Fruit of the Fallen
The Road to Blackroot
Day one of travel, several hours walk from Graywall
She’s found me. A thousand times I’ve told myself it could be coincidence, but I will not have the deaths of innocents hang over my head. I’ve left Graywall, after leaving a hasty apology at Murkot’s. Old Gerswin was curious of my sudden departure after so long, though he did not pry. I do not know what he thought of me after I left my home of two years, if perhaps I was remotely or directly tied to the recent killings. I must take comfort in the knowledge that by leaving I make his life that much safer, even if it lowers his opinion of me. Hopefully She will have left the city after finding no sign of me, which is in itself a miracle.
After travelling some hours I have taken shelter in an inn nestled in one of the few safe towns that dot the province of Droaam. One of the better advantages of being a healer is that you are welcome in any inn or village for an exchange of simple healing. Men don’t always crave for music, farmers don’t always need exotic spices to enhance their meals, but the healer’s hands are always in need.
I fear where I must go next. Though I want for the comfort of Brelandian towns, I must keep away else I risk chance’s scorn and meet Her again. Droaam, it seems, will become my home now. I must press on, if only to avoid Her shadow.
Night one of travels, meditations
As I kneeled tonight I feel nothing but Winter’s chill in my heart. At these times I feel that Erathis has forsaken me. That, or it is I that has forsaken her. It was by her hand that the succubus was allowed to tempt me, and yet I was not man enough to discover Her secret until it was too late. Perhaps it is both, or neither. My only comfort is that I am still alive, and
I may still yet atone for my sins.
Day two of travel, Romnel’s inn
In the early morning they brought in a man who had been caught outside at night. Goblins had destroyed his entire left leg, with what I can only assume are bite marks. Besides this grievous injury, he appeared to have been left to die, and was frozen as a result. I plied my trade as best as I could, but they brought him to me far too late, even for magic. Such was his state that I do not know if he was even breathing when they laid him down on the table. He died in the back room of the inn, surrounded by those roused from their sleep by the shouting.
The man who found him asked me where I was trained in healing, and what my qualifications are. I was surprised by his questioning, so soon after such a loss, and feared that he meant to rebuke my teachers. Instead, it appeared he was looking for a mercenary. Fortunate, for I was looking for some direction to my wandering. He explained that he intended to hire a cleric from the local church of the Sovereign host in Graywall. After speaking over a meal he decided that despite my failure today I held promise. He handed me a map, a starting payment of 30 gold (which was a welcome sight to my dwindling savings I had scrapped together from my previous salary), and bid me farewell. According to the man, I should be able to rest here again tonight, as he had not expected to find an able-bodied man so quickly. The innkeeper, a rough man (the kind most become after spending any amount of time in Droaam), offered me a free room for the night for my attempts to save the traveler’s life. Perhaps he is perhaps not as much stone on the inside as he is on the outside.
Later that day, near sunset
The contents of my missive make me hesitate, and wonder if my wisdom guided me on the right path. No matter how many times I try and convince myself that the path indicated on the map doesn’t run straight into the heart of the Shadow Marches, the white line drawn on the parchment defeats me in the end. The letter accompanying the map explains that a Doria Veladar is in need of assistance. I am to meet with three others who have been elsewise contacted. Interestingly, the letter was ended with the seal of the House of Tharasck. Though the thought of spending days or perhaps weeks in that dreadful marshland turns my stomach, this journey at the very least takes me farther away from Her.
Night two of travels, meditations
Forgive me, Erathis, for my continued failings. Your servant pleads his weary heart and mind, and asks for this next task to requite for these trespasses. I will suffer the challenges of this wild place if only to temper my heart and steel my faith under your maternal eye.
May I walk once again where men grow bored watching their fields, and women complain only of an unexpected rain. Give me this and I would want never again.
Day three of travel
I have made camp for the night. The road today was unremarkable. There is a copse of trees not far from the road which will offer some means of shelter from roving hordes of goblins, or worse. I am in middling spirits. In times like these, alone in the wilderness, I must rely on Erathis for strength.
Night three of travel, meditations
The parable of the wood-cutters
Three men were tasked with clearing a patch of forest. After one day it became immediately clear who the best worker was, as he had cut down twice as many trees and the other two combined. The best worker was given a large sum, and invited to dine with the master.
Over the course of the week, however, his work slowly declined, until the other two men clearly mastered him. Confused at this, the master examined the first worker, and found that he had neglected to sharpen his axe. It is so that Erathis teaches that even the greatest communities must continue to take time away from their day and advance, so as to not be overtaken by their peers. Through such a competition is the miracle of innovation and invention born.
Day four of travel
I start my travels with the unpleasant thought that today I will enter the Shadow Marches. My clothing, already travel worn, will undoubtedly become unwearable after a few days in that miserable place. I must take special care of my amulet there, perhaps enclosing it in a small pouch if I can find a merchant who is willing to sell one. Considering its importance, I dare not leave it in my travel-sack or else I risk forgetting its place and separating it from my body. Fourtar was not specific with how far I could go while still under the protection of the amulet, though I dare not risk it any more than I need. Giving that demon even the slightest indication of my presence will be enough to spell my doom. Such is the penance for a man who betrayed everything he stood for.
Night four of travels, meditation
My mother once, in order to test my faith to you, Erathis, asked why even the noblest of men commit foul deeds. Pleading the ignorance of a young child, I was unable to answer my mother, though I wish instead to deliver the answer to you, Erathis. I reject the answer that men commit foul deeds because that is how they act naturally. Generosity can come just as easily as can treachery to any man, depending on the circumstances. Men are also not animals without thought, they have the power to control their minds and actions. No, my answer to my mother’s question is that men are given faults in order to surpass them, and thus become better because of it. You teach that societies cannot remain stagnant, and that they must ever be improved else they fall due to stagnation. Such is the same with man, as he must have both the impurities of sin and the will to overcome them in order to improve himself. I pray to you this night Erathis that you grant me the will to overcome my sins, and the strength to correct what has already been done.
Day five of travel, near Blackroot
It was not my intention to write on these pages once I had entered the Shadow Marches, in order to prevent my black mood from spoiling these pages. However, I am in good faith, for I have found a strange companion. Sitting on a dead log was a machine, one of the old warforged machines that I had read about while I was still in Ardev. Of course, the tomes that I had at that time were written for a reader of small stature and even smaller understanding of the world. The machines I read about were noble, serving with the utmost ideals of honor and bravery combined with the fearlessness being made of metal grants you. This warforged, however, I found attempting to whistle. I delayed my trip in order to talk with this strange sight (as looking for hours on end at decaying swampland and the occasional decaying horse leaves one’s mind rather parched of entertainment), who explained to me of his desire to, as he put it, “become human.” After talking with him for some time I managed to convince him to join me on my journey. At the very least, if his manner and speech are awkward, the large axe I noticed on his back will be useful if we find trouble on the road. In any case, we seem to have taken to each other. I needed a companion after the long period of isolation, and he needed a new perspective on humanity to help him with his goals. We made camp for the night, and I fully expect to reach the town by tomorrow. If all goes well, I should even make it there before nightfall.
Night five of travels, meditations
This warforged is a curious one, Erathis. I had to ask him many times before he would leave me space to commence my nightly rituals. He is, if anything, a testament to how your creations need many pieces in order to function. Just as a crossbow needs a sight, a bowstring, a stock, and the arms, so too does a community need the elf, the dwarf, the human, and the goblin. Peoples of all kinds are needed for a society to function. This is what makes you the most accepting God, for there is always a place for those in Erathis’s society, as long as one is willing to do their part.