wanted! That makes two!

I immediately headed back to Tarna and took it to Salim who was quite to have it. Now all I need is a Gift from the Heart of the World. Salim mentioned that there was a Magic Tree somewhere out in the Jungle that might have it.

The Jungle. Where the Leopardmen presumedly are. Oh dear... this is gonna be fun!

Well, I'm not going there today! No sirree! Soon, though.


Yes, I took my pill afterwards. Don't worry.

I headed back to Tarna after that to go buy that rope I wanted and who did I run into? Why, it was that Thief named Harami from earlier this week!

He... wasn't looking too good. In fact, he looked downright miserable. We didn't get much time to talk as the guards were coming by and it was forbidden to speak to a Nith, or Honorless one. All he really told me was to meet him back at the bazaar come nightfall.

So I agreed. That night, I crept down to the bazaar and saw him hiding in the shadow of the tents.

He whispered to me, "You showed up! Man, you have NO idea how good it feels to actually be able to talk to somebody! Being without honor in a place like this is... terrible!"

"Oh really?" I looked at him sadly.

Harami nodded. "It's just terrible! You know what being Honorless means. kid?"

I crossed my arms. "I have an idea. We have a term back home that means the same thing. But continue on."

He sighed exasperately, "It means that nobody will talk to me, let alone notice I'm even there! It's like I'm dead or something!" His eyes darted around nervously, "You're breaking the law just by talking to me, ya know?"

"If i may quote my adoptive father, 'He won't always follow orders for he dares to answer "Why?", and unless he likes the reason, he refuses to comply.' I am a Paladin like my mentor and godfather and we don't always follow things "by the book". If I risk my neck by speaking with you and trying to help you, then let them come!"

Harami snorted and nodded. "Honor never was my thing. I'm a Thief, i have no use for it."

I shrugged. "You can be honorable and still be a Thief. I've heard tales of a Thief who ended up in the same situation as you. You know what happened to him?"


"He used his skills to become a Hero to his people, helping save his kingdom from a tyrannical ruler. Even an "outlaw" can be a Hero to at least one person or two."

Harami looked at me silently.

"So..." I asked, "Where are you from?"

He shrugged. "Doesn't matter. I was in a caravan that stopped here, I thought to, uh, "borrow" some money for the road, got caught and now I can't get out because of this war going on! All I got for shelter is these tents at nights, I have no use for the money I stole, and all the food I can get is from that dog's stall. And even that's... less than appetizing from being left outside all day. Good thing it's warm outside, otherwise I'd be freezing as well as starving!"

I put my hand on his shoulder. "Is there anything I can do to help you? Just say the word."

"Got any food?"

I smiled and opened my pack. Fruit. Fish. Honey. Rations. Meat. I gave him everything I had for sustenance. "Here," I said, "I'll give you all of this! Should be enough to last you, two or three weeks if you don't overdo it."

"What?! But, what about you?"

"'He works not just for glory, and he does it not for gain, but he knows that others will be shared a greater pain.'"

Harami's face broke into a smile. "T-thanks, pal."

I nodded in reply. Harami then frowned and told me seriously, "You're the Prince of Shapeir, right? I'm not into politics, but I hear you're trying to stop this war and bring peace."

"Ja. I'm gonna try as hard as I can."

"Well, you need to get on that, alright? I can't stand it here! Maybe I'll go to a place where they cut off your hand for stealing or something, but ANYWHERE is better than here!"

"I'll try my best, Harami. I better get going, though."

"Alright. Just.. be careful out there. You're like my only friend right now. I don't wanna lose you."

"I promise, you won't."

With that, I left Tarna once more. For some reason I felt compelled to leave once more and head east. My feet guided me even though I was exhausted- I swear to you, time passes quicker out here! -and I found myself heading straight for the Pool of Peace.

However... by the time I got there, the sun was rising.

Well! That just tears it, doesn't it?!

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





*writing is still sloppy and scribbled*

Day 51

What a day.

Just... wow.

What. A. Day.

I've had, as you might expect, not so great a day today.

I'm tired, hungry, and I got attacked by A DINOSAUR FOR TYR'S SAKE!!

I got into SO many fights today, just from going back and forth between Tarna to buy honey and the Pool of Peace, it's not even funny! Crocs and Ants mostly, and the Dinosaur. I hate Dinosaurs. I carry new scars. That is all.

Oh, I forgot to mention yesterday: I got stung by bees and died. I got "Restored" as usual. No big deal.

As you can tell, I don't much to say today as all I did was train my sword arm. I'm just tired. Very tired. So tired that I don't care that I'm getting stronger at the moment. Ugh...

The only things that were good was I got the Honey Bird feather and I got the Dinosaur's horn as a victory prize. Woo.

I'm sorry I'm less than enthusiastic today BUT I'M RUNNING ON NO SLEEP, OKAY?!

Good day.

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





*writing is getting neater slightly*

Day 52

...I have a question. Isn't one of the symptoms of sleep deprivation being hallucinations?

I swear, that happened to me today. I'm not sure if it happened twice or not.

So, what happened? Well, after my fitful sleep where I barely got any last night, I headed to the jungle. Let me reiterate, I was hungry, exhausted, and grumpy. Yet, I was determined to find that Heart of the World today, where I can get the last ingredient for the Dispel Potion.

I never made it.

When I reached the jungle, I had that tingling feeling and the hair on my neck stood up. Y'know, the feeling that someone is watching you. And they're not friendly. I looked all around, searching for my adversary... yet they never came. My sense of danger never went away either!

Here I was, hungry, exhausted beyond belief, and now frightened out of my mind by something that I just couldn't find no matter how hard I tried! On and on I ran in the seemingly neverending jungle, I couldn't stop to rest as I knew something was after me!

The shadows lengthened as I ran as the day went on and on until the moon rose. My stomach growled like a lion's as my starvation slowly weakened me more and more and my legs felt like lead as I ran...

Yet still I felt the enemy watching me from the shadows, waiting to slice me to pieces.

I wanted to end the fear. I had to escape...

And I knew only one way how.

I picked up some rocks. And some more rocks. And more. And more. And more. And more until I was moving as slow and heavy as a turtle. Four hundred rocks did I stuff into my pockets. And I ran as hard as I could until I couldn't take it anymore.

I collapsed from exhaustion, my lungs seized in my chest and they slowed and stopped. I shut my eyes, and let my pain, fear and willpower to continue ebb away until all I saw was darkness. I remember that as I finally relaxed completely, I smiled.

I heard the voice speak to me again, "Restore..." and my smile widened. Everything was going to be okay. I'd woke up by the Pool of Peace, feeling Erana's Magic warm me down to my toes. Everything is going to be okay, I thought, reassuring myself. Getting to my feet, I decided to head back to Tarna and tackle the jungle another day.

Got into a few fights along the way, but thanks to this new power I have called Honor Shield, even the Dinosaurs do less damage and I got a little training in my sword arm. And, if I am ever hurt, I now know how to Heal myself with the power of my Will. Rakeesh would be proud, I'm sure! I hope father is too.

I'm... not sure if what I saw next was a hallucination or not, but... I heard my stomach constantly rumble and next thing I know, I heard... music? A jaunty, light flute began to play. I looked around for the source and something bumped into my legs. "A walking waffle?!" I exclaimed in disbelief, just staring down at what was in front of me. "Umm... hello?" I asked, knowing how silly I looked talking to food.

A thick, syrupy voice burbled in reply, "Hello, handsome Hero. I can see you... desire something from me. I can hear you hunger. Eat me, handsome, and find peace and happiness for just a little while, hm?"

I couldn't resist! I had to eat SOMETHING, even if it was a walking, talking waffle! Oh man~! I loved waffles as a boy! Haven't had one in AGES~! It tasted so good! I don't care if they're not healthy, I love 'em!

It was nighttime by the time I got back to Tarna. I delivered the Honey Bird feather to Salim, who happily gave me three healing pills for free as thanks. Now if only I could get to that tree.

I headed back to the Welcome Inn, and I felt a very... somber feeling come over me as I walked in. The normal cacophony of talking and laughter was gone and everything was very quiet and none spoke unless they had to, usually to Janna to give them another drink or meal. Even Oliver and the clown I saw in the establishment looked sad.

I sat down and Janna approached me. She looked about ready to cry and said quietly, "It is a day of sorrows, golden sunshine. Khatib Makar'ram has died today." I was struck dumb and silent, "He was found by the river this morning, though none know how he died or how he was there to be begin with. I have been tending to him since he came here so I don't know how he got out there. Before he was injured, I remember him as a kind and wise man. I only wish you could have seen him as he was before the peace mission, Hero. You would have loved him, I'm sure."

I stood up and looked into her eyes, and gently hugged her in comfort. "I only wish I could have done more for him," I whispered and hung my head, "It might be my fault he's gone. After all, 'twas I who attempted to talk to him about the peace mission and his nightmares. Traumatizing memories, those are, and yet I pushed him for them anyway. I can't imagine how that must have felt for him. Janna... I'm so sorry..."

She pulled away and shook her head as I sat back down, "No, Prince. He was already weak and fading before you came. It's not your fault that death came for him."

"But I should have done something!" I exclaimed, slamming my fist down on the table in anger briefly and making my fellow patrons jump. "I feel like I could have done SOMETHING to help him! I have healing pills! I'm a Paladin! I'm supposed to help people, not let them die!"

Janna shook her head again. "There was nothing we could do, Prince. Magic could not cure his scars, no matter what we tried. They ran deep enough to touch his very soul, it seemed, and never went away. With his death, comes no more pain and suffering. He is whole again, I believe, and has finally found peace in Aaru with Osiris, grandfather of the mother Goddess Sekhmet, and lord of the underworld. Anubis, his son, is the protector of the dead and initiates the weighting of the heart test to each soul."

My eyebrows raised. "Interesting. What does it entail?"

Janna explained, "Anubis takes Ma'at's feather and puts it on one scale, and with the other, he puts the person's heart. In order for the soul to pass on to a good afterlife in Aaru, the soul must be lighter than that feather to go to Paradise. If our lives are done with good deeds, then it shouldn't be that difficult. Ah, but what if doesn't weight well against the feather, you are about to ask?"

I nodded.

"There is a terrible beast called Ammit in the underworld, and it is she who will punish those whose hearts are heavy. She devours them, and... they cease to exist forevermore. None remember them at all, and thus they are restless spirits forever cut off from Aaru."

I shuddered at the thought. After all, I sought to be a hero, and to have all that I have done now and since then forgotten by everyone was too much to bear thinking about for long.

"I believe he shall be fine. Like I said, he was a kind and just man. After all the hardship he went through, I believe he deserves a little rest, don't you?"

I nodded. My eyelids drooped and I covered a yawn. "Oh my, you look exhausted, Prince. I'm sorry for keeping you."

"No, no, it's not your fault. I've just... had a rough couple of days is all. Haven't gotten much sleep and I'm miserable."

She patted my shoulder. "Do you want me to fetch my cat? Nights in Tarna are cold, and she loves to snuggle and keep people warm. Cats always make me happy, you see."

I smiled. "Thank you for the offer, but I think I'll be fine. I just need sleep. I think I might turn in for the night."

"Alright then, he who seeks peace, I'll see you tomorrow."

I said my goodnight and walked up to my bedroom. I think I'll end this entry here.

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





*the writing is back to normal thankfully*

Day 53

Didn't do much today. All I did was travel and refill my rations. Got enough meat from Kalb to last me quite awhile now! One hundred slabs to exact. And I got Healing, Poison Cure and oddly Mana pills with me as well.

I did nothing much else but walk and walk to the jungle. I've reached it at last and made camp for the first time in my adventure.

I will reach that tree if it kills me! If I look up, I can see it in the distance, towering over everything else. Something draws me to it. The Heart of the World beats, and I feel it in my detection of the Universe around me. Something magical awaits me there... more than just a Gift...

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





Day 54

Had an interesting day today!

I reached the Heart of the World today, and let me tell you, I think only Yggdrasil itself can rival this tree's size and beauty!

As i climbed, I noticed that everything was fresh and blooming all around. There was a stream flowing from a waterfall somewhere up above, and as I climbed even higher, I noticed that there were even small trees growing out of the branches. I felt a presence as I climbed and felt drawn to a alcove in the trunk...

I smiled as I felt a sense of peace and serenity here in this little area. I smelled the flowers and saw something twinkling above me. An orb of sparklies floated all over me as if it were examining me. I stood still and let it do so, saying, "Hello there," quietly as I didn't wish to frighten it.

Suddenly, I heard voices in my head say, "Welcome to the Mother of the World. We are the Guardian. What is it that you seek?"

"I seek to bring peace to this land, and I wish to be granted a Gift from here. But first, tell me about yourself and this tree. How did it grow so big? And where did you come from?"

"We are the Guardian. We protect the Mother of the world so that no harm come to her. She was the first tree, human, and she is connected to all the plants everywhere in this world. She stands strong in the Grove and is one of many Trees who reside there. We have existed for as long as she has, and she shall stand until this world ends."

"Until Ragnarok consumes us all..." I said, bowing my head. I considered asking them about this "Grove" they spoke of, but I figured I could ask Finn about it later. Which I did. After all, it wouldn't exactly be important right now. However, later... well, I'd rather not say.

I know, I'm an evil man.

"You seek a Gift, do you? Very well. But, to recieve a Gift, first you must give." I nodded. "Take some of the life essence from the Pool of Peace, and then give it the Mother at her Heart at the top of this tree. Then you shall recieve your Gift."

"It will be done, Guardian. But, before I go, there is one one more thing I must ask of you. You see, I also need a Gem from you. I am to be judged and cannot go back to the Temple of Tarna until I bring one of the Gems."

"We would be happy to share one with you, mortal. You seek to bring peace and are thus welcome here."

"Herzlichen dank!"

Pulled from the essence of the Mother of the World herself, five small gems appeared at my feet. Taking one of them, it looked kind of like an amethest but felt warm and soft like rubber. It's rather pretty!

Even though I knew there was nothing there for me yet, I went up to the Heart regardless.

You know how I always describe Erana's havens, right? A place where everything just right and wonderful? The Heart of the World is like that, INCREASED TENFOLD! I feel EVERYTHING moving in harmony, smelling thousands of flowers and drinking in everything beautiful here. This. This is like where the center of our universe is. Where everything is pure and good and Magic flows like honey. We, as Paladins, seek to protect the universe from encroaching darkness, and our job only ends when we die. And sometimes, from what I hear, not even that. Sometimes, even Heroes linger.

I could sleep here! I could LIVE here, man!

But alas, aside from me being amazed at the beauty of it all and feeling reborn and refreshed, there is nothing more for me here. So I climbed back down and returned to the jungle.

And nearly died for my troubles! You won't BELIEVE what I saw! I battled a Leopardman!! And he wasn't exactly friendly!! He kept shooting me with lightning stuff unltil I was finally able to bring him into my sights by pelting rocks at him until he came at me, baring his claws!

I barely escaped with my life! What use are healing pills anymore when I can heal with my powers though? I do not know.

I am now resting at the Pool of Peace, and I'm actually gonna be able to get some sleep here for once. Whenever I do, I feel like I'm wrapped in a warm embrace of someone I love here...

Even if it is in death, I would love to meet this Lady Erana someday. Just to thank her for all she has done for the world and how much I appreciate it.

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





Day 55

It is done.

I returned with the Gem of the Guardian and brought it up to the Temple of Tarna. As soon as I walked in, I heard a voice say, "Releaser of Darkness has returned."

Another voice responded, "Has the Doom of Tarna brought the Gem of the Guardian?"

"The Opener of the World Gates does have the Gem."

"Then he shall be judged."

I took a deep breath and steeled myself for what was to come. The High Priestess approached me, then spoke to the statue. "Hear me, your priestess, oh Sekhmet, Mother of Tarna. There stands here before you one who will be judged. His soul shall be weighed by Ma'at's Feather of Truth, and the truth shall be revealed!"

She offered me a bowl which contained some sort of elixir, that smelled pungent compared to the sweet incence and smoke of the braziers. I wrinkled my nose against the smell, closed my eyes and took a long draught. For a few seconds nothing happened.

Then... I felt very cold and suddenly my legs couldn't hold me up anymore. My heart rapidly pounded in my ears, but that quickly faded and came to a sudden stop...

Next thing I know, I briefly find myself looking down at my body! well, in all the times I've died, THAT'S new! Didn't get a chance to admire my corpse for long though, because I was soon enveloped by a mist that covered all I could see. I couldn't move. All I could do was float.

A deep, strange voice spoke to me, "Choose that which you were."

Six objects floated before me, inlaid in gold. Clockwise they were an Ankh, a Pentagram, a Sword, a Cup, a Heart, and a Key.

I thought to myself, "That which I was, eh? Well, if I am being honest here, then I choose the Sword. Though the Ankh and Heart look interesting and also might match me since I've always tried to be a kind and honorable person as I grew up, even before I knew about my roots, in the end, I am being honest. I choose the Sword!"

"Very well. Now imagine this in your mind's eye... think hard and well upon your decision..."

'The pharoah of the country you now live in has called for war against the country of your birth. You are ordered to serve as a leader of his army. What shall you do?'

I breathed deep and saw myself standing before Rajah who'd decided to forego on the war between them and the Leopardmen and instead decided to attack my home of Northeast Kriegland! Asking me to be his general, my eyes widen at the prospect of laying waste to my homeland, slaughtering all in my path be they man, woman or child. "Wait, no disrespect, milord, but why now? Why war? What is the cause of this strife? Surely there must be another way..."

The vision faded and I returned to the mist. "Choose that which you are."

More objects appeared to me. From clockwise, there was a Yin-Yang symbol, a Fist, an Infinity symbol, a Ring, an Hourglass and another Key.

"What am I, huh? Hmm... well, I suppose I am..."

I looked over my choices again and made my decision. "I am loyal. I am loyal to the ones I love and protect, and there's never been a time where my loyalty has faltered. I remain strong and tough for them and always shall be. Give me a task, and I shall fufill it. I am willing to die if it means that others will be safe, so shall it come to that. Though I am battered and beaten down, I shall always stand up again. That's what it means to be a Donnelly. Our last name means "brown haired fighter", so that is what I am. I choose the Ring!"

"Very well. Now imagine this in your mind's eye... think hard and well upon your decision..."

'You are battling a powerful dragon and both of you are near death. The dragon offers you half it's treasure hoard if you will let it live. What will you do?'

A sharp, burning pain overcame me and I saw myself drop to my knees with bared teeth. A red scaled dragon towered over me and gave a weak roar. It too collapsed, breathing hard. In desperation, I drew my sword once more and pointed it at the beast's throat and pulled back to swing... "Wait!!!" the monster cried, "Hero, please! I beg of you! Don't kill me! I'll do anything, just don't kill me! I'll give you half my hoard if you'll just stay your hand!!" I considered it, and sheathed my sword and looked around at the hoard- gold, jewels of all kinds, weapons armor, crowns, scepters, amulets... and half of that could be mine?! I'd be a rich man indeed! But... then I thought of all the people in the world who would benefit from this beast being dead forevermore, yet on the other hand this dragon seemed pretty desperate and if I could perhaps persuade it... "I need none of this, dragon. But! Before you even CONSIDER breathing fire on me, let me make YOU a deal! If I let you live, then you shall fly away from here, never to return and swear never to kill another human being again. How's that?"

The vision faded and i returned to the mist. "Choose that which you will be."

A third set of objects appeared to me. From clockwise, there was the Ankh once more, a Candle, the Pentagram again, as well as the Sword, and the Cup and the Ring.

"What should I be, hmm? What is it I seek? What is my heart's desire, you ask? Well, I grew up in a warrior family yet, ever since I was a boy I wanted to be something greater. I wanted to be a Hero, or perhaps even better, a Paladin. Though at that time I thought they'd left this world, I still strived to become as noble and honorable as they were. When it turned out that I'd actually met one in Shapeir AND that my father had also been one of those legendary Heroes of yore who've been blessed by the Gods, that dream reignated in my soul and worked and toiled hard to achieve it. And so that is where I stand today, and where I intend to stay forevermore, protecting this world until my dying day. I choose the Ankh!"

"Very well. Now imagine this in your mind's eye... think hard and well upon your decision..."

'Three huge stone statues stand before you. One is of a lion, one of a falcon and one of a snake. Each othe statues speaks to you and says, 'Choose me and let me guide you.' What do you you do?'

All was darkness around me, save what was directly in front of me. Three statues of stone stood before me, towering menacingly over me and all looking to tear me apart with fangs and claws. Yet still, I tried to stand up to them and look into their eyes. In unison, they said to choose one of them to lead me through the darkness. I looked at each of them and said, "So I have a choice between a leader, a hunter and a trickster. Any of you could betray my trust as soon as I turn my back, and really I don't have to choose any of you. But I really don't have that choice do I? You, lion. You look like my mentor, Rakeesh, a dear friend of mine. A true friend, while it is unlikely that they will betray me at all, is willing to stab me in the front and tell me things straight to my face as any good leader would do. As risky as any of you might be, I feel safest with you..."

The vision faded and i returned to the mist. Anubis, the Protector od the Underworld, appeared before me and spoke, "Thy soul has been weighed. Thou hast chosen thine own path, and by that path, ye shall be judged."

I attempted to nod, but couldn't. "What is my judgement, sir?"

The Sword appeared before me again. Anubis said, "The Sword is the Fighter, the Male, the Bringer of Justice. It is the Fire. It is the Doer. With the Sword in your past, you see life as a challenge, destiny something to be conquered. You strive for greatlness."

The Ring appeared. "The Ring is Purity and Perfection. It is without beginning or end. It is wealth, the sign of authority, the oath of honor. It is a token of love, a pledge of faith. To choose the Ring is to reveal the need for things ungained, and a yearning for that which is not."

Lastly, the Ankh appeared. "You allow your soul to guide your thoughts. You strive to bring harmony to the world. Your need to be one with the Essential Rightness of the Universe will bring you no peace, yet it can bring peace to the world."

The Yin-Yang symbol appeared, glowing bright. "You are one with yourself, and shall be what you have been. Your skills are in harmony with your nature."

The Hourglass appeared. 'Through your actions, you have shown intelligence and wisdom. These are counterbalanced by your compassion and love. You have been judged worthy."

I smiled happily as his words warmed my heart. But it soon dropped by what he said next...

"Thou hast released the Darkness.

And the Darkness now encircles thee.

Ye must walk a narrow path to bring back the light."

A Heart appeared.

"Let the first part of thy path by guided by friendship.

Thy feet already walk upon this path.

Two thou hast known before. Three thou must set free.

One thou hast brought low, then helped to rise again.

One shall stand thy rival and thy friend."

A Sword appeared.

"The sword shall cross thy path, and bonds shall be cut asunder.

Seek thou the least of guides to lead thee to the depths of darkness."

A Key appeared.

"Now thou art Opener of the Way and all thy heart has called shall draw near to thee.

Two shall stand and five shall follow to face their greatest foe in a battle they cannot win.

For thou must walk alone to free them all."

A Pentagram appeared.

"Seek ye now the highest tower to find the Door to Darkness. Living stone shall block thy way then bridge thee to thy foe.

Thou must lose thy greatest treasure 'ere thou canst drive the darkness through the Door."

The Prophecy now spoken, Anubis parted with this: "This is that which might yet be. Thy path is thine own to follow or not. Go forth now, bringer of the light..."

The mist faded and I began to gain feeling back everywhere as my soul returned to my body. My heart lurched in my chest and I gasped for air, opening my eyes. I was looked up at the ceiling of my bedroom at the Welcome Inn.

It is late as I write this, and as the sun sets, I grow tired. I've had a draining day just from that. Perhaps I'll dwell on this prophecy tomorrow.

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





Day 56

Just more travelling today. Took me all day just to get over here, with some minor mishaps.

Mainly... for once I have fallen in battle here. A Leopardman blasted me over and over and OVER again with lightning. And what's worse? No matter how close I thought I was that he or she would engage me in physical combat, it still wasn't enough.

Well, at least I got to see father at least once in this adventure. "Well, that was fun," I told him, obvious sarcasm dripping from my voice. He just laughed and mussed my hair. "I'd be shocked if it wasn't," he said

I was Restored back to this morning and continued on. The second attempt went much better! I'd hate to brag, but I feel so strong! I won't jinx it by saying anything more. I remember what happened last time.

As I said, it took me the entire day just to walk all the way here, but I think it was worth it just to sleep here at least once. Here, I feel safe. Warm. Comforted. It reminds me of her. I have brought the Water and have recieved my Gift, and when I hold it in my hand, this palm sized red fruit, I feel happy.

I feel like things will be okay. Everything is gonna be okay. I will succeed in stopping this war and driving the Demons from this land forevermore. I must not fail. I will not fail! I swear by the Gods, that I will succeed in my task.

I am a Donnelly. It's what I do.

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





Day 57

More traveling. Whoopie.

I saw and killed a Flying Cobra today! Snake didn't even touch me! HA!

Ants must hate me because all I fought were Giant Ants all along the way back to Tarna. Again, this took all day. I've now been here two weeks and am now this closer to my goal. Salim now has all the Dispel Potion ingredients!

Now he just has to make it, which is bound to be at least a day or so. I suppose for now I'll sleep.

My dreams are filled with the sounds of Anubis's voice calling out to me, telling me what I am- the Releaser of Darkness and the Bringer of Light. The Doom of Tarna yet also her Hero. I see horrible, twisted beings that can only be the Demons that Kreesha spoke of, all of them wanting to kill me and do much worse things to my soul once they were done killing me. Yet I also see Soulforge's flame smiting them with righteous fury and I feel immense power surging through me. I see what looks like a portal open, and as I'm sucked in, I see only darkness. And I hear screams of pain and fear and then... silence.

I now wonder... if father survived the battle... would his mind and soul be intact still? Or would they keep that as a prize for not killing the body. Perhaps, if that were so, then it was better for death to claim him.

Hel, look at what whatever that thing was that maimed Khatib. Father could have ended up like that if he wasn't stabbed through the back.

I wouldn't have wanted to see that. It was better for him how he died. He died and made all of us proud, taking several of the otherworldly bastards with him. I can't be more proud.

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





Day 58

Salim STILL isn't done with making the potion unfortunately, so I left Tarna today again.

I did two things of note today.

1. I practiced more on the Wrestling Bridge, this time with Uhura challenging me. The goal is not strength, but balance. Originally the Simbani didn't have the Bridge and, well, it wasn't so good when a man and woman were wrestling because... well... the guy would potentially be kicked... ahem. Anyway... they built the Bridge to uh, prevent things like that. Which makes me happy! I want to have children, thank you! Anyway, the point is to keep your balance and counter your opponent. They jump, you duck. You move left, so they counter, and so on. I'm okay at this, I suppose. I know I need to practice, but I need to keep moving! I get more and more anxious every day...

2. We listened to the Storyteller tonight who told us a tale of a Spear. This Spear of Death was stolen from them, but from who? None know. Thusly they're marching to war, but will they win or lose? None know. Will there ever be peace again? None know. I certainly hope not, but as selfish and mean spirited as that sounds, I'd be out of a job if it were true. The day there is peace is the day Paladins die.

I also spoke to the Laibon today, but he didn't tell me anything I didn't already know from the other people I've talked to about the Spear and the Drum. Except that the Drum is the source of the Leopardmen's powers- which I doubt as much as that wicker cage blocks Magic -and that the warrior who had it was named Mzubi.

After listening to the Storyteller, everyone including myself, went to bed. I don't know why I feel nervous all of a sudden... I'm in no danger here. Is it because of the Initiation? But... surely Yesufu will play fair and I won't be THAT bad at the Bridge. And even if I am, I've got a pretty good Throwing arm and I'm... sure I'll do whatever it is I'm supposed to do just fine. Is it because of that that pressing feeling? Like, that feeling I got back in Rasier before I went to confront Ad Avis? There, I felt I was running out of time to stop him. Here... I think I feel the same way. Rakeesh can't keep Rajah satiated for long. One of these days, he's gonna crackdown on Rakeesh's pleas to just hold off for a little longer on striking.

Kreesha says that she feels like she's being watched whenever she leaves the house. The Demons are coming. Coming fast, I can feel it!

I must hurry and get to the bottom of this!

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





Day 59

The Dispel Potions are MINE!! ALL MINE!! The Leopardman shall be revealed AT LAST!! Tell us, kitty! Tell us your secrets!

Tomorrow. Everything will be revealed tomorrow... and then I can FINALLY move forward in my mission!

Also, I have now realized that monsters can attack me while I sleep. Joy.

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





Day 60

Well! This was an interesting day indeed!

Waking up in the savannah today, I got attacked by no less than three Dinosaurs today!

But! That's not important!

What IS important is this! I have used my first Dispel Potion today and guess what we've discovered!

To our shock and surprise, the Leopardman is actually a LeopardLADY! And... I must say she is... quite lovely indeed!

I've never seen such a lovely figure! Such dark, wild eyes! Her hair flows down her back and she clearly has the marks of a powerful warrior in her yet the finesse of a graceful woman while she hunts, I'm sure!

Those legs! Those slender yet strong arms!

I can't stop thinking about her! Haven't all night here!

Gods damn it all, I think I might be in love!!

And I don't even know her!

I need to stop thinking about this! Calm down!

My Initiation begins tomorrow! All I had to do was present the Dinosaur horn which I already have several already! My opponent is Yesufu, big surprise! Oh I do hope I win this! I'm ready!!

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





Day 61

I've had a long but good day today!

Well, the Initiation is over... and I'm happy to say that both Yesufu and I are now Warriors of the Simbani!

So. Here's how it went down.

First came a race. Now I will fully admit this: while I am better at swordfighting than he'll ever be, apparently running long distance is NOT my thing in the slightest. Within a minute or so, Yesufu was able to overtake me and sprint past me as fast as Sleipnir ran down to Helheim! He'd obviously trained for this more than I did!

Next, came the Twisted Tree Hollow. Here, the goal was to grab a spear and knock a ring off a rope, and whomever managed to get it in the least of amount of throws was the winner. Yesufu won this one as well, since he was able to knock it down in two throws and grab it while it took me all three tries.

Then came the Wall of Thorns. Here we had to get through them to reach the ring in the middle and whoever got there first was the winner. I won this one by pushing a log through the brambles and walking carefully over it.

As we raced back, Yesufu running ahead of me as I had come to expect, I actually came across a bit of trouble! I came across my friend, who'd gotten his leg stuck in a hole! Now, I had two options here. Option one, I could run on ahead and leave him, giving me the lead in the competition. Or option two, I could help him up and risk having him win the competition because he clearly was better than I.

I'll give you three guesses on what I did, and the first two don't count.

"Thank you. You could have run off, but you did not," he said. "Now let us run together again and race to the end."

"Ja! And Yesufu?" I asked as we ran and I saw the village up ahead, "No matter what happens today, win or lose, I hope we'll always be friends!"

Yesufu nodded and smiled. Then he but in one last burst of speed and ran ahead of me, winning the race.

As you might expect, the Initiation still wasn't over. There were two more contests- the Spear Throw and the Wrestling Bridge.

So let me see... I had one contest won, the Wall of Thorns, while Yesufu had the Twisted Tree Hollow and the race under his belt.

Njord, God of Wind (and the Sea, and Fishing and various other things), was not on my side today. The Norns had dictated that my Throwing arm would fail me today. Yesufu won this both times. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, after all, the Twisted Tree Hollow required Throwing skill as well. I guess I wasn't as good as I thought. So therefore, Yesufu had two (three if the race counted which I am) while I had one.

Lastly... there was the Bridge. This was it! This would decide who'd win the competition. The heat was getting to me as my friend and I began combat and I struggled to remember what countered what. 'Was I supposed to match his movements or oppose them?' I thought. Soon enough, I found myself falling off the Bridge to the dirt. Luckily, I wasn't hurt and I remembered that I had five chances. Well, four now. Score was four to one. I tried to clear my head as best I could and began again, and managed to knock him down!

Four to two.

I knocked him down again! Four to three now!

I knocked him down once more! Four to four!

Sweat came down my neck and cheeks from both sun and stress. Yesufu was trying his damndest to keep me down, trying to match me move for move. In his eyes, I saw naught but determination whilst mine most likely only reflected fear. He wanted to win this as much as I.

Somehow, I managed to win and beat the odds! Final score was four to five.I kept my balance just long enough to have Yesufu lose his and I was declared the winner!

Though in the end, my "scoring" didn't matter as both of us are declared Warriors, I still felt very proud of myself. I am now no longer a boy to these people, but a man and a Warrior! The Laibon said, "In life, there is always someone better at some things than at others. This one lesson of the initiation." I nodded in agreement and bowed my head in respect to Yesufu, whom i'd beaten out of luck not skill and I consider him the better Warrior overall.That's purely my opinon, though. The Laibon continued, "No matter how good you be at a skill, there will be someone better. This is not a thing to be ashamed, for it be true of all peoples. This too, be a lesson from the initiation." He looked at me and said, "I call now upon the winner of the initiation contest. He who was now a stranger to the Simbani be now a Warrior of the Simbani. Behold our new Warrior!"

The cheers of, "Behold the new Warrior!" rang loud in my ears and I broke into a huge smile.

After that, I visited the Laibon in his hut. "Though Yesufu is a brave Warrior, young Hero, you have proven yourself to be the winner."

I looked down and scraped my foot. "Yesufu should have this honor, not I. He is more skilled; I only won by luck at the last moment."

I saw Yesufu roll his eyes. "Prince be too modest for his own good. Be happy."

The Laibon cleared his throat and continued. "You may ask of me what it be that you desire. What is it that the young Hero from far away wishes?"

I glanced at the Drum and gave my answer. "Laibon Mkubwa, I wish for you to hold a peace conference between the Simbani and the Leopardmen."

The Laibon sighed, "Always you speak of peace. The Simbani Warrior should always look for ways to prove himself in battle, not seek ways to stop war," he paused, "Still, you are a brave and honorable man. I will respect your wishes, young Warrior. Set up a conference with the Leopardmen and I shall come. Take the Drum of Magic. It will stand as a sign that the Simbani will speak of peace."

He handed me the Drum. I turned it over in my hands, and saw arcane symbols on the edges. I'm sure Finn would be able to identify them easily, but I have no idea what they mean. These are no runes I recognize. I felt a pulsing rhythm as I held it. "One more thing, my Laibon. About the prisoner..."

"Ah, her. Now that you have turned the prisoner into a woman, she will stay in the cage until she either tells us where her village is or until someone buys her for a bride. When that happens, we will have the Spear of Death again. Already, Yesufu has already asked for the bride price. I do not want my son to marry an enemy, so I have set the price high."

Ah, the bride price. You'd think that I'd be horrified or at least confused at the prospect of "buying" a woman to wed and bed, but... actually no, I'm not. Back in the old times, when Gloriana was younger and we, the Northerners, were wilder then we are now, we had a concept of a bride price as well, called the mundr or brudkaup in Old Germanian. It was similar in worth to the lady's dowry, and the minimum- the "poor man's price" -was eight to twelve ounces of silver. If you couldn't pay that price, then you shouldn't be marrying. How will you support your family if you cannot support yourself? But while it is minimally eight to twelve ounces of silver, it can really be much higher and require different things instead. And that's not going into the gifts that were required after that back in those days... had to get a gift for when you consummate called a morgen-gifu ("Morning gift") too, and often there was an arrha which was a pledge or "down payment" made as a sign of good faith. The lady had her dowry to pay, called the heiman fylgia, of course, but that's still less than what the guy's had to do. Marriages were arranged most of the time too, and most were done as a form of alliance rather than because they loved eachother. Of course, just because they were arranged didn't mean there was not love at all. It just begins to grow when the marriage happens rather than simply courtship as time goes on.

Nowadays, we don't do it much anymore in my country (as far as I know anyway), but I am aware of our history as I'm sure you've noticed.

"I have set the price high, because I wish for her husband to value her and not let her escape."

"Understandable. What is the price?"

"One fine robe, one fine spear, and five zebra skins is her price. If you wish her to be yours, then bring those things to me."

I nodded and was dismissed from his presence. I went around to where the lady was, and observed my (possible) prize.

...Gods, that sounds wrong!!! I'm sorry!

She, needless to say, wasn't happen to see either Yesufu or I. "The price for this girl is high because she is a prisoner," Yesufu told me. "She look very pretty for a Leopardman, no? I be thinking it time for me to take a wife myself."

"Girl, huh!" The lady snorted, obviously thinking we weren't up to snuff.

Yesufu looked at her with a sly gleam in his eye. "So she can speak! Does she not look fine when she's mad? She will make a good wife."

The lady hmphed and stuck her nose up in the air. "I will be no one's wife unless *I* choose the husband. I certainly do *not* want a stupid, Magic-less cow person or a stringy haired foreigner for a husband."

Yesufu just said dreamily, "The more I look at her, the more I want her for a bride."

I smirked and put up my dukes in jest. "You'll have to fight me for her, friend!" He just laughed. I went up to the cage and pulled something from my pack. "Listen, m'lady," I told her with my voice firm but gentle, "I know of the strife between your people and Yesufu's and intend to stop it. But in order to do that, I need to know where your village is located. Please, will you tell me what I need to know if I give you this?" I offered her the leopard carving I got in Tarna. Her eyes widened and she looked over it in my hand. 'Surely', I thought, 'such fine craftsmanship will open her lips. And perhaps remind her of home.'

She reached out past the bars and made a motion to grab it... but at the very last second she pulled her hand back and snarled, her eyes clearly conveying to me without words, 'I do not trust you!'

I nodded and put away the carving. "Alright. Perhaps another day, then."

I left the village and was congratulated by Mngoje on winning. He even said it reminded him of his own Warrior initiation several years ago. He'd used a rope to win the Twisted Tree Hollow contest while the other boy went splat into the mud. Picturing that made me laugh.

Heading back to Tarna was the only way I knew where to buy such things to pay te price, so off I went. other than fighting several Giant Ants, not much interesting happened on my way there except the realization that the initiation took a LOT of energy out of me today and I hadn't really noticed until now. Unfortunately, by the time I reached Tarna, it was dark so all the shops were closed for the night. Oh well, time enough for that in the morning.

Before heading off to the inn, I visited Rakeesh and Kreesha again, telling them about all that had happened thus far. Rakeesh smiled proudly as I told him about the initiation and my request for the conference while Kreesha looked intrigued as I spoke of the lady. "It would be a good idea for you to get her to be your wife, Marcus."

"I know. But, she doesn't trust me at all to tell where her village is. I tried giving her carving to see if she'd tell me anything, and it almost worked, but she clearly doesn't want to talk to me." I looked at Rakeesh, "Rakeesh, I know this is going to sound very awkward with Kreesha here, but... what do ladies like?"

Rakeesh shrugged. "Every woman is different, Marcus. Don't forget that. You already have something to remind her of home, but now that she's human again, perhaps she feels a little... vulnerable? Surely, if she runs out of mana, she'd want to protect herself."

I squinted an eye. "Um, that may be true, but for all I know, she'll murder me in my sleep."

"You can Sense Danger, can't you? You'd anticipate that."

"Good point. Anything else?"

"She might like pretty things as well. Or at least, something to fiddle with and keep her hands busy while she's stuck in the cage. But of course, I don't know what she's like so I can't be for sure."

Kreesha put her head on Rakeesh's shoulder and sighed happily. "I remember the days back when we were younger. You certainly knew how to turn heads as a Prince, Rasha. Yet of all the lifemates you could have had, you chose me."

"I'm eternally grateful I did, my love. I couldn't ask for a better partner."

She hugged him and kissed his cheek. She then looked at me, however, with concern. "Although I love Rakeesh, being married to a Paladin isn't easy. Whether or not you and your lady will last only a day or a decade, I warn you Marcus, that it will not be easy given your profession. There will be times, several in fact, where her bed will lie cold because you're not there. She should understand why, after all, a Paladin's duty lies in protecting not only the one he loves but also the world and he sometimes must travel far to do so. But, when that does happen, make sure you make her feel loved when you return in any way you can think of whether it be going for a walk, giving her a gift from your travels, or just small subtle things. Remind her that you care, Marcus. And when you leave this world, whenever that may happen, she'll remember all that you did to show your love and while it may hurt to lose you, she'll always remember you with joy in her heart. I know I shall, and I hope your lady does as well."

I couldn't help but smile at that. "I'll try my best, don't worry."

I said my farewells and then left for the inn to eat and go to bed. Janna told me something interesting before fetching my meal. "Did you know that Kalb is descended from the pharaoh dogs my ancestors bred before The Change?"

"No, actually, I didn't!" I supposed it did make sense, though. The Change which happened several millennia ago, longer than any can even remember, turned Gloriana on it's head. There are several stories that tell how it happened all across the world putting their own spin on things, but the legend I grew up with went thus...

Up in Asgard, long ago, it is said that Gotterdammerung- Ragnarok -was forthcoming. Odin, King of the Aesir, wasn't too happy with that as it meant that he, and several other members of his family, would soon die in a great and bloody battle.

He went on a journey to search for wisdom and knowledge, which he loved to do regardless, and ANY sort of way to stop the inevitable. He eventually came across a well. This well was the Well of Urd where Yggdrasil fed one of her roots and also where the Norns, our Fates, lived to tend to the Tree of the Nine Worlds.

Seeking wisdom and harboring jealousy for the Norns, there was one way for him to attain that much power. A sacrifice would have to be made. Odin sacrificed one of his eyes, and then hung himself from Yggdrasil, sacrificing himself. There, he hung there for nine days and nine nights, staring into the well to see what he could see.

After that, he saw the runes for the first time. Runes are Magic, you see. In gaining that knowledge through sacrifice, he gained not only power, but also was able to grant us the gift of Magic as well! Of course, Magic has always existed in our world, but before this, it was highly ritualized, specific and not nearly as powerful as it is now. Most of it was and is known as Seidr or Ska, the gift of charms and prophecy and communing with the spirits. Now though, due to the knowledge of the runes, it's as if Gloriana was given this... surge of power that none had seen before nor possibly ever again.

This Magic spread across the land, becoming ingrained in all things from the earth itself to even some animals and humans as well! Things, well, changed! Some animals became intelligent and gained the ability to speak and walk on two legs, like Kalb and the Katta of Shapeir and the Crocs here, while us humans? Each of us has the potential to perform Magic if we so wish to! AND! If you come from a family where a lot of them are Magic Users or Wizards, then that will make that potential even stronger and thusly because it's quite literally in your blood, that will make your Magic stronger! Ley lines intercross the world as well, and the closer you are to one, it is said the stronger the pull and influx of Magic is. Of course, just because you have the POTENTIAL to become a Magic User, doesn't mean you have the skills to. You need to think fast, and if you're slow witted, so shall be your spells.

And of course, just because you CAN perform Magic doesn't mean you should everywhere. There are still places where the arcane is not trusted. Just look at my hometown which have a ban on Magic, save Healing Magic, all because of a legend long ago in the past of the town. I'll tell that some other day, perhaps. And of course, there are places where it's not banned, but outright laughed at. Why? Because, especially up where I live, the "Clever Craft" isn't exactly seen as... manly unlike my profession as a Fighter or Paladin is. You don't exactly need to be strong to cast a Flame Dart and people see that as wimpy. Probably because, before The Change, Magic Users were usually women. Or at least the practictioners of Seidr and Ska were mostly women or very... well, 'interesting' men. Of course, now that is completely null and void as we all have the potential to perform it no matter our gender or, uh, preferences in life, but the mockery, fear and hatred still stand, sadly. People like Ad Avis and Baba Yaga do nothing to stop the prejudice of "Magic=Evil!" either.

Poor Finn. He's gotta live through that every day. If anyone but me and Rico had managed to find out about his abilities, he'd be screwed six ways to Sol's Day.

It's amazing he's not jaded or broken by this point. Him or his father, for that matter. I wonder how they do it? I'd be going stir crazy and wanting to tell SOMEONE just to let it out.

Perhaps someday the world will see things differently...

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





Day 62

I awoke and bought my goods from the merchants- bought the things I needed to pay the bride price, the fine robe, the fine spear and the five zebra skins. I also bought some beads and a fine dagger for my lady.

Unfortunately, the Laibon had already gone to bed by the time I got back to the village, or at least didn't want to be disturbed, so this shall have to wait until tomorrow.

If only she'd just open up to me. I just want to help her, you know?

I have the feeling I'm going to be dreaming very sweet tonight! Mmmm!

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





Day 63

I can say that this has been a simply WONDERFUL day!

Everything that could have gone right, did!

Well, save one small thing. but I'm probably just kidding myself. I'm just nitpicking! Don't mind me, hehehe!

I awoke this morning and was allowed to see the Laibon and turn over my payment. The Leopardlady is now Mrs. Donnelly!

I already had my gifts in hand, and ran over to see my lady. Uhura was there and she was actually kinda of weirded out at the prospect of me, Marcus Ehren Donnelly, being a married man. Can't say I blame her! But, it doesn't seem so bad.

I knelt down and looked deep into her eyes. "Alright. Now, I know you don't like me-"

"No, I don't! You took me from my people then I got stuck with YOU for a husband! I'm NOT your wife, foreigner!"

"-But I need you to trust me, okay? I just want to gain your trust so I can do my job here. I'm trying to find your village because I want to stop this war! Trust me, my dear, I don't wish to hurt you. I NEVER would hurt the lady I love, I can assure you!"

"And what DO you know of me, he who will not keep his mouth shut? Hm? How can you say you truly love me when you hardly know me?"

"But... I... listen, I... I want to get to know you, I do, but if you don't talk to me then I can't and we'll be going nowhere, alright?! So, here!" I flashed the beads I bought yesterday in front of her. "I give you this gift of beauty, which pales in comparison to you. Please, accept it."

She looked at the beads in my hand, then back at me. She then smiled a little and put them away... somewhere. I dare not ask where.

I pulled out my next gift. "Now that you seem to have calmed down, I shall also give you this, as a sign of friendship and perhaps a reminder of home." I showed her the leopard carving that she seemingly desired.

This time, she took it from my hand. "This is lovely," she said without a hint of ire in her voice, "Do not think, though, that it will make me your wife."

"I understand. And so, my third gift I give to you is one of trust. I give you this dagger."

She took it and said seriously, "Do not think I will not use this on you someday. Still, it is a lovely gift."

"Aye. It is. An Amon Ra tribe dagger, to be exact. Very fine, sharp steel that cuts through things very easily and good for you in a pinch if you're out of mana, I'm sure. Ow!" Uhura smacked me upside my head.

"Don't be giving her any ideas, Prince!"

"But I give you that so you WON'T just suddenly snap and cut my throat from ear to ear, okay?" She just rolled her eyes. "I'm glad we could reach an agreement. Now..." I stood up and went to my right by the side of the cage. She turned her head to look at me and Uhura did as well. "I have one last gift to give you, my love. One you desire most of all and would benefit us both. Shall I give it to you?"

"Prince, are you SURE you want to do this?" Uhura asked, giving me a cocked eyebrow.

"Ja. No better time than now, I say." I said, not looking at her as I put my hand on the door.

"How are you going to explain that to him?" Uhura pointed to a Simbani guard heading towards us about to start his work shift.

"Huh? Uhh... you can explain it!" I looked up at my bride, "My final gift to you, darling, IS YOUR FREEDOM!" and I threw open the door! As soon as it opened, my lady was on her feet and ran and jumped over the village wall and out of our sight.

Needless to say, the guard wasn't too happy about that and he immediately started yelling obscenities at me that I didn't understand. Uhura came over and spoke in her native tongue, trying to explain the situation, and I saw that as my cue to take my leave and follow my lady.

Now, if I were a lady- disturbing thought, I know! -who could shapeshift at will into a powerful jungle cat, where would I go? The jungle of course!

As soon as I entered, I felt a feeling that I was being watched. "My lady, I know you are there! Show yourself!" I called out.

"There isn't a creature in the jungle who has not heard you coming. Good thing you are not a hunter."

"I'm as stealthy as the average Goon, I know."

She came up to me and glared. "So you may have paid the cow people bride price, but let me get this through your thick head..." she drew her dagger and pointed it at my neck, "I. Am not. Your. Wife. You *cannot* buy me," her voice went from venomous to sweet for a moment, "Did you think you could win me with a gift?"

"Well, I- urk!" She pressed it closer and I went silent, letting her talk.

"I am Johari. I will choose my *own* husband, when *I* want one. Got it?!"

I nodded, carefully so I would slice my throat by accident. What else could I do? This seemed to satisfy her so she put the knife away. I let out the breath I'd been holding and relaxed.

"Listen, Johari... I mean no ill will to you, honest. I just want to be your friend, alright? Even if I cannot be your husband, I still wish to not be your enemy."

She snorted, "I have heard those words before. First you buy me for a wife, then you only want to be my friend. Right."

"Look, Johari, all I want is peace! I just want to stop this warfare between the Simbani and the Leopardmen! That's why I needed you to marry me! You're my one shot at this!"

She looked hurtful as she said, "So, all you want to do is use me to talk to my people? The only reason you want me for a friend is so I will betray my village for you? You never wanted to really marry me? What, am I ugly or something?"


She slapped me. Hard.

I swear she had tears in her eyes. "Some friend you are, trying to use me."

She started to walk away, but I took her hand to stop her. "I didn't mean it like that, alright? I just... look, I've never felt like this before for anybody. I don't really know how to talk to women. I can flirt, but love? That's a whole different matter. I need you to listen to me. I have something you want. Something you need is right here in my trousers and I really, really want to show it to you, okay? I know it'll make you happy once you see it. Trust me?" I tried to put on my best winning smile.

"Do you have ANY idea what you just implied by saying that?"

I just ignored that statement. "If I was to betray your village and make things worse, then why do I have this?"

Out of my pockets, came the Drum of Magic. She looked at me, stunned. I gave it to her and let go of her hand so she could hold it. "So. What you say is true, then? You do seek peace between our people?" she asked softly, looking from the Drum into my eyes.

I nodded. "If this war continues... if it even begins... then Tarna will fall with the first spear thrown, the first slash of a sword or the first spark of lightning. That is why I am here, Johari. I swore by my Honor that I would stop this war, and I need your help to do so. Please. Once peace reigns here, I'll do anything you want. If you wish to stay with me, then I shall. If you wish for me to never darken your doorstep again, as much as it would pain me, then I shall."

"But, why? You seem very determined to keep me."

"Because, Johari, that's what love does. Love makes us want the best for the ones we care for, whether that hurts us or brings us joy in the end is irrelevent, if that means that someone we love is happy with whatever choice they made."

"Oh, you!" Johari rolled her eyes, "That's insufferably sweet, you know? You're too nice!"

I shrugged. "I'm a Paladin. I'm just kinda like that, I guess. Call me a hopeless romantic."

"You're a hopeless romantic."

I laughed then asked, "So, Johari, shall we... start over?"

She thought for a moment, then nodded. I stuck my hand out gladly and she shook it. "Guten tag. That means hello or good day in my language. Well, I suppose I should say guten abend, which means good evening in my language since you're night folk. Anyway, I'm Marcus Ehren Donnelly. I'm the son of the captain of the guard where I come from. I go by Marcus. I am a Paladin, a Warrior blessed by my Gods to bring peace all across our world or die trying. And you?"

"I am Johari. I am the daughter of the leader of the Leopard people, and am a spellcasting changer. I'm sorry for hitting you, Marcus."

"It's alright. I'm not mad. Better a slap then you slicing me open with that knife, anyway. Or," I winced, "zapping me with lightning over and over."

"Yes, it is rather lethal, isn't it?" She opened her palm and conjured up a ball of the stuff and gave me a sly grin. I nodded.

I started to walk away in a random direction, but she turned me around. "Oh no you don't, you won't get anywhere without me. Let's go!"

As we walked, I asked Johari, "So, what do you know about the Spear of Death? Is it true what they said, that you stole it from them?"

"No. We didn't steal it. Some stupid Simbani Warrior stole our Drum of Magic and, in his haste to get away, dropped that spear. How he found our village or stole the Drum, I do not know."

"What about the peace mission?"

"Peace mission? There was never a peace mission mentioned at all to any of us. We keep to ourselves. I am the only one to speak to an outsider."

"So the claws... the eyes that haunted Khatib... the ones who slaughtered them... yes, so I was correct in my suspicions..."

"Suspicions of what?"

"I'd rather not say right now. I'd rather like to not give you, er, daymares. Once this is settled and the Drum is returned, perhaps I might tell you."

Johari shook her head and rolled her eyes at my vague answer. "You are a strange man, you know. Why you want peace for my people, yet don't even know them, I'll never understand. Still, I think I trust you."

"Good. I need that trust behind me. Now, what's the plan? I doubt I can just walk right in."

She shook her head again. "My people don't trust outsiders. My father will be furious. You need to show them the Drum of Magic, otherwise they'll not listen to you."

"That's what I was hoping to do, yes."

"Still, you are lucky if they don't kill you on sight. They might. They will kill that Yesufu fellow for sure, since they know he's an enemy. If he had hair and skin like you, they wouldn't kill him immediately. They'd laugh at him. THEN they'd kill him. They might kill you too, but I'll try to save you."

I stopped. I stared at her. I felt an odd chill go down my spine and felt my hands clench for some reason. I noticed it right away and attempted to unfurl my hands though. "Why'd you bring up Yesufu, Johari? That's... oddly specific."

She said nothing the rest of the way there, no matter what I said. Finally, she stopped walking. In the distance, I saw treehouses and felt a strong sense of Magic cloaking the area. This must be the Leopardman Village!

"You need to be quiet, Talk All The Time. You can't let them see you, or else they will kill you, understand? I shall pretend that you are my prisoner, and will explain why you are here, but I need you to not be so noisy, alright?" she whispered. I nodded. "Good. Now, we'll wait here until the moon rises. Then we'll watch the Change ritual. No outsider is allowed to see it, and you must tell none." I nodded. "When we enter the village, give the Drum to my father. If you ask nicely, maybe he'll give you the Spear." I nodded.

We sat in silence for awhile. I took her hand in mine and looked at her. The slowly fading sunlight shone dappled through the trees, and when it hit her, she looked even more beautiful than I could have imagined. "Johari?" She looked at me questioningly. "Um, well, is it possibly we could..." she looked at our hands then looked up. "I mean, I understand if you're not ready for this... I mean... you're absolutely right. We don't hardly know eachother, and we kinda did get off to a bad start in the first place. I-I don't know what I'm thinking- I mean, we haven't been together all that long, and it's clear you're not exactly fond of me, but-"

I never got to finish. She wrapped her arms around me and kissed me. Since I wasn't expecting it, my first kiss was a bit... awkward. But I relented, and dare I say it, I liked it! I held her close, running my fingers through her long ebony hair. Coming up for air, she whispered in my ear, "You truly are a hopeless romantic. But can you back it up with more than just words and gifts?"

I kissed her again. I felt my cheeks grow warm and I felt hot everywhere, so I took off my shirt.

One thing led to another and... well...

I'd rather not say what we did, but needless to say, we had a bit of fun and she got to admire my scars.



...Okay, okay, we made love that day. There, I said it. Happy?

Before I knew it, night had fallen. We got up, dressed, and Johari ushered me to come quietly so we could watch the ritual from a safe area.

"Now you'll see some real Magic," Johari whispered.

I smiled as I watched the ritual. The men swayed and danced by the bonfire, three already changed Leopardmen pounding on drums. I heard chanting a language I didn't understand, but I could tell they were incantations of some sort. I watched their feet, and every step they took seemed precise and calculated, timed perfectly to what they were chanting. Then, all of them in unison crouched low as if to pounce and jumped high in the air! Then in a bright flash, they disappeared and reappeared and landed on the floor, not as men, but as leopards!

"Come. Follow me," Johari said. She led me back to the front and knocked on the gate. She took a nearby vine and tied my hands behind me so I looked more convincing. "You! Open up! I am Johari and have brought a prisoner!" she shouted to the guard. He complied and opened the gate and we went down into the village proper.

I came face to face with seven of the toughest, intimidating Leopardmen I'd ever meet. The muscles on them could snap me in half easily if I made a wrong move!

"Johari, why have you brought this outsider to our village?" Her father growled.

"This outsider is a very important person. He has important things to say." I nodded quickly, trying to keep my sweating to a minimum and trying not to show fear.

Another Leopardman stepped forward, I assumed he was the Shaman, and snarled, "You have no right to bring this outsider to our village! Outsiders are our enemy and he should be destroyed!"

I backed away, but Johari stopped me and pushed me back. "He is not an enemy. You need to listen to him. Okay, Hero man, show my father why you're here." She untied my hands.

I swiftly bowed and greeted Johari's father. "Why are you here, outsider? speak quickly!" he asked.

I clearly my throat, recovered my nerves, and said, "I came here to seek peace between you and the Simbani people. I understand you are missing a certain Drum of Magic, yes?" He nodded. "Well, the Simbani have given this to me as a symbol of peace and ask that you consider a peace conference in Tarna." I brought out the Drum of Magic and it was like a switched had been flipped. A wide, toothy smile appeared on the Leopardman's leader and he snatched the Drum from my hands and held it high.

"Behold! The Drum of Magic has been returned to us!"

An uproar of cheers sounded and I smiled happily. "There is one thing I ask before I leave."

"Go on, then."

My smile fell. "I may not have ever been on the front lines of a war, but I have seen what war does to people. I lost someone dear to me, long ago, thanks to it. In order for peace to happen, I need the Spear of Death. Johari tells me that you have it?"

The leader raised his arms and sparks flew from them. The Spear appeared in my hands. I put it away, and thanked them.

As I rest a little up in Johari's hut to write this, I can't help but feel happy. Everything has gone as smooth as butter. I gained a friend and lover. I have the Spear back. The Leopardmen are happy to have the Drum of Magic back. And I didn't die!

Now, there's only one loose end to tie up...

Father. Grant me your strength and guide me to my goal!

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





*the writing is scratchy, panicked and clearly written with a shaky hand*

Day 64

Dead. The Leopardman leader is dead. So is the Laibon. I sensed trouble right away, so did Rakeesh.

Demons! They're the cause of this!

East! I must go east. That's where they are. Just like Kreesha said they were.

Father. Grant me strength!

Thor protect me!

Tyr! Forseti! Grant me Justice!

Odin! Lead me to victory!

I want that "Earth Pig" to shut up already!

I KNOW all this already, Arne! I KNOW about Tarna! I KNOW about the Savannah! I KNOW about Erana's Pool of Peace! I KNOW about the Jungle! I KNOW about the Leopardmen! I KNOW about the Simbani! I KNOW about the waterfall to the East! I KNOW about the trouble around here! I witnessed it! I KNOW about the Lost City! Rakeesh told me to go there already!

And I don't CARE about aardvarks or what in Odin's name you are or what it is you do for a living! I think you're drunk on ant shit if you're seeing purple giraffes with pink spots and giant fluorescent green hippoes in the night!!! UGH!!

Wait... what was that about people knowing how to across the waterfall...?

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





Day 65

I made a new friend today!

You're not going to believe this, but I'm now friends with a MONKEY!

He is named Manu!

As soon as he saw me enter the jungle, he began jumping up and down on his branch and calling out "Man-friend! Man-friend! Up here! Up here!"

"Oh! Hello, there! Who might you be?"

Manu stopped jumping and looked at me confused. "I Manu. Man-friend meet Manu, remember? Man-friend rescue Manu. Manu trapped. Manu sad. So Man-friend freed Manu. Now Manu happy. Man-friend remember now?"

I wracked my brain, trying my hardest to remember if, indeed, I HAD met a monkey on my travels here and it was just very long ago... but nothing came up. Still, this little guy seemed very friendly and after yesterday, I kinda needed a little support.

I decided to go along with this. I nodded and smiled, "Ah, yes! I remember now! Sorry, Manu. I've run into trouble as of late. I'm just really..." I sighed and rubbed my eyes, "I'm just scared is all. I'm not thinking clearly."

Manu tsked and shook his head sadly. "Manu know place Man-friend can rest. Manu live in monkey village! Man-friend like monkey village. Man-friend be very happy in monkey village. Man-friend come see monkey village. It be good village. Manu very happy with Man-friend."

I smiled. "Sure! I'd love to go with you, Manu!"

And so off I went with my new friend in the lead! We've stopped for now, since Nott has taken over, her horse called Hrimfaxi riding across the sky and Nott passes her son Dag along the way. His horse Skinfaxi whinnies a hello at Sol and her chariot, which is pulled by her horses named Arvakr and Alsvidr as Mani rises and Sol sets and goes to bed.

I've been thinking about the Prophecy.

Two I have known before. Three I shall set free. One I have brought low and helped to rise again. One shall stand my rival and friend.

Hmmm... I know the answers to some of these.

Anubis said I must seek out "the least of guides" to leade me into the Darkness...

I have a feeling Manu is the key to that.

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





Day 66

Reached the Monkey Village today!

Climbing up the rope ladder (or as Manu called it a swingvine), I was amazed to see what Manu said was actually right. These monkeys ARE smart!

From down on the ground and looking up, all I could see were large trees of various types- a Ms.Tree, a Daven Tree, a papaya tree, and an undiscovered Coun Tree -all covered thickly in branches and leaves so much so that I couldn't even see what was up there. Sure, I heard the little monkeys chattering up there all excited to meet me and happy I was finally here, but what exactly a "Monkey Village" looked like was blind to me.

Now I know the answer. From up there, I could see that they had made little beds out of the leaves making them very soft and made little treehouses, all connected by rope bridges so they can visit and play with eachother.

It kinda reminds me of the Leopardmen Village only... more fun, you know? Manu told me that the monkeys live up here all the time, eating, sleeping, playing and picking fleas out of their fur.

"Monkey village very safe. No bad things here. Monkeys, monkey babies, and man-friend all here. All happy and safe," Manu told me.

"Bad things? What bad things? Demons?"

Manu shivered. "You talk very bad things with big claws and bad breath? No very very bad things here. Far, far away. Very bad things near big rockwater that falls down. No very bad things here."

"Well," I leaned back against the tree, shaking off a rambunctious little monkey who'd attached himself to my arm, "Manu, I'd hate to say this, but... I need to get there. I need to get to the Lost City."

Manu cocked his head and shook it. "City not lost. City very far away. City have lions with mans body. City in small plants with no trees. You no lose city. You find monkey village. Village now home for man-friend."

"No... that's not not what I'm talking about, Manu. I'm talking about the city past the waterfall where the bad things are. I need to go there."

Manu froze and his eyes widened. His face grew fearful and he shook his head 'nonono!' rapidly. "Bad city very bad. Long time monkeys work in bad city. Monkeys pick food for bad city. Monkeys not get to eat food. Monkeys run away. Monkeys cross big rockwater that fall down. monkeys now safe in monkey village from bad things. Bad mens with long arms live in bad city. They very mean to monkeys."

I frowned. "Regardless, I need to go there. I'll go alone if I must." Of course, if the Prophecy was to be believed, that really wouldn't be possible. The 'least of guides' will lead me there whether he likes it or not.

"No go. No go bad city. Bad city very bad for man-friend. Many very bad things there. Eat man-friend."

Manu was about to jump away to join his friends but I stopped him. I furrowed my brow and looked at him seriously, steepling my fingers. "Manu." I spoke in the same tone that mother or father would use with me when I was being made to listen good and they were losing their patience. "You want me to put this in laymonkey's terms? I will. If man-friend no go to bad city, then bad things will come. Bad things will cross big rockwater that falls down. Bad things will find monkey village. Very bad things will kill alla monkeys. Very bad things will kill alla leopard people, cow people and lion men. Very bad things kill alla things in world. So man-friend must go to bad city. Man-friend not want world to be dead. Man-friend need to go to bad city to stop bad things. Man-friend need help from Manu. Manu show man-friend how to get to bad city?"

Manu looked at me with what looked like a mixture of confusion and sadness. "Man-friend say he scared. Man-friend no go to bad city if scared. Not safe if man-friend scared."

I sighed. I HAD said that, didn't I? "Manu, listen. Do you know what courage is? Courage is what I have. Yes, Manu, I am afraid. I am scared out of my wits after what happened at the lion men city. I am scared of the bad things the reside in the Lost City. But, I have courage. Courage means that I'm willing to face the scary things and stand up to them, even if I am afraid. Because if I don't, then bad things will come and we'll all die." I patted the bed of leaves and shifted a little, "Come here, Manu. Sit by me, and let me tell you a story or two..."

And so, the next couple hours or so passed, and I told Manu (and soon a few other monkey friends who came by) about my adventures in Spielburg and Shapeir. I told them about my fight with the Earth Elemental and what a joy it was to pound it into dust and even though I was afraid I might die or fail, I showed courage and fought with all my might. And in the end, because I had courage and didn't give up, I won. I told them about my fight with Toro, about Ad Avis, about Khaveen and even my battle to join the EOF. All of them, and in all my adventures so far, I have shown courage.

This, when I felt my adventures here were coming to a close, would be no different.

Against his better judgement, Manu finally agreed to take me to the waterfall. Needless to say, it's IS massive! There was NO way I could cross that without dying, so what did I do?

I made myself a bridge using vines as rope and crossed hand over hand like I did back at the Simbani village. With Manu's help of course.

But what was more interesting was what came after crossing the waterfall...

I journeyed a little ways with my monkey friends in tow, when all of a sudden I saw them all rushing away from me. "What? What's the matter?" I asked.

Then I felt that tingle, that sense of danger, run down my spine. Something rumbled under my feet... something BIG...

Then, a HUGE Demon Worm (as I now know them as) erupted from the earth and screeched in my face! It was time to prove myself!

I drew Soulforge and readied it for battle. Now, as Rakeesh said, Soulforge's flame is magical and can damage things that normally can't be harmed. Demons are apparently defensive against Fire, but not like this!

Though my Honor Shield kept me from taking too much agony, it still hurts to be slashed and bit by this thing! And the fact that it made this... sound whenever it was hit didn't help. It sounded like laughter or letting the air out of something deflated, which did nothing but creep me out.

I was able to kill it quickly and the deflating laughter finally stopped as it twitched and writhed in it's death throes, a low growl emminating from it's throat. It burrowed back underground and disappeared.

My monkey friends and Manu came back, safe and sound and very happy. "Good! Good! Man-friend kill very ugly bad thing. Man-friend very brave! Man-friend very strong. Manu very happy." I puffed out my chest in pride.

It's night now. Manu is going to bed and so am I. I'm gonna need as much strength as I can muster for tomorrow.

In the distance, I can see the Lost City...

I'm almost there.

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





Day 67 (Part One)

My name is Marcus Donnelly, Paladin Prince of Shapeir, and Hero of Two Lands.


I just... what the hel?!

One minute I'm standing in the Lost City, having just saved everyone and getting praise and thank yous from my friends (suppose I should consider myself Hero of Three Lands then!) and the next I'm...

Alright. Maybe if I sit here and write, then maybe it'll come back to me...

Manu and I reached the Lost City this morning. It loomed over both of us, this ancient forboding ruin. I sensed danger nearby and sure enough, I saw one of the "bad man with long arms" patroling the area. According to my research, this was known as an Apeman.

We stood up on the hill overlooking the City, and needless to say, Manu wasn't happy at all. "Bad city there. We go now. Back to good monkey village. Safe. We go now?"

I shook my head. "Manu, you know I can't do that. I have to go down there. I swore by my Honor that I'd stop these Demons from coming, and I must follow down that path to make the Universe right again. Do you you know what Honor is, Manu?" I prepared to explain it like I had to Rajah and Harami.

Manu nodded, stopping me before I began. "Manu know Honor. Manu have much Honor. Manu not happy. Honor get man-friend dead."

I smiled at him. "On the contrary, Manu. Honor has made me strong! Honor has given me a new outlook on life after becoming a Paladin! With Honor, there's no way I can be truly defeated. Though it may seem foolish to follow this path, it couldn't have been a better time in my life when Rakeesh handed me this sword. I'll be fine, Manu, trust me."

I started to walk down the hill when Manu called me back. "Wait! Man-friend not know monkey secret. Man-friend not know secret door."

"Secret door?"

Manu nodded and took out a gem from... somewhere hidden in his fur. Again, I dared not ask. He handed me the gem, called a Fire Opal, and it seemed to glow warmly in my hand. "Man-friend take gem. Look for man with jackal head. Need to put glowing eye in head. Then secret door open and man-friend go into bad city."

I nodded and said thank you and then trotted down the hill into the bowels of the Lost City.

Sure enough, after dispatching one of the Apemen guards, I discovered a mural of Anubis that just so happened to be missing an eye. sticking the Fire Opal in it seemed like a good idea! Sure enough, it worked.

The mural disappeared and I entered into the Lost City's tower. There, I heard two burly Demons named Fric and Frak conversing about "da prisoner". Or rather, Fric was talking and Frak was nodding his head. Either he was the strong, silent type or he's just really dumb. I'd say the latter applies to both of them. I got their attention and managed to kill Fric without much difficulty.

I knew I hadn't much time left, for if I listened closely, I could hear even more Demons snarling and gearing up for war. Just like ten years ago...

I had to stop them and not let my father's death by their claws be in vain, no matter the cost!

I opened the prisoner's door and inside...

...was a Liontauress! A young one, yet she looked strong and brave as her father. Indeed, it was Reeshaka. Alive and relatively well!

"You… you are not a Demon. Who are you? How did you get here?"

I bowed before my godsister. "I am Marcus Donnelly, my lady. I came here to destroy the Demons that are coming from here as told by your father. I've also heard of your plight and was hoping to find you. And so I have at last."

She nodded gratefully and said, "I am Reeshaka Dar Kreesha. I am a Warrior of Tarna. You must be a powerful warrior yourself to have made it here."

I nodded. "I am. I am a Paladin under your father's tutelage. So long as I carry this sword, no Demon shall-"

I never got to finish. For in an instant flash and puff of smoke, Reeshaka disappeared! In her place, stood one of the most hideous Demons I'd ever seen in my life! His skin tough and leathery blue, muscles ripped every inch of him. His beady red eyes bored into me and his voice was rough and mocking as he spoke from two mouths, "Greetings, human. My master sends his regrets, but he's too busy to speak with you right now. I have taken over the body of this creature. All harm done to me will harm her, and she is the daughter of my master's enemy, Rakeesh."

I smirked and put my hands behind my back, reaching into my pack for something. "Now I shall destroy you, and you shall destroy her. I shall win both ways."

The Demon bared his claws and leaped for my face… and found himself getting a face full of the last Dispel Potion I had! Salim, you're a lifesaver!

With a screeching wail, the Demon faded away and was engulfed in the smoke as Reeshaka came back. She wobbled and then collapsed before me. I knelt down and looked her over. I breathed a sigh of relief as I felt a pulse.

A bright sparkling light appeared in the air, and it soon formed into the shape of an Ankh! A Portal! In order, came…

"Uhura!" I smiled as I came face to face with the Warrior I respected so much as both a friend and teacher. Then, to my joy, came…

"Johari! My love!" I rushed up to hug my lady, smiling wide. However, my smile faded away when I noticed she wasn't hugging back. Instead she stood there, looking at me with an unreadable expression. My heart began to sink. 'No… I'm not in denial! I'm not! She really does love me! Right?' I thought.

Another came though.

"Yesufu!" I smiled at my friend and rival, who twirled my spear fancily. Though I did notice he was standing a little… close to my girl. I shook it off as the next person arrived…

"Harami?!" Indeed, the Thief I'd befriended so long ago in Tarna was standing before me, and not looking too happy about his predicament. If I were in his shoes, I doubt I'd be happy either.

And last but not least was Rakeesh himself! "Baba!"

He barely glanced in my direction and instead was focused intently on Reeshaka. Keeping his composure he recited, "By the power within and without, may you be healed!"

With a gasp, Reeshaka sat bolt upright and her wounds closed. She hugged her father happily. "We came as soon as we could, Marcus. We didn't want you to face this threat alone."

"Thank you, Rakeesh."

Harami hmphed. "Don't look at me. I'm no Hero. I just came 'cause I didn't want to stay in Tarna. I ain't fighting no Demons." I frowned and crossed my arms.

Rakeesh asked, "Reeshaka, will you fight at his side?"

Reeshaka nodded. "I shall do so gladly, father."

Rakeesh sighed. "If Harami doesn't fight, then the Prophecy cannot be fulfilled. Four won't be enough…"

A loud "EEK!" was heard above us, and I laughed as I saw a very familiar monkey before me. "Manu here. Manu come. Help man-friend. Not let bad things get man-friend." I smiled wide, happy that my friend had discovered his courage.

"A monkey?! That's supposed to fight Demons?! Give me a break! How is a monkey supposed to help?!" Harami exclaimed, boggled.

Rakeesh and I just gave him a look. "Harami, never reject the offer of friendship and help. Manu has great courage and loyalty. It should serve Marcus well," said Rakeesh, "Now, the way to the top of the tower lies beyond that locked door. Allow me! By the power within and without, may that door be opened!" The rocks disappeared and so the way was clear. "Go quickly, Marcus! Uhura and I will hold them off!"

I nodded affirmatively and told them good luck. But just before I ran through the door, I turned back to Harami and said, "Y'know, Harami, I didn't HAVE to help you back in Tarna. I could have ignored your pleas, but I didn't. You disappoint me, Thief."

The next room was a room full of mirrors. I shivered as the danger here hung over me like a thick cloak of ice. Each of us felt drawn to a separate one, myself in the middle while Johari, Manu, Yesufu and Reeshaka were around me.

What did we see? We saw our reflections. At first.

In an instant, I found myself not looking at myself but… my own Demon! Green eyes gained a bright glow, scars became more prominent, muscles strengthened and his clothes became ragged and his face misshapen. There was a certain madness, a certain hungering rage that couldn't be quenched in those eyes of his. His teeth bared and gnashed in a wolfish grin as he smiled and drew his sword. He held it up and swung at the glass with an unearthly roar of fury! It shattered and I locked blades with my Doppelganger!

I knew what I was seeing. I was looking at a Warrior of Odin- those men who let their rage and temper engulf them until they lost all sense of self and mind just so they could gain more power that even I, as a follower of the One Eyed God himself, wouldn't DARE risk delving into! –this… was a Berserker!

Oh, Odin preserve me!!!

I heard a guttural laugh come from my Doppelganger parried and slashed at me! I cried out as he gashed my arm and held up my shield to defend myself, but oh, was he clever! He saw that and cut at my legs instead, making me stumble. I responded in kind with a stab in his gut…

But it barely did a thing! My Demon laughed again and said to me, "You're pathetic!"

"No, I'm not!" I tried to hit him again, slashing at his neck. He blocked with his own shield and bashed it into my face! I screamed and bent over as pain erupted from my nose and blood gushed from it. He took no chances and kicked me down! I slid and rolled back on my feet however and faced him again. He spoke, "Some Hero you are, Marcus!" he made a move and shoved his shield into my stomach, knocking the wind out of me. "What's the matter, huh?! Are you too much a do gooder to fight me? Competently, I mean? Oh, that's right…" he socked me and I reeled, "You're just so STUPID that having to think and strategize during a battle makes that tiny ball of a brain you have hurt too much!" I stumbled and fell on my knees. Why did his hits hurt so much?! I'm… I'm tougher than THIS aren't I?

He knocked me onto my back and stomped hard on my right leg. I wailed as I felt the bone snap and clutched at it! "Hmph! I wonder what daddy Ehren would say about you?" I gasped in pain as I heard a "shlurk!" sound, and glanced down to see a dagger stabbed into my ribs. I tried to stand up and cover my wound which was bleeding badly, but I couldn't.

"I think he'd say that you're a failure, Marcus! You don't deserve to be called his son, let alone a Donnelly!" I screamed as he stabbed my shoulder with his sword and tried to push him away, but found he was just too damn strong! Tears sprang to my eyes as there was a searing pain in my right arm as it was bent the wrong way, and Soulforge fell to the floor with a clatter. "Awww, wanna cry, you big baby? Is the big burly guy gonna cry now? I thought we were supposed to be MEN here, Markie! MEN DON'T CRY!" He punched my face and I cried again. It hurts! So much!

"Can't really blame ya though, Markie, given what a mama's boy you are!" He said with a laugh and stabbed my other leg! "Yeah, I bet mommy just LOVES this, doesn't she? Why don't you go on home and weep in her lap, huh?!"

I tried to raise myself up and look at him. "I'm NOT weak! I'm NOT stupid! I've got a father in Valhalla who's fucking proud of who I am, and YOU," I pointed a shaking finger at him, "will NOT deter me from my mission!" I somehow managed to stand up, through great difficulty and agony kept my stance low. "Now, why don't we settle this fairly? Or is fair not in your vocabulary?"


I was down again, a kick in the teeth felling me now! "You have a sword!" I grunted, "Why resort to your fists? Use that pigsticker, damn it!"

I gritted my teeth as he pinned me down and held the sword to my chest. "Fine then, I will." He slashed deep and I howled as the floor became even more stained. He kept hammering blow after blow with the flat of his blade against my skull. "Tsk tsk tsk! You're pathetic! All you are is just your daddy's shadow! You're not even TRYING to be anybody else except your dada, who guess what?! HE'S DEAD!" There was a CRACK as the flat broke my nose! "C'MON, MARCUS! SHOW ME WHAT YOU GOT, HUH?! IF YOU'VE GOT THE POWER YOU SO CLAIM FROM THE GODS, USE IT!" I responded by punching him in the gut as hard I could, though of course, it didn't do much and I let out a "DAMMIT! OW!" as my knuckles bled. It was like hitting a brick wall! "GIVE IN!" he yelled in my face and backhanded me, "SHOW ME THE RAGE YOU'VE GOT INSIDE YOU! Your temper's boiling, isn't it? You wanna stop the hurt? Then go berserk and LET LOOSE ALREADY!"

I shook my head no. I'd grown past that. The sword slashed my shoulder. I attempted to crawl away from him but that made things worse. He stomped on my other ankle and made me stop moving as it crunched under his boot. I whimpered and rolled over on my back. Everything hurt! "C'mon now, Marcus! Sure you can't give up now? Surely you've still some fight left in you! You stupid," I got a nice black eye, "reckless," he stabbed me in the stomach and the blade went deep, "INSUFFERABLY," a sharp slash down my left arm, "PURE," a kick to the ribs and I felt something break, "WEAKLING!" he grabbed my shoulders and slammed my head down on the floor twice!

I saw nothing but red now, and even that was rapidly fading to black. I couldn't move and lay limp upon the floor; I couldn't even speak let alone make any sort of sound aside from a faint wheeze that hurt with each breath. I struggled to keep my eyes open, knowing that I'd never open them again if I didn't. Everything hurt! I just wanted it to be over…

I felt my Doppelganger turn my head and I was made to look at him. He raised his sword above his head, and my eyes widened in horror at what he was going to do! I could already feel the sharp steel running me through, when I suddenly and unexpectantly, my Doppelganger Demon screeched in pain! Reeling from whatever it was that hit him, he whirled around to see who'd dared to strike him. My vision blurred and everything going to a dull throb as it all was shutting down, I saw a figure in bright robes come towards me.

I felt several somethings being forced down my throat and I coughed and gasped for breath, deeper and less clogged with blood in my lungs now. I winced as my bones snapped back into place and healed up and I felt a warm tingling go through me as the Healing pills did their job. I sat up and croaked, "Thanks, Harami."

He stood up and drew his knife again. "Go! Run! Go do that Honor stuff that lion guy was talking about, okay?!" I nodded and got to my feet, picking up Soulforge off the floor. I faintly heard Harami taunting my Doppelganger Demon as I went up the spiraling staircase and smiled a little as I heard him scream in pain from my friend's dagger.

I went up the stairs and was overwhelmed by the danger here. The top of the tower gave me a great view of the ruins far below me, the sky painted blood red and the air crackled with malice and Magic. I looked ahead and saw a large, spiraling green Portal- that must have been the World Gate! Next to it was a small horned statue with a floating blue orb within it. I then faced what I realized to be the Demon Wizard so much talked about, there being a seemingly bottomless chasm separating us. His orange eyes gleamed as he smiled triumphantly. "So you made it past my guardians, little pawn. I have been waiting for you."

I glared and readied my shield and sword for battle. "It was I who stole both the Drum and the Spear. When you returned them, you played right into my hands."

I stood firm and was not going to falter again. "You helped bring all the pieces together at your stupid peace conference. I had but to possess and make my move with the Leopardman leader. Thanks to you, my enemy Rakeesh is in disgrace. My minions will soon finish with him and your other worthless friends, just as my armies will soon drown this land in a sea of blood. But enough of that. Now it is again my move, and time for you to die!"

The pillar in front of me transformed into a gargoyle as the Demon Wizard snapped his fingers! Soulforge's flame however, decimated it like it was nothing! The creature collapsed and turned back to stone. The Demon Wizard tsked, "So stone will not stop you. Then try my fire!"

I wasn't having any of that! Putting up my Magic Shield, the Flame Dart bounced off harmlessly with a 'ping!' sound! For good measure, I bashed the gargoyle with my shield as well, making a great bridge across the chasm that separated us. "Creature of Stone, hear my command! Capture that human, with your cold hand!" chanted the Demon Wizard.

The gargoyle grabbed my legs with a grip so hard I couldn't move! I struggled, I tried to jump, I tried to pry them apart, but it was no use! I was well and truly stuck here, and so close…!

The Demon Wizard cackled and turned to the World Gate and said, "Come forth, O Lord. By my power and by the forces held in this enchanted staff, I summon thee forth!"

I heard rumbling and knew I had to act fast! But, what could I do? Well… while my legs were trapped, my arms weren't! Unfortunately, while my injuries were gone thanks to Harami's help, I hadn't used any Stamina pills so as you can imagine, all this fighting had taken a HUGE toll on me! But, I just had enough to perform what I was going to do next. I drew Soulforge again and, with the last of my strength and against EVERYTHING I had been told up to this point that it wasn't a smart idea, I tossed Soulforge blade first at the Demon Wizard intending to run him through!

But oh, the result was even BETTER!

He saw it coming, of course. He immediately snatched it in midair and held it up and examined it. "Ha! Look at this, the stuff of mortals! As it this paltry human steel could even harm me!"

The gargoyle FINALLY released my legs and I walked forward, smiling. "You really still think that's 'paltry human steel' when I can Will it to do THIS?" Soulforge then burst into blue holy fire! There was a sizzling sound from the Demon Wizard's hand as he held it and he cried out in agony as the heat from this divine sword became too much and a bolt of lightning came down from the heavens and proceeded to fry him!! "Thanks, Thor, but I think I got this!" I laughed as I walked past my adversary.

Then I stopped as I felt a presence. A voice spoke into my mind, "You have done well so far, Paladin. Now free me, and I shall be your servant."

I smirked and walked towards the pedestal holding the orb. "I have no need for power like yours. I'll stick with the power of this world, thank you very much!" With one push, I knocked over the pedestal with my shield and the orb fell off balance. With it out of whack, the orb was sucked back into the World Gate alongside the Demon Wizard and it closed with a whirling flash!

…I'd won!

I picked up Soulforge again and walked back to join my friends.

As soon as I walked back into the area where everyone else was, I felt that chill down my spine and the hair on my neck stood up. I should have heeded the warning!

"Man-friend! Man-friend! Happy, happy, you come back! Man-friend come back!" Manu cried happily, jumping up and down.

"Welcome back, my son," said Rakeesh.

"Habari, Hero," Uhura greeted me.

"You made it, huh?" Harami asked. I nodded.

"And it was all thanks to you, Harami. A little help goes a long way, doesn't it?" Harami smiled a little.

"The Demons were all drawn back into their own world when you closed the World Gate. This land, and all its people, are safe thanks to you."

"Mzuri, friend," said Uhura, "I not be knowing how much longer Rakeesh and I hold off the Demons. A good fight, much better when over."

"Oh, I can imagine!" I replied with a nod.

Yesufu spoke next. "You are a good man to be fighting at my side, friend."

I noticed he had his free arm wrapped around Johari. "Now my people and the cow people will have peace thanks to you, Hero. I'll name Yesufu's son after you."

"What?" Yesufu answered baffled.

"You said you wanted to marry me. I accept."

So it was true, then. I WAS in denial. My heart dropped to my toes and broke and I tried to keep my composure as best I could. Rakeesh cringed as he looked at my reaction. "I'm… I'm really happy for you, Johari. Yesufu." I looked down and sighed, "Johari, when we were wed, I told you that love makes us want the best for the ones we care about, no matter our own thoughts or feelings on the matter. So long as they're happy, then everything is alright. So, despite how much it hurts, I'm willing to let you go and be happy with him if that's what you truly want." I held out my hand and Yesufu shook it, "I meant what I said at our initiation. I hope that we can remain friends even through this."

"Of course!" Yesufu replied.

I gave Johari one last hug and told her, "You're gonna love this guy, trust me." I turned to Yesufu, "And you. You treat her good, okay?" He nodded.

"Man-friend very brave," said Manu with an adorable monkey smile.

"It is an honor to meet and serve you, friend," said Reeshaka with a nod.

"You did good, kid," said Harami.

Then, it happened.

That sense of danger grew even stronger! So much so that even Rakeesh sensed it, heck, I think everyone knew something was wrong!

I saw bright light sparkle around me and I tried to struggle and resist this magical force but as much as I tried, it wasn't enough! I felt myself writhing and twisting in pain to resist whatever was happening, and tried to call out for help, but to no avail!

The light consumed me.

The last thing I remember hearing is Rakeesh shouting my name…

Then all went black.

(Entry continued here.)

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