The Journal of Katrina Islaran

-Journal of Katrina Islaran-
In this Year 592

My grandfather gave me this journal. He suggested I use it to chronicle my adventurers and record my thoughts. After some thought I’ve decided to do so. If nothing else should my party meet with disaster it may survive to tell those that discover us long dead who we were, what we did, and give them some clue as to how we died. At best recording my memories of each day may help me recall some important detail at a later date.

Given with the journal was a warning – two of my uncles have gone missing in the last three months and he suspects foul play. Were I still living on the streets I might be inclined to write off the disappearance of two men in such a time – murder is not terribly uncommon in the Azure district – but for two nobles of the same family to disappear is at the very least highly unusual. I’ll keep an eye out for trouble and do my best to watch my back with the other, though I think so long as I’m with my companions I’ll be safe. There aren’t a lot of people eager to cross swords with the Four Blades. The fact that we’re leaving Sasserine should further ease his worries. I doubt someone will go through the trouble of tracking down the Islaran family’s wayward black sheep of a daughter so far out of the line of inheritance.

I suppose if I am going to describe my adventurers I should start at the very beginning, with my birth and upbringing.

You can take the girl out of the street but you can’t take the street out of the girl. My ‘family’ learned that the hard way. They took me in, I believe, with mixed intentions. Obviously they were trying to mitigate the damage of my revelation as the bastard daughter of one of their sons, Dorian Islaran, but I think perhaps for Keltar Islaran, my grandfather, there was more to it.

My mother was not a whore, but nor was she a chaste virgin. One of her sometime lovers for many years was Dorian Islaran. I suppose I should call the man my father, but I have never thought of him as such. She conceived in one of their brief unions and I was the result. For the first twelve years of my life I never knew the man was my father. I grew up in the Azure district and had an interesting early childhood as nearly all children from that district do. I never questioned the absence of a father in my life,it isn’t all that uncommon in the slums of the city, if anything those with a father in their life were the unusual ones.

I was a precocious child, smart enough to think up plans to get myself and my friends in more trouble then was normal even for the Azure district but seldom wise enough to avoid attempting them. Before my tenth birthday I was in a street gang.

They’re fairly common throughout Sasserine, though most of them hail from the Azure district or Shadowshore. The rougher ones obviously from the later. For the most part they go unnoticed in the city, they’re the pickpockets, minor thieves, and brawlers in the alleys over territory amongst each other. Most of the members are children and those in their early teens. Those who are too young to earn a living wage. By the time you enter your later teens you’ve usually picked up a job as a laborer or some such and can support yourself. Most members are orphans or come from families too poor to feed them. I came from neither but was drawn in all the same. Mostly I thought the idea was exciting, wanted the companionship, and savored the opportunities it provided to get into trouble.

You pick up an affinity for knives and clubs fairly quickly when you’re fighting over turf. Given their use it’s miraculous that the streets aren’t littered with dying youngster. I was no different then most and before long I knew how to stab, club, and fight with the best. I learned how to attack someone from behind, pick a pocket, lie convincingly, sneak around, and spot an ambush. All skills that I use to this day. I don’t think I ever killed anyone, but I had my fair share of scrapes. I probably would have eventually been picked up as a thief eventually if my lie hadn’t changed when I was twelve.

Somehow the Kellani family got wind of my mothers relationship with Dorian Islaran and put together that I was likely the result. They leaked the information among the noble circles and caused quite a scandal. The result was that one day a group of well dressed men arrived at my home and took me away to the Islaran manor as my mother assured me it was the best for me.

I’m over simplifying it of course, but that was how I perceived it at the time. I later discovered my they had approached my mother with the offer and promise of providing me with a noble life. I think she knew they were for the most part trying to save face by adopting their “poor bastard daughter” off the street, but she saw it as an opportunity to keep me out of trouble and provide me with a better life. I didn’t perceive it as such though. I went from scraping in the streets and plotting petty theft to sitting in pampered rooms watched over by a governess while being told to do my lace and stitching like a proper lady. I went from practical pants and shirts to frilly dresses that were both uncomfortable and impractical.

I was miserable. Of course I found opportunities to sneak out. I visited my mother often. She always accepted me with open arms and only occasionally serrated me for sneaking out to see her once she realized it was pointless. She did always make a point of walking me back to the manor though. I went through five governess in less then a year. None knew how to deal with me. I laughed at their punishments and mocked their attempts educate me in the proper manner of a lady while doing everything in my power to make them miserable. Before I was fifteen even Keltar’s patience was at it’s end with my escapades.

I was sent halfway across the city to the House of the Dragon. Legendary for it’s ability to turn delinquents into proper nobles I cannot say I was able to completely resist it’s influence – in no small part because they rather quickly discovered they needed something to channel my energy into and provided me with an outlet – magic.

Of course not all of their “success” with me can be attributed to their teaching and discipline. The longer I spent living as a noble the less interested my former friends and gang mates became in my company. That many of them were rapidly growing acquiring more legitimate hobbies or were being sent to various work camps helped drive me more into my new life as much as anything else. Between fourteen and sixteen I reluctantly resigned myself to my new life. At some point I realized that I should be grateful for it. I had three meals a day, a safe place to live and sleep, clean clothing, and the opportunity to study a truly remarkable subject. While I never truly threw myself into my study of magic or into an attempt to become a noble I did reluctantly accept their embrace. To an extent at least. I still refuse to this day to accept the embrace of a man simply for the sake of a politically and socially convenient marriage – not that my family didn’t attempt several times to set one up with various eligible young nobles from around the city.

When I graduated from the House of the Dragon at 17 I hardly recognized myself. They even had me wearing the uncomfortable, though not as impractical as I thought, dresses. Post graduation was a rather depressing time. I found myself largely occupied with nothing, sitting in my prescribed room at Islaran manor trying to dodge suiters.

My boredom was alleviated in an unexpected way when Kiel a friend from my childhood on the street approached me about accompanying him and several others I knew in passing on what amounted to an adventure. They had information about a forgotten crypt but had reason to believe it would require magic to open, thus they turned too the only mage they knew and weren’t completely terrified of. While my family was disapproving to say the least I eventually decided to join them. I’ll recount the full story of that adventure at another time, but suffice it to say we found the crypt, we fought for our lives, and we found more treasure then I could have imagined only a few years before. In short order I was perhaps not addicted but certainly enchanted by adventuring. The short expedition rekindled something of the trouble seeking spirit I had as a child. I enjoyed the freedom, the sense of purpose, the thrill, and the danger. And yes, I enjoyed the company of friends.

Over the last year and a half we’ve gone on several more adventures and gained something of a name for ourselves. We even adopted a name – the Four Blades – though I insist it is somewhat misleading. More often then not I don’t use a blade.

I suspect that’s why we were approached two weeks ago by Lady Vanderboren. She revealed to us that she intends on journeying to the legendary Isle of Dread to establish a colony and asked that we accompany her. At first some of us were hesitant about the idea, but in the end we signed on. Even if the Isle doesn’t quite match it’s reputation there are plenty of stops along the way of interest.

We leave at dawn tomorrow.

* * *

Weeks at sea is far more boring then it sounds. For four adventurers it’s more boring then I had thought possible. For the first day we made due tossing dice, playing cards, and recounting stories. By the second we were sitting around doing nothing. Now on the third we are ready to beat our heads against the deck. I think what’s the most sick is that at any moment our boredom could turn into excitement with so simple a call of sail on the horizon.

* * *

Three weeks into the trip. We finally found something to occupy us – learning to sail. We’ve spent most of the last two weeks doing exactly that. It isn’t terribly difficult, but nor is it especially easy. Mostly it’s the kind of work that you have to pay attention to. Of course we aren’t left to sail the vessel, her crew cling stubbornly to their jobs. Perhaps it’s because they know the boredom that awaits if you aren’t doing something at sea for such a long period.

* * *

Five weeks into the trip. We should be reaching Tamoachan tomorrow according to our charts. The Blades and I can hardly wait. While learning to sail has helped fill the endless hours of bordem we are beginning to grow bored even with it. Rich in particular is spoiling for a fight. I don’t know if he’ll get one but the ruins should at least hold some interest. Shame we won’t be able to stop for more then one day, but more then that will keep us from meeting up with the Vanderborens again at Fort Blackwell as we arranged.

* * *

If I ever get my hands on that treacherous scum I’ll cut off his balls, shove them down his throat, then strangle him. The moment our rowboat hit sand the Blue Eagle’s sails unfurled, it weighed anchor, and it made for the open sea leaving us far behind. We could do little more then wave our hands futilely as it stranded us nearly a thousand miles from any civilization. Had it been closer I’d have blown the ship apart, but Lars Helvur plotted his treachery well and the ship was more then a hundred feet outside of my range. It didn’t keep Michael from firing a couple arrows at the Blue Eagle as it sailed away, but his shots fell well short as we knew they would.

Speculation as to the cause of the treachery has been postponed until we get out of this jungle, though I cannot help but remember my grandfather’s warning before we left port. After a little more then an hour of kicking the sand in frustration and anger we set to figuring out how to survive.

We pooled our supplies and found ourselves woefully short on both food and water. None of us packed more then a few trail rations for the day’s exploring. Our waterskins are full but I fear the heat won’t allow them to last long. Thus our first concern is locating both. We are all lamenting our lack of a priest. Thinking a pair of healing wands would be sufficient to replace one was woefully ignorant. The healing the wands offer will do little to save us from dehydration or starvation.

Still, bleak as the situation would be for most I’m optimistic about our chances. When Lady Vanderboren discovers the treachery I’m confident she’ll arrange for a rescue. If nothing else we are resourceful and these ruins are explored fairly frequently. If we can locate a reliable source of food and water we should be able to wait for the next ship and barter passage. We’ll begin exploring the ruins tomorrow. Surely if the Olman built a city here there must be a water source nearby.

Lars Helvur will regret crossing the Four Blades yet.

* * *

Rich is dead. We vastly underestimated the danger of this place. While poking around a tomb he triggered a trap that blasted him in the face with an acid gas. It ate through his face and throat in seconds. He was dead before we could react. Probably before he hit the ground.

We still haven’t found a steady source of water and our skins are almost dry. Tomorrow we’re going to head further into the ruins to see if we can’t locate a river or something. Everyone is quite around the camp tonight. There isn’t any joking or laughing. This entire situation is just so deadly serious. It was before but I don’t think any of us realized it until we were looking at Rich’s corpse.

For the first time in a long time I’m afraid.

* * *
In this Year 596

Keil is dead. Rich is dead. Paul is dead. My grandfather is dead. The Vanderborens are dead.

They say I’ve been frozen in stone for four years. It’s funny, I recall the moment I was frozen as if it just happened. I don’t remember being frozen. I was creeping up behind the basilisk when it turned on me then… I was on their ship – the Sea Wyvern if I caught the name correctly. Remembering that battle brings back hard memories. We came around the corner and found ourselves face to face with it. Keil jumped in front of me and shoved me to the side. I never even saw what it was but by the time I got up off the ground to call him out I found myself face to face with his statue. Paul and I decided to come at it from two directions to kill it. I was right behind it ready to cut it apart when it spun on me, there was a flash, and then I was on the Sea Wyvern surrounded by strangers.

They introduced themselves as Patamon, Joliet Johaberdash, Heinrick Gilantheril, Jerard Matthias, and Achrias Feserkal. Then they proceeded to explain how almost everyone I care about is dead in with brutal honesty. My grandfather was murdered by a group called the Lotus Dragons headed by a member of the Kellani family. My Paul and Keil were both rendered statues and smashed. Richard… I already knew was dead, but it makes the pain no less fresh. His death was as far as I’m concerned only yesterday. The Vanderborens were slain by their son Vanthus – apparently to gain his inheritance early. I don’t know what senseless death cuts me more. My friends who died so the Kellani family could get me out of the way, or the Vanderboren – good folk – at the hands of their own kin over money. No, that’s not true, I know what death hurts the worst.

Keil is dead. Those three words cut so deep. I never thought it could happen. It seems stupid really. I guess we were all caught up in some youthful feelings of invincibility. Adventuring is lethal and we all knew it, but we never thought it would happen to us. I certainly never thought it would happen to Keil. Not at 19. Not before I told him that I loved him. That I’d loved him since our childhood, for most of our life. He died without ever knowing. Without so much as a word or a kiss. I’ll never forgive myself for letting some perceived notions of nobility get between us.

Fate is a cruel bitch. She returned him to my life for less then a year before taking him away forever.

I should note that I wasn’t the only one who lost someone today. The expedition lost one of their own – one Arien. The ships first mate Mari seemed particularly shaken up. I’d mourn their lose but I just have too much of my own to find room for someone I never met.

Joliet went on to share something of her life as we continued to talk. I think they were trying to distract me from thoughts of those I’ve lost. It worked to an extent. Her life is a sadder tail then even my own, a orphan and slave nearly burned as a witch who recently only avoided death by some odd twist of fate. Apparently she’s a sorceress of no small skill. She heckled me a bit about my age – apparently 18 is super young. This lead of course to the question of her age… which she isn’t sure of. I suppose that as a slave it wasn’t tracked. I think it would be fair to say I like Joliet.

At some point the question as to my talents arose, which lead into a discussion as to fair fights. I explained my philosophy with the story of Markus from down on Harpoon Street. A fair fight is one you’re doing something wrong in. People that expect one’s are the one’s who die with knives in their back. For a moment I was afraid I’d offended Heinrick, their apparent leader with the reference – he himself is a swordsmen, but he laughed it off.

It was growing late by that time and Patamon confessed a need to return to the Blue Nixie, the new Lady Vanderboren’s vessel. The irony that I was rescued by her expedition is not lost on me. I must confess here a mild desire to meet Lavinia again. I think when we last met she was 15, just before she went off to Finishing School. Now she has several years on me. Apparently she is in a relationship with Heinrick. It was obvious from the way he spoke of her, but in case it wasn’t Joliet felt the need to point out that they were sleeping together. Meeting someone I remember as my own age should be a shock.. I suppose I’m happy that she’s found someone, a commoner even – for Heinrick is certainly no noble. Someone should have a love story. The question of sleeping arrangements just came up. It was made clear that there was some bad blood between the deceased – Arien – and Patamon. The details were not explained, but I must confess I’m curious. Patamon for his part is polite, humble, and charming. Not a man who I would think it easy to pick a fight. Apparently he does have something of a mean streak though once you’re on his bad side. His callousness about the man’s death was a striking departure from his earlier demeanor.

In the end we worked out the sleeping arrangements with Avner Meravanchi who was kind enough to volunteer his bed for myself, while Joliet who had previously been sleeping on the floor ended up in Arien’s old bed. Avner is quite the charmer himself, and if I’m not mistaken he has his eye on Joliet. I can’t blame him, she is stunningly beautiful. She for her part is seemingly oblivious to his intense interest.

I don’t want to sleep. I fear the nightmare’s that may haunt my sleep, but I’m suddenly exhausted. I suppose it is better to meet sleep on my own terms then risk falling asleep with this open.

* * *

I cried myself to sleep last night. I’m so ashamed. I haven’t cried since I was 11 when I was forced to leave my mother behind, but I couldn’t keep back the tears. I think it really hit me that I’d never see Keil again. That he lies in a pile of rock somewhere in those gods forsaken ruins. Thankfully I had a deep dreamless night’s sleep.

The sleep did little to relieve my weariness but I forced myself to get up when morning came. I can’t lay around bed all day. I have to do something. If nothing else I’ll avenge my friends. I’ll kill that bastard Lars Helvur if it’s the last thing I do.

I ate some of the breakfast lain out and found a spot on the deck to spend the morning. Heinrick drilled with his friend Jerard, sparing savagely. I tried watching them but couldn’t do it. Jerard reminds me of Paul. Apparently he didn’t sleep last night. I found myself watching the sea and listening to them. I caught something about an ordeal he suffered and a demon but didn’t catch the details. I had trouble focusing on their conversation.

I was shaken from my day dreaming by a yell from the Captain – at Joliet of all people – and a yelp from one of the boys. I think Jerard said something to me as he headed down to the deck but I didn’t catch it. Meanwhile Heinrick was marching up to the Captain like a man condemned. Joliet called her a bitch yesterday. Maybe she is. She was certainly quite the personality but I found her personable enough – more on that later.

I was so focused on watching him that I was a little surprised when Joliet slid up next to me. She asked me how I slept and I answered more or less truthfully. I didn’t include my crying and though I’m sure she heard it she didn’t press the issue. Bless her for it. We discussed fate. Damn her for it. She mentioned her belief in fate, her suspension that my rescue was fate. I expressed my own embittered thoughts on fate which did nothing to dampen her mood. The woman is an endless font of positivity. Given her past I don’t know how. I found myself confiding to her my feelings for Keil. I don’t know why. Something about that woman draws me in. I trust her.

Achrias came over. The man looked ill but I didn’t say anything of it. Joliet commented vaguely but he waved it off. He asked us to tell Heinrick to see him down below but it proved unnecessary as Heinrick walked over, much more meekly after his conversation with the Captain, and Achrias was able to pass on the message himself.

Heinrick came asking of I had any experience navigating. I responded that I did and he urged me to talk to the Captain – Amella – about it. I somewhat reluctantly agreed with Joliet flitted off to retrieve a somewhat shifty looking fellow who goes by Skald. It seems she’s friends with everyone on the ship. More maybe I should more accurately say she has all the men infatuated with her and the women charmed. Judging from Skald’s behavior around her it seems he has an interest in the half-elven sorceress as well. His ears have a faint point to them. If I had to guess I’d say second generation half-elf, but I didn’t comment on it. I’m getting ahead of myself.

I introduced myself to the Captain who informed me that the man who had fallen the day before was the ships navigator. She asked if I could navigate while Joliet returned with Skald. She quizzed both of us and seemed to find me the better, appointing me the senior navigator and asking him to assist me while remarking that it was good to have two people between the position and Urol. I’m not sure why she dislikes him so, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had something to do with the odor he exudes. Joliet insists that she tried to clean him up and it had no effect. I’ll take her word for it. He smells so bad I don’t want to get close enough to do so myself. I spent the next several hours putting the charts and maps in order with Skald who proved to be capable. The previous navigator was very through so it wasn’t difficult. Mostly it was familiarizing myself with our course. I passed on as much to the Captain, it never hurts to speak well of the dead.

Speaking of odor I caught a whiff of myself while working with Skald. The Captain was kind enough to let me use her cabin to change when I asked, though the indicated that it wasn’t something I should get used to and mildly berated me for my modesty. She needn’t have, I was almost as embarrassed to ask as I would have been to change before the others. What’s happened to the skinny 11 year old that had no problems changing in a room full of other kids? Is it because I now have something to hide beneath my skirts and shirts or because of the time I spent in Islaran manor? I suspect it’s a combination of both. I could always vanish and change, but that would get tiresome quickly. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep my current garb, my orange and blue shoulderless dress that my grandfather loved so much, clean for a time. I almost threw my old clothing away but instead stuffed it in my bag where it quickly vanished. I’ll get it cleaned properly when we next make port. I contemplated adding some jewelery but in the end decided in just my silver ring and my headband. I think asking to use the cabin came across as silly enough and the last image I want to put forward is that of someone seeking a suitor.

On my way back to the Captain to thank her I spotted an argument brewing between Heinrick and Avner. I was somewhat hesitant to get involved and decided to get a second opinion from the Captain on the issue while I was on the way. She filled in some of the blanks for me. Heinrick owns the ship, but Avner’s family helped finance the voyage. I suppose a power struggle was inevitable between the two. I decided to see if I couldn’t stop the fight before it got ugly and arrived just as Avner was leaving to hear Heinrick throw out quite the insult, if I recall correctly it was “pretentious, stuffed-shirt prick.” Of course Avner heard it and spun to continue the argument. They traded jabs for a moment before Joliet caught their attention playing the oblivious vocalist. She caught Avner’s attention with her song – a rather colorful tune about a mermaid and her desire to walk the land, while I led Heinrick away.

I tried explaining to him the futility of arguing with a noble, though he insisted he wasn’t doing so and that his insult wasn’t supposed to be heard by Avner. I don’t believe the later. I don’t necessarily disagree with the points Heinrick raised, but this is not an ideal world. We have to work within the world are are given and in it nobles are for the most part the authority. Heinrick went on to insist that he wasn’t arguing with Avner or trying to fight him. Anyone who watched the exchange knows that isn’t true but I let it slide. He commented that Arien had conflicted much more with Avner then he ever did.

I’d like to ask someone but I’m not willing to open so fresh a wound. Perhaps I’ll ask Mari about Arien. I think that I’d like to speak of Keil right now, maybe she’ll feel the same way. Thus far she hasn’t said so much as a word to me. I hope she doesn’t blame me for Arien’s death. Perhaps we can bond over our shared tales of loss. If nothing else I’ll find out if she hates me.

Heinrick and I talked for a few minutes more so he could cool his head. He’s in a relationship with Lady Vanderboren but worries about the scandal that the revelation will cause in Sasserine – though apparently everyone on the ship but Anver already knows about their relationship. I can’t blame him, but I did encourage him to chase her. I mentioned that her mother had been common born and it seemed to raise his spirits. I left him with the thought that if he was to become a member of the nobility he’d need to learn to be more civil with them.

Joliet caught up with me having finished talking with Avner at around the same time. She’d had the same thought as to breaking up the fight between the boys. We talked for a while about trying to get them to play nice with each other in the future. We talked about her feelings for Avner – or lack there of. We talked about Mari and Arien, and we talked about family. I guess inevitably we talked about Keil. I ended up crying in her arms. My cheeks burn now just thinking about it, but I cannot feel that much shame. I lost the love of my life. If that is not worth crying over I don’t know what is. I don’t think I’ve ever made a friend so quickly that I’ve trusted so fully. I never told anyone that I cared for Keil, yet I spilled it out to Joliet after knowing her for only two days. I don’t know what it is about her, but she seems so trustworthy. I don’t think she has a mean bone in her body.

The others in her group I haven’t spoken too as much. Heinrick’s heart is in the right place, even if he does seem rather stubborn. Jerard I’ve only spoken too once. Apparently he’s on the night watch. Achrias, the priest, is rather quiet. I don’t think he’s been feeling well though, which may explain his reservation. No one wants illness on a ship. I hope he gets well soon. Some of the crew gave him an some odd looks that don’t bode well. I’d like to think that the Captain can control her crew, she’s certainly a strong woman, but sailors get superstitious on ships.

I think the scratching of my quill and might light stone is keeping others up. I’ll write more tomorrow.

The Journal of Katrina Islaran

Kain Darkwind's Savage Tide Aluroon