I write this journal as a record of my Pilgrimage, with hopes that the thoughts herein will be of aid and use to my people in future generations. Of myself I will say only that I am one of the river folk – halflings in the common tongue. I am quick of wit and body, possessed of a certain roguish charm, and I command the fury of the storm itself.
My tale begins with the day of my Pledge, a time of great importance to many of us islanders. It is the time when those of us without a voice might claim one with our own two hands. The dawned clear and chilly and the air had the feeling of devout ritual. Though I am prone to jokes I could sense that this was not the time for such and I gathered with my fellow hopefuls.
We were greeted by Kersius of Clan Murrok, an older human with wisdom in his fading eyes. Briggs Brokenshield of Clan Delnor, a fierce and aging orcish warrior of some renown. K’veshk of Clan Plint, one of my people, of whom many stories have been sung. Maillk of Clan Malondra, a mysterious cowled figure who is still a mystery to me. And Toe’lyn of Clan Brusker, the representative of the voiceless ones. Overseeing them all was ancient Maluliea, the wisdom and power still apparent in his elder years.
Though the elders held my attention for a short while, it was my fellow pledges that I found most intriguing. There were the twins Melo and Lela, both of whom pledged to Liendrel. Tek Stonepalm, a sturdy dwarven youth who surprised no one in pledging clan Delnor. Two elves, Mulg Feathercrown and Shimf Leafcutter, who pledged Murrok and Malondra, respectively.
Joining Tek was a massive dragonborn by the name of Kriv. His devout nature and massive stature were obvious to all involved. His scales were the ancient blue of a glacier and his demeanor much the same. He moved like a warrior and to my eyes looked wrong without heavy armor and a stout blade.
Kira was the one to join Shimf and to my eyes she was greatly more pleasing. A half-elven lady (for never was the word more appropriate) of stunning beauty and immense talent. I’d had the pleasure of hearing her sing once or twice before, but upon seeing her so lightly clothed it occurred to me that she looked the part of some fighting skald, slaying enemies even as she sung of her own deeds.
A young human by the name of Cordelious Woods pledged with Mulg. I’d heard tales of the young man, that he had burned his own house and family at a young age, so great was his magical power. The runes of binding were clearly visible about his wrists and over his body. He was a bit older than the rest of us and the look of eager anticipation upon his face was plain.
Joining me in pledging clan Plint was a half-orc by the name of Peek. I tried my best to hide my prying glances, but the scars and stretch marks upon his body simply drew the eye. I cannot fathom what could have happened to him to elongate him so, extending his read and body in unnatural ways. He had the look of a powerful yet graceful warrior, and I was sure that his speed was equal to my own. He gave me a glance of suspicion, likely due to the storm’s mark that clings to me like a second skin.
Of the actual ritual I will speak little, for my words cannot do justice to the sheer ritual and spiritual nature of the process. Suffice it to say that we were purified in body, mind, and spirit. Our first stop was at the sacred falls, where we were bathed and heard powerful voices both from within and without our bodies. I try to grasp at the words that were spoken even now and I cannot fully recollect their full meaning. All I came away with was the certainty of fair play and striving to do your best.
Our spirits were purified in a small sweat lodge, where we were packed uncomfortably together and forced to endure sweltering heat and steam. I dare say that Cord enjoyed the experience more than most of us – heat does not seem to bother him in the least. A pipe was passed around and we slowly partook of the substance, falling into a sort of trance where once again that great voice was heard.
Our minds and bodies purified we were then faced with the test of the body. This is what we had all been waiting for and I could see the eagerness of my companions as the rules were explained. We simply had to race from the lodge to the shore and then out to the island of birds, where we would then gather one of the sacred eggs and bring it back. The first part was a race, but the second required only completion.
We all had two choices in front of us; to take the long path down the beach, pitting our endurance against the speed of the others. The second path was much more treacherous, a straight shot through the tangled jungles and out to the cliff-side. Nearly all of us, save for Tek and the elves, decided to take the shortest path. The word was given and we all took off like a shot.
I took to the trees upon a gust of wind, trusting that my agility would carry me safely over the brush by running along the highest branches. The others simply did what they could to plow through and around the underbrush, attempting to find their way as best they could in the murky undergrowth. I am overjoyed to say that I was the first through that tangle, as someone of my stature can most easily make his way like a spider monkey. The others soon followed, even sturdy Tek, though he was a bit slower than the rest of us. I am sorry to say that Melo, Mulg, and Shimf all failed this part of the test. I cannot imagine their heartbreak, especially Melo (to see your twin succeed where you had failed must have been terrible).
Upon the beach we once again had a choice: swim straight to the island or take one of the boats the long way. True to my nature, I took a boat, as did Cord (I suspect that he is not very athletic). Cord seemed to have a great deal of trouble of the boats but waved off my help. Eventually I suspect that he used his magic to aid him in the task, for I have no other explanation for what happened next.
Simply put, my boat floundered and sunk halfway out. I am loath to blame poor craftsmanship, but I cannot think of what else could have been at fault (surely not my skills, for I am of the river folk and we are born and die on the waters). I was forced to swim, which did not go well at all. Everyone else beat me to the island, even Cord.
Once on the island we had to search for the eggs, and for me that was much easier. Eida’s tutelage had been very thorough and I managed to find a nest with not one, but two eggs. The others quickly found similar nests, though trouble quickly appeared in the form of the large birds. Kira managed to scare hers off and Peek did something to snatch his own egg, though I was unsure just how he accomplished the task. Eggs in hand we ran back to beach and tried to get our way back.
Once again I was cursed. The log I attempted to use as a crude boat was oversized, or perhaps I was simply too tired and eager to return. I floundered at the shoreline for an eternity, long enough for Tek and Lela to find me and offer their help. How could they have known that offering such help to one of the river folk was a grave insult? I waved them off, filled with rage and anger at my predicament.
I was already naked, having used my loincloth to hold the eggs about my neck. Now I was stranded on the island as my companions made their way to shore (Cord in his boat, damn his overly powered hide). It was then that the storm’s full fury overtook me and I snatched a few feathers from the ground and called the winds to my aid. I sailed across the bay upon a great whirlwind, looking for all the world like some ungainly bird. But I made it – let us not lose sight of that.
Our eggs collected we had to return them to the elders for evaluation. I’m not sure who noticed that Tek had grabbed the wrong egg first – me or Peek. But we were both taken with the same impulse, to quietly swap his egg for one of our extras. I acted just a shade faster than Peek and swapped my egg for his strange one, leaving Peek to swap his egg for mine. I am certain we’ll joke about it later. As for the egg, I think I’ll keep it and see what hatches.
That night a great celebration was held in our honor. We still had one final task, but it was seen as a foregone conclusion that we would be accepted into our clans. We ate, drank, and made merry for quite a while until sleep overtook us all. The following morning we were informed that we simply had to make an offering at the sacred shrine in the clearing and that our task would be complete.
The seven of us made our way up to the clearing in high spirits, only to be greeted by the sound of strange voices. A group of ragged figures seemed to be pilfering our holy shrine! We all stepped forward as one and told them to leave and I could tell then that violence was imminent. The men looked hungry, desperate, and more than a little mean. And as I said, they were defiling one of our sacred sites.
I hesitate to call what followed a battle – a route might have been more likely. Peek and I had been ahead of the others a bit and a few of them charged us. Peek took a few glancing blows but I managed to mostly sidestep my adversaries. From there it was a haze of fire, fury, and lightning. We all rushed them with headlong abandoned. I do recall Peek performing a rather deadly handspring assault hot on the heels of my own whirlwind, a blow that killed the leader dead.
The fight was brief and one sided – they had hardly been given a chance, so quick had been our response. We removed the bodies from the glen and made our offerings. I handed over one of my great feathers and an offering of blood, one of the greatest gifts a sorcerer can bestow. Kira offered a few letters from her missing mother and Peek offered up a broken shackle (I must speak to him of his past, for it must be a grand adventure). Cord offered the essence of fire and Kriv one of his own scales (I winced at the pain). Our offerings made we returned to the village, our Voices ready to be heard.
It was then that we received the greatest surprise of all. The elders pulled us aside and explained that the islands hadn’t always been here. Instead our ancestors had found them and a veil had been placed around the islands. Or something like that, my arcane theory isn’t exactly stellar when it comes to high concepts. All I know is that the best and brightest of the clans had been charged with exploring beyond the islands and finding out the truth about our situation.
It just so happens that yours truly, Peek, Kira, Kriv, and Cordelious were the ones they chose for this task. Which means that my chances of finding something interesting on my Pilgrimage just went way up.