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The Christmas Ball

Ahhh…what can one say about the annual Yule Ball? A fine tradition by any reckoning, and ours had been weeks in the planning, but here’s the thing, and a topic I suspect we’ll be wrestling with for years to come.

The sorry truth of it is that Kumala is an unforgiving bitch of a Mother. She’s a hard, brutal land, and as such, the fairer sex tend to shy away from her, preferring to keep their lands in climes that take less effort to wrestle to the ground and bend to their will. For this reason, our Balls were always something of a tense, lonesome affair.

Sure, there are no shortage of fair maids from the local townships, and these very definitely get invited, but nothing glitters in the night quite like a highborn Lady wearing her very finest, jewels glittering and hair dressed as she takes a turn around the dance floor…these are the Angels of the Evening, and the competition for their attention is fierce indeed, even to the point of death, though this is rare.

Still, it’s truer than true that not a Ball comes and goes without things coming to blows or blades at some point in the evening, with first blood generally (but as I say, not always) deciding the matter.

This year was…different. Different in ways I struggle to define, and I’m not talking about the new additions to my face.

We had come through, you know? In many ways, there was a sense of…not merely survival, but of arrival.

We’d had our first diplomatic crisis, and it didn’t blow up in our faces or kill us, and it could have. We all understood that it could have.

So there was that, but it wasn’t just that. There was also a sense of taming this Great Beast of a land, and in that, enormous strides had been made.

The Devil’s Road, once a deadly shortcut taken at one’s own risk, was now more like the Devil’s Highway, with paved lanes and heavy traffic (a fairly even mix of foot, wagon, and horse), and the jungle was beaten and cut and burnt back on a constant basis to keep it from encroaching too heavily on our civilized areas.

At last survey, there were in the neighborhood of sixty cities on Devil’s Island, and more than half belonged to members of our proud Alliance. Nearly 90% belonged to us, or members of our extended alliance family, so there was much to be proud of by way of accomplishments so far.

Even better, with less than twenty members, and only three quarters of a million people under our banner, we had managed to scrape and claw our way from 101st place on the King’s Roster of Noble Houses to 53rd, and in a very short time, at that.

Our rise was nothing short of meteoric, and we had just (for the first time ever) taken our place as the highest ranked of the three alliances in our alliance family (consisting of [REALM], [STEEL], and [FORGE]). These were good things. These were big, important milestones for us, and the future was bright indeed.

This was the spirit that so infused the Christmas Ball.

That sense of momentum.

Of purpose.

Of not merely waiting for Fate to hand down this or that decree about our futures, but rather, boldly striding out to meet it. To work it with our hands, wrestle it to the ground if needs be, and truly make it our own.

We were the little alliance that could, and there was a bounce in our collective step because of it.

The Ball was all glitter and light, and although it was not cold, I had my Court Mages summon snow as we gathered around our Christmas tree in the courtyard of the Main Hall.

It lasted about an hour, then melted away…claimed by the thirsty Goddess, Kumala, and when it did, we retired inside for an evening of dancing and feasting and song.

Lonsome Christmas Tree

A beautiful, glorious night, and we all danced the tribal dance (fittingly enough, simply called ‘Come Kumala’), and our Angels of the Ball were gracious and took the time to dance with each of the men of the Court.

Kleodora even complimented me on my tattoos, putting me at ease about them and telling me they made me look savage and roguish, and that she very much approved.

After blushing an even deeper shade of scarlet than the ink on my face, I murmured my thanks, and she spun off to dance with another.

I caught sight of an intoxicated Velociryx…our HighLord, dancing atop one of the feasting tables late in the evening after our meals had been long cleared.

Shirtless, I could plainly see the ropy scars that seemed to grasp toward his heart, thought about Kumala and her Heart, even as we danced the dance called ‘Come Kumala,’ and wondered for the thousandth time at what power this land…this fierce goddess had over us, and what she ultimately had in store for us.

But mostly, I lost myself in the moment and danced with our assembled host.

There was life here, and love and family.

There was purpose here, and the land itself seemed to be calling out to all of us, both to whisper in our ears about the trials and dangers ahead, and also, to embrace us.

To welcome us home.

Come Kumala, it seemed to whisper.


And we did.


Escape Attempt 2.0

The world was all hazy light and noise and confusion.

I did not know where I was, but I surely wished that the screaming would stop.

It took me the span of several heartbeats to realize that this, at least, was (or should have been) under my control, as the screaming was issuing from my tortured throat. Still, even knowing this fact and consciously trying to quiet my own ragged voice accomplished nothing at all.

It hurt…Gods but it hurt, and my body seemed to have a mind of its own.

It wanted to scream, and scream it did.

There were other sounds besides.

Voices, though I couldn’t make sense of the words at the time.

“Hold him…hold him! Ahhhh Christ, cut it! No no, that one! ”

“I’ve got him…I’ve…arrrrrgh!”

“Here comes another swarm…make ready!”



Several Days Earlier

I told you I was going to try to leave this place, and I’m an Elf of my word, although I confess that I am conflicted by that decision.

On the one hand, it’s not hard to fall in love with this place. With the harsh and unforgiving nature of the land. With the fact that you can never quite let your guard down, or Kumala herself is likely to rise up and try to kill you, and then of course, there’s the place’s natural beauty.

Such beauty as you northern folk simply have no words for, and could never imagine.

It’s awe inspiring, it truly is.

Then of course, there’s the Christmas Ball to consider. I’m excited about that and want to attend.

On the other hand, I cannot shake the feeling that the land is cursed, and by extension, any who dwell here are also cursed.

A beautiful prison is still, at the end of its day, a prison, and I wanted out of my cage and off the island.

I wanted that badly enough to risk life and limb to attempt it.


Knowing full well what had happened the last time I’d tried (the finally tally where the shipwreck was concerned was 86 dead, by the way).

I informed my HighLord of my intentions and told him that if I made it off the island, I’d appoint a second here, and rule in absentia, and he was fine with that. I think he was curious too, though I suppose he could have been humoring me. There was something in his eyes, however, that said maybe he felt vaguely trapped also. Most curious, but of course, I did not ask him about it.

In any case, he offered to see me to the coast, expecting, I think that it would just be the two of us, but his Court was as loyal as they were protective, and those who were in the Council Chamber when I made my announcement (the Orc Prince ‘Waz,’ Lady Kleodora, Machete, and the Finn) all agreed that it was much too dangerous to go as a pair, and volunteered to accompany us.

So it was that we all set out, striking a path that led northward and east from Cerilon to the Hermitage, from there to Argenia, and thence to the small but quite serviceable port at Vestford (Velocirix finally having acquired a proper port situated toward the mainland).

The only part of the journey that was expected to be even passingly dangerous was the last leg from Argenia to Vestford, because a proper road had not yet been constructed to connect the two, but by now, we were all old hands at this. We all knew Kumala well and felt that she had few (if any) surprises left in her.

How mistaken we were!

Nonetheless, this is the mindset each of us had as we left the great city of our HighLord and rode northward, and the weather was fine indeed!

Only in the mid 80′s and the humidity was tolerable. Not a cloud in the sky, when we could see the sky, of course…a simply stunning day, and our spirits were high.

They were high on the second day as well.

And the third, when we reached the Hermitage.

They continued to be high, and the weather strangely held until we reached Argenia.


(OOC: Picture is on the approach to Vestford, which can JUST be seen peeking thru the growth)

It even held a while longer than that, letting us get about halfway to Vestford before She (meaning here, Kumala herself) turned on us.

Passing near to a low, weathered mountain called Coral (both because it appears to be made of coral, and because the trees around it are heavily infested with a kind of snake bearing that same name), the snakes began to….well, to be honest, at first it was hard to say what they were doing.

Attacking us, was my first thought, and there were thousands of them.

They wriggled and writhed and slithered out of the densest part of the jungle and made straight for us.

Of course, I think subconsciously we had all been expecting something (and at least in my particular case, there was nothing subconscious about it–I was convinced that our luck would not hold…that the island would actively try to prevent us from leaving), and now, here it was.

Snakes by the thousand, pouring out of the thickest growth and making for us.

We all drew steel and lit fires, but here’s the thing: When dealing with thousands of individuals in a swarm, these implements are nigh on useless. Something is bound to get through whatever defense you can erect, and so it was here.

What was both puzzling and troubling though, was that the snakes did not seem to care about us either way.

They were…

Oh Gods they were fleeing.

Running away from something worse, which meant…

I shouted for my companions and turned to face the direction that the snakes were coming from full on, straining to see what might be coming through all that impossibly dense growth but it was just no good, there was….


Yes, there on the left! I could have sworn I saw….

That’s when the vine hit me like a bullwhip.

“Melders!” Someone screamed, and that seemed as good an explanation as any.

Some form of elemental earth magic was animating the vines, and not just any vine…oh no.

Whatever force was behind this was specifically animating Devil’s Vine.

A tendril as thick as my thumb wrapped itself around my throat and began pulling tight even as I thought this, and I could see that it was fairly bleeding its cursed sap…

That’s when the pain hit.

More vines encircled my legs and the knees and pulled me to the ground.

“Help!” I cried…”I need he…” My words were choked off as another vine forced its way into my mouth.

I felt spores bursting and knew I was done for.


Then, after a time, that hazy, confused light I mentioned before.

Screams and desperate shouts and voices before the blackness claimed me again.

Stormbind, of course.

It had to be.


I dreamt, and in my dream, the Heart of Corruption spoke to me.

Told me that I had been marked. Branded by the land itself, and I was to wear the mark with pride.

That I would wake from my sleep soon, and would know pain for the rest of my days. It would serve as a reminder that I belonged here now. To Kumala.

That’s when I realized that Kumala was not land…or rather, was not merely land, but a part of something else. Some great beast that we could not completely see, and could only comprehend as…this.

This place.

And if that were true (if my fevered dream/vision could be trusted in the least), then maybe the Heart of Corruption was an actual organ of sorts. Maybe it was really…literally the beating heart of Kumala, and as such, perhaps it wasn’t corrupt in the least, at least not from her point of view. True, maybe it “corrupted” the land we lived on, but if the land was merely a metaphor for some larger, greater entity, then the corruption was just a shadow of the metaphor. Not real.

I understood then.

Had a moment of perfect, blissful clarity about what Kumala was, why we could not leave (and shouldn’t want to), what the Melders actually were, and why they were so dreadfully important to us all, and I knew that when I awoke, the clarity would be gone and I’d be just as confused about it all as I had been before the dream.

Just as in the dark.

One thing I did know, however, and knew that I’d remember later, was the Devil’s Vine. When the Heart of Corruption began spreading, that’s how it did it. It “took control of” Devil’s Vine and made it grow even faster than the stuff did naturally. The two were…linked somehow. I knew that, even if I might be a bit hazy on the particulars. Still, that was important, wasn’t it?

I thought so.

I still do.


True to her (Kumala’s) word, I hurt everywhere when I awoke.

So did the others, but of all of us, I had gotten received the worst treatment at the hands of the animated Devil’s Vine (the Heart of Corruption, I told myself).

Anywhere the vines had touched, they burned, and anywhere they burned, they left a scar.

The scars stood out starkly on my pale Elven skin, and I looked rather like a monster.

I’ve never been an especially vain sort, but why did it have to be my face?!

I was dismayed, but Waz came to my rescue, and pulled me out of my sorrow.

He said it would hurt some, but only briefly, and when he was done, I’d bear my new scars proudly.

I asked him what he meant and he explained.

When he did, I agreed, and that is how I (an Elf) came to have tattoos of Orcish design on my face.

They cover the scars, and I bear them (thank you, Waz!) and the marks of Kumala with pride now, as I shall for the rest of my days.

The healers of the HighLord tell me that I’ll be able to get out of bed in another day or two, and that is good.

The angry redness will have gone out of skin around my new tattoos, and I should present quite a striking picture at the Christmas Ball.

Maybe Kleo and Sidhe will dance with me.

I think I’d rather enjoy that.

Dancing with Angels.

For now then, I will get these words into the hands of those that can get them to you, and rest.

Know this: Having tried once more to leave, and having been marked for my efforts, I’m convinced.

I have forgotten most of what came to me in my fevered dream, but not all, and I will not try to leave this land again.

A storm’s coming, and we must, each of us, decide how we’ll react when it arrives.

What we’ll do.

As for me…I’m staying right here.

Right where I belong.

The  Blind Scribe


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Big Trouble on Little Imp Island

There was a current of fear and uncertainty in the Halls of the HighLord.

A gauntlet had been thrown down, and it threatened to derail all that we had worked for to this point.

A silly thing, really, but it’s amazing how sometimes the silliest little things can have consequences that echo through the ages.

So it was with the settlement on Imp Island.

Imp Isle Map

Imp Island is a less-than-impressive spit of land. A mere speck off the coast of the main island, but blessed with year round good weather, being sheltered from nearly all storms by the protection offered by Thunder Bay (which, I assume, is named as it is to be a joke – like calling a towering giant ‘Tiny,’ because I’ve never seen more than the occasional light rain fall across Thunder Bay).

In any case, the trouble started when Bezi the Dwarf sought to expand his holdings, and cast his eye toward the tiny, sheltered island.

“Fine.” The HighLord told him with barely a thought.

No Lord in all of Illyriad had laid a sovereign claim to the island, and as far as we were concerned, it was ripe for the taking if we wanted it.

So it was that settlers were sent, and industrious Dwarven craftsmen began unloading and duly building a new settlement there.

A representative of Lord Poeme, speaking from the city of Kryptonopolis disagreed, and petitioned to his HighLord (ruler of a vast collection of far flung city states with many, many times our scant population and manpower), and made an issue of it.

Per their charter, he claimed the land belonged rightfully to him (informal 10-tile Illy convention), and he expressed his desire to eventually build a settlement there himself.

War was actually threatened over this tiny speck of green in an otherwise sparkling blue bay, and let us be frank about the matter, this was a contest we could not win, a fact we knew full well, which was the reason for the aforementioned current of tension and fear.

“They say war will come if we don’t remove the settlement.” Timrath told the assembled Council. “I should say that’s fairly unequivocal.”

“Agreed.” Velociryx said with his hands on his head. “Not much wiggle room there.”

He blew out a frustrated breath. “We can’t just cave though, you know? What kind of signal would that send?”

“Well,” Timrath offered, “We could still force the issue then…if they want it gone that badly, let them take it. We can’t expect that anybody would come to our aid, and we would surely lose the contest, but they would not erase us for that one little island, and it would give them a diplomatic black eye to the rest of the world.”

And that was likely true…a Titan picking on a small child. Still…how much pain could we endure if we chose that path? We were as yet still young and fragile. Too much pressure applied could shatter us completely. A frightening thought.

“What if we offer to sell the settlement? Then, everybody has a graceful exit, right? We get to claim we weren’t chased off, and they get what they want.”

“I already approached them with that.” Machete said, slamming a massive fist onto the oaken table. “They said since it was rightfully theirs, any offer to sell it to them amounted to extortion.”

“Not really…we’re offering to sell them the labor that went into creating the village…not the land, and they had nothing to do with the labor.”

“They disagree.”

“Well then, what can I say but that some people have a funny way of looking at the world, you know? Okay…selling it’s off the table. Other options?”

No one spoke.

“Come on, People! We either cower before them and do as they demand, or make them take it from us and get a bloody nose–in the very best case– for it. It falls to us to figure out a way to handle this…preferably one that doesn’t involve thousands of deaths over what should be an insignificant speck of land.”

Something about that statement did it. Like pulling a lever, suddenly everyone had something to say, and the debate raged long into the night, and into the next day…


In the end, what was settled on was an idea brought to the table by two of the fairer folk among us…working with heads together and speaking in low whispers, Sidhe and Kleodora drafted the beginnings of the plan we ultimately used.

“What if we agree to remove the settlement but make an amendment to our Charter, holding their alliance–and only their alliance–to the same territorial standard as they hold the rest of the world, and to the rest of the world, we’ll continue to use our, “claim sov or you don’t own it” paradigm?”

Several sets of eyes poured over maps of the region. “Well…if Lord Poeme’s HighLord will go for it, then Poeme’s own expansion plans would have to be shelved…if he has a valid claim on it, then so do our cities of Bounty and Dented…conflicting claims cancel and it’s a no man’s land.”

The question was…would they accept those terms.

No one wanted to pick the messenger to ride to the city of Kryptonopolis to find out, because no one wanted to (potentially) sign the poor man’s death warrant.

Ultimately, Velociryx sent one of his own riders with the proposed settlement, and every Lord in the Council Chamber waited on pins and needles to hear back.

Velociryx gave everyone apartments in the Main Hall to accomodate them for an extended stay, as no one was interested in leaving before understanding what would become of us.

In six days time, we had our answer, when the messenger burst back into the Hall, alive and well and waving a scroll case in his upraised right hand. “They said yes! I have the agreement in writing here!”

“So, crisis averted then? They agree to abide by the same restrictions they’re holding us to?”

“Indeed so! I have a signed charter from their HighLord himself, stating as much!”

The whole room breathed a sigh of relief, and the current that had kept everyone keyed up for days on end, died as quickly as it had been generated.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was as big a win as could be expected under the circumstances, and certainly better than many of the alternatives we had been dreading, and it earned Ladies Kleodora and Sidhe a standing ovation, and the two beauties, already with no shortage of admirers, got several invitations to the upcoming Christmas Ball on the spot.

As for me, as soon as I had filed the new treaty away and made the appropriate changes to our Charter, I cornered our HighLord to get his read on things.

“I wish we could have kept the settlement.” He told me plainly. “It’s not that this is a bad deal, because it isn’t, and it’s a lot better than we could have been facing if the answer had gone some other direction, but long term, this is going to come up again…it closes off too much of Devil’s Island…turns too much of it into an outright dead zone. Eventually, we’ll have to address that.”

“Eventually.” I told him. “As in…not right now….as in, not before the Christmas Ball.”

He smiled at that and nodded. “Quite so. Definitely not before the Christmas Ball, and in truth, this agreement can see us through for quite some time, but the day will come when we’ll need to circle back to this….just understand that it’s out there…somewhere on the horizon.”

“Understood.” I told him, glad that he was pleased, and grateful that with this event behind us, attention could now turn toward planning this year’s Christmas Ball.

With so many trials and tribulations faced so far, spirits were flagging. Indeed, Calimba sat like an open sore and took all the joy from the Feast of Thanksgiving, but now…with something we could call a diplomatic win under our belts, and with Calimba slowly recovering from her many wounds, the Christmas Ball was suddenly looking fine indeed.


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So yesterday I was in my city of Hidden Vale.

Just spending time with the local administrator and overseeing this particular corner of my vastly expanded holdings, and it’s an odd thing, you know? Having holdings at all, much less vastly expanded ones. Most curious, that.

Anyway, while there, the Lord-Mayor of the city told me that I really MUST spend time with two of the more colorful characters who inhabit his fair city, a couple of Swampers called Tal and Ezarn.

Swampers aren’t generally “my kind” of people.

I’m more at home in great libraries and universities than I am in rickety, shallow-bottomed boats with a pair of bearded, nearly toothless men who look and smell as though they’ve never actually met a hot bath in scented water.

Nonetheless, the journey that originally brought me here was one grounded in a sense of adventure, and I spent the early part of my time here blazing trails through sections of jungle choked with Devil’s Vine, and worse, so my body remembered, even if my mind rebelled and recoiled slightly.

It was in that remembered spirit of adventure that I said yes to the Lord-Mayor’s proposal though, and I’m glad I did!

The two men, Tal and Ezarn had grown up in the swamps not far from what was now the thriving city of Hidden Vale, and insisted that they knew the best fishin’ hole in the area.

Wanting to show off to their Lord and Master, they guided me through two days of hiking through hellish terrain (much more hellish than I recalled, if you must know), then to their “little bit o’ paradise,” which was a ‘cabin’ (and I use the term generously) on the edge of the water.

A strong wind would probably have blown the place over, but this was their palace, and they gave me the grand tour of both of its rooms.

We sat down at their table on chairs which were little more than the uprooted stumps of trees and supped on a thick stew containing at least two kinds of meat and a variety of brightly colored vegetables, none of which I could identify.

Then, after lunch (which really was delicious, despite my misgivings), they took me to their shallow bottomed boat, and proceeded to row me out into the thickest part of the swamp for the better part of a full day.

It was at this point in the journey that it occured to me that if Tal and Ezarn were more than simple Swampers…if they were, in fact, assassins acting on the orders of Haven’s Lord-Mayor, my goose would be well and truly cooked, as I’d have little chance against them both in their own territory, and even if I survived an assassination attempt here, my chances of making it back to civilization from the depths of this trackless place were next to nil.

It troubled me, yes, but also, it was too late to do anything about it. If they meant me harm, then my fate was already sealed, so I settled back and tried to enjoy the trip.

In time, we arrived, and I must confess, my guides were correct.

The fishing was unlike anything I’d ever experienced.

We literally caught more than we could fit in the boat without risk of swamping her. As it was, we were riding so low in the water after only six hours of fisihing that the least disruption would send the swamp rushing over the sides of our tiny craft, so most of the way back home, I spent bailing frantically to keep us from losing our means of transportation through the foreboding bog.

I’m happy to report, however, that Tal and Ezarn were not assassins, that I came through the adventure no worse for the wear, and several pounds heavier on account of gorging myself on delicious and expertly-cooked fish, and that I plan to order the swamp to be claimed as part of our sovereign territory at the very next opportunity.


‘The Boys,’ as they insisted on my calling them, knew an amazing amount about Elven Lore, though they be Human Swampers.

How they came to know such things given the isolation of their home is beyond me, but I shall relay in brief what they told to me.

It seems at some point in Elgea’s distant past, the great burning desert in northern Kumala was as lush and green as the island we all now call home.

Even more interesting was that it was one of the ancient Elven Homes. In this case, home to a wild, painted group of Elves whose hunting prowess and connection to the land was rivaled only by their mastery of magic.

At some point, tall pale men descended from the north and began hacking their way into the jungles taking timber to build their LongHouses and fortresses.

The Elves attempted to communicate with the large, loud-and-graceless strangers, but to no avail. Elves who appeared before the North Men were simply cut down like animals.

The Elves struck back, but it quickly became clear that the North Men were more numerous by far, and fierce fighters in their own right.

True, they may not have been graceful or lithe, but their were fearsomely strong, and their tactics, brutish or not, were effective.

Fearing for their continued existence, the Elves resorted to magic to save them, and Shamans from all the Elven Tribes in that part of the forest gathered together to cast a mighty spell designed to rid the land of the hated North Men once and for all.

Rid the land of them it did, but there was a price to be paid.

The land itself was so poisoned…so blighted by the magicks of the spell that nothing would grow there, and the things already living there began to wither and die, and when the green things died, they turned into a fine, useless ash, rather than being returned to the earth to be reused by our Great Mother.

This is what created the great desert of the north, and legends say that in each of the locations of the forty tribes that once called the area home, in the place where each tribe’s leaders held Council, are the tears of the Elven People.

Today, these tears are highly prized because of their rarity, but in truth, there are few known uses for them. They are mere trifles. Baubles without practical value.

They do serve as a reminder, however, that sometimes, in the quest to solve one problem, we can inadvertently create another for ourselves.

I had heard bits of that before, but as my Gran Pere told the tale to me, the Elves of the forest knew full well what effects the spell would have, and strove to create the desert as a barrier against the North Men, who were known to favor colder climes, on the thinking that such a burning land would prove an impassable barrier to them. Then, the story went, the Elven People could live in what remained of the Emerald Death for the rest of eternity without interference.

Whichever interpretation is true and correct, it was mightily surprising to hear some version of the tale passing the lips of a couple of Swampers on Devil’s Island, and at some point, in listening to their story, it occured to me that history is a tapestry, with each thread being contributed by a different actor on the stage of the world, coming together to weave a whole.

That’s what gave me the answer to the charge that HighLord Velociryx had given me, to develop a strategy to help us grow our alliance.

A recruitment strategy, if you will. The results of my inspiration are below, for your consideration.

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Graduation Day – Our Story So Far

Graduation Day – Our Story So Far
(How Tylo Ghent Got Promoted)
(cue music “Carry on Wayward Son” by Kansas)

Attentive readers will no doubt have noted a new byline as of the last entry, and may be wondering why that is and how that came to be.

This entry will explain the curious events leading up to Master Ghent’s “career change,” in addition to shedding more light on the subject of life on Devil’s Isle in general, and inside the REALM in particular.

It began as “Graduation Day” approached.

You may recall a certain Scribe’s trepidation about the Chimera, back when he thought they were actual monsters who ate Elven slaves…back before he became one of their number and went from being a fan of the alliance leader, to being profoundly suspicious of him, then back to being a fan, actually joining Chimera, and getting a posting in the Court of the HighLord.

All this, after what he felt was an attempt on his life via weather spell (possibly called ‘Stormbind‘ though that term may be related to something other than the name of the spell), which left him rather waterlogged and stranded very far from home.

After the nasty business with the undead general (courtesy of the Melders and a misfired spell to ressurect the unfortunate man), which left the City of Calimba a shadow of its former self (war and famine having reduced the population from nearly twenty-six thousand to less than eight thousand), there followed a period of rebuilding.

It was backbreaking work, yes, even for the members of the HighLord’s council. It appears that before REALM’s HighLord was a HighLord, he was a man of the people. A commoner, if you will, and because of that, he did not shirk from physical labor, and made sure that none of his Court did, either.


“Hard day’s work with sweat in your eyes and cuts on your hands…good for the soul.” He told an unhappy Scribe in the midst of one of the innumerable sixteen hour days that followed. “And, since we’re in leadership positions, when we’re done here, we’ll sup, then convene for a few hours to discuss the events of import in the REALM before catching a few winks and starting all over again.”

“Sounds charming.” Scribe muttered drolly.

And so it went.

Rebuilding Calimba stone by stone, yes, but also, taming the once fearsome jungle. Mastering it, and as anyone who has ever wrestled with Devil’s Vine will tell you, that is no easy task.

Fortunately, it was a task made somewhat easier by virtue of the fact that the alliance had drawn the attention of several folken who had recently migrated to Kumala. Among the new arrivals were Timrath, and his brothers Apollonius and Wazdakka, from…well, they were somewhat unclear in that point, but apparently from far to the north and east, with Wazdakka, the youngest of the three, (bearing strong signs of Orcish ancestry), actually having been born aboard a ship as their family left (or were chased from? – again, these details are unclear) an island that is supposedly not unlike our own, but in the extreme eastern portions of the Kingdom.

These brothers were not islanders, living north of Devil’s Island itself, in the lush and fertile lands that run north from the coast until they hit the great burning desert (more on that later). The elder and youngest brother made their homes in these endless forests and rolling savannahs, while the middle brother, Appolonius, struck further north and made his home in the desert proper. Why this is so, we cannot say, but it apparently has nothing to do with a familial feud or the like…the three are always together in Court and seem to get along famously. One can only speculate then, that the middle brother has a love of sun and sand.

In any case, they joined our merry band of madmen, along with a trio of Orcs (Mudd-Slinger,Clermont, and UnWritten, followed not long after by a dwarf known only as “The PeaceKeeper.”

Zagar the Elf Lord and his travelling companion Sidhe joined at around that same time, as did the human called Baych, so the Court could well be said to be expanding at a rapid clip.

Of all the new arrivals though, none brought quite as much buzz as the arrival of the Dwarf called Bezi.

The day was steamy and muggy, which is to say it was like almost every day of the year on Devil’s Isle, and Lady Kleodora was out picking herbs in the garden just behind the Main Hall in Cerilon.

I was on a bench within earshot when one of her dogs (she never went anywhere without at least one of her great Mastiffs) suddenly went stiff and alert, a low growl in his throat that made every hair on my body stand on end.

The three of us…Kleo, myself, and the dog heard the snap of a twig and a muffled curse, then, emerging from the jungle came a gruff-looking Dwarf who appeared to have walked from the western end of the island to the eastern without stoping to bathe or sleep. There were bugs in his matted beard, and his axe oozed with the sap of the Devil’s Vine.

He speaks to her in his native tongue, but she (not being fluent in Dwarven) does not understand.

In fact, of all that he says, there’s only one word she understands….”Machete.”

Nodding at this at least, she inquires, “So…you want Machete. You’re looking for Machete.”
He shakes his head and motions as if in a hurry. again speaking. “Machete!” he says .

Curious and concerned, she bids him follow and leads him toward the Main Hall, and I confess that my own curiosity got the better of me, so I tagged along as well.

We made the Main Hall to find the usual suspects all in their usual places, and Velociryx looked up from his charts and figures as we entered.

“My Lord…I bring this Dwarf, who seems to be looking for Machete.”

“For me ye say?” The Dwarven Warrior asked over a comfortable belch as he stood and wiped the ale foam from his beard. “What can I…”

Suddenly, a smile lit up his face and he roared with laughter. “Bezi!! you old buzzard! what brings you out this far?”

Machete slapped Bezi on his back and led him to one of a number of overstuffed chairs set ’round the seldom used fireplace.

“Kleo…mead for my old friend, if you would?”

She nodded at this and went to fetch a servant, and the two started to talk in low tones.

On her way out of the chamber, she chanced a glance at the HighLord, who pretended to be busy with his figures, but was obviously listening intently.

What they were discussing that afternoon, I cannot say. Neither Lady Kleo nor I spoke the language, and no information about the conversation was forthcoming later, but it’s a matter that bears watching and leads to unavoidable speculation.

Time will tell what it means.

At any rate, all of this to underscore the fact that we were growing, and at a rapid pace.

That was a good thing, because it made taming this unrelenting place all the easier…more hands meaning faster progress, and all that.

So, it was none too surprising when the day arrived that our first two Chimera were ready to cut the strings that bound them to their Sponsors and make their own way in the world.

The first two to meet all the requirements were Renn and the Scribe.

In celebration, a small, quiet ceremony was held wherein both men were presented with a banner and badge befitting of their station. The blazon of the Chimera, which both fly proudly over their own Main Halls.

The blazon of the Chimera contains three main elements: The Lion, The Gryphon, and the Eagle. Strength, Courage, and Generosity…this last bit is of import because each of the Chimera is expected to Sponsor at least one new Chimera who will follow in his footsteps.

Chimera Graduation Badge

(OOC: the badges of both men can be seen in their profiles)

Now, you must understand something about us and our ways. This may seem barbaric to you, but I assure you that it is most necessary, because Kumala is an unforgiving place.

When the ceremony had ended, Velociryx placed a kind hand on each man’s shoulder.


He told them unceremoniously.

They looked momentarily confused.

Run!” He roared at them. “Already there are forces marching on one of your cities, a thing which I have arranged personally. They will do their level best to burn you to the ground. You have these blazons, but you’ve not formally earned them until you survive this last test. Break the siege and stand fully on your own. Good luck and Godspeed, brothers…now run!”

And they did.

Renn broke the siege of Sokkala in two attacks. Scribe took three to break the siege of Sutheron, but both men succeeded.

Now…you may recall reading an earlier entry about a “Trial by Fire,” to be delivered by members of The-Company-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named….this is the trial by fire that was referred to.

This is what the HighLord meant.

A final test to ensure that all who called themselves Chimera had the practical battlefield experience to go with everything else they had learned as they grew.

Interestingly, up to this point, the Scribe had been focused almost exclusively on matters of trade and raw production.

He had just begun focusing on matters of magic, but hadn’t paid much attention at all to his military.

Yes, he had a military, and it even had some combat experience, but that had been a joint effort involving the entire Court…he had not appointed so much as a single General, having relied on the expertise of his fellow Court Members during the incident with the Undead General.

So it was that our Scribe was desperate to find someone…anyone who could actually lead his troops into battle, and so it was that he discovered that Tylo Ghent had spent four years serving as a mid-ranking officer in what he called “The Rift Wars,” where he led mid-sized bands of warriors (with some success, it must be said) against the undead hordes that poured forth to battle the living in years past.

He was, in a word, the best option available at the time, and the Scribe promoted him.

Three attacks later and the siege was broken, and Tylo Ghent the Reporter, became Tylo Ghent the General…a posting he has to this day.

~Nicholas Hanby, Reporting from Devil’s Isle

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It’s been a busy day for Velociryx, who today, expressed grave concern for the wildlife in the region.

“Look…we understand that many of the jungle’s creatures can be used in crafting and enchanting items…we get that, and we’re by no means putting a stop to all hunting in the realm…what we are saying, however, is that poachers caught killing and or harvesting inside our sovereign territory will be killed on sight.

It’s our intention to give the wildlife a place to grow in safety, and when we feel the time’s right, we’ll cull the herd ourselves.”

This decision was reached after hearing arguments from the Council of Lords, a newly formed advisory board of land owners on Devil’s Island about fears that all the wild animals might soon go extinct on the island because of rampant, unchecked hunting and a rapidly expanding human population.

“Between the two of us (ed: here, the HighLord refers to himself and his Scribe), we have far and away the largest contiguous landholdings on the island, so it just made sense to locate the preserve here. It’s a joint venture between the two of us, and applicable to the full extent of both territories. The rules are simple…effective immediately, poach, and you risk life and limb. Selected hunting and harvesting permits will be considered, so interested parties should contact us to work out the particulars.”

He told this reporter.

~Nicholas Hanby, reporting for the Blind Scribe

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Breaking News!

Argenia sold to Velociryx for Undisclosed Amount!

In an important development on Devil’s Isle today, the City of Argenia has been peacefully handed over to Velociryx in exchange for an undisclosed sum.

Settlers were standing by, and this immediately led to the settlement of a new town, Vestford, further north of Argenia.

“I’ve reached the northen extent.” Velociryx told a small gathering of reporters. “This is where we stop in the north. And now that this has been accomplished, it’s time to turn to…other matters.”

Rumors have been swirling for months that, due to the previous aborted attempts at negotiating a peaceful settlement of the provacative land claim in the Ancient Forest southeast of Parthaway (-896, -636) and the rebuffed offers to purchase the city of KV Kumala, that stronger measures might be considered.

Could this statement be a prelude to that, or are there other matters currently before the young alliance?

At the moment, there are more questions than answers, but we will keep you posted.

~Nicholas Hanby, reporting for the Blind Scribe


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Of Nightmares & Plans

It is a dream that will haunt me forever…the final battle that led to the recapture of Calimba, and I dreamt it again the day after I’d returned to my city of Haven, having participated in the Feast of Thanksgiving with my HighLord and the other luminaries of the Realm.

The scene in my head had been recreated to perfection…every nuance and detail accounted for.

The heat of the midday sun as we prepared for the final charge.

Breaching the mighty gates of the city.

Fighting block to block to clear the last of the resistance out of the town’s central district, until all of the combatants had fled to the Great Hall in the center of town, itself walled off and fortified.

The siege engines were brought forth to prepare for another push, but it proved to be unnecessary.

The retreat was a ruse, and the wily General attacked on our exposed flank, destroying two of the five siege engines we’d brought forward before we could respond.

His men were incensed, and fought like demons. Whether this was out of fear of the thing that led them (at some point..I know not when, the General had let his spell fall away, so that all could see him as he truly was), or because they actually were demon possessed, or some other reason besides these, I cannot say. All I know with certainty is that each of his men fought like three of ours, and they inflicted terrible losses on us before we slew the last of their number and finally surrounded the great fiend himself.

Velociryx had lent me several members of Ba….of a group that’s not supposed to exist, and nearly all of my peers were present for the final battle.

Ren nearly died fighting the creature, and only Kleo’s lightning reflexes pulled him away from the deadly flash of the blade in time, though to his credit, the sturdy human did inflict a terrible gash to the creature’s side.

I tried repeatedly to close with him and do him harm, but my attacks were nigh on useless, I am shamed to say.

Velociryx managed to get in a small grazing wound to the beast’s left shoulder, but was rewarded by a gash to the side of his head that nearly took his left ear off. After that, he was held back by four of his Footmen, and unable to materially participate further, though he screamed and lunged at the beast in his rage.

Finally, it was a member of that nonexistent company who slipped in and knocked the beast to the ground. Darmon, as he was called by his peers. No last name, and I know not where he hailed from, but I have seldom seen a more wicked display of swordsmanship than I saw on display there. He was magnificent in his maroon cloak, fighting Centrum Style, with a blade flashing in each hand and no shield….he feinted left, then rolled beneath the creature’s legs, which were spread wide in a seasoned warrior’s crouch.

Quicker than thought (and it surely must have been planned before hand, or by way of some strange telepathy), he gained his feet, pierced the General with both blades at kidney level, then freed his hands and grappled with the undead thing, pinning the creature’s arms and kicking at the backs of his knees such that he buckled.

Machete was there with his war axe, which had been sheathed in silver for this fight by our finest smiths, and ended the monster with one final blow, taking his head from his shoulders, and missing Darmon, who stood just behind him, by no more than the width of a human hair.

It was the kind of masterstroke they write songs about, and I was in awe of them both.

With that one blow, the battle came to an end, but I confess that it did not hearten me any.

The sun, which had been hot to the point of being oppressive before, now seemed to hold no warmth, and a heaviness stole into my limbs…in truth, into every fiber of my being.

I turned a slow circle and surveyed the damage…the blood and mud and pile of corpses, heaped together in what had once been…what? A market district?

Probably. At least, as near as I could tell from what little remained here.

Gods, the damage! Calimba would recover, of course. I had vowed to make it so, and it was a promise I fully intended to keep, but it would be quite some time in the doing.

There was no quick or easy way to see it done, even accounting for our near unlimited resources, and it pained me on that day, as it has pained me since.

I awoke well after the sun, feeling groggy and un-rested, as I often did when I had the nightmare. Still, there was much to be done, and Ren, Kleo, Machete and I were to be at the forefront of the festivities today.

First, we were expecting a new arrival today…a dwarf called Bezi, who I knew nothing about, but that the Court was all abuzz with excitement about his arrival.

Then there was the negotiation with our northern neighbor over the fate of the City of Argenia, which Velociryx wanted to add to his holdings, and was currently in negotiations to secure rights to it (he had me leading that effort…since I had proved myself utterly inept at swordplay, I was assigned negotiation duties), then of course, there was my upcoming “experiment.”

My attempt to see if it was even possible to leave this cursed island.

I had my doubts, but I was determined to find out once and for all.


That word that seems to have been following me since my arrival here.

I am no closer now to finding out what it means than I was when I first heard it, and it mocks me. It taunts me.

Long term, nothing is more important than finding out what it means.


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The Rest

The rest, you can guess.

The General, or rather, whatever twisted thing came back when we tried to work our magic, went home to Calimba.

Once there, he killed the Lord-Mayor of the city and installed himself as the undisputed Master of that place, forcing the Court Mystics to mask his true form from the general population, and killing any who would not bow to him.

As soon as his base of power was secure, he declared the city to be wholly independent, and began making regular patrols within a day’s ride of the city gates to enforce his will, and I responded with the only option I had left, in my estimation.

I rallied my own forces and marched on the city to lay in a siege of it, which I had been planning to do anyway, but in mocked up style. Now, it was for real, and I was as terrified as my men. Nonetheless, we had to root him out.

Two days after the siege began, it became clear that the General would not come quietly, and in fact, he had taken to beheading the corpses of those slain by our siege efforts, and displaying them atop the wall, while shooting the headless bodies back at us.

Whether this fascination with headless bodies was a specific strategy designed to dishearten us (which it very definitely did), or some after effect of his own death and headless state before we partially restored him, I cannot say to this date.

In the end, all I do know is that my men kept up the pressure on the mighty gates of Calimba, the city of light and music until at last we sundered them, then charged in and gave battle to those who remained inside.

In all, I lost more than two thousand men before we brought the creature low with enchanted weapons and silver.

We re-beheaded the body and burned it, sealing the ashes in a silvered urn and dropping them into the sea so as to take no chances, and while that solved the immediate problem and brought what was left of Calimba into my fold as planned, none of it would restore her glittering spires, nor put notes of joyous music back into the air of her streets.

I was touring the damage…walking along a dust and corpse strewn lane that had once (as near as I could tell) been a market district, when Velociryx found me.

“Are you coming to dinner tomorrow evening? Main Hall, Cerilon?”

I shook my head and bowed it. “I’m surprised you would even invite me after…all this.” I said wearily, not meeting the HighLord’s gaze.

I saw his shadow nod in the late day sun. “Aye…there’s much to recover from, tis true, but this was not all your doing. My own stubborn pride surely played a role…had I been content to let that one promise to a dead man go, I could have saved thousands of lives. It is a mistake I’ll not make again…I…I sometimes forget that in this position, I must temper my decisions based on what’s good for the whole, and not what’s “right,” because the two aren’t always the same. Mostly yes…but not always. I forgot that, and it cost us. It cost us dearly.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself.” I told him. “No matter that it was a bit sloppy and bloody, we came through, and I’ll rebuild her. Down to the last spire and fluttering banner, I’ll restore her to her former glory. You have my oath on it.”

He smiled wanly at that. “Everyone else will be there, and they’ll not understand if you can’t come. In fact, it could start a rumor that I had you murdered or banished you, or something equally silly. Promise me. The rebuilding can wait a day.”

“What’s the occasion?” I asked him. “Why are we all getting together?”

He seemed surprised, but then shrugged. “I guess perhaps you would lose track of days, being in the field with the troops and all. Thanksgiving.” He told me. “The fall festival of our Mighty King, and despite these recent troubles, we have much to be thankful for.”

And that was certainly true enough.

“I’ll be there.” I told him.

And I meant it.

Where else would I go?

That word entered my mind again.


Where else indeed.

I wondered if was even possible for me…for any of us to leave this island (which I increasingly thought of as cursed), and resolved to put that to the test, not long after the Thanksgiving Day feast.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone, from all of us in REALM!



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General Hargreves Returns

To this day, I cannot tell you exactly what went wrong, and I’m an Elf. Elves and magic go together like…tree houses and chocolate chip cookies, and…well, never mind. In any case, I can tell you that the spell that got cast wasn’t Elfin magic, though my own Wizards wove it out.

No, this was…an abomination.

I will not apologize, nor make excuses for us.

Yes, had we been more watchful, we could have shut it down (I oversaw the process myself), and even after the spell was complete, had we been more decisive, it’s possible that we could have killed that which we had just created (or reanimated, or…whatever it was we had done), but the sorry truth is…we didn’t. We weren’t as vigilant as we should have been, and thousands ultimately paid the price.

It started off mundanely enough.

A group of elderly, stately looking Wizards in the finest of their finery, solemnly joined in a circle, swaying slightly as they chanted the words to a spell nearly as old as time itself, in a language even older than that.

It was beautiful, in its way. Stark and terrible in its beauty, and I was caught up in it, as I am when I see most things magical.

But less than a quarter of the way through the ceremony, just after we had reattached the fallen General’s head with a binding incantation, something…happened.

A gust of wind blew in, powerful enough to extinguish all our candles and the three fire pots as well, bringing with it screeches, screams and cries from the night.

Then came the thunder…A fierce, growling thunder.

Had the word occurred to me then, perhaps that would have been the catalyst, but alas, it did not…only later did it re-enter my mind, and by then of course, it was much too late.

The wind, the thunder and the sudden darkness though…these were all mere trifles.


The main event was what happened with the spell.

An oily tentacle rose in the midst of the room, composed of nothing but shadow and thought.

It coiled itself around the energies that was our spell…that had been, to that point, steadily feeding into the body of Gavin Hargreves, and slowly…ever so slowly and carefully was breathing life back into that corpse, and then….

The change.

The energies darkened and intensified.

No longer did they feed into the lifeless body in measured steps, but rather plunged, deep and sudden, that empty vessel taking the full measure of those energies in a single instant.

There was a crash and an Elven scream, then more than one, though how many, I could not say. I only know that when I regained my senses, my voice was but one of a chorus, and that although we could not name the reason for our fear, we also could not stop our own screaming.

In time, however, the limits of our own bodies took care of that, and one by one, our screams died in a series of hoarse, rasping coughs, and a short while after, the angry whine of those mystic energies faded as well.

I was about to breath a sigh of relief at that when one final growl of thunder rumbled, then went silent, and dear gods what took its place…

….a heartbeat.

A deep, slow…almost ponderous heartbeat that was loud enough for all of us to here there in the quiet after the maelstrom, and with every beat, I swear that each of us in the room jumped.

Jumped and flinched at the thought of…but no. There was no thought then, because it was only half formed.

The truth of it was that we couldn’t complete the thought.

It was that terrifying.

Then, our worst fears were realized when the body of Gavin Hargreves twitched once.


Then began sitting up on the stone table where we had lain him.

Somewhere screamed anew…I know not who, and three of my Wizards fled the room that instant.

I ordered the members of my House Guard I had with me to bar the doors as I gave chase, with my remaining Wizards just behind me.

Get the Wizards back here…reform the circle, then reenter the sealed chamber and put that thing down. That….whatever it is that we have created.

That was the plan that flitted fleetingly through my mind as I raced to calm my men, and in time, I did.

Calm them I mean.

Courage and nerve restored, we went back to the sealed chamber to end the matter, but of course, it was far too late for that, and the chamber was not nearly as sealed as it had been when we left it, which is to say, it wasn’t sealed at all.

The door, a sturdy brass and oaken thing, had been reduced to bits of kindling, and the half dozen guards I had posted outside…all slain, and tossed about the hall as though they were a mad giant’s forgotten playthings.

Six lifeless, broken Elven soldiers. The best of my personal guard, gone.

I wondered with dread how many more there would be before we contained this beast, and ran to rally more of my men, and that’s when the word occurred to me.

The word that had been following me in one form or another since I first tried to leave this cursed island.



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