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Archive for August, 2015

Cleric Journal: Day Twenty-Seven



Do you know how much excrement a bird that size can make? First I was woken by the ungrateful wretch screeching before the sun rose. He nipped at me as I struggled to clear my sleep addled brain. When I did not move quick enough, he beat at me with his wings until I climbed onto the raft, took up my pole, and pushed away from the island.

There was no bread on my raft, I tell you with great disappointment. I was a goodly distance out into the lake when the two loaves appeared with a pop on the shore. I stopped the raft, intent on going back for the bread when a great roaring sound shattered the predawn stillness. Three columns of flame smashed down from the heavens onto the island. The first great column crashed near the north portion of the island where our old temple lay.   I began to pole the raft more quickly by that point.

The second column of flame struck the southern portion of the island, where my blood had been spilled, it seemed to me. I could be wrong, but the island wasn’t that large.

By the time I was out into the middle of the lake, the third and final funnel of flame struck the island at the peak where I’d slept and bathed in the hot springs. Where I’d met the fair Kithri.

That’s when the bird crapped on my head. He was terrified, as was I, but he had the whole of the lake around us, why he chose that time and place to loose his bowels was quite unfortunate.

Waves rocked toward me from the island and I was pushed even faster away from my once paradise. The water churned and smoke began to rise from the island. I have never heard such sound in my life. The grinding of stone and the roar of flaming earth filled the air, sending all manner of flying beasts into the air all around the lake. I saw enumerable stirges, bats and the brightly plumaged birds like the one who crapped on my head. Spiders ran across the tops of the trees and several large cats raced along the shore furthest from the exploding island.

I did not soil myself, but it was a near thing. Through fear so visceral I could taste it I steered the raft toward the closest channel that seemed to go deeper into the swamp and away from the island.

There, on a pole that stood a full fathom out of the water I recognized the third and final sign Sister Vera had warned me about:

No, srsly. You will die a horrible death after this point

You have been warned. We mean it.

Sounded better to me than being stuck near the burning island of exploding death.

I glanced back one final time, the excrement of a giant and terrified bird setting up in my hair and witnessed the fiery blood of the earth flow down from a shattered peak and into the lake where it sent billowing clouds of steam across the swamp.

“Goodbye, Kithri,” I said, hoping beyond hope she was not on the island personally delivering the bread. She seemed far too clever for that.

“Kithri,” the blue giant called as he landed on my shoulder.

We rode into the dim swamp that way as fresh excrement flowed down my back.

I wondered, briefly, what giant bird tasted like. But opted to bide my time and see what happened.

There was no way I was sleeping in the near future

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Cleric Journal: Day Twenty-Six



The points where the two stirges had punctured my skin had already begun to crust over and the scratches on my arms were pale scars by the time I rose the next morning. As I lay in the warm sun, part of me thought I should stay on that island forever, but I was growing anxious to find the city.

There was bread when I roused myself, the same as the days before, with butter and honey, and the barrel of wine was full once more. This time, however, there was a small bowl filled with berries. I picked one out of the bowl and sniffed it. It had a sweet smell so I touched it to my tongue.

It was like being kissed by Kithri. I tilted the bowl into my face, gobbling berries as fast as I could. When I set the bowl back down, there were only a small handful left. I could feel the sticky juice on my face and hands. It was delicious.

I went and washed up before tackling the bread. The blood loss from the day before with the stirges had me famished and while tasty, the berries were not nearly enough to sate me.

A creative thought crept into my head when I sat in front of the loaves. The whim had me thrust the remaining sweet berries into the cleft of the bread, pushing them deep into the mixture of butter and honey. Soon my hands were purple and sticky from the mingled juices. As I sucked my fingers I paused to think of exactly what that reminded me. Something I’d seen or done once before? I couldn’t really place it in my mind. Sister Agnes was involved, I’m sure. But the memory was of salt.

Once I’d eaten my fill, I carried the second loaf and the small cask of wine down to my raft. It remained where I had left it days before, unmolested. I spent several hours practicing my mending spell by repairing little breaks in the lashing and the other structural pieces of the raft. When I was done, the rope ties were strong as new, and the logs rose several inches higher in the water.

What a handy spell. I couldn’t wait to learn another. I just hope I didn’t have to nearly die to pick up a second one.

As I was debating one more soak in the hot spring before leaving the island, I caught sight of the blue streak. Now that I was hale once more, and the sun was high, I could tell it was a great bird with blue plumage. It was a huge creature, nearly six spans from beak to the tip of its long tail. He had a wicked beak and great black eyes. This was one of the island birds I had noticed a few days ago, albeit far larger than I had discerned on first blush. He stood on a stone near my raft, watching me, his great head turning from one side to another. If I stepped toward him, he would flutter a bit out of my reach, but when I turned away, he would return to his original perch. He was curious with a bright intelligence in his eyes.

“Kithri,” he finally squawked at me, and I stumbled back, astounded. It could speak?

“Do you know, Kithri?” I asked the beauty.

He hopped into the air, flapping his wings and shrieked laughter, not unlike that which Kithri had shared with me.

After that he kept out of my reach and screeched occasionally. I was trying not to be too disappointed, but it grew tiresome all the same.

At the close of day, I sat on the raft and ate the second loaf of the day. The butter was rich and oozing, mixed with the sweetest honey. The bread nearly burned my hands it was so warm. I was not going to question my situation, or how the loaves remained warm throughout the day. I just know I was feeling better fed than at any point in my life.

Please don’t mention this part to Cook. I know she struggles hard to keep everyone well fed. I just don’t think the poor soul realized how much gristle and fat I ate growing up. We must have had poor stock. And her bread, while warm when it came fresh from the oven, grew quite hard by the time I was allowed my scraps. Not that I am complaining. It was good for my spirit to know deprivation, or so Brother Durham told me when he took my solstice cake this year.

Now that I think back on it, Brother Durham took a lot of my cakes and such over the years. According to his calculations, I must be one of the holiest members of the order. Inversely, due to his girth and propensity to drink, I’m beginning to question his overall moral fortitude.

My thoughts of Brother Durham prompted me to be generous in my bounty, so I tossed the final crust, dripping with butter and honey, toward the watching bird.

He launched himself into the sky, snatched the flying crust and landed in a nearby tree, gobbling down the offering.

“Let us see how this final night on the island goes,” I said to my new companion.

He nodded his head thrice, then tucked it under one great wing. I lay on the deck of my raft huddled in my cloak and watched the stars appear in the sky. Tomorrow I would move onward to the great city.

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Cleric Journal: Day Twenty-Five



Once again I was gifted with fresh bread and a refilled cask of wine. I’m not sure how much of that I was expected to drink, but I decided not to be ungrateful. I washed, ate and completed a full hour of prayer and healing before deciding to bathe a second time. I used too much of the holy oil in my exuberance.

More good news. My robes were starting to fit me again. I had grown so thin back when I was almost dead.

Today, while I explored along the southern shore of the island, the swamp returned with a vengeance.   And by vengeance I meant I ran into a nest of stirges. Do you know about stirges? Sister Vera mentioned them to me after our second hour of ritual healing back at the first tower. She thought I should know more of the local flora and fauna if I was going to succeed in my quest. To be honest, I thought she was delirious from the worship. Her voice was hoarse from all the screaming, so I may have discounted her description. Silly me.

Stirges suck. Literally. Recall how much I hated leeches? Well stirges are like leeches in that they drink your blood, but they stab you with these long beaks and hold on to you with their six limbs.

I know this because this is what happened to me.

I know, right? I’m just as shocked as you are. Here I am, favored by the fair Kithri, fattened with delicious honey bread and cool summer wine, graced with the divine ability to mend anything broken (so far) and yet something on this island tried to eat me.

Lesson learned. I’m am a tasty, tasty treat.

Luckily for me there were only four of the foul beasts. I’m sure the sight of me swatting at them with the mace would appear comical, but I’m here to tell you I was terrified. Not only did I need another bath, but I felt obligated to wash my linens after they attacked.

I tried to turn them like I’d done with the undead at the first tower, but the mace would not tingle for me. Maybe I was holding it wrong. I did manage to squash one of the stirges before its friend landed on my shoulder and stabbed me in the neck.

That hurt like you would not believe. But funny enough, the whole area went numb. Almost like it wanted me to not suffer to much while it fed. Being that close to my brain caused me to stagger around drunkenly so I had no real chance to stop the second one that latched on my left arm. I fell to my knees, light headed and fading fast when a bolt of blue shot out of the sky near me.

For the moment, I could not clear my mind enough to see what had happened, but the fourth stirge vanished in a puff of orange and black down. I fell to the ground, grabbed the stirge on my left arm with my right hand, dropping the mace in my desperation.

I was lucky in my attempt, and squeezed the foul thing as I pulled it from me. The tiny little claws left long shreds of flesh behind when I managed to rip it from me. The proboscis slid from the muscles in my arm like a dagger. It was smooth, leaving a puncture wound, but nothing more. I smashed the bugger against the head of the mace and sparks few as it popped, spraying me with blood and bile.

The first stirge who had landed on my shoulder disengaged himself and was flying away when a second blue streak arced across the sky. Blood rained down over me as I collapsed.

I was delirious for an hour or so, but eventually the stirge venom burned itself out and I was able to rise to my hands and knees. I was not feeling good, let me tell you. I had filled both of my water skins with the golden wine so I drank from them deeply and I felt amazingly better afterward. I’m sure this was not your average wine, not coming from Kithri.

When I was able to regain my footing and stagger back toward my campsite, I saw the blue flash flitting in and out of the trees, just beyond the edges of my vision. I could’ve been hallucinating, but I didn’t think so.

When I got back to camp, I ate the bread that awaited me, washed out my clothing and bathed in the hot spring.

I thanked Kithra for the blue streak that saved me from the stirges and fell into a deep sleep before the sun even set. It was a harrowing night as my body itched and burned.

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Cleric Journal: Day Twenty-Four



I felt so good upon waking today that I decided I was ready to renew my quest. I explored the northern portion of the island. It truly wasn’t that large now that I was hale, but you would be shocked to learn what I found here.

Go on, guess.

Oh, right. I can’t hear your answer. Silly of me. I’ll just tell you.

Another tower.

Yep, that’s right. Another tower of our order. I’m beginning to wish I’d learned more of our history. It’s like we moved from time to time and each one moved us further away from the sacred city at the end of my quest. Is that why I dreamt of the city? Is it my lot to travel the path we once trod to better understand where we’ve come from, so I may understand where we need to go?

That is going to take a while to consider. Lots of twists and turns in that thought. Makes my head hurt. I’ll let it compost in my mind a while, see what grows.

This new tower… well, rather, the ruins of a tower, had seen better days.

I stood at the edge of a very symmetrical clearing and observed the tower before rushing in. I’m proud of my patience and caution. Sister Edna said I was too brash and foolhardy. Of course, she was the one crushed to death when the east tower collapsed. What was she running toward do you think?

Which brings me back to this tower. It appeared as if someone had grabbed it by the middle and snapped it off, like that time you accidently broke that horn off the statue in the basement when I surprised you on your last birthday.   I do recall being shocked to discover you and Brother Carmine had one of the local villagers strapped to that table, but who am I to judge how you worship. I was quite startled when the statue you had been straddling toppled and crushed poor Brother Carmine. At least the villager went unscathed. She was quite happy when I helped her out of the tower. She was so happy to not be crushed that she hugged me and ran into the woods screaming.  We sure avoided an uncomfortable incident there, didn’t we?

Anyway, you remember how the base of the horn looked as the blood pooled around the smashed statue? That’s what this tower looked like. Only the blood represents the blasted land around the tower.

See what I did there? I think that’s called a simile. Or maybe a metaphor. I can’t recall.

Regardless of my inadequate understandings of literary terms and the memory of poorly timed surprises… the tower was a lot bigger than the horn of that statue, but the damage was similar.

Everything above the ground floor had been destroyed. Rubble was strewn all across the surrounding clearing. Nothing grew there. Even standing at the edge of the circle that spread out from the tower felt wrong, tainted. I could see that many people had been crushed in the debris from the tower. I walked around the perimeter of the blasted zone and counted twenty sets of legs, hands, feet, skulls, etc. crushed beneath the fallen masonry of our once proud tower.

I clutched the mace tight to my side as I stepped furtively toward the tower proper. I’m not sure if it was something personal, but the second I entered the circle the dead began to flail about. Luckily most of them were trapped under debris. Two or three managed to pull themselves apart, leaving behind arms or legs. I dispatched them with the mace. Pathetic really. As they fell, a shriek rose from each, an exaltation of release.

I spent the rest of the afternoon dispatching any that I could reach. I think when I come into my full divine splendor, I will return here and cleanse the ground around this fallen temple.

Luckily for me I found two holy symbols in the wreckage. I’ll add those to the once I’d already recovered from the dead at the last tower. I’m sure Semaunya (may she reward my diligence) will be very appreciative when I return them to your holy care.

There was also some gold and gems in the central part of the tower, but there was something foul about the whole thing, so I didn’t get too close. I did toss in one of the leg bones from one of our fallen brethren and something with several visible tentacles thrashed around in its wake.

I decided I had plenty of gems and coin on the raft. I’m not a greedy man.

I paced the scorched area around the temple, pondering what had happened. It’s as if some force struck the tower from above, scorching the ground around the temple and shattering its once mighty edifice. Did some rival deity smite this place? Maybe you could research that and we’ll talk when I return.

Don’t you find that learning about our history is enlightening?

I wrote down some of the symbols I found at the site. I won’t add them here just in case they are malevolent.   But I’ll look them up the first chance I get. It was almost like some of them were warnings in a language I couldn’t read.

Several were similar to symbols on the statue you broke on your birthday. I wonder if they are related. Why were you straddling a statue with six arms, horns and a mouth full of teeth?

Wait, was that a demon you had just subdued? How foolish of me. No wonder Cook was so upset. She was probably worried I would be injured in your battle.

I made my way back to the top of the island near the hot spring and slept the sleep of the righteous. Releasing dozens of undead fellows was hard work, but refreshing. I was invigorated spiritually, but my arms and back hurt more than I had expected. I doubt I experienced much gain from ending those poor soul’s misery other than a clear conscious, but I felt the efforts brought me closer to Semaunya (may she continue to guide my journey).

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Cleric Journal: Day Twenty-Three



All praise to Kithri of the healing touch, it no longer burns when I pee.

I thought I felt good yesterday, let me tell you. Today I felt as if the morning had dawned for my pleasure, the wind graced my naked body like a lover’s kiss and the sun warmed my flesh like the embrace of my missing and assumed lost, mother.

Brother Durham said she had been a low birth tavern wench who spent more time on her back, or bent over an ale barrel then she did sweeping floors. I really think when I see Brother Durham again I’m going to punch him in the neck.

I danced in the early morning light, amazed at the way my body moved. I was naked as the day I had come into this world, just as you had suggested, and for the first time in my entire life, I felt like I was worthy of the sun and the bright blue sky.

AFter a brief morning constitutional where I relished my ability to pee without pan, I returned to my place of slumber and discovered two more loaves. I knelt in front of them, said a prayer of thanks to Yondailla (may she worship in joy) and Semaunya (may she find joy in her otherwise stoic existence).

I wanted to thank Kithri personally. Maybe, one day, I’d have that chance.

I toyed with the stones Yondailla had gifted to me and thought hard about the ways of the divine. These had to have a purpose other than entertainment, though I could play with them for hours without growing bored. They were so fascinating.

Hours later, as I played with the stones, I had a moment of clarity. There was a motion I could perform, a quiet word I could utter while placing each of the two stones against the two halves of a broken item and …

I leapt to my feet, walked to the edge of the hot spring and retrieved the rags I had discarded previously. I sat right there, with the warm stones beneath my bum, and played with the stones, the gestures and the words.

Energy flowed through me on the seventh attempt. A trickle which caused the stones to wiggle a bit. On the twelfth attempt, the stones sprang together, on either side of two handbreadths of freshly mended cloth.

I fell back, astonished and elated. I had done something I’d never done before. I had cast an honest to goodness spell. The power was overwhelming. I wept from joy as I worked to practice the spell and mend my shredded robes. By the time the sun dipped down toward the far horizon, I had repaired all of my garments, including my old boots. You remember the ones you gave me at my last birthday, with the holes in the soles? The spell I used repaired the holes as well.

I bathed in the hot springs once more, paced around for a bit to dry myself in the last rays of the sun, then donned my freshly mended clothing.

When I rose from donning the woolen socks and leather boots, I faced the final spray of light from the dying sun and raised my arms above my head in a shout.

Kithri had told me there were two forms of healing. I understood now. The healing I learned with the guidance of Sister’s Edna and Agnes were that which healed the spirit. It was powerful magic in its own right, but more mundane. The healing Kithri had imparted to me was a divine healing, a channeling of power from her mistress. I had felt the divine in her touch and this mending spell was another true gift of the divine.

I fell to my knees and thanked the deities for this true gift, thanked both Yondailla (may she be as lovely as the fair Kithri) and my true mistress, Semaunya (may she forgive my dalliance with another). The exaltation I felt in that moment was greater than anything I had ever experienced in my life. And I mean even more than how I felt the time Sister Agnes passed out after our seventh canticle.

Don’t get me wrong, the ways of the secret caves Sister Agnes taught me came in as a very close second, but I’d have to try it again to make an honest comparison.

I was so overcome with joy that I practiced two different healing rituals on myself and found that for just a moment, at the height of my worship, that I could taste berries on my lips.

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Cleric Journal: Day Twenty-Two



Birdsong woke me this morning. The tune reminded me of the dream I’d had the night before so I was a bit disappointed when I opened my eyes and the fair Kithri was not there. Not that I really expected her to be. I mean, come on. She was beautiful in a way that went deeper than physical appearance. There was a gift about her, a kindness and a quick wit that made my belly ache and my heart flutter. And that kiss, it was like the taste of berries. Which in itself astounds me because I’ve never had berries.

Have you had berries? Has anyone in the monastery? If not, I highly recommend them. The taste is clean with a slight hint of sour to undercut the sweet. I would like to find those berries, but I doubt they exist in this swamp.

I stretched and opened my eyes, blinking rapidly against the startling blueness of the sky. The sun shown down on my new island respite and the day felt glorious. I rolled to my knees and was about to stand when I saw another gift from the fair Kithri. Bread. Oh, my dear Semaunya (may you be as generous with your followers) there was bread at my feet. I nearly fainted as I bent over two fat loaves. Steam rose from deep clefts cut into both loaves while butter and honey oozed from the cut.

Next to the bread was a small barrel filled with more of the sweet golden water like I’d found at the brigand camp. Only as I studied the barrel I realized I knew that it was not water, after all, rather it was a rather modest summer wine. I have to tell you, if this is wine, I’ve never had the like.

And the taste of it. How I could’ve mistook the wine for water eludes me. Perhaps I am maturing in my palate and my sensibilities. I devoured the first loaf with a bit of the wine and fell back, letting the sun warm me and drifted into another restful slumber.

When I awoke the sun had long passed its zenith and my stomach growled. I ate the second loaf, recalling my fervent wish for both bread and something sweet while I was at my lowest. I am heartened to know at least one deity had heard my prayers, even if it was wrong one. Semaunya (may she never know hunger) had provided a bounty of fish when I needed it most and Yondailla had provided not just healing, but sustenance. I’m beginning to wonder if the two of them ever shared a meal.

After I had sucked the butter and honey from my fingers, I studied the two stones Kithri had given me. They were light, but hard, almost like iron. There was an attraction between them that fascinated me for a very long time. They pulled toward one another with a strength that surprised me. I found I could separate them, but if I placed one near the other any closer than two hand widths, they would fly toward one another, joining with a metallic clack.

There was something to these stones. A tingle like when I used the mace. Perhaps it was magic. Perhaps it was the spark of the divine.

Perhaps I’d drunk too much of the wine. The world did spin a bit when I looked around too quickly. It was a pleasant enough feeling, but it drew sleep over me far too soon.

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Cleric Journal: Day Twenty-One



Good news, bad news. I’m a failure at giving up the ghost. But I did have another dream. This one was a little beyond anything I’d ever imagined.

I was sitting on my island looking out over the swamp, marveling at the way the light of the moon transformed the world into a tapestry woven with gold and silver thread, when a young woman appeared in front of me.

Now, I’ve worshipped with three different women and none of them compared to the beauty of this young woman. Please don’t tell Sisters Agnes and Vera. Sister Edna likely doesn’t care as she’s dead.

For the first time I was mortified by the state of my rags and the filth that encrusted me. There was bile and blood, dirt and crawling things that had taken up in my nether regions. I was a mess and this beauty was beyond my reckoning.

I hid my face in my hands and turned away, afraid to look upon her splendor. She shone with a light unlike anyone I’d ever known but her eyes were what did me in. If I spent too much time staring into those eyes, I would forget my own name, and believe me it wasn’t a very good one to begin with. I wasn’t inclined to give it up for a bright smile and eyes that searched directly into my soul.

“I am Kithri Goldenbough, cup bearer of the fair Yondailla,” she said to me.

Sister Edna had often said to me, “My eyes are up here,” whenever I stared at her breasts. This was sort of like that, only I couldn’t meet her eyes.

I looked at her chin, puzzled. “Yet you bear no cup?”

This brought laughter from her that rivaled her smile. It was this laughter that I had heard in days previous. The echo of her laughter reminded me of losing Old Leech Eye and Mumford which made my heart hurt. My eyes blurred in that moment and this ethereal beauty knelt where I lay and asked me why I wept.

It was rather embarrassing, but I missed those two shambling wrecks. I know they were dead and all, but they’d been the best friends I’d ever had. Besides the sisters, no one else had ever even been nice to me, and those two helped me escape the giant spider ambush and brought me food and my gear. Well, to be fair, you let me live in the monastery, so that was something. Thanks for that.

Anyway… I told her about my two lost companions, and how they had perished in the battle between the willow-the-wisp and the sparkle tentacle demon. She laughed again, a sound that threatened to destroy my melancholy and send my spirit into a place of hope. That was fairly counter to my efforts to poison myself so I hardened my heart and looked down at my boney knees.

I had lost weight, over the last week. A serious amount of weight as I grew sicker, but at this very moment the meat of my legs was firm, bordering on fat. I glanced at my hands and my fingers looked like sausages. What had happened to me?

Kithri took my hand in hers and gave me a tug.

“What say we give you a bit of a wash?” she asked, and I stumbled after her to a spring just beyond the edge of the hill.

Here the water ran strong and clear, straight from the heart of the island. Bound and determined to keep my dignity and not show any shame, I dropped my rags and stepped into the pool.   I gasped as the water was hot, nearly too hot, but it was a feeling unlike anything I’d ever experienced. Kithri called it a hot spring, and it worked miracles with the filth and muck I’d grown accustomed to. Luckily it ran down the great hill, so I did not contaminate the spring itself.

Afterward I sat naked in the moonlight, marveling at the way the water dried on my pink skin. My wounds, however were awakened and every inch of me hurt from scrapes, bruises and the large wound in my side.

“I am bound to die,” I told Kithri as she gently touched my side.

“Spider sting, leech, burrowing wasp and three forms of fungus exist in this wound,” she said, rocking back on her heels and shaking her head. “The fact you still live is a testament to your faith.”

I am here to tell you, I was a little freaked out by the comment about the burrowing wasp. Where had that come from?

“My mistress has asked me to heal you,” she said, stroking her long fingers across my abdomen.

“I am too sick for healing,” I said to her, though the bathing had revived a modicum of my better self.

She laughed again. “There are more than one form of healing,” she said and touched me, one hand on my side, and another on my forehead. We sat there for a long moment, her hands on my body, me trying to discern if this was one of the more advanced rituals Sister Agnes had offered to teach me.

Then she began to sing.

I don’t remember the words she sang, but it was nothing I had ever heard. She sang for a long time, her voice weaving in and out of my mind like a swirl of honey in tea.

“You are quite the puzzle,” she said to me sometime later. I had fallen asleep with the sound of her voice. “Yondailla and I have watched you in your worship, little man. The way you throw yourself into the rituals and the way you see the world is refreshing to ones such as we. For your joyful prayers Yondailla offers you a boon.” She placed two stones in my left hand. “You must use these to perform that which you have prayed for.”

I had no idea what she was talking about, but I closed my fist on the stones. She talked funny.  I think this is the point where I realize she was speaking another language. One I could understand. That was a new one for me.

“And I grant you a boon to reward you for your earnestness and your faith.”

She bent down and whispered in my ear. “Your Old Leech Eye and Mumford where worshippers of Yondailla. They served you as you serve her.”

“But I worship Semaunya (may she forgive me for my weakness).”

Kithri kissed me, right on my lips and everything. There may have been a little tongue, I was kind of out of it at that point. Did I mention she was beautiful beyond reckoning?

“Yondailla understands your situation and remains intrigued by you, my nameless child.”

“I’m Useless Lump,” I assured her. She smelled like baking bread. I know that sounds really weird, but she did.

“I grant you a new name, then. From this point forward I will know you as Merric. As you adventure you will find an appropriate surname. But for now I will think of you as Merry, for that is how you see the world.”

Then she was gone.

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Cleric Journal: Day Twenty



Woke this morning in a wide lake. The channel I’d been travelling down emptied out into this wide body of water, the far shore lost in the fog. The numbness in my body had begun to dissipate in the night and I had the strong compulsion to take another draught of the poison. I settled the raft in a quiet bay just beyond where the tributary I’d travelled down entered the greater body of water. This area was filled with large lily pads, each several feet across. I bet I could stand on one of those without getting wet. Too bad I was going to finish killing myself. The lake shore looked intriguing.

I pulled the phial from the chest, opened it and tilted it into my mouth, taking half of what remained. Once again I was struck by the foulness. I replaced the cork and chewed the numbing lump. I thought to take the rest of the phial, but again, I corked it and replaced it into the chest with the gems. Not now, I told myself. There would be plenty of time to take the third and likely final dose later.

I lay down again as the numbness spread from my mouth, down my throat and spread out from my stomach to my limbs. I slept as the sun broke through the clouds. I hoped that this time, I would not awake.

Of course, I woke up. Again, who else would be recording all this.

Once more it was just before sunset and the day had grown warm here in the open lake. The swamp spread in all directions, but in this oasis I felt the rays of the sun on my face. Something I hadn’t felt in far too long.

As I was awake and alert, I decided to pole my raft along the edge of the lake and explore the shore line . What else was I going to do? I was growing bored, and while this poison numbed me, it did not actually seem to be killing me. Yet.

There was dry land ahead and I thought I would get up and stretch my legs. Being on the raft all this time had grown tiresome.

I beached my raft and poked around in the area closest to the water line. There were different trees here, taller and straighter. Their roots were sunk deep into thick soil above the water. Oak, I think. Maple and pine.  I had no idea really. Those were the names of trees that Sister Agnes had mentioned to me once. I’d never actually seen them.

I climbed upward away from the water’s edge, pausing to rest as I needed. As sick as I was, I stopped more frequently than I was happy about. I recovered my breath quickly, however. I was feeling surprisingly spry. I think the numbness must be masking the sheer exhaustion.

At the top of the island I found a clearing where I could see for miles in all directions. The island was large — larger than the island Sister Vera had lived on. Her whole village could fit on this island a hundred times over. I sat at the peak of the island and just watched. From here the world looked beautiful again. The air was clear and my head felt light. There were birds everywhere. Blue and yellow, green and golden. They started calling to one another as the sun fell toward the horizon and I felt at peace. I think I dozed a bit, because when I was aware of the world again the full moon shone down from a cloudless sky filling my clearing with a golden light.

I struggled to my knees and prayed. Something was going to happen this night, I could feel it in my bones. I needed a sign, a word, a gift. I was so tired and so lonely. And, to be honest, I smelled so bad I was offending myself. My clothes were in tatters and I my scrub of a beard caused my face to itch like the how Brother Durham described that rash he got the last time he returned from his pilgrimage.

But the moonlight. It captivated me. I looked skyward from my kneeling position and let my spirit expand as I breathed. One, two, three, then seven, ten, twenty breaths. Each one loosened the knots in my body. I felt lighter in that moonlight. It was magical in a way I had never experienced. I could feel a smile touching my face for the first time in days. This moment, this right here, was why we worshipped. This one moment of clarity where I forgot my own pitiful state and thanked the heavens for the beauty they had to share with us. That brought me peace. With that comfort, and the numbness in my belly, I lay on the soft moss and closed my eyes. This would be a fine place to die.

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Cleric Journal: Day Nineteen



By the time the sun rose I had made up my mind. The odds of me surviving another night like the last were not good. And honestly, at this point, I was done. I was sicker than I’ve ever been and I’m sure evil humors had invaded my body. My side had deep streaks of black and red shooting up to my heart. I had spent enough time with Sister Edna and Sister Agnes in the infirmary to recognize the signs of internal rot. I had lost a lot of weight and I could feel my bones through my ashy skin.

It was time to take drastic action. I was a day without water and two without food. The only way I saw past this moment was to end my own life. No matter how many times I practiced the rituals I saw in my vision of the lizardfolk shaman, I could not make the appropriate gestures. I had been so sure, so confident, but the somatic portion was not enough. There must have been a verbal component I had not discerned in my dream.

Alas, I was to die so far from home, and so far from my ultimate destination. I had a moment of outrage at Semaunya (may she stub her great webbed toes) for abandoning me, but it passed as I realized that I was just not worthy enough of her attention.

Of the seven potions I had, I was mostly convinced that two of them were poison. The two that smelled of curdled milk and looked like smashed maggots.   Those had to be life ending.

My raft drifted along in the current, taking whatever tack the universe allotted. Imagine my surprise as I was digging into one of my two chests for the potions when the raft rant into another sign post. This was the second of the warning signs of which Sister Vera had warned me.


Ware traveler

Beyond this point lies your doom


Perfect. I was more than half way to the ruined city where I was most likely to meet my fate and I had fallen short in my own estimation and far short of the grace of my god.


I found one of the two vials with the curdled milk smell and unstoppered the cork.

Sure enough the pungent aroma reminded me of unwashed feet, soiled linens and decay. It had to be poisonous. I held my nose and tilted the phial to my lips, sucking in a small mouthful. Something that smelled that foul had to be extra deadly. It only made sense.

I had to chew the thick potion. My head was filled with the rotted fumes and the world swam as my mouth went numb. I stoppered the phial and slipped it back into the case as I chewed, wondering that I hadn’t vomited the foul smelling poultice.

The numbness flowed down my throat and into my stomach. I lay back, my head on my pack and crossed my hands over my bloated belly. Cold and fire spread from my abdomen as the poison made its way to my stomach.

A sense of calm peacefulness swept over me and my eyelids grew heavy. I would sleep, the final sleep.

I woke an hour before dusk. Of course I woke up. Who do you suppose kept this journal up. My abdomen remained numb, as did my mouth, but I had not died.

I did, however, feel a bit rested from my nap. I resolved to take more of the poison shortly, but now that I was up and alert, I decided stopping, tethered to a sign warning me away from my greatest adventure seemed like a fool thing to do.

So I untethered the raft and began poling myself deeper into the swamp. While there were trees everywhere, none of the land was above the water as far as I could see. The rain came back just as the sun fell below the horizon, but I found I was not cold. Must be the poison. It acted to dull my senses — at least the physical sensations. For some reason I felt more alert than I had in days.

The wide trees filled most of the swam, great fat-bottomed things that tapered to narrow poles as they reached for the sky. Others had great roots like arches spread across wide swaths of still water. I wish I knew what they were called.

I poled the raft deep into the night, thinking at any moment I would take the next dose of poison. But for some reason I hesitated.

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Cleric Journal: Day Eighteen



I woke with a start late the next morning and vomited upon sitting up. My head throbbed horrendously and the world was a fuzzy. I blinked, trying to clear my vision, but the world remained blurry.

Despite my generally positive nature, it was time for me to finally admit that perhaps this adventure was drawing to an ugly and pathetic close. I was definitely not feeling well. I tried twice to stand, but the exertion was too much and I passed out.

The sun was nearly to its zenith by the time I roused from my swoon. To my horror, the sweet water from the brigand’s camp was floating beside the raft. I rolled to the edge, risking tipping the wide craft, and reached longingly for the skin. I was so desperately thirsty.

I fell back with a shriek as a hand thrust upward out of the water, snatched the skin up and tossed it onto the raft. Old Leech Eye rose from the silt, half his chest was caved in, and one arm was gone. That leech, long dead, still dangled from his left eye socket, however. If that wasn’t terrifying enough, he staggered toward me, placed his one decaying hand on my shoulder, gave a squeeze then turned and walked into the water.

I watched him go, overwhelmed by the stench of him and at a loss for his action. When he didn’t return I stood, calling for him. My voice did not echo, but was muffled by the lichen and moss, the susurration of the open channel and the quiet patter of rain.

Old Leech Eye had abandoned me, left me to go to his final grave. I scoured the island and used my pole to stir up the water around the raft. I never found Mumford, but I did spot the dead willow the wisp thing. It was twined in the tentacles of the water demon, both gently waving in the shallow water.

I dropped to my knees and wept for my lost friends and for the world’s loss of the beautiful snake like willow the wisp. Its beautiful lightning had finally defeated the water demon, but I’d always remember the way it made the world glow in the darkest part of the harsh world.

I drank the last of the water, packed my few belongings and loaded the raft. I needed to move or I would die here. I had no idea what lay ahead of me, but I had to do something. With the demise of my only friends a feeling of urgency had filled me, sending me into a panic.

As a side note: my urine contained blood the last time I voided. Not a good sign.

I managed to pole the raft for three hours this afternoon. Once away from the sick island, there did not appear to be any other high ground. The channel I worked through frothed with leeches and giant fish, some bigger than my raft. I was just glad they had no desire to eat me. I could see them below the water as we moved deeper into the swamp. The water was growing deeper as well. Soon I would not be able to use the pole to move the raft, but the current had grown stronger the deeper I went.

As the sun dipped toward the far horizon I sat on the raft, the pole across my lap, as we floated along faster than I could’ve ever moved us.

And by we, I mean me. Several times I had to wipe at my eyes. In the gloom of the night I thought that Old Leech Eye and Mumford sat on either corner of the front of the raft, facing forward, as if anticipating some wonder to appear from gloom. Then my vision would clear and my raft would be empty once more.

I dozed through the night, jerking awake at every bump or sound from the swamp. Upon waking each time I would turn, thinking I heard Mumford and Old Leech Eye following me, but, alas, they were truly gone.

It rained until deep into the night, and I came to my senses enough to put out my cook pot to catch some of the water. Not a lot, but it helped slake the fires that burned within me.

Once, before the moon set and the world went truly dark, I thought I heard laughter. It was fleeting and far in the distance, but it was a happy laugh. Not one of anxiety nor fear. It was a sweet sound which hurt for the lack of more. I started to call out, to see who would answer, but I found I was too weak and my voice choked out in a ragged gasp.

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The wild ox; strength and power.


Creativity; words, music, and art.


The troll cross; wealth and prosperity.


The sun; energy, honor, guidance.


Personally earned or lucky wealth and prosperity.


The harvest; patience and promise.


The chariot; journey and travel.

Note: This is not the real book cover.