From the Journals of Patrius atte Loitre, late of Summerdown in the Blackwood Forrest…
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt an urge to add to my journal.
A few months ago- it feels like years, now – it seemed a useful tactic. Having spent my whole life in the Blackwood, I’m well educated in flora and fauna, trapping and hunting; the ways of survival, and life. But deep in the forest the mind can wander, and that’s when things become dangerous. Tracking a stag sates only the basest of desires, leaving the imagination and the soul wanting.
Years ago when I was running the caravans between Northmount and Bonevale, a wily old coachmen told me that he wrote his daily thoughts down in a little folio he kept on him. “Son,” he rasped, “yer’ eyes aint worth spit if your head’s busy ponderin’. That’s why I get it out of my system in this,” he told me, holding up the worn, leather-bound tome. The advice seemed odd, at first, as almost any piece of good advice sounds to a boy of 17. As the years have passed, and my time in towns has waned, along with my time around other people, I have come to find the old driver’s words are a truth too big to ignore, and too simple to argue with.
So here I am, again, scribbling. I am Patrius atte Loitre. I am the son of a smith, a motherless son who still winces at the scars that twist along his arms- the ugly tattoos of a youth spent working iron on his father’s anvil. I am 23, and without wife or child. Would it be cliche to say that I am married to the forest? Or perhaps to the Vales. Or maybe the Blackwood. I think so. Suffice to say I am without home beyond my country and the people that live in it- and it is about to be torn apart.
I arrived in Woodsedge a day ago, along with my traveling companion Rowan. She is a strange woman, a halfling, with shocking hair and even worse manners. But I have come to trust and respect her- she worries over her home in Seabotl with a passion equaling my own concern for the Vales. We met along the road to Woodsege, having discovered that we both wished to find the same group: Sword and Sorcery.
But Woodsedge was and is a tiny version of the rest of the Vales- a town torn apart, split between folk terrified of occupation, of Bluecloaks serving the whims of a Weylic king, and a lingering threat from all sides of Dorlish invasion. I was taken into a sort of custody almost immediately on my arrival, but Rowan and I, along with a few good Bluecloaks, defeated the plans of a heartless Bluecloak Captain under the employ of something called “The Three Crowns”. I was badly injured during the engagement, and nearly fell during battle. But it was our luck, Vaela be praised, that the inn we fought in held a member of the Sword and Sorcery group- a queer fellow by the name Aldous. He gave me a healing dram and I fell nearly instantly into a deep slumber…
...The morning next, we all awoke. I’d recovered some from my injuries, though the day is long in coming when I will be fully restored. For a short while, I felt- I assumed- we had woken to peace. Or some form of peace.
Food was served by Nobol, the inn keeper. The town was a bustle with Bluecloaks, preparing their march for Seabotl. Aldous found it in his odd heart to finally give us his name, and it seemed like Rowan and I would soon have contracts with the venerable group of adventurers- providing we proved to Aldous that we had the right skills.
The request was an annoying one. Rowan and I had traveled long hard miles, and though I can’t speak for her, my own abilities are in no need of proving. But as we began our morning, Aldous and I spied a young lad spreading whispers among the townsfolk.
Intercepting him, Aldous and I discovered that he was spreading a rumor about a murdered wizard named Orvius Kavalson- supposedly killed by a group of dwarves near Seabotl. We reconvened with Rowan, who wanted some privacy to discuss her mission with Aldous. Before we left, Nobol hurried over and delivered a note he found in the insidious Bluecloak Captain’s room.
The three of us took a short walk north, until we came upon a faded statue of Vaela. I took my time to honor a promise and prayed to her honor, that venerable goddess of travelers and pilgrims, while Aldous and Rowan talked. I admit that I overheard them, and at the mention of the murdered wizard, Rowan became quite upset. I chose then to reveal my note to them- a message to the Captain, letting him know that everything was going to plan, and that “the dwarves” would be “blamed”. It seemed obvious that this was in reference to the supposed assassination of Orvius by dwarves, as part of some larger attempt to disrupt the trust of Valelanders..and who knows what else.
We rushed back to town, with Rowan determined to get a message to Seabotl- about both the murder of Orvius, and the coming arrival of the Bluecloaks. She managed to employ one of Nobol’s kitchen boys for the task- requiring another donation of coin from my rapidly shrinking coffers- and we continued on. But before any of us knew what was happening, the remaining Bluecloaks began falling like flies. The boy Aldous and I caught had been spreading more than rumors, it seemed- and the folk of Woodsedge had decided to fight back against the Bluecloak’s occupation!
Symen, a woodsman, seemed to lead the attack, and he and his men corralled a handful of scared Bluecloaks in the center of town. There they stood, fate uncertain, sweating under their armor and cloth, while Nobol and Symen fought with words over the logic of the attack. I stepped forward and argued with Symen, but he was wild with anger, and would not listen. Making to execute the terrified huddle of mercenaries, I struck him with a fist- foolish, maybe, but it was all I could do to stop him. Taking this as a sign of opportunity, the Bluecloaks tried to take up arms and fight back…
Blood spilled fast. I tried my best to prevent it, but a slaughter they wanted, and a slaughter they got. For a moment…I was lost. What to do? I had made kind with many Bluecloaks in my days with the caravan, and though they were not always the keenest group, they were at least honorable. Now, here I was, caught between a desire to see the Dorls pushed out, and a hope that the Vales will remain independent and free of occupation. To me, at first, it seemed that Weyland was a lesser evil, but the people of Woodsedge- and they are not alone- see things a bit more black and white than I do. And so after a moments hesitation, I made my choice. Running with all the force my still injured body could deliver, I leaped upon the saddle of a fallen Bluecloak’s steed, sword drawn, and charged after a fleeing Bluecloak. He fel under my mount and was quickly trampled.
By the time I recovered from my ill-begotten reverie, the damage was done. The streets ran red with blood, the interwoven streams of Bluecloak and townsmen alike. Worse than that, selfish as the thought might be, is the state of my heart- Have I shamed Vaela? Was turning on the Bluecloaks- once friends, once traveling companions- the right choice? Is there no better way to keep the Vales free? I once thought there was. But now? I’m not so sure.
Rowan, Aldous, and I convened again, and I had words with Symen. My temper was at it’s breaking point, but he offered to send a group to stop the Bluecloaks from reaching Seabotl, and Rowan was overjoyed. Aldous, as usual, stood looking disinterested and bored. Without my input, Rowan struck a deal with Symen, and Aldous, hungry to see us “in action”, went along with the idea.
So in exchange for the safety of Rowan’s town, we are set to venture to Bracstone Heights, realm of wood elves, in a vain attempt to convince them to fight for Symen, the Vales, and the Smallwood. I admit that the idea of having the Elves on “our” side is a nice one, but this journey is fraught with danger, not the least of which from the notoriously daring and vicious elves themselves.
Wishing not to spend another minute in the crimson lined streets, I quickly set to organizing my companions; lending money to Rowan to fix us with provisions, and finding three more horses to serve as our mounts and pack animals. Sadly, I was able to take advantage of a stable full of horses, saddles, feed, and harnesses…goods and beasts the Bluecloaks of Woodsedge will never again need.
What I am left with, however, is a burden. A great burden. A weight that weighs on me so much that the sight of mounds of feed and bags of foodstuffs seems to me as feathers on the wind…a burdensome feeling that Symen was right. A sensation that some change has come about…or came about, the moment I chose to trample that Bluecloak. Is this what must be done to free my beloved Vales? Is it truly Vaela; if it is, please, give me a sign. Because if it is…
...I will do it. A thousand times if necessary.
Vaela help me.
Patrius atte Loitre, 14th Furrow, X501