Journal of the Witch Alistair

6 Estalvo, Year of the Fall 1512

Allaha is gone. That damned sorcerer, may he perish in the dark and cold, led an assault against us to capture her. Raising the dead to fight against us was bad enough. I know he is not a follower of Aisha, but still, his people must have some respect for the dead. I still cannot conceive of doing such a thing, using those poor people like that. And for such an unsavory end. He already made it clear he would take Allaha to the Sanctum, and we should be pursuing him! But Brisbane says we can’t. There were a few injuries among the pack - nothing terrible, all treated quickly. But Brisbane insists that we need rest, that the pack has been on the run too long and the stress will harm them if they continue as they have been.  I hate to say he’s right, but he is. I have few tracking skills of my own, so I must wait here while they rest. Brisbane says he will begin the search in a few days, when the pack has had time to rest. It will take them longer to get to a port city and get enough money to travel, so it should not prevent us from stopping them before it’s too late. Or so Brisbane says. I hope he’s right. The sorcerer’s griffon, Haneul, has been attached to Asvorian since his master’s departure. I tried to give him to Tamara, but the beast hissed and clawed at me, and Tamara refused to open the door to her room. At least Asvorian doesn’t seem to be bothered by the griffon, in fact I saw him preening the beast. Perhaps it is for the best, then.

7 Estalvo, Year of the Fall 1512

I have had a long day. Tamara remained in her room again, and so Karej remained sitting outside her room. I treated injuries from what felt like the entire pack. I tried to convince Brisbane to go after them again, but he refused. Even Trea told me to leave it alone. I was so tired after giving that much treatment that I listened. I will have to say more tomorrow, but for now I must sleep.

8 Estalvo, Year of the Fall 1512

Another tiring day. Brisbane had us out and about cleaning up the mess left from the feast day. My arms and shoulders feel sore from yesterday, and I did not even get a chance to speak with Brisbane. Tomorrow.

9 Estalvo, Year of the Fall 1512

THAT ROGUE WEAK FANGED SON OF A LIGHTLESS DARK LOVING ARROGANT SELF CENTERED BASTARD. Brisbane informed me in no gentle terms that he will NOT be going after Allaha and the sorcerer. He says that there is no point in such a venture, that they are not pack and therefore not our concern. That we have spent enough of ourselves trying to save one woman. That she is not worth endangering the pack. I almost hit him. I mean I actually tried to hit him. I swung at his scowling face and next thing I knew I was on the ground and he was in wolf form snarling down at me. He knocked the breath clean out of me. I should have been terrified, but I was too angry. By Aisha’s light, he could have killed me. My own brother.

I went for a run. I feel less angry now, but not much. I know why Brisbane did it. I challenged him in front of the pack. Father always told us not to challenge him in front of the pack, that the Alpha was obeyed first and questioned later. In private. I’m not going to apologize, and I’m still angry, but I do understand. I’ll talk to him privately to try and change his mind tomorrow. Tamara has finally come out of her room, though all I have seen her do is aimlessly wander the halls. Asvorian and Haneul still appear to be getting along, and Karej occasionally appears to pet the griffon.

10 Estalvo, Year of the Fall 1512

I should have confronted Brisbane in front of the pack again. He can be so damned reasonable when he’s calm. It’s too late to send anyone after the sorcerer, and most of the pack is still recovering from the extended run and injuries sustained during the fight with the undead. They have probably made it to a Sanctum already, given Demorok has a few of their own. Even Trea agrees with him. If we had been in public I could have blamed it on her being his mate and presenting a united Alpha front, but in private Trea has always spoken her mind. Even if Brisbane disliked her opinion. So it seems we will stay here, and make a home, doing nothing to save Allaha.

11 Estalvo, Year of the Fall 1512

I have checked on my patients. All are doing well and will make a full recovery.

12 Estalvo, Year of the Fall 1512

Tamara keeps going and standing outside of the sorcerer’s room. I saw her walk in today, but she just as soon left. I have no idea what she hopes to accomplish, it’s not like he’ll be there. Or Allaha, for that matter.

13 Estalvo, Year of the Fall 1512

I cannot do it. And I will not. I have been driving myself mad trying to convince myself I can stay here with the pack, but I know I cannot. I went for a run, but it offered no solace. I treated my patients, but could not stop thinking of Allaha. It’s her eyes. I can see those gray eyes clearly in my mind. Filled with such sadness, like she’s always looking far away. I wanted to help her look ahead, to help her be happy. I still want to. She saved my life, the least I can do is save hers. But Brisbane won’t help. So I will have to do something drastic. I will leave on my own to find her. I am sure I can do it. It’s not like I can stay here.

14 Estalvo, Year of the Fall 1512

I thought I would be leaving today, but it seems that Aisha has given Krenillon different plans for me. Once I announced my plans to leave, Brisbane immediately agreed. As long as I took Tamara and Karej with me. It seems the pair had also decided to go after the sorcerer. I wanted to disagree, but when Tamara looked at me like she was about to cry again, I couldn’t. Besides, Brisbane said ‘you are my brother, and I love you, but you couldn’t track your way out of a potato sack’. I resent that. I have caught hares and other small animals in my wolf form, and I told Brisbane as much. It did not convince him, but he always underestimates me like that. He thinks because I did not go full wolf like him I am inferior to the other wolves. This is no mission for children, and neither of them can turn. They are going to slow me down. I would do better on my own, I am sure of it. Perhaps tomorrow I will be able to convince them to remain behind and allow me to leave on my own. Asvorian will be disappointed to lose his living blanket, but there is little I can do for that.

15 Estalvo, Year of the Fall 1512

I was unable to persuade Tamara and Karej to stay behind. In fact, they seemed insulted by the very idea of it. They mostly ignored me while gearing up their horses. Horses have never much liked me, and I feel the same way about them. Ever since one kicked me as a child, I have been wary of the beasts. Tamara and Karej’s horses, however, did not seem to mind me. They packed light, most of the supplied being rations. Tamara also brought the sorcerer’s journals, though I cannot imagine what for. To make everything worse, Brisbane spoke to Tamara as if she were the one in charge. She is half my age and my own brother trusts her more than me! It’s completely undignified. As is riding the sorcerer’s steed at the insistence of the others. Apparently a wolf travelling with two riders would be suspicious. My legs, backside, and everything else aches. And then it started raining just as we made camp. Tamara and Karej set up a tent, and now we are all in here to sleep and wait for the rain to end. It would have been easier to deal with as a wolf, and I could still be running. I suppose there is nothing for it at this point.

16 Estalvo, Year of the Fall 1512

Everything hurts, we rode through the rain all day, and had cold cuts of salted meat and tough road cakes for food. At least the damned griffon is warm, though I wish it would not lay on top of me to stay close to Asvorian.

17 Estalvo, Year of the Fall 1512

I may have been hasty in my judgement of Tamara. Riding through the rain took us off course, but the girl knew how to get us back on course. She claimed it was a part of her powers as a hamalakh. She was tracing the sorcerer’s life energy, as she called it. It sounded like she could find his soul. I am not sure, but it sounded blasphemous. Only Aisha is meant to see the souls of men. For a simple girl to be able to do so feels wrong, somehow. For now, I suppose I must be grateful. We would have little to go on otherwise. At least the rain has stopped.

18 Estalvo, Year of the Fall 1512

I ran as a wolf today. It felt good. Let me stretch out all my sore muscles, and saved me from another grueling day in that torture device they call a saddle. If I never ride a horse again after this it will be too soon.

19 Estalvo, Year of the Fall 1512

I can easily outpace the others as a wolf. I did so today, but turned back to join them later. I think that perhaps I should continue on myself in this way. I could make better time, and catch up to the sorcerer sooner. I could save Allaha, and then Tamara and Karej can help bring her back. It will keep the children safe, and speed up our rescue. I know if I bring it up they will insist we stay together, but I know this is the right course. I only hope they can forgive me later.

20 Estalvo, Year of the Fall 1512

I have no idea where I am. I am sore, tired, and hungry. And it started raining again.

21 Estalvo, Year of the Fall 1512

Tamara and Karej found me this afternoon. Perhaps Brisbane was right about my tracking ability. I cannot believe I was scolded by a girl half my age, but I did not complain. I have made a fool out of myself, and Tamara was right to tell me so. Something about this rescue must be driving me mad. I would never have tried such a foolish thing under normal circumstances. Now we have been set back a day and a half, and the sorcerer already had a sizable lead on us. I just want Allaha to be safe. But I see now that I cannot do this on my own. For better or worse, Tamara, Karej, and I are a team.

Draven the Hook

The man set his drink down on the bar.

It was a good sized building, all one floor with high walls that bowed out in the Dashan style. They were made of hide spread over a bone frame, divided into eight sections. Large round windows let in light from outside, and the door was simply a missing section in the wall. The floor was hard packed dirt, which occasionally stirred up dust as bone and hide chairs were moved around stone tables. A large fire pit was in the center of the building, dug into the ground and filling the room with smoke that billowed out of the windows and door. The bar wrapped around the pit, a large pot of some kind of hearty stew over the fire.

The  man at the bar was Korinwanese. His face was long, resembling that of a sheep’s, with large spiral horns at either side of his head. Instead of hair, his head was covered in black wool. He had also combed out a beard, which he tied at the end with a small metal bead. His eyes were blue, with horizontal pupils. He wore a blue, long sleeve wrap shirt and dark pants made out of rough materials. His hands had only two fingers and a thumb, and he wrapped them around his drink as he watched the other patrons.

Dasha was a country known for its warlords, which meant it was also known for its mercenaries and rogues. Most of the patrons were wearing some form of armor - leathers, mail, partial plate, and combinations thereof abounded. No one had a full set of matching armor. In one corner table, several men and women shared a Vorvalian hookah pipe. They shouted over one another as they spoke, bragging about their latests victories and prizes. Around the bar were mostly single, reserved men and women nursing drinks and dark thoughts. The exception was a pair of women leaning close to each other and speaking softly, sharing gentle caresses that were rapidly turning indecent. There were groups at most of the other tables, more reserved than the hookah smokers but still joking and scheming and bragging. There were people of all races present, the draw of money having no discrimination.

“Did you hear about Draven the Hook?”

The Korinwanese man turned slightly in his chair, ear flicking back to better hear the conversation happening behind him. He glanced back at the table, quickly checking over its occupants.

There were three, two men and a woman. One of the men was Flintian, while the other was Derovon. The woman was Krostish.

“How his bounty in Korinwa went up?” the Flintian was young, still in adolescence with a softness about his face. His red eyes were large and almond shaped, his pale skin and hair marking him as an albino. He also had only two legs, unlike the rest of his race, which had the body of a deer. He kept glancing around nervously, as if expecting something bad to happen.

The Krostish woman cooed over her drink. She had gray skin, with purple and gray feathers growing out of her arms starting at the shoulder. Her hands were talons at the bend in her wings, rather than at the ends. She twirled one of her talons around the rim of her goblet, “I heard he fucked a pretty noblewoman.”

“I heard he stole a shipment from someone,” the first speaker turned out to be the Derovon. Like the Flintian, he was also an albino. His four eyes were a pale purple in color, rather than red. The top set of his hands rested on the table, fingers folded under his chin. The second set was folded across his torso, while the third rested on the bend in his first set of legs.

The Flintian hugged himself and hunched his shoulders, leaning into the table, “Does it matter? It just means he’ll attract more bounty hunters this way.”

The Krostish scoffed and rolled her eyes, “If they’re here for Draven, they aren’t going to bother with us.”

“Why not?” the Flintian looked around nervously again, “If they’re already here for a whale, why not capture some minnows to sweeten the haul?”

“Because it’s more trouble than it’s worth..” the Derovon reached out one of his hands from his second set, placing it on the Flintian’s shoulder. He smiled reassuringly, “Most bounty hunters work solo, or in pairs. Taking down a whale takes a lot of effort, and they don’t have the manpower to catch a whale and catch a bunch of minnows.”

“Really?”

“He’s right,” the Krostish took a swig of her drink. She grinned in a way that was all teeth, “It’s the vultures you need to watch out for.”

The Flintian looked to the Derovon, “Vultures?”

The Derovon frowned at the Krostish, then sighed, “They’re bounty hunters that round up minnows after a whale’s been caught.”

The Korinwanese man at the bar turned away from the table as the barkeep stepped in front of him. He put some gold on the table for another drink.

The barkeep was a Dashan - he stood at eight and a half feet tall, with a bulbous stomach and squat legs ending in cloven hooves. His arms were long enough to drag on the ground as he walked, calluses on his knuckles evidence that he did so regularly. Tusks grew out of his mouth, and his nose looked as if it were smashed up into his face. His small eyes squinted at everything due to poor eyesight, and his black hair grew in a mane down his back. His skin had a ruddy hue, and his arm and chest was covered in short, curly bristle black hair. When he spoke, it was garbled, as if he spoke around a mouthful of rocks. “Wawre ya ‘eaded, strawnger?”

“Somewhere,” the Korinwanese man took his cup after it was filled, and drank. He frowned afterwards, nose wrinkling at the taste.

“Nawt a talker, eh?” the Dashan grunted, “Good.”

The man made no response.

The Dashan grunted again and trundled on.

The man finished his drink, frowning at it again before standing. He walked over to the table he’d been eavesdropping on, and tossed a small burlap pouch on the table. The coins inside clinked together, “Where is Draven the Hook?”

The Derovon and Krotish woman shared a shrewd look before turning back to the man.

The Flintian stared with wide eyes.

The Derovon reached out, tugging the pouch to him with one of the hands of his second set. He undid the drawstring, and poured some of the contents on the table. The coins glittered gold. The man picked one up, tilting it to catch the light, “Who’s asking?”

The Krotish reached over a picked up on of the coins herself, knocking hers and the Flintian’s drinks off the table with her wing. She didn’t seem to notice, examining one of the coins herself. She resettled her wings, and looked up at the Korinwanese man, “Whaler, probably.”

The Derovon snorted, putting the coins back in the bag, “Whalers don’t come to dives like this,” he smiled, looking the man up and down, “Unless…”

The Flintian leaned towards him, speaking in a harsh whisper, “Unless what?”

The Derovon gently pushed the other back, still sizing up the Korinwanese man. After a few moments, he nodded, “You have a partner?”

The Korinwanese man nodded once.

The Krostish did a doubletake, “You don’t think he’s-”

“You can find Draven at Spirepeak Outlook. It’s about a day north of here, just outside the Dalian Wastes,” the Derovon tucked the money pouch away out of sight.

The Korinwanese man nodded again, then turned and walked out of the bar.

The Flintian stared after him, then looked at the Derovon. Then he did so again, “Who was that?”

The Derovon picked up his drink, taking a slow sip, “Ever heard of Silent Sword?”

The Flintian nodded, frowning.

“That was him.”

The Flintian’s eyes widened, looking back at the door as if expecting the man to come charging back through, “What? No!”

The Derovon chuckled, nodding, “It was.”

The Krostish winked at him when the Flintian wasn’t looking, smiling herself, “He certainly fit the description. But then where was True Arrow?”

The Flintian looked back to them with alarm.

The Derovon shook his head, “I don’t know, and I don’t want to know. And if you’re smart, you won’t want to know either.”

The Flintian looked between them, “But… but they’re going after Draven, right?”

The Krostish snorted, “Of course. Who else would attract their attention?”

The Flintian frowned, studying his hands, “Should… should we warn him?”

“And attract their attention?” the Derovon laughed, “No, we’re better off staying out of it. Let the whales handle the whalers.”

“But-”

“Silent Sword and True Arrow took down Zorag the Magnificent, nearly ending the Syndong,” the Krostish frowned as she picked up her mug from the floor, “Do you really want to bet on Draven?”

“Tell you what,” the Derovon stood, putting some coins on the table, “We’ll go to Spirepeak Outlook, and you can see what happens when those two go after a mark.”

The Krostish snorted, rising as well, “If we get there in time.”

The two walked out of the bar without a backwards glance.

The Flintian, realizing his opinion wasn’t necessary, quickly stood and jogged to catch up with them.

True to the Derovon’s word, the journey took them one day to make. The Krostish, her race having been built to fly rather than walk, spent the trip riding on the Derovon’s back. They crossed rugged, hilled country. Most the plants were hardy shrubs that clung to the ground, a few scraggly trees here and there. Each was carved with the name of a dead warrior. The sun beat down on them, causing them all to sweat even when standing still. They did not run into the Korinwanese man - and the Krostish took that as a sign that they were, in fact, too late.

The Outlook sat on a rocky hillside - it was a square stone tower, the remnant of a previous nation. It had fallen into disrepair, holes in the walls and chunks of the ceiling gone. Two smaller towers stood in front of it, on either side of a high sided pathway up. One was completely collapsed, while the other was in similar disrepair to the Outlook itself. Dashans had set up a sprawling war camp around it, hide and bone tents smoking while their occupants drank, fought, and prepared weapons, armor, and mounts for the next battle. They rode great beasts with rough, gray hides and four squat legs, a horn protruding from their noses.

To the west of the camp spread the Dalian Wastes. The land was completely barren, the ground so parched that it cracked and crumbled. Dust swirled around in the wind, dancing across the flat ground. It went further than the eye could see, light shimmering off the surface of it.

The trio walked into the camp, posing as mercenaries looking for work. They were sent up to the Outlook to talk to one of Draven’s warchiefs. Those outside, they learned, had only joined Draven’s horde recently - they were in the midst of celebrating Draven’s victory over a rival, which had earned him the rival’s horde and harem. They made their way up to the Outlook without much challenge - none of the Dashans felt threatened by three non-Dashans. Inside, the Outlook was packed with more celebrating Dashans. After speaking with the warchief, they were invited to sit at one of the tables and join in the festivities. There were a few other spatterings of mercenaries in the hall, though most had been camped outside.

Draven himself sat at the head of the hall. He was large for a Dashan, standing over nine feet tall. He still possessed both tusks, but his right hand had been replaced with a metal hook - the origin of his namesake. Some Dashan females were around him - they lacked tusks, but instead had large sideburns that ended at the corners of their mouths.

The hall was uproariously loud, fights breaking out now and again as men and women drank too much - or simply became too excited. Smoke filled the room from the fire pit that had been gouged into the center of the stone floor, large chunks of meat roasting on spits.

The Flintian coughed, eyes watering as they adjusted, “Are the warlord always like this?”

The Derovon chuckled, “Lucky we found you, buck. Otherwise, you’d be dead pretty quick.”

The Flintian looked down, studying his hands.

The Krostish snorted, “You mean lucky for me you’re getting old. Your paternal instincts are getting me a new partner, old man.”

“Hey, I’m only sixteen!” the Derovon threw up his first set of hands.

“Which is nearly half your lifespan.”

The Flintian’s head jerked up. He stared at the Derovon with wide eyes, “Really? But… you seem so much… older.”

The Derovon smiled, “Well, thank you. You’ve never met a Derovon before, have you?”

The Flintian looked down, blushing, “No.”

“Lucky you,” the Krostish started straightening the feathers of one of her wings.

The Derovon rolled his eyes, “The average Derovon lives about forty years.”

The Flintian gaped, eyes wide.

The Derovon laced the fingers of his first set of hands under his chin, folding the second set over his torso. One of the hands of his third set rose, one finger pointing, “But answer this: I thought Flintians had the full body of a deer, not just the legs.”

The Flintian looked down, glancing up once, “I’m… I’m an… abomination.”

The Derovon and Krostish shared a look of concern, and seemed about to speak further when the doors to the hall were flung wide.

The Korinwanese man from the bar strode into the hall without fear, leading a large spotted mountain cat with a sack thrown over its saddle behind it. The room fell quiet in surprise, Dashans moving out of the man’s way as he went through the center of the hall, a straight path to Draven. Slowly, all eyes in the room found the strange figure, watching as he stopped a few feet in front of their warlord.

The warlord only noticed the change when one of the women around him pointed it out. He squinted down at the intruder, “Tha fahck are you?”

The Korinwanese man bowed, “I am Moh. And I bear a gift for the mighty Draven.”

“Moh?” Draven leaned forward, snuffling a he tried to take in the stranger’s scent, “A sheep mawn. Moh what?”

The Flintian leaned over to the Derovon, “I thought Silent Sword’s name was-”

“Shh. Watch,” the other man pushed him gently back.

Moh stood his ground, posture straight but relaxed. He did not appear intimidated by the Dashans, “I am a drifter, with no clan or house. But I understand it is the tradition of your people to introduce yourself by deed, rather than name. Do you wish this of me?”

Draven stroked the hair on his chest, straightening out the curls and letting them coil back in the wake of his fingers, “Yes, Moh tha Drifter, let yawr deeds speak.”

Moh inclined his head. He took a step back, and pulled the sword and sheath out of his belt to brandish them before him, “I have journeyed through many lands, and laid low those who stood against me. I have traveled up mountainsides, across deserts, and through forests heavy and dark. I have split men from navel to nose, severed their heads from their bodies, and pierced their hearts before they gathered breath to scream. My sword is named for the only thing it leaves in its wake - Silence, for none who have seen it have lived to tell the tale.”

“Mm, might have given himself away there,” the Derovon mumbled.

“That depends on how stupid Draven is,” the Krosti straightened a few feathers on her arms, but her eyes were locked on the exchange.

The Dashan scratched the hair on his chest, considering the monologue.

Moh the Drifter stood as still as a statue as he waited.

After some time, Draven burst into raucous laughter, slapping the armrest of his chair. A few individuals around the room joined in nervously.

“Well said!” the Dashan boomed, “Do all goatmen speak so prety abawt killing?”

“They do,” said Moh.

Draven laughed again, his joviality propelling the hall back into the feast. “Wha brings yah ta my hawl, Moh tha Drifta?”

“I seek food and drink, and perhaps a place to sleep for the night,” Moh replied.

Draven nodded. “Draven welcomes yah ta his hawl! Naw, wha is yawr gif, Moh tha Drifta?”

Moh nodded, and strapped his sword and sheath back to his waist. He turned to his mount, and pulled the sack off of the saddle. He dumped it unceremoniously, and a human woman tumbled to her knees.

She had dark brown skin, and wavy blonde hair that cascaded around her shoulders. She glared around the room with eyes as green as fresh grass. She wore a simple green dress, though the skirt had a ragged end and the entire outfit was marked by small tears and patches. She looked up at Draven, then down at the ground, her hair falling in front of her face.

“That,” the Derovon said, leaning close to the Flintian, “is True Arrow.”

“What?” his companion did a double take, “But-”

“Shh!” the Krostish hushed them, “Watch!”

“My gift,” the drifter said, pausing to close his eyes. When he opened them again, it was with a soft sigh, “Comes from the woods of Dorbean. It is not gold, but golden. Men often seek it, and usually do not find what they desire,” Moh’s mouth flattened in an attempt not to frown as he swept out an arm, “I give to you, Draven the Hook, a flower of the North.”

The Derovon snorted, and covered his mouth with one set of hands.

The Krostish cackled quietly, “Oh, I want to know how she convinced him to say that.”

Their Flintian companion frowned at them both in confusion.

Draven squinted at the woman, “Tha don’ look like a flowah.”

“Then, Draven, take a closer look,” Moh said, taking a few steps back.

Draven pulled himself from his chair. His knuckles dragged on the ground as he ambled forward. His snout wiggled as he snuffled and snorted - for what Dashan lacked in sight, they more than made up for in smell. Catching the scent of the woman, Draven reared back and squealed in anger, “A woman? Draven needs no gifts of weak women!”

Moh inclined his head, “Of course not - she is not just a gift, but a challenge.”

The Dashan made a few snuffly noises as he considered, then lowered back down, “A chawlenge?”

The Drifter nodded, “Shall I give her a weapon, that you may test this yourself?”

Draven scratched at his chest hair, the snorted and nodded, “Yes! Who here es brahve enough ta fight tha flowah?”

The room burst into murmurs as the participants of the feast tried to determine who should face the mysterious woman. Immediately, the Derovon and Krostish turned and played a game of spider, snake, frog.

The Krostish cackled as she won, leaning back in her seat.

The Derovon sighed and stood, “I will!”

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