Absit Invidia

Klara's Journal: Entry #15
Breaking Points

After speaking with Kalona, I returned home to see what the plans were for the day. There was a few things I needed to go buy, some of which I wanted to go buy alone, but I needed to see if there was anything important we had to do. We still needed to find the crown for Mark, so Cade and I decided that we were going to do that later on, so I had the morning to myself. I ordered a bracelet to be made for Kalona and then decided to do something I never wanted to do ever again. I decided to go to a brothel.

Now, it wasn’t for the normal reasons. You see, my parents’ were the “wait until marriage” type and well, I hadn’t been doing that. I was a little concerned about you know, getting pregnant, but I didn’t know where to get contraceptives so I thought asking someone at the brothel would be the best option. The lady who I asked about them was super nice, even though I was very awkward about it, and told me that I needed to go to the apothecary to get some. I did as she told me, had an awkward conversation about how much I needed with the person running the apothecary and then went on my merry, yet shameful, way.

The last thing I wanted to do before I met Cade near the Black Market was to apologize to Lord Allen. I got a nice bottle of wine from one of the taverns and went to his house. He didn’t open the door fully when he answered it, but accepted my apology and the bottle of wine. He seemed distracted while talking to him, especially when I asked him about if there was any children that had went missing from the city. His lack of knowledge about the inner workings of the city concerned me, but as I finished up my conversation with him, I realized why he was being so strange with me. Kalona had told him to go enjoy a night with his girlfriend and relax a little. I felt like an idiot for not realizing it sooner.

Remembering that Kalona told me that he’d go to the Black Market with me a few days before, I stopped by his house, knocking on his window this time to see if he wanted to go with me. He seemed surprised that I was using his window, but I just figured it was what we’re doing now since he’s constantly using my window to get into my house rather than the door. He told me he needed to collect his things and he’d meet me outside in a few moments. After he was ready, we headed to the Black Market.

Cade was already waiting for me there, seeming a little surprised that Kalona was here too, but didn’t say anything about it. I explained to Kalona that we were looking for a missing crown, describing it to him, and asked if he knew which merchant might have it. Kalona said that there was this special items merchant that might have it, so we decided we’d start our search there. The market itself was an interesting place and there was a lot of activity moving through the area. Most of the items being sold seemed to be legitimate, but a lot of the goods were illegal. The special items merchant was no different. The merchant already knew Cade because he showed Cade some daggers the day before, but Cade didn’t have the money to buy them at the time. I asked him if he had any crowns and he pulled out three matching the description I gave him. Two were very similar and pretty well made, and the other one looked fairly cheaply made, but the merchant explained that it had a magical aura about it. I told him about our situation and he told me that the crown I wanted was the cheaper looking one. He admitted that he’s encountered it a few times before and that if we bought something else, it was free. However, out of curiosity, it was 15,000 gold if we didn’t buy anything else.

He showed me a bow that I might like, but the price was too steep for me, so we bought the daggers Cade wanted and got the crown as well, saving 11,000 gold. I ended up buying an original painting from the man who was selling his forgeries in hopes to inspire him to keep creating his own work. It was a very pretty painting, but I honestly paid too much for it. With nothing else to do, we decided to go check out the gambling area and Cade and I were greeted with a few congratulations here and there for winning the tournament. Some people told us that we won them money. This was all fine and dandy but someone did catch our attention.

Sitting at one of the tables was none other than cart man. It’s been awhile since we encountered him in the woods outside Frostford. He stole money from Zen, left us with a cart full of useless, magical items, and when Cade shouted at him from across the room, it was easy to see that he hadn’t forgotten about us. He was off like a shot, sprinting out of the gambling area, and Cade told me that we should chase him down. I told Cade we shouldn’t and we should just let him live in fear of us. He’s never going to bother us again anyway so why kill him? Cade eventually agreed, but Kalona had some questions about the magical items this guy had on the chart. Knowing that it was going to be easier to show off what they did than explain them, we went to the training center.

Kalona didn’t seem too enthusiastic when I started showing the longsword we picked up off the cart to him, mostly because I told him earlier that I was going to hit him with it. After getting the sword out of the bag of holding, I showed him that the edge would draw blood by cutting my finger on it a little bit. After that, I attacked, hitting his arm with the sword as it did no damage, turning into rubber. Kalona went from unimpressed to interested soon after and I handed him the sword. Like most other people we tell about this sword, he thought it was extremely weird, but could come in handy in some situations. After a little while of talking between the three of us, I asked him if he would come to our house later because there was things that we needed to discuss as a group. He said he’d come and I asked him to make sure he wasn’t followed.

Back at the house, I started discussing the missing children with Cade and Zen. Neither one of them really wanted to go help them, because they weren’t sure what we’d be getting into. Neither one of them really cared anyway. I explained to them that I didn’t want to go, especially if we were going to the Nine Hells, but we needed to go save these children. We had waited for such a long time and I finally felt that we were ready to face it. Cade asked if we were really ready, and I brought up to them that we had killed two dragons already. By that time, the window to my bedroom opened and soon Kalona was standing with us in the living room. I thanked him for coming, but insisted to Zen and Cade that we needed to do this. Zen made a promise to Carp’s mother to find him and she’d be breaking that promise if we didn’t do anything. Eventually, they agreed to go with me, and I decided that we’d go tomorrow.

Now, I didn’t really want Kalona there for that conversation, but I did want him to be a part of this one. I told Cade and Zen that we need to start considering what we are going to do about Atlas Fletcher. By that time, Cade and Zen didn’t seem to be too eager to discuss anymore, and Kalona seemed a bit confused why he was here for this. I made it brief, saying that we needed to start this conversation because if our two teams were going to work together, we needed to start the discussion now. However, there wasn’t much discussion, which honestly irritated me a little.

With that done, Kalona and I left the house because I wanted to talk through some things with him in private. We walked a little ways out of the city and onto a grassy hilltop and I told him that we needed to let each other know what we knew about the situation between our families. He wanted me to start, so I told him that I knew that my mother and little brother were killed as a sacrifice to Atlas’ father, Asmodeus, and the reason that he wants my family’s blood is because we are descendants of a paladin of Obad-Hai. He said that he didn’t know much more but looking at him, I finally felt like I was able to ask something I’d been waiting for the right moment to say. “I do have a question for you,” I remember saying, causing his eyes to look at me curiously. “If you’re grandfather is Asmodeus, what does that make you?”

“Me,” he replied with a shrug. I don’t know why, but I instantly regretted asking him about it.

“It doesn’t change how I feel about you, Kalona,” I told him, hoping that I didn’t make him angry with my question. I asked him if he had any plans on how to defeat Atlas, saying that my plans are old and stupid and wouldn’t work anymore. He told me that he’d need some time to think, but he’d think of something. Jokingly, I told him that my father told me that I needed to kill his mother before his father to weaken him, but that plan was out the window. He grew a bit stern at the mention of killing his mother, saying his mother was to be left out of this conflict, but he did tell me that she doesn’t like me. I wouldn’t expect anything else.

I only had one final question for him and it was a weird one. When I went out with him the second night we were in Aspienne, I noticed that he had faint scars on his hands. While I was with him, I noticed he’d rub them from time to time, but I was never able to figure out where they had come from. I thought that this would be as good of a time as any to ask, so I did. He explained to me that he got them when he tried to stand up against his father after I broke up with him. He got in a fight with an assassin, who was a lizard creature by the name of Slither. That fight with Slither was almost deadly for him. After that, he went to train with his uncle, the demon lord Graz’zt, in the Abyss. He spent nearly four years training with him in hopes of being strong enough one day to face his father.

I gazed at him for a while, wanting to ask more questions about his time away during those four years, but I knew that now wasn’t the time. It was getting late and we needed to get back eventually. He told me that he had a gift for me and pulled out a thin, silver bracelet with white and red stones on it. He put it on my wrist and told me that it is a bracelet of revitalization, so if I would fall in battle, it would at least get me back on my feet. I studied it for a few moments, knowing that what he was really telling me was to stay alive. I smiled at him, thanking him for it, and told him that I had a present for him too. I handed a leather bracelet to him with the words, “It’s always been yours,” burned into the leather inside of it. He smiled when he read the phrase, I felt a bit bad that it wasn’t magical, but he thanked me for it. I told him that he could come over for the night if he wanted to, and he said that he might take me up on that offer, before we parted ways and went home.

Cade had followed Kalona and I, but wasn’t able to hear our conversation, due to us speaking in the language we had made up in our teens, and seemed to have a few questions for me. I answered them as best as I could, not wanting to say too much in the streets in case someone was listening. When we made it home, we talked for a little while with Zen before we all retired to our beds. The house was silent when my window slowly slid open and Kalona quietly scrambled through it. I smiled at the sight of him, pleased to see him once more, as he carefully closed the window and took off his sword and shoes after greeting me. I couldn’t help but stare.

This man drove me insane, forced me to crave him and his closeness, and ruined every plan I thought I had all without saying a single word. He changed the way I saw the world in a blink of an eye, restored life to me in a heartbeat, and reduced my fears to nothing on a breath. If I could, I’d sit there and study every curve and angle of his body and commit to memory like some holy scripture. I’d revel in his presence, bask in the glory of his gaze, and worship the warmth of his love. Mortal yet divine, a man who could have anything he ever desired with just a few charming words, and yet he focused his affections on me. A simple girl from Frostford who’s in way over her head in this world and happens to have a holy bloodline. For the longest time, I never understood what he saw in me but now I’m beginning to realize what he meant all those years ago.

My eyes are focused on him, my heart aching for his touch, as my head considered the possibilities of what we and this relationship could be. Dark, manipulative thoughts started to creep back into my mind, ideas that I hadn’t thought of in a long time, and I considered them. Some of them could work, while others would just be interesting to see unfold over time. These schemes were what he saw in me all those years ago.

I didn’t even notice that he stared me with a little smirk on his lips until he came closer to me. “What were you thinking about?” he asked, his voice deep as I gazed up at him. A chill ran down my spine as I considered his question with a mischievous grin on my face. There wasn’t much on my mind in that moment.

“How to make you as insane as you make me,” I replied in a whisper, my voice low and seductive as I drew him in closer to me, ready for what was going to happen next.

The morning light warmed the room as I stirred to find myself still in his arms. I shifted to be able to face him. His expression was peaceful and satisfied and his chest rose and fell with his smooth, steady breaths. I don’t think my heart will never not flutter when I wake up to see that he’s right here beside me. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this feeling. I can’t even describe it but it’s the most wonderful thing I’ve ever felt. I cuddled up closer to him, not wanting this to end. I didn’t want to say goodbye to him so soon but I knew I had to. Today, we were leaving to try to find the missing children, and I didn’t even want to consider that I was leaving him behind.

This time, I was able to convince him to stay a bit longer than yesterday morning. We didn’t talk much. We just held each other and cherished the silent moments we shared, not knowing when the next time we’d be together would come. His body was warm under my touch, his fingers slowly traced the curvatures of mine, and I attempted to memorize the sound of his heartbeat. In the stillness of it all, my mind was racing as I tried to guess the next time we’d be together. I couldn’t, and that upset me a little.

He eventually had to leave and return to his team and I took the time to get my own things packed and ready. Beacon watched me as I did so, his tail beating against the bed when I even glanced at him in the slightest sense. After everything was packed, I made a tea out of the contraceptive I was given, as instructed, and dear gods it tasted horrible. I was able to choke it down without vomiting as Cade and Zen gathered their things. After a while, and a quick run to stock up on some more potions, we were ready to leave. I went over to Kalona’s house and knocked on his window. I let him know that we were leaving soon and I’d send him a letter once we got back. Before I left, I kissed him goodbye.

Back with my group, we made sure we were all ready and once we said we were, Cade drew the portal. I didn’t admit it to them, but I was nervous. I didn’t know what we were going to find once we stepped through the portal. When we did so, my nerves were right. This didn’t look like the layer of Hell we were supposed to be on and as we started to walk towards the building in the distance, there were the bodies of dead children everywhere. Zen, Cade, and I looked for Carp, not letting the sight affect us as we made our way into the building. We found Carp’s body inside and the sense of failure started to creep up in my mind. I took out the last cloak we picked up from the Redbrand’s hideout and wrapped him up in it. Once we were finished, chains whipped out of the darkness and attacked us. The fight was longer than we expected, because I didn’t want to get close to the chain devil so I could actually attack it instead of constantly being grappled by it, but it eventually fell.

Slightly irritated, I went over to the desk across the room and collected the money off of it before returning to Cade and Zen when a slow clap started out of the darkness. Stepping out of the shadow before us was the black-haired, golden-eyed, magical boy. However, he now looked to be a teenager. He explained to us that he was surprised to see us, but because of our untimeliness, phase one of his plan was complete and phase two was starting to begin. Confused, we asked him what his plan was and he replied that he wants to watch the gods, and the world, burn. My only thought for him was, get in line. It’s not the first time we’ve heard that. Even though I really wanted to say that, I held my tongue and instead focused on him to try to figure out what he was. He wasn’t fiend, celestial, or undead as he explained to us that if we wanted to leave, we needed to do it soon before the portal piece lost it’s power and we were trapped here forever. The last thing he said to us was, “tick, tock. Tick, tock.” The words sent a chill up my spine as Cade drew a portal one last time and we stepped through, finding ourselves back in Aspienne just a couple hours after we left.

Cade wrote letters to the people he wrote just hours before, saying that we made it back safely, as I went to Kalona’s window, hoping for him to see him. I’ll admit, I was upset with the outcome and I felt extremely responsible for what had happened, but I didn’t let it show to the rest of my team. I just wanted a bit of a distraction, someone to talk to, and I knew I’d feel a little bit better about the situation. However, after a few moments of waiting at his window, no one came. I went to the front door and it was the same result. The door was unlocked and I stepped in to see that every trace of them was gone and the house was vacant. My upset turned to irritation in a heartbeat as I grappled with the fact that he was already gone. Fine, I see how it is, I thought to myself, hurting as I tried to convince myself that I knew that this was going to happen. It didn’t mean that it didn’t pain me any less.

I made my way back to Cade and Zen, telling them that we needed to do something with Carp’s body, so we made our way to the Temple of Kord to see if anyone there could help us. I held him in my arms as we stepped inside as the thought of his smiling face flashed back before my eyes. He was so excited to finally met adventurers, because he wanted to be one someday, and we were the horrible example of what they were. The tears stung my eyes, regret and despair pressing down on me, and I just couldn’t move past the fact that we failed him and all of the other children. It didn’t hit me until just then. Cade and one of the priests were trying to talk to me but I didn’t even register what they were saying. Cade took Carp out of my arms and told the priest about our situation and asked if we could have a burial arranged for him. He said they could get something arranged, but I didn’t hear anything else. I was too focused on staying on my feet, trying not to cry, and driving the failure out of my mind. Cade had to escort me out of the temple once our business was done there.

Eventually, my emotions diminished in intensity and Cade and Zen asked me to write a letter to Carp’s mother. I told them I’d need a little bit of time, but I was willing to do so. I kept the letter short because I was still fighting back tears as I wrote it, but I explained to her that we found her son, but we wished it would have been under better circumstances. We made arrangements for his burial in Aspienne and we were deeply sorry for her loss. I told her that he was a very brave boy, a bright light in the darkness of this world, and he’ll be truly missed. I apologized to her once more, knowing that my apology wouldn’t help anything at all, but I didn’t know what else to say. It wouldn’t help bring her son back to her. I reread the letter a few times, trying to think of anything else to say, but when I couldn’t think of anything else, I signed it with Klara, Zenthya, and Cade, knowing that she’d be holding us responsible for her son’s death just like I held Atlas responsible for my mother’s and brother’s. Bitterness ate at my heart, but I didn’t let it show as I sealed the letter and sent it off with a messenger.

What I felt didn’t diminish with time like I thought they would. It continued to stew instead. We left Aspienne to go find our prize from the tournament in the Dragon’s Vale Woods, but after two weeks of travel, we found ourselves in Noragate. During this time, Cade was acting like a kleptomaniac and kept stealing stuff from Zen and I, but would always return it. His behavior was odd, and we didn’t really know what to think about it. I asked a local about a place to stay in the city and he asked if I wanted a touristy tavern or one the locals hang out at, and when I said I prefered the local one, he pointed us in the direction of The Tavern of Dragons. It was a pretty nice place and there was a lot of locals there and we ended up getting rooms for the week, but could get a refund if we didn’t stay as long. The barkeeper, who ran the place, was extremely nice.

However, the next morning I woke up to see that Cade had stolen a large painting off the wall of the tavern downstairs and I went to Zen’s room to tell her about it. We both agreed that it was time to get down to the bottom of this and have an intervention for Cade. We talked to him for a while, he claimed that there was nothing wrong with him and he eventually agreed to come with us to go see a cleric. After asking the barkeep where to go, we found ourselves in the Temple of Selune, near the port, and asked for a cleric to see Cade. A few minutes passed before a silver dragonborn arrived, her name was Ireimeila, and after a bit of talking with her and her examining Cade, she was able to tell us that the daggers he bought were probably cursed. Zen took the daggers from Cade after that and the dragonborn said that we needed to go to the magic shop in town to know the identity of the curse. We did so and found ourselves in front of Griemshaw Trading Co.

Now, Kalona did tell me that the last he knew, my brother was in town, but my first thought was when I saw that name was that it was a bit too similar to my family’s shop name, Grayson Trader Grove, but I didn’t dare ask anything of it because when we stepped in, he wasn’t there. There was a blonde, secretary-like lady and a bodyguard. We asked if they could identify the daggers and the blonde lady went into the back for a while to do so, and after a while, she returned to tell us that they were cursed. The previous owner was a greedy bastard and was banned from most cities and the daggers are okay to use as long as you don’t have them attuned to you for longer than three weeks. We thanked her and we ended up visiting another shop. This one was more general weapons, but I did ask the gentleman running it, a man by the name of Zasur, if he had seen my brother after showing him a picture of him, and he said he had but didn’t give me much information about him and was a jerk to me instead. You know all of those emotions I was feeling earlier? Well, guess who was now pissed off.

We went to other shops and, after a little bit of coin to get tongues loosened, I was able to find out of that my dear brother was the Fletchers’ business partner and that he changed his last name to Griemshaw. So original, brother. You only changed a few letters. We also found out that ships were being sunk out at sea and it was scaring the sailors and the Merchant’s Guild wanted some adventurers to go out and fix the problem. Eventually, I made my way back to Griemshaw Trading Co. and asked the blonde lady, her name is Vancha, if I could speak to my brother. Her response: “Maybe he doesn’t want to talk to you.” By that point, I was furious with every fucking merchant in that city and I wanted to rip out her throat. I was going to talk to my brother one way or another, no matter who or what stood in my way.

We found Ireimeila again, giving her an ‘update’ on her patient, before I asked her about my brother. She was about as helpful as every other person we talked to in that city, minus the barkeep, but explained to me that if I really wanted to talk to my brother, I needed to talk to Aren Wilso first, since he was the leader of the Merchant’s Guild. However, it would be nearly impossible to speak with him. At that point, my mantra became “fuck this city.”

Not going to stop my pursuit, I asked Cade and Zen to come with me to the Merchant’s Guild inn, aptly named the Inn of Traders. I hung outside with Zen, who wanted to sneak in with Cade but was unable to, as he tried to find a way for me to talk with my brother. Vaga, I mean, Vancha arrived at the tavern and was the reason that Cade was able to slip in, but the wait was killing me. I was furious with the situation. I wanted to move on with my life and leave this fucking city and everyone in it as soon as possible but not without speaking to my brother for one time in four years. All I wanted to do was make sure he was alright and then I could be at peace with the fact that he’s allied with my enemy and to let father know that his son’s still alive.

Eventually, Cade came out of the tavern and told me that he set up a meeting with my brother at the Serpent’s Den at noon. He told us that he said he was a representative of a trader from Vocans and she wanted to establish a trade route, but he himself was not from Vocans. Satisfied by the arrangement, we went back to the Tavern of Dragons for the night.

At noon the next day, we arrived at the Serpent’s Den and found out that it was a brothel. An extremely handsome tiefling man seemed to run the place and I told him, in my best Vocans’ accent, that we were here for the meeting with Nikolas Griemshaw. That’s when I realized that the tiefling named Kisora was actually from Vocans as he spoke. After he told us what room he was in, I thanked him and told him, “Be pleased,” remembering that my father told me to say that if I was ever dealing with someone from Vocans. He seemed pretty impressed, repeating the phrase to me before we went into the room he told us my brother was in.

Upon entering the room, two men were already there within it. One I didn’t recognize and the other had changed a bit since I last saw him. “Hello, Klara,” my brother said, his tone not enthusiastic to see me. He was taller now and more muscular, he’d grown a beard and was wearing glasses, but other than that he looked much like he did when he left all those years ago. “Hello, Nikolas,” I replied, a bit irritated that the other man was here. There were a few, tense moments between us and I noticed that my companions were getting uncomfortable with the silence. I was just trying to think what to say. My brother and I didn’t leave on the best terms, and I could still see some of that resentment in his eyes as he looked at me. I told him that it was good to see him, to know that he’s alright, and I hoped that his business was doing well. He said that things were fine and that him and his wife, Vancha, were doing well. So the rude, blonde lady is my sister-in-law. Wonderful.

I told him that I heard that he was business partners with the Fletchers now and I asked how that came to be. He explained to me that he ran from them for a while, but they eventually caught up with him and he made a deal with them. All he had to do was given them some blood, become their business partner, and then he was safe. Anger flared in my chest, knowing that he had sealed his fate and mine as well. I didn’t say anything, however, because I wasn’t going to let him see that the hate that was growing within me as I heard more about his situation. I told him that father would be pleased to know that he was alright, which caused my brother to come slightly unglued. He told me that he no longer had any love for our father because he was the reason that our mother was dead since he wasn’t there to protect her. I retorted, telling him that there was no way we could’ve known that she was going to be murdered if we left. He then told me that it was our father’s fault that there was such a divide between the Fletchers and us, and I asked him if he remembered that we were the ones who did most of the damage. We were the ones actively trying to turn the town against them, we were the ones who started the fire, because our father wanted no part in it at first. I could see I was getting to him, I was making his angry, and I enjoyed it.

I told him that, even though he doesn’t like father, that father would be proud of him because he’s doing what he wished for the both of us to do after he left. Start a business, move on with our lives, and not look back. My brother considered my words for a few, brief moments. Nikolas then explained to me that Waicox offered the house and the business to him, two months after our father left Frostford, but he declined. He wanted nothing to do with our property anymore. I told him that he should return soon, that mother would like to see him because her spirit is still tied to the house for the time being, but he refused. He said he didn’t care anymore. Up until that point, nothing he said really hurt me, but that did. For someone who hated so much due to our mother’s death, he should be ecstatic about the fact that he’d have a chance to talk to her one more time. He wasn’t and that stung. Any bit of affection I used to have for my brother shattered in that instant and I realized that he wasn’t even worthy of my time anymore. However, he’s my brother and I still love him.

With our personal matters out on the table, he did mention the fact that the Merchant’s Guild would like us to find whatever was sinking their ships. He explained that the merfolk and the guild had a treaty, but now they’re attacking and they want someone to go get to the bottom of it. I told him that we’d consider the offer, but there’s business we must do first before we even consider the offer. That didn’t seem like an answer either one of the two men wanted to hear.

Before our meeting was over, I went over to my brother, who was suspiciously eyeing me, and gave him a hug. It was probably the most awkward hug ever but again, he was still my brother even though he seemed to hate me. I whispered into his ear that I was glad he was alright and I hoped that in time, things between us wouldn’t be so strained and we could move past this. He stiffened slightly at my words before whispering, “You know the Fletchers will find you.” I couldn’t help but smile as the thought of Kalona and I flashed into my mind. “They already have,” I replied, smirking at my brother as I pulled out of the hug as confusion entered his eyes. With that, Cade, Zen, and I left the room and once we were gone, they said that my brother was a jerk.

I tore off a small piece of the scroll my father gave to me and wrote a short note on it, saying that Nikolas is safe, he’s in Noragate, and this town is horrible. I thought of my father after I finished the message and the slip disappeared from my hands. With that done, a few shots of alcohol from Kisora’s bar, and some small talk with him, we left the city.

Now, in my anger towards the Merchant’s Guild and the city of Noragate, we forgot our horses so we had to go back, losing a day of travel, but we eventually found the cave that Mr. Ward described to us. Upon entering the cave, there was a dragon’s skeleton wrapped around a pile of treasure. On top of the pile of treasure were four dragon eggs. Each was warm to the touch, so they still seemed to be alive and we each chose one egg for ourselves. I took the blue egg while Cade took the green and Zen kept the red. We decided to take the lilac egg with us, not knowing what do with it at the moment but we didn’t want to leave it. Satisfied with our winnings and our collection of the remaining dragon parts, we noticed as the glyphs that outline the entrance to the cave powered down, which freaked Cade and Zen out. I was alright with it, knowing that we walked in here without being harmed so we should be able to walk out. Mr. Ward also said that he made sure that no one would touch our winnings so I figured that’s what the glyphs were for.

With that done, we made our way back to Noragate, discussing whether or not we should accept the deal with the Merchant’s Guild. I finally noticed that the bracelet Kalona gave me was missing and I asked Cade if he had it and he said he didn’t. That didn’t stop me from thinking that he took it though. Cade and Zen wanted to take the deal because they thought we could get a lot of money out of it, but I didn’t want to accept it due to how pissed off I was with all of them. However, I told them that since they wanted to accept it, I’d go with them because they went with me to save the children even though they didn’t want to.

Once back in the city, I went to my brother’s shop and found him working there. I told him that the business we had to do was done and we were accepting the guild’s offer. For once, my brother actually looked a little satisfied as he told me that we’d need to come to the guild hall at six for a meeting before he gave me directions how to get there. I thanked him and left and we decided to go see Kisora. When we got there, however, he couldn’t stay long because he was called in for a guild meeting, but would see us there at six. With nothing else to do, we hung out there until it was time to go.

Following my brother’s directions, we made our way to the Merchant’s Guild Hall, but quickly found out that my brother kindly forgot to tell us how to get in. After a while of trying and realizing that we’d probably have to break our way in, Kisora came and let us in. I liked Kisora a lot before that moment, but now I was in love with him. Compared to all of the other guild members, he was genuinely a good man. He lead us to where the meeting was taking place and on the walls of this hall was the crests of the people who were members. The only reason I knew that was there was a slightly modified version of the Grayson family crest on the wall behind my brother.

Sitting across from us was the man I saw with my brother when I spoke with him and he introduced himself as Aren Wilso. He thanked us for taking their offer and explained to us that we were to go five miles off of the coast to the reef where the ships have been sinking and investigate what’s happening there. We were each handed a ring of waterbreathing to use during our quest. I pressed him for more information, my companions staying silent. We barely knew what he wanted us to do and I wanted that to be out on the table for everyone in the room to hear. He explained to me that he wanted us to attempt to broker a deal with the merfolk or kill if needed. Mostly, he wants to know what’s attacking the ships because it seems like something is luring them closer to the reef since they find them either wrecked on it or dragged down below the water’s surface.

Cade and Zen still didn’t talk, so I took it as an opportunity to continue on. I questioned Aren about a reward for our work, and he didn’t mention anything about one, so I pressed him on it, saying that we do require compensation for our time. He avoided an answer, which irritated me, and I asked him about the deal they had with the merfolk. He said that before this happened, their relationship with the merfolk was good, but it is about the time for them to broker a new treaty with them. He told me that if the treaty is broken, he wants to know why, and if it’s something we think they can fix, we’d broker a deal with them. If it can’t be fixed, kill them all.

“So you’re asking us to commit genocide,” I stated firmly, my rage swelling up within my chest. I glared at him from across the room, waiting for his response. He told me that if it came down it it, then yes, he was. In that moment, I hated everyone in that guild hall and I was questioning why I was ever here talking to them, especially if these merfolk were innocent in this. He finally mentioned that our reward could be potentially more than just money, depending on how well we did, especially if we kept the treaty alive. Studying me, he asked if we had a deal and I looked to Cade and Zen. They were the ones who wanted to do this, but they looked troubled as I gazed at them. Returning my attention to Wilso, I told him that we had a deal.

He wrote us a charter for a ship but we were to go to the docks and pick the ship and the crew we wanted. I took the document and put it in my bag before I walked down the table, passing by a few of the guild members, and standing by Wilso, looking down at him. I offered him my hand, and he took it and firmly shook my hand. I told him we’d return as soon as possible.

I felt the weight of the guild members gazes and I walked back towards my friends but I didn’t care. I was upset with the situation we just put ourselves in and all of those people in that room, minus Kisora, had been rude to us. They were full of themselves and they could stand to be knocked down a few pegs. I knew their type, I knew what you had to do to survive in a business setting like that, and I wasn’t going to let them push me around. I wasn’t their bitch to control. Furious but close to tears, we made our way to Kisora’s brothel to discuss what just happened.

He wasn’t back yet but we made ourselves comfortable and I sat with my head on the bar in front of me. I felt like shit, and the bartender working there automatically poured me a shot. I took it, not even thinking about it, and set my head back on the bar as Cade rubbed my back. I asked them if they still wanted to do this, and they said that they did. I also asked if they thought I was too forceful with the guild. They didn’t answer.

Soon, Kisora arrived and took over the bartender’s job, pouring both Cade and I another shot. He told us that they were expecting that to go a little differently. I told him that I felt horrible and I wasn’t going to let them force our hand, my voice a bit muffled with my head still on the bar. He did admit that some of the members didn’t like me. I told him that the guild can go fuck themselves, but not him because he’s nice. Cade and Zen talked with him for a while, asking what he knew about the situation as I finally raised my head. The tears stung my eyes as I fought them back. He explained that what he knew about the situation was already discussed with us, and they asked him if he agreed with what Wilso wanted. He admitted that he didn’t want to see the merfolk killed either. With tears in my eyes, I asked him what we should do so it wouldn’t come to that. His answer was to not let it get to that point.

At his words, I started crying and explaining to them that I was done with this city and everyone in it. Nothing was working out the way I thought it would, we couldn’t save those children, Kalona left too soon, I can’t find the bracelet he gave me, my brother’s a dick, the guild is made of a bunch of jerks, and now we have to possibly go murder a bunch of merfolk for no apparent reason. “Klara, you need to relax,” Kisora told me, his accent thick in his voice.

“What do you think I’m trying to do? Alcohol hasn’t been helping so far,” I explained to him. He told me that he had just the thing for me, that it knocked out people from Vocans in just one shot, so it would help me relax. The shot he poured was thick and extremely yellow but I didn’t care. I took it in one swallow. It burned horribly and tasted disgusting but once it faded, a numbness started in my mouth and worked its way throughout my entire body. Oh, it felt so nice until I tried to speak. Zen asked Kisora what he gave me, and was giving to Cade while she spoke and he explained that it was sandkeg venom. She was appalled that he gave us vemon and he had to explain to her the properties of the liquor. I really didn’t care because for the first time in two and a half weeks, I wasn’t so tense.

I caught bits and pieces of Zen’s conversation with him and jumped in from time to time. He was describing Vocans to us and telling us about the Assassin’s Guild there. He mentioned that the two nicest assassins to come out of that guild was Jack and another man named Reylar Ventoris. He spoke for a while, explaining to us that not all of the assassins are as nice as them, and at his mention of Slither, I told him that he killed my mother. He told me that he was sorry to hear that and continued to tell us about Vocans. It was nice to just listen to him speak.

After a while, I asked him if he had any recommendations about who to charter and he told us it depended on where we wanted to go. If we were going to Vocans, he recommended Captain Jorly, but if we were doing anything with the Sea of Storms, like we were, he said we needed Captain Jerron. He explained to us that the Sea of Storms is dangerous and most captains who sail it refuse to go to Croak, but Jerron is crazy enough to do so. After a little while more of talking, it was getting late and we decided to call it quits for the night.

However, I didn’t leave because after Cade and Zen left, I asked Kisora if he’d been willing to help me relax a little more. He considered my offer for a while, before shrugging and telling me why not, and we went into one of the back rooms. Even with the venom still in my system, I wasn’t okay. I was hurting and I needed a distraction from it all and he was extremely attractive. I didn’t know what I was doing though but I also didn’t care. He lead me to the bed and had me sit down on the edge of it as I touched his face, causing him a gentle smile to form on his lips. He moved closer to me, as if to kiss me, but his lips never met mine and he began to wrap a blanket around my shoulders. He pulled away, taking my hands in his as he looked me in the eye. “You need to rest,” he insisted and the tears started welling up once more.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to,” I replied as I felt the tears begin to fall. He wrapped the blanket tighter around me as he helped me lay down on the bed before laying down beside me. He wiped my tears from my eyes and asked me to tell him what happened.

I explained to him what happened with the missing children, how we weren’t able to save them, and how we failed to keep our promise to one of the boy’s mothers. I then told him about Kalona leaving and, even though I knew we would both have to leave sometime, it hurt to see him gone so soon when I needed his comfort the most. Then, I told him about the troubles we had here in Noragate all because I just wanted to talk to my brother for the first time in four years and make sure he was alright. There was also the whole thing with the guild that happened that night that I wasn’t comfortable with and I’m so tired of this town, the guild, and my brother. I admitted that to him that I was jealous of my brother because he has everything I wanted when I was younger. A prosperous business, a spouse, a life we both always dreamed of living. When I heard that he was actually here in the city, all I wanted when I saw him was to make sure he was alright. I didn’t expect to receive such a cold welcome.

Kisora held me close while I told him this, gently rubbing my back as I choked on my words and my tears. He didn’t say anything and just allowed me to talk. Eventually, I ran out of things to say and when that happened, my tears eventually slowed. Once they stopped, he told me that he had to go take care of some things, but he’d be back soon. I pulled the blanket around myself tighter, gazing up at the ceiling. I knew Cade and Zen were probably thinking that I was doing something else with him, but at the moment, I wouldn’t even consider it like I did before. A part of me was embarrassed for breaking down in front of him like this. He saw me driven by anger and fury, full of fire, as I talked to the guild and spoke with people around the town, but he also witnessed how fragile I was, how delicate the facade I put up for the city was. He saw me when I was trying to prove that I was at my best, even though I was truly at my worst.

I was focused on calming my ragged breaths when he came back into the room with a cup in his hands. He handed it to me, it was warm to the touch, as he told me that it was warm milk and honey and it should help me feel a little better. I thanked him for it, looking at the cup in my hands for a while before finally taking a sip. I apologized to him for the way I was acting and he told me that it wasn’t a problem. He told me that, “Everyone has their breaking point, Klara. It’s not something you need to apologize for.” I nodded, thanking him once more, before he left the room again.

I took some time to finished the drink he gave me, making sure that the honey was well mixed into the milk, as I considered his words. Why was did his kindness seem so familiar to me? He was a stranger, but it felt like I was around an old friend when I was with him. It was something unexpected for this city and I felt like I could trust him. I didn’t know why I felt so strongly about him.

After a few minutes, I finished the drink, setting it on a small table at the side of the bed, and laid back down, figuring that I should try to get some rest. I wasn’t tired, but eventually sleep did come to me.

The next morning, I woke to find that the cup from the night before was gone and Kisora had left a couple pastries and a few pieces of fruit on the nightstand next to me and there was a couple more blankets on my bed. His kindness almost brought me to tears again. I ate one of each with some of the water I had before I started to gather my things. There was a knock at the door and I opened it to see him standing there. He asked me if everything was alright and I told him it was, but I should probably be going soon. I thanked him for his hospitality and for everything he did for me last night and that if there was ever anything I could do to repay him, all he needed to do was let me know. He said he’d remember that and he wished me luck on our journey ahead. I gave him a quick hug goodbye, thanking him one final time, before I left to make my way back to the Tavern of Dragons to find Cade and Zen.

Once back with them, we made our way to the docks in hopes to find the captain that Kisora recommended to us. It was a bustling place with a lot of people coming in and out of ships and we eventually found one of Captain Jerron’s crew members. He called to his captain and we were introduced to him. Captain Jerron was a young man, his hair closely shaved, and he wasn’t the happiest when I showed him the charter from the Merchant’s Guild. I told him that Kisora recommended us to him, and his demeanor changed, admitting to us that he didn’t exactly like the Merchant’s Guild. I told him that we don’t really like them either but agreed to do this task for them. With a nod, he said that they needed to bring supplies on board, but they’d be ready to take us out to sea within an hour.

We soon figured out which ones in our group had experience out at sea and which of us didn’t. Zen was perfectly fine with the rough, choppy waters, even as a storm started to pick up, but Cade was struggling with it. I was alright but a little nervous. I’d been out at sea a couple times on the Sea of Sorrows with Levi’s crews. This sea was much rougher than the one back home. Jerron, noticing our levels of experience asked Zen and I about which seas we’d been on while Cade was tying himself to one of the masts. Zen said that she traveled the Sea of Storms to get from Readmont to Araluen, so she was fairly familiar with the choppiness of it. I told him that I’d traveled on the Sea of Sorrows a few times and he told me that this sea was a whole different beast. I could already tell. Zen did ask why the Sea of Sorrows was named that way and Jerron explained it was because it results in the death of a lot of sailors. There was a lot of death associated with that area in general.

Cade, finally brave enough to make his way up to where we were with Jerron, got to hear the story Jerron told us about Croak, saying that most people don’t go there because of the dangerous waters but there is a temple to the Raven Queen located on the island. Kisora also mentioned something about the Raven Queen to us as well. Jerron also told us the story about Barovia and Strahd since none of us knew it. He then went on telling us more about the sea, telling us that most people are chickens for fearing it so much. He also mentioned to us what he knew about the situation and the dangers we’d face soon after we asked him about the merfolk.

He had heard that the sea elves brokered deals between merfolk and humanoids and it was spawning season for the merfolk, so he didn’t understand why they would be attacking. We told him about the sinking ships and he said that it sounded more like merrow to him than the merfolk. None of us had heard of merrow before, so he told us that they were merfolk once, but they swam too deep into the ocean and made their way into the Abyss, where they were corrupted. Once they returned, they were evil compared to the more gentle merfolk and have been know to sink ships like we described to him. He told us that if we were dealing with merrows, we needed to be careful.

Around this time, Cade came up to me and put the bracelet Kalona gave to me back on my wrist. I shot him a dirty look and he said that he had found it and didn’t steal it from me. I wasn’t really convinced. Jerron called out for his crew to set the anchor and lead us to the bow of the ship, asking us if we could see the reef ahead of us. “No,” the three of us said sarcastically, not even attempting to look at where he was pointing. However, we were all able to see the reef and the half-sunken ship ahead of us. He told us that here was where we were getting off and that he’d wait for two days until they had to go back to port to get more supplies. They’d come back out after that and wait for us if needed.

I asked if they had a dinghy for us to use, and they said they didn’t so we better watch where we jumped. Zen cast a waterbreathing spell on the dire wolves and her leopard and dove in gracefully, followed by her cat. I stood there at the edge of the ship for a while, looking down at the water below while Cade jumped off as he attempted to get Dogmeat to do the same. Beacon followed in after Dogmeat and I looked back that the captain, nodded, and told him that we’d see them again soon.

Every fiber of my being told me to stay on that ship, because I knew the waters below meant death for us. However, there was no turning back now. With a sigh, I did the unthinkable and hopped off the edge of the ship, trying to keep my arms down and feet together as I hit the water. Everything went quiet for a few moments as I began to swim towards the surface, trying not to acknowledge the murky depths below me. Once I emerged, Cade and Zen started swimming towards the sunken ship. I hung on to Beacon since it had been a while for the both of us since we had a proper swim and I didn’t want him to get left behind.

Cade and I lost sight of Zen for a while as the dogs and her leopard got to a place where they could stand and Cade and I thought it would be a good time to attempt to try waterbreathing. Today was just filled to the brim with things I thought were unthinkable because Cade and I were literally trying to drown ourselves. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, even when Cade pulled me under and tried to get me to take a breath. He managed to do it way before I did and was trying to convince me it was okay. At one point, he had my head cupped in between his hands as I was panicking, telling him that I just couldn’t do it. He told me that it feels extremely weird but it’s the only way we were going to survive out here. He pulled me under once more, punched me in the gut, which made me inhale some water as I panicked. The water replaced the air in my lungs and I could breathe, but it felt extremely wrong. He smiled at me as I took a few long breaths, attempting to calm down. I had to keep telling myself that I was okay.

Eventually, Zen joined us again and asked what we were doing after telling us that the part of the ship she explored was empty. We told her that we were trying to drown ourselves so we could get used to the waterbreathing thing and we were now attempting to get our animals into the water. She began to speak with them, and her leopard was the first one to take to the water. Dogmeat and Beacon were more of a challenge. They soon realized that they could breathe underwater however and we made our way down to find another ship.

Zen was speaking to the fishes and they told her where to go and eventually we found ourselves inside a ship with a skeleton crew, much older than the last ship. Cade went up to what looked to be the captain, who was sitting near a pile of loot before he was attacked. It was awkward fighting underwater, but we managed well enough and eventually the skeleton crew was defeated. We collected what loot we could before we exited the ship and went deeper.

Everything was dark and cold. I couldn’t make out much of what was ahead of me and kept following the light from Cade’s drift globe as we continued to descend. After a while, we couldn’t see the reef anymore. It was here where we needed to decide whether we kept swimming down or went back up. The obvious choice was to go back but there was a temptation to keep going deeper. Jerron said that things would eventually swim so deep that they would cross over into the Abyss and Kalona did say that he spent four years there with his uncle. It was a crazy thought, I know that now, but at the time it felt like the Abyss was so close and so were the potential answers to my questions. However, as my friends began to backtrack, I did too, not wanting to lose myself in the darkness.

This time, we kept a lookout for another ship and eventually we saw one. There was pile of treasure sitting in it’s hull, however, we all noticed that we weren’t alone. It looked like the flash of scales from a fish, but a big fish at that. It was then when Cade was pulled backwards out of the ship, me being dragged along with him because I had tied myself to him as we both discovered what we thought were merrow. They attacked, but they were no match for us. Cade took a lot of damage and went unconscious for a while, but the battle was over soon after that. Zen joined us as I got Cade conscious again and told us that she killed three of them. I don’t think the merrows thought we were going to be that tough of a fight.

We spent some time gathering what we could, when something else caught our eye. It was a male merfolk, who seemed to have been watching as we killed the merrow. He offered to take us to their home in the reef so we could rest after the fight because there was more merrows that we’d have to deal with. We agreed and a few other merfolk joined us as we followed them there. Eventually, we found ourselves in a cave and to our delight, there was actually land and air within it. Cade and I crawled onto the sand, hacking the water out of our lungs and I remember myself collapsing onto the beach. In that moment, I was thankful just to be on dry land again. I knew that my body would be aching in the morning from all the swimming for for the moment, I was going to enjoy just laying there. It had been such a strange adventure already and I had a feeling it was going to get weirder from here.

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Klara's Journal: Entry #14
Kalona Fletcher

Our final fight against the Reaper Gang was as rapid-paced as I expected it to be. In the beginning, we were standing on the bottom floor of a two-story structure with a large pit standing in between us and Kalona’s team. Zen, Cade, and I waved at them before the fight started and Kalona, Falana, and Kaloz waved back. Once the fight began, we raced up the staircases to the second floor, I blocking one of the staircases on the other side with a mess of thorns and spikes, as we readied ourselves to attack. Soon, they funneled through the open staircase on their side and the fight truly began.

Falana seemed to be focusing her attention on me as she attacked, which was alright because I was doing the same. Cade and Zen were trying to do some damage control as the wolves dominated the battlefield. I lost sight of Kalona for a while until I saw him being dragged behind Dogmeat around the arena where he stopped just a few feet ahead of me. Falana raced up the stairs to the twin towers that stood over the second floor, I followed her, standing across the bridge that connected to the towers from her. She fired a few arrows, which I dodged easily, before I returned fire, Beacon rushing up towards her. My aim was true before she ran away, Beacon on her heels, as I started to support my team mates from above.

To my right, there were multiple Kalonas fighting with Zen, her cat, and Dogmeat, and a black dragon wyrmling had entered the fray from somewhere. Across the way, Beacon knocked Falana out and Kaloz was casting spells from under the bridge. To my left, Cade and Faerroth were engaged in a fight. This is where the fight started to look a little dire. The black dragon made it’s way up to me, biting me. I fought it for a little while, landing a couple good blows before it disappeared and Kalona staggered his way up the stairs. He smiled at me for a moment, before trying to hit me with his longsword. His attacks went wide and I retaliated, which caused him to fall. With two of their party down, there was only two left.

Across the way, Beacon shoved Kaloz into the pit as Cade struggled with the dragonborn. After a few moments, Kaloz reappeared on the second floor as Cade rolled, dragging Faerroth with him, and he threw the dragonborn over his head and into the pit. The dragonborn was able to catch himself, but Cade stepped on his fingers and Zen, in her owlbear form, pecked Faerroth’s hand, causing him to fall. After that, our focus turned to Kaloz for a while. It wasn’t long until Kaloz was looking really rough and turned into an owlbear himself and by that time, the bridge I was standing on was hit with a spell and fell. With a shriek, I landed safely on the ground near the pit as I noticed Cade go unconscious. After getting Cade back up, it was time to end the fight. It wasn’t long until it was over, Kaloz being the last one of their team to fall.

The crowd began to cheer and I hugged Cade, stunned that we actually won as the clerics started to enter the arena. I rushed up to where Kalona fell and knelt beside him, placing my hand on his chest. I healed him the best I could and when he opened his eyes, I smiled at him before whispering that he was going to walk out of this arena with me. He smiled at my comment, thanking me, as I helped him up. With his arm over my shoulders, I walked with him out of the arena and to the cleric’s area.

The clerics were talking about how amazing our fight was as they healed us, telling us that there was going to be a lot of celebrations happening soon but that we should take it easy, at least for tonight. We spent some time talking with them and the Reaper Gang, making plans to go out and get some drinks afterwards when Mr. Ward walked in, congratulating us on our victory. He explained to us where we could find our prize, a dragon’s hoard, located in the Dragon’s Vale Woods. I had a few questions for him but I didn’t want to ask because there was something extremely unsettling about him. All I wanted was to be done with the conversation as quickly as possible.

With that over, we decided to go drinking. Well, Cade and I went drinking with Kalona, Kaloz, and Falana. Zen didn’t want to go and went home instead and Faerroth’s hand was really messed up and needed further healing. There, things were very tense between Falana and I, which made everyone at the table uncomfortable. I don’t even remember what she initially said to me, something about me being slow on the battlefield probably, and I retorted with something along the lines of, “Well, I was going to compliment you on how well you shot, but none of them actually hit me so they really weren’t that great.” That pissed her off, which caused a little bit of bickering between us, and eventually Kaloz left. Cade and Kalona were whispering for a while before both Cade and Falana left, leaving Kalona and I at the table. Kalona smiled at me, asking me if I thought them leaving us alone was intentional. I said it could be and we talked for a while as we finished our drinks.

He thought that Cade, Zen, and I worked very well together. Cohesive, he called it. He mentioned that his group, while strong, didn’t get along as well as my team did. I asked him about the situation with Faerroth and he said that they found out that his patron was Asmodeus, which concerned me. I told him to be careful and to get rid of him as soon as possible. He admitted that they were going to try but the time needed to be right. Eventually, we finished our drinks and he walked me back home. It was a nice night and a lot of people were out and about enjoying the festivities. I couldn’t help but glance at him as we walked, hoping that someday he’d give me a sign to how he felt about my letter more than the message he wrote to me. I think he noticed my staring at times but he didn’t pay attention to it. Once we reached my house, he told me good night and when I thought he was going to leave, he kissed my cheek and walked away.

Dumbstruck, I put my hand on the place he kissed me and watched him as he strided away, not looking back. There was so many things I wanted to do in that moment but I was locked in place, my mind halted. After he stepped into his house, I finally went inside as well, smiling before I saw that Zen was still up, reading one of her books. She asked me where Cade was and I told her that I didn’t know. Cade and Falana left about the same time and I hung out with Kalona for a while before we decided that it was time to get some rest. She asked if I questioned them about where they were going and I said no, because they left separately and that Cade would show up eventually. She agreed and with that, I went to bed.

In the early hours of the morning, Cade came home, knocking something off of the table in the living room and stepping on Dogmeat’s tail, causing him to yelp. I asked him if we was alright and he said he was. After a little bit of talking, we all went to bed. A few hours later when it was properly morning, Cade came up to me and told me that he had sex with Falana last night. I remember looking at him, a little hurt, but understanding as I told him that I wanted to break up with him. It wasn’t for what he did, but for the fact that I was still in love with Kalona and wanted to be with him. He seemed hurt by my words, it hurt me too, but I knew it was going to be for the best.

After a little while alone, giving me some time to think, I made my way to Kalona’s house and knocked on the door. Falana answered it, smirking when she saw me, and I asked if I could speak with Kalona. She told me he was in is room and told me which one was his. I thanked her and went to his room and knocked on the door. It opened in a few moments and he smiled as he saw me. I returned his smile and asked him if I could talk to him. He let me in and closed the door behind me, locking it. I was forcing myself to not get carried away, because I was finally so close to what I’ve wanted over the past few days. He didn’t make it any easier for me to keep my desires at bay as I told him that Cade and I broke up. He was teasing me, and I could tell it. He’d move closer, as if to kiss me, but then moved away just as I was about to give in. It went on for a while before eventually I did give in.

When his lips met mine, I no longer hurt. Everything that I felt washed away and I was left with the satisfaction of finally being with him again. By gods, it felt like an eternity since I’ve been with him but the feeling of this right now was worth every second of waiting. His hands cradled my face as he deepened the kiss, his fingers toying with my hair as I moved into him, wanting the closeness. I felt him smile between kisses and I opened my eyes a little to look into his face. I could tell he missed this just as much, if not more, than I did. I shut my eyes again and pulled away slightly, which caused him to stiffen as I buried my face in the crook of his neck. He wrapped his arms around me, holding me close as I exhaled, feeling better than I had in years. “I’ve missed you, Kalona,” I whispered as he gently rubbed my back. “I didn’t realize just how much I did until now.”

We had lunch together in one of the taverns. It was really nice. There was finally no tension between us and I could tell that he was happy. I was too. It was hard for me to imagine the amount of time that I had been away from him in that moment, because everything seemed so perfect. I don’t know how I lived without him, but that brings up a question in my mind. Was I actually living without him by my side or was I just surviving? For how much my demeanor had changed in the course of a few hours, I knew the answer. It was going to be difficult to leave him again and lose this feeling.

After lunch, we grabbed a bottle of wine and some finger foods and set out for the outskirts of the city. I wanted to be away from the town for a while and just be alone with him. He thought it was a wonderful idea. We found a hillside a little ways outside of the city and made ourselves comfortable in the grass. It was a gorgeous day and it was nice to lay out with him and get some sun. We talked about a little bit of everything. I honestly don’t even remember what we actually talked about because I got a little too drunk for my liking, but so was he. There was a few moments where I laid there in his arms, his fingers slowly combing through my hair, and neither of us said a word. In those moments, the wind rustled through the grass around us, the sun warmed our skin, and I lost sight of everything I thought I wanted in the world. In those moments, I knew all I wanted and all I needed was him.

However, it was short-lived because when Kalona and I were talking, Cade found us and explained to us that Zen had been arrested and we needed to go get her out of jail but first asked us why we were talking about the weather. Kalona and I responded simultaneously with, “We really like talking about the weather,” which freaked Cade out. We then proceeded to tell him that we talked about other things too, Kalona listing off rivers, mountains, and animals, while I listed forests and grasslands, before we both ended up saying, “the ocean” at the same time. That didn’t seem to help Cade’s suspicions. He didn’t need to understand the language Kalona and I made up all those years ago.

Anyway, knowing that this was going to be a long story, I poured myself another glass of wine and listened, bracing for the worst. Cade and Zen had went to the Black Market to try to find the ring stolen from the king and things didn’t go as planned. Zen accidently killed two people and was arrested, but Cade managed to get the rings. He showed them to me. There was four of them that could possibly be the ring. One of them was poorly made and I threw it over my shoulder. Another was a little bit better and two of them were nearly identical. I told him that we’d have to have someone look at the two of them to be able to tell which is the real one.

Figuring that we should go get Zen out of jail, Kalona, Cade, and I made our way to Lord Allen’s house. Kalona explained to us that Lord Allen is the leader of the town and that he’s dating the leader of the Black Market. The wine headache was finally getting to me as I knocked on his door. He was a scholarly-looking young man, not much older than me, and by scholarly-looking, I mean the dorky type of scholarly. I tried to talk to him, but my headache was getting to be too much so Kalona took the reins and laid on the charm. Zen’s bail was set at 10,000 gold, which was too steep for us to pay at the moment, so Kalona talked him down for us to pay 500 gold. With the debt paid, we were able to get the key to go free Zen.

Zen, however, didn’t want to leave the cell but we got her out eventually and I asked if she could do anything for the headache I was having. I’m not sure what she cast on me, but the headache was gone and so was any hint of that wine I had. I didn’t really want to be completely sober but oh well.

As we headed back to our houses, we could see smoke in the sky from the direction of them. Zen told us that she invited the druids to Kalona’s place to have a party, which he told us that Faerroth would not be happy about. We rounded the corner to see an explosion of flame from the house as the druids made their way out onto the street while clerics and others rushed in to put out the fire and heal the injured. Turns out, something like this usually happens during this tournament. Cade and Zen went to our house while I stayed with Kalona, healing those who were injured as he helped his team move to another house for the time being. After that was done, he told me there were a few things he needed to do, but he’d come to my place later. I knew what he was referring to by the smirk on his lips and I couldn’t help but blush a little.

I returned home, talked a little bit with Zen and Cade as we ate some dinner and then went to my room to wait for Kalona to come over.

The candlelight danced across the pages of the book in my hands as I absent-mindedly stared at the words before me. I made no attempt to read them. I was too busy with the thoughts rolling around in my head. The day I had with him was wonderful and for the first time in many years, I felt content. However, the day was drawing to a close as the sunlight slowly faded from the room and I worried that the day would end without me seeing him again. I let out a sigh, gently shutting the book and tossing it next to me as I laid back on the bed. I felt like I was waiting for an eternity.

Outside my bedroom door, I could hear Zen and Cade talking in the living room. I didn’t really pay attention to what they were saying but I heard the mention of my name a few times in their conversation. Other than that, things were quiet. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t upset me a little.

I hadn’t realized that I had drifted off to sleep until I heard a soft knock at my window. I got up a bit too quickly and rushed to it to see him standing in the alley outside with a warm smile on his lips. I returned his smile and as quietly as I could, I opened the window. “Took you long enough,” I remember whispering with a slight smirk.

“There were some things I had to do,” he retorted softly as his silver-blue eyes met mine. He asked me to step back, I did so, and quickly he made his way into the room. I couldn’t help but watch him as he brushed off the front of his white shirt, standing before me. I thought I had already fallen for him but no one ever told me that it was going to be a continuous plummet. I went up to him, cupping his face in my hands as I tenderly kissed him. After a few moments, he pulled away, his eyes glimmering with the confidence I was so used to seeing within them and there was a soft smile on his lips. “If you’d give me a few moments, I need to take a few things off,” he said, leaning a bit closer to me, his mouth almost touching mine once more. I blushed hard as I bit my lip, glancing down briefly as he stepped away from me. Carefully, he removed the sword from his back and took some time to get out of his shoes.

In the other room, Cade and Zen were still talking to each other, but it was a bit easier to hear them now. They were talking about Kalona. They mentioned that they liked him and were throwing around the idea about asking him to join our group. Kalona was listening intently to their conversation as I went over to the bed to pick up my book. Soon, the sound of footsteps came towards my room and there was a knock at my door. Glancing over at Kalona, he was already darting under my bed. “Give me a second,” I said quickly, making sure that Kalona was hidden. I opened and slammed my book shut, placing it on the dresser near me with the rest of my things, before going to the door.

Cade stood before me; there were a couple bruises I hadn’t noticed on his neck and rope burns on his wrists. He looked pretty exhausted too and even though he didn’t mention anything, I had a feeling it was because of Falana. He told me that they wanted my opinion on something as he glanced around my room, his eyes fixing on the book, before returning his attention to me. He asked me what I was reading so I told him and asked him what he needed. They wanted to know if I thought Kalona would join our group and I explained to them that I hadn’t talked to him about it but that it was probably a possibility. He asked me to ask Kalona about it sometime. He stayed at my door, looking at me. All I could think about was Kalona hiding under my bed and the desire in my heart at the moment. I asked him if he needed anything else, which he said there wasn’t and wished me good night. I shut the door and waited for his footsteps to return to the living room.

With a sigh, I went over to the bed and laid across it as I looked under it. To my surprise, I couldn’t see him there. “Just like Frostford,” I breathed as he made himself visible and slid out from under my bed. He mentioned something about Cade not being as frightening as my mother and I saw him stiffen slightly at his comment. He watched me carefully but I gave no reaction. I hadn’t been able to openly talk to him about my mother ever since her death without anger and hate towards him or his family and he seemed to realize his mistake. However, things are different now. I told him that I never understood how she always seemed to know when he was there, which caused him to relax a little. He asked me if I was alright, still sitting on the floor before me.

It’s been four years since I’ve been alone with him like this and while things had changed around us and we had changed as well, time hadn’t diminished the way I felt about him. Today had been a confirmation of that. The distance between us had been closed, the barriers we put up for ourselves in the past few days had fallen, and this time there was no one here to pull us apart. In this city, it didn’t matter that I was a Grayson and he was a Fletcher. It didn’t matter that our families forbade us from being together. In this city, it felt like we were finally free from our past. In a way, you could simply say I was alright, but I was so much more than that.

A mischievous smile grew on my lips as I told him that I wasn’t alright, before saying something along the lines of, “You’re still on the floor when you should be on top of me. It’s been four years, Kalona. The anticipation is killing me.” He chuckled softly, a small smirk on his lips as he stood up. I sat up as he moved closer to me, looking down at me as his fingers brushed slowly against my jaw. “Well, maybe we should fix that,” he exhaled, his fingers stopping under my chin, “but I think you need to wait a little longer.” I scoffed, gazing up at him as I noticed the sparkling in his eyes. He was still teasing me. I should’ve expected it since he’s done it to me so many times before.

“You’re a jerk.”

“I know.”

I rolled my eyes as I stood up, grabbing the sides of his face as I pulled him into a deep kiss. His breath was hot in my mouth as his arms wrapped around me, his body pressing firmly against mine. I felt myself smiling in between the kisses, my fingers working at the buttons of his shirt. He pulled away from me slightly, my hands rubbing his chest as I kissed his jaw, and let his shirt fall from his shoulders. The intensity of it all was intoxicating as his hands eagerly pulled at the laces of my bodice. My head spun as he pulled away from me for a moment, allowing enough time for me to slip the garment off over my head before his lips were on mine once more.

I was already breathless when his hands found their way under the skirt of my dress. His mouth was at the base of my neck, sucking on my skin, as I tried to stifle the moan that wanted to escape my lungs. Each touch was electric, each kiss was maddening, and I was already addicted to him. He just seemed to know exactly what to do to drive me wild.

Before I realized it, I was grinning as he laid me down in the bed, completely entranced by him, but he paused. His breath was a little heavy already as he stood next to the bed and there was a smile on his lips, but he wasn’t paying attention to me. I said his name, sounding a bit more pleading that I actually intended. I was confused by the sudden change in his behavior but he returned his attention to me. I asked him if anything was wrong. “I never thought I’d be with you like this again,” he admitted. “I needed a moment to take it all in.” I understood what he meant because I felt it too. It was almost like a dream and at the moment, I couldn’t fathom that it was actually happening.

He soon laid down beside me, gazing into my eyes, as he whispered, “I love you, Klara.” I touched his jaw and replied, “I love you too,” before his lips met mine in a tender kiss as he moved onto me.

Held lovingly in his arms, I listened to his heartbeat as my head rested on his chest. I was dazed but in pure ecstasy, trying to find the words to say to tell him how thankful I was that he was in my life once more. He kissed me on the top of my head before I looked up at him. He moved a strand of my hair out of my face, a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. The look in his eyes was similar to how I felt. “Kalona,” I said, my voice low. He asked me if everything was alright. “This has been the greatest day of my life. I’m so lucky I was able to share it with you.”

He considered my words for a moment, his arms wrapping around me a little tighter. “I feel the same way and there will be more of these days to come. We just have to be patient.” I kissed him on the cheek, knowing that there was one last thing I needed to say to him. He seemed to know that there was something else on my mind.

“I forgive you,” I said warmly, “for everything. I just wanted you to know that.” He exhaled and pulled me closer to him, holding me tightly as I wrapped my arms around his neck.

The next morning, he left too soon for my liking. I tried to get him to stay longer, but he swore that he needed to get back to his group and couldn’t be convinced otherwise. I watched as he dressed and gathered his things, keeping his shoes off in hopes to be quieter. Before he decided that it was time for him to leave, I kissed him goodbye in one last attempt to get him to stay. It partially worked, for even when he was crawling out the window, his lips were still on mine. However, this caused him to not judge the height of the drop properly and he fell flat on his back, letting out a groan. I bit my lip as I looked down at him, clutching a blanket to my bare chest as the windows to Cade’s and Zen’s rooms slid open. Kalona laid there, asking them to not judge him for what happened. Cade replied with, “I’m not judging you,” while Zen replied with, “Well, I am judging you.” He sighed as he got up, brushing himself off, said his goodbyes and went on his way. I stayed there at the window for a while, waiting until I lost sight of him to finally shut my window.

I emerged from my bedroom to find Cade and Zen were already making breakfast. They asked me if I asked Kalona would join our group, since he was here last night and I told them that I really wasn’t thinking about it at the time. When they questioned me about it, I told them that I kind of had something else on my mind. Not satisfied with my answer, they handed me a plate of food and told me to go see what Kalona’s opinion was. Begrudgingly, I did as they asked.

Standing at the door to his place with a plate full of food was a little awkward, but was more awkward was that Falana had once again answered the door. I knew she knew what happened last night by the way she looked at me. I asked her if I could see Kalona and she said that he was in his room again. Just like last time. Anyway, he seemed a bit surprised to see me again so soon, but I told him that Zen and Cade insisted that I bring him breakfast and ask their question to him. He told me that he’d like to join us eventually, but there was a few things that needed to happen before then. He explained to me that he’d want Falana and Kaloz to stay with him, but he needs Faerroth and Atlas dead before he can join us. I agreed, because I wanted the same things too. I think my answer might have puzzled him a little.

The final thing I left him with before I walked out the door was that him and I needed to start talking about his father and making plans for what to do to defeat him. For the first time in my life, I finally felt like I had a chance against Atlas Fletcher and I wasn’t going to let this conflict continue to brew. For Kalona and I to be together and to be happy, the conflict in Frostford needed to be resolved.

There’s much work to be done.

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Klara's Journal: Entry #13
The Eye of the Storm

We watched Kalona’s team fight and after they won and the competition was over for the day, Zen, Cade, and I went to buy a few things we needed. We went to a general store since I needed some paper and ink, and Zen asked if they had any maps. The shopkeeper told us that they had some maps, but they were quite expensive and Zen then asked for a magical map. When she did so, the man’s whole demeanor changed. He told us to go to a warehouse somewhere in the city, use a certain phrase and say a code word and we’d find what we needed there. Taken off guard, I asked the man if I could buy some paper and ink and his demeanor switched back to what it was before and he happily rushed off to get my things for me. We ended up buying a map and I went and bought a couple more dresses while we were out shopping.

Since I didn’t have much else to do, I went to a temple to ask about the symbol on my mother’s necklace and found myself in a temple to multiple gods, but mainly the god, Kord. I spoke with a cleric there and he told me that these gods were gods of athletics and sport and that he didn’t know what symbol the necklace represented, but I could probably go talk to a druid about it. I left the temple slowly, not wanting to be forced to fight or something, and didn’t realize that Cade had been following me the whole time until I started to search for Kalona. Cade protested, but Kalona was supposed to come with me to the library so I ignored him.

It took me a little while to find him but he was at the training center, watching Falana’s form as she shot. I didn’t say anything for a moment because I was watching her too, mostly trying to see if she was a better archer than I was. I don’t know why I got so jealous in that moment. It was something that just flooded over me but from what I could tell, we were about the same in skill. It comforted me a little.

I asked Kalona if he wanted to go to the library with me if he wasn’t in the middle of something important. He said that he wasn’t and we made our way to the library.

Once there, I asked one of the library staff if they had any books on Obad-Hai, Syrref, Asmodeus, Minauros, or the Horsemen of the Apocalypse and they told me where I could find the books, but they didn’t have anything about any Horsemen. Satisfied, I went with Kalona to the adventurer section where they told me that I could find a book about Syrref. It took Kalona and I a long time to find the book. I’ll admit. I was distracted. I couldn’t stop looking at him. I was enraptured by his graceful movements as he reached for books, charmed by the way his eyes would glance over the pages. I was enthralled with him but I couldn’t bring myself to say anything. Instead, I stole glances while he wasn’t paying attention, trying to gather the courage to say something to break the silence between the two of us.

However, the silence remained as eventually we found the book in question. I made my way to a table, opening the book as I sat down, and began to read. Not much was known about Syrref before he became an adventurer. He and his group stopped a cult from raising Asmodeus and then stopped the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. After that, he disappeared and nothing else is known about him. I sighed as I closed the book, Kalona shooting me a glance as he looked up from the book he was reading. I gave him a slight smile but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed about what I’d just read. What he went through is what I’m going through. I guess history does repeat itself.

I put the book back and went to another section, looking for a book about Obad-Hai. I didn’t take nearly as long and I was able to find out that Obad-Hai was the god of nature. According to legend, he’s born in the spring and dies in the winter to be reborn the next spring. He’s sometimes worshipped by rangers, but he’s usually worshipped by druids. He’s had a few paladins, but he’s not very well know. The Raven Queen, another god, and him stand against Asmodeus.

It was getting late, but I knew I had time to look for one more book and I was able to find out a bit about Asmodeus. He’s an evil god and if he’s brought back, it would mean disaster. He’s been defeated twice in the past by the Raven Queen’s and Obad-Hai’s paladins. With that found out, I met up with Kalona again so we could leave the library before it closed for the day. On the way back home, I thanked him once again for talking with me the other day and he mentioned something about Cade. I knew then and there I had to say something. I told him that I assumed he knows about Cade and I and that we needed to talk about things. I admitted to him that I didn’t want to talk tonight, because there were things I needed to think about, but that we’d talk tomorrow. The rest of our walk was silent after that.

As we reached the house I was staying at, I went to the door and looked back at him. His face was stoic, emotionless. He seemed unphased but I did notice that there was sadness in his eyes. After so long of not being able to read him, to see any emotion was comforting and I knew I needed to decide soon. I walked into the house to see that Zen was alone in the house and asked me if I knew where Cade was. I told her that I didn’t, but I did need to ask her something and that I wanted her advice. She seemed suspicious at first, especially after I told her that I had a terrible idea. I then asked her what she would tell someone who had an idea that would help them reach their goal but would hurt the ones around them in the process. She said that it depends on the goal and who’d be hurt. With a sigh, I told her that I have an idea that might mean that I could save my family but there would the chance I’d hurt her and Cade in the process.

Instantly, she told me that it was a bad idea and I shouldn’t even be thinking things like that before she went to bed. I couldn’t shake the idea off however. My terrible idea. My idea would potentially sacrifice everything I had in this moment for the chance to have Kalona Fletcher on my side, to have him stand with me against his father, and to have him in my life once more. My first friend. My first love. The person I used to think I’d spend the rest of my life with. I was willing to risk it all for him. If it was anyone else, I wouldn’t have even considered it.

That’s the thing about Kalona. Unlike Cade, unlike any of the other people I’ve met as an adventurer, none of them truly know what I’m going to have to face when I stand against Atlas. Hells, I don’t even know what I’m going to face when the time comes. They say they’ll help me when it happens, but they don’t know what they’re risking and in all honesty, I don’t want them there. This is not their problem. This is not their fight.

Kalona, however, is bound to this situation just as much as I am, if not more. His fate lies with this too. Why turn him away when we could stand together? Why throw away this chance to have him in my life again, to have him at least as a friend? Why not throw caution to the wind and admit my feelings for him? Why stay silent? Why admire from afar when I could be in his arms?

Why not risk everything for Kalona Fletcher?

In that moment, I knew what I had to do. I went to my room and took out some paper, a quill, and some ink and begun to do something I should have done years ago. I didn’t feel any sorrow when I wrote the words, “My Dearest Kalona,” on the page, nor did I regret explaining to him that I wasn’t sure if I truly wanted to see him again after I left Frostford all that time ago. I wrote with passion, bleeding my heart and soul out onto the paper, trying to make up for lost time. I wrote with haste, knowing that I needed to get my feelings down before they went away. By the time the letter was completed, I felt numb but satisfied. I couldn’t help but smile.

The next morning, I woke up to find that Cade hadn’t come home and Zen was making breakfast. She handed me a plate that spelled out, “Still not a good idea,” with the pieces of bacon. I ate the “not” because I felt like it still might be a good idea. I mean, I did explain to her that it was a terrible idea but the benefit might outweigh the risk. After breakfast, we went out to find Cade. Zen went around the contestant housing while I stayed near the house, Beacon trying to eat the few pieces of bacon I had saved for Cade. Eventually, Zen did find him. Turns out, he slept on the roof the entire time and while we tried to convince him to get off the roof, Kalona walked by and told Cade to come down. This made Cade even angrier, but he did come down off the roof.

We got ready for the next round of competition and made our way to the arena. We began the third day of the competition by facing the Forsaken, a group that consisted of three half-elves and a halfling, and they were easily the hardest fight we had so far. The arena was now a waterfall area and it was kind of difficult to move around in, but that wasn’t what was stressful about the fight. They were extremely good and they worked together beautifully to the point that it was frustrating to watch them. I dropped their sorcerer once, just to have their druid bring her back. The druid and the fighter hung around the paladin, who blocked my arrows with her shield that should have hit. It took a while, but we eventually defeated them and Zen, Cade, and I knew that we had to go talk to them.

They were super nice and happy to talk with us. They said that we were the hardest team they fought too and they were glad that it was such a hard fight. Their druid said that he had almost exhausted all of his spells for the day, the sorcerer was new to their team and not as powerful but she still put up one hell of a fight. I told their paladin that she was a dick with that shield and she was pretty awesome even though she annoyed the hell out of me when we were fighting. Overall, we had a nice conversation with them. They were really cool and I hope we get to hang out with them some more.

With the Reaper Gang winning their match, we knew we’d be facing Kalona’s team in the final round of competition and because of that, we went to buy more healing potions before I went back to the library with Cade. The book on Minauros was the last book I needed to read and I found out that Minauros is the third level of the Nine Hells and is home to Mammon, an archduke or archduchess. Bearded devils, chained devils, spined devils, and imps inhabited that level and from what I could tell, the lower you went in the levels of Hell, the worse it got. With that information, Cade and I went to the stables because I wanted to check on Joel. He was well-taken care of and seemed happy and healthy. Cade, however, was quiet and when he did speak to me, his words were sharp. My heart sank, I knew I was hurting him, but I couldn’t let this opportunity slip away.

To kill some time, Cade and I went to the training center since we hadn’t really ever been there. I decided to try to climb one of the ropes they had there and well, let’s just say I’m not very strong. After struggling to climb with rope over the course of twenty minutes or so, I finally reached a height I was satisfied with before coming back down. Cade seemed to be amused with my struggle, so I guess something good came out of it all.

Afterwards, we went to the tavern to get a couple drinks. Cade was tense the whole time, making rude comments every so often. I stayed silent and let him vent, which I think only made him angrier. He then asked me what we were doing here, what was going on between us, why I was talking with Kalona so much. I told him Kalona had information I needed, and I was gathering information about the level of Hell and other things we’d be facing in the future. He admitted that he didn’t care about the kids at all and he didn’t want to go to Minauros. I told him that I didn’t want to go either, but I felt like we had to. After a little while, he left, leaving me to pay for the drinks.

I knew I was making him angry, but I was trying to get my point across without saying a word. I was distancing myself from him for his own safety. I was trying to make this a bit easier for him, but I was just making it harder.

Knowing that I promised him a conversation the night before, I went to see if I could find Kalona anywhere. It took a little while, but I found him at the training center, practicing for tomorrow. He had two swords out, one floating beside him and attacking the dummy as he attacked with the other sword. I’ll admit. I was pretty impressed with his skill. From what I could tell, he didn’t seem to notice I was there, so I drew my bow and nocked an arrow, skirting around so I wasn’t directly behind him and I had a clear shot at the dummy.

Exhaling, I released the arrow and it flew true, sinking into the dummy where he had been attacking it. With that, he stopped, put away his sword and pulled my arrow out before turning to face me. I was already walking up to him when he turned to hand the arrow to me. I thanked him and complimented him on his skill, especially with the floating sword thing he was doing. Looking a bit nervous, he grabbed the sword out of the air and put it away, saying that I wasn’t supposed to see that yet. I gave him a slight smile and told him that I owed him a conversation.

My heart was racing. I was trying to muster up the courage to say some of the things I wrote him in the letter but I couldn’t bring myself to. Standing before him, my heart was begging me to close the distance between us but my muscles wouldn’t budge. In all my days, I never thought I’d feel so strongly about someone. I remember asking him if I could trust him, which he said he hoped I could. I remember saying, “It hurts to stand here before you,” wanting to bring myself to say,_ ‘because I want to be closer’_ but the words wouldn’t come. He said something along the lines of, “I can leave if you’d like,” but I told him that I wanted to be here, which made him stay.

Tears stung my eyes and I felt them begin to roll down my cheeks. Everything ached while I stood there, wanting to say so much but unsure how to continue. I asked him why he still cares about me so much, after everything I did to him. He responded with he’s always cared about me, and no matter what, he always will. I remember looking down, knowing that I didn’t have much time before I broke completely. I felt myself shattering already and if was going to say something, I needed to say it soon. I asked him if he still loved me, and he said that he did.

Whatever confidence I had when I went to talk to him was gone and I smiled at him through my tears. I took out the letter I had written him and handed it to him, asking him to read it soon and come talk to me when he was ready. He nodded and put the letter in his pocket as I told him goodbye and turned away from him. I don’t know how he’d take it, but I had a feeling I was going to be hearing from him before I went to bed. Tears still streaming down my face, I started to make my way back to the house where I was stopped by Cade. He asked me if everything was alright and I told him it was as I continued walking. I went into my room, locked the door, and sat down on the edge of the bed.

My mind raced with the things I should have said to Kalona. I should have been more confident but looking at him, his face stoic and difficult to read was frustrating to me. I thought I had been clear with him. I thought that I’ve hinted enough at what I felt that I shouldn’t have even needed to give him the letter. But my attempts were met with indifference and it was agonizing. I couldn’t help but think this’s how he felt when I pushed him away after my mother died. No wonder I thought he was so desperate. He tried his hardest to be with me and yet I avoided him. Every attempt at being closer was blocked, every attempt at showing compassion was ignored. He tried to be with me but I distanced myself from him. He grew more reckless and I continued to push him away. Now I’m the one getting more reckless and he seems farther away than ever.

I was nervous, scared, and concerned as I stayed up for a while, hoping to hear a knock at the house’s door as I waited for him. The house was silent. Cade and Zen were asleep but I was wide awake, waiting for the aftermath of what I had done to finally strike. They say there’s quiet in the eye of a storm as sunlight breaks its way through the clouds. It’s only for a few moments before the tempest starts again, but that’s what this felt like. Everything had been leading up to this. Every second, every heartbeat, every breath, every joy, every sorrow, and every pain I’ve experienced in the past few years had been guiding me to this, even though I hadn’t realized it. The storm had been raging for a while.

I was worried about what was to come, but lying here, looking up at the ceiling of my room, the world, for once in what seemed like ages, was calm. In the silence of that room, everything was still. For once, I felt at peace. This was the eye of the storm. What I had done was the only way I knew I could assure what was to come. With that thought, I allowed myself to close my eyes and drift off into sleep.

That night, I dreamed of him, of home, and of the city I left behind. In my dreams, there was no hate or regret. There was no tension. There was no conflict. I looked into his eyes, completely in love with him, as he took my hand and lead me down the streets we used to walk when we were younger. The streets no longer stressed me. I was no longer afraid of who I was going to find. He smiled, pulling me close to him as he stood by the fountain in the center of the town square. I could feel the gazes on us as people passed by. Neither of us cared. He kissed me tenderly before pulling away, gazing into my eyes for a moment. I shut my eyes as I felt him let go of me, sliding his hands down my arms as he walked away. I watched him, his pace steady and relaxed as he continued putting distance between us.

He never looked back.

Once he was out of my sight, I looked around to see that the city had changed. People paid no attention to me, some of the shops were no longer in business or had changed owners, but overall, it was still the same. I searched for him, scanning crowds of people hoping to catch a glance of him. No matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to find him again.

So, I waited. I watched the people move past, their lives continuing on, and I hoped he would return to me. No matter how long I waited, no matter how much time had past, he never came back. Feeling a bit lost and helpless, I decided to leave the city. As a reached the outskirts of the city, everything changed before my eyes with each passing step and I hadn’t realized how dark and dull the world had been. After a while, I found him standing in a lush, green meadow as a light, ocean breeze rippled through the grass. His eyes were focused on something in the distance, not paying attention to me until I said his name. He then looked at me and smiled as I went up beside him and took his hand. He gave it a little squeeze as I rested my head on his shoulder and gazed into the distance as well. Beyond us was something I couldn’t fathom. The sea was turbid and roaring when I had approached, but while I stood next to him, it had calmed into gentle waves.

For most of my life, I had feared the unknown, but for the first time, I truly felt that everything was going to be alright.

The next morning, I woke and stared at the ceiling, listening for a moment to the footsteps of my companions walking around the house. My heart sank and I bit my lip, wondering if the letter I had wrote had been in vain. Didn’t he say that he was still in love with me? Didn’t he still want to be with me? Why hadn’t I heard from him? Honestly, I was expecting him to come here last night with what I had wrote to him. I bore my heart for him and lying there without a word from him broke it.

I almost didn’t want to get out of bed, but it was the last day of the competition so I begrudgingly got out of bed and grabbed some breakfast. Cade and Zen watched me carefully as I went about my morning routine, but I didn’t say much to them. After a while, Cade went outside before the rest of us as we were getting ready to leave for the arena and he told me that someone had defaced our house. I went outside and looked with him, the heartbreak I was feeling vanished in an instant.

On the wall of the house, in script illegible to Cade, was a message from Kalona. It was simple, but in that moment, it was all I needed. He said that he would love to be in my life and that he’d help me face the dangers that might come my way. He’d even help me stand against his father.

I couldn’t help but smile as I read it and Cade started to ask me what it said. I told him that I now have Kalona as an ally, which angered him, as Kalona and his team passed by the house. Kalona, noticing that I had read the message, waved his hand and it disappeared before they continued down the street. Cade, angry with me since I had been hiding things from him, demanded that I tell him everything, since there seemed to be more to the story than what I originally told him and Zen when I met them. So, I told him. I told him that when I met them, I was trying to convince myself that I hated Kalona for what his father had done to my family. However, I wasn’t successful at doing so. While we were dating, Kalona was extremely nice to me, but our parents didn’t want us to be together, so we kept it secret from them. After my mother and my little brother were murdered, I broke up with him. He had never done anything to hurt me, he really wasn’t a bad guy, and it was me who had messed things up in our relationship. I had been talking to him here to try to get information but I also felt that I needed to apologize to him.

With that, Cade’s fist struck my nose, causing pain to shoot across my face as I clutched my nose. Blood dripped into my hand as he came up to me and kissed me on the forehead before telling me that I was an idiot for keeping secrets. Then, he walked away as we made our way to the arena.

Before the competition started for the day, Cade went up to Kalona and Falana and started talking to him, telling him that he had spoke with me and his hate towards Kalona had been a misunderstanding. He told Kalona that I had been keeping things from him but since I finally told him the truth, he wanted to apologize and say that everything was cool between them. Kalona agreed, but said that he was still going to kick his ass in the tournament and Falana proceeded to give Cade a quick slap on the butt as he walked away.

I, still a bit stunned from everything that just happened, couldn’t help but stare at Kalona. I wondered what he was thinking at the moment, if he was as relieved as I was to get my feelings off of my chest. I had a competition to worry about, but something was bothering me while I looked at him. My mind wouldn’t stop going back to the fact that in his message, he mentioned nothing about getting back together again. I had mentioned it in my letter to him, I had told him how I felt, I thought I was as clear as I could possibly be about what I wanted and yet he still made no mention of it. It frustrated me and my thoughts started to race once more with what I could do to get him back.

In a few brief moments, I knew what I had to do. As they say, action speaks louder than words.

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Klara's Journal: Entry #12
Past and Present

To backtrack a little more, we did get some time to talk to Tad and Ash on the way to Aspienne. While it seemed like we as a group made things a bit more awkward between us and them, we were able to learn some useful things along the way. I had asked Tad where he had sent us to kill the white dragon back in Colonmel and he said that we were sent to the Stormwhite in the south. We don’t have a world map with us, but he said that we could find it on one. I then asked about how we’d get back to this world if we used the portal piece to get to Menaras. As I asked about it, Cade pulled the piece out of his pocket and I noticed that it was sparking a bit. Tad assured me that we should be able to get back with it, but that arcane things can be a bit temperamental.

While camping during the nights, I took some time to try to read my book and I soon grew frustrated. I asked Tad and Ash if they could read anything in it, and they could read what I could. This caused Cade to give them a strange look while he continued to read the book he’d picked up. After a little while, Cade pulled me off to the side and told me that he was reading a book about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and that he was suspicious that we were sitting around a campfire with two of them. He quickly read it to me and asked me what I thought of it. I told him that some parts of the story sounded familiar, like the plague and finding the cure for it in a blizzard, and that their horses and weapons matched the descriptions of a couple of them. I told him that they knew Infernal and he asked me why that’s important and why I knew the language as well. I explained to him that fiends can speak Infernal, and with my father saying Atlas was a fiend, it was an obvious choice to learn more about them. With that thought and Cade asking if I could sense for fiends, I focused for a bit and was able to tell that there were four fiends in our camp.

Cade and I tried to get information out of Tad and Ash, but they constantly seemed to either be telling the truth or were able to work their way around our questions. We did get to learn a little more about them and we also learned a little more about Zen. She’s from Feybridge. I don’t know where that is, but it’s a little more to go off of than just being from the forest.

The next two days of traveling were awkward and quiet. I spent most of the time in thought and because of that, Cade threw pebbles at me to break me away from my thoughts and to tell me to stop moping around. Eventually, Tad and Ash dropped us off just outside of Aspienne and we said our goodbyes to them.

The town itself was bustling as we went into the city, following the crowd as people congregated around an announcer, who was talking about a tournament that was happening in a few days for adventurers. He said that it would bring fame to the party who won and that there was a wonderful prize as well. Also, the contestants got free housing, free food, free stables for their animals, and were invited to a party hosted by a noble. I thought it sounded like fun, Cade did as well, but Zen had some concerns. Mostly about dying within the competition. I ended up asking the announcer her questions, getting an odd look from him as he explained that the losers just lose and aren’t killed and that they can’t guarantee that we won’t die accidently, but they have clerics on hand to heal us. I signed us up under the name Absit Invidia and received a key to our house.

The contestant housing was around the arena we’d be competing in and it took a while to find what house was ours since the key wasn’t marked. Once we found it and got our things put away, we found a letter inviting us to Lady Eshreal’s estate at seven that evening for a party. The only things we had to do were not to bring weapons and to dress nicely.

We went shopping, putting Joel in the stables before we left, and picked up some nicer clothes for us all. Cade and Zen wanted to do a couple other things before returning to the house, so I went back alone and took a bath. The bathtub was large with a variety of fragrant soaps and hot water. My description doesn’t serve it justice because it was absolutely amazing. It’s been ages since I’ve had a hot bath.

I took my time, making sure my hair was thoroughly cleaned and brushed because I’m not sure how long it’s been since I’ve had the chance to get it completely free of tangles. I stepped out of the bathroom only wearing a towel, I was surprised to find Cade standing near the door. I wasn’t sure if he needed something from me, or if he was just waiting to take a bath as well. I gave him a small smile as I passed him, heading back to my bedroom to dry my hair and dress. Beacon followed behind me, stopping to lick up the water that dripped off of my hair and onto the floor. On my bed was a small box of chocolates from Cade and my dress had been nicely laid out. I tried one of the chocolates, it was from Vocans, and it was sweet but it had a little bit of spice to it. I closed the box and put it away so Beacon wouldn’t mess with it.

After a couple of hours of getting ready, it was finally time to go to the party. When we arrived, we were soon greeted by Lady Eshreal herself. She was a beautiful woman, but there was something sinister about her that I couldn’t put my finger on. At the dinner, we were the last ones to arrive and I sat down next to a green dragonborn woman and a tiefling, with Zen on the other side of me since she wanted to sit between Cade and I. The dragonborn and the tiefling were quite nice to talk to and they told me a little about themselves and a bit about the competition. It was mostly just small talk, but they did ask me if I’ve traveled the world, and with me saying that no, they encouraged me to do so. Honestly, I was just excited to even see a dragonborn and a tiefling because I’ve only heard about them and read about them and to meet a couple of them was pretty amazing.

The meal we had seemed to last forever. I’m not sure how many courses there were but after one set of plates were cleared, another was set down in front of us. There was so much food and it was all so good. I don’t really want to ever see that much great food in one place ever again. After the dinner was over, we were invited to stay and mingle with our fellow contestants and Zen started saying something in some language I didn’t understand over the top of the crowd. When someone finally responded to her, she darted off to go find them. Soon after that I lost track of Cade. I asked if anyone had seen them and people were suggesting that they might have left. I decided that it would be best to just wait and see if they were still here, so I went to one of the walls of the room and stood there, gazing out over the crowd.

After a few minutes, Cade emerged from the crowd and told me that Zen found Kalona. I asked him to point him out to me and well, there he was, talking with her. A shiver ran down my spine as a wave of warmth washed over my body. He looked more like a man now than the boy I knew in Frostford. But even then, it was him. It was almost like nothing had changed. My heart raced in my chest and encouraged me to go to him, but I was stuck in place. I didn’t want to show the emotions that flooded my system. I didn’t want to confess that I still felt so strongly about him with Cade’s pleading eyes staring at me. So I stood there, the memories of us flashing before my eyes as I realized one terrible truth after all these years.

I’m still in love with Kalona Fletcher.

Soon, Kalona and Zen went their separate ways and I lost sight of him. Longing to see him once more, I went into the crowd again with Cade, trying to find him. Gods, I didn’t expect this reaction, this desire to just see his face one more time. I don’t ever think I’ll understand why I was so desperate in that moment.

With a while of searching and no luck of finding him again, Cade and I walked home. My mind was going in circles during that walk, and it didn’t help that Cade was right next to me. I’m in love with Kalona, but I’m in a relationship with Cade. Do I love Cade? I think so, but then again, do I really know what love actually is or what it feels like? I thought I did, but now I’m not so sure. When I was younger, I was certain that I loved Kalona. My time with him was a wildfire. Our love for each other was passionate and desperate. We knew the stakes. We knew the dangers. We knew what would happen if our families found out but we didn’t care about the consequences. We had each other and that’s all that ever mattered.

With Cade, it’s been completely different. We’ve always been close, but I thought of him as a friend at first, and then a brother, and then finally more than that over the time I’ve known him. It’s the little sideways glances, the way he smiles at me, his laugh, and how he always seems to know how to cheer me up. It’s a little ember, smoldering with the potential to grow into something more, into something that could last. He’s trying to stoke the flames. He’s invested in this, in us. But am I?

In that moment, I realized that at the end of the day, I’m not the person everyone believes me to be. I’m someone who’s willing to risk it all if it means that my family is safe. I’m someone who’s willing to die for my family if it means that they can continue to survive. From the day I left Frostford, I was sure I was going to die. I wasn’t afraid of it, but I didn’t want to die before I saw my father and my brother one last time. I guess it was that drive to know what happened, to figure out how to fix the mess that was made in Frostford, and to eventually see my family prosper again that keep me going and made me feel that I needed to do whatever it takes to get me closer to that goal.

I was willing to sacrifice my own happiness for them. I was willing to shatter myself into a million pieces as long as it meant that they were satisfied.

Now, things are a bit different. Ever since I met Cade, I’ve lost a bit of that edge. He’s shown me a world that I couldn’t see before. It’s happier here. It’s warmer. There’s so much to see. It makes my problems seem so small compared to everything else. I’ve lost sight of why I left Frostford all those years ago and for a while, I didn’t care. I only cared about him. Because of that, I was trying to be the best person I could be.

However, the two worlds I’ve experienced are now colliding and I’m not sure what to do. My old desires, plans, and schemes are come back into mind but now I’ve put Cade in the crossfire. This isn’t just about the Graysons and the Fletchers, this isn’t just Kalona and I. Cade’s in danger because of how I feel and I’m not sure how I’m going to pull the focus off of him. Anything I do now is going to hurt him, and that’s something I desperately don’t want to do. I know I’m already hurting him.

I’m a terrible person. I’m here, walking with a wonderful man that I should be grateful to have in my life and yet I’m thinking about Kalona and my own personal gain. I’m lost in a relationship that happened in the past when I should be focusing on the one I’m in at the moment. I’m considering my options, how to make the best of this situation when I know all I’m going to do is hurt those around me. Why am I willing to sacrifice their happiness for the sake of my family? I felt the tears stinging my eyes and I knew that I didn’t deserve to have someone like Cade in my life.

“Klara, are we a thing? Are we serious about this?” Cade asked, pulling me away from my thoughts. The look in his eyes caused my heart to ache more than it already was. I told him yes, and he seemed to relax a little, but I didn’t feel any relief. It only made me feel worse.

A little ways ahead of us was a young man, not too much younger than I, but looking very lost. We went up to him and he asked us if we knew the way back to the contestant housing. We let him tag along with us as we made our way back. His name was Alistair, he was from Readmont, and he said that he was with the Reaper Gang. We talked with him for a little while longer, Cade having a peculiar look on his face as he glanced at me at the mention that Zen wouldn’t be back yet, before we finally made it to the contestant housing. Alistair told us goodbye as he walked towards one of the houses, but his goodbye chilled me to my very core. He said my name. I never told him my name. My gut reaction was to kill him, but with no weapons, there wasn’t much I could do so I went up to him instead. With my hand clutching his collar at the nape of his neck, I asked him how he knew my name. He said that he had overheard it at the dinner. From what I could tell, he was telling the truth so I released my grip but that didn’t make me any less suspicious of him. I watched him carefully as he entered one of the houses before turning back to Cade.

I couldn’t help but think of the worst possible situation at that moment. He didn’t look like that magical boy who had been kidnapping children, I didn’t think he was a Horseman, but I wasn’t sure if he was a spy for Atlas or not. Maybe he was a part of the Reaper Gang, or just a servant they had brought along with them. Either way, the fact that he knew my name put me on edge.

After asking if I was okay, Cade toyed around with the idea of us having the house to ourselves for a while before Zen got back. With everything that was rolling around in my mind at the time, the suggestion caught me off guard. Cade was tripping over himself a little bit, probably worried that he had offended me but you know what, I was sick and tired of worrying. If I could have some time with Cade and not have to think about what was happening around me, then by gods, I was going to take it.

Now, I’m not sure how much detail I want to go into. He told me once that he’d done this before, but this was my first. I was pretty nervous to begin. I mean, I didn’t know what to expect. I had only ever thought about this and the majority of the time, at least in the past, I was thinking about Kalona. We went to one of the bedrooms farthest from Zen’s and after he closed the door, he took me by the hands and asked me again if I wanted to do this. I said yes, but that I was nervous. With a smile, he promised me that we would take all the time we needed for me to feel comfortable, and that if I ever changed my mind and didn’t want to continue, all I had to do was say so.

There was something about the way that he looked at me that spurred me forward, forgetting my nerves in an instant. I took a hold of the collar of his shirt, pulling him into an eager kiss, as he wrapped arms around me. My hands caressed his jaw as he pushed me up against the wall. The feeling of his body pressing against mine sent me into frenzy. Whatever I’d been feeling just minutes before were nonexistent and I was certain of what I wanted. He pulled away slightly and his green eyes gazed into mine for a moment. There was something in them, some spark, that I had never really seen in them before. Already a bit breathless, I gave him a small smile just before his lips lightly grazed against my jaw. I tilted my head back, biting my lip, as I moved into him, allowing his hands to room to work as begun to unlace the back of my dress. My body tensed for a moment as I started to feel the dress loosening while my hands worked rapidly at the knot of his tie and the buttons of his vest and his shirt.

He had a warm smile on his lips as my hands rested on his bare chest, his shirt hanging loosely on his shoulders. His hands were on my hips as I felt the sleeves of my dress slowly slide down my arms, causing my skin to prickle. He asked me if I was alright and after assuring him I was, he let go of me and allowed his shirt to fall to the floor. I could feel my heart pounding against my ribs as I clutched the front of my dress to my chest. I was exhilarated, longing for his closeness and his touch, but as he moved away to remove his boots, nervousness once again ate at me. My dress was loose and if I let go of it, it was going to fall to the floor. I don’t know why that bothered me so much. We’d seen each other barely clothed before during our travels, but this felt different. I felt more exposed. I felt vulnerable. It was more than just being naked in front of him.

I walked past him, stepping out of my shoes, as he sat on the edge of the bed. I heard his boots thud against the floor as he tossed them closer to the door and the bed shift as he stood up but I didn’t look at him. I stared at the wall, trying to focus. He had always been there for me from day one. We barely knew each other then, but he still trusted me. He brought out a different side of me. There was no reason for me to be feel so vulnerable.

“Klara,” his voice was filled with his concern. I let go. The dress slipped down my sides and hit the floor. I turned and looked at him as he walked over to me. His hands gently held my jaw as I closed my eyes and he rested his forehead against mine. The fear was gone, my worries slipped away, and in that moment, I knew that this man meant more to me than I could ever understand. I gazed at him, his eyes were closed, his brow furrowed, and the corners of his mouth were taught. I pulled away from him slightly, which caused him to look me in the eye as I smiled.

“I love you, Cade,” I said warmly as the tension left his face. He smiled as well, replying with a soft, “I love you too.” In that moment, nothing else in the world mattered.

Now, I’m not going into anymore detail than that. I don’t feel comfortable with it, especially since I imagine that if I did write out the rest, someone who I don’t want to read this part would find my journal with an extremely personal moment within it. That would be embarrassing and I most likely wouldn’t know how to explain myself. So if I did give this journal for you to read, sorry for the slightly personal moment and you’re welcome that I spared you from more detail. Some things are better left unsaid.

As I woke the next morning, it took me a moment to get my bearings. I shifted to look at him, and when I looked into his face, my heart panged with guilt. For a moment, I was expecting to see Kalona and the thoughts from yesterday came rushing back into my mind. Cade’s chest rose and fell gently as I studied him, noticing how peaceful he seemed as I tried to process what I was feeling. Why did he choose to love me? Why did he feel that I was worth his time? It hurts to know that he loves me. It hurts to know that he trusts me with his heart when I’m willing to sacrifice so much for something that I may never be able to obtain. I’m so afraid I’m going to hurt him that I’m hurting myself and I’m okay with that. I’m used to the pain, I’m trying to protect him, but I’m not sure how long that will last. I can only protect him so much. It’s going to be harder to protect him from myself but I’m going to try my best.

Gods, Cade, I hope I’m enough for you.

Later that morning, we made our way to the arena for the beginning of the competition.
We were chosen to go first after the announcement of the beginning of the competition and the previous year’s winners had been introduced. The group that had won last year was a group of bards called N’SYNC. As we made our way down into the arena, it progressively got darker to the point that I couldn’t see anymore. Now, I could lie and say that it was an epic battle that will go down in history for ages to come but in all honesty, I couldn’t see a damn thing except for the flashes of light from spells across the arena. I hung out by the wall and eventually, we could see again and we had won our first match.

We hung around afterwards to watch the other groups compete and it was an impressive sight. It was easy to see that everyone competing in the competition was very skilled. I watched Kalona’s team compete and they ended up winning. All I could think of was how much I wanted to talk to him. By the end of the first day, it was announced that tomorrow we’d be facing Swiftstriker. I asked Cade to come with me to talk to Kalona, but to stay in the background until something happened and I needed him. This is the part where Cade and I stalked Kalona Fletcher around the city for a few hours. I didn’t think he would ever leave his group but our patience paid off.

Eventually, Kalona was alone and I went up to him. He wasn’t paying attention to me as I approached him. He was wearing nice clothing under a breastplate and he had two swords on him. My heart was pounding and I hesitated for a moment before I gently placed my hand on his shoulder and said his name. He turned to face me, seeming a little surprised as he greeted me. Cade wasn’t near me, but I could feel his gaze on me as my nerves started to get the better of me. Quickly, I told Kalona that I wanted to talk him, maybe get some dinner or over a few drinks, as I felt my eyes begin to sting. I was breaking under the pressure, but I couldn’t let either one of them see. He agreed and invited me to meet him at the Sanctuary Inn at 6 later that evening and gave me directions on how to get there. With that, we went our separate ways and Cade and I returned to the house so I could get ready. He seemed upset, even though he assured me he was alright and that he was coming with me tonight. I tried to ignore him as I dressed for the evening in the blue dress I got in Chipenden and put my hair up into a bun, even though he came into my room a couple times looking for stockings to stuff into the dress he was wearing. I had questions for Kalona that only he could answer, but there was something I needed to apologize about as well, and I needed to know if what the banshee said months ago was right. I felt like I was making a mistake, especially after my father told me to avoid him because he was dangerous. However, my father didn’t know about our past relationship. He didn’t know that his daughter was in love with a Fletcher.

A little before I needed to leave, Cade told me that he was leaving while I put my quiver, bow, and sword on. I followed Kalona’s directions and saw him waiting for me there and when I approached him, he asked if I wanted to go somewhere else because he saw Cade go in before I arrived. He wasn’t sure if I wanted us to be alone or not. I told him that it would be best if we went somewhere else and we went to the Knight’s Flagon Inn. After ordering a couple drinks, I thanked him for coming with me and I told him that there was something that I needed to apologize for. I told him that I was sorry for how I left him in Frostford because I wasn’t thinking straight at the time. I was upset about what happened and I was looking for anyone to blame and I decided to blame him. He didn’t deserve it, it was out of his control and yet I still blamed him for it. There was no reason for me to treat him so poorly.

He accepted my apology and admitted that he was wrong too. There were things he did that he shouldn’t have done and he was sorry that he did so. One of the things that stuck with me was that he said I deserved a happy ending. At that moment, I was hurting and I think he could see. He told me he was here to help. Trying to push away my feelings, I asked him what happened back in Frostford before he left and he told me that he got his ass beat and he had found out what his father had done. He looked at me, his eyes almost pleading, and told me that I couldn’t let his father find me and I shouldn’t trust his team, especially the dragonborn that was with him. Kalona explained to me that the dragonborn, named Faerroth, was pretty shifty and he suspected that he was a spy for his father. He also told me that the last he heard, my brother was in Noragate.

We talked for a couple hours more, sharing stories of our adventures and catching up in general. Kalona looked at his hands a lot, rubbing faint scars on them, and I wasn’t sure if it was because I wanted to say something more, but he seemed like he wanted to tell me something. I asked if everything was alright and he said he was okay, his eyes avoiding my gaze, and he asked me to stay safe for his sake. I told him that I’d try my best but I couldn’t make any promises. As we spoke, my heart grew heavier as I remember the times where life was easier, I was with him, and I was happy. We had both come so far since then, and being here with him, I realized just how broken I was. I was hurting, I was in a lot of pain, and I was fighting back tears even with a smile on my face because I was here with him. I wanted him to be closer, to feel his touch, and to feel his lips on mine just one more time. I wanted him, I was still madly in love with him, but I didn’t know if he felt the same way. I wanted to imagine that he did but I didn’t know for sure. I fought to remain composed, to be the Klara he remembered me to be, but he had one more question for me.

“Are you happy?”

At that, I felt the facade I was trying to put on fade away and I decided that I needed to completely honest with him. I told him I wasn’t. I told him that there was a few things that I was happy about but that I was worried about what was going to happen in the coming weeks and that I was scared. I wasn’t sure that me or my friends were going to live through the things we were going to face and I admitted that I wish things would go back to the way they were before we left Frostford. At that, he did something I didn’t expect him to do. He gently put his hand on mine and I felt all the tension melt away. He told me that everything was going to be okay, that I was going to survive, and that I’d show the world that it couldn’t fuck with Klara Grayson. I stared at his hand as he said so, feeling relieved by the sudden lack of tension as I begun to realize that he just might still be in love with me.

With that thought, I took his hand and held it in mine, closing my eyes as I told him that he has more confidence in mine than I have in myself and thanking him for helping me feel better. He told me that he’s confident in me because he knows how strong I am, how I’ve stood strong and survived whatever the world has thrown at me. I looked into his eyes. He was my first friend, my first love. He was, for a long time and maybe still is, the only person who truly understood me. He was always there for me. He always had my back. I was just now beginning to understand how much I missed him and how lucky I was to have him in my life. I asked him if we could get to together and talk again, maybe make a trip to the library he told me about that’s within the city. He smiled and told me that he’d love to go with me.

He walked me back to the houses and as we stood in front of mine, he thanked me and told me goodnight. I wanted to kiss him terribly, my body ached with the thought of it, but I stayed still and wished him goodnight too. I watched him walk back to his house as Beacon came up beside me and nudged my hand, wanting to be petted. I felt like I was back in Frostford for a moment as I watched him walk away. Everything felt like it was right in the world. Everything felt okay. A little bit of hope was shining through the darkness. In that moment, I fell helplessly in love with Kalona Fletcher all over again.

I’m a terrible person, I know. I’ve been over it before, but that night I was the most relaxed I’ve been in a long while. I wasn’t worrying about the future, I wasn’t concerned about what would happen after we left Aspienne, and I wasn’t thinking about how much I was hurting. By talking with him, he eased my pain and helped me feel whole. It was something I realized that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I had spent so much time trying to be someone I’m not, someone better than the person I am, that I didn’t know what it was like to be the person I used to be and I had shattered myself into thousands of pieces.

I hate myself. It’s something that’s taken me awhile, years even, to admit. It’s the reason I’ve tried to be a good person in the past before I met Cade and Zen because I was trying to prove to myself that I’m better than the person I think I am. Self-doubt plagued me in the years on my own, I started blaming myself for things that were out of my control, and I was bitter about the situation I was in. I wanted to hate others to give reason to my pain, so I decided to hate the Fletcher’s and the Waicox’s. Those people, Atlas, Orla, Kalona, Hiberius, and Kala, were something I could focus on, something I could focus my bitterness and anger towards. At the time, I thought I wanted revenge against them, against the people who I thought had wronged my family, but it was just a way for me to try to reason with the situation I was in. It was a way to make me feel better about myself.

If you want to know why I say that I’m not good for Cade, this is why. I don’t think I need to explain it anymore.

I’ve had enough with writing my emotions for a while. There’s some things I need to sort out myself before I write them down. Anyway, the next morning, we returned to the arena for the second day of competition. This time things went a bit differently than the last. One, I could see, and two, the arena was now a forest with a river running in the middle of it and two towers on opposite ends. Seeing this, I raced for one of the towers as my party made their way across the river. I climbed up to the top to see who we were facing and it was one Goliath Sorcerer, who dropped Zen with a single spell. It was a fairly tough fight without Zen, but Cade and I managed to defeat him. I was just excited that I was finally able to use the bowstring I bought in Caster.

With our second round of competition done, we are free for the rest of the day. I think I’m going to try to meet up with Kalona and see if he wants to go to the library after his team competes.

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Klara's Journal: Entry #11
Reflections

Now, I feel like I should clarify a few things. I did a lot of thinking during the trip between Caster and Aspienne and while a lot of it was negative, there was some of it that wasn’t. Some of it was neutral, taking time to sort through what I had learned so far. This ranged from what I already knew to what I had learned from my mother and my father about the Fletchers to what I still needed to learn.

My mother told me that I was a descendant of a paladin of Obad-Hai, Syrref, who had killed Asmodeus, and that her and my brother’s murders were a sacrifice. Atlas wanted something of her and she refused to give it to him. My father told me that Atlas wanted the blood from my mother’s family for a sacrifice to his father. He told me that Atlas is infernal, Orla and Kalona are not human, and he doesn’t know if Kalona is evil or not. He also said that Atlas must be stopped and Orla needs to be killed before Atlas to weaken him. After showing him my mother’s necklace, he said the reason Atlas wants my blood is tied to it.

So, putting this together, my mother and my brother were murdered as a sacrifice to Atlas’ father and the reason he did so was because of what the necklace is tied to. With asking people in Laketown about the necklace, I found out that it was extremely old and held a faint trace of an old magic on it, almost like a residue. It wasn’t magical itself, but it had seen magic before in its time. It made me wonder if the necklace actually belonged to Syrref, but I couldn’t prove it yet. And even if the necklace didn’t belong to Syrref, wouldn’t it still mean that the reason Atlas wanted the blood of my mother’s family is because we are descendants of Syrref, and somehow we are still responsible for what happened to Asmodeus? Then my father mentioned that the sacrifices were to Atlas’ father. I can only guess that Atlas’ father is Asmodeus with what I know but that leaves me with even more questions. What the hell is Atlas then? I know he’s infernal but what the hell is he actually? And what are Orla and Kalona? And what is Atlas trying to accomplish with these sacrifices and how in gods’ names can I stop him? In general, what the hell is going on?

Thinking about this, it made me wish that I didn’t actually think about it to begin with because whenever I did, thoughts of Kalona were never too far behind. I know I usually focus on what went wrong between us, but I do cherish what we had in the beginning. I guess I try to think about our end so I could forget our beginning and move on with my life, but it’s still there. A little light of happier time in a sea of darkness.

I remember walking down the main road of Frostford and catching him stealing a glance or two with a light smile on his lips and a glitter in his silver-blue eyes. The look in them always made my heart skip a beat but I usually ignored his attention and for a while he kept his distance. After some time however, he started to grow bold. I was usually working in my parents’ shop and I would catch him strolling by every so often, maybe once every few days at first. It wasn’t too odd. I mean, Frostford isn’t the largest city and well, his parents’ store was right across the street from ours. With time, however, he started to walk by more frequently and I would see him constantly around the town. One day after a few weeks of this, he mustered up the courage and actually came into the shop. Luckily, neither one of my parents were there at the time or he would have been thrown out so quickly it would’ve made his head spin. I remember how he looked when he asked me if I would meet him by the fountain after I was done with work. The same coolness was there, but I thought I could see a small bit of nervousness as well. He had always been hard to read.

I’ll admit, I acted like I wasn’t paying attention to him before that moment, partially to drive him nuts and partially because I had no clue what to say to him even though I did like him a lot. I was happy with this game of cat and mouse that we were in but it was he who decided to end it. That slight bit of nervousness left his eyes once I agreed and he returned to his normal state of cool confidence.

Meeting him at the fountain was just the beginning of my head over heels tumble into what I thought was love. He was everything my little heart could have asked for and my time with him was an adventure. I remember trying to get away from work for a few minutes just to see him, ducking into alleys to share a few kisses before going our separate ways, and trying to get my chores at home done as quickly as possible to head back into town to meet up with him. I remember laying in grassy meadows deep in the forest with him, looking up into the sky, and forgetting all the problems that awaited us back in town. When I was with him, I forgot that I was a Grayson and he was a Fletcher. I forgot that our families hated each other. I guess it was those times that made me think that we could be the solution to our problems.

I tried to keep our love a secret as best I could from my family, but Kalona grew more reckless over time. I remember one night there was a light tap at the window of my bedroom and he was there, asking if he could come in. I was worried about my family noticing but he assured he’d be quiet and he climbed through the window. He obviously hadn’t been quiet enough because a few minutes after he arrived, we were kissing when the sound of footsteps came down the hall towards my room. He hid under the bed and I pretended to be asleep when my bedroom door opened. There was a few moments of silence before the door closed and the footsteps went back down the hall.

Things like that, things that made the risk of being with him completely worth it, had me believing that nothing could tear us apart. But after what happened, after what I had said to him, I soon began to realize that nothing in life is perfect and that the little fantasy I was living in my own head would never actually come true.

I guess it’s time for me to be completely honest with myself. A part of me is still in love with him, a part of me wants to see if he’s still the man I remember him to be, a part of me wishes to never see him again, and a part of me wants to forget about him entirely. Time will tell which part shows its face when I finally see him again.

Those were the more painful thoughts that I had during the trip, but I also spent a lot of time thinking about my family and Frostford. It had been a long time since I had thought about it. I remember running through the woods behind my house with my brother, thinking that we were so far away from home when actually all we had to do was walk a few feet to get back in sight of it. I remember the first time my father took me on a hunting trip with him. I couldn’t have been more than five. Old enough to understand that I needed to be quiet, but too young to truly realize what was going on. We were lucky enough to find a deer that day and he was able to take it down with a single arrow to the heart. A clean kill. I remember him telling me that’s how it should always be done.

That hunt was the start of the rest of my life. I spent most of my childhood out in the forest with my father and my brother, and if we weren’t hunting, my brother and I were usually out practicing with our little bows my father had made for us. Nikolas and I always had some sort of competition going on when we were practicing. For a long time, he was always better than me, but after many years, I eventually caught up with him. On rare occasions, mostly when the weather wasn’t the best and my mother made the two of us stay inside, which was quite a feat on it’s own, I spent time with her in the kitchen. I never had much interest in cooking, but she made sure that I at least knew the basics. She constantly told me that it was important that I knew how to cook for my own sake, and over time I did become better at it and would willing cook with her. It sounds horrible, I know, but I was a stubborn child. She made Nikolas learn too and he was even worse about it than I was.

As Nikolas and I got older, we spent more and more time in our parents’ shop and both of us took interest in the family business. Our competitive nature usually got the best of us while we were there. I think we annoyed Father a bit too much at those times.

Looking back, even after everything I’ve been through and everything that happened in that town, I still miss Frostford as much as the day I left. I miss how easy everything was back then, how straightforward life seemed to be, and most of all, I miss my family. Deep down, I know I would do anything to have the life I once lived, but I also understand that the life I had is more than likely gone forever. However, I still hope that one day I could get it back. My father did say that he gave me the store and the house. Maybe after this is all over, if I make it out of this new life I’ve decided to live, I can go back to Frostford and pick up where he left off.

It’s a long shot, but right now, I’m willing to take it.

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Klara's Journal: Entry #10
Arrests And Ambushes

It was almost dark, and I took a moment to try to find if the dragon was anywhere close. I’m not sure if it was a good thing it wasn’t near or really bad at the moment, but we decided to bed down for the night. We dug holes in the snow to get out of the wind, myself making a little cave once I got down to solid ground. I pulled one of the bedrolls up around me as a snuggled up into the cave while Beacon laid down beside me to keep some of the heat in.

I woke up to a yelp from Beacon and Zen telling me that it was my turn to keep watch. Grumbling, I got up and looked around. It was dark and all I could see was the blizzard. I sat back down, cuddled up against Beacon in my bedroll as I listened to the wind. I think I eventually fell back asleep.

In the morning, we started heading north and after a while, there was still no sign of the dragon and the blizzard was starting to clear. That struck me as odd and I tried to remember what I could about dragons again. I remembered reading something that some dragons could control the weather a bit, so it was actually bad that we were heading away from the blizzard. With that, we turned around and started making our way south.

After falling in the holes we made, we finally saw a mountain appear out of the blizzard, which had became worse, before we dug another hole for the night since it was getting late. I focused once again, trying to feel the dragon’s presence and I felt something. It seemed to be coming from the mountain. Since Cade, with his fancy weather-resistant cloak and his boots, didn’t want a bedroll for the night, I used two to try to keep warmer than the night before. Once again, I was woken up to take watch and I just sat in the hole and listened to the wind as I watched Cade sleep.

Once it started to get light out, it seemed like the storm had diminished some and we could see that we made camp extremely close to the mountain. We were only about twenty feet away from the entrance and there was a raven, sitting there, watching us. We made a quick. We were going to stealth in and surprise the dragon, but try to keep our distance. With that, we went up to the entrance and Zen started to speak with the raven. While she claimed that it wasn’t telling her anything, I knew better and asked her to ask it if it knew how to use the gem we were given to trap the dragon’s soul. After a while, Zen told us that the raven was going to take us back once we were done and to use the gem, all that had to be done was hold it towards the dead dragon and say ‘absorb.’ It seemed simple enough.

There was a layer of ice that blocked the entrance of the cave, which Zen melted quickly, and we snuck in. There was a large room with a spiraling ramp up to another room. We started to make our way up it, Zen and I slipping a bit, before we found ourselves in a huge, circular room. The dragon was sleeping on the other side of it on a raised platform. As silently as we could, we made our way across the room, using large spikes of ice for cover as we moved closer. Eventually, we were in a good position and I handed Cade a longbow. There was so much I wanted to say to him before we fought this dragon, but I knew that it wasn’t the time for it. We needed to work quickly, and I needed to not dwell on my feelings for him.

Cade took the first shot, hitting true and heavy with the longbow, before getting back into cover. I followed his shot up with two more arrows, both making their mark as Zen conjured a flaming sphere beside the dragon as I took cover. The dragon was pissed. Another round of attacks and it was climbing on the wall, and something told me that it was trying to use its breath. I was bracing for the worst as a thick fog filled the room. As quickly as it appeared, it vanished because of Zen. It was looking really rough as I drew another arrow, casting a spell that caused the arrow shaft to burst into thorns. My aim was true and the thorns splintered on impact. With a roar, the dragon fell from the wall, dead.

I looked to Cade, smiling, before I pulled the gem out of my pocket and went over to the dragon. With the soul in the stone, Cade began to collect the blood as Zen started to remove the fangs. I took to getting scales and claws from the dragon. As I was finishing up, Zen and Cade started looking for the dragon’s hoard. We found it, covered in ice, and Zen began to melt it without damaging the loot. We took what we could and satisfied, we made our way back to the raven.

The raven drew us a portal in the snow and we stepped through it to find ourselves outside the city once more. In the town, however, there were a lot of zombies, but they seemed to be avoiding us for the most part, because we were in the dull morning light. Zen, noting this, casted Daylight on herself and lit up like a miniature sun, killing the zombies instantly. We eventually got back to the town hall and delivered the things we collected to Rui, who explained that there was a two hour time difference from where we were and that they should have the antidote ready in two days. The healers asked us to stay nearby, in case we too came down with the disease.

Because of this, we decided to help Driscoll with the horses. After explaining to him that the antidote was being made, we made our way to find the rest of the horses. It was a lot easier this time than last, even though we had to leave Beacon and Dogmeat at the farm because they scared the horses last time. The daughter, Enya, had found most of them, and one of their unicorns. I had never seen a unicorn in my life and he was gorgeous. I honestly didn’t know what to think of him, and even more so when he started to speak to us in Common no less. We told him that the healers in the town were making an antidote for the disease, so it was going to be safe again. With that, he disappeared to go back to the farm and Enya told us to choose a horse. I chose one by the name of Arrow and after Cade got bucked off of his, Enya told the horses to let us ride them. For being well-trained, they were as stubborn as mules.

It had been a long time since I had rode a horse. I think the last time I rode was after my mother was murdered. So almost four years now?

After we got back to the farm, I went hunting for a while. When I returned, Cade was sitting in the grass making flower crowns. I sat down next to him and put on one of the crowns and started making them as well. He smiled as I did so and after a while, he called the unicorn we spoke to over and put a crown on him as well and offered one to Enya and Zen. Zen didn’t want to wear one, but put one on her wrist anyway and Enya wore one after a little convincing. I spent the rest of the afternoon playing with Beacon. Cade went to go help Enya with the chores and I wasn’t sure where Zen had run off to. It was nice to have a little downtime though.

We asked Driscoll if it would be alright if we set up camp on his land for a couple nights and he didn’t mind as long as we didn’t bother the horses. The second night we were there, I settled in the tent for the night to be rudely awoken around midnight by Zen. She said that someone was murdering someone near the city, but I couldn’t see anything. She ran off to go help them, and I laid back down, looking at Cade sleeping beside me for a while before going back to sleep myself.

Later that morning, Zen looked terrible and even paler than usual. Her veins were standing out prominently against her fair skin since they were now black. Quickly, we picked up our camp and headed into town, Zen claiming she was fine when she obviously wasn’t. Luckily, the antidote was ready. They had us all prick our fingers. Zen’s blood was black, and Cade and mine were both red. However, while Cade looked fine, he said that he wasn’t feeling the greatest. They both took the antidote immediately and one was given to me in case I started feeling ill. The worst thing about it is that we had to wait twelve hours for the antidote to cure them. We also grabbed a couple vials for Driscoll and Enya, just in case.

We made plans to head to Caster the next day, but because I woke up and felt like shit, Zen said that we shouldn’t travel and wait for the antidote to work. Another day gone and we were finally on the road.

It took days to get to Caster but we made it in fairly good time. After entering the city, I pulled someone aside and to ask them where we could find Wilford Warstache’s Magical Emporium. The man said that we needed to go to the Willow Section. As I returned to Cade and Zen, another man bumped into Zen and said that he could take us to the Willow Section. We checked our pockets, he hadn’t taken anything, but he was oddly eager to take us there. We followed him for a while, before he announced that we were now in the Willow Section before walking away. It was odd at the time, but it made sense later on.

Zen went off on her own while Cade and I made our way to the Magical Emporium. I really wanted that Blazing Bowstring I heard about in Laketown and I hoped that they had one in stock. Walking into the shop, it was obvious to tell that they had a lot of merchandise. Armor, weapons, jewelry, books and much more filled the shop. The shopkeeper, a human man in simple clothes, greeted us. He was taller than me and had a slightly stocky build, but what struck me about him was his hair. Like Jack’s, it was longer on the top and shorter on the sides, but while Jack’s hair was green, his was bright red. We went over to the counter he was standing behind, passing a small display of candles, and I told him that we were friends of Jack’s. He seemed suspicious and didn’t say much, but I asked if he had a Blazing Bowstring in stock. He went into the back and after a few moments, he came back with a red bowstring. I bought it. It was a little cheaper here than it was at Laketown, not by much but I didn’t really care. I wanted it so bad and I was happy that I finally had it.

Zen eventually joined us at the store while Cade asked the shopkeeper about the daggers he had for sale. I looked at the candles, pretty interested in them. There was a sign on the display that read ‘Tragedy Candles’ but I wasn’t quite sure what that meant. I asked the shopkeeper about it and he said that they’re magical candles that Jack’s friend, Gern, made. Each one does something different. They sounded like they could come in handy and I wanted one, but I wasn’t sure how much money we had after my purchase. I browsed the store and dug through the Bag of Holding, finding something I should’ve gotten rid of when we were in Laketown, while Zen asked him about the jewelry he had and if he could enchant something for her.

Just before we were about to leave, the shopkeeper pulled out a scroll, wrote something on it, before it disappeared. He then asked us if we would like to do a quest for him. We agreed and he explained that a crown was stolen about a month ago and he would like to have it back. He told us that his name is Mark after I asked, and we shook hands before we left.

We went back to the section in which we entered the city and found a messenger to deliver the trinkets that Mr. Wic took from the families he terrorized in Laketown, along with his mad ramblings, to the mayor of Laketown. I wrote a quick letter explaining what happened and what I was sending while Cade and Zen asked where the messenger recommended we stay for the night in the city. He listed off some places, explaining that a few of the places were pretty sketchy, but cheap, and when we asked for moderately-nice lodging, he said that there were a couple inns in the Cedar Section that would fit our needs. I folded the letter and handed it to him once the ink was dry and he packaged up the things and set off. It was getting late so we decided to make our way to the Cedar Section to find one of the inns.

We got a two-bed room at the Happy Witch, to Zen’s dismay. Cade and I were fine about sharing a bed so that she could have one to herself, but she insisted that we sleep in our own beds, separately, while she slept on the floor between us.

The next morning, I got up and went over to the clothes I set out for the day and as I got ready, I found a letter tucked into them. Curious, I broke the seal and read it. It didn’t say much, but it said more than I could’ve ever expected and I couldn’t help but grin. Cade felt the same way as I did. Beaming with joy, I went downstairs after changing and joined them for breakfast. I looked at Cade and smiled at him. I didn’t want to say anything just yet, but I almost couldn’t contain myself.

The door to the inn slammed open and a group of guards stormed into the room with the man that bumped into Zen the day before. He said that we were the ones who attempted to murder the princess. I sighed. I couldn’t believe that this was happening again. Cade and Zen instantly became defensive and the guards asked us to take whatever we had out of our pockets. We did so and we found that there was a piece of paper in each of our pockets that framed us for the attempt. Cade started to ask them if we would really show them whatever was in our pockets if we actually did attempt to murder the princess and about that time, they found the weapon that was supposedly used in our room.

All I could think of was, Here we go again.

We were arrested and taken to jail, stripped of our weapons but we still had everything else. A half-orc man, he looked to be a high-ranking member of the guard, told us that we were going to interrogated and then executed for our crimes. I don’t know what was going through my head at the time, but I was stoic while Cade and Zen were panicking. I was trying to think of a way we could get out of this with our names cleared. I wasn’t sure how it would work, or if it even would, but we needed to try.

A familiar voice came from down the hall as I looked to see the Inquisitor step in front of my cell, saying something to the half-orc before he noticed me. I barely remember what he said to me as I looked at him, something about how he still had questions for me from when he interrogated me in Chipenden, but I know I retorted with, “Next time, don’t put a bag over my head like a coward.” At that, he told the half-orc that he didn’t want to deal with me and that I could be executed. I honestly didn’t feel anything at the moment. I wasn’t panicked at all. I wasn’t sure if I was giving up or I was trying to remain hopeful.

The guards left along with the half-orc and the Inquisitor, saying that they were going to bring the sorceress in to begin the questioning. As soon as it was quite, Cade unlocked the door to his cell and rushed over to unlock mine. I thought I could see some fear in his eyes, but he was so focused that I couldn’t really tell what he was feeling as he quickly got the door unlocked and helped me out of the cell before going to Zen’s. He was struggling to get her’s open and she was bickering with him a little bit. I stayed quiet, not sure what to do, as he broke lockpick after lockpick in the mechanism. There were voices in the distance as Zen shifted into an owlbear and rammed the bars. She finally broke them as the sorceress arrived with the Inquisitor, the half-orc, and some guards. The next thing we knew, we couldn’t move as we fell to the floor.

The Inquisitor took Cade with him while a guard picked me up and a whole group of them picked up Zen, still in her owlbear form. Zen and I were taken to another set of cells, somewhere across town, and locked up again. I didn’t know where Cade was taken. There were three guards watching us, along with the sorceress, as the effects of the paralysis wore off. Once they did, the sorceress said that the council wished to speak with us.

It was quiet for a while after she left and I finally had some time to try to piece together what I was feeling. Acceptance of this possible fate, disappointment that my father wouldn’t know that I was gone, and regret that I didn’t tell Cade my feelings for him sooner. I wasn’t sure that I’d ever get the chance to tell him now. I felt the tears stinging my eyes.

I wasn’t sure if there was anything I could say or do to prove to them that we were innocent. I wasn’t sure how I could get them to believe us. All I knew was that for our sake, I had to try. Hopefully the truth would be enough to convince them that we didn’t attempt the assassination but I had a feeling that it wouldn’t work. I guess there’s worse ways to leave this world than being executed. At least it would be quick.

Low throaty hoots followed by sharp squawks came for the other cell as I could hear Zen’s heavy footfalls pace around the cell. She was agitated, to say the least, but soon the sorceress returned with the rest of the council. Before my cell stood nine people. I didn’t really recognize any of them, but there was a dragonborn, an elf, and a hooded-figure among the group other than the sorceress. A man stepped forward and stated what we were being accused of once again and I realized that this was the king as soon as he said that the attempt was on his daughter. I looked at them plainly as he asked me to tell my side of the story and I did as I was told. I told them that we had just arrived in Caster the day before to come visit a friend after traveling from Colonmel, fighting off a plague that overtook the city. The king said that he hadn’t heard anything about the plague but I continued on, stating that when we arrived, we were looking for the Magical Emporium and someone bumped into us and then lead us to the Willow section. Once there, we bought some items from the shop, got a messenger to send some things back to Laketown, and then got a room for a night at the Happy Witch. The next morning while we were eating breakfast, guards came in with the man that bumped into us, who then said that we were the ones who attempted to murder the princess.

The look on their faces didn’t seem too impressed as I held back the worries that crept into my mind. I then told them that I’d be willing to do anything to prove our innocence. I even offered for them to look into my mind if they needed to. I guess my desperation worked because the sorceress said they would bring in someone that could do so, but that the first thing I could do to start proving our innocence was to get my friend to turn back into her normal form. I gave her a nod as I looked at the wall of my cell, begging Zen to turn back. I was answered by the sound of her beak snapping. Rolling my eyes, I shouted something along the lines of, “For the love of the gods, Zen, turn back now if you don’t want to die an owlbear!” Somehow, it worked and I instantly regretted my decision.

Zen wasn’t helping anything. In fact, it seemed like she was only making things worse. I rubbed my temples as she argued with the sorceress, the king, and the hooded-figure started to make side comments against us. She should’ve stayed an owlbear.

After a while, I think they heard enough and they left to discuss our fate. After a few minutes, Jack walks in, wearing a uniform similar to what the guards were wearing and dismisses them so he could talk to us. Turns out, he’s a jack of all trades and he was the hooded figure on the council. He said that he was doing his best to try to convince the council that we were innocent. He didn’t have much time to talk with us and soon left, but it was good to know that we at least had someone on our side.

While we waited, Cade was brought in and put into the empty cell next to mine. After his cell door closed and everything quieted down, after we made sure he was alright, I called out to him, knowing that I might not get the chance to tell him how I felt if this didn’t work out for us. I remember saying, “Cade, I feel the same way about you.” There was a moment of silence before he replied with, “You know I’m not great with words.” His comment caused me to smile lightly as I felt the tears start to well up in my eyes again before saying, “It’s alright. I wanted to let you know.” I didn’t get to say much else because the sorceress returned, stating that the council was ready for my interrogation.

I followed her, flanked by guards, into a large, circular courtroom and was lead to a table in the center of it. A cleric stood there, waiting for us to situate ourselves as the council looked on from across the room, before the cleric casted a spell. An odd feeling washed over me, but I shook it off. Maybe it was just the nerves or an effect of the spell. They asked me once again what my side of the story was, and I told them again. My story didn’t change other than being a bit shortened. After a while, I was brought back to my cell and then it was Zen’s turn. Cade went last.

They were in their final deliberations when a single guard came and began to unlock our cells to take us back to the courtroom. Once there, the king said that we were innocent for the attempted assassination of the princess. However, the attempt was a cover to steal the royal family crest and he would like us to go retrieve it. We agreed and Jack met up with us as we were leaving. He told us that the royal crest was stolen by thieves guild trainees and it’s most likely in Aspenne.

We told Jack that we had talked to Mark, and he said that he knew because he had received a message from Mark saying that we were looking for him. I asked why Mark was so suspicious of us, but all Jack said was that Mark just doesn’t trust us yet. We then told him that we did enjoy his shop though and we had already bought something from him and I mentioned that I was interested in buying a Tragedy Candle. Jack told me that I should because they’re really powerful and his friend, Gern, would really appreciate the business. We also told Jack that Mark asked us to go find a crown for him that had been stolen and Jack replied automatically that it was in Aspenne too. Confused, we asked why he knew that and he said that he was the one who took it there. It’s a test for us and if we’re taking quests, he wants us to shank a person named Billy in the kidney. Jack said that this Billy has brown hair and brown eyes, is human, and that Jack last saw him 16 years ago on the continent of Vocans. With not much else to do, we agreed to it if we even found ourselves in Vocans and we spent a little more time with Jack.

It was still morning, so I went to the library to try to find anything I could about infernal beings, fiends, and whatever else you’d like to call them. I was in the library for quite a long while, but Cade joined me, reading his book that he got from Chipenden. Eventually, I took a break from studying and opened up the book I got and started to flip through it. I could only read parts of it that were in Infernal, but it was book that contained a general overview about different gods. I couldn’t find anything about Asmodeus or Obad-Hai, so after a while, I closed the book and waited for Cade to finish what he was reading. With nothing else to do, we made our way back to the Happy Witch and got some drinks. A few drinks turned into a lot of drinks and I honestly don’t really remember what happened after we started drinking. All I know is that I had a headache when I woke up the next morning, Cade was pretty hungover, and Zen wasn’t happy with us.

With everything that happened yesterday, the dire wolves were nowhere to be seen. Cade and Zen went deeper into the city to ask someone if they had been seen them while I stuck to the streets with a quick drawing of Beacon to see if anyone had seen him. It took forever and it was to no avail. When I was about to give up, I saw a group of kids playing and I when I asked them about the wolves, they said that they saw them the other day and pointed me in the direction they had went. I headed that way and soon found myself in a graveyard in front of a swallow hole surrounded by paw prints. It had to be them. One of the tracks lead out of the city and the other headed deeper into it. Quickly, I followed the one that went into the city and soon found myself standing in front of a gate with Cade and Zen. They said that they were trying to get in to talk to Jack, but the guards wouldn’t let them in.

Cade came back to the graveyard with me once I told him about the other tracks and we followed them to a little farm. I went to the door and knocked, but there was no reply as I heard Cade talking to someone. I went around the house to see Jack’s horse, Sam, standing there in a barn and flicking an ear towards one of the stalls. We went up to it and Beacon was there, fast asleep in the straw. I woke him up and hugged him, glad that he was okay, before we made our way back to the city.

We met up with Zen again to see her talking with Jack. Dogmeat was with one of the council members and he was okay but we couldn’t go get him. It all came down to that we weren’t allowed in there yet. It was alright though, because eventually, Dogmeat came out on his own and we decided it was best to start making our way to Aspenne, which was, according to Jack, about a three weeks ride from Caster. After hearing that, we decided that it would be good to finally get some horses.

Cade and Zen both got themselves nice horses, Cade buying a black horse, and Zen buying a pinto horse with plenty of white markings. When I walked around the stables, a lot of horses caught my eye, but I kind of fell for the one that didn’t seem extraordinary. A bay gelding that seemed a bit distant and reserved. He seemed like he had experienced a lot. I decided to get him and I named him Joel.

The road to Aspenne was pretty easy. It was mostly grasslands so it wasn’t too difficult to travel through and the main road was nice. We passed others now and then, but it was quiet until about a week into our trip.

I’d say it was probably early afternoon when Cade was struck by a hatchet to the shoulder and a group of men stepped out of the bushes and attacked us. It was the Inquisitor and his small army of nine men. It was honestly going pretty well at the beginning, each of us had two people attacking us, but the encounter soon grew worse when Cade started to take a lot of damage. I threw him a healing potion when he was looking really bad, as I kept fighting, but there was just too many of them and their axes hit hard. I managed to take out one and spurred Joel forward and out of the fray. Beacon was suffering, not able to bite through the heavy plate armor and Cade wasn’t looking good either. I sheathed Talon and drew my bow once I was some distance away from the fight. Cade, with the Inquisitor attacking him with one other man, fell from his horse and hit the ground, unconscious. I felt the tears stinging my eyes as I looked from him to Beacon, just before Beacon fell as well. Dogmeat and Zen, in her owlbear form, we still putting up a fight, but there were still so many of them. Probably about seven of them or so. They killed Cade’s horse too. Some of the men drew crossbows and started firing at me. I returned fire, trying to decide whether I’d run back into the fray or not. I was hurting terribly. Running back into it would probably mean that I’d end up like Cade and Beacon. Gods, I didn’t know if they were still alive at that time. I was so sure that they were dead.

As Zen dropped out of her owlbear form, sending a thunderwave out that threw the men away from her and killed her horse, I got off of Joel and pulled an invisibility potion out of the Bag of Holding and drank it, hoping that it would buy me some time. Soon Dogmeat, a leopard that seemed to have come out of nowhere, and Zen had fallen. I was the only one left.

I stayed where I was for a while, trying to decided what to do next. I knew I wouldn’t be able to fight them head on, but I wasn’t sure if I could pick them off one by one either. I was sure that all my friends were dead. Oh gods, Cade. Beacon. I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to protect you.

Then, all feeling left me and I knew that I wasn’t going to run from this. I was going to go down fighting if that’s what it came to. I wasn’t going to leave them like that. It was time to use one of the spells I’d learned a while ago, but hadn’t had the chance to use.

The Inquisitor and the four that remained of his men stood talking to each other, facing away from me as I turned the ground behind them into spikes and thorns before camouflaging it. I shouted at them and they moved into the thorns. One man fell as he walked through the spell’s area and the Inquisitor told the rest of them to stop, not being able to see what was going on. It was kind of satisfying to watch. He shouted out to me, saying something like, “Klara, come out and we won’t kill you.” I slightly believed him, but I wasn’t convinced enough to stop attacking. At that moment, I wanted him dead. I let an arrow fly, sinking it into his shoulder, before moving again. They had no idea where I was at and his men were firing bolts off in random directions. Only a few of them even got close to me.

I threw a rock behind me, trying to get them to move through the thorns, and the Inquisitor sent one of them after it. He looked really hurt as he exited the thorns, found nothing in the area, and refused to enter the thorns again. The Inquisitor killed him on the spot, telling the two remaining men to follow his orders or that they’d met the same fate.

The Inquisitor himself was looking a bit rough, but at that point, I didn’t really care. I kept firing, sinking arrows into him and eventually, he fell. I remember thinking, And that’s what you deserve, Inquisitor, as he did so. I then focused my attention on the two men and yelled, “This is what you get for messing with a Grayson! Leave now, or you’ll end up like your leader!” This sent them into a panic.

Little did they know, the spell had already faded and it was safe for them to walk around. I sunk a couple arrows into the back of one of the men, causing him to panic more as he turned to his friend, grabbing him by the collar, as he begged his friend to kill him. The friend couldn’t do it, no matter how hard the other pleaded and I remember smirking for a moment. They started to remove his plate armor and once the chest piece was off, I sunk an arrow into his heart. Now, there was only one left. A few more arrows, one to the neck, and he was down too. I stood up and walked towards Cade, my bloodlust vanishing as I did so, as I readied myself to find him dead. Kneeling down beside him, it took me a moment to see that he was just barely breathing. All the tension I felt left me in an instant and I put my hand on his chest, healing him as best as I could. His eyes soon opened and I told him that the Inquisitor was dead. I didn’t realize that I was still invisible at that moment. However, the look on his face told me enough though.

I went over to Beacon to heal him and found him in a similar state while Cade slowly got up and went over to try to stabilize Dogmeat. We then stabilized Zen and the leopard before my invisibility finally faded, brought Joel back over to us, and we made camp for the night.

During my watch, it was quiet except for the sound of the crackling fire. I sat with Beacon, petting his head gently as he slept easily beside me. He seemed to be okay, even with his deep wounds, since they were starting to heal. I couldn’t help but think about how much worse it could’ve been. I could’ve lost all of them. I could’ve been burying them instead of watching them sleep. I don’t know what I’d do if that ever happened.

I don’t want to be alone again.

Then, there was the sound of hooves coming towards the camp and I drew my bow, readying myself for what was coming next. The voice sounded familiar as it asked me if I needed any help. I couldn’t see though and I wasn’t letting my guard down. Not after what we had just been through. Tad and Ash stepped into the firelight and asked me what happened and I told them that we had been ambushed and that we almost didn’t make it. They sat down and told me to go get some rest because I didn’t look like I was doing well. I nodded, and they said that we would talk more in the morning. With that, I went into the tent to see Cade sleeping peacefully and laid down beside him. I looked at him for a long while, trying to shake the thoughts that were in my head, before I, too, fell asleep.

The next morning, Tad and Ash said that they would take us the rest of the way to Aspenne. Cade rode with Tad and Zen rode with Ash. Most of the time, I hung back behind them with Joel, lost in my thoughts. With time, I stopped blaming myself for what could’ve been and started to focus on what did happen. I killed the Inquisitor. I also killed five more of his men. Most of them didn’t die a quick death. I was the only one who actually knew what happened. I saved my friends’ lives, but that didn’t comfort me about what was going to happen next. Even though I killed out of defense, from what I could see, the Inquisitor was still a part of the guard or the military in Caster. I’m afraid that if word gets out about this, I’m not going to be able to prove my innocence like last time.

I’m not sure exactly what they would do to me if they found out what I had done. I don’t know how the Inquisitor was seen in the eyes of the council. They might be angry for killing him and sentence me to death, they might be understanding but see that my actions were severe for the situation, or they might even be thankful and be glad that he was no longer a thorn in their sides. I had a feeling that the severity of my punishment would depend on how they felt about him. Any way you look at it, they could do anything to me, and I don’t think I’d fight against them. I deserve whatever punishment they see to be fit and I’m alright with that. I’ll take it in stride, even if it means the end of my life. I hope it doesn’t come down to that, however.

And then there was the fact that a part of me felt relieved by killing them. Their deaths meant that Cade was no longer being hunted and that my father and I had one less person to worry about tracking us down. Other than that, I felt nothing. I wasn’t like last time with Glassstaff, or even Dominik. I’m not sorry. I don’t feel any regret. Gods, I don’t really feel anything about killing them and that worries me more. I’m not sure if I feel this way because I’ve grown used to this new life and the death it brings with it or that I’m retreating into myself like my father, just glad that it was them dead and not me. I don’t know anymore and it frightens me.

For days after the encounter, my friends would try to pull me away from these thoughts and it would work for a while until we fell silent again. Then, it was back to these thoughts. It didn’t help that it was brought up that Aspenne had a fighting arena, which made me think back to what Agatha the Banshee had told me. Kalona was supposed to be in the city of competition, and if this arena was a center for competition, then that meant that he was there too. The thought of seeing him again made me nervous. We didn’t part on the best of terms when I broke up with him and I’m afraid that if he sees me again, especially with Cade around, he may lash at out me once more. He may try to hurt Cade as well.

In the back of my mind, my father’s voice rang out whenever I thought about Kalona, telling me that he’s not human, and that I needed to stay away from him. I know he’s dangerous, but a part of me misses him. He was so sweet to me when we first started dating and he seemed to be everything I could’ve ever wanted at the time. I remember dreaming about having a future with him, that somehow, the two of us would defy the odds that our parents put against us. We’d be the ones to end the feud that divided us. But those hopes didn’t last for long as the conflict between our families worsened. My father, trying to hold what was left of the business together, was starting to see that this was a fight we could not win. My brother, urging me to come with him to turn the town against the Fletchers, was disgusted at what was happening to us. My mother, with looks of disdain at the mention of them, soon began to grow colder towards the people around the town. My family was faltering under the pressure and a part of me began to realize that there was no way that Kalona and I could fix this.

With that, I kept him at a distance, which only made him want to be closer. I would avoid him, but he would follow me. I’d hide from him, but he’d find me. There came to a point that I did everything I could to disappear from him, but yet he was still there. He wouldn’t leave me alone and it hurt. He couldn’t see what his family was doing to us, and when I tried to show him, he acted like nothing was wrong. I loved him, but he didn’t care about what was happening to us. I loved him, he loved me, but he didn’t understand why I loved my family more than him. When my mother and Reiner were murdered, I had enough. I broke up with him, heart-broken about what he could’ve prevented. I was so hopeful that we could fix everything and this shattered that hope into a million pieces. I remember how angry he was with me when I blamed him for allowing this all to happen. His words cut deeper than any wound I’ve ever received. My gods, he was furious, but in the end, after our fight with tears streaming down my face, he admitted that it didn’t change how he felt.

I’m a fucking idiot because there’s still a part of me that’s in love with him, with what we could’ve been, and with what we were in the beginning. I don’t blame him for what his father did to us, but I don’t think I could ever feel the same way I did about him before all of this. He’s hurt me before, I was too blind to see that he had the potential to do so, and I fear that he could do worse. However, unlike his father, I can’t bring myself to fear him. If Agatha was right and he wants me back, then that means he still loves me. If the worst comes out of this, that love might just save my life. I don’t think it would be enough to save anyone else’s.

And then there was Cade. Gods, I’ve never felt the way I feel about him towards anyone else in my life but there’s a part of me that almost regrets loving him. I feel bad for pulling him into my conflict when all I want to do is keep him as far away from it as possible. I don’t want him to be caught in the middle of this if things turn for the worse between the Fletchers and I. I don’t want him to have a target on his back for the way he feels about me. If anything happens to him because he was trying to protect me, or he was hurt in a situation that he wouldn’t have been in if it wasn’t for me, I don’t think I could forgive myself.

After a while, I finally was able to break away from my thoughts, just days before we made it to Aspenne. I felt a little better, but I could tell that everyone was still wondering why I looked so troubled. I just don’t want to see anything bad happen to them, especially because of me. I don’t really want to see Kalona again either. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but we made it to Aspenne. I guess we were going to find some things out sooner rather than later.

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Klara's Journal: Entry #9
Winter's Crest

We didn’t have much going on, so I figured I’d get some things done that I wanted to get started before we left the city. After telling my friends where I was going, I wandered the city for a while before I found myself standing in front of a shop named Bean Me Up General Store. I sighed at the sight of it and stepped into the shop to see a middle-age lady peeling potatoes. I asked her if she had any paper, ink, and quills I could buy and she went to the back of the shop. A minute or so later, she came back with what I asked for and I paid her before she started to peel potatoes again, looking defeated when she realized that the ink that was on her hand was now on the potato.

I made my way back to the tavern around dinner time to see Vash glaring at Jack as he’s still pulling the weights off of his chainmail. We all had a nice dinner there before we retired for the night. Cade decided to bunk with me but he wanted to hang out for a while before going to bed. There was something I wanted to write before I went to bed, so I left the rest of them early to do so.

It’s a letter that I never thought I’d be writing, but since my life had grown more dangerous in the last month and a half or so, it was something that needed to be done. I had already made arrangements with my father to take Beacon if something happened to me and I knew that I at least wanted to send him my journal and a letter from me. I hope those two things would at least give him some closure if nothing else.

The door to my room opened and Cade stepped inside, Dogmeat following close behind as Beacon’s tail beat the ground with their arrival. I was signing the letter when Cade fell on the floor, already asleep once he hit the ground. I set the letter aside, making sure he was alright before both of the dire wolves laid down on top of him. Once the ink was dry, I folded the letter and tucked it into my journal before getting in bed myself when Beacon decided that it was better to sleep next to me than on top of Cade. At least I could say that neither of us were cold that night.

In the morning, we decided to go check to see if there was a portal where one of the children went missing and Zen told us that she had an easy way out of the city. She lead us to the river and jumped in, drifting away as she told us that we needed to jump in too. I looked at Cade as he looked at me and we gave each other a shrug and jumped in after her. We slipped under the wall and got out of the river and made our way to the fields. There, we found that something had been drawn on a rock and that it was most likely the portal we were looking for. At the mention of the portal, Cade pulled the portal shard out of his pocket, causing Zen to glare at him.

Since we were out, we decided to go search for Frisk as well and made our way to the woods. It was like home again, because this forest was the same one that was also around Frostford. We hopped over the river, barely a stream coming out of the mountains near the forest. When we entered the woods, there was a low growl and while Zen didn’t seem too concerned, Cade grew worried and I was confused. To me, it sounded like a leopard, but there were no leopards in the area and they aren’t supposed to be in these woods at all.

We searched for a trail for a while, but because of the thunderstorm, there were no footprints and the wolves couldn’t pick up a scent. All I could find were broken branches that lead up to the mountains. I didn’t know how long it would take us to follow the trail, but we decided to go back to the town and return later after Winter’s Crest.

Cade and Zen started to bicker about gods-know-what on the way and I could feel the tension headache coming on. They just wouldn’t give up. I heard a whisper over my shoulder and there stood Jack. Jack’s arrival stopped the bickering about as soon as it started and I decided that it’d be a good time to get rid of a few deer skins that I wasn’t able to tan because of how busy we’d been. I threw them out into the woods and they were in an absolutely horrible condition. Oh gods, they smelled horrible. To make it worse, all Beacon wanted to do is roll in them.

I went back to them to see that Cade was standing, looking into the river, as I went up to him and put a hand on his shoulder before Zen pushed him into the water.

We made our way back to the field entrance to the city when we decided to stop and have a picnic for lunch, Zen mentioning to me that we should probably clean out the Bag of Holding after having rotting deer skins, dead bodies, and who knows what else decomposing in there. Cade then offered to clean it for me but since it was my idea to put them in there, I knew I needed to be the one to clean it out. I did ask him to hold the bag however as I reached in, shoulder-deep. It was disgusting. I also forgot about the berries that I had put in there. They were wine now.

After the deed was done, Cade and I rejoined Jack and Zen, after washing my hands, and sat down for our picnic. I was passing out food to everyone when I noticed Jack pulling out food for himself as I glared at him. He stopped and I told him that he was having our food since he bought us lunch the other day. He smiled and didn’t argue with me as he put away his food.

The guards looked at us, extremely confused as Zen and Jack decided to lay in the grass to sun themselves, more like sunburn themselves since they were both so pale, and Cade asked me to cut his hair. He handed me one of his daggers and I began to shave the side of his head as Beacon started to sniff the grass around the pile of slop that I had pulled out of the Bag of Holding. Pointing the knife at him, I shouted at him and he scurried off, looking a little sad that I didn’t let him get close to it. For him, it was the deer skins all over again.

Once I finished Cade’s haircut, he asked me if I could go dress shopping with him. He was worried that the Inquisitor was still looking for him, but he thought that if he looked more like a woman, the Inquisitor may not notice him. I told him that I’d be more than happy to go with him. As we made our way into the city, it was easy to tell that people were getting ready for the festivities that were to happen in the next couple of days. There was a feeling of cheer and excitement in the air and it was a welcoming feeling after what we had been through. Cade pulled me towards a dress shop and ushered me in as the lady who worked there asked if she could help us with anything. There were a few dresses on display, but there was more fabric sitting out than anything else. Once I told her that we were both looking to buy dresses, she said that we could go pick out some fabric, choose a dress pattern, and then she’d take our measurements. I pulled out a nice blue fabric while Cade chose a few fabrics of tan, green, and brown before picking out a simple dress pattern with a belt to accentuate his waist. While the lady started taking his measurement, I looked through the patterns, stating that he’s going to need quite a bit of padding to make him look a bit more feminine. The lady agreed and commended Cade for his choice because it would make it much easier for her to do so.

I eventually found a pattern that I liked. I hadn’t bought a dress in a long time, so I wanted something a bit different than what I usually wear. It was a sleeveless dress that was fairly plain, but interesting because of the way it was cut. There was a large slit that went up the left leg, making it so I could wear my normal pants under it without it being weird. The two straps were wide on the shoulders and formed a choker around the neck. It was also two toned, the blue I chose would be the majority of the dress and there was a white underlayer that was exposed down the center of the body and criss-crossed by brown string on the bodice of the dress. It was different and I really liked it.

After getting my measurements, we paid the lady for the dresses and she told us that they would be ready the morning of the festival. We thanked her for her services and left the shop and I asked Cade if we could go to a church or temple or something to see if I could find out anything about Obad-Hai. He agreed and we made our way there, but no one there knew anything about him other that he was a god of nature. One of the priests there said that they mainly worshipped merchant and traveling gods in this city, mainly the god, Fharlanghn. A little defeated, we left and tried to find a library.

It was in a horrible state, but it was still standing and long-forgotten. We spent hours there, looking for a religion section. There was absolutely no one there to help us. We did find it eventually and I managed to find a book that seemed to be what I was looking for, but when I opened it, I didn’t even know what language it was in. It was nothing I recognized and Cade couldn’t read it either. I looked around to see if there were any signs or something about taking books from the library, but there was nothing. When I finally came back to Cade, who had found a book himself, and told him about what I found, he said that we should just take the books. I felt horrible for doing so and felt like we needed to ask to make sure it was okay or see if we needed to pay or something.

So against Jack’s warning, we went to the Town Hall. Stepping into the building, I saw the Inquisitor with his back turned to us, talking to the lady working the front desk and I quickly shoved Cade out of the door and closed it behind me without thinking. It was stupid, but there was no way he couldn’t have heard the door open so it would be kind of suspicious if he turned around and no one was there. The only thing I knew was that I needed to give Cade time to get away. At that moment, I didn’t really care what happened to me as long as Cade was safe.

The Inquisitor was talking about us, saying that he had some questions for us once he found us and right as he was about to leave, he turned to see me standing there and he motioned for the guards to step in behind me. The lady working the desk looked at me like I was the stupidest person in the world as I asked the Inquisitor if I could ask the lady about something before he took me away and I asked her about the books. She said that she didn’t care if we took them and with that, I turned to the Inquisitor and said that I was ready to be questioned.

In the next instant, my hands were bound and I was taken to the guard house. Once there, I was lead to a bare room, tied to a chair, and had a bag put over my head. The guards left and it was quiet for a little bit. I will admit, I wasn’t really scared. I probably should’ve been, but I wasn’t. I was worried about Cade, hoping that he wasn’t trying to do something stupid to save me and put himself at risk, but I wasn’t worried about myself. I hadn’t done anything wrong and if I could convince the Inquisitor of my innocence, I’d be free.

The silence was broken by the sound of the door opening as the Inquisitor walked in, asking me to tell him what happened in the tavern. I told him, leaving Cade out of the story, but telling him everything else. I couldn’t tell if he was convinced or not, because you know, there was a bag on my head, but I told him that he could do anything to me if it meant that I could prove my innocence to him.

With that, a blade struck my collarbone and his footsteps drew near before the blade was pulled out of the shallow cut.

He asked me a few more questions about the tavern incident before he asked me how I knew Jack. I was honest with him, and when he asked me what Jack was doing here, I told him that he was here to assassinate someone, but I didn’t know who. It was a lie, but I figured that Jack didn’t really cover his tracks very well to begin with. I mean, he sent a signed letter to the man he was going to kill. It wasn’t really a secret.

He then asked for the names of the people I was traveling with and I told him their names were Zenthya and Vash, but I didn’t know either one of their last names because they had never told me. I hoped that he was actually convinced, because I hadn’t received another blade to the chest in quite a long while, but he then asked for my name. I told him my first and when he asked for my last, I paused as I felt myself withdrawing inward. My last name came out more like a hiss.

I could sense his demeanor change even though I couldn’t see him. He was full of himself, overly-confident, and I fought the urge to wrestle against my binds. When he asked me if I was related to Erwin Grayson, I knew what I was going to do. I told him the truth, that I was Erwin’s daughter, and I knew I was now even more valuable to him before and maybe less likely to die at his hands today. I could be bait for a bigger reward. He only had one more question for me and it was, “Where is Erwin Grayson?” I felt myself smiling as I replied to him, telling him that he probably knew better than I did. That answer meant I got another blade to my collarbone and got asked the question again. The answer, that I didn’t know. I had only seen him once in four years.

He hit me hard, knocking the chair I was tied to onto it’s side. That hurt so much worse that those blades. Then, someone was at the door, telling the Inquisitor that someone wanted to talk to him and they wouldn’t leave until they did so. With a sigh, he left the room and there was silence again.

I couldn’t help but think of the distant look on my father’s face when I saw him in Laketown a few days ago. Accused of murders that he didn’t commit, forced to run to ‘protect’ his children, hunted by the Fletchers, and hunted by the law. I’m only now beginning to understand what he’s been through yet there’s still so much that I can’t comprehend. I guess we have more in common now. I’m accused of the murders of fourteen people and if I get out of here, I’m going to be hunted by the law and by the Fletchers. Too bad the law doesn’t scare me as much as the Fletchers do.

After a few minutes, the door opened and a couple of people rushed in, coming over to me. The bag was removed from my head as I blinked feverently, seeing Jack and Cade kneeling over me, freeing me from my binds.

It was a blur. We were racing through the streets, Cade urging me to run faster while Jack led us through the streets, Zen’s staff in his hands. He led us to a secret passageway out of the city, gave us Zen’s staff, and wished us the best of luck as he sent us in. After a few minutes of walking, we found ourselves standing in the woods outside of the city. Cade looked at me, his eyes filled with his concern but mixed with relief as I asked him if he knew where Zen was. He told me that didn’t know, but he was pretty sure she had the dire wolves with her. After a while of searching, I was tired so I whistled for Beacon. Within a minute or so, Beacon was barreling through the bushes and almost knocked me down as he began to lick my face.

Dogmeat soon arrived after that, followed by Zen and we decided to go back to the brothel to lay low for a while and this time I didn’t get any money taken from me, which was nice. Staying inside sucked though but at least we were safe. After two days of being stuck there, trying not to be bored out of our minds, it was finally the morning of the Winter’s Crest Festival. Cade and I went to go pick up our dresses. After I finished getting dressed and putting my hair up into a bun, I helped the lady of the shop pad Cade’s dress. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve mistaken him for a woman. Satisfied with our appearance, we made our way to the town square, where Cade and I towards the back of the crowd and Zen met up with us in a pretty new shirt. The city guards were escorting a man towards the main stage and we had to move for them, but they didn’t seem to pay much attention to us.

The man, who turned out to be Lord Vontelio, made a speech and then started the festival before leaving once again. Zen commented that she hadn’t seen Jack and we all knew what his target looked like now. Cade and I tried to convince Zen to go to the arm wrestling competition with us, but she was not interested in it so we went together instead. I sat down first and a young man sat down across from me. He didn’t look to be much older than me and it seemed to be that he was trying to join the city guard. I talked to him for a little bit, before wishing him luck and grabbing his hand. I didn’t think this was going to be much of a competition. He looked stronger than me. Surprisingly, I held my own for a little bit before he slammed my hand down on the table and I thanked him for not breaking my hand. As I got back up, Cade was starting his first round, which he won and went on to his second. He didn’t win it, but we had fun challenging other people while we were there.

After a while, we left the arm wrestling competition and Zen and I made our way to the archery range while Cade went to the knife throwing range. I’ll admit, I was pretty confident and thought that the range was going to be easy but when we were told that we couldn’t use our longbows and had to use a shortbow instead. It would be the first time I’d used a shortbow in close to eight years. I was twelve when my father decided that I was ready for my first longbow and I had been using one ever since. Zen, surprisingly, was a really good shot with it. Myself, on the other hand, struggled for a while before I finally got used to the bow. After that, I was finally doing well. We got some money out of it and I got a Greater Potion of Healing for it, so we decided to see how Cade was doing with the knife throwing.

He was doing pretty well too, so Zen and I decided to try our hand at it. Neither of us were great, but we didn’t expect to be anyway.

Done with knife throwing and archery for a while, we made our way to the pie eating contest. I was unsure if I even wanted to try, but Cade and Zen insisted that I at least try it. I didn’t think eating as much pie as possible without using my hands seemed like a good time. The first pie was hard to get through, but Cade and Zen got through it pretty easily. The second and third pies were a struggle too. Zen and Cade weren’t looking to hot but for some reason, the fourth pie was a bit easier for me. Most of the people had already fallen out of the competition when I reached my sixth pie but I was going strong. Cade and Zen were already gone and when it was time for the seventh pie, it was only me and one little twig of a girl. As I finished my seventh pie, feeling great and completely ignoring the fact that I had just eaten seven pies, the other girl dropped out of the competition. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m the winner of a pie eating competition and I even have a pin to prove it.

I cleaned my face up a bit and got something to drink, surprised that I didn’t ruin my dress during the competition, while Cade asked us if we wanted to go apple-bobbing. We decided it would be a good way to clean our faces up some more and Cade decided to go first. He did really well, so I decided to go next. Turns out, I was pretty great at apple-bobbing. We each had three tries to get an apple and each try I came up with two apples in my teeth. I think I’ve been around Beacon too long but it did start a few comments in the crowd saying that I was pretty good with my mouth.

After that, Cade and I tried to convince Zen to come dance with us, but she said that she doesn’t dance. With a shrug, Cade and I dance with each other for a while. It was nice, but I couldn’t help but think of my feelings for him. I was so happy being with him in that moment that I didn’t notice anything else happening around us. I wanted to tell him how I felt then and there, but I held back. I didn’t want to ruin this moment if he didn’t feel the same way. I don’t know when I’ll finally have the courage to finally tell him.

We danced together for a while before we started to dance with the other people there. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Jack was talking with Zen before he finally convinced her to dance with him. I was surprised to see him here, but at least it meant that everything went well and he didn’t feel like he had to leave right away. More than one of the men I danced with copped a feel but I was pretty sure it was because of the ‘good with her mouth’ comments that were going around. I didn’t pay much attention to it.

After dancing, Cade, Zen, Jack, and I went into the fortune teller’s tent. I was really nervous and I didn’t know what I was going to ask about when Jack decided that he was going to go first. I didn’t really want to ask anything, but then again I wanted to ask everything, so I decided to ask something simple at first. Jack looked pretty disappointed once he finished and stood by me in the corner of the room as Cade took a seat. I patted him on the shoulder, trying to offer some reassurance to him, but I don’t think it really helped. Cade was disappointed as well, looking at me with a sadness on his face, and Zen wanted to go last.

I sat down and did as the fortune teller told me to do, saying that I wanted to know about my love life while I shuffled the playing cards. I laid three cards out before me, face down, and she told me to choose the one to be my past. I flipped it over and she told me that in my past, love had a sense of adventure for me, a move in hopes to continuing forward. My mind flashed to Kalona, ducking into alleys to steal a kiss or two in hopes that our families didn’t find out. It was wild, it was fun, and it was felt dangerous for me. I didn’t want to flip over the next card for the present but I did anyway. She explained to me that there would be trouble, that there would be arguments between good friends, a loss of a relationship, and a dispute that would remain unresolved. It was accurate too, but I tried not to think about it so much. One last card representing my future and she told me that there was going to be indecisiveness and that I wasn’t going to be able to make up my mind on who I would be with, but either way it would ruin the plans of the other. As I stood up, I looked at Cade for a long moment, he seemed to be lost in thought, as I went over to where Jack and him were standing, considering what she said. It was too accurate for my liking and I didn’t really want to ask any more questions.

Zen asked many and I ended up asking if Atlas’ plans were going to succeed. Again, she had me draw three cards and I was hoping that it would turn out better this time. In the past, a good friend has helped him, someone he’s known for a very long time. In the present, there is something standing between him and his goals. I knew that it was me the card was talking about. He needed my blood, yet he hasn’t found me. I was the one blocking him from his goals. In the future, he’s not going to be able to reach his goals. After the reading about my love life, that was actually pretty good to hear. I’m not sure how accurate it was going to be, but it was just good to hear.

I asked Cade if he wanted to go with me to watch the magician perform, in hopes that it would cheer us up, and well, he was pretty mediocre. After a while of watching him ‘pull’ coins out of our ears, try to get us to guess what cup a certain ball was under, we called Zen over to show him what magic was really like. She ended up setting his shirt on fire, but at least it was more fun to watch than everything else he was showing us. Cade and I then went to cash in on my pie eating contest pin and get some free ale and munch on the food that was there. After a while, a lady got up on stage, saying that there had been a tragic event occur today with a huge smile on her face before announcing the beginning of the feast. Really, this town was weird. They really didn’t seem to care much about anything, like their Lord being assassinated.

After the feast, we made our way back to the brothel for the night. Zen left a note on the door on the room and Cade and Jack were staying in because Jack wasn’t there when we got back. In the morning, we got up and started to get ready to make our way over the mountains. Cade was with me, but Zen had something she needed to do so she left us. After a while, the two of us were ready to go and Zen walked in. I don’t know. Something was off about her and it turns out that even though it looked like her, it wasn’t actually her. We attacked her, defeated her, and as she fell, her image shattered into a bunch of tiny, mirror shards. With the dire wolves, we rushed to find Zen and found her being attacked by us. I managed to kill fake Cade, which honestly hurt a bit, but I didn’t want to say anything to him, and Cade defeated the fake me.

After all that, we decided that it would be best to leave Chipenden and head into the mountains. It was cold, it took forever to get over the mountains, and we weren’t prepared at all for the journey. We were burning random things from the Bag of Holding to keep our campfire going at night. Eventually, we reached the stone-walled city of Colonmel and the gates to the city were partially open. Cade peaked into the gates, and then told us that there was no one around and that it smelled horrible in there. A little while away, there was a farm. With nothing else to go to, we went to it and spoke to the elven man, who came out of a barn on the property. His name was Driscoll and he had lost twelve horses and three foals and wanted us to help him and his daughter look for them. We agreed and used the wolves to pick up the scent before we headed out.

We found the daughter before finding the horses, and Zen started to bicker with her. After a while, Cade and I eventually caught a horse. Zen spoke with it and it turns out, the horses didn’t want to be caught. They thought it was dangerous because of the disease in the city. Zen also spoke with Beacon and Dogmeat. I don’t know what she said to Beacon, but something really she said really pissed him off. I hadn’t hurt him growl so much in quite a long time.

It seemed hopeless to try to get the horses back since they were running away because of the disease, so we went back to the city. Once there, we made our way to town hall to see a bunch of people trying to help the sick. A priest came up to us and after we said that we would like to him, he told us that he would have the foreign healers come speak to us. There was a man with green hair, a woman with completely white hair, except for the tips, which were pink, and a woman with brown hair and blue tips. Respectively, they were Tad, Ash, and Rui. I asked if they shopped at Wilford Warfstache’s Magical Emporium too, you know, because of the hair colors, and they replied that it was completely natural. I didn’t know and still have no clue about what they actually are. They asked us if we were adventurers and if we’d be willing to complete a quest for them. We said that we would, which caused them to say that they didn’t think we would have the same feeling about it when they finally told us what we needed to do.

We needed to kill a dragon, collect ten vials of dragon blood, and collect its soul so they could make an antidote for the disease that was destroying the town. Cade and Zen seemed worried about the mention of the dragon, but I was fairly confident that we could handle it. It had been a while since we faced Venomfang. We were wiser now, we had more experience in combat, and we already had one dragon kill under our belts. I was pretty sure that we’d be fine as long as we played it smart and didn’t rush into things.

I gave them the three vials of blood we had collected from Venomfang in hopes that they would be able to start working on a cure while we were gone. Tad came with us outside the city to open a portal for us after Cade collected some firewood. I asked Tad about this dragon they had chosen for us and he said that it was a young, white dragon. I thought back to what I had studied about dragons, and that the white dragons were the most aggressive of the chromatic dragons, mainly because they were weaker than the other chromatics. When we were ready, Tad drew us a portal and when we stepped through it, it was a blizzard. Cade turned back to ask Tad how we were supposed to get back, but the portal had already closed. Cade then looked at me, his eyes looked like he wanted to say something, but then he turned away. My heart sank.

I didn’t know what we just got ourselves into.

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Klara's Journal: Entry #8
Four Years For One Day

I went back to Mabel’s house, checked on Cade, and laid my bedroll out in the living room for another night’s rest. Beacon laid down next to me immediately after I got into it, almost making the point of having a bedroll pointless to begin with since he puts off so much heat. I was pissed at myself for what happened to the child, for not being about to do anything about it, and for not being braver about it. I was also pissed at Zen, but that’s not too uncommon for me anymore. Some of the things she does irritates me more than it probably should.

The next morning, Cade and I went into town after having some breakfast and Zen followed behind us at a safe distance, not really wanting anything to do with us. We went to the Creative Phonics Inn, since the Lakeside Inn was closed today, probably from the damages we caused there the night before. As I walked into the bar, I looked around to see if my father was there. He wasn’t, so Cade and I went up to the bar and ordered some cider. I noticed some strange man looking at us and when I told the two of them, Zen turned around and said something to him. I shoved her and she grabbed me, dragging me down to the ground with her. Once I stood up and righted my stool, I sat back down to finish my cider while she got up and went over to the man. A few moments later, she returned to us as Cade and I were working on the last bit of our drinks, telling us that he’s gone. I really didn’t care.

After we finished our drinks, I asked them if they wanted to go to the magic shop with me as we left the Inn to see the strange man talking to a child, well, more like arguing with a child. I don’t think he understands how to talk to children. You’re not going to get information out of them that way. Anyway, Cade and I went to the magic shop because I wanted to ask about a bowstring that the owner mentioned to me the last we were there, but I never got a price on. Turns out, while I could afford it and the owner would give me a discount on it, it was out of stock but he’d be willing to order it for me. I told him that it was alright since I didn’t know when we’d be leaving town. Cade and Zen kept insisting that we stay until my father arrived, but I wasn’t completely sure if I wanted to see him. It had been so long and even though I missed him terribly, I didn’t think it was the time for us to meet. I was worried that he’d think that we were ready to go face Atlas even though it’s fairly obvious that we aren’t. There was also the possibility that he was going to be a completely different person from what I remembered him to be. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see him just yet.

Cade and I went back to the bakery to hang out with his mother, and while walking into the bakery, we saw that the weird guy was there. He quickly left after we arrived. Zen followed after him, but Cade and I stayed back. After a little while, Cade left to go find Zen and I decided to go walk around for a little while. I turned a corner to see the strange man walking towards me and in passing, I apologized for my friends behavior. He gave me a slight nod and continued walking. I passed another corner and someone grabbed my wrist. Turns out, it was Cade and Zen and they were watching the stranger. They told me to keep quiet as they continued to study the man.

The stranger knocked on the door of the Lakeside Inn, which opened after a few moments and I could hear the irritated voice of the young Mr. Emerson. I bit my lip. I felt bad about everything that had happened. I didn’t mean to cause him this much trouble. After the door closed, I went up to it and looked to see if I could slip some coins under it; there was a big enough gap for me to do so. I counted out five gold pieces, which was more than enough to buy new of what was broken and softly knocked on the door before sliding the gold under it. I muttered my apologies to the young Mr. Emerson as I did so, admitting that it was all a stupid mistake, and that we’re idiots. He seemed even more irritated, but I felt slightly better for at least paying him for the damages. In all honestly, I still feel pretty terrible about it.

After standing and wiping the dirt from my skirt, the door opened and the weird guy stepped out. He asked me if I knew anything about the Wick Estate and I told him that we had fought shadows there, but we didn’t get the chance to look at the rest of the house, because, you know, we barely made it out alive. He told me that he was able to tell it was full of undead, but he wasn’t sure if there was anything else there or in the area so I offered to go check for him. Cade came up beside me, out of the shadows and tagged along. The man asked a few questions to the two of us, but neither of us said much more to him that giving him a few, brief answers. Once we got to the house, I took a little time to myself and focused on what I could sense in the area. He was right about the house, but as he wanted to know, the lake and the forest was fine. It was just the house that was full of undead.

With that we made a plan to go into the house the next day since it was getting late. Cade and I went back to Mabel’s to have a nice dinner with her, which Zen joined us in but didn’t say much, before going to bed. Once again, the organ music started around midnight but I tried to ignore it as much as possible. I was tired and I didn’t really want to think about it. The next morning, we went back to the Wick Estate to see that the strange man had stayed the night there. There was a fresh mound of dirt near his camp and he told us that he had buried some body he had found hanging in the house. The grave looked like it had been disturbed in the night; there were quite a few animal tracks around it. Anyway, he insisted that we take care of whatever was in the house, but he wanted to scout ahead first. Cade and I waited at the front door while he made his way through a few of the rooms. Eventually, Cade and I followed him into the house. The man went into one of the rooms then quickly came back out and closed the doors. I started backing away, not completely trusting the door, as it slammed open. An armored skeleton moved towards me, attempting to attack. It missed and Cade, the man, and I started to attack it. Zen was nowhere to be found, but it didn’t really seemed that it mattered.

However, we found her pretty quickly. After I fired a couple arrows at the creature to no avail, I ran up closer to it and I heard the sound of Zen’s staff hitting the ground. The next thing I knew, I was thrown against a wall with the skeleton and Cade and then was the sound of Beacon’s nails skidding across the hardwood floor. Irritated, I took out Talon and finished the creature off. It seemed that whatever this thing was in death, it used to be Mr. Wick in life. I put Talon back on my hip as the man and Cade went over to a set of three chests that were against a wall. Both Cade and the man found a good sum of money in each of theirs while the one that I opened contained two potions. I will admit I was a little bummed that I only found potions, but it beats buying them. From the hall, I heard the sound of a scuffle so I walked out of the room to see Zen fighting a couple of zombies. I drew my bow and felled them both quickly as the man and Cade came out of the room before we all stepped into the hall.

The smell was horrible. At the end of the hall, there was a large pile of bodies. Most of them looked to be skeletons, but there were three bodies that were fresher than the rest. Among those three were the bodies of the missing teen and the missing farmhand. Carefully, I pulled them off of the pile as the man started to investigate the other rooms connected to the hall. I took a couple of the Redbrand Cloaks from the Bag of Holding and wrapped the teen’s body before putting him and the other body into the Bag.

There were old bones everywhere, in each of the rooms along the hall as Cade, the man, and I took up the job of making sure that the bodies wouldn’t come back to life. There’s probably some people out there that think bashing skulls would be fun, but it was honestly a bit disturbing. Once the deed was done, we went upstairs while the man kept checking rooms. The room looked to be a bedroom and the man, soon joining us, went in first and started looking around. Zen, being closest to the door, followed him in and I noticed something wasn’t right. She asked him if she could help him. In the short time that I knew her, she’d never offered to help someone and with her dislike of men, it wasn’t something she’d ever do. Without thinking, I drew my bow and studied her, Cade asking what the hell I was doing.

It was like when my mother had possessed her. She just wasn’t acting right as she cast a spider web out of her staff, holding the man. I’m not sure what happened, but the spirit left Zen, ordering her to leave her room before she started to address the man. Eventually, the man left her room as well and she asked us if her father had been taken care of. We told her that he was dead once again and she seemed to be glad about that. It was an odd way of showing it though. After a while, Lorelai, the daughter of Mr. Wick, told us that we could burn the house down.

I guess we helped her be at peace slightly with what happened, or at least that’s what I told myself, as Zen wrote her name in the side of the house with her Flame Blade. The dry wood caught the fire easily and soon it was burning well. Cade and I decided to go deliver the bodies to the mayor while Zen stayed to watch the house burn.

It wasn’t as graceful as I wanted it to be, since Cade pulled the body of the farmhand headfirst out of the bag to show the mayor. It really startled the man and I more gently took the body of the teen out. Setting them down gently, I unwrapped the body of the teen, asking the mayor if it would be okay if I lay the cloaks I used to wrap the teen over them. He agreed quickly and I did so. I didn’t want the families to see the condition they were in and for how the mayor reacted to it, I knew it was a decent idea.

After that was over with, Cade and I went to the bakery to hang out with his mom as the mayor informed the families of the victims what happened. We ran into the strange man again and we were finally able to introduce ourselves properly to each other. He looked to be in his 20’s, but he said that he was much older than that. He also looked a lot like a half-elf, but his was glowing slightly. I’m not sure if that’s because he’s not really a half-elf or that it’s just because he’s a paladin. Either way, it was kind of weird. To be nice and to try to get on some equal ground with him, I told him that I’m a descendant of a paladin and he seemed to appreciate it. His name is Vash.

The next day, I spent most of the day with Cade. I wanted to go to the blacksmith to price out some armor for Beacon and Dogmeat, but we made it there too early that morning and they hadn’t opened yet. Instead, we went to the lake, passing Vash again. I stood at the edge of the water, looking at the forest across the way when I heard Cade shout, “THIS IS LAKETOWN!” before his foot hit the small of my back and I fell face first into the water. Wiping my wet hair out of my face, I watched as he took off his cloak, placing in on a rock before jumping in beside me. With a light laugh, I splashed him.

It was nice to get to spend some time with him, just the two of us. I know he told me that I was like the sister he’s never had, but I couldn’t help but wish that we were something more. It took me a long time to realize it, but I keep catching myself looking at him. I can’t help but think about his smile, the glitter in his green eyes when he’s happy, the way the strands of hair fall into his face when he’s fighting, the slight fear in his eyes when he’s in danger, the way he laughs. It’s the little details I focus on and I can’t really shake from my mind. I like him a lot. I wouldn’t say it’s love, but I think with time it could be. I still don’t know much about him, but we’ve been so close since the day we met. It’s almost like we’ve known each other for years even though we’ve been together for only a couple of months. I feel like I can trust him with anything, and it honestly hurt to be so cold to him in Frostford. I didn’t want him to know what happened there because I didn’t want to burden, yet I wanted to bare my soul to him. The way he looked at me in my parents’ room hurt me more than any wound I’ve ever received.

I don’t know if he feels the same way and I don’t really want to ask. I just kind of want to see how it plays out from here. I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize the friendship we already have.

I was able to spend some more time with Cade, Zen, and Mabel over the next few days as we waited for my father to arrive. With each passing day, I was more unsure if I wanted to see him. I mean, it had been more than three years since I had seen him last and I would do anything to see him again but I was worried that he didn’t want to see me. It had been so long and I didn’t know how he was going to react. Was he going it be happy? Was he going to be angry? Was he going to be disappointed? It hurt to even think about. But Cade insisted that we stay and wait. The night before he was supposed to arrive I hoped that he wouldn’t come.

The next morning, I got up and stood outside the Lakeside Inn with Cade and Zen at my side. I was trying to convince myself that this was a good idea and all I needed to do was walk through the door and he’d be happy to see me. Even though I told myself that, my heart had a different idea. My gods, I was nervous.

I guess I took too long since Zen opened the door and Cade pushed me into the tavern. I remember telling them to stop and I soon locked eyes with him. It had been so long but he hadn’t changed much at all. A bit longer beard, a bit more tired, a few more wrinkles, but it was still him. The sweetness of the moment rapidly faded as he quickly stood up from the table he was at and sprinted out the back door of the Inn. My heart sank and I hesitated for a moment before I followed after him as Cade, Zen, and the wolves followed after me. I felt the tears stinging my eyes as ran after him.

My heart raced with my fears. I had no clue what was going on.

Dogmeat ran up past me, towards my father, and tripped him. I caught up to him, pulled him towards me, and threw my arms around him, not sure what else to do. He seemed extremely uneasy and I didn’t know why that was but I tried to push my fears out of my mind. I told him that I set out to find him and Nikolas after he left and it’s been three to four years since then and I hadn’t heard anything about either one of them. He mentioned something like that he couldn’t believe that it had been that long. I let him go, looking up into his face. He seemed so guarded, so suspicious, and it really hurt. I didn’t understand why he was acting that way. I told him that I was an adventurer now and I watched as a part of his guard fell. He put his face in his hand, stating that he hoped that I would’ve continued our trade and started my own business, and I had to explain what happened. I mentioned that I had killed a dragon and he smiled. In Draconic, he told me that killing a dragon was quite a feat.

He asked me if I trusted the people I’m with and I was completely honest with him. I admitted that I trusted Cade with my life, explaining to him that he’s Mabel’s son, and that I wasn’t sure how much I could trust Zen and Vash. I trust Zen much more than I trust Vash, however. He seemed to understand and I felt the need to tell him about home. Once I muttered that I went to Frostford, whatever was left of his guard broke, and his hands cupped my face as he looked me over for injuries, asking if I was hurt. I told him that I was okay and he finally started to look something like the man I remembered him to be. I told him that the shop was still standing, that nothing in the town has really changed, about how the people still remember what happened, and that more people are joining Atlas’ side. At the mention of Atlas, something sparked in his eyes. I wasn’t sure if it was hate or fear. I told him that I didn’t think Atlas was there when I was, but that I did see Orla and I didn’t think she recognized me. He seemed to relax slightly. I told him that I spoke with Levi and that’s the only person I really spoke to there. He told me that Levi can be trusted and it’s good that I kept my head down.

I really wanted to tell him about Mother, but I knew that it probably wouldn’t be best. Instead, I told him that I went back to the house and I found that Hibernius had been taking care of it for us. He smiled lightly once I told him that and he said that he asked him to do so, in my absence, because the house and the business was to be given to me. I didn’t even register what he was saying at the moment because I couldn’t believe that he was giving it to me. I was so focused on the fact that he said he’s been communicating with Baron Waicox. After everything that’s happened, he still trusts that man and I don’t understand why. I want to hate the Baron, I really do, for allowing what happened to my family to occur after my mother’s death. If he cared about our family so much, why didn’t he fight against what people were saying about us, especially what they were saying about my father? Why did he allow my father to be accused of my mother’s murder? But then again, he’s still such a goddamn nice person. He’s so kind to the people of that town. He’s always helped my family and I guess, in a way, he’s still helping us. I still feel like he betrayed us, and that I should hate him, but I can’t.

Shaking the thought of the Waicox’s from my mind, I told him that I got his letter and he apologized for leaving. I told him that I was never angry with him, but it did hurt for a while. He explained to me that he had to leave to keep my brother and I safe and to find someone who could help him figure out a way to defeat Atlas. He then told me that since I know, I’m no longer safe. As he said this, I couldn’t help but think of the smile Atlas gave me when we were going home after staying at the Waicox Estate while my mother’s death was being investigated. That cruel, wicked grin slipped into my mind and I couldn’t help but think that my father had been played for a fool.

After what I’ve learned, I don’t think I’ve ever been safe like my father claimed I was. I don’t know what Atlas was planning, but I think he may have been trying to separate us to make whatever he wants to do easier for him. I felt like I was being hunted ever since that day he grinned at me. I didn’t want to tell my father that. It would make those years of separation pointless. I wish I wouldn’t think so far into this.

I told him that I have the letters that he wrote, detailing what happened, and that if I could find someone who could help, I’d clear his name. He seemed thankful for that and I asked him where he’s been since he left. He explained that after he left Frostford, he came here to Laketown to see if there was someone there who could help him essentially disappear and to collect information for him. That’s how he met Mabel. He was in town to talk with her before leaving again. He’s found a woman in Seacliff that’s the same race as Vash, who has told him how Atlas can do what he does. He then gave me a scroll that will disappear after I write on it and be delivered directly to him in case I was in danger. I asked him what he’s found out about the Fletcher’s and he told me that Altas is infernal and he wants the blood from my mother’s family for a sacrifice to his father, Orla is not human, and that Kalona is not human either but he’s unsure if he’s evil. He said that when the time comes, Orla must be killed before Atlas to weaken him. He didn’t say why, but I didn’t want to ask.

I showed him Mother’s necklace and he stated that the reason Atlas wants my blood is tied to it. I had a feeling that it was so after she told me about Syrref, but I had more questions than answers about Syrref, the necklace, and the gods behind the story. He finally seemed completely relaxed and I didn’t notice that the others had left until Beacon can up beside me and nudged my shoulder.

I asked him why he ran when he saw me and he explained that he’s seen many that try to be family but are actually people sent by Atlas. I can’t imagine what he’s gone through. Being alone on the road, seeing my brother or I for the first time in months, to just be some imposter. I can’t imagine what that would feel like. No wonder why he was so guarded with me. He’s been in the same situation over and over again but it’s never been me. It’s disgusting.

Since he told me so much, I told him what I knew about Kalona, which was barely anything compared to how much he knows about Atlas, but he warned me to stay away from Kalona. I remember nodding, remembering that he didn’t know about my secret relationship with him as he started to pet Beacon, asking him if he’d like to go track down Vash. He sensed that he was heading towards Frostford and he didn’t feel like leading Vash so quickly to his death by sending him into the fight alone. We made our way back into the tavern as we rejoined with Cade and Zen. I introduced them to my father quickly before we made our way after Vash.

It was like being a kid again. Father lead the way, picking the best paths for us to move quickly through the trees, but this time, I was able to help him. With the two of us working together, and Beacon’s nose, traveling was easy. What I was impressed with was how well Beacon and my father worked together. It was like my father could read him and Beacon responded well to his commands. It comforted me to see so.

We eventually found Vash and my father explained to him that what evil was in Frostford would be too much for him alone and he decided to stop him from going there. Vash didn’t seem too happy about the situation, but I couldn’t really tell how he felt. I hadn’t spent enough time with him. As we made our way back to Laketown, I pulled my father away from the rest of the group. I didn’t want to bring it up, but it needed to be done and since he and Beacon seemed to like each other, I knew it would be right for the both of them. I asked him if I could send Beacon to him and if he’d take care of Beacon if something happened to me. I didn’t want to talk like that, but he understood. He told me that I can send him to Pelt if something ever happened to me and that there would be people there to take care of him until he got there. I thanked him and told him that I’d try to send some of my things with Beacon if that ever happened.

Once we got back, we went to Mabel’s so my father could speak with her after supper. I took the time to gather my thoughts. When Mabel and my father rejoined us, Vash stated that they had been in her bedroom, and he received a knife in the kidney for that comment. I saw my father reach for his bow, but Mabel was faster. After Vash left to heal his wound, my father came over to me and asked if I’d go on a walk with him.

My father and I made our way down to the lake, Beacon trotting along behind us. I picked up a flat pebble and turned it in my fingers a few times before sending it skipping across the water a couple times. Beacon sprinted along the water’s edge, splashing water everywhere. He eventually stopped and started blowing bubbles in the water. My father smiled at the sight and sat down on a large boulder near me. We were silent for a long time as I continued to skip stones. He then asked me about that dragon I mentioned earlier, and I asked him if he’d like to hear the long story that made me get to that point, about how I met Cade and Zen. He said that he’d love to hear it and I told him that some of it was kind of embarrassing. He didn’t seem fazed by my comment.

He smiled through most of our folly with the goblins, especially when I told him I cried over Sildar’s body, hoping that it would heal him. The smile was replaced by a smirk when I explained our encounter with Glassstaff and how we made a goblin wrap out of Droop. He actually chuckled when I got to the part about our poker game with the Redbrand Ruffians, muttering, “Oh, Klara,” once in a while with a shake of his head. I told him about how the people of Phandalin pretty much hated us as we left to take care of things around Thundertree, about our fight with the orcs and the ogre, and how Thundertree was filled with plant monsters and zombies. I continued on, telling him how Cade and Zen wanted to join the Cult of the Dragon and how we went to see the dragon, Venomfang. His face didn’t show any emotion as I described our fight with the dragon to him. We both knew how dangerous there were and to me it seemed like he was thinking about how it could’ve been so much worse for us. I quickly told him about Kraagma Castle, Carp’s disappearance, and Wave Echo Cave. He had a few questions here and there, but he mainly kept quiet. We were both pretty cold when I told him about Frostford again, but instead of being so objective like before, I described what it was like without telling him anything about Mother. He agreed with me that nothing had really changed.

I then told him about what we did here in Laketown and he stated that he wondered why that old estate was burned to the ground. I stopped skipping stones and sat down beside him as Beacon started to chase his tail. I told him that Mabel told me that he visited the town but only after Cade insisted that she tell me the truth. And, at that time, that he was supposed to be coming back here in a week. I looked at him for a while as his gaze focused across the lake. I admitted that I considered leaving before he arrived. I felt his gaze on me as I looked down, telling him that I was so worried about seeing him again. He put his arm around my shoulders and apologized for running when he saw me.

He asked me if what I thought about the people I was traveling with and why I stayed with Cade and Zen. I admitted that I didn’t know exactly why I was still with them, because I’d been thinking about that myself, but I think it mainly came down to the fact that I didn’t really have anywhere else to go. It had just been Beacon and I for so long that it was nice to be with people again. It was easy being with Cade, we had been pretty close ever since we met, but I had grown to like Zen a lot, even though she’s annoying at times. They were my friends, and I knew that whatever happens, I was at least staying with Cade.

I thought of telling him my true feelings about Cade, but since I didn’t really understand how I felt about him myself, I kept quiet. I didn’t want to think too much into at that time. I just wanted to spend some time with him.

I remember telling him something like, “A lot has changed since we left Frostford.” He replied by saying, “A lot has changed for us, but to others, nothing has changed at all,” before falling silent again, watching the lake’s waves break against the shore. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on his face. He was determined to make things right for us again.

After a while, he noted how late in the evening it was. The sun had already set when we got back to Mabel’s house, stopping out front as I asked him if could stay with him for the night. He agreed before I stepped into Mabel’s house, telling Cade and her that I was going to stay with my father tonight.

He led me to his room at the Lakeside Inn with Beacon following as quietly as possible since the young Mr. Emerson didn’t seem to happy that I was there, nor that my dire wolf was going to be in the building as well. Once we entered the room, I pulled out my bedroll, ready to sleep on the floor. He closed the door after Beacon and gave me an odd look as I unrolled it in the corner of the room, telling me that I didn’t have to sleep on the floor if I didn’t want to and that he’d take the floor instead. I told him that he needed the bed more than I did. After a while of back and forth, saying who needed the bed more, he stated that I was still as stubborn as ever and suggested that he’d sleep on one side of the bed and I’d sleep on the other. I agreed and once we were settled in our respective sides of the bed, I looked at him and said, “Please don’t leave me like last time,” and he promised that he wouldn’t. After that, Beacon decided he was going to join us and wiggled his way between us.

It was fine until the middle of the night when Beacon decided that it was a good time to stretch his legs and pushed me off the edge of the bed before snuggling up closer to my father. I told him that he was traitor in a whisper and he looked really content with himself. I told him to get off of the bed and with some grumbles, he finally moved and laid down by my side of the bed.

When I woke the next morning, my heart sank. He wasn’t there.

I could hear Beacon chewing on something. I sat up quickly to see Beacon licking up little pieces of paper of the floor before smacking his lips together again. I opened his mouth and got as much of the paper pieces I could off of his tongue and he wagged his tail violently, seeming excited that I was finally awake.

The door then opened and my father stepped inside with a couple small bags in his arms and a quizzical look on his face. I told him that I thought he had already left, wiping my hands on Beacon’s fur, and he told me that he had left me a note. He went to get some breakfast for us and then came back. I had to explain to him that Beacon ate the note. He sat down on the edge of the bed next to me, handing me a pastry from Mabel’s bakery. He stated that he was planning to leave soon and I said that we were doing the same. We were headed for Chipenden.

After breakfast, we met up with the rest of my companions. My father talked with Mabel a bit as I got things ready with them, before he returned to me, saying that he must go. Cade was saying his goodbyes to his mother as I hugged my father, fighting back my tears. I told him that I loved him and he told me the same. When he finally pulled away, I handed him one of Venomfang’s scales, asking him to keep it with him and to remember me when he looked at him. He looked at it for a moment before smiling, saying that defeating a green dragon was even more impressive. His eyes were filled with pride as we hugged one last time. I couldn’t help the tears that started streaming down my face. He put his hands on my shoulders, looking me directly in the eyes, as he gave me a small nod before turning away from me.

With that, I watched him walk out of my life again, but at least this time, I got to say goodbye. It wasn’t waking up one morning to find that he wasn’t there. He was standing in front of me, holding me in his arms just moments ago, and now we’re leaving each other once again. I would do anything to make it so I could walk with him, that he wouldn’t have to leave me like this again, thinking about how different our lives would’ve been if none of this ever happened. I just want life to go back to the way it was before.

Almost four years for one day with him. I wish that life didn’t force us to be separated, but I wouldn’t trade this one day for anything in the world.

On the way to Chipenden, we were met by rain, rain, and more rain. It wasn’t too bad when we set up camp, Vash deciding to stay up all night to watch, but by the morning, it was pouring and it didn’t seem to be letting up. Vash slept on Dogmeat while we continued to make our way towards the town. The storm continued to worsen when we finally saw the walls of the city in the distance. After a little bit, we reached the gate and were met by two guards. We talked with them for a bit and they told us that we should get inside and that there was an inn nearby.

We entered the Chipped Flagon to see three groups of people in the inn, a group of merchants, a group of thieves, and a group of sellswords. We talked to the barkeep and he told us that we could put the dire wolves in the stable and once we did so, we came back to find a fight breaking out in the bar. It was quickly ended and we got some food and sat beside the fire to warm up. Vash went to talk to the groups and told us that the merchants would be willing to pay us twelve silver to protect them. To me, it wasn’t worth our time. We didn’t need their money, but I was interested in the sellswords. I went over and sat down with them and asked them how much it would be for them to go finish clearing out Wave Echo Cave. After discussing what was in the cave, they said that it was going to be one hundred gold. I told them that I’d pay them fifty gold now and that Gundren would pay them the rest once they were done. They agreed and I was proud of myself. It had been a long time since I’d done something like that.

After a while, we went up to our rooms. I took a room beside Cade’s and I’m not sure where the others went. In the middle of the night, I felt a cold wave wash over me and I quickly got out of bed. It was soon gone, but I went to Cade’s door and knocked on it, telling him that I felt something weird. He didn’t say much, but told me to go back to bed. I went downstairs instead to see that everyone was dead, even my sellswords. I don’t know what the hell happened.

The next thing I knew, I heard Cade say, “I’m sorry,” and there was a knife in my back. I screamed, drawing my sword as I hit Cade a couple of times with the side of it, angry at him for stabbing me. Vash comes downstairs as something leaves Cade and it turns out that he was possessed. We collected Zen and the dire wolves and Vash said that we should go tell the guards what happened. In doing so, they say that they’re having the Inquisitor come to talk to us. At the mention of this person, I looked for Cade and couldn’t find him. It was probably for the best.

It took a few minutes, but eventually the Inquisitor arrived, about twenty men were with him. I have to admit that I was quite impressed. I didn’t know much about him, but I could tell that he was powerful from the way he acted. Something within me kind of liked that. He asked us what happened and Vash begun to explain after I tripped up on my words before asking for them to follow him to see what happened. There was complete silence as we waited for Vash to return. The Inquisitor was studying me and I tried not to make eye contact. It was a weird feeling. I tried to explain things a little more, but it didn’t seem like it was working. His presence was oppressive, and I couldn’t keep my cool. Eventually, Vash did come back, just in time for him to say that we were highly suspicious. About that time, Jack showed up, telling Vincent, or the Inquisitor, that we were with him. It allowed us time to leave, but I don’t really think it cleared anything up.

We spent some time trying to find where Cade ran off to and we found ourselves standing outside the Vulgar Dutchess, a brothel. It’s the first and hopefully the last brothel I’ll ever enter. Zen, being herself, started talking to the girls there, trying to convince them to leave their life of servitude. Vash was talking to the owner of the place while I was standing in the doorway, trying not to get in anyone’s way. Turns out, it wasn’t just any brothel because it was full of thieves. After having about a hundred gold stolen and returned to me by the owner of the place, I left, looking for another tavern to possibly stay at.

After a while, I met back up with them and we got some lunch at the tavern. Jack had kindly paid for our meal and we started talking to him. I was eating, Cade started whispering to himself, but I didn’t try to think much of it. Vash was a bit farther away from us, reading a book, while Cade, Zen, and I hung out. A hour or so later, Vash finished his reading and stood, before immediately falling to the ground. On the back of his chainmail was what looked to be hundreds of little weights. The next thing I knew, Jack was sitting beside me as we all burst out into laughter, and I gave Jack a high five.

Jack told us what he was doing here. He was hired to kill Lord Vontelio by his sister because the lord is going to be marrying her daughter and she wants him dead because of it. So, he told us about how he sent a letter, threatening to kill him, and that he even signed it. I’m not sure if he was just cocky or he didn’t know how dangerous it was for him to sign it. Either way, he did seem pretty proud of himself and I have to say that it was pretty awesome. He then told us about how there was a child missing from the orphanage.

Zen and I decided to go make our way there, with Jack’s directions, and we found out that there was actually two children missing. One had been missing for a day and was out in one of the fields. The other had been playing out by the woods and they were named Frisk. Both children said that they were going to play at Khyber Pass. We made our way back to the tavern to find that Jack was still there. It was later in the afternoon, so I suggested that we could do a pub crawl. Of course, Zen was opposed to the idea, but so was everyone else. Jack then asked me why I’d want to do a pub crawl now when the Winter’s Crest Festival was going to be happening in three days.

I’m actually pretty excited for the festival, but I can’t help but think about everything my father said. I have so many questions now and I don’t have answers for anything at the moment. It’s frustrating, but I know it will come together in time. I just hope everything works out for the best in the end.

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Klara's Journal: Entry #7
Shadows And Disappearances

Cade and I continued to shove, splash, dunk, and chase each other in the lake, Zen finally came to the lake’s edge. Dogmeat and Beacon were splashing around in the water with the kids, while she started to tell us about what she found. Cade sent Dogmeat after her. They ran for a distance before Cade called him back and eventually Zen came back, not seeming too happy that we were acting like children when there was stuff we needed to do. A kid smacked another kid across the face with some seaweed and Cade followed their lead. He found a long piece and whipped it through the air, smacking Zen in the face with it. Oh, she was so pissed. She jumped into the water, dunked him, and held him there. I tried to get her off of him and I ended up slipping in the seaweed. After a little bit, she let go of him and got out of the lake. Cade, not really happy with her for trying to drown him, sent a sopping-wet Dogmeat after her once she laid down in the grass to dry to shake himself dry beside her.

After everything, she then stormed off, back into the town, and eventually I got out of the water. Cade stayed in a little longer, but as the kids started playing off around the woods, he got out as well. We stopped by his mother’s shop to ask her if she had any clothes for Cade to wear and then went to his mother’s house to change. As he went to his room to look for clothes, I ducked into a dark corner and quickly changed before going out back of the house to look for somewhere to hang my clothes. After putting them on the line, I went back and asked Cade for his wet clothes. The bedroom door opened a bit and he handed me the clothes before it shut again. I walked out back again as I heard Cade rush out of his room. He was already out the front door when I got back into the house. I closed the doors to the house and went out into the street to try to see where he ran off to. I found Zen before seeing Cade and he had his cloak that he left by the lake under his arm, admitting to us that he forgot about it.

Once we were all together again, we headed to the Trader’s Abby so Zen could buy some clothes. Neither Cade or I went in with her, but it didn’t take long for her to return with some new clothes. Actually, Cade looked really nice in the clothes that he found at his mother’s house. That blue shirt looked really good on him. I soon spotted where the church was in the town and ran in that direction, my companions following behind. There was a little graveyard beside the building and the doors to the chapel were open. I went inside as the others stayed back in the doorway. There were only two other people there, a woman praying quietly, seeming a bit distraught, in one of the pews and an old man lighting candles at the altar. Not wanting to disturb the woman, I went up to the altar, taking off my necklace and asked the man about it. He didn’t recognize the deity, but he believed that it was very old and most likely an heirloom. I thanked him for his time after asking a couple more questions and returned to my companions. I told them that I wanted to see if there was a magic shop in the town and they decided to come with me.

The store, The Elder Amulet, was a nice, little place that smelled of spices. For a magic shop in a small town, it was well stocked. I wasn’t even there for more than thirty seconds before I was greeted by the shop owner. I asked him if he could tell me about a few of our items as I took off my necklace and handed it to him. He started studying it while I pulled out the magical bowstring and longsword that we took off the Cart Dude’s cart that he left. Once he was finished with the necklace, he told me that it had a faint trace of magic around it, an old magic, but it wasn’t necessarily magical in itself. He then studied the bowstring while I put the necklace back on, and he started giving me odd looks. He explained that this item is magical, but it won’t be able to have the effect I’d expect it to have, and it was the same with the longsword. He went up to Cade with the sword and attempted to stab him, only for the sword to turn to rubber. He asked where we got these items and we told him. At least we knew they weren’t worth anything.

We then bought some things from him. I really wanted the bow he had, but it was way out of my price range. It sounded beautiful however and I hope that one day, I can afford it. I bought Bracers of Archery, a Decanter of Endless Water, a couple of healing potions from him, while Cade bought some Boots of Weather Resistance, and Zen bought a Book of Potion Learning. With that, we went back to Cade’s mother’s house to find that she had been making us supper and spent the evening with her. It was nice to get to know her and the town. Cade was pretty quiet throughout the night, but I think most of it was that he was stuffing his face during supper. Zen was pretty quiet as well but I think it probably was because she didn’t want to have to meet the blade of Mabel’s knife again.

After the sun had set, the sound of organ music filled the town. It was soft, on the wind, but you could hear it clearly. I was outside, playing with the dire wolves when it started and after a little bit, I brought them back in and asked Mabel if she knew anything about it. She said that it had just started recently and about every three days, someone goes missing.

The next morning, we got up to find that Mabel was already gone, but she left us some breakfast. Zen left the house before Cade and I finished our breakfast. When we left, she was making her way back to the house and told us that someone, a field worker, went missing last night and that a teen went missing earlier this week. The only thing they found of the teen was his arm and the only person in the town that knows anything about the Wick Estate is Mr. Emerson, the former owner of the Lakeside Inn.

We made our way to the inn and I walked up to the barkeep, a young man with sandy-blonde hair and brown eyes, who was honestly pretty cute. I asked if I could speak with Mr. Emerson, and he told me that I was already speaking with him. I asked him if he knew anything about the Wick Estate and he told me that he didn’t know anything, but his grandfather did and he pointed me over to an old man sitting in the corner of the room at one of the tables.

The Elder Mr. Emerson went into detail about the history of the Wick Estate. The Wick’s were the founders of the town, and it was said that they died because of a sickness, and the Wagner’s took over the town. Quit Wick, the former leader of the town, was a strict man but he did enjoy the finer things in life. He threw lavish balls and parties and he was known to play the organ. However, he found his daughter, Lorelai, kissing a servant boy and killed the two of them. When his wife protested against his actions, he killed her as well. He then started to kill townspeople out of spite before there was an uprising in the town and the townspeople stabbed him to death. Mr. Emerson also told us that there was some protection around the house, because they once tried burning it, but they were unable to do so.

After getting this information, we left the bar, but not before Zen told the barkeep that I had a crush on him, which caused the two of us to blush hard. I thought he was cute, but I didn’t want him to know that.

The Wick Estate was kind of eerie. I don’t think it would’ve been so bad if we hadn’t found out what happened there before and just went into it blind. However, Cade got the front doors open while I was talking with Mr. Emerson, so we didn’t have to deal with that. It would’ve been pretty back in it’s day, but it had been left to rot, so I couldn’t really tell what it was like in it’s prime. We made our way to an alcove and what looked like to be a ballroom. It was pitch black in there before Zen used her druid magic to light her hands with flame. It was a large, circular room with mirrors on the wall. I looked into one of them, realizing that I need to do something new with my hair, before I saw something move in the mirror. I moved a bit closer as something dark coalesced behind me and attacked.

I felt myself growing weaker with each blow it landed. This was very different from the other times. Instead of feeling the myself growing physically weaker with each hit, I grew tired. Talon felt heavier in my hands and I wasn’t sure how much longer I could continue on. Across the room, Cade dropped Hew before falling to the ground himself. Zen eventually dropped her staff too and transformed into an owlbear, slamming into the mirrors on the wall and actually broke the wall. I somehow managed to dispel one of the shadows before sunlight poured into the room. Dogmeat pulled Cade across the floor and into the sunlight as the two remaining shadows moved around the beam of light. His wounds weren’t too bad and, from what I could tell, he was alright. Kneeling down beside him, I touched the pendant of my necklace and did something I’ve never done before.

I prayed.

Zen and the dire wolves eventually made a large hole in the wall and Zen returned to her normal form, casting a spell that lit the entire room with light. I don’t think praying did anything. Dogmeat and Beacon dragged Cade out of the room as the shadows attacked them while Zen and I jumped out of the hole in the wall. Zen stumbled a bit on the landing, it was fairly easy for me, and we bolted towards the front of the house. Once I got to the front of the house, the wolves were there too and we were able to rest for a bit.

However, with our rest, Cade didn’t stir. Actually, that’s a bit of a lie. He did, but it was a shadow that emerged from him. At this, Zen and I jumped to action. Zen ran into the house while I dashed to the hole we made, climbing up. Once I was in, I ran over to Hew and put the axe in the Bag of Holding before going over to Zen’s staff. I could see her surrounded by shadows and I threw her staff to her, which she dropped. She already lost to much strength. I drew Talon and rushed towards them as Zen fell. I somehow managed to get rid of the two shadows, which caused Cade’s shadow to disappear, and I went over to Zen. I don’t know what was wrong with her but I didn’t really care. She was an idiot for running into the middle of them like that. I laid her staff across her body and picked up her feet as I dragged her back to the entrance of the house. Once I started to move her, she stirred, explaining that it was just a spell to make it look like she was dead but I had enough of her antics. I managed to get her to the main doors and we saw that Cade was up. He didn’t look too well, but he was alright.

We made our way to the Lakeside Inn where we got a table. Cade and I ordered a couple drinks and I don’t exactly remember what Zen said to me, but it pissed me off enough that I stood up and went to the bar. Cade came and sat down next to me and the young Mr. Emerson poured him another drink. Zen ended up leaving, but I didn’t pay attention to where she went. Cade stayed with me for a while before he went somewhere as well.

I spent most of my evening flirting with the young Mr. Emerson. He’s blonde and his looks reminded me a lot of Kalona. He wasn’t as dashing as Kalona, but he was sweet and kind. I didn’t think this would go anywhere, but it was nice to spend some time talking with him.

After a while, Zen came back into the Inn and sat down beside me at the bar. I moved a stool away from her and she proceeded to tell Mr. Emerson about what happened to Dominik and that the same thing would happen if he dated me. As she said this, I threw a fork at her, and he went into a back room. She rudely stated that I could do so much better than him, so I punched her. She fell to the floor laughing as I went off to a table in the corner. Cade, coming back in the nick of time, sat at the bar with a foot of his stool on Zen’s hair. I flagged down a waitress and asked if I could talk to Mr. Emerson and she showed me to the back room he was in. He seemed nervous at first, but I explained what happened, why Zen said what she did, and admitted that I like him. I’m not sure he understood, but before I really had the chance to ask him anything, there was the sound of a scuffle going on. I rushed out of the room to see Cade and Zen fighting and immediately told them to leave. Mr. Emerson followed me out and told us all to leave because we did enough damage there. After he kicked us out, he locked the door behind us and the other two went off in their own ways while I sat down in front of building.

I’m so tired of almost dying all the time. I’m tired of having Zen constantly barraging me with what I can and can’t do, constantly telling me how to live my life, and constantly acting like she understands me completely. I’m twenty years old, for crying out loud. If what happened to my mother never happened, I’d probably be married to some man somewhere, maybe starting a family, and running my own business. Instead I’m here, thinking about how lucky Nikolas is since he doesn’t have to deal with this crap. He probably has a normal life and it’s great. No danger whatsoever. Gods, I’d kill for that right now.

It was around 9:30 or 10:30 when I started walking back to Cade’s mom’s house. A couple of children caught my attention, they were trying to be sneaky but were failing miserably at doing so. I stopped and told them that they needed to get back home since it was dangerous for them. They nodded, but darted off. With a sigh, I followed them, not wanting either one of them to get hurt. As they went into a clearing, I noticed that only one of the children was leaving footprints and I immediately understood what was going on. They played for some time while I tried to come up with a plan to get them away from each other. Everything I thought of would hurt the innocent kid in this and I wasn’t willing to do so.

They darted towards a large tree and one child started to draw at doorway that glowed with purple energy. I did the only thing I could think of and I tried scaring the child away from the magical boy, but it only made them move closer to the boy. They stepped into the portal and as it closed, I fired an arrow at it out of frustration. Even in the dark, my aim was true and a piece fell to the ground as my arrow sunk into the tree. Cade somehow managed to find me and I asked him to look for the piece as I went back to town to get Zen. When the two of us made it back to the tree, Cade had found the piece. We decided to go back to town, but Cade, in his drunken state, started to open portals.

Long story short, chains shot out of the portal and wrapped around Cade, trying to pull him in. We managed to get him free, myself getting wrapped in a barbed chain in the process, but we made it back to town eventually. Cade and Zen went back to the house, but I went to tell the mayor of the town that a child went missing and tell him what I saw. It was about 2 or 3 in the morning when I arrived and I quickly told him what happened. He seemed really suspicious of me at first, but he soon began to understand. I told him that I would be at Mabel’s house if he needed me, but I needed to get some rest so I’d report back to him later in the morning as he readied himself to wake the town.

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Klara's Journal: Entry #6
Frostford

It really wasn’t time to think at the moment, it was time to act, and I had to get both Zen and Cade conscious so we could move on. I slapped Zen on the face a few times and she eventually opened her eyes and when she did so, I moved to Cade. Zen didn’t get up for a few moments, but she had just came back from the dead, so I figured that it would take her a little while to get her bearings. Cade, however, was proving difficult to wake. I tried the best I could to wake him gently, but I had to resort to shaking him to try to get him awake, which still didn’t work. Zen eventually got up and came over to us and swiftly kicked Cade in the ribs, and he woke looking extremely confused. That’s when we all heard an alarm go off. I quickly put the unconscious dwarf, who I finally realized was Gundren, on Beacon’s back as Cade snuck up to the door to see who was coming. I went over to Cade after I finished with Beacon and that’s when the goblinoid and a couple wolves blocked the doorway and Zen started to reason with it. I didn’t understand what she was saying for a while, but I think Cade and I could tell that she was arguing with the creature. Let’s just say that Zen was being Zen.

The creature offered his hand to Zen as he drew a dagger, and we could tell that she was refusing his deal. We started shouting at her that if he was going to let us live, then make the deal. She told us that she didn’t want to use his knife so Cade threw her his dagger. The goblinoid cut his hand with it and Zen then cleaned the blade, before cutting hers and they shook hands. The wolves and the goblinoid moved out of the way, allowing us to pass as we made our way out of the castle. About the time we get out of the castle, Gundren wakes and tells us that he no longer has the Map of Wave Echo Cave. I was too busy with Cade to search the room, so I asked Zen if she found it and I all I knew is that she was partially telling the truth. Cade pressed her more about the matter, and she eventually admitted to having the map. Gundren then told us that he’d pay us to take him back to Phandalin, and if we cleared the Black Spider out of Wave Echo Cave, he’d give us ten percent of the profits he gets from it. Zen quickly started to complain and I covered her mouth and said that we’d gladly do so. I was sold once I heard that we were going to get ten percent.

It took us a couple days to get back to Phandalin and I had a list of some things I wanted to do once we got back to the town. Cade and I talked to Sildar and Harbin for a bit after we brought Gundren back to Sildar and we told them of what we had accomplished while out near Thundertree. They both thanked us and paid us for their service. We left, hoping to see Zen since she didn’t want to see Sildar and wanted to stand out in the street instead, but we didn’t, so we headed to Elmar’s shop instead. Elmar was happy to see us and, even though he still had a bit of a cough, he said that he was starting to feel better. I was glad to hear that, because he seemed really sick the last time we saw him. I ended up buying a small, two-person tent, a couple more bedrolls, and a set of plain-looking clothes from him for various reasons. It was colder up in Frostford that it was in Neverwinter, especially at night, so I figured it would be nice to have some protection from the elements by having a tent and the bedrolls. I bought the clothes to change into when we got closer to Frostford because I wasn’t going to walk into that city looking like myself. Cade offered to cut my hair for me if I wanted it, and I told him that I’d consider it. I was willing to do anything to not look like myself.

We then went to the Lion Shield Coaster and bought Cade some studded, leather armor that was ridiculously overpriced, but I didn’t care. We had the money and Cade needed it. His safety was my main priority. Once we were done, there still was no sign of Zen, so we decided that it would be best if we waited for her at the tavern. I think we both heavily considered getting drinks, but it was still fairly early in the day and we still had a lot we needed to do, so I think we both silently decided against it. We just sat and enjoyed each other’s company for a while until Zen came bursting through the doors, already scolding us for drinking, before she realized that we weren’t even doing so.

She quickly tells us that Qelline had found her in the streets and told her that Carp was missing and she had found something that she wanted us to come look at. Zen then led us to a small field where Qelline last saw Carp playing with a young boy with golden eyes and black hair. Upon arrival, she showed us that there was only one set of footprints there before taking us into an old, halfway-collapsed building where she told us she could sense there was something magical about one of the walls that was still standing, or that some type of magic had been used here. Cade and I soon began inspecting the wall and I could sense it too. I didn’t know what had been used, but it was way beyond my power. Cade, surprisingly, seemed to recognize it and told us that there was most likely a portal here recently. Now that I think about it, Cade seems to know a lot about things that I wouldn’t expect him to. It’s pretty cool actually.

I wanted to save it for my own selfish reasons, or to possibly sell it, but I knew that Carp was more important than anything I wanted to do with the Sun Elf Statue that Cade and I found in Kraagma Castle. When I told Zen what it could do, she suggested that we state our question so we can get as many of our questions answered as possible. After a bit of discussion, I pulled the statue out of the Bag of Holding and rattled off our question. I still have it written down, so I’m just going to put it here so you can understand how long and convoluted it is. Where does the portal go and how do we access it and where is Carp and is he still alive and who is the magical boy and is the magical boy dangerous and where is Erwin Grayson and where is Cade’s father and who is Cade’s father and who is hunting Zen’s ears? Surprisingly, it was actually a valid question and the statue cracked open.

The answer, however, was a little daunting. The portal went to Menaras and Carp is there as well and he is alive. The magical boy isn’t a boy and he is dangerous. My father is on the road, near the sea, somewhere near Seacliff. Cade’s father is in Caster and a person named Bellamy is hunting Zen. None of us knew where Menaras was, nor did we know how to get there, but I do know about Seacliff and both Cade and I have heard of Caster, so at least that was a start. We decided to go tell Quileen about what we found before we made our way to Wave Echo Cave. She seemed thankful, but distraught as well. I wish there was more that we could do for her. We’ll keep looking for him, but I don’t know how long something like this will take.

It took a few days to get to the cave, but we arrived around nightfall so we decided to make camp for the night and tackle it tomorrow. Luckily, it was a quiet night but there were an awful lot of weird noises coming from the cave. I didn’t even want to know what was making them. When we entered the cave, we were surrounded by supplies, obviously for the miners that were once working here. There was also the body of a dead dwarf there, who looked to be a miner. I took a pickaxe and a shovel because I thought it might come in handy later on. As we made our way through the tunnels, which I was kind of surprised the dire wolves could even fit in, we soon realized that we were stuck in a maze. I don’t know how long we were in there, but it seemed like forever. We were so lost when we finally heard that something was following us. The fight was fairly brief, but it was definitely odd to fight a jelly, especially since it could split itself in two.

After killing it, we managed to make our way out of the maze and found ourselves at a door. Cade opened it, seeing a few figures inside, before closing it and opening it up again once we decided to just talk this one out. We really didn’t want to fight anything else at the moment. Turns out, it was the Black Spider who was in the room, with four of her giant spiders. Man, those things were freaky but she seemed to love them. The Black Spider’s name was Nezzera, and somehow, she told us that she didn’t have a problem with us. I willed myself to believe her as Zen started to haggle for her staff. She wasn’t willing to trade at the moment, but she did say that she’d give it to us if we’d help her clear out the spectator that was guarding the Forge of Spells. We figured that it was a good enough deal, especially since she said that she had more people to help us.

We left the room as she started to whisper to her spiders before catching up with us and calling out for her bodyguards. There was a male drow named Varrick, who I tried to make some small talk with but he stayed pretty quiet. I don’t know. There’s something about elves that I’ve figured out that I kind of like. Even when they’re evil, they are so pretty. Also, there were 3 more bugbears. They lead us to where the spectator was. Cade went in first and started talking to the spectator while Nezzera was trying to convince Zen that she had to sit this fight out because of the creature’s anti-magical properties. Zen, who seemed like she really wanted to fight, was trying to figure out a way to fight still and decided to try to shift out of the creature’s sight into an owlbear. With that, I stepped into the room with Beacon and knocked an arrow, getting ready for Cade to make his move.

I thought the spectator would be bigger, but it was about the size of a ball a group of children would kick around and chase down the streets of a town. It was kind of cute since it was trying to be so menacing. Surprisingly, our fight with it didn’t last very long and when it was over, I called out to the rest of them, who left us to fight the thing alone, to come into the room. After everything we’ve been through, I don’t think a single one of us were surprised when Varrick snuck up on me to attack. I know I was halfway expecting it after reading those letters from Nezzera at the Redbrand Hideout.

The fight seemed like it was lasting forever, I was horrible with Talon and I couldn’t land a single blow on Varrick. Beacon, however, was having a fantastic time biting him, then dodging his attacks as if Varrick was just playing with him. Zen and Dogmeat were trying to take out the bugbears and slowly but surely were wearing them down. I don’t know where Cade went, but at least Nezzera didn’t sick her spiders on us just yet. After Varrick and a couple of the bugbears fell, Nezzera was nowhere to be seen, but the spiders were finally coming after us. I dealt some damage to the ones that were after Zen and Cade, but I wasn’t able to fell the one coming after me before it attacked. It wasn’t really the bite that hurt me, but the venom. I remember waking up, but not being able to move as I could hear Zen talking near me and Beacon chasing something in the distance. It had been a while since I’d been like this since a similar thing happened when those ghouls attacked our camp, but at least at the moment, it seemed like the danger was past us for a moment.

A few moments later, I was able to move again after Zen finished her spell and we soon chased down Nezzera. She was invisible, but she wasn’t being the most quiet person in the world so she was fairly easy to find. She was trying to get a door open as Cade swung his axe at her, missing her and breaking down the door. She then shocked Cade and went into the room. Cade, who was pretty pissed, followed after her, but tripped the trap on the broken door and fell unconscious. Zen, out of her owlbear form, of course, went in after her and was met by an electric shock. I was able to get Cade up and we both entered the room with Beacon, who was pretty eager to play this game of ‘find the invisible person.’ Turns out, Beacon won the game. I was just thankful that it was all over with as Cade started to kick her dead body. I searched her, not even feeling bad about it. The fight had gotten so ridiculous that I was happy that she was dead.

At that time, we were so done with that place. We just wanted to leave, but we decided to go back to the room we originally met Nezzera and see what we could find there. I found a key on her body, so I figured that it could probably be used somewhere in the room. Cade, who decided to pull a couple emeralds out of the giant statue of a dwarf that was in the room, caused the ceiling to fall on both Zen and I, but it’s alright. We weren’t hurt too terribly and we got two emeralds out of the deal. I eventually found a locked door and tried the key in it. It opened to a small living quarters and there was a dwarf, tied up and unconscious. Turns out, he’s one of the brothers we were looking for and the other one we had already saw. He was the dead dwarf at the beginning of the cave. As we exited the cave, we picked up his body and headed back to Phandalin to take both of them to Gundren. They were happy to be reunited, but also upset at the cost of their brother’s life. We left them there, because we didn’t want to get in the way of their grieving and headed north towards Frostford.

I was excited, but with each step towards home, I grew more and more worried. I warned Cade and Zen that if they speak my name in Frostford, it will most likely mean the end for all of us. I knew my words were making them concerned. Cade seemed worried, I could see it on his face, but Zen grew skeptical. She started questioning me about what I did to make it so I had to hide my identity and I told them that I’d done nothing, but some may still believe that I was guilty for something I didn’t do. Also, I had a bad feeling that there are people in the town who would take me to Atlas and who knows what would happen if that happened. She then asked why I was so nervous about Atlas and I told her that I was fairly certain that he was the reason my mother and my little brother were dead. I told her that I had no evidence, but my gut told me that he was the one who did it after everything that happened between our families. I assured them that it would be alright as long as I kept my head down and didn’t attract attention to myself. I hoped that everything would work out.

I changed into the clothes I had bought from Elmar and threw on one of the cloaks from the Redbrands. I took my hair out of the braid it had been in and pulled it back into a bun before pulling the cloak’s hood down to shadow as much of my face as possible. I didn’t even want to be recognized on the road. A couple days into our travel, we heard the sound of hoofbeats coming up behind us and when the horseman passed us, Zen called out to him, causing him to stop and come back to us.

I’d say he was around 25 years old, human, with kind of scruffy beard, blue eyes, and short, green hair that peaked out from under his hood. As he stopped his horse in front of us, he greeted us with a top o’ the mornin’ to ya in a heavy accent and a light smile. From his appearance, I’d guess that he was an assassin. I was tense at first, but since I’ve never seen him before, I relaxed a bit and introduced myself. Cade and Zen did the same. His name was Jack and he was going to Chipenden, a town that wasn’t too far away from Frostford, for a job, but he lived in Caster. At the mention of the city, Cade asked if he knew of his father and Jack told him that he knew about him, but he didn’t really know him personally. After a little while, he told us he had to go, but if we were ever in Caster, we could find him at Wilford Warfstache’s Magical Emporium. We said our goodbyes and he then turned around and spurred his horse onwards. I noticed that Zen seemed pretty interested in him, which I kind of found to be odd. Some of the questions she asked him were pretty personal, but it kind of makes me believe that she has a little crush on him. I think it’s cute, but I’m not sure if that’s the truth.

The forest was growing more and more familiar as we got closer to Frostford and I grew more tense. We ended up meeting a traveling salesman on the road with a broken cart. He told us that his horse was spooked by something in the forest and ran off in the process, the wheel to his cart broke. Zen then went to work making him a new wheel and about an hour later, his chart was fixed, but he was still stranded. Cade wanted to buy a cloak from him and after a while of complaining back and forth, we gave him ten rations and a little bit of gold for the cloak. However, when Cade put the cloak on, he didn’t seem too thrilled with it. It was late and we decided to bed down for the night. I didn’t trust this guy, so I slept in a tree and so did Cade. The cart man slept under his cart and Zen slept on the ground as well.

When we got up in the morning, the cart man was nowhere to be found and Zen was spouting off about how he had stolen her money. Turns out, she had found more than just the Map of Wave Echo Cave that we didn’t even think of using while we were in the cave from Kraagma Castle, but some money and some healing potions as well. However, the guy did leave his cart full of magical items behind. We ended up taking a longsword and bowstring that we yet to find out what they do. There was also this rubber chicken wrapped up in a cloth and none of us wanted anything to do with it so we just left it there.

We were almost to Frostford when night fell. I knew the forest by this time and I knew that it would be about a half of a day’s worth of travel to make it to the city so we decided to make camp for the night. I told Cade and Zen that it would be best if we made a fire tonight and I decided that I would take second watch. I knew I wasn’t going to get much sleep anyway, so I didn’t mind being woken up in the middle of the night.

My shift was quiet for a while, but around midnight, I started to hear whispers in the woods that stopped for a moment when I stood up. A few seconds passed and they started up again. I went into the tent and woke Cade up and told him to listen before we woke Zen as well. By that time, we were outside and the whispers had grown and now there was a sound of a baby screaming and I froze. My heart ached and I couldn’t will myself to move as I could feel the tears stinging my eyes.

I couldn’t help but think of Reiner.

Cade stayed with me, but Zen went off by herself, saying that we needed to go help the child, but my mind was racing. Fear had a hold of me and I was second-guessing coming to Frostford. We were so close and the town was already forcing me to remember what happened. I wasn’t sure if I was strong enough to face this.

A few minutes later, Zen came back and asked for a copper piece, which I handed to her and she left again. When she returned, she told us that all was well and it was just a bunch of ravens. I went back into the tent to try to sleep and Cade took the last shift as the wolves started to howl in the distance. I didn’t sleep well after that, but I was rested enough when the morning came.

Stepping into town, I couldn’t help but crack a weak smile. I was home, but I was hurting. It looked just like I remembered it. I told Zen and Cade that they could go into any shops they wanted and that Beacon and I were just going to stroll around the streets for a while. Zen took the opportunity to go into the Fletcher’s shop, which set on the west side of the town’s square, right across from my family’s shop on the east. Cade said that he was going to stay with me, no matter what. I spent a few minutes standing outside my family’s old storefront as waves of emotions rolled over me. It was run down, but it was still standing and it didn’t look to be in horrible shape. The windows were dusty and it obviously hadn’t been touched since we closed it. I was happy to see that it was still there, but I couldn’t help feeling a bit of anger as well as sadness.

Cade, who went up to the fountain came back to me and went up and tried to look into one of the windows, which caught the attention of one of the townspeople. Cade spent a little time talking with them. I think they thought he was going to try to break in or something. After the man left, I looked around for some kids playing in the streets. I wanted to ask a question, but I didn’t want to risk being recognized so I figured that asking a child would be a better option than asking an adult. As I made my way towards a group of children playing, a little boy ran into me. I told him I was an adventurer and that I was wondering where Baron Waicox was around this time of day. The boy wasn’t sure but he told me that he was usually at the Town Hall at this time. I thanked him and he scurried off. Cade gave me an odd look and then told me about the cloak he picked up from the cart guy. I guess it talks to him and while it protects him against weather, it complains about the weather as well. About that time, Zen returned to us and told us that she got a recommendation for a tavern we could stay in for the night. I told her that we didn’t need it, because we were staying at my house for the night.

I wanted to walk down the streets a little bit, to at least see the Waicox estate, when I saw someone I didn’t really want to see. I tried to keep my cool as she started talking with Zen and Cade but I was shaking with my fear and my anger. I ducked my head down lower as I tried to slow my racing mind. I didn’t even register what they were talking about; I was too consumed in my own thoughts. Part of me wanted to kill her right then and part of me wanted to run as fast as I could away from her. I’m not sure if she noticed me, or even recognized that it was me, but I hoped she didn’t. Gods, my heart felt like I was going to beat out of my chest. My stomach was twisting. After all these years, I was still trying to avoid Orla Fletcher.

After she walked away, I darted off between a couple of buildings and began to retch. Cade soon was at my side and held the hood of my cloak back as I threw up a bit. The emotional stress was getting to me. I needed to calm down a bit and seeing Orla did not help me at all. It just made me even more tense.

We made our way to the edge of town, where we could see the Waicox Estate from the road. It was exactly like I remembered it. I didn’t dare get closer, not after the run-in with Orla, so I went to the shipyard instead. I used to know the man who ran the shipyard before I left Frostford. He was a halfling man, by the name of Levi Jaeger, with short black hair and grey eyes and he was kind to me when I was younger. I didn’t know for sure if I could trust him, but out of everyone in this town, he was one of the few who I felt comfortable showing my face to. When we first walked into the yard, I didn’t see any signs of him, but Zen managed to find the man who was second-in-command. His name was Marco and after Zen talked to him for a while, I asked him if Levi was here and he told me he was in his office. I turned and left, Cade following me closely, as I went to the office and knocked on the door. There was a come in from the inside of the room and I stepped in. Cade closed the door behind us and I noticed that there were a few windows in this office. I said his name as I dropped my hood for a moment as I saw the flash of recognition spread across his face. I put my hood back up as he asked me if I was planning on staying here. He was a stoic man, but I thought it could see a little bit of relief in his eyes when I said that I was going to be gone in the morning.

He answered all my questions easily. He told me that Baron Waicox has been well, but he’s been disappearing for a few hours every so often and no one knows where he goes during that time. He said that Calla, the Baron’s wife, is still a bitch as always. My family doesn’t get spoken about as much anymore, but there are still whispers every so often about what happened and that there are still people in the city that believe my family is guilty for what happened. He then told me that slowly, more and more people are following Atlas and that his business has grown immensely since I’ve been gone. He also said that there’s this man called the Inquisitor, who takes people from the jail here to his jail, and that he’s pretty much a bitch for the king. As he’s telling me all of this, I can’t help but think that in my time gone, nothing has really changed. I was a bit disappointed to hear it.

After our conversation wrapped up, he told me to stay safe out there and that our old deal of me having a free ship ride still stands. I thanked him for his time and information as we left his office and met up with Zen again before heading to my house. Cade asked me why I sounded so disappointed when I was talking to Levi and I lied and said that I wasn’t. I don’t think he believed me but he didn’t press the issue further. We stopped by the Apothecary to sell a couple things before going to my house.

It felt good to be out of the city and away from the stress and the worry of people recognizing me. My house was pretty far away from Frostford proper compared to the other estates in the town and it was surrounded by forest. The path to my house was a bit overgrown, but I wouldn’t expect anything less. As we finally reached it, I told them that they could make their way in and I needed some time alone. I went around to the back of the house two see the two graves sitting by the edge of the woods. I dropped to my knees in front of my mother’s headstone and leaned against it, whispering to her that I was home. I shut my eyes as I felt the tears stinging my eyes and I heard Cade coming up behind me. He asked if he could unlock the door and once I gave him an answer, he told me he’d leave me alone.

A few moments later, he shouted to me that there was food in the pantry and another time, he shouted to me that the window opened smoothly for a house that wasn’t lived in, and finally, he asked if he could light a fire in the fireplace. With a sigh, I wiped my tears and went into the house to see that the kitchen wasn’t covered in dust like I thought it would be. Cade had his cloak off and it was laying near the fireplace. He kept shooting it dirty looks. Zen was still outside, I guess. He looked at me, his eyes filled with his concern as I moved past him. I went into my father’s study, the place looking fairly clean as well and I went to the chests, looking for anything he could’ve left. The first chest I opened had a smaller chest within it as well as papers about our business. I closed the chest and went over to the next one, feeling a bit more relaxed but more heartbroken seeing my father’s handwriting for the first time in years. The next one was more of the same, but when I got to the bottom of it, something wasn’t right. The chest should have been much deeper than what it actually was. I took all the papers out and set them to the side before knocking the chest over. The ‘bottom’ fell out and exposed a few more papers. These were much different from the rest.

There were multiple letters, more like notes, from my father that detail how the town started to distance itself from our family’s business, how he started to grow suspicious of them, and how Atlas started making advancements towards my mother, how she turned him down and immediately told my father what happened. I couldn’t bring myself to read it, but he also wrote about what he found when we came back from our hunting trip. There was also a blood-covered letter that said, No one will believe you and if you try to tell anyone, your other children are next. Finally, there was a letter where he said that he plans to leave to try to find someone to tell him how Atlas managed to do all of this. It also says how he doesn’t want to leave, but he knew that it would be safer for my brother and I if he did. He also says that he wants to get revenge if he can.

Reading all of this, it confirmed my fears and tears were streaming down my face. I was right all along. I finally had some evidence to prove it too.

I put the letters in my bag before putting the chest back together and placing the business records back in them. I only had his desk to look through now and there was nothing out of the ordinary until I got to the final drawer. It was locked. Cade, who came in, asking if he could have a book that he hasn’t read since he was a child, unlocked it for me. Within the drawer, there was a small family chest. I hadn’t seen it in a while, but it was just like I remember it. It was fairly simple, with a stag head in the middle, an arrow on either side of it, and a banner that said Grayson under it, but I couldn’t help but smile when I saw it. I set it to the side to put in my bag later when I saw there was a letter for me and one for Nikolas as well. I didn’t open mine right away but I then found the money he left for us. It had to be the last of the wealth we had. I couldn’t believe that he’d leave it to us. It wasn’t a vast sum, but it was the most money I’d seen in a long time. I went back to the chest with the smaller chest in it and found a bag of gems. I took it all, knowing that it wasn’t helping anyone here and I knew I could put it to good use. I went to my room and grabbed my winter cloak out of my trunk at the foot of my bed before looking at my brother’s room. It hadn’t been touched since the day he left.

It was an odd feeling being back. At the moment, I couldn’t describe it and I think that made me seem like I wasn’t happy to be back to my companions. I was happy, but I couldn’t help but think back to what happened all those years before. I went back to the kitchen, to see both Cade and Zen there. Zen was eating something from the pantry and started asking me why there was food here and why it was so clean. I told her that I didn’t know and that’s when Cade started asking me why I looked so disappointed to be here and why I was so upset. So I told him. I told him what happened here, why I left Frostford, and why I hadn’t been back. I don’t think Zen understood, but Cade seemed to get it and he held me close as the tears started to roll down my face once again.

We then spent the evening in the house, making some dinner before retiring to bed. I don’t know which rooms they went into, because I went to my parent’s room quickly and closed the door. The first thing I saw was my brother’s crib and the discoloration on the wall behind it. I knew it was from blood. I averted my gaze quickly as I looked at the nightstands on either side of the bed. My father’s didn’t have anything, but my mother’s had a necklace. It was simple, but the pendant was the face of a man made of oak leaves. It was curious to say the least, but I put it on quickly before pulling out the letter my father wrote to me. I read it carefully and I started to tear up again. He made it seem like I was going to be angry with him since he left and he was so apologetic for it. It hurt to read it. I wasn’t angry at him. I had never been angry at him. I just wished that he would’ve taken me with him, or at least tell me that he was leaving instead of letting me find out by waking up to an empty house one morning. I was sobbing when I heard the door open and Cade asked if he could come in.

After I told him he could, putting the letter away as I did so, he entered the room and closed the door, his eyes falling on the crib for a moment before he came over to the bed and climbed in. He put his arms around me as I rested my head on his chest, trying to calm my racing mind. He told me that it was alright and that he was here for me. He told me I was like a sister to him, the sister that he never had, and that he was going to be here for me. It made me feel a little better as I listened to his heart beat in his chest. He fell asleep before I did, but with the stillness in the room, I eventually was able to sleep as well.

The door opened to my parent’s room and the next thing I knew, Cade was pulled out of the bed and dragged out of the room. I woke up with a shot and followed him, seeing that Zen had a hold of him. Zen then opened the front door and threw Cade outside before Zen was also kicked out of the house and I couldn’t believe my eyes. The front doors slammed shut and locked with a click as the whitish-blue, slightly-transparent, figure of a woman turned to face me. She looked just like I remembered her. She placed her hand gently on my cheek and I was surprised to find that I could actually feel her touch. I threw my arms around her as I began to cry again.

I never thought I’d be able to see my mother again.

We held each other for a few moments before I started telling her some of the things we had done and telling her about Cade and Zen. Cade was looking in the window at the time, trying to see what was going on and my mother closed the curtains on him, causing him to have to go to the other window. I asked her if anyone else had been back and she told me that I was the only one who returned, but that Hibernius Waicox had been coming every so often to restock the pantry and clean the house for a few hours before leaving again. It know made sense with what Levi had told me. I couldn’t believe he would do that for us, however, after everything. Had he been doing so ever since I left? I didn’t want to ask but I asked her why she was here, in this form, and she told me it’s because she wants revenge for what happened to her.

She told me that it was the night my father, my brother, and I left for our hunting trip, and we had only been gone a few hours when a lizard creature, sent by Atlas Fletcher, had attacked her in her room. She tried to protect Reiner and after a bit of a scuffle, the creature said, Man, I hate sacrifices, before she was killed. I asked her why this happened and she wasn’t very direct with me. She told me that Atlas wanted something of her and she refused to give it to him. I then asked about the necklace I had found on her nightstand and she said that it was of Obad-Hai. She then explained to me that we are the descendants of the paladin, Syrref, of Obad-Hai and that he killed the god, Asmodeus. After a little while longer, she told me that she had to go, so I gave her one final hug before she disappeared before me.

I let my companions back in and went back to bed, feeling a bit more content after seeing my mother, but it brought up more questions in my mind than answers.

The next morning, we set out for Laketown and it took a couple days to get there. With the growing distance from Frostford, I grew a bit more comfortable and I felt a little more like myself. Being back was odd to say the least. To answer Cade’s earlier question more accurately, I was disappointed from my visit to the town, but not in the way I believe he thought I was. I was disappointed to see that the town hadn’t changed much since I left. I was gone, but it continued on without me. People were still suspicious of my family, some people still believed in us, and the Fletcher’s were still up to their old tricks. Nothing really had changed and it was disappointing to see. With that said, I was happy to be home. It gave me some closure on what happened in the past and it’s given me more information and some leads what to do next. There’s so much that I personally have to figure out and I hope to be able to do so in time. I know it won’t be today, or even tomorrow, or even a month from now, but I hope that in time, I’ll be able to understand what this all means.

Laketown is a quiet, little town. It’s a lot different than Frostford, but it’s quaint. We reunited Cade with his mother, Mabel, who owns the bakery in the town. She’s actually pretty awesome. Zen, of course, ticked her off by putting her finger into one of the cake’s frosting and they fought. It wasn’t much a fight because after a quick stab to the back, Zen was kicked out of the shop. I told Cade that I loved his mother and I finally got the chance to properly introduce myself to her. She was nice to me and I took the chance and asked her if she knew anything about my father. She told me no at first, but Cade nudged her and whispered something to her, and then she changed her story. She told me that she knew him, and that he comes around once a month and he should be back in a week.

I was so thankful for the information, but I didn’t really get the chance to thank her properly because I saw Beacon running after a group of kids in the streets and I raced out of the shop to make sure he wasn’t going to hurt any of them. The kids ran to the lake and got in, Beacon standing at the edge of the water when I finally caught up to him. I told him we needed to get back to town and he looked a bit sad, lowering his head a bit. Reluctantly, I told him to go play with the kids and he eagerly jumped into the lake. I watched them play for a while before I was pushed into the lake as well. I turned and looked to see Cade standing where I had been with a smile on his lips. I smirked, and splashed him back. He laughed, took off his cloak, and jumped in with me. I hadn’t had that much fun in a long time.

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