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The Book of Change
Monday, 12 February 2018
Changed @ 18:50 - Link - comments
The sky of a cold night was displaying its first sprinkling of stars as we made our way to Caer Laleldan, to attend the ceremony which would mark the passing of Winter's Warming. There was snow all along the Royal Road from Milltown to the Caer. Several had arrived ready for the ceremony when a messenger-bird found me. There was also snow in Dundee, and a few people were unable to get through the deep drifts which blocked their path. I mentioned this fact, and left the meeting-place to give what assistance I could.
True to the spirit which infuses the adventurers in these lands, many followed. I was told that Dundee had been cleared by those able to do so. The only obstacle now was the length of road leading to Caer Laleldan which needed to be cleared so that all who wished could join the ceremony.
The work was long and hard. Piles of snow lay all around, and many aggressive snowmen lay in wait for the unwary. We shovelled snow when we could, fought when we must, went crashing to a life monument from time to time. But slowly we gained ground. Enchanters strengthened those in need, clerics healed those who were injured. With all working together, eventually the path was clear. By unspoken agreement, the snow lying in drifts in the gardens were left untouched for the ceremony.

Torches flared across the gardens, their light reflecting off the snow piled around. Ice crystals glittered in the shifting light as we wrote messages on small pieces of parchment. The messages - our hopes, dreams and prayers for the coming cycles - were attached to lanterns. And then, when all were ready, the torches were doused and the lanterns released. They made a fine sight, the flickering fires within the lanterns shining in the sky amid the brilliant stars. And all the time the light from above illuminated the snow scattered across the gardens, sparkling and glinting off the tumbled mounds. All-in-all it made a wondrous sight. I watched as the lanterns slowly drifted across the night sky, and eventually out of sight. The lanterns may have disappeared from view, but the content of the messages I sent flying are still with me, in my mind and in my heart.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018
Changed @ 17:52 - Link - comments
The 'rifter flies low in the sky during the few marcs of daylight. The days are short, the nights long and cold.
The stark winter has come.
I've been largely shut away in the hall, sleeping and scrawling notes on parchment sheets. But I have been getting out and about more of late. It's either that or visit Denion to get hold of some larger armour!
I've made enquiries about the balloon which still loops its cord around my throat and the children whose voices are heard from within. I've visited a few sites where children have been seen or heard, or where they have been lost. And searched out spots where signs of children have been seen. So far I've not obtained any definite information, though there have been a few suggestions about things I could try.

Winter's Warming is upon us, another reason to stir myself from the loft where I've slept for too many turns and marcs. Time to get out into the lands to seek out friends and festivities.
Sunday, 31 December 2017
Changed @ 15:46 - Link - comments
I've passed a few marcs on several occasions farming in the gloom of the N'Rolav tombs. It's long been my favoured place to go when I need to collect some coin. After I next visit a trainer the tombs will be closed to me. That's the reason (or rather, one of the reasons) I have for darting past the trainers, while they just cast a level gaze and a quizzical smile in my direction!

I took a tour around the lands, listening out for music. I thought that perhaps finding music might help commumication with the ghostly child voices within the balloon which attached itself to me a couple of cycles ago. I've discussed the matter with a few people, but so far I've not found a way to free myself of the balloon. Not that I'd be willing to do so without being sure the children would be safe, and in a position to find some peace. And I distributesd a few scrolls while I roamed.

The rest of the time I've still been sitting around the guild hall, sending out my messenger-bird and attending to the responses brought by others.
Thursday, 30 November 2017
Changed @ 18:47 - Link - comments
I've spent far too long lazing around the guild hall since the end of Fall Festival. The season was enjoyed by all who took part thanks to the efforts of those who arranged events. A companion attached itself to me at the end of the season and I've been practising my drawing skills so that I can decorate it. But no matter how much I try I can't disguise the fact that some people find my follower slightly unnerving!

I passed a couple of turns, as is my habit, at the roses. It's a beautiful place, full of memories which never dim.

I've spent the time since FallFest mostly scrawling on pieces of parchment. I only hope I can read them if they're needed at some later time! And I've been looking over a few parchments which need my attention.

It's time to be out and about in the lands once more. The 'rifter flies low during the turns of daytime. But the night skies are glorious, the stars shining as brightly as my lady's eyes.
Tuesday, 31 October 2017
Changed @ 17:13 - Link - comments
Sand-fever. It's a terrible affliction, well-known for affecting those who, as the name suggests, spend too much time hunting in the desert. Althea grew more and more horrified as I listed the symptoms, and I suspect she was trying to work out whether or not she had been affected by the condition.
Those symptoms became more uncomfortable, more outrageous, as I carried on speaking. At long last I mentioned the habit sufferers develop of constantly searching out stray particles of sand lodged in their equipment or stuck to their person. It was while I explained an observer would think the sufferer appeared to be afflicted by lice that I was unable to hold the laughter in any longer, and Althea realised I'd been teasing her all along.

Fall Festival has come around once more, bringing revelry and fun with it. The season has been long-awaited, anticipation rising in recent turns. As ever the banditos run around the lands, appearing everywhere except where I happen to be. And I hear there's an alligator somewhere it really doesn't belong!
Saturday, 30 September 2017
Changed @ 16:56 - Link - comments
Seasons turn, as is their way, unconcerned with the doings of mere mortals. They have their moment, their allotted span of time. As do we, I suppose, with the length of our lives and the durability of our aspirations bounded by forces often beyond our control or understanding. Fate may at times be benign, giving reason for joy and laughter. And at other times may treat us more savagely.

The turns are upon us when the 'rifter does not fly so high in the sky, nor is it seen for so many marcs. The nights are darker, longer, colder. And yet even this time has its own beauty, and brings promise of brighter and better times that lie before us.
Saturday, 26 August 2017
Changed @ 20:25 - Link - comments
I'm not too sure how - doubtless by the intercession of the gods - but the townsfolk have returned to Dundee. Whatever madness affected us as we followed the bronze one around the town must have distorted our senses. There may have been a few scuffles but then the folk presumably found places to hide and we thought, as we could see no sign of them, that we had killed those poor innocents. There's still some cleaning-up to be done as far as I understand. I helped for a few marcs at the ruins of the Building of Glass but that was a while back. I've hardly set foot in Dundee since that turn.
Come to that I've hardly set foot out of the guildhall recently. I've been sleeping quite a bit, waking to chat with any of the kin I see. And still I watch over the princess as she continues to sleep off the effects of her misadventure.
I have ventured over to the reborm zone. If I sit around at the hall for too long my armour develops a tendency to shrink for some reason!! The remedy is for me to run around for a while to make the equipment behave itself. The creatures who inhabit the zone had clearly decided I should have a warm welcome. I was faced at one point by a polyp and two of the huge fallow worms, an encounter which I barely survived. When all three were dealt with I took a break to catch my breath and swallow a lot of health potions and set off once more. And I walked into another of those worms, this time accompanied by a swarm of sea stars. All in all, it was a lively visit to the zone, and certainly one that kept me awake and moving fast! Just what was needed, I think. It did me - and my armour - some good to be up and doing.
I returned to the hall to check on Ellyana. I work on parchments when I can, sleep when necessary. Mostly, when awake, I stay here in the hall sitting quietly. Watching and waiting.
Thursday, 27 July 2017
Changed @ 18:05 - Link - comments
Marcs and turns go by; the seasons pass; the 'rifter rises and sheds its light on joy or tragedy.

One of those seasons has just come to an end. Summerfaire was, as ever, a parade of fun and festivity enjoyed by all. The usual common thread linked together the various light-hearted contests, that thread being the fact that participation is more important than winning.
I was walking the lands handing out prizes for the guild lottery, and my task took me to the holding of the Blade and Staff. I waited at a campfire to meet one of the winners, and my eyes fell on words carved above the entry to the hall -
'That which we hold closest to our hearts we protect by any means'
Those words dug deep into my conscience as I recalled the events that had taken place in Dundee the previous turn.

The bronze false god stalked through the town, turning all colours to bronze. The building of glass shattered and fell in a torrent of shards as his temple erupted from below, and as he passed he took the minds of the townspeople. We tried to reason with him, tried to cajole or threaten, but all to no avail. And then the townsfolk, by then completely under his control, attacked us.
We had no choice. The only thing to do was to defend ourselves from these people, most of whom we had known since finding the lands. There was no joy in the fight such as might be found when dealing with a raid. The thrill of battle I've often felt when in combat with demoins and the like was missing. Just a deep sadness as, along with others, I fought against Jolan, and with Jaymes.
We are supposed to protect the lands - that is why we have always fought against evil. We should safeguard the people of the towns - but that turn, in Dundee, we slaughtered them all ...

When all was over, the bronze one's power was gone, his followers had abandoned him, and his temple was collapsing around us. If not for the 'chanters and their portals we would have been trapped and crushed beneath the masonry falling from the ceiling. He should hopefully not bother us again. But we have paid a heavy price.
Miranda attempted to comfort us. She laid the blame and responsibility for what had occurred on the bronze one. Her words were welcome, and probably true, but at the time it made no difference to the feelings of those present. Whether we acted correctly or not, and irrespective of where the responsibilty lies, all I know is that what happened did not feel right at the time. And as I look back, it still does not seem right.

The events flickered through my memory as I read those words above the guildhall entrance. They may possibly carry a grain of comfort. We did save the townsfolk from an eternity of enslavement, we did protect them from an extended life during which their minds, thoughts and words would have been comtrolled by the bronzed being. They would have existed, but not lived.
Maybe they're better off. It's something to think about as I, along with others, try to understand the events that transpired on the bloodied streets of Dundee. At the moment all I can say for certain is that I must find a way to deal with the memory of what I did. And I pray that I, and all involved, will find that way, and that we will pass throough darkness into a brighter turn.
Thursday, 20 July 2017
Changed @ 20:00 - Link - comments
I wrote in this journal on the subject of dreams. I mentioned that some are pleasant, some less so, and that the worst are those where we dream of a loved one in peril and then wake to find that is true.

Some time back all was not peaceful at the guildhall. Ellyana was sleeping, though restlessly. She turned and stirred continually, and from time to time she'd murmur something, though not clearly enough for me to catch her words. I sat watching over her for marc after marc, brushing hair away from eyes that were sometimes closed, sometimes open though unseeing. I spoke to her though I had no way of knowing if my words entered into her mind or dreams. Certainly it seemed I could not soothe her, and after a time I just sat holding her hand.
It had been a busy few turns, and I must have drifted off into a light sleep. There couldn't have been a worse time to weaken ...
I dreamed that Ellyana woke from her fitful sleep and left the loft where we usually rest. I saw her wander the guildhall but couldn't work out if she was searching for something or trying to escape anything. In my dream I heard things she probably didn't. The creatures of the meadow and the swimming-hole as she roamed there; the sounds of fire and water as she passed by the rock pools. And the unmistakable sound of a stopper being removed from a glass vial. The sound came once more, though I wasn't sure if it was echoed or repeated. Silence for a while, then the babble of running water. Silence once more, then the sound of something falling into water.
I started awake, and looked to the couch. Ellyana had gone. Cursing the human frailty that had made me sleep I ran over my own dream, trying to work out the path she had taken. I flew down the stairs from the loft, on out to the meadow and the swimming-hole beyond. True, I saw signs of her passage but no sign of my lady. Again at the rock pool I saw her trail. I hurried past, trying to recall the next phase of my dream. Water ... not a lake, for the water I'd heard had been running. I searched outside the Mooon, walking the banks of the stream. And sure enough the dim light of the moon and stars revealed a flash of colour in the water. There Ellyana lay, floating face-down in the stream. One foot was tangled in a tuft of grass at the stream's edge. That must have been why she fell. Though why immersion in the cold water hadn't woken her I couldn't tell.
I freed her foot from the tangle of grass that could have proved fatal before wading into the stream to pull her out. The only movement was that of her hair and robes, weaving in the shifting flow of water. I lifted Ellyana and took her to the bank of the stream. There was no sign of breathing - I could only pray I'd found her in time. I was much relieved when my fingers, laid upon her throat, felt the faint flutter of a pulse. Rolling my lady onto her stomach, I pressed repeatedly on her back. Water dribbled from her mouth, then ran out more freely as I increased my efforts. Hearing a slight choking cough, I muttered a prayer of thanks as I rolled her onto her back once the water stopped flowing from her nose and mouth. I leaned over to blow a breath into her mouth and noticed a distinctive odour, the smell of the potion she sometimes takes to help her sleep. And from the strength of the aroma, she must have taken two doses in her confusion. I carried on squeezing, to get her breathing, blowing air into her mouth in between. Another cough and a low moan were my reward. Her pulse was stronger now, though pitifully weak compared to what it should have been.
Up in our loft, after the tricky ascent of the stairs with Ellyana in my arms, I wrapped her in warm blankets and made her as comfortable as possible on the couch. Her breathing, though shallow, was more regular and she drifted into what seemed to me to be a more natural sleep.
I sit for marcs watching her, making sure she's warm, checking breath and pulse, holding her hand and talking softly.
I've been venturing out fom time to time, and bring back tea and soup for Ellyana. Sometimes a small amount has been consumed. She wakes occasionally for a couple of marcs, but most of the time she sleeps. As yet there's been no chance to find out what troubled her in that sleep which could have been her last. Time enough for talk when she recovers. For now, I can offer warmth and sustenance. I can only hope that somehow, the words I speak softly are heard, that she hears them in her ears or her mind, ans knows I am there to care for her.
Sunday, 16 July 2017
Changed @ 18:42 - Link - comments
Two rejoicings, and a warning

We gathered in the temple at Milltown, wearing fire amulets, dressed in any red clothing we had. I laid down an amulet as an offering in Ellyana's name, leaving in my own name red flowers. Others brought orange shards, torches, candles and fireworks - all the things so beloved by Miranda.
We told tales of how she had assisted us, spoke of how we loved, honoured and supported her. And we prayed for her return.
Our prayers were at last answered. The goddess appeared in the temple, brought back from wherever and however she had been imprisoned. True, at first she appeared disorientated as our prayers liberated her and brought her back to us from whatever strife she had been involved in but as she spoke she was recovering, and asked after Zeric. At the time there had been no sign, but she was heartened to hear that we planned to return to the temple in an effort to call him back to us also.
With her thanks for our honour and support, she set off, looking for sign of the Ridder.

The next turn we returned to the temple. This time bearing coins or dice, staves of lightning, and carrying or wearing blue. We told our tales of Zeric, of the times he had aided and supported us. And as we spoke thunder began to roll, a wind rose, and it began to rain.
Fireworks used in the celebration for Miranda had damaged the roof of the temple, leaving a hole. At first water dripped through, starting to form a small puddle. As prayers were spoken and offerings made - I left a lightning staff for myself and one for my lady - the rain increased and soon it was getting wet inside the temple as well as outside! But none were disheartened and the ceremony continued. And sure enough, Zeric appeared to us arriving in the midst of that storm. After a while he left us, intending to seek out Miranda.

The gods who have always protected and guided us, are free once more. The united love and will of those present, as well as that of those who could not attend, has brought them back to us, back to these lands they watch over.

The following turn, again at the temple, was a gathering in support of the bronze one. His name should not be spoken, apparently that strengthens him. Naturally I took no offering, going along with others purely to observe. Those of us who did so made no attempt to disrupt the proceedings. The bronze one did not have to be freed, unlike Miranda and Zeric, as he was already so. Prayers were spoken, offerings laid down, and he spoke. He did not demean himself to appear, just spoke of his forthcoming ascension. No thanks for the support of his followers, just a few orders. And the last of his words stays in my mind - 'All those who are loyal will be saved'
I think the inference is obvious for those with ears to hear. Those who will not submit to him will be destroyed.
The following turn, the bronze one unleashed an attack on the lands.

So, yes, we have two reasons to rejoice. And one threat which must be faced. And standing up to a threat in order to remain free is a duty the adventurers of these lands have never shied away from.
Friday, 30 June 2017
Changed @ 18:00 - Link - comments
Training goes well. Not my own, I should add ! Udele will be a most worthy additiion to the ranks of my profession.
I've been trying to meet a challenge, but I'm not too sure if I can now succeed.
Summerfaire will soon be upon us, and hopefully the festivities will lift the spirits of those who are low.
Sunday, 28 May 2017
Changed @ 12:39 - Link - comments
... such stuff as dreams are made on ...

We sleep. Some less than others, and some so little they think they do not sleep at all. Sleep might be taken as a reward after the labours of the turn, or taken grudgingly if perceived as marcs wasted which could be used more fruitfully. And when we sleep, we dream. Again, some more than others. Some recall their dreams when they wake, others may not.
I wonder where they come from, these fantasies of the sleeping marcs? Maybe our mind sorts through memories of the turn just ended. Or perhaps it carries on considering ideas that had come to us, continuing to lay plans which we'd thought of in our waking marcs. It may be that there's a portion of our mind that never sleeps but sees all the turns and marcs of our lives, noticing all and forgetting nothing, putting memories aside in a place where our waking self may be unable to find them.
Whatever these dreams may be, wherever they come from, they can reflect our waking thoughts and act as the mirror of our life. We may relive the joy of pleasant times, recall visits with friends and acquaintances. Or they may grant the gift an extra opportunity to spend precious time with those who are dearest to us.
Others dreams, of course, are less pleasant. The terrors of the night, played out before our sleeping eyes as we relive darker events, times of loss and separation. Or perhaps they dwell on anxiety for the safety of loved ones.

And worst of all are those where we see the one we love in mortal peril - followed by the crushing realisation that this is no dream, and that peril in which we find our loved one is all too real.
Sunday, 30 April 2017
Changed @ 16:41 - Link - comments
I've been thinking about food, and diets. There are a couple of reasons for what might be thought an odd subject for speculation. There are two meanings of 'diet' There's the one meaning - how much we eat, and the other meaning - what food we normally consume.
The first came to mind when I put my armour on last turn. I've spent much of the last cycle sitting around the guild hall, except for short forays into the reborn zone hunting for lucent shards. And I've noticed over that time that my armour seems to be shrinking. It's not a lack of exercise - well, I don't think so. Just some sort of flaw in the construction of my armour. I'll have to get Denion to take a look at it next time I end up at his smithy. And maybe eat less in the meantime!
As for the second use of the word - the term diet can be used to refer to what we eat. We humans can eat a fair range of foodstuffs. We can eat meat - though some choose not to - and we can eat plant matter of some kinds. Vegetables, fruits, herbs to add flavour, and so on. It struck me that many animals don't have the same choice.
The bos, for instance. They usually eat grass. They might kill us with an attack, but they don't chew the remains as human flesh is outside their normal diet. I heard that once an experiment was tried, feeding bos minced-up portions of dead bos. The poor creatures developed a terrible disease which was also passed on to people who ate the affected animals.
Even if animals stick to plant products there might be problems when they try nibbling something unusual. Bunnies apparently suffer some sort of reaction to anything novel. Many people have recently been taken unaware by bunnies, assuming they could fight the creatures. But the bunnies have been raiding supplies of cocoa beans. Although the beans can taste bitter, perhaps there's more sugar in them than the bunnies' usual food, and it's driving them into some sort of frenzy. They grow strong and aggressive, and the result can be alarming - if not fatal - to those who usually hunt bunnies. I can only presume this is a result of the bunnies gorging themselves on a type of food not normall eaten by them.
I'm not too sure if there's any conclusion to my rambling thoughts. Except that perhaps I need to keep an eye on how much I eat. And what other creatures eat!
Saturday, 08 April 2017
Changed @ 16:35 - Link - comments
Does form define function? I've been puzzling over the question for the last few turns, ever since a meeting was held to discuss ways in which the cracked pillars of the enchanters' nexus might be repaired or replaced. The main problem is that apparently no-one is sure how they work, and there are some who are now preparing to research the subject. It's hoped that the Council of Ryndall can be persuaded to release any information they have on the matter. This lack of knowledge as to the how of the pillars' workings is clearly an obstacle. That obstacle will delay any repairs that can be carried out.
When we assaulted the dark fortress to rescue the High Queen, we found a tainted life monument and tainted pillars. The gods were able to cleanse the monument so that we could use it during the prolonged battle. It isn't known if there is any way the pillars can be similarly cleansed. And if that can be done, how could they be moved? - though perhaps they might be transported to the nexus one by one, by moving them adjecent to another pillar and using its power to do so in the same way it might transport an enchanter to the nexus. Of course, there is then still the small matter of moving the last one.
Which leads me to the other option discussed - replacing the pillars with new ones. Without knowledge of how they work, or how they were first produced, this might be subject to the same delay as repairing the old ones until that knowledge is revealed. And it led to my musing as to whether it is the shape and form of the pillars that makes them work. We all know of places or buildings that feel welcoming, safe, and comfortable. And other places where the opposite is true. Can the atmosphere of a building be produced in some way by the shape, size or design of the building itself? In the same way, the thought crept into my mind that perhaps there is no obscure power which must in some way be incorporated into the production of those pillars. Perhaps the power comes from the structure, thre physical form, of the pillar itself.
If that were the case, then it would be expected that there are some differences - minute perhaps - between pillars the enchanters use to get to different locations and it was suggested they be examined for any such differences. Also, if ti is the case, then producing an exact copy of a pillar should produce a structure which exactly repliactes the function of the original. Having said that, I'm well aware that I understand very little about the pillars - certainly less than the enchanters who use them routinely. But who knows? A wild idea may reflect at least a part of the actual state of affairs. Dealing with magic means we have to expand the possibilites we consider, maybe far beyond what might seem likely or reasonable.
Friday, 31 March 2017
Changed @ 16:33 - Link - comments
An expedition set out to the ashes of ruined Fartown, hoping to learn the fate of the townspeople. The Order dispatched groups of adventurers, depending on their strength and ability, sending them fanning out across the grasslands. Slowly reports came in, mentioning signs of some sort of evacuation of the town.
A couple of areas of the high grass had been flattened, as though groups of people had rested for a while. A few items of clothing were discovered. One point revealed signs of fighting. A dagger was found covered in blood and not far off a rough grave where one of the villagers had been laid to rest. An arm still protruded from the pile of earth, and we dug down in order to retrieve the unfortunate one and lay them more fittingly to their sleep. The townswoman had been stabbed in the back - a cowardly blow to be sure. Words were spoken over the woman, and we gave her a proper burial.
The body of Roland the innkeeper was discovered and he too was laid to rest within the remains of the town he had served so faithfully over the cycles and seasons.
A piece of cloth snagged on a branch led us in amongst the soaring trees of Verthedge Forest. A bandit, apparently some sort of lookout, eventually let slip the way we should go and after another short search we followed a path through a fallen hollow tree.
The encampment is, all things considered, well-built, quite substantial. And to our relief most of the inhabitants of Fartown are there, living in some safety.

An odd point has been playing on my mind. The dagger found amongst the high grass was either the one used to slay the poor woman we found in her rough grave, or one very similar. And it seemed to be of a type used by the grassland bandits. And yet we came across one acting as a lookout to warn of people approaching New Fartown, and there are bandits acting as guards at the encampment. Has there been some sort of split amongst the bandits, I wonder - some helping the townspeople, protecting them from another group responsible for the destruction of the town? Or was the attack on the town and its people carried out by another, unknown, group which was joined by one portion of the grassland bandits, while the rest joined with the townspeople in their flight? It would have been a strong and terrible force, it seems to me, to make the fiercely-independent bandits decide to join. Or maybe the truth of it all is something totally different from the suggestions made at the time.
As so often happens, events have left just as many, if not more, unanswered questions than those answered. As for the truth of what occurred, I presume time will reveal some, if not all.
Monday, 27 February 2017
Changed @ 19:24 - Link - comments
Take a look at anyone who's been farming or training, and you can pretty much tell from the nature of any injuries what creatures they have been fighting. The pattern of bite or claw marks, signs of being crushed, trampled or attacked from above, or maybe their foe used a weapon of some kind. The clues will be there.
But it seems there must be some other creatures around to attack us. I didn't see or hear anything, but they caught up with me. They must be tiny, far too small to be visible, but the harm they do is totally out of all proportion to their size. The last half-cycle or so I've been confined to the loft at the hall, without the energy to do anything except sleep. The limited marcs of waking consist of very short conversations with the kin and a couple of others, but even trying to hold a conversation is exhausting. All the plans I had for a few activities have had to be abandoned. I don't mind that so much for myself, but there are others I'd promised to help, and that's not been possible either. The one advantage is I've not had to cook meals. Anything I need heated up enough to eat I can just leave on my forehead for a few moments! I can only hope that this passes soon and that the energy returns to get up and doing in the lands.

Speaking of guildkin - whether we see them often or infrequently:whether they plan to sleep for a while:if they have left these lands we call home - we can still hold them in our heart and mind, keeping a grasp on the memories of them. And while they are remembered their service and labours endure.
Tuesday, 31 January 2017
Changed @ 18:01 - Link - comments
The season begins to turn as winter warms. The celebrations, as usual, exercised the mind and the body, and the closing address of the High Queen raised the spirits. And as the lanterns floated above us before slowly drifting into the distance, many sent wishes and prayers with them to soothe the hearts and souls of friends and comrades. I do not know, naturally, the precise wishes sent soaring aloft into the sky above the Caer, but I know of the type of sentiments sent flying with the lanterns.
Many of the guild were active in the events, most notably Ellyana. And the guild has been gifted by the gods. An ice sculpture of a cat now resides in our gardens. My first sight of the precious gift was a proud moment. Apart from the artistry of the sculpture I also see it for what it is - a recognition of what is possible when the kin work toward a common goal, and a tribute to Ellyana who, as leader, works tirelessly for the good of the guild and the kin.
I do not forget those of the guild who were not able to participate. The very act of joining a guild is in itself a gesture of confidence, an offering of friendship and comradeship. Every person who joins a guild makes their own contribution.
As for myself I was unable to attend many of the festivities. I did have a chance to discover that I should not try to be too creative with cooking! On the other hand I was able to take a few marcs to jot down a tale of sorts, a pastime I always enjoy and find relaxing.
The time is now with us to press on with lighter hearts as the turns lenghthen and the 'rifter rises higher into the sky and sheds its blessed rays across the lands. We do not know what we may face in the future. But we do not that together we can face it without fear.
Saturday, 31 December 2016
Changed @ 17:10 - Link - comments
I need to take more exercise before my armour starts shrinking again! Recently I've slept much, waking to speak with those of the kin I see. And I've been surrounded by parchments as I make notes and try to catch up on correspondence and projects.
I have spent some time searching for comet glass, to leave as an offering at the altar in the Temple to Miranda. And I train while I search - who knows, perhaps by the time Summerfaire comes around once more or maybe by next FallFest I might be ready to visit the trainer. Though once I do so I'll need to find new hunting grounds. The tombs of N'Rolav have been a second home for a long time now, as I've laboured to wipe out the swarms of wretches infesting the darkened halls and corridors, though my attempts seem to have been in vain. Having said that, there's been coin and treasure to be found in plenty. And much of the time I was there not so much to hunt as to hide away when troubled.
For now, anyhting I learn, anything I find, is incidental, unless it's comet glass I find. Each piece taken to the Temple is a renewed declaration of faith and gratitude, a repayment in some small measure of all that has been granted to the people of the lands we call home.
Friday, 16 December 2016
Changed @ 20:07 - Link - comments
Adventurers have been scouring the lands, seeking out shards of lucent glass scattered when the comet crashed down, scorching and inactivating the life monument just outside Milltown. The word has gone out that they can be used to assist Miranda, whose strength is failing, and many will journey to her temple with the shards they have. Others are searching in the hope that any shards they find can be given to others to take with them.
As in most things, a couple of quesions have come to my mind, but no doubt all will be explained in due course. Satisfactorily, I hope.
Those who search have scattered far and wide, each picking the area they hope will prove the most fruitful. So much depends on their own strength, and the strength of the creatures they face. And as ever, a certain element of luck is involved. But the more creatures one slays, the more lucky one can become!
I've been spending some time in meditation and prayer in the hope that my words will help in some small way to fortify Miranda. She has always given freely of herself, offering advice to me when needed, giving guidance to me when I was feeling lost. In common with many others in the lands there is an immeasurable debt, an obligation to render whatever aid is possible.
Wednesday, 30 November 2016
Changed @ 17:38 - Link - comments
Fall Festival was the usual time of comradeship and fun, and thoroughly enjoyable although I was left feeling rather low after the season ended. It's a mood that often strikes me after festivals, but that mood passes in its own time.
There was a rather unpleasant surprise waiting for me a few turns back. Some demonic creatures, ones I had never heard of before, had attacked the lands while I was sleeping. I was told of the raids when I woke later and was roaming the lands. I'd been told the creatures had been dealt with so it was something of a shock to walk into four of them when I stumbled across a place where they'd hidden themselves away, presumably hoping to avoid the same fate as had befallen those others that had attacked with them. It was a struggle, but with the gifts of Valya's blessings and Phynix' enchantments I was able to fend off the foul creatures until Lavender, stronger and more experienced than I am, awoke and I could call on her for assistance.
There have been problems at the Life Monuments. Two are scorched and no longer functioning. The one in northern Dundee was damaged by sheets of fire, and the one just outside Milltown was damaged when a comet crashed down from the skies. The lands were littered with shards of glass which many have taken to collecting. I wondered at first if they might be etched with writing, in the same way as were the Sunrifter shards which we found so long ago, and would give us some guidance. However, that does not appear to be the case with these lucent shards of comet glass. Perhaps some may find a use for them, or maybe they will have no use except to be used as decoration.

In common with some others, I've been sleeping more than usual as the season turns and the marcs of darkness stretch out longer. No doubt, as in so many things, this too will pass and life will return to normal as the defence of the lands is taken up once more.

Monday, 31 October 2016
Changed @ 16:58 - Link - comments
Fall Festival is in full swing! The events are many and varied, as ever. Fun for all - well, maybe not so much for the banditos who are chased all over the lands. I've not yet found one who will face me and fight.
The guild took over the Building of Glass a couple of turns ago. The Twilight Serenity Fall Feast was planned to be several marcs of fun and celebration of the season. But it didn't quite turn out that way.
Perhaps guild parties have becomed famed in unknown quarters - whatever the cause, we were literally swarmed under by a horde of the uninvited undead. I've never seen so many zombies in one place, and all fighting their way into the venue. They smashed in the glass of walls and windows. We smashed the furniture and raided the stationery supplies for anything useful, using what we found or broke in attempts to strengthen the glass or barricade doors. All to no avail. Poor Jaymes' tavern was a wreck, smashed glass everywhere in the building, and all attending the event were slaughtered.
By the grace of the gods most were able to return. And by the grace of the gods we were saved. Ridder Zeric noticed a door open that should not have been, and realised the creatures had got loose from their pen. He followed the trail of carnage that marked their path, and chastised the zombies most severely.
He had been very impressed by Valya's actions in the defence, and awarded her a commemorative pin. Unfortunately all the party supplies and decorations had been destroyed so after a time to catch breath and heal wounds, everyone dispersed. Still, there may be an opportunity to hold the event at a later time if it will fit in among those others already planned.
There's more fun to come, more enjoymeny to share with comrade and kin, with lover and friend new or old. The season will be a welcome relief, a chance to lighten the mood I've noticed recently lying across the lands.
Friday, 30 September 2016
Changed @ 12:13 - Link - comments
It's been a rather idle time for me since the incursion to the dark fortress. I've spent much of the time resting though when I wake I've been speaking with those kin I see.
Much has changed in the lands since that great invasion, and I've had much to reflect on, to think about, in between my long periods of sleeping. Taking time to think, even snatching a few marcs much-needed rest - these just as most things in the lands are actions that carry their own price.
I took an opportunity to pay a visit to my old friend Denion, the master smith. We discussed a few ideas, and caught up on each other's news.
Much of the time I've been surrounded by parchments waiting for my words to be scrawled upon them, and slowly I've been starting to catch up with the accumulation of things on the to-do list!
Surrounded by changes - affected by changes - life goes on as ever. Speaking with friends old and new when opportunity arises, helping those I can, advising others if asked. These, as well as the struggles of the past to defend the lands, are what make up the fabric of our existence.

And there are plans to make, to put in action in a cycle's time. The seasons move on as ever, seemingly unnoticing of the petty lives of humans, and FallFest with its associated joy approaches.
Wednesday, 31 August 2016
Changed @ 17:11 - Link - comments
So near, yet so far ...

The tactics developed by the Order for use on the climb worked perfectly. Even the strongest foes who tried to stop us were dealt with, their torn bodies plummeting from the wall to crash down to the ground far below. Strike, and again, pause when necessary, and another would take up the fight. And my beloved Ellyana took advantage of lulls in the action to heal and bless. Our wild enterprise could never have paid off without her knowledge and cool appraisal of everyone's health. She, at least as much as any of the protectors who led the party, was responsible for the success of our mission.

It's a dark, terrible, twisted place. For now at least I'd rather not dwell on what I and others saw and heard. Suffice it to say we were surrounded and beset by horror and nightmare as we fought our way through. There were many false starts as we came upon dead ends amongst those twisted passages. Parties were sent to rescue the lost or trapped, searches were made. At last I found Ellyana in one of the cells, its door smashed open, and saw her cradling BoBo. She held his hand, and he was able to give her hand the slightest squeeze in return. Just enough to show that there was still life in that little body, and enough to bring tears of joy to Ellyana's eyes on realising that one of those taken so long ago could be saved. And then there was news of Tyral, and Scooter too. They were taken to a rally-point where they could be looked after, and we plunged back into darkness.
We got lost - it was inevitable - but fought on as we found a path, and eventually linked up with others who'd made their own way to our target. And then a long hard fight as we climbed stairs that seemed never-ending. Combat was brutal and bloody, many at one time or another falling and fighting their way back. By the time we reached the top I was exhausted, and a final plunge to a monument left me lying insensible as affairs were concluded, and for many marcs afterward.

Since then, I've been questioning some of the others who were there, those with more fortitude who were able to see things through to their end. And while I did that I roamed those passages, now more quiet but still not totally safe, as I slowly made my way back out into the Zone. More surprises awaited me there, but I've learned too little of those to be able to assess the situation as yet. There'll be time once strength and energy return, but not until I know that Ellyana is rested and well. I have some sketchy details of what transpired, and when there's opportunity we can discuss all that occurred, and what's been happening since. And try to figure out what the future may hold.

For myself - well, there's been much to think about. So near, as I said - though barely able to walk or think clearly I did at least reach the top of that tower along with many others. But so far away, as weakness finally held me at that monument while others saw the task through. And the deepest regret of all is the inability on my part to fulfil a pledge made.
Saturday, 30 July 2016
Changed @ 16:37 - Link - comments
A chance to catch up on recent events and note them down, at last. And long overdue it is too.

The wall in the bronze tunnels was finally breached. There had been many skirmishes and at least one full-scale battle at or near the site where so many of us had laboured, hacking at the wall with our pickaxes, often with tendrils and darkness gathering about us. A sortie was arranged and many passed through the breach, eager to see what had been hidden from us.
I still haven't had chance to find out everything that transpired. Like others I fell during the ensuing fierce combat and was unable to fight my way back to my comrades. In an unknown area, with the attendant risk of facing unknown enemies - we'd already faced up to some terrifying opponents - it seems to me that better tactics might have been employed than the orders that were given. Still, we need to hope that those who give the orders have considered the situation beforehand and believe those orders to give the most likely chance of success. As for the rest of us, I recall one with a much better way with words than I who wrote of a day when orders of a dubious nature were issued -
'Theirs not to reason why: theirs but to do, and die'
It was, I have to admit, galling to know that the result of my efforts was to be sent to the monument, and that moment followed by several marcs of frustration and bloodshed as I attempted to make my way back to the scene of conflict. Seems now I won't see the wonders that others have, and the opportunity to witness a notable moment in the defence of the lands is lost to me forever.

Summerfaire was particularly enjoyable, with a wide variety of events and celebrations available. I attended as many as time would allow. Once again I was honoured with the opportunity to participate in the opening and closing ceremonies, and that participation leaves me with a deeper understanding of the reasons behind the festivities.
Ellyana has been resting much of the time since Summerfaire, catching up on some much-needed sleep. I've been left feeling rather flat after the end of the festivities, as usually happens. But I've slowly been getting back to work, and have spent many marcs down in the N'Rolav tombs, continuing my extended attempt to thin out the wretches that infest that dark place.

Many of us attended or gave lessons on various crafts - model-making, weaving, casting of metals and many more - and took the opportunity to make something for ourselves. The 'Sylvan Wave' is a model boat, much more sophisticated than those I made in the past. It brings together memories of the past, elements of the present, and thoughts for the future. And I'm sure that Ellyana and I will have great fun sailing the ship on its course.

Thursday, 30 June 2016
Changed @ 16:07 - Link - comments
It's been a busy few turns, this last half-cycle or so. Hacking away at the wall down in the bronze tunnels is hard labour, and frustrating too as no matter how many of us work on the thing it shows no sign of weakening. A few crystals have been dislodged as people work, and many, myself included, were cheered at the thought this was a sign that the wall was slowly giving way under our pickaxes. But no, it just remains as it apparently has been for an unknown time while the air around chills and darkens.
When not digging, I decided on a change of surroundings - though come to think of it there's not much difference between a dark dusty tunnel and dark dusty passages and sepulchres. The N'Rolav tombs always provide entertainment for a few marcs while I hunt the wretches. At the same time, of course, the wretches are hunting me!
I took a few marcs for a stroll around the RoK halls. It seems a long time since I had the chance to visit other than to fight off raids.
In between all this I've been tending to the flowers that recently bloomed just outside my own hall. While Ellyana rests I keep myself occupied watering the flowers, and pulling out any weeds that grow amongst them. Although I must admit I'm no great gardener. I use plants for my potions and poisons yes, but I don't always see the entire plant. So, in the hope I won't kill anything of use I've been replanting whatever I dig up in a corner of our own gardens. They may not be weeds, for all I know. And I recall long ago being told that there actually is no such thing as a weed - it's simply something growing where it's not wanted, and may have its own intrinsic worth. So all is kept alive and healthy for Ellyana to study at her leisure.
Tuesday, 31 May 2016
Changed @ 18:19 - Link - comments
Weakened? That's a possibility, though the point is debatable. But in any way diminished or downhearted - definitely not. Ellyana fully accepted that there might be consequences when she used the power of her cloak to cleanse the armoury beneath the castle at Dundee.

It was a long, hard fight to dislodge the demons that had taken up residence in the castle of the Iron Order. The portcullis was closed to us. Access from the tunnels of UnderValorn was blocked. We knew that Sir Pestus had fled, and could only hope that he had found safe refuge somewhere. From our initial attempts to dislodge the portcullis, through the castle and down to the armoury, we faced fierce resistance every step of the way. All those involved fought until they could not risk another blow, or fell and found the favour of the gods to reform at a monument and continue the assault. Combat was relentless as we forced our way through the darkened edifice. The high points came, spirits raised and darkness seemed to lift as one by one the fearsome demonic creatures we faced were brought down.
At long last we cleared the armoury, the point where the foe made their final stand. And then there was time to catch a breath, to look around and see what the demons had wrought down in their induced darkness.
Many of the weapons and shields had been melted down in a roughly-built forge. Containers of metal, almost coffin-shaped, scattered the armoury, leading to a suggestion that the demons were trying to create their own dark Order. Everywhere were piles of metal, and the floor was covered in a thick ooze that emitted bubbles of noxious gas.
Much discussion ensued as to how we might cleanse the place. As we spoke the gemstone at Ellyana's throat, graced as it is with a precious drop of 'Rifterian blood, began to glow, leading to suggestions that she could use the power of the gem, and the strength of nature imbued in the cloak which the gemstone fastens, to clear away the traces of evil.
We gathered all the metal into one heap. Light was cast all around, and Ellyana prayed, one hand above the tainted metal and the other clasping the gemstone.
Suddenly light lanced out between her fingers, shining forth from the gem, light which boiled away the ooze into nothingness and melted away forge and containers and metal. As the light blazed forth, Ellyana was thrown back, crashing into the wall behind her, I didn't see at first what she had done, being more concerned as to whether she was injured. I was relieved to find her only hurt was a lump on her head. She too was relieved that there was little physical damage. Not to her at least. But that gemstone has lost some of its strength, and half the blood contained within has disappeared.

Even so, Ellyana knows that the sacrifice was worthwhile. The castle is reclaimed and cleansed, and Sir Pestus has returned. We can examine ways of making up for the damage caused to the gem. As for the blood ... I don't know. That blood was gifted to her by the gods, clearly to be used in dark times. And what is gifted once can be gifted again, if it be used for the good of the lands and those that labour to keep them free and safe. Or perhaps that moment in the armoury was the moment for which the gift was given. I can't pretend to understand - though I can wonder and think on the possibilities. As ever, my lady gave what she could for the good of all. And that, in itself, is the mark of the heroes of these lands. To give with no regret or thought of the cost, to keep fighting, to maintain the struggle we face each marc.
Friday, 29 April 2016
Changed @ 16:17 - Link - comments
I've not felt quite myself since the incursion. I've no regrets about the decision that Ellyana and I made - to go through the doorway in the throne room, and face whatever lay beyond. And in common with all the other brave souls who made that very same decision, we knew full well that the escapade might demand that we be willing to pay the ultimate price, to make the greatest sacrifice possible for the safety of the lands we call home. And all who passed through that doorway made the decision willingly.
Since that time I've spent a lot of time sleeping. And when awake I've hunted wretches, spending marc after marc roaming the N'Rolav tombs and slaughtering every creature I stumble upon. There's so much nervous energy, and it needs to be released somehow. I must have been more wound up than I realised at thoughts of what might be won, and what could be lost. But the decision was made, the die cast. And the thought echoing loudest in my mind was to protect Ellyana, come what may. To look to the safety of my lady, to that of the others there, and for myself - the thoughts went around and around as we prepared for the foray. Since our return I've paid the price, both in my mind and in my dreams, for the state of over-controlled tense excitement which I allowed to take me over.
As I say, while awake I slay wretches. It's a method I've used before, letting mindless slaughter slowly release negative thoughts and emotion. It's something I can control to a certain extent ... the dreams are a different matter. Those are where all the possibilities come to mind, images of what could have been, pictures of what might have happened.

We passed through the door and walked along a long road, keeping a wary watch for any trap or attack. But there was nothing except that road. Nothing to our left, nothing to our right, nothing ahead, and as we moved along, nothing behind. We walked for marc after marc, or maybe for just a few moments. There was no way to mark the passage of time. At last, or perhaps it was very soon, we came to a town. It resembled Dundee to some extent, and Milltown too, all overlooked by a temple similar to that in Branishor. It was as though the area was a distillation of the entire lands.
We started to hear howls and shouts, and moved forward warily, following the orders that though spoken quietly came easily to our ears. The sky, bright above us though devoid of the 'rifter or any other obvious source of light suddenly darkened and a fierce wind whipped around us. And then the horde came, screeching and slavering as they attacked.
Time passed. Again it wasn't possible to tell how long we fought. We made advances, we fell back. Regroup and attack once more to regain lost ground. The earth was covered with a carpet of slain demonic creatures, and in amongst them lay a few fallen comrades. Ellyana and I took up a position at a point where one of the town streets opened out into a square, though truth be told we couldn't really see the square for the mass of creatures running at us. We fought off the first wave of attack, and my lady snatched an opportunity to heal us both. Our hands touched for a moment before the foe came at us once more. Again we strove to hold them back. Ellyana fell and I stood over her, giving her a chance to recover, as I struck out at the enemy.
Suddenly all went silent. Comrades were grouping together, and cries of relief sprang from some lips. Word went around that our task was done, and the order was given to march back and once more we walked that road. Behind us a shattering explosion shook the ground and the town we had fought so long to hold. There was some conversation around us, talk of a meeting a couple of marcs after we returned to the throneroom. Ellyana and I spoke quietly, but somehow none seemed to hear. And on our return our messages seemed to go astray for we received no replies.
We went to where we had heard the meeting was to be held, quietly greeting friends as we arrived, but again for some reason others seemed not to hear. We arrived to find comrades, grim-faced and some weeping, listening as a roll was called, and reports given of those who did not signal their presence. In faltering tones, what was known of the fate of those who had not returned was announced. And then these words washed over me ...

'Lady Ellyana Lilli the Sylvan and Lord Pallas the Perceptive, last survivors of the rearguard formed to cover the final withdrawal, fell in the square. Holding their position to the last, they were overrun by large numbers of the enemy. Observers report that Lady Ellyana was wounded and fell to the ground:Lord Pallas stood over her, protecting her and himself as long as possible. He was seen to draw a small dagger from his belt as he finally fell under a swarm of enemies.
During the later retrieval of those lost, the following points were noted -
The bodies of Lady Ellyana and Lord Pallas were surrounded by a large number of fallen enemies who had been despatched either by blade or hammer - both must have fought fiercely as long as they could.
A wound on Ellyana's wrist appears to have been made by one of Pallas' blades - the dagger in his left hand was, on testing, found to be covered with a fast-acting, lethal poison. One of those later charged with recovering the fallen was heard to comment that Pallas must have given Ellyana one final gift - a quick, clean death. At the last he fell over her, protecting her body from further assault. It was noted that the two died hand-in-hand.
The bodies, unlike some, were not despoiled by the enemy. It is suggested that when they clasped hands at the last moment, some unexplainable force between the two protected them even in death.'

Other names were mentioned, and I realised those named were not at the meeting, and at last all became clear. Ellyana and I exchanged a glance as the scene around us dissolved before our eyes. All was explained - why silence had fallen so rapidly in that frantic fight, why comrades had seemed to not hear our words or reveived messages we sent. I, and Ellyana too, took one last look at the faces of those who had survived, the friends we must now leave behind. We floated up and away from the assembly as it faded from sight. In the distance I made out a bridge, the arc of a rainbow, and we drifted toward it, ready for our next adventure - side by side, hand in hand.

I woke, confused and anxious. Confused as to whether I had in fact returned through that door, and anxious for Ellyana's wellbeing. I turned to watch her as she slept, noting with relief her easy, regular breathing. She was resting peacefully so far as I could tell. And, I hoped, her dreams were more pleasant than mine had been.
Saturday, 19 March 2016
Changed @ 12:28 - Link - comments
The call went out and many answer. At long last the turn comes when we take battle to our foes.

Ellyana and I have, so far as we can tell, all necessary supplies. Potions and salves, extra weapons. We've checked our armour and other equipment. We've spent time speaking of what is to come. There never was any question as to whether or not we would join the incursion. Ellyana is excited, eager for the fray, and though by no means fearful there are a few things playing on her mind. I've done my best to reassure her, speaking of all we will do once we return. And talking of how we will face this side-by-side, along with our many comrades. We've come through many battles, survived many adventures - misadventures too! I reminded her of the fire and steel she carries in her heart and in her soul. And my blades and wits have played some small part in our survival and victories.
Arrangements have been made for our beloved guild. It eases my lady's mind, knowing that Twilight Serenity will be in safe hands should we be prevented from returning. I'm glad those arrangements eased some troubles and weight from her mind, though I tell her we will surely return.
And yet ...
We spoke of waterfowl swimming across a lake. On the surface all is serene as they glide over the water. But beneath the surface their feet thrash around madly to drive them on their way, to maintain the air of calm as they follow their course. And while Ellyana has slept, I've cast my mind over the thoughts she has had, and admitted that there could be some grounds to her fears. But I've come to terms with those in my own mind, and pushed such thoughts deep down below the surface. Like those birds on their lake I maintain the outward calm, and concentrate on mustering strength to share with my lady and those who fight at our side or protect our backs.

Comrades will be with us, the gods will watch over us all. And together we will face whatever comes against us.

Friends, comrades-in-arms, prepare your weapons, prepare yourselves. The turn is at hand, and we will prevail.

Monday, 29 February 2016
Changed @ 18:25 - Link - comments
So much happening, and so few marcs ...

There have been so many events recently, and more coming up too, that sometimes it's difficult to keep track of where to head to when I wake! And I'm afraid there's been precious little time to write about them. I've been rather busy with quill and parchment, first writing a tale which I hope will entertain Ellyana and maybe others too, and now trying to find the time to write another. It's a pleasure to have taken up the quill once more. I was worried I could have forgotten how to write!
Ellyana made a marvellous carving of a cat recently, while I was busy following Olivia's instructions when she held a woodworking lesson. With some practice maybe some time in the future I'll be able to produce an item that vaguely resembles the picture in my mind when I set to work, though I fear that aspiration will always outreach ability.
And I discovered that some potions can be hazardous after apparently turning into an ogre for a while. The memory is still a bit blurred, but I apologised to Jeffrey and I'm still allowed to visit the DUndee Inn. So my behaviour can't have been as bad as I first feared.
All in all life is getting rather hectic - and all thoroughly enjoyable.
Sunday, 31 January 2016
Changed @ 18:11 - Link - comments
I really need to reorganise the supplies I keep down in my lair at the guildhall. Despite attaching large labels to the containers stating - Do Not Touch! Poisonous! or variations thereof - where relevant, there have been one or two incidents. There are some that perhaps might be best kept locked away in a separate place, rather than leaving them in their current position on the workbench, arranged by use or action.
The action a resource exerts determines its use. And in many cases the action of a material is of just as much interest to Ellyana for its healing use as it is to me for a more detrimental property. It's often just a matter of dosage or method of administration that determines whether the effect of a substance will be beneficial or otherwise. And that's why Ellyana takes just as much interest in my collection as I do myself. And I suspect it's also why she sometimes forgets my supplies can be harmful and spends time looking over them. If only she'd wait until I'm around, it wouldn't be so bad ...
I strolled down into the lair a few turns ago just in time to see Ellyana trying to remove the stopper from a glass vial. I snatched the vial from her hand before it opened. She glared as I replaced it in position. 'I was only going to sniff at it - what harm is there in that?' She paled slightly when I told her that should the vial have been opened there might just have been time for me to take her hand before we both succumbed and fell into a final, eternal sleep. 'That's the most powerful poison I have,' I told her 'Only to be opened after taking some rather extreme precautions.' She nodded and carried on looking through the assorted herbs and liquids. 'Oh, I've heard of this one,' and before I could intervene she opened the bottle and sniffed at the contents.
I turmed as I heard a gasp, and recognised the bottle slipping from Ellyana's hand as she passed out. I caught the bottle in one hand, her in the other, clamping my mouth shut as I did, holding my breath, not even breathing through my nose. I put the bottle on the workbench, jammed the stopper in place, lifted Ellyana and headed for the stairs out from the lair, counting as I did so.
She's asked before, and since, for the reasons why I count. When farming I count up to keep a tally of kills or coin - setting a target is the only way to know when you've finished a session of farming. If I'm facing a known number of enemies I count down as they're dealt with. But in this case the count was the number of breaths she'd taken since opening that bottle, as a measure of what harm might have been done.
I negotiated the stairs as fast as I could with Ellyana in my arms, and slammed the door behind me before rushing outside the Mooon. I laid her down beside the stream and searched the workshed for a piece of cloth. I found a suitable piece and grabbed it and a bucket as I rushed back to her side, soaking the cloth in the stream before placing it over her nose and mouth. The fumes from that bottle dissolve fairly easily in water, so the wet cloth would help to clear any away from her nose, mouth or lungs.
There was no-one around except our pet hen Lenore. I was running my hand, wetted in the stream, over Ellyana's face as I realised I was telling her to just breathe, that I had an antidote in the lair - and that Lenore would look after her while I was away for a few moments! I filled the bucket with water and hurried to the lair, taking a deep breath before entering. Leaving the bucket of water to dissolve any fumes I found the antidote and hurried back to Ellyana.
She was breathing evenly though the breaths were shallow. I wetted the cloth again, and remembering the count I'd kept in my head, made an estimation of the amount of antidote needed. I dripped the calculated amount of the thick liquid onto the wet cloth and replaced it over her nose and mouth.
The result was fairly instantaneous and quite gratifying - she coughed once, twice, and several times more. After a few moments she was able to take a deep, shuddering breath. 'Just lie still, Ellyana, try to take deep, regular breaths. I know it's uncomfortable breathing through wet material, but that's what you need to do.' i brushed hair away from her face and eyes. 'You're going to have a headache, and maybe a sore throat.' I lifted the cloth as another bout of coughing and retching seized her for a few moments, then replaced it again. 'We can remove this soon,' I said, listening to the count in my mind - the number of times she'd taken a breath of the antidote.
Sure enough, within a part-marc, she was fine apart from the headache. I had some honeyed tea with me, and drinking that eased any soreness in her throat, and no doubt washed away the taste of both poison and antidote from her mouth. After a few sips she was able to enquire what had happened.
'The one you sniffed? It affects a person's lungs. Slows the breathing, and enough exposure will stop it completely. So my interest in it is fairly obvious. For you, I suppose it could be used to control a severe cough.'
'And the antidote?' Ellyana asked, sipping at her tea.
'That stimulates breathing, ' I replied. 'Just like it did with you. From a healing point of view it' be useful for someone with breathing problems. I keep it because it's an antidote for some of the stuff I have down in the lair.'
'You have an antidote for everything down there?'
I nodded. 'I know sometimes I can be impulsive - but I don't work with any of my poisons without having the antidote. Luckily for you.'

After some sleep, Ellyana was none the worse for her misadventure. From the affair I learned that the trouble and expense of getting hold of antidotes are well spent. And she learned the hard way how I sometimes experiment with my supplies. And we've agreed that in future we won't work with any of the materials alone, if at all possible.