Dear Diary…internal conflict

No surprise, much has happened in a short amount of time.

We probably made things more complicated than we needed to. I strapped on the sword of Lyons and Lydia gave me a potion of flying so I wouldn’t leave footprints in the snow – but of course she couldn’t tell me exactly how long it would last. (I left Tressarion, too, because he’s been glowing ever since we’ve been in the snow, and he whined.)

The camp certainly seemed sketchy. The sentries by the main road each wore a different uniform, so it seemed reasonable that they were deserters. Someone in the camp was telling a rude story, and an officer yelled at a man to be more alert while on duty. Then a fellow officer mocked the first one for being all “law and order”.

Very clear that they weren’t our type, but there didn’t seem to be any pressing need to fight them – except for the possible threat they posed to Fort Gellsblood (though some of us thought we couldn’t get past them without a fight).

I returned and reported to the others, and with the stealth option used up, Ezekiel took Raven with him to outright ask them what they were up to. If there was trouble, Lydia would throw up the fortress and we’d stand there, while Ez and Raven came back to us in gaseous form.

They must have done their job better than I did mine, since before too long we saw the two of them rushing back towards us, the whole camp on their heels with arrows and swords. Heiron, Lydia, and I climbed to the roof of the fortress for a better angle, and the battle began.

Mikael summoned an earth elemental, and used his magic elephant statue to summon a magic elephant (I admit it looked impressive)!

Ezekiel and Raven floated up to join us on the battlements, and Mikael summoned a magic insect swarm to control one of the flanks (obviously they were magic insects, since any real ones are sleeping in temperatures like this).

We peppered the enemy with arrows as they charged up the hill towards us. A robed man stepped forward and threw a lightening bolt into us, but Lydia and Raven threw bolts back, and when he dropped, the survivors started to retreat.

I guess he got off one last spell, though, because as we headed downstairs to pursue them, Ezekiel was fussing over Lydia – which he doesn’t normally do in the heat of battle.

Sirion and Mikael flew off as hawks, and Agnar and Heiron dashed away like madmen (Agnar laughing the whole way), leaving me to rejoin the battle at my own speed.

When Mikael’s animals and I caught up with the others, the druids had a group of men floundering in a mud pit and Raven was stunning people. As the animals wrecked havoc and we rescued Raven from being surrounded, most of the survivors on the edges of the battlefield started to flee.

Three men near us threw down their weapons and dropped to their knees, offering their surrender. I’ll be the first to admit, I hate when people do that – it makes things complicated and confusing. But it should mean something.

Heiron shot them down, and grunted when he saw no one else was in range.

I don’t know how to explain anything well…but some things should mean something.

I sent him to get Ezekiel, and searched the tents (the battle led us down into the camp itself) for papers or anything that might be important. I only saw the one magic-user, and on the slim chance he didn’t have any fire spells, we’d know for sure these men weren’t responsible for the missing patrol.

Sirion looked around the camp, and said they’d only been there since that morning. He also found a log of raids and moves, and thinks the band came down the trail from somewhere behind Deepholm (closer to the lake by the mountain on our map).

We found lots of horses, and assorted other coins and gear, but my mind really isn’t on that. Ezekiel finally arrived with Heiron and Lydia – except we could tell at once she wasn’t herself. I mean, she was – that is to say, she wasn’t using the hat.

I told Ezekiel he should raise the men who surrendered. Like he raised the punk druids who wanted to turn people into plants. Like he gave the black dragon babies a chance to make good choices. Even Mikael agreed with me that we should slap them on the wrist and tell them not to be bad anymore, and that would fix it. (I kinda can’t believe I supported that argument.)

I don’t know why Ezekiel was arguing my side and making me argue his side. I’m supposed to be the one always worried someone’s going to stab us in the back, and he’s supposed to be the one who thinks Grumpsh is just misguided or something. It’s not fair.

Anyway, we finally reached a compromise of sorts. Someone had to take Lydia back to Fort Gellsblood – possibly to get her healed, at least to keep her safe. Ezekiel doesn’t know exactly what happened to her, but he says her mind is hurt somehow. The return party could take the three bodies back and have them raised there…and maybe Father Joseph can find useful jobs for them, like the bandits outside Homlette found with Sir Rufus.

They’re probably filthy lowlifes…but they threw themselves on mercy. That should mean something. Why am I the one saying it?

We loaded the threesome and the armor onto the horses, and then I piled the rest of the bodies into the druids’ quagmire since everyone else was in a mood. – That’s not fair…Mikael helped me, and Sirion threw a blanket of thorns over the top when we were done. That’s a better burial than they’d get from anyone else, I’m sure. Raven was helping Ezekiel write letters of explanation to Fr. Joseph, and Heiron of course was very distracted. I’ve never seen him so shaken…not even when he was literally tied to a rack.

Lydia seems…happy enough. She was humming and sucking her finger when Heiron lifted her onto his horse. Raven and Sirion are going with them, at least until they reach the main causeway, and they’re taking the treasure back to the fort, too. I found a bundle of papers in the camp that I can’t read – the letters kinda swim around on the page – so we sent that back, too, for someone who can make better use of it.

We saw them off with the caravan of horses, and then Ezekiel, Mikael, Agnar, and I (and Commadore Bearington) continued up the trail with what was left of the daylight. The sun sets sooner in the midst of the mountains, but at least we’ve turned the corner of the year.

And we all have plenty to think about.

Why couldn’t we be fighting orcs?

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