The Journal of Aimorel

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"Death Awaits"
Aimorel’s last diary entry:

One of the last things we hear before succumbing to the need for rest is “Death Awaits.” I believe it to be true. As we settle in for shifts, Tor works his magic with a healing spell, but I know it’s not going to be enough this time. I’m so tired, and with the tablet this close within reach, I know whatever’s coming is something we may not survive. I try to catch Tor’s eye, but he refuses. I know what I’ll see there, and much to my delight, there is still compassion flitting about within him. He assures me I’ll be just fine and that I am a fine fighter, joking that Zuul himself would quake at the sight of me and my bow. He sighs and moves away.

I wish I knew how to speak with people. I would tell Meena that I think she’s a beautiful shark. More beautiful than most people, even when her teeth fall out and she looks a little crazed. That I trust her more than I do most people, even though she might accidentally eat me.

I would tell Mirilda that I am in awe of her strength, and that vulnerability is not always necessarily weakness. I’d tell her not to be ashamed when she cries. Just to prove it, I’d go ahead and cry while I was telling her.

I’d thank Leon again, and again, and again for using his precious wish to bring me back that time. I feel certain that I won’t make it out of this tomb, that I’ll never walk with dew in my hair again, or run my fingers through the coppery fur of a fox, but I drew many more precious breaths because of him. I learned more. Felt more.

I don’t think I would have to say a word to Boudica. I think it would be better to sit together in the grass and face the sun, late in the afternoon, when the light is soft and warm on our faces. Well, maybe I would tell her that boobs aren’t everything, but mostly we would sit quietly in the orange glow, appreciating light.

Maybe one day, some day, I would tell them about my lost love, and why I was alone in Yroc’s Harbor when they found me. Why I thought alone was better.

I’m not sorry I’m here. I know I’m not walking out of here, but I’m still not sorry. If even one of us does, then there’s a good chance that means the tablet has been destroyed, and many, many more saved than dead. I can live—or I guess die—with that.

My friends have to destroy the tablet and get out of this stinking, hateful place. I can rest easy knowing that's done. I'll fight until I can't. That's what they would all do. Maybe one of them will take care of my wolf...

Dice Rolls => Results = Total
d20 => [13] = 13
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Epic × 2!
Helpless in Body, and Increasingly, in Mind
With my face still smarting from the acidic mucous, I quietly enter the Priest Mausoleum. Leon had checked for traps, which is almost always a sure bet with his remarkable skill, but he had just nearly been killed by the stone golem. Only by the grace of Tor was he even alive. The gas engulfs me before I can retreat, and it takes me some time to realize that I cannot move. Not even my vocal chords. Drool quickly begins to slip down my face, and I worry that I will drown in my own fluids before anything can be done. Before the rest can draw back and drag me along, an ultra-thick, gelatinous black mass pours over the side of the mausoleum from the stone priest’s bowl, immediately dissolving first, all of Boudica’s metal, then mine. Boudica somehow manages to liberate herself from the devastating muck, but I am utterly helpless, and lie coated in it, terrified as it obscures my hearing, eyesight, and ability to breathe. I struggle to inhale, and I wonder if this will be a time that one of my friends will use a combination of might and wit to save another, or if this is how I will depart this plane. Smothered to death by a senseless mass, for no reason. Not even a valiant death, saving someone else. I am angry I’ll die without honor and without having helped secure the tablet.

Tenderness and gratitude force me to abandon the futile wish to control my own death, as I become aware of my friends battling with all their might for my survival. “Am I worth it?” I wonder with awe. Mirilda seems to be at a breaking point with frustration and on the verge of tears as the others urge her not to attack the mass. She’s so strong, she may just kill me herself. Leon makes headway against it, but also me, and I hear him whimper as if in pain when he realizes he struck me too. Ultimately, Boudica prevails, and I can at least breathe again. My lungs are burning, and air never felt so good—even the fetid air of the barrow maze.

After the rest trounce several ghouls, Mirilda hefts me up and we make our way back to the harpy den. Everybody is weak and in desperate need of recovery, so even a shit-laden harpy morgue seems like heaven on an evening like this. We spend two nights, and though I have recently been nervous about Tor, I don’t want to relinquish my hold on his hand after he performs a healing spell for me. I owe my life to him, again. Life is simply more complicated than notions of good and bad. What a selfish hypocrite I’ve become.
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Oh, she’s heavy. Fuckin’ ...
Oh, she’s heavy. Fuckin’ harpies. Miraculously, I haven’t been hit yet, though one arrow pierces the leather covering my foot, and lodges deep in the earthen floor, so that I have to struggle to remain upright while keeping my grip on Meena, whose slack form is slick with the harpies’ vile shit. I look over and Boudica still lies in filth, utterly motionless. Mirilda and Leon are figuring out how to get her out of here, as Tor casts silence to at least shield us from the shrieking. There are fifteen of them to our six, and I can’t believe none of us are dead yet. Their skill with the bows is inspiring, and what I wouldn’t give to respond in kind, but Meena is more important than my vanity, and it’s all I can do to creep along with her impressive frame. I manage to break the arrow off, just above where it is lodged against the arch of my right foot, and continue unceremoniously dragging Meena toward the relative safety of the hall, with its lower ceiling. I feel a movement in the air above my left ear, and when I reach up, it is to work an arrow out of one of my thick braids. “Thanks, you hateful, winged oath,” I mutter. This goes in my quiver.

I haven’t even had time to come to terms with the fact that we killed an innocent. A paladin. I should have been more mindful. I should have known. I’ve grown accustomed now to killing, and because of that, a creature who dedicated his life to the pursuit of all that is good, is dead. What is this place doing to me?
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All that Exists
Tor has grown unduly comfortable with his new patron, Zuul. He has grown unnervingly comfortable with darkness. Not very long ago, he plotted to reverse the curse that had made Meena a wereshark. Though the rest of us, including Meena herself, were content with her transformation, he sought to restore her to a version of herself he believed to be… safer. Though I disagreed with his motivation then, I understood why he felt thus motivated. His growing smug countenance and disdain for Father Dietfried are in stark contrast to the admirable traits of the friend we’ve respected and depended upon. He mocks Boudica’s newfound devotion to Pelor—her devotion to light. Light. If there is anything to believe in, it is that. It is, after all, life.

Tor must be dealt with, and swiftly. While cynicism in the face of unrelenting atrocity is natural, left unchecked, it morphs into disregard, and then worse, violence. Boudica, that chesty reveler, may be our only hope. I fear that the more time elapses before finding the tablet, the more likely it becomes that Tor will decide we should not find it after all. Boudica believes that Pelor will guide her to the tablet, and that’s fine. But more importantly, the power she derives from Pelor may be all that prevents Tor from becoming another force from which we must protect not only ourselves, but countless others. Darkness, in and of itself, does not exist. Light exists. We must do all we can to support Boudica as she develops her relationship with light, so that she can at least counter Tor, if not restore him.
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No Stone Left Unturned
I nudge the loose flagstone with my near-silent foot, and everyone gasps. It’s the skull key for the Earth Elemental room. Why do we continue to get excited over these revelations? We always think it’s good news, but we almost always nearly die gruesome deaths as a result.

In the Earth room, giant stalagmites burst through the floor, and of course (because… why wouldn’t they?), the stalagmites reveal themselves to be ropers. I am, as usual, screaming, “What the fuck is this?,” because I have never been foolhardy… no, no—courageous enough to be running around in a barrow-maze fighting giant tentacled rocks. Everyone is yelling “run Aimorel!” or “hold!” or “I wanna fight, but how close should I get?,” and “I’m gonna run toward it, but I’m gonna run straight for a little while and then diagonally, and straight for a little while longer.” I draw my bow, but some omnipotent voice tells me only magic works on these assholes, so I throw it down, because it would take too long to put it back, and pull out Heart Seeker. In the end, we nearly lose Boudica, but not quite, and we acquire the giant skull key necessary to gain access to the main room we’ve been fighting toward for days.

What happened in that room is difficult to think and write about, but I do hope I am able to tell this to someone some day, because you cannot make this stuff up. I have breathed underwater, been teleported, and died and been brought back to life. But today, I saw a fiercely strong, beautiful half-orc, and a pastry- loving, jewel-stealing, life-saving halfling become invisible and fly. And because they risked their lives to do that, the rest of us lived.

I am left thinking though, maybe I shouldn’t keep looking for things not meant to be found. We’re no closer to the tablet, we all nearly died, and Tor has renounced Ymir in favor of Zuul. What will become of the rest of us, and our mission, if Tor loses his ability to reason for himself? We rely heavily on Tor. He has been our saving grace so many times. What if he decides he doesn’t want the unchained to find the tablet?
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