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  • Days 62-63, Waxing Blue Moon, Year 445
    Based on the Account of One Gasby the Rogue
    As Dictated to Armsman Nial, Ranger of the Marali Vanguard

    To the Adventurers Throughout Oberin:

    I come to tell of both heartache and heartwarming times, of despair and hope, and of past passions and future fulfillment. A desire for companionship that transcends origin and species—and perhaps even physical possibilities. More directly, I intend to tell a story of Lancaster's arctic Ice Dungeon, and a love that smolders hotter than the scalding pits of Hell itself.

    I refer, of course, to the love one special Frost Giant harbored for an Ice Dragon. After years of yearning for his—erm, "their"—beloved, the Frost Giant constructed a labyrinth in a fiery final attempt to attract the fickle affections of a faraway-

    --

    "You're telling it wrong," says Gasby, knocking the quill from Nial's gauntleted hand. She is sitting at the Andris bank near him, but she moved close enough to strike the writing implement from his grasp when he had started reading back his report's opening sentences. "It's just...it's like you're trying to ruin everything, right at the start. You can't do that when you're trying to try a story, silly!"

    Living up to every one of her seventeen years, Gasby sticks her tongue out at Nial, who frowns. He does not care to meet her gaze.

    "Then...how would you have me tell the story, 'noble' Gasby?" Nial retorts, not liking the caustic tone his voice took. Yes, he is doing her a favor, but he does not need to be uncouth about it.

    "Exactly," says Gasby, pointing her index at him as she raised a thumb. "Now, you've got it. I'm basically a superhero. So make me into a really cool, BA chick that kicks butts and takes names!" She pauses. "Especially 'Co names~!"

    Gasby's grin is large enough to unnerve Nial, so he looks again at the parchment before him.

    "I...will see what I can do." A sigh escapes Nial's lips, in spite of himself. How will he make it clear he is exaggerating her skills, in order to appease her and more quickly finish the statement? Why must the truth be so tinted by an author's rose-coloring? Most importantly, will his audience know of his intent?

    Perhaps it only matters if the GoDs above know. Grimly resolved, Nial collects the bent quill and writes.

    --

    In these dark times—with beasts roaming unchecked through the wilds and bag drops containing Crystals and Lotus Flowers more often than not—Elara knows we direly need someone to step from the fog of war and malcontents. Someone to rise to the occasion and strike against the ignorance enveloping the everyday. Someone willing to divert others from dangerous dilemmas and dive into difficult decisions.

    Someone like Gasby.

    Bravely backstabbing many stone golems in her early years was but a preamble to Gasby's boldness in Our Lady Moon's Blue phase, Year 445. As a party of adventurers hailing from distant lands suggested a hunt, Gasby took up the dagger to defend them. Their quarry: the elusive Ice Golem, a resident of the deepest and darkest part of the nefarious Ice Dungeon.

    No doubt hoping to recover several of the mysterious Copper Spoons and Jade Pins, Hayate-san lead the party through an untroubled entrance to the well-hidden hideout of Ice Golems, a place where evil curdles like the cackling of the abominations.

    Quickly slaying the first Ice Golem, the group encountered an influx of new enemies at the same moment Hayate started skirmishing against the second Ice Golem. Selflessly putting aside her derision toward "dumb ol' Clerics" (her words, not mine), Gasby valiantly raced up behind an Ice Spider attempting to devour Cyana. The Rogue then gave it a hearty backstab and two additional strikes, which sent the creature running for its sinister, slavering life.

    Only a true knight in bloodied armor would be capable of such a feat with a mere dagger. Clearly, we are blessed with a once-in-a-generation miracle in Gasby.

    Just as the Ice Golem was nearing its death throes-rather, as she was eliminating the threat the massive creature posed to the poor, defenseless Clerics, an evil voice rumbled through the dungeon, its deepness resonating off of the icy walls.

    It promised Masters would return to slaughter every memory of the party, and it was half correct.

    In a moment of sorcery, a campfire appeared to the north of the group, almost as a red-orange warning signal fire. Gasby pointed it out, but other than Haruko—a veteran Ranger many moons my senior—it went unnoticed by the group.

    And that is when the Dracos sprung from their hiding places, flooding the Ice Golem hallway by the tens.

    Fighting a sensible desire to retreat in the face of such a blatantly overwhelming foe, Gasby stabbed an Ice 'Co lurching toward the legendary Satyricon, no doubt hoping to follow in his legacy by single-handedly stomping down an insurrection by the baby dragons in their native home-I mean, in a place where they are unwelcome to those such as Gasby.

    Unfortunately, her sublime effort was entirely in vain, as another trio of 'Cos mutually devoured Satyricon, leaving a dead Cyana and Zaji behind them not long after.

    Racing toward the ladder with mikomi (the sole remaining Cleric) and Haruko, Hayate led the surviving members to safety outside of the dungeon...the surviving members excluding Gasby, of course.

    With no living Clerics to support her low health and Ice Dracos determined to sniff out her whereabouts, Gasby knew her time—both undetected and alive—was limited. She needed to rescue the Wizards, Resurrect the Cleric, and cut down the Dracos. All by herself. Surely this was a challenge worthy of a professional such as Gasby.

    --

    "There. That's better," says Gasby, her head bobbing in approval. "I really like how it makes me sound! But, umm...aren't you...laying it on a little thick, y'know?"

    Nial looks up at the dirt-caked, brightly garbed Rogue, preparing to tell a blatant lie. "I do know. It was at your insistence that I contorted the narrative to make you appear larger-than-life. If you wished for me to do otherwise, you should have said so."

    That was the truth. Pure knowledge unhindered by any touch of diplomacy or even restraint. The lie had died within him, died with the flames in his guild's forge this winter. And the truth was a cold and brutal Maralian night.

    "I-you...it's not fair to-I hate this..." Gasby tries, stumbling over her words. She seems more awkward and unsure of herself, these days. "Why can't you j-just...write it like you would if I was Satyricon? I mean, you'd give him a positive de...depeck..." Gasby struggles to find the word, and Nial waits. After all, it's partially his fault that she cannot come up with the correct phrase.

    "Depiction!" Gasby says, lifting a tiny fist in a gesture of triumph. "You'd give him a positive depiction, and think you were doing all o' Oberin a huge favor by making a 'living legend-'" –Gasby raises two fingers on each hand in sarcastic quotation marks- "-look legendary! Like it's somehow better than making me look good. An' worst of all, you'd think nothing of it! No fair!"

    Still shaking one fist, Gasby punches the pillar beside her. She groans in pain and cradles her hand.

    Nial allows himself a louder sigh, for that's another truth: he's exasperated. "First of all, Satyricon could kill either of us without breaking a sweat. Perhaps even at the same time. He entirely deserves his reputation, if only for the sheer destruction he is capable of sowing among our foes. And us, if he decided we stood against Foehan."

    Gasby drops her hands to her side. "... Okay, yeah. I've seen him fight, and he is pretty dang scary. 'Legend' it is, I guess."

    "Good," says Nial. "Second of all, speaking of audience...isn't everyone who reads this report going to want more details about the main events? Background may be helpful, but I worry some will find it...too thorough. Shall we move onto the meat of the days in the Ice Dungeon?"

    "Well, duh!" Gasby says, throwing up a hand in frustration. "Not everyone likes to hear you ramble, ya doofus. Get to the point, already!"

    --

    With no one capable of healing her left alive in the Ice Dungeon, and a significant portion of her right leg torn to shreds, Gasby was in a dire spot, indeed. She retreated deeper in the hallway, hoping to escape the wrath of the creatures that could kill her in three bites.

    Unfortunately, she tripped and dropped from her stealthed movement before she expected to. This drew the attention of two or so Dracos, who crawled forward in ravenous pursuit of the Rogue.

    It was at this moment that Gasby realized she was nearing the infamous Gooey Room.

    Swarms of the gelatinous cubes noticed Gasby, and she was unable to hide. Closing her eyes, Gasby braced for the end...just as she fell behind a corner and out of sight.

    Picking her way back toward the deceased half-party, Gasby considered attacking the 'Co. It was at that moment that she noticed Hayate engaging three Ice 'Cos at once, and—courtesy of mikomi's healing talents—winning quite handily.

    She backstabbed the next one, and soon after, the party fought through the remainder, bring their long-gone members back from the grey.

    Gasby scouted ahead, noting a path of fires illuminating a path deeper into the dungeon. Like will o' wisps, they dared the adventurers to follow their ethereal glow. Like a field of fire burning bright beneath the-

    [Here, the handwriting stops abruptly, as though the writer changed his mind]

    Gasby located an arena filled with more Ice Dracos than she could count. Scattered amongst the youthful monsters were a series of notes recording a creature's devotion to an Ice Dragon, unmarred by its unrequited nature.

    According to Gasby, the first five notes read as follows:

    1. "Dragon is morning."
    2. "Dragon is noon."
    3. "Dragon is evening."
    4. "Dragon is love!"
    5. "... Why doesn't dragon love me..."



    Curious about the devoted scrawl on the notes, the group advanced slowly, drawing 'Cos out of the burning maze by the pairs and trios.

    Soon enough, they would discover the source of this furnace of passion and ceaseless admiration for a dragon. Soon enough, they would encounter a giant unlike any before h-them.

    (OOC: stay tuned for a screenshot-filled part two, coming soon™!)
     

  • --

    "Dude, you're making it look like the Frost Giant basically stalking this Ice Dragon was a good thing," explains Gasby. "Don't you get that it's actually a story about creepy obsession, and we only helped the Giant out because it was do it or die?"

    "I...did understand that there was a considerable degree of coercion on the note-writing Giant's part. Regarding his undeniable love...I think you are wrong, Gasby. Love is currently incomprehensible to you, same as any youth. When you are older, I-"

    "-don't think just 'cause I'm younger than you, and smaller than you, that you can just feed me that crap, Nial." Gasby's standing up and gesturing furiously with her dagger. If Nial didn't know any better, he'd assume Gasby was preparing herself to attack. "People always do this. They on't think opinions matter, if the people holding them are under, like, thirty years or something. You're no better than the rest of them."

    Nial scoffs, but keeps himself for berating her ignorance. She deserves someone to listen to her, even if she is obnoxious.

    Gasby continues, "It's...not like the Ice Dragon suddenly freely changed their mind, either. Just you wait. There's all sorts of nasty stuff ahead. Stuff you won't even be able to say is 'right' and 'loving' to do."

    Nial lowers his quill, which he hadn't noticed raising between him and Gasby. Nerves getting the best of him, he supposes. Mustering a weak smile, he chuckles. "Well, let's get back to it, then, shall we?"

    --

    With enticing notes scattered throughout the maze, the freshly made-over "'Co room" presented a unique opportunity for the party to gain a glimpse into the mind of its creator. Evidently seeking to record his thoughts, the Frost Giant left journal entries throughout the fruits of his labor.

    It appeared he had cultivated some sort of...incubator...for the newborn dragons within the Ice Dungeon. If this was simply a project of vanity—he simply wished to appreciate the beauty of Ice Dracos—or something greater, Gasby does not recall.

    Or perhaps—as Gasby suggests—the Frost Giant sought to demonstrate his "parenting skills. Y'know, like being a dad and stuff." If that is the case, he should have left his surrogate children far beyond the reaches of the party, for Hayate, a newly arrived Stryker, Haruko, and Gasby left a portion of their dwelling covered in their corpses.

    [Here, a depiction of the "carpet of 'cos" is drawn with savage relish]



    The group learned that the Frost Giant had constructed this area for the Ice Dragon of their dreams. It seemed, however, the Ice Dragon was either unaware of their efforts, or had rebuked them, leaving the Frost Giant forlorn.

    Still, the path beckoned with signs pointing still deeper into the Ice Dungeon. The rooms beyond the home of Dracos called...

    [Another image showing the enticing iconography present in-erm...the arrows that showed the way]



    The path led to a pair of unusual chests: one contained all three varieties of magical hand axes (perhaps used in the construction of the habitat?), another contained a Crystal Ring and some gold. Gasby wishes for me to mention that they had stumbled upon five Flasks of Perfume frozen within an Ice Golem they fought in the opening passages of the maze. Why? "It's foreshadowing, duh!"

    Advancing around a penultimate corner, the party happened upon a strange sight: a Gaper observing with its many eyestalks from a...booth, of sorts, which was comprised of campfires.

    Suddenly, a voice boomed out, asking the Gaper what it had noticed.

    Gasby did the only sensible thing for a Rogue to do: she stealthed and crept closer to the sound of the voice, finding an unusually large Frost Giant in a strange and ominous chamber.

    The Frost Giant told them to enter his room, and the group obliged. Satyricon alone questioned this perhaps unwarranted trust in their newfound host, as he kept his hands ready for a spell to cast on the Frost Giant.

    Gasby, of course, had no qualms about entering a dangerous and unknown home. It seems that is the purview of Rogues and their ill-regarded kin. Gasby wants me to add, "hey, it seemed legit. Plus, he had some cool décor to really liven the place up."

    This "décor" consisted of a battered, frozen human corpse impaled atop a giant-sized spike, and a boiling cauldron, no doubt filled with whatever ghastly grub a Giant gobbles down by the gallon.

    Once again, the Frost Giant lamented that the true love of their life would not return their affections. In person, however, they sought a solution by enlisting the help of the party.

    Unexpectedly, however, the humanoid creature sniffed the air, sensing perhaps a whiff of perfume emanating from Gasby's bag.

    "Do you have perfume?" asked the Giant, their lamentations at once forgotten. "Special human perfume?" They thumped toward Gasby, their massive footsteps echoing even more than their voice.

    "Y..." Gasby found her voice—and her wits—had failed her, for once. "Y-Yes."

    "Gave it to a forest troll," said Stryker, as his own supply was lacking.

    But Gasby was inferring something completely different. "Do you...uhh...want a spritz?" she asked the Giant, cracking open one of the Flasks.

    "Yes, give potion," the Frost Giant said. It was not a request; it was a command.

    "Or a lot of spritzes, since you're...kinda mega-sized?" asked Gasby, balancing the other four Flasks of Perfume against the wall. She popped them open with her dagger.

    "Yes," said the Giant, impatient.

    Gasby struggled to hand over the bottles, but managed to pass them with neither breakage nor spillage.

    The Giant immediately doused themself in a healthy amount of the liquid, but found the results unsatisfying. "This...is not enough."

    "Aww," said Cyana, perhaps re-living some lost love herself. If not, at least she kindly offered her sympathies.

    "That was all we had," said Gasby, her usual smile completely reversed. She watched as the Giant lumbered over to their cauldron, considering their options.

    "This is a strange giant, indeed," Satyricon mumbled, unfamiliar with Frost Giants preferring love to murder. If only he had known this particular specimen enjoyed both...

    [Here is an image of Satyricon muttering. Why Gasby sketched it, I do not know.]



    Abruptly, the Giant suggested they needed to make an additional perfume using the remaining Flasks of Perfume and, according to Gasby's testimony, the "essence of a Wizard." Yes, dear adventurers, it seemed the only way to attract the Ice Dragon was to invoke the magicks of a practitioner.

    And this day, it seemed Satyricon and Zaji-san were the two Wizards in question.

    The Frost Giant ordered them to duel in the cauldron, and they promised the winner riches and rare items. Of course, this meant something cruel: the loser would be deceased, and the magic remaining in their corpse would power the Frost Giant's larger and more potent batch of perfume.

    When Satyricon said he considered Zaji a friend, however, the Frost Giant did not look pleased. Satyricon was very disinclined to battle his fellow mage for the Giant's benefit, and—through Cyana—it seemed Zaji was not particularly excited at the thought of fighting Satyricon.

    The Frost Giant loomed over the group, its bulk filling the room. It grabbed both Satyricon and Zaji, and—in a demonstration of raw power—hurtled them into its cauldron.

    Gasby recoiled in pure horror, hiding against a wall. Stryker said nothing, but gripped his weapons tighter. Haruko kept her vigil over the Gaper-watcher, no matter her thoughts.

    "Two men enter, one man leaves," said Stryker, highlighting the grim reality of the battle that was to occur.

    "You suggest force to duel them?" asked a shocked Cyana. "Oh my god."

    Despite Cyana's disbelief, the Wizards were still attempting to escape their gladiatorial prison.

    "Hrmm," said Satyricon, inspecting the walls of the large cauldron for other options. He raised a hand, aiming a spell at the Frost Giant. To no avail.

    Gasby could not make out his mumbling, but Satyricon turned to Zaji and said something about fires and vision. ("It's wizard stuff. You figure it out, Nial.")

    "PvP?" asked Lord Hayate, understanding the situation only slightly slower than Cyana.

    Meanwhile, within the cauldron, Satyricon switched from magical solutions to negotiation-based ones.

    "You no fight?" asked the Giant, frustrated by the lack of sparks in their cauldron.

    "We are not enemies, giant," Satyricon said. "You seem rather smart for a giant." He attempted to explain his plan to the Frost Giant, but the beast soon cut him off.

    Its presence seemed to envelop the room in musk and malevolence. And then Giant's voice rang out:

    "If you no fight, I kill all of you!"
     

  • Responding to the Frost Giant's death threat, Gasby immediately backed against a wall and hid, any thoughts of heroism dashed.

    "Very well, if we must," sighed Satyricon, readying himself for a battle against Zaji. Gazing at his opponent, Zaji felt nervous, but he knew he must fight to help the Frost Giant. The two Wizards stood side-by-side, prepared to exchange volleys of punches as well as spells.

    [Here, Gasby has sketched the opening moments of the battle]



    Savoring the sight of two incredibly skilled Wizards engaged in a struggle for life, Gasby chanted, "Fight! Fight! Fight!" Leaning over the fires, she watched eagerly as lightning bolts sparked above the cauldron, and the mages mutually poisoned one another in their opening salvo.

    "Do you like it?" Cyana asked. It was difficult to determine if she was asking the Frost Giant or Gasby. Regardless, the Giant banged their club against the ground, undeniably thrilled to witness the bloody spectacle. (This reportedly elicited a cute "eee" from Cyana.)

    And bloody it was indeed. As Gasby gleefully relayed, both Satyricon and Zaji nearly died at least twice apiece. It was clear even early on, however, that Satyricon's years of training in the art of Resisting Magic gave him the edge.

    As the two warrior-mages quaffed their potions and exchanged fireballs, bolts, and explosion, mikomi looked at the Gaper standing guard at the entrance of the Frost Giant's room.

    "Dragon laaaave!" mikomi exclaimed, watching from a safe distance.

    The battle between Zaji and Satyricon raged for several hours, and during that time, both combatants tried many combinations of attacks. Zaji famously poisoned Satyricon three or more times in a row, and Satyricon responded with a triple-lightning bolt combination.

    In time, however, Satyricon devised a most devious means of attack: after meditating to regain his ability to cast, Satyricon bolt Zaji twice, then hit him with a Fireball. With Zaji's health thus reduced, Satyricon was able to finish the red-clad Wizard off with an explosion or magic arrow.

    At last, the Frost Giant's wishes were granted, and they could at least an appropriately intoxicated scent to woo their love. To this end, the Giant combined the blood-soaked "essence of Zaji" with the perfume, putting it on.

    Realizing the pain he had inflicted upon his friend, Satyricon turned on the Frost Giant, enraged. With a steady glare, Satyricon prepared to fire the deadliest of spells toward the Giant...only to look in confusion at the Giant's next actions.

    "You win!" said the Frost Giant, handing Satyricon a package. "Gift for winner."

    "Hrm?" wondered Satyricon, pulling the gifts out of their wrapping paper. Finding himself momentarily speechless, he eyed the finely-wrought Black Robe of Protection in his hands. An impossibly ornate Lesser Mana Ring tumbled from an inner pocket in the robe, which Satyricon collected.

    [Here is Satyricon inspecting the fruits of his deadly conquest. While he appeared to regret killing Zaji, his bloody actions did, in a certain manner, recompense him well.]



    "Gift for loser!" said the Frost Giant, handing a freshly Resurrected Zaji a similar parcel. Opening it with more than a touch of excitement, Zaji found he had received a reward similar to Satyricon's...except in his preferred crimson hue. Rather appropriate, given the bloodbath in the cauldron.

    After an unexpected but thankfully brief incursion of Ice Dracos, an Ice Dragon wandered into the Frost Giant's lair, at long last unable to resist the luscious bouquet coming from their would-be lover.

    [While Zaji announces his Grandmaster Red Robe of Protection, the Ice Dragon moved close enough to the Frost Giant to fully experience the charms of their irresistible odor.]



    With the heady scent of the Zaji-perfume almost a saccharine fog, the final moments in the Ice Dungeon are not recalled clearly by our roguish counterpart. However, Gasby noticed the Ice Dragon had no reservations about the thought of building a future with the better-scented Frost Giant.

    "Come, let us make a nest together!" said the Ice Dragon. Or maybe it was the Frost Giant? Gasby's head was fuzzy, and she was not even the intended object of the concoction's magicks.

    --

    "Can you stop right there?" says Gasby, a disturbing tranquility overtaking her tone. Nial looked up with furrowed eyebrows, waiting for her to speak. "Yeah, this is the bad part. Gotta stop. Y'know, you've taught me Black Magic slowly destroys a person's physical form. It's sorta...a corrupting influence."

    "Okay?" says Nial, not remotely sure where Gasby is going with this tangent. "We were almost done giving a 'summary' of the events, but if it's that important...go on..."

    "What if...the magic the Frost Giant got from Zaji was the same way, except...with the mind. And, umm, I'm sure you'd want me to say, 'with the spirit.'" Gasby pauses, looking unusually somber. "What if the perfume they made for the Ice Dragon was, like...corrupting the mind of the Ice Dragon, until it felt something like love?"

    Nial cannot help himself. He clicks his tongue and disapprovingly shakes his head. "You are wrong. I am sure the Frost Giant merely mixed a Love Potion of sorts. Why, Lady Fuoco has told me tha-"

    "-not listening to me," Gasby says, a weariness entering her tone. "It wasn't the 'Love Potion,' as you optimistically call it, that was the issue. It's just a thing. Things aren't good or bad or somewhere in between. People and creatures are bad."

    Gasby faces Nial, eyes like twin bolts, and he is startled to notice there are tears in her eyes. "When you take away another being's ability to decide—even to screw up on their own—you're not letting them be a person or creature. You're making them into a thing, and that's wrong."

    Nial protests, "I thought you didn't believe in right and-"

    "-and just listen to me, mmkay? I'm not done." Gasby has tossed her dagger down beside her, but balls her tiny hands into fists. "The 'love' the Ice Dragon felt for the Frost Giant wasn't real. It was as fake as me pretending I'm you, as a joke. It was as harmful as a Bone Mage hitting you with a double-whammy of Poisoning. It's...gonna make them feel wrong, and the Dragon might never understand why. 'Cause their head has been screwed with! Face it: that's messed up." Gasby glares at the Ranger. "And that's the truth, even if you don't want to hear it, or acknowledge it's true."

    Nial falls silent. Gasby has never spoken so strongly about something, and that is surely commendable. And her rich use of Common's vocabulary...something he also appreciates. He mulls over the contents of her soliloquy, at last opening his mouth to speak:

    "That is ridiculous."

    Gasby's jaw drops. "Wha-"

    "-think you have any understanding of the agony the Frost Giant was suffering? The sleepless nights, tossing and turning during what should have been a restful occasion?" Nial feels venom seep into his normally cheerful voice.

    "Do you even know what it feels like to want someo-something more than you want life, and to be separated from it forcibly, time and time again? To lose it forever, until the barest memory of a languishing love is all you can hold onto, never again holding her in-" Nial stops, realizing Gasby has picked open an old wound. She looks stunned, and takes a half step back.

    But he's too far in to stay his hand. It is time to show Gasby why Marali's Armsmen were once feared the world over.

    "And who are you, of all people, to judge the Frost Giant's long-awaited requited love as somehow 'wrong' or even 'corrupted?' I heard just today of the excitement you felt, when Satyricon and Zaji were going to kill one another. That is bloodlust, and it is wrong. I have seen the perverse joy with which you pick apart Pixies and Rats...and even Cats and Wolves! Harmless creatures that Elara entrusts us to protect. I've seen you consider killing honest, hardworking men simply because you were bored."

    Something in Gasby's face shifts, and he is looking at a dead piece of flesh, devoid of any expression or humanity.

    "You are," Nial says, "a monster."

    For a moment, a sound seethes through the air that reminds Nial of the crowned abominations in Marali. His homeland. This sound, however, simmers and rises until Nial becomes horrifically aware of its source:

    It is Gasby. She is giggling, but there is no single shred of happiness or hope in her tone.

    "Gasby...are-"

    "Oh, Nial," Gasby's tone is a gentle purr, but that makes its malevolence all the more apparent. "Oh, Nial. Remember how I tried to protect you? Even save you from yourself, when you needed it?"

    Gasby reaches out to Nial, who finds he has backed against the pillar. Two glances, south and east. No other adventurers to help him.

    Gasby stands on tiptoe and cups Nial's face in her hands. Nauseous, Nial strikes her hands away, feeling something left on his countenance. Soil and grime, from Gasby's unwashed hands.

    "What are you-" he protests.

    "Sssh, just listen." Gasby's eyes are empty cobalt. "Remember how I've never been scared to die? You always thought it was strange, even ungrateful of me." Gasby's face twists into something like a smile. "But that's the secret!

    "Y'see, it's pointless to care about living or dying, since we'll all be gone, someday soon! Every last one of us, wiped out. Swallowed up by a void. All gone!" Gasby raises her hands in a gesture of triumph. "See? Isn't it great?!"

    "No. L-Lies! Elara and the GoDs will preserve-"

    "And nope, there's nothing after this. It wasn't added to our world. All there is, or ever will be, is gonna be gone in an instant. And we won't even know it!"

    Nial swallows. He musters his resolve.

    "Go far from Andris. You are not welcome here." Nial finds a bow, and his trembling hands nock an arrow. "Go!"

    Gasby closes her eyes. "I would rather not. Let's not play games."

    Keeping the arrow at the ready, Nial reaches up to his face and flicks some dirt from it. "I will not abide your threats of annihilation, your...monstrous thirst for destruction."

    Gasby shrugs. "Then...I dunno. Maybe you could leave, instead?"

    Nial does not glance over his shoulder as he exits Andris's east gate. To Marali, then. To Marali, to seek refuge from this madness.

    --

    [The final part of the missive is written in a shaky, hurried scrawl, a stark contrast to the neatness of the earlier portions]

    Frost Giant demanded party leave their lodging. Somehow, used some remaining magic from Zaji's remains to teleport. Group landed at the bank unharmed.

    Rogue claims to regret not granting Frost Giant the Crystal Ring she located, but this is dubious. It went into bag game, with Spoons, Amulets, and her accumulated miscellany.

    Following the encounter, members felt more experienced, as though there was some truth in the actions taken those two days. Love prevails. Death's price is not too great.



    We were made to be the heroes of our own tales.
     

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