Dear Diary…visiting relatives

It wasn’t all good news. Ronhass says Mikael’s animals just got more and more restless over the week we were gone, until some of them just disappeared. He says one of the local druids took the canines toward the wilderness so they could live nice, quiet lives like normal canines…but no one has heard about Lulu. I guess that is a good thing. If stories trickle in of missing toddlers and house pets, we’ll have do mount an investigation.

Lydia has been spending a lot of time in the libraries since we got back, though she avoids the Arcane Academy. Raven goes with her sometimes; he says he wants to learn all he can about dragons, though he also says most of the books in the library about dragons are trash. About the Astral Plane, too. A lot of misinformation out there…

Ezekiel has been doing some more shopping. Tomorrow morning Aliana wants to get back to the front, and get Fetifencer to where he was made to be – killing demons. If he can be happy about anything, I’m sure he’s happy to be out of some alien’s dresser drawer and back into the fight.

Heiron took Usin down to one of the training yards to practice stances and stuff.

Frankly, there’s not much for me to do here. I tried going with Mikael when he went to meditate in the Grove, but the other druids kinda gave off that “what do you want, you metal-wearing person” vibe, so I left.

Realized the windows in the Temple of Rao are telling a story of some kind. I’ll have to spend more time looking at them before I figure it out though. Suppose I could ask one of the acolytes, but I always hate to say anything there.

[sketches]

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Mikael found a carter crazy enough to add wheel to our “mind-boat,” so now we have a wagon to drive home. Raven asked the war horses if they preferred pulling the wagon to carrying us, then laughed. I’m afraid to ask him what they said…but at any rate, I expect they’re glad to be moving and doing after months of inaction.

We thanked Lord Erasmus for the palace’s hospitality, and set out this morning.

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Took our time the first day, since the dragons don’t move very fast (Mitrik is probably happy to have them out of the way).

We had just set up camp when a whole caravan of bright Tzigani wagons came up the road. I got kinda nervous when they pinned us against the river with their wagons, but they acted pretty friendly. The kids went wild when they saw the dragons, and Dree and the boys had a busy time supervising as they slid down their backs. They managed to keep anyone from being melted (the dragons handled it pretty well, all things considered, since they can be skittish sometimes).

Some of the adults looked familiar, and sure enough they’re the same Tzigani group we met so long ago on our way to Homlette. Raven gave the special dagger he’s been carrying around to the boy, and Ezekiel swapped stories with the older folks. The old fortune-teller lady winked at Raven once, and he kept circulating in the group all evening. I think we still have all our stuff…

They told some tales of a giant turtle eating boats on the river, and rumors of a dragon haunting the mountains to the west, but otherwise things seem to be quiet along the road.

Ezekiel gave them a proper Ezekiel send-off this morning, and after they left Raven looked different somehow…maybe something about the eyes, or his forehead.

**

Saw some horses with wings flying overhead today! Fang didn’t like them, or got scared, or something, and took out a gooseberry bush beside the road. And suddenly the monks’ habit of wearing nothing but robes makes more sense…

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Arrived today in Thornward, the capital of Bissel and a fortress city on the border with Ket. Everything seems nice and quiet, and we found someone to direct us to Alpheus’ post — a fort a few days further west. We didn’t come this far north on our way east…but the weather has been lovely.

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4 Fireseek

Alpheus (and Ezekiel’s brother Peter) are stationed at a fort and village along the border. If Alpheus was surprised to see us, he didn’t show it.

It was nice to actually meet his wife. I mean, I kinda remember when they got married…but I certainly wasn’t involved much. Their boy says he wants to be a knight when he grows up. He talks…like a lot.

I think Ez is having fun getting more time to talk to his brother, too.

Alpheus says Ket has been quiet and polite lately, which is nice. After all the drama we seem to have been in the past few months, a little “nothing to report” feels good. There are even rumors that the kingship of Ket is suffering a power struggle, which I hope means they’ll ignore their neighbors for a bit.

Alpheus has kept in touch with Tomlin (I have a letter to deliver when we go to present ourselves to the Grand Duke), but not too many of the others. He says Reginald actually got married at long last, and seems to have settled down, so I guess that’s good. There are worse. A bandit or assassin would be worse.

Someone mentioned that my birthday is just a few days from now, so Ezekiel said we could stay until then. I think Alpheus’ boys are having too much fun teasing the dragons.

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I can’t remember when I had such a nice birthday. I mean, Mama always used to bake me a strudel or something, but then Bartholomew and Reginald would pitch me into the pond so Archie could pull me out, and on the whole it wasn’t fun.

Raven got me a mirror so I could “watch behind and everywhere all the time.” Am I supposed to mount it on my shield? Is it a veiled threat? It won’t work when I’m invisible, will it?

Ezekiel, on the other hand, got a beautiful darkwood bow with nice tension. He must have gotten help with it, since I don’t think he’s personally interested.

Mikael made a miniature bow for his peg-leg lizard. I’m not sure if he wanted me to teach his lizard to shoot…I was a bit busy “trying out” my new bow for Alpheus’ boys…which was probably the better use of time anyway.

So now all we have to do is pay our respects to the Grand Duke, and hopefully get a lead on an unused piece of land where Ezekiel can set up his temple, and Raven his monastery. Oh, also Mikael needs to find the Great Druid of Obed-Hai and present himself. He says it’s time he tested himself against…and then he starts mumbling, and I’m not sure if it’s “the law of the jungle” or “natural selection” that he says next. Or “the natural order.” Or “the Order of the Bugle.” Seriously, I have no idea what he said.

Alpheus kinda asked me what my plans were for my “next stage in life,” meaning marriage…but I kinda have a lot going on in my life to worry about that. What with demi-demons and slavers and wars, there’s just a lot. Besides, I think Ehlonna…not that she’s one of these jealous ones…but who am I to go stepping on her plans? She kept me alive all this time, or sent me back when the circumstances required it, and if all of that was so I can get married…well I guess it must be quite a girl.

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