“Already Gone” by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer

"Already Gone" by Ken Ham - Christian discipleship - Kimia WoodDo our twenty- and thirty-somethings stop attending church because they were not engaged at six, ten, or fourteen, either?

Ken Ham, of Answers in Genesis, and Britt Beemer, of America’s Research Group, ran a survey of 1000 “20–29 year olds who used to attend evangelical churches on a regular basis” but now rarely if ever attend church. Their question: Why do church kids go off to college, and never come back to the corporate church?

Reading Already Gone 13 years after it was published, and several decades into the “Great Deadening,” as we might call this generational falling-away, several things struck me from my unique perspective of being raised in the heart of the church, yet outside the Church culture.

Children of Caesar

First, let’s deal with the elephant in the room. The Educational Industrial Complex. A good 60% of Ham and Beemer’s sample attended Sunday School as children, yet its effect on their spiritual growth was “meh” at best, and detrimental at worst. In fact, the product page for Already Gone on AiG’s website contains these bullet points:

  • Those who faithfully attend Sunday School are more likely to leave the church than those who do not.
  • Those who regularly attend Sunday School are more likely to believe that the Bible is less true.
  • Those who regularly attend Sunday School are actually more likely to defend that abortion and gay marriage should be legal.
  • Those who regularly attend Sunday School are actually more likely to defend premarital sex.

Now add in this jaw-dropping statistic: “Ninety percent of children from church homes attend public/government schools” (emphasis mine). Yes, when we want our children to learn geology, astronomy, biology, anthropology, or anything else related to “real life,” we leave it in the hands of the Godless, secular school system. This is the information relating to their diplomas, their jobs, what the smart people say on TV, all that stuff that everyone around them insists is vitally important.

Then, when it comes to matters of “faith” (which in the popular mind implies squishy, metaphysical things for which there is no evidence), Mr. Ham estimates the average student gets 10 minutes per week of “focused, spiritual input from adults” at church. The math is just against us. Would you rather talk about an afterlife you can’t touch or see? Or deal with real, hard science you could grow up and get a job with in the real world?

Or, as Mr. Ham and Mr. Beemer put it much more succinctly:

The facts are relevant; faith is not. If you want to learn something that’s real, important, and meaningful, you do that at school. If you want to learn something that is lofty and emotional, you do that at church.

Obviously, “the things that are seen are passing away, while the things that are unseen are eternal”…but we need to actually teach our kids this. The default of our earthly minds is to focus on earthly things – and we need to actively confront this, both in our children and in ourselves.

One of Mr. Ham’s main solutions to this epidemic is “better curriculum” – actively connect the things we see in the physical world with the history and spiritual reality of the Bible, discuss the skeptics’ challenges to our faith and our worldview, and demonstrate how to stand strong in the face of a world that cannot grasp these spiritually discerned things. Fossils and physics and galaxies are relevant, yes…but the Bible teaches us how to interpret all these things and – more importantly – the Bible gives us a detailed introduction to the God who left His fingerprints on the universe.

Or, more simply put: teach Apologetics, which is an organized defense (or explanation) of Christian theology. Great idea. One hundred percent. I just want to see his bid, and raise him one:

Teach apologetics…to the entire church!

These children were taken in by the skeptics, because they didn’t have answers to the skeptics’ questions. They didn’t have answers, because no one gave them answers. No one gave them answers, because the adults didn’t have answers, either. The adults in the church didn’t have answers, because for too long the American church has drifted along in a “grandma” religion – believing it because “Grandma said it,” without actually examining their beliefs or forming a rigorous intellectual defense of their worldview.

And what better example of this can I find than the abdication of parental responsibility?

Parents have passed the sacred, God-given responsibility of teaching and discipling their own children to “experts.” I don’t care if the “expert” is a pastor, youth pastor, Sunday school teacher, or atheist college professor… parents are the front line for forming their children’s worldview and teaching them what is important (God and His word), what it means (apologetics and theology), and how it applies to their lives (they need to surrender their lives to Him in order to find forgiveness and true purpose). But most parents panic at the very idea.

Mr. Ham charges that Christian parents have ceded credibility about tangible, secular things to the school system…and so have also ceded the right to connect spiritual matters with the facts we can see and touch. I challenge that the two are one and the same – “the heavens declare the glory of God,” and to assume you can explore one without the other is to destroy the very ground you stand on.

How could parents fix this? By using everything – from math, to geology, to current events – to demonstrate God’s very present work in our lives and in our world, and to point their children to Him. Can a great Sunday School curriculum and kind-hearted church teachers help with this? Sure – but the instant parents think the church staff can do their work for them, they’ve lost a huge battle…and a huge opportunity to be faithful, and to see God work through their obedience.

As for those youth ministers:

Youth Segregation

The American church typically segregates the youth off from the rest of the church body. Even if they don’t have a youth group for the teenagers, they surely have a children’s church, Sunday school, or nursery for the younger kids.

Why do I bring this up? Based on research from George Barna:

“Nearly 50% of teens in the United States regularly attend church-related services or activities.

“More than three-quarters talk about their faith with their friends.

“Three out of five teens attend at least one youth group meeting at a church during a typical three-month period.”

And yet Already Gone asserts:

“We are one generation away from the evaporation of church as we know it.”

How can our young people be so plugged-in to church (apparently) and yet walk away once they graduate from college and don’t just come because Mommy makes them?

Of these thousand 20 to 29-year-old evangelicals who attended church regularly but no longer do so:

“95% of them attended church regularly during their elementary and middle school years

“55% attended church regularly during high school

“Of the thousand, only 11% were still going to church during their early college years”

“They were disengaging while they were still sitting in the pews. They were preparing their exit while they were faithfully attending youth groups and Sunday schools.”

What Mr. Ham and Mr. Beemer glean from this is: the college experience is not a magic cut-off point. Put another way – of the study participants who don’t believe all the accounts in the Bible are true, 80% had their first doubts in middle or high school.

You’d think this should go under the previous section – where I discussed the failure of Sunday school to counteract the influence of the public schools, and where Mr. Ham suggested an apologetics-based curriculum to prepare students for the intellectual conflicts of life. But this is a two-pronged problem, and the second prong is children are excluded from the life of the church.

At one point in his book, Mr. Ham asks his reader to look around on any Sunday morning, and look at all the kids patiently sitting next to their parents…then to imagine two-thirds of them gone. As for me, I can’t imagine – there are no kids in my Sunday morning congregation! That’s right: we march them away for “children’s church” where they can’t hear the solid Biblical teaching we give the adults, and they can’t see the men and women of the Christian body applying themselves – body and mind – to following God.

Knowing what we believe and why we believe it should be a part of every Christian’s spiritual development…and yet we somehow act like Christians under a certain age can only learn it among people of the same age group. Sheesh, we act that way for older Christians, too.

One of Mr. Ham’s final suggestions is mentoring teenagers to minister to other teenagers. Actually include young people in the life and work of the church? What a wild concept! Encourage them to serve alongside more experienced Christians? Insane! Provide opportunities for deeply-rooted, well-learned Christian young people to teach more childish Christians who just happen to be older than they are? Get that idea out of here!

We actually have two pits to fall into.

The first is that children are naturally innocent, and can be considered Christians just because Mommy and Daddy brought them to church since they were six months old, and they know all the right answers and never act out (even if they’ve never made an explicit profession of faith, or shown any fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives).

The second is that young people are an entirely different breed who cannot be integrated into the regular body of believers. We create youth groups and college-student-focused ministries to keep them in their own sub-culture as long as possible, instead of folding them gently and naturally into the larger congregation, where they could develop accountability relationships and learn to confront the challenges of the world from other Christians who have already experienced them…y’know, just like regular Christians.

While Mr. Ham and Mr. Beemer don’t spell out these problems in so many words, they do insist children are never too young to learn apologetics. You might have to adapt the lesson to the learner…but dinosaurs are pretty much Answers in Genesis’ signature trademark – and who doesn’t love learning about dinosaurs and how God created them on Day 6 (and told us about it in His Word)? The topics for connecting people to God are limitless… After all, He is limitless – and eager to connect with us. We don’t have to be afraid. God has given us so many answers to the nay-sayers in His word…all we have to do is open it and look for them. What’s more, Answers in Genesis and other ministries like it have plenty of resources to help us find answers to questions.

Following God is a journey – and journeys are better if you have someone to travel with. Instead of shoving children off to flounder on their own, we should be inviting them to walk alongside us as we learn how to answer the skeptics of our day and to confront lies with God’s Truth.

Church vs. “church”

One of the things Mr. Ham found most interesting in the survey data is: “12 percent of those surveyed answered all the questions correctly.” That is, they understood what the Bible actually says, claimed to hold to Christian doctrine, and still believed themselves to be saved. Yet being part of the physical gathering of God’s people is part of following Him on this earth. So why has this group “left”?

This might be a good place to comment: Mr. Ham tends to use “Church” (capitalized) to refer to the true, invisible, spiritual, omnitemporal gathering of God’s people…while at the same time confusing it with the brick-and-mortar, service-times-listed-on-the-sign “church” that most of us in Western culture associate with the word. I would have done the reverse: use “church” to mean the fundamental, intangible structure of God’s body – and use “Church” (or “Church TM”) to refer to the tax-exempt facade superimposed on top of the true church. (But even I haven’t kept it entirely consistent in writing this review, so I guess the most important point is to keep these two bodies distinct in our thinking while we examine this issue.)

So what do we make of this mysterious 12%?

“They all went to church growing up. They still claim to believe the major tenets of the Christian faith…but there they are on our AWOL list. Clearly, factors other than their belief in the Bible and traditional Christian values have influenced their decision to leave. As we crunched the data from our survey, it became apparent that commonly held stereotypes of those who are leaving the Church are not altogether accurate. Church attendees tend to blame the epidemic on those who have left. We label them as apostate, insincere, uncommitted, lazy, or indifferent. You can believe that the Bible is true and intellectually accepted but still not feel called to go to church on Sunday.” [emphasis mine]

Mr. Ham and Mr. Beemer talk about two groups within their survey: Group 1 has left the church and never comes back, and never intends to come back. Group 2 attends on Easter and/or Christmas, and is more likely to express the intention of coming back once these men and women have children of their own.

“Group 1 believes the service is boring, the agenda is too political, and that the Bible is not relevant. These people have a low level of belief in the Bible.”

In other words, they “know” the answers…they just haven’t claimed these answers as their own, nor accepted God’s view of the world over the view extended by the secularists all around them.

“When reporting what they miss about church, those respondents in Group 1 said that they miss the music … but that’s obviously not enough to persuade them to come back. … They don’t like the people and they don’t believe the message, so there’s really no reason for them to come back at all. The Bible is irrelevant to them and the people are too. They won’t come back unless something changes on this level.”

Apparently “they went out from us, because they were not of us.”

“Group 2, on the other hand, has a much higher level of belief in the Bible. Three-quarters of them believe that they are saved and report relatively high levels of belief in biblical accuracy, authority, and history. The obvious point here is that over half of the people who have left the Church are still solid believers in Jesus Christ.”

(Note: these are Mr. Ham’s words, and I don’t have a firm enough grasp on the survey numbers to understand his fraction here. I remember feeling he was too eager to count respondents who gave the “right answers” as true Christians, without knowing about any other fruit of the Spirit in their lives. If over half of the people surveyed are really “true believers,” why do they have no desire to meet with God’s people? But I think I’m getting ahead of myself here…back to defining Mr. Ham’s “Group 2”-)

“When asked what they miss about church, they report that they miss the pastor’s teaching. What they object to, however, is hypocrisy, legalism, and self-righteousness. The Bible is relevant to them, but the church is not. This group needs to be convinced that Christians in the church are living by God’s truth, and are living in a way that is relevant to their lives (such as being a positive influence on their children).” [bold emphasis mine]

Incidentally, of those respondents who miss any part of the church service, “[o]nly about 7 percent said they missed the music, and nobody was missing Sunday school”. Now can we please stop singing bad praise songs because we think it’ll draw in the “younger generation?” Okay, that’s beside the point.

Mr. Ham theorizes that this Group 2 recognizes they do not have a problem with God, just with other humans. He is hopeful that they will bring their own children to services for the spiritual instruction, and to connect with other Christian brothers and sisters to help them grow. He also theorizes that, if the Group 2 people left the organized church partly over a disagreement with other members, that they will find a new place in the corporate body once the other people have either died or left.

There is of course an alternative interpretation.

These young people may say they want their own kids to experience church because they believe in it as a cultural institution – perhaps we should say “Church TM” – and just find it healthy like a gym membership or 4H is healthy. They believe in the tenets of the Christian faith in the way they believe in niceness and a “higher power” and presents at Christmas…not in the way Peter believed in it as he ate breakfast with the resurrected Jesus or Paul believed it as he sat chained in prison for proclaiming this same Jesus.

This is something we cannot know without looking at the true hearts of people…and only God can do that, so we need to leave it in His hands. But it is true that “if you love Me, you will keep My commands” – and one of the commands Jesus left us was to keep meeting together…for encouragement, for discipleship, for corporate worship, and for mutual teaching and sharing of burdens.

Mr. Ham again quotes a George Barna report:

If people “cannot find a local church that will help them become more like Christ, then they will find people and groups that will, and connect with them instead of a local church” – and twenty-somethings are 70% more likely to take this stance than older adults.

But wait a minute…a group of people who meet for the express purpose of honoring God and becoming more like His Son? That is a church…even if it’s not tax-exempt and it doesn’t meet in a fancy building.

So perhaps we have a Group 3…a group that looks kind of like me.

This group firmly believes God and His word. They strive to follow Jesus and are listening to His Holy Spirit as He changes them from the heart outward. But they’re tired of being treated like children by the Church (TM) that spends more time making people remove their hats while indoors than confronting the skeptic questions of the day.

The young people of Group 3 want to be part of the church body and participate in the teaching and learning and mutual growth…but they’ve been told to stop upsetting the apple cart, and to get in line. Maybe they were shuffled off to youth group, when they would much rather be studying theological necessities with the adults. They want to ask questions and hold people to the standard of God’s word…but the grid-locked structure of the institutional Church and those who lead it do not allow them to.

So they find another place where they can actually be Christians and exercise their faith. Whether or not they still show up at a fancy building on Sunday mornings, their actual “church” fellowship takes place some other time of the week…in a small group with other believers, where they can be challenged, taught, and nurtured to serve and contribute as God has called them.

This discussion feels deeply personal, and is perhaps moving away from the core concerns of Mr. Ham’s book. But I feel we are still on the same page, because his ultimate solution for this Great Deadening (as I have dubbed it) is basically:

Teach God’s word and live God’s word.

Yes, yes, yes, yes.

When we proclaim God’s word, His Spirit has the power to take those words and convict people’s hearts and call souls to Himself. Who builds the church? Jesus said, “I will build My church”!

God Builds His Church!

“Britt and I are praying that one of the consequences of this book is that churches will be changed from the inside out by the Word of God. We also pray that committed believers will have the freedom to leave, if necessary, to find a group of individuals that prioritizes the sharing of the Word of God, teaching how to defend the Christian faith and uphold the authority of the Word in today’s world, and lives by the principles of the Word of God. And we are also praying that those who have left the Church will find their way back into this type of fellowship.”

This is not something pastors and Christian educators can do. Maybe they can help as parents step up to the plate and become more intentional about training their children in the knowledge of God’s truth…but ultimately, this is a battle for every single Christian believer to stand strong and be faithful where God has put him or her.

One of the funniest quotes from Already Gone is:

“Our country has forsaken its Christian soul.”

Countries don’t have souls. People do. God calls every single one of His children to read the Word for himself and practice following the leading of Jesus every moment of every day. No one else can do it for you, nor can anyone (even the Apostle Paul) follow God on behalf of someone else.

So the good news is: the world is not worse than it’s ever been. And maybe the veneer is being ripped away to expose just how naked and blind the American people have always been, so finally – finally – they will be hungry and thirsty for the Spirit of God and His righteousness. Perhaps God is exposing the cracks in the single-pastor-led, overly-crowded-congregation organizational model, so that the way will finally be open for a new “mode” of church fellowship…the church that has been meeting in homes and forest clearings and catacombs for two thousand years (or more?? Abraham??), learning and failing and worshiping and squabbling and standing washed in the blood of Jesus.

The other good news is that: if we trust God, He will clothe us in His righteousness and bring about His work, no matter how often we screw up. When we don’t teach our kids correctly, or love our church brothers and sisters perfectly, or give the right answer to an accusing agnostic, God is powerful and will fill up our failings with His victory.

Stand firm, and be obedient.

Disclaimer: Seven chapters and an introduction are available for free on the Answers in Genesis website. I’m not sure whether this is the entire text of Already Gone, but this is what I read and where I read it. I was not required to write a review of any kind.

The book is also available from Amazon, from Kobo, from Barnes & Noble, or as paperback or ebook versions from Answers in Genesis.

Dear Diary…the hill giant hold

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “Against the Giants”

Raven and I went to scout as soon as it was light. As the sun’s light trickled over the peaks, it started to dispel the mist – but it was still pretty damp and hazy at the foot of the valley when we finally reached the fortress.

The fort is constructed of logs, each at least three feet across. I can’t imagine hill giants going to so much trouble on their own initiative, which makes me wonder who built this place and for whom. Raven took me onto the roof with the rope of climbing, and it’s a good thing we both had a firm grip on it, since the tiles were soaked. There were chimneys so much as gaps along the roof-line, where greasy smoke leaked out – mingled with booming laughter and harsh voices. So someone was up and about.

In the corner of the roof, a tower rose up to a sheltered platform. Raven slipped up the wall to check it out, and says there’s a guard with an alarm cymbal…but he happens to be asleep, so hopefully we can take him out without raising the alarm.

There’s a courtyard area at one end, but it’s hard to see anything because of the slope of the roof. Maybe Raven would have been more daring to climb over there if he wasn’t keeping me from falling off the roof. Anyway, there’s one main double-door entrance, and we rejoined the others on the ground near it.

Raven thinks the entrance is held by a bar or something like that, so he can’t just unlock it. Mikael has prepared to summon an earth elemental – plus the one he can summon with his magic stone – and Ezekiel suggested they go in through the main doors while a separate strike force take out the sentry in the tower and come down from there (Raven spotted the top of a staircase). I said that between Tressarian, Lydia’s staff, and Heiron’s new boots, the three of us could reach the roof easily, and Raven could tug us along with a rope so the only one in danger of slipping is the one with uncanny gecko feet. And, believe it or not, they went for my idea – so the four of us will be attacking from the rear while Aliana and the heavy-hitters break down the door and charge in.

And as far as we know, there are no prisoners, so maybe we can just kill everything without confusion.


For one of the few times we’ve busted down the front door, it’s gone pretty well. The four-person strike team snuck up to the watchtower without the sentry waking up…so now he is resting with whatever deity bothers to take the souls of hill giants. Heiron disabled the alarm cymbal, and Raven is so fast he made a pass for loot while the rest of us arranged ourselves and headed downstairs.

Somewhere about that time, the building vibrated as the front door crashed open, and when we reached the bottom of the stairs, the rest of the party had killed the guards napping by the entrance, and picked the biggest doorway leading deeper into the fortress to go through next. The two earth elementals removed the doors, and we stared down a long, wide corridor into a huge hall, swarming with giants.

Aliana charged, with the elementals stomping after her. Ezekiel dashed out to keep up with his wife, and Lydia snapped her fingers – sending a streak of white light stabbing through the enemies. I started spraying the group with arrows. Giants and ogres are big and tough, but that means their vital areas are also bigger.

How to describe it…I don’t think I’ve ever been in a battle before where chairs and oversized tankards flew around. Aliana fought a Cloud Giant, while standing on a table. There were also a couple Stone Giants in the crowd, so it seems not all of them refused to join forces like the ones we met on the road. We even killed a Hill Giant chief and chieftainess (judging from later study), but this set-up seems a little too elaborate to be all their doing. Someone is pulling the strings, as we confirmed later – but at the moment, of course, we were focused on killing giants.

The action finally moved so that I had to work my way down the entry corridor. Raven was taking a nap on the floor, and Lydia had a mug-shaped bruise on her face that Heiron was all worried about. When the excitement was over, Aliana spun around on the table (apparently part of being a cavalier is always making a production out of things…Theobaldus explained to Dree, and Dree tried to explain it to me) and jumped down to Ezekiel. The far walls of the dining hall (which is where we found ourselves) held plenty of doors, so I went to cover sone of the exits while others checked the bodies. (Mikael found a jewel-studded collar on the chief’s cave bear, which he says should fit Bearington. I wonder what Bearington thinks of that.)

Raven woke up, and found a ballista the chief was using like a crossbow. He was just explaining how it worked to Ezekiel when an orc poked his head in a side door. He poked it back out again immediately, but I whistled for Heiron to come join me (and Agnar came over, too) and we opened the door.

What should greet us but eleven ogres!

Heiron got the last one to surrender, so we left him to tie it up while Raven (who was feeling better now) helped me search the kitchen across the hall.

A pack of orcs cowered there, shielding themselves with serving platters and the like. Ezekiel and Aliana talked with them for a bit, and them we moved them over to the great hall for Heiron, Lydia, and Agnar to keep an eye on. Apparently they say the chief of this place was in the hall we just cleared, and there are more slaves who “escaped” to the basement level below. Ezekiel is doing his “God of all gods” thing and wants to send them on their way, but we all agreed we should clear this floor before we get more adventurous. There’s a stairway down in the pantry, and Raven blocked it so hopefully nothing can come up at our backs.

First, we found a bunkroom of some kind – with a magic sword concealed in a wall sconce that Aliana says claims to be for killing giants. Hope we can get it a good friend.

Next we found an armory full of giant-sized weapons. Two of the war-hammers are magical – and you’d think hammers would use the same muscle groups as axes, but I haven’t had the chance to experiment, and Tressarian points out I’m not exactly hurting for weapons anyway.

Schakka found us a secret door that led to some bedrooms. I tried to deal with the few sleeping giants before they woke up, but Aliana doesn’t agree with me (she says you should look your enemy in the eye and charge it head-on). We haven’t messed with treasure too much yet, since we want to clear out the hostiles, but there are plenty of furs and chests and jewelry for when we make another pass.

We also found a room full of giants whacking each other with sticks. From their proportions, I think they’re juveniles. We herded the prisoners into that room, so Heiron had only one door to watch (and we took away their sticks). Agnar grumbled a bit about being stuck on guard duty, but we assured him our sweep had been boring so far. The next bedroom got a bit more complicated. We startled a handful of giantesses, but once we killed the matron, Aliana said the surviving two had no heart to fight back. They must have been impressed by her (and Ezekiel) because one of them volunteered directions to the chief’s quarters and showed us where the giant matron had kept a couple potions in a chest (we let her keep the bangles in exchange).

The next room seems like some kind of sitting room or trophy room. All kinds of heads are mounted on the wall…including dwarf and human. Aliana thinks the shields have Keoish emblems, and that makes sense. It’s encouraging in as much as we’ve killed *some* of those responsible for attacking the people of Keoland. We inspected a skull on the mantle with the magic swords, but I think it’s just an ordinary skull (you can’t be too careful).

The chieftainess also had a cave bear, who was staying in her room, apparently. It did not want to listen to Mikael (which might be just as well, so Bearington doesn’t get jealous).

Finally, we found a door in the outer wall of the fortress that let us into that awkward place we couldn’t see very well from the roof. Turns out it’s a courtyard, and it used to be full of dire wolves…but Mikael threw around some Druid know-how and froze some of them, and the rest of us mopped them up (though not before one of them lunged and threw me off my feet. Tressarian isn’t going to let that go soon).

The chief’s council room is tucked around behind the dining hall…and sure enough, there’s a door hidden behind the manticor hide on the wall. We found some magical javelins in a closet, just Raven’s size – but he says he can’t have any more magical items right now (or it’ll be unfair to his enemies or something…monks have their own ideas). We found some scroll tubes hidden in a pile of firewood, and one of them contained a parchment with a symbol like from the Temple of Elemental Evil – that triangle with the three legs to make it look like the top of a pyramid or something. That feels like a lifetime ago, but Ezekiel says you’ll never truly rid the world of Evil because some people are just selfish, and they’ll always want power to just do whatever they want. We also found a map of this area, but it waits to be seen how accurate it is (drawn by giants, after all – or so we assume).

[sketched copy]

Another couple bunkrooms on the kitchen side…and a room with a bunch of female giants, with one male flexing for them. He made the mistake of flexing at Aliana, and she killed him… She insists she did it because she thought he was issuing challenge, not because she didn’t want Ezekiel to feel bad. We had a little awkwardness with the females, but Mikael talked to them in Hill Giant, and took them off to the other prisoners.

The courtyard contains two bunkhouses as well, which we checked out while Mikael made sure Heiron and the others were doing all right with the prisoners. I think one of his Earth Elementals had returned home by now, but the second had a longer connection to him, so it could follow along to back him up.

When we finally finished clearing this floor and opening all the doors, we reconvened to debate what to do with the prisoners. Raven wanted to hand them over to the Keoish authorities…but if you think about the state of that patrol we met, that’s laughable – well, maybe not laughable. But they definitely don’t have the facilities or the manpower to hold all these giants, juvenile or no. With the black sphere still encroaching on the city, they have enough to do with keeping the peace and keeping things running after so much evacuation, to say nothing of the continuing giant raids (which we hope to disrupt with our work here).

Ezekiel wanted to send the prisoners off into the mountains, and burn this fortress down so they can’t return. Raven pointed out that, just because the giants used it, we also could use it…specifically, Keoish forces could use it as a forward base in the mountains to support the counter-invasion. That also offers problems… Side note: while giants of some kind may have built this ground floor (especially given the size of the beams used and the rooms), there is evidence of some older work…especially the stairs to the basement. Be interesting to know the history of this place.

Aliana pointed out that reinforcements of any kind – either human, from Sterich, or giant, from the mountains – would take a while to get here…so we shouldn’t make that our chief worry. Mikael was concerned about the “freedom fighters” we heard were hiding in the basement, and wants to get them out and to safety. In the end, we decided the damage our prisoners could do (at least in the short term) is minimal…so we gave them a little “be good or we’ll have to come kill you” speech and escorted them to the door. (Agnar gave a much longer speech which Aliana declined to translate. I think he’s really hoping they come back for revenge so Ezekiel will tell him to go all out again.)

Six orcs and an ogre said the ones downstairs were part of their tribe, so they would stay and cook for us until the others are rescued from the basement. (Well, I think the ogre was just afraid to be off on his own…or maybe the orcs told him to work for them or they’d eat him.) So I guess there’s no getting around that. Ezekiel put a glyph on one of the basement doors, so no one could sneak up behind us, and Mikael and I fetched Donna and the horses from the cave. They’re not much interested in the “fodder” they had for the worgs, but we turned the kitchen upside down to find them something, and even a couple of the orcs helped out.

Meanwhile, the others made another sweep of the place, looking for treasure this time. We found piles and piles of jewelry, platinum pieces, and assorted things like a magic shield and a giant cape of otter skin. We also found…a whole barrel full of ears. Mostly dwarven and elven. I think Ezekiel plans to hold a little service over it later.

Lydia also found a note in Hill Giant that contains instructions for a raid in Sterich…a town that, according to our maps (and Aliana) is north of the Davish River. The note is signed by “Eclavdra.” At this point, I basically think all these “E” people are the same, just using different names to confuse pursuers or get plausible deniability or something. Or perhaps every Drow alive has a name starting with “E”. It does seem too much of a coincidence that all these evil masterminds are named similar things…and if they are the same person…what a reach she must have.

Lydia jumped back to Haven to send over the mirror-portal so we could send the loot through. (After all, the agent’s secretary said we could keep any treasure we found…and besides, we can niggle about money once it’s out of the mountains. This also gives us the chance to empty the portable hole, which we had full of money from a previous encounter.

In the morning, we head downstairs. Let’s hope this isn’t another maze of winding passages, all similar yet different, full of giant bugs and themed monsters.

Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary…hiking through the hills

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “Against the Giants”

Later in the day, I spotted movement among the trees beside the path. Aliana and Agnar confirmed that (man-sized) warm bodies were moving back there (so, not undead) but we couldn’t tell more than that. Since Ezekiel said the angle of the sun would soon drop below the mountains anyway, we set up the fortress for the night. That way, if they want to contact us (like the wild men in the Pomarchj), they can find us…and if they want to attack us, we’ll have a defensible position.

I’ve swapped out for the ring of infravision, so I can help stand guard in the night (Ez took the light off the top of the fortress…it was a bit ostentatious for normal use).


Shortly before dawn, we heard a cacophony of yipping and howling, and right after Mikael came charging down from the top of the fortress, shouting and flapping his arms and calling to Donna. Raven and I dashed outside, but all we saw was the horses trying to break their bonds (and the new morning light really messes with infravision, by the way. I’m changing my mind about wanting to be an elf).
While Aliana calmed the horses, Mikael and I headed off in the direction the noises had come from (though not the direction Donna took off in), but all we found was Raven, who tried to flank the aggressors, whoever they were.

I took some time hunting for tracks, and found a veritable trampling of human-sized prints – shuffling behind bushes, creeping from cover to cover, that kind of thing. I think I spotted nearly a score of unique tracks, but there’s no sign of their owners now. (My current theory is they were were-hyenas, but that doesn’t tell us what they were doing. And I’m probably wrong anyway.)

Mikael flew off in bird form to find Donna, so that gave us plenty of time to make a plan. Ezekiel theorized there were two groups – one trying to contact us or steal our horses, and another group that scared them off. Raven thought they might be working with the giants – or at least might be like the pebble-planter in the Pomarchj, and could lead us to them.

Aliana agreed with me that our mission here is to fight giants, and our most direct lead is the ogre’s trail. Whether these interlopers are an oppressed neutral party, or third-party bandits preying on giants and adventurers alike, or something else, they seem to be a distraction from our main objective. If they’re really friendlies who want to meet us, they’ll figure it out.

In the meantime, the ogre’s trail isn’t getting fresher.


Mikael returned to us safe and sound, and he brought Donna. So all’s well.


Killed a band of orcs on the path. Apparently I need to practice fighting from horseback. They had a decent amount of electrum on them – were they also taking it back as tribute?\


Ezekiel and Mikael prepared spells for searching the surroundings. I guess they got tired of watching me crawl back and forth, scolding anyone who stepped in mud before I got there. Mikael says there’s no “civilization” within his radius of perception. Raven says Donna complained about always rushing past the nice, thick clumps of grass along our path.


Starday, 1 Reaping

Ezekiel says he has seen our path forward, and it leads due south. He scouted it in gaseous form this morning, and now we’ve been following it for a couple hours. He’s been telling Aliana mountaineering trivia, and she acts like she’s never heard such things from anyone before.


Today we reached the top of a pass, and found a stack of prepared boulders next to a small cave. Nobody was in the cave, but hill giants have left their mark, if you know what I mean. Must be some kind of guard post, though I don’t know why it’s not manned.

Mikael hadn’t prepared to melt rocks today, so Ezekiel put a “ward” on the top boulder that he says should deter anyone trying to use it as ammo.

Best news of all, there’s a heavily traveled path leading over the pass further south. Plenty of worn-down stones and giant impressions. We’ll see where it ends up.


The path descended until the mountains opened up to a long valley. The walls seem pock-marked with caves – the ones we’ve seen being small, without complications – while at the bottom of the path sits a wooden fortress. From here, we can’t see any windows…but we can definitely hear the booming voices and harsh laughter.

As night was falling, we found a cave that will just barely fit Donna. We’ll have a better chance of being small and unobserved if we leave the horses behind (and they and Donna won’t do so well inside a building, anyway). A mist is filling the valley, obscuring the fort and complicating the moonlight, so we won’t be able to scout until morning. The scouts will probably be Raven, and me (invisible).

Find the previous entry here.

Dead Diary…dark energy

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “Against the Giants”

As we continued following the line of the mountains south, we spotted some figures in the distance coming toward us – just fewer than a score, and much too big to be human. I also noticed they were grey-skinned, though, and Stone Giants are…shall we say, a big more “live and let live” than other giants. So I took Heiron and Lydia into a copse along the road, just in case, while encouraging Ezekiel to try parlaying with them.

When the group got closer to us, the leader – out in front – pulled a white sheet from the baggage and held it out. I didn’t catch all that he and Ezekiel said to each other, but they worked out that neither side was looking for a needless fight. Apparently, their tribe even heard of us specifically “through the stones” – which I hope is a good thing, but I’m not sure. Their leader (Ez called him “Thane Ogier”) said the lesser giants had been attacking the “little folk,” and there is a dark energy behind their actions. He couldn’t say if it was tied to the bubble in Istivin or not, but it seems we might not be on a side-quest after all.

I saw female and young Stone Giants in the group, and most of them were carrying bundles of some kind. They said they don’t want a part of the coming trouble. With how jumpy the patrols are these days, all we can do is wish them luck.

They even gave Raven a parting gift – a wheel of cheese big enough to roll a wagon. He says it’s the elusive flavor he’s been searching for since Hochoch, and seems excited. Nobody asked what kind of milk goes into it.

After that, the countryside continued empty and barren. Occasionally, we’d pass a dead ox or horse just lying in the field. The fields should surely be more tended at this time of the year…but the ones that are planted are full of weeds, kr trampled by large feet…and a few in the distance even looked burned (though Agnar said that was just my imagination…but he’s lower down, so he couldn’t see so well). The people who aren’t killed by giants will be hungrier this winter.

Some people find trouble, and some people make trouble for themselves. As evening was settling in, we came on a village that seemed strangely untouched by the giants. The people shot us looks as we headed toward the inn, but no one seemed to be in armor or uniform – and Ezekiel noticed the same thing. At the inn, the locals made room for us…but almost made a point of ignoring us.

The serving lady was friendly enough, telling Raven all about their specials, and telling Lydia about the wine selection. I wasn’t feeling so well, maybe because of the obnoxious group at the next table, where a big man had drunk too much.

What gives people the idea barmaids want to be fiancé to everyone in town? I’ve seen it in other places besides here – but I don’t usually feel like fighting an entire room of half-drunk men. (Oddly enough at the Welcome Wench, Master Osler kept a firm lid on inappropriate behavior.)

Neither here nor there, I guess… The big man grabbed the waitress one time when she was going by, and wouldn’t let her go. The two (former) Heironeans had just sprung from their chairs when Raven seemed to materialize on top of the man and escorted him politely to the door.

The server brought a wine bottle “on her,” though she looked scared or worried. She said the man was part of a gang under “Big Johann” and he’ll want revenge. One of the locals near us muttered something about, if Johann couldn’t find us, he’d find the rest of them. Then Aliana (standing up to her full height, and at times like that, it’s hard to remember she’s barely above four feet) announced he could find us in the center of town. And I decided that the prospect of trouncing bullies had done wonders for my appetite.

(The waitress couldn’t tell us much more about the town’s situation. She said they didn’t have much for the giants to steal, and most of the townsfolk had nowhere convenient to flee to. Maybe that’s part of the story.)

Anyway, we set up the fortress on the village green, and Ezekiel cast light up there (he doesn’t understand how shadows and glare work for archers…but the main point if it is so Johann Boy can find us) and Aliana got her horse and lance ready.

If they keep us waiting, at least the moons are pretty tonight.


Things got exciting when the ground started to vibrate, and from the other side of the green, huge shapes came out of the darkness. A voice yelled something about leveling the place – with a Frost Giant accent, if I’m not mistaken – and Heiron and I started launching arrows.

The ground shook, and a huge, hairy elephant (Mikael tells me it’s a mastadon) charged toward us with a giant on its back – only to slam into a stone wall that appeared out of nowhere. As the mastadon broke through the wall, ogres swarmed around it to attack Mikael and Agnar on the ground. Aliana charged the mastadon with her lance, while Ezekiel started flying somehow.

Lydia pitched an egg into the crowd – which took me back to our earlier days in the Temple of Elemental Evil – but naturally I mostly paid attention to my marksmanship. After Aliana and I took down the frost giant, most of the ogres were easy pickings. The last one fled, but Aliana, Raven, and Ezekiel chased him down to ask questions. I gather it went about as well as our questioning usually goes (Ezekiel said he used a potion to read the ogre’s mind, and now he wants to throw up), but Raven was able to talk to the mastadon (that Mikael charmed after it stomped on him a bit).

Agnar and I went through the bodies. The ogres had nothing but copper (call us privileged if you must, but we left that for the innkeeper)…but we did discover that guy from the tavern earlier was also with them. He had magic chainmail and a glowing sword, so I guess he wasn’t a push-over (I mean, depending on what you compare it to). The giant himself had a huge ax that Agnar tried to lift, but there’s no way any of us is wielding it.

Finally, we found an oxskin made up like a parchment, with big, rough runes and an “X” at the bottom. Lydia says it’s some kind of contract, or agreement, that says the undersigned promises to fight for “Jarl Grugnir.”

Ezekiel moved the fortress to outside town (we haven’t seen any people, but we feel we’ve made enough of an impression) and in the morning Raven says the mastadon (Mikael named her “Donna”) can take us to the “sleep place.” It seems reasonable this gang took their loot somewhere, since it wasn’t on their persons.

Was “Big Johann” milking this village in exchange for protection? Who knows. We can’t hold everyone’s hand all the time, and I think they have their own issues, apart from giants. But giants I can deal with. And now I really need to be sleeping.


By evening, we reached a cave at the foot of the mountains, easily reached from the plain south of the Davish. Smells like ogre, looks like ogre. No loot, though…so Raven questioned Donna further. Oh, one of the ogres took the treasure “away”… Mastadons don’t care about gold, apparently, and care even less about details (but she loves when Mikael magics up some goodberries and feeds her snacks).

I did find some traces of a lone ogre heading off into the mountains, but we’ll have to wait for morning light. Who is the boss of the bullies?


As we followed the trail of the ogre, we came across some strange boulders – that looked almost like they had been shaped with tools. Mikael asked me if they were magic, and when I asked Tressarian to check out the closest one, the boulders flung back like trapdoors, and hill giants leapt out.

Hill giants. It was not their day.

Once they were dead, we investigated the holes where they hid with ropes and levitation. Contrary to what I feared, we found several hundred pounds of silver and electrim coins, plus some magic crossbow quarrels (Raven was excited to get those), and a magic sword (Agnar said it was a blow-hard that told him it could detect invisibility so that it could kill things with him…but he didn’t see anything invisible. Maybe we should rethink having him carry all the extra swords…but how to put it to him?).

We also restocked our supply of rope, and found a cooking pot big enough for Bearington (not big enough for him to use, that is…). I assume the hill giants must have had that for their own use, rather than as loot from someone else…but clearly they’ve been robbing a lot of people. Patrols? Other independent contractors? Did they also have a secret base, or a boss, that they took their loot to? Their tracks don’t join with the ogre we’re following…so if they did work for the same people, they didn’t travel the same way. Maybe these hill giants were pirating off the other giant raiders, and that’s why they have so much money. Had so much money.

We talked Mikael out of putting wheels on the cookpot so Bearington could have his own coach, and continued on.

Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary…standing orders

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “Against the Giants”

We tried out some of the magic rings from our attackers. One of the sketchy thief types had a gold ring – Ezekiel said it made him feel calm, but who knows what practical application that would have (Raven said he could think of a few). Another ring, Aliana called a “ring of faery” – but Mikael couldn’t get it to do anything. She says it has to be in tune with the wearer’s alignment to activate. Mikael, Agnar, and Lydia upgraded their rings of protection (Lydia didn’t even have one somehow, which must be an oversight), and Ezekiel took a sip of a potion that he said let him “look through our foreheads,” which sounds gross. He said he could tell something was going on in our heads, but not what was going on – he’d need a higher dose.


3 Richfest

Approaching Istivin, the weather has been toasty…but more than that, there’s a taste like a storm in the air. Raven said it reminded him of the blue fire in the dungeon below the stockade. It makes Mikael uncomfortable, too. Even from a distance, you can see the huge ebony sphere in the center of town. You can’t see it moving, but it sits there, swallowing light like something out of a nightmare.

The refugee lines along the road have disappeared – probably because everyone has already left. The only people we met were a patrol of Keoland guards, who seemed more at ease once we explained we were heading to the king’s agent to offer our services. The commander gave us directions, and before very late in the day, we rode up to Algrathas’ manor above the river and announced ourselves.

They ushered us into a room stuffed with expensive things, that somehow reminded me of our vault room at Haven…maybe because of all the different things pulled from various collections and adventures all stacked together.

For telling Klim where he could kill us, Master Algrathas seems like a nice enough well-to-do old man. (We got in a little private conversation with him, and he explained Klim just asked for his information services…without spilling his whole identity as a vengeful priest of the Earth Dragon. Ezekiel and Raven asked if he could “research” the identity and location of “E” for us, so perhaps we’ll get a useful lead there. If Master A isn’t on the up-and-up, then he’s been lying the whole time we’ve known him.)

As for the king’s agent overseeing this crisis, Master Lashton – we first met him yelling at Master Algrathas over something.

He made a political jab about the respect owed the king of Keoland by His Grace the Grand Duke (as Uncle might say, what century does he think he’s living in?) but finally gave us some actual information on the situation.

The black sphere appeared about a fortnight ago. No one knows what caused it, but the most popular theories are: demons; a “gift” from another country; a mis-guided magical experiment. As Aliana remarked after we left, that about covers the gambit.

Making matters worse, the giants from the Jotens are taking advantage of the confusion and panic, and mounting more and more raids on the land. They seem to be coordinated, so there must be some leaders of the giants urging them on.
Master Lashton said he was handling the bubble, so we could handle the giants…not in those words, exactly. He made a show of being too busy to explain further, then stood listening to his assistant explain we could start in the southern mountains, and we could keep any treasure we found (which was not something we were worrying about, but it makes the accounting much easier). Overall, he felt like Archie – but if Archie never did anything, maybe?

Before we crossed the river, Ezekiel and Lydia wanted to examine the sphere – confidence in Master Lashton’s magical competencies notwithstanding… They say that a stranger approaching the sphere will find it hard as rock, but a native of Sterich/Istivin can pass through it…only none of them have ever come out again.

The city looks like a war is approaching. Houses are boarded up everywhere, and once in a while we spotted a cart of belongings just abandoned by the refugees. The pressure builds in your head, with a smell like a storm, but without rain. It’s a wonder we didn’t all get headaches.

As for the sphere itself… Tressarian said he could smell Evil and magic on it, but Fetafencer didn’t think it was demonic. So no luck trying to banish it. The surface looks like a ball of yarn – a myriad various cords crossing and recrossing each other into the heart of the sphere…but the surface is very much solid like stone (Raven tossed a pebble at it, and it bounced off with a clatter). It doesn’t twitch or move – it just sits there (though they tell us from measurements that it is growing).

Ezekiel took Aliana gaseous with him to examine it from the air. About that time, a patrol came by to tell us to move along – that too many people were lost inside the sphere already. So we headed south…and Ezekiel tells us he couldn’t penetrate the surface even as a gas (I think Aliana thinks that’s just as well).

South of the Davish River, it looks like a war is here. We didn’t even see a patrol – though that doesn’t mean they never come by. Leaving Istivin, even the fields and cottages outside it are abandoned.

The first people we saw were a patrol on the southern road, several hours after we left the city. Their commander sounded tired – in his manner more than his tone – and said there were raids and attacks all along the mountain range. He also said the commander for the counter-offensive is the king’s agent back outside Istivin…which is ridiculous. You can’t handle a major offensive like this from a command post a day’s ride behind the lines. At the very least, there should be lieutenants coordinating the response on the front lines…but it sounds like every company’s commander is more-or-less on his own. No wonder he sounded stressed.

We noticed the riderless horses at the back, and the captain recommended we burn any fallen…he says there are more than giants in these hills. That would be right up Ezekiel’s alley – but first things first.

Dear Diary…haunted by the past

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “Against the Giants”

[smudge] Richfest

The farther from the Starkmounds we come into Keoland, the stranger things become. All day we’ve passed a stream of people headed the other direction, pushing carts, riding wagons, or just walking – bundles of their valuables on their backs.

When we asked them what the trouble was, we got incomplete answers. Some said giants were attacking all over Keoland. Others said that, with the absence of the earl, the bandits had just become too bad – and they were moving in with relatives in Geoff.

One man went on and on about dark sorcery in Istivin, and said the earl turned himself into a dark bubble that swallowed the city. Ezekiel asked if I took notes, but I’m not sure we can trust half what that guy said – even if his voice never changed pitch. I mean, he wasn’t dressed like a courtier, so how would he know what the earl was up to secretly? And what did whining about the music that bards sing these days have anything to do with it?


The clouds have been lowering all day, and the rain finally broke shortly before we entered a little village with one inn. (Mikael very disappointed that we had no enemies to smite with lightning.) We didn’t see much as we rode in, but from the looks of the common room, the place is largely deserted. It’s basically us and the innkeeper’s family; everyone else has evacuated, joining the stream we saw along the road. Not sure how long he’ll be able to keep the doors open this way – everything’s pretty threadbare and polished-by-time.

Just as well the inn was basically empty… We weren’t ready to turn in yet, when suddenly the door crashed open with a howl of the wind. A man with shield, mace, and armor stood in the doorway, lashed by rain, and bellowed, “At last you will pay for your interference.”

As he started chanting something else, Aliana drew Fetifencer (who didn’t glow red), Ezekiel said, “Shush!” and Mikael made buzzing noises with his mouth. Raven and Aliana charged the attackers in the doorway – a second man joined the first, his cloak drawn over his face as he made incantory gestures with his hands – and I fitted my shield on my arm as Tressarian and I appraised the flank.

The shutters were closed, naturally, to keep out the storm – but now someone started hacking them open with axes, one after the other, and bowman stood at the windows – just visible in the firelight – to launch arrows at us.

Agnar dashed past me, and I headed for the nearest bowman. As I went, someone nailed Ezekiel with an arrow; it didn’t penetrate his armor, but it did lodge in a joint, oozing darkly. That’s all I saw in passing – then I engaged the bowman just outside the window.

I’m not sure he was prepared for that, and he left himself pretty open. He did retreat, but not very far, and I scrambled over the sill and caught up with him. The light from the windows – even leaking through the rain – was still enough to take him down (though the cover of my shield slipped a little, sending a beam of light out into the village).

I conveniently remembered the back door of the inn was around the corner, and peeked back there.

Two shifty characters stood there, clearly up to no good…but I didn’t think I could take them both out without one of them escaping. So I went back to the window and whistled for Heiron’s attention, and then he ran over to distract them from the door-side so I could block them from the road-side.

By the time we got out there, the ne’r-do-wells had slipped around the corner – but they hadn’t outright disappeared…which I consider strange, given the clanging and banging and shouting coming from the inn.

Heiron told them to yield – but they were about as saucy and unyielding as you can get…and then they were dead. We dragged them through the back door to get out of the rain (and for easier examination) to find Ezekiel checking on us, and the innkeeper’s family (safely hiding in the cellar; his kid was not of the type who would want to see a severed head again and again).

We searched the dead for anything useful, and then piled them in the stable for tidiness’ sake (Lydia offered to burn them in the morning, which saves us digging). Their leader (the one who yelled so cryptically) had interesting armor: his helmet had an ugly mask painted on it, while his breastplate had an eye inside a triangle worked into the metal. It was hard to tell, though, because the symbol of the Earth Dragon was painted over the top. Did he steal the armor? Or was it a hand-me-down?

Under his helmet was even more surprising. I didn’t recognize him, but Ezekiel knew it was Solmon Klim, the cleric who was one of the Slave Lords, and obviously escaped the island blowing up somehow. So I guess the Earth Dragon still deigned to give him spells…

Ez and Lydia went over the papers from his belongings (including a letter she had to translate with magic) while the rest of us investigated the others: two shady, leather-wearing types; the dark spell-caster who also had a battle ax and longsword (I didn’t notice whether he was an elf or not); a couple fighters-for-hire; and about four archers (yes, with poisoned arrows. We disposed of those quickly). Also a pack of giant spiders – but the shadowy character had them on leashes, so hard to say if they were his “friends” or merely his “dogs of war” (Mikael was very sad they all died). It’s possible these people all had ties to the Slave Lords – or to the Slave Lords’ bosses – but even Ezekiel doesn’t recognize anyone but Klim.

As for the letters… One was written in fancy script, ordering the recipient to atone for his “failure” by bringing them the “heads of our enemies,” and signed merely “E.” The last pile of letters from “E” is in the vault back in the mountains, so we can’t check the handwriting to see if they’re the same. I’m beginning to wonder if “E” applies to a collection of people, and not just one mastermind. Another letter (the one Lydia had to read) talked about “consternation in the noble houses” (Heiron asked if that was like dysentary) and “Her” displeasure leading to “the death of the others.” It also mentioned a place in Flen (which is a town in eastern Istivin) where the recipient can rendezvous if “operations” have to close down.

Ezekiel suspects the helpful notes and trail markers we got in the Pomarchj were from “E” because she/they were closing down the Sudderheim operation – by letting us tear it down. Which raises the question, what failure was being punished? It couldn’t be the failure of letting us destroy the tavern and Marquessa’s place, could it?

Raven wonders how Markessa’s experiments fit in to all this. I remember that the Spider-Queen is a “she,” and Marquessa’s stockade was cooperating with the Underdark…but I haven’t mentioned it to Ezekiel. He’s paranoid enough right now. Raven says that stealing a whole city would take powerful magic. Who has arms long enough to pull the strings of the Slave Lords?

The last note said something like, “You will find your enemies in Geoff – so says Algrathus the Seer.” Someone more tactful than I can bring that up when we see him…that’s the house where the king’s agent is staying. (I put the ring of truth back on.)

Dear Diary…no rest

Dear Mother and Father,

How are you? I am fine. The Grand Duke is letting us build Ezekiel’s temple in the Crystalmist Mountains, so I should be able to write more often.*

We killed some fire giants since I saw you, and Tressarian had a great time. The cleric types put my guts back in fine  wait I wasn’t going to say that part. Also we killed a fire-breathing dragon, so now I have more to have nightmares about.

We went on a trip for Raven to fight another monk and visited Alpheus, and he said he is doing fine. Roland showed me his very own sword that he got for his birthday and he’s not allowed to use it in the house.

I am learning about different cultures, like Bakluni and Centaurs; in some ways we are the same and in some ways we are very different. A couple centaurs came and asked to help me patrol the mountains, but they’ve been helping our elf ranger friend while I am busy. Heiron says they do a good job hunting mountain goats.

I’m glad I got to come see you. I’ll try to write more often.

Yours truly, Elwyn

*P.S. Never mind, His Grace has something dangerous and magical for us to investigate, so I will have to write to you when we get back.


Dear Archie,

Thanks for fishing me out of the pond all the times you fished me out of the pond. I’m glad you can have fun organizing things.

Sincerely, Elwyn


Dear Tomlin,

How are you? I hope you are feeling better. My friend the priest is building a temple, so here is a sketch of the mountain we’ll be living near for a while. He says it’s a dormant volcano.

Also here is a sketch of a wizard tower. It’s not supposed to be tipped over like that, but a dragon pushed it over. I thought you would like the roof.

Also here is a sketch of the Grand Mosque in Ekbir. Some of the details I had to do by memory, but notice how the gateway mirrors the roof-line.

We visited Mother and Father, and she said she likes it very much when you write her letters. Take care of yourself, and keep staying away from those priestesses in the skimpy outfits – they’ll get you in trouble.

Sincerely, Elwyn

P.S. This sketch I kinda rushed, but it’s of a centaur, and his name is Chestnut Who Paces the Bounds, and he and his friend Madam Whinny also send you greetings. And so do Ragni and Agni, who are dwarves, and Agni promises if he gets a chance to sketch some of the mountains around here he’ll send you some.


The griffon-riding messenger came back this morning from delivering Ezekiel’s note, and brought a summons from His Grace – “as soon as possible.” So Ezekiel marshaled us and had Lydia take us to Gorna through her mirror. (Best thing we ever stole from an evil wizard.)

The guards announced us, and His Grace said he was glad we could get there so quickly – though he looked much disturbed by something. We sat down, and he explained our neighbor Sterich (which is a vassal of Keoland) is in big trouble. Their earl, Querchard – along with his capital city, Istivin – has disappeared! Well, it’s been replaced or covered or something by a huge shadowy dome. With no earl, and no provincial seat, the king of Keoland has sent an agent to coordinate all efforts to correct this thing, and the Grand Duke wants us to go lend our aid. He even offered us the use of horses, if we decide to leave from here – which makes sense, since it cuts out the trek through the mountains and northern Geoff.

We popped back to Haven to make sure we had all the gear we wanted, and to bring along Heiron and Agnar… Heiron didn’t say much, but I can tell he was really worried about Lydia while she was gone, and Agnar says it has been bor-ing up here in the mountains.

Besides, it’s not fair to make Sirion, Dree, and Usin do all the baby‐sitting all the time.

We left by afternoon, and got a few hours of riding behind us before stopping for the night. Ezekiel has been drilling Aliana and Lydia about what might “disappear” an entire city…but it’s not really in the specialty of any of us.

I’m wondering if it’ll trace back to the Astral Plane eventually…

Find the previous entry here.

Read the next entry here.

Dear Diary…my God can beat up your god

We got directions to a monastery up on a mountain, and found it without trouble. We took it easy on the horses, and still arrived fairly early in the morning. The big door on the courtyard was open and guarded by only two monks with polarms.

Raven kinda explained his business, and they let us in, and after we handed over our horses Raven found a monk who could understand us enough to direct us to the Master of the West Wind. That brought us out, sort of behind the monastery buildings, where a cliff overlooks the sea, and tall spires of rock look out off the cliff. In peak monkishness, the Master was sitting up on one of the spires, closest to the sea.
Raven climbed a spire a polite distance behind him, and the rest of us settled down to wait.

About two and a half games of checkers later, the Master finally stood up, and he and Raven introduced themselves. When Raven said he was here to test his strength in the Combat of Monks, I think Master Edelikir was non-plussed, and didn’t really answer him.

After some more sitting, the Master climbed down and went into their practice yard – where he corrected some of the initiates, and made an address (all in Bakluni, of course). Raven and Ezekiel found the right person to get us guest quarters – and then Raven, Keom, and Ronhass did some sparring in a courtyard. I helped Aliana check the horses.


[sketch of cliffs and spires of stone, against the sea]

[sketch of monastery gates]

[sketch of shrine to Al-Akbar]

I hear Raven helped prepare breakfast this morning, and afterward he and the disciples went back to following Master Edelikir around. Ezekiel and Lydia found the library, but of course it was all in Bakluni.

At lunch, when Raven still seemed to be hanging around waiting, Mikael said the Master was being rude. It’s true Arch Druid Talifen gave him every benefit when it was time for him to advance in the circle of Obed-Hai…but it’s also true they both serve Obed-Hai.

When everyone else had finished up, a man from the high table came and introduced himself as Master of the South Wind Deshan, and said Raven was disconcerting Master Edelikir.

Raven explained his situation again, and Master Deshan said normally if the post was vacant, the first monk in the order to attain the skill level could just assume the title without a fight. He said if Raven’s god wanted to do it differently, it was unreasonable to expect other gods and their followers to go along.

Raven and Ezekiel said ordinarily that was true…and Ez gave a remarkably restrained explanation of their deity – the God over all gods. (Maybe Aliana has given him some tips.) He suggested that, since he is a cleric, he could spend some time praying and ask for some kind of verification message to be sent to us. He took some incense and went back to his sleeping cubicle, and Master Deshan volunteered to go with him in case a messenger showed up.

Well, apparently someone showed up, because late this afternoon we saw Master Deshan collect Raven and head to an arena-type area to meet Master Edelikir.

It was not as impressive as some other fights we’ve seen (maybe should’ve made friends with some gypsies beforehand) but it was another good reminder not to tick off any monks. Raven flew across the field at Master Edelikir – and then the master pummeled him so quickly his arms were like a blur. (Probably didn’t help to have Mikael yelling, “Faery fire! Wasps! Hit him with thorns!” from the side-lines.)

Finally, Master Deshan stopped the fight, and Ezekiel showed up saying he was done with his meditation, and did anything interesting happen. We rushed down to help Master Edelikir bind Raven’s wounds, and then The People showed up.

We really should be used to this kind of thing by now. The little bald man with bad eyes showed up after Raven’s fight with the lady Merikkan, after all. But this time, he was accompanied by giant, bright people with wings. I’m not entirely sure everything “Master Paul” said (Mikael was busy asking me if I saw the giant winged men who appeared out of nowhere), but I gather he congratulated Master Edelikir (and Raven) and said we had accomplished our role of being a calling card to the monastery of Al-Akbar here. Then he left, and Raven’s wounds and bruises were all healed.

The masters bowed low to Raven and Ezekiel (Master DeShan especially seemed impressed, and said he had a vision of Al-Akbar) and Ez thanked them for their time. So Raven can’t call himself “Master of the West Wind” yet, but he says he learned some valuable things.

Lydia teleported herself away, so we scrambled to grab Ezekiel’s armor from his room and tell the stablehands they could keep our horses before she came through the portal for us.

Back in Haven, the dwarves were eager to show us what they’ve accomplished: the ground floor is mostly carved out, with the main hall, a barracks on one side, and more individual quarters on the other side. They also built a griffin aery high on a cliff above the valley, and a griffin rider has been staying here for a couple weeks already. Ezekiel wrote a note to the Grand Duke, saying he was about to start producing holy water in bulk, in case anyone in Gorna wanted it for anything…then went with Dree to see how she’s been organizing everything while we were gone.

I went to find the centaurs and Sirion, and found them staying with Mikael’s disciples at the south end of the valley, beyond the lake. Madam Whinny says they don’t like the griffin, since it’s known to eat horses. Ragni (I think it was Ragni, or maybe Agni) said Sirion has taken them on some patrols, and they haven’t needed the healing potions I bought for them yet…so that’s good. Sirion did say, though, that he spotted some dens we will need to clear. Gotta divert any fire giants before they reach the valley… (Tressarian says he hopes “divert” means “stab.”)

Keom says he can tell the dragons missed him and Ronhass (especially Ronhass).

Hopefully now things will finally quiet down.

Find the previous entry here.

Read the next entry here.

Dear Diary…different culture

Our road through Bissel led us through Thornward, so we dropped in to see Alpheus, and Ezekiel’s brother Peter. Alpheus says Mother talked about our visit in one of her letters, so I hope she didn’t include anything embarrassing. He says they fought some centaurs with the raiders from Ket, but I hope Chesnut and Madam Whinny are different, since they have Sirion’s recommendation. Ezekiel told Peter what their sister has been up to, and Alpheus’ boys asked why we didn’t bring the dragons.

Alpheus also recommended we travel with a caravan when we head north – he says the Bramblewood Forest can be very dangerous, quite apart from the political turmoil in Ket. Says he thinks the power struggle is turning the Baygraf’s attention outward, to galvanize his supporters with raids and external enemies. Hope it doesn’t become more than Alpheus and the others can handle.


Aliana and Ezekiel have gotten us passage with a caravan. The Bakluni seem pretty grumpy on average, but I guess dealing with outsiders would bother anybody. Raven is making sure we have plenty of rations, and we head out first thing tomorrow.


This many people doesn’t travel very fast, but it’s a good experience. We’re towards the back of the train, so we can hear everybody chattering all in their strange languages – and once in a while, in accented Common. (Raven says I sometimes get an accent, but he’s wrong.)

The road is very well built, though very old – I asked Ezekiel who built it, but he didn’t know. Sometimes, I think I can see something dark skulking through the trees. We’ve been spending nights in the forts spaced conveniently along the road.


Saw some wyverns fly overhead today. They make a racket like cats getting murdered. I think I don’t mind that they and pegasi are uncommon – otherwise everyone might have to travel in covered wagons. Ogre camp in the woods. They were smart enough to leave us alone. What else do these woods hold?


Ezekiel has been busy trying to make friends. He spotted a half-orc traveling alone and invited him over…demonstrating that the line between friendly and creepy is very thin. The half-orc (very green, but I think his ears were not standard) seemed very tense, especially around Aliana, but he consented to share dinner. He had a book and staff, and said he was seeking “wisdom”…but he also said he hadn’t been here before, so he couldn’t give Ezekiel and Raven an opinion on the two Faiths. Says he’s aiming to live longer than most of his “kind”…and like with most people, that depends on making good choices. I think Ez made a positive impression.


6 Wheelsun

Arrived safely in Nehez (even Ezekiel’s new half-orc friend, who continued on right away). The locals say we should have no trouble following the road to Lopolha, which is where the “Great Mosque” is. The inns here have bead curtains instead of doors. Theoretically, that should say something about the trust and crime-rate in this society. I’ve heard of places that have half-doors on their taverns.

[sketch of inn front]


So we met Lydia’s uncle today. We were heading out of town when a couple men came flying out of an inn, followed by a towering man dressed in leather and chest-paint. The big man tussled with one of the others while we tried to decide if this was socially acceptable in Ket. He recovered some kind of gem from the smaller man just before the thief dealt a parting blow with a dagger and ran off.
Lydia spoke to the big man in a language I didn’t know, and he seemed to be arguing with her. Finally, he stomped off toward the inn – but weaving a little, and looking paler than I think he’s supposed to (he has pink eyes, and his short hair is almost white).

Lydia explained enough to say he was her uncle, and when I asked she said she wouldn’t stop me from saving him from poisoning…but she didn’t look super worried about him, either.

Fortunately, Ezekiel decided to make not-our-business into our business (maybe that “all flocks are my flocks” thing influenced him) and he and Raven and I followed the big man (“Uncle Sveri”, Lydia called him). He was definitely looking greenish when we found him on a bench, but Ezekiel got a scroll out before I got my Keoghtim’s ointment out, and “Uncle Sveri” shifted back to what I assume is his natural color and balance.

He was still quite grumpy, and asked what we wanted, and Ezekiel said, just the story. So Sveri called for drinks – though Raven went back to his disciples (he said if anyone should tell us this story, it should be Lydia) – and we sat down (though I was on the edge of my seat, as the crowd looked a little rowdy and overly interested; but I wasn’t about to leave Ezekiel on his own).

Sveri told us how the Suluese used to have an empire – a big, prosperous empire – but they used magic, and now their empire is a vast sea of dust, where nothing can grow. He says their people now swear off magic, so Lydia is a traitor to her people, like her mother. (Remember this in any dealings with them.) Finally, he gave Ezekiel a coin for healing him, and we took our leave with all our stuff intact. L seems thoughtful; I guess she and Agnar have more in common than either of them guessed.


Reached Lopolha in a few days. Lovely weather for the time of year. The palace of the Baygraf catches the eye first, but I think the temple is actually bigger – it certainly has bigger spires. There’s also a tower of dark stone in the center of town that’s not clearly related to either of them…though if I stayed longer, maybe I could tell the pattern. Aliana got us into an inn where I don’t think they will rob us.


Took Raven to the mosque first thing this morning. They told us to leave weapons outside (I suppose because we were strangers), so I stayed outside to hold everything, and Lydia stayed to keep me company. She may be a big learner, but comparative religions isn’t her focus.

Raven explained to us what the priest who talked to him said: the “True Faith” (this is the one that split off when their leader was banished) teaches the four feet of the dragon…Honor, Family, Generosity, and Piety. The problem is, they seem to use some of those words differently than we do. “Honor” is the most important, but I’m not sure I completely understand how they use it. To lie or be a coward in the face of danger is dishonorable – and I can understand that – but for a man to marry a woman outside his class “shames his family” and is also dishonorable. Good thing no one brought up Ezekiel and Aliana…How would they feel about them?

“Generosity” applies mainly to giving sage advice to people under you – which I guess is helpful, but not often appreciated in my experience. And “Piety” refers to honoring the four gods of the True Faith – the Lady of Fate, the Lady of Perfection, the Lady’s Hand, and the Lady of Living Waters (and presumably Al-Akbar, the “restorer of righteousness,” although Ez says he’s technically a demi-god). I would never have guessed from looking at the outside of the temple that it was such a goddess-heavy religion.

Raven found us an inn that faces the main city square, because he says he wants to observe the people in their daily lives. On the one hand, people’s common actions are a great way to judge character. On the other hand, most of the ordinary people I’ve interacted with seem…much more focused on the Flaneas than the Wheel, so to speak. Someone (I forget if it was Mother or Uncle or who) used to say the most popular deity in Oerth was – that guy I can’t remember, but it’s something like “Mercury.”

[sketch of the front of the palace] [sketch of a tall, square tower]


First thing this morning, a woman started carrying on in the square outside, bawling her eyes out. Raven and Ezekiel raced out the door into the crowd gathered around a platform, but everyone was speaking Bakluni. From where Aliana and I stood in the doorway, we could just see some priest in elaborate garb climb the platform and address the crowd. Soldiers dragged out a prisoner of some kind (trailed by the woman who was making all the noise), and the priest (Ez says he’s called a Mufti) sounded very stern and insistent…(sort of like Father about to wallop Bartholomew and Wolfgang and Clarence – wait, that can’t be right, why would Clarence be involved with that? He was always in the kitchen. Maybe it was Dexter and Wolfgang?) Anyway, the crowd sounded much more expectant and rowdy than Bartholomew and Wolfgang would have…

The soldiers brought the prisoner forward, and lopped off his hand – then bound the wound and let him go. I lost sight of him and his woman in the crowd, but Ezekiel says he and Raven found him, and asked for his side of the story. They say he admitted to being a thief, but didn’t admit there was anything wrong with stealing because he was “providing for his poor old mother.” And providing for your family is Honor, even if you steal for it. So, was the merchant he stole from also Honorable for catching him and turning him in? I never thought of Honors as being mutually exclusive before.

And the punishment… Ez says the Mufti went on about how “justice must be applied equally” and “watch yourselves, you who hear” kind of stuff, but I didn’t get the feeling that the spectators paid much attention to him. Raven has gone back to the room to meditate, and to ask Keom and Ronhass what they think. Lydia also went back into the inn, before the “ceremony” was over. I’m trying to think what I could compare it to. I know Father hanged some bandits years and years ago, but I was not exactly old enough to sit in on his court. I think I sat in the window one time he was hearing disputes from the villagers, and I fell fast asleep, and Mother was cross when she found me.

Aliana has been asking around, and thinks we can reach the Great Mosque of the Exalted Faith in about a week and a half.


I was a bit worried about the border crossing, but everything worked out. Maybe because of Aliana.

The capital of Ekbir also has a huge Mosque. I must say the city is nice. Sweeping lines, and lots of color. Even Mikael admitted there were patterns from nature in the designs…they clearly put some thought into their buildings’ ornamentation.

When we passed the Caliph’s palace this morning, a line of poor beggar types was waiting at a side door for donations of bread. Raven and Ezekiel went into the Mosque again, and Raven says the priest who talked with them was very nice. He says the punishment for theft here is also losing a hand (I guess they don’t mess around), but if a man was the only provider for his family (say, a widowed mother) he could be put to labor instead. Seems to me that’s a net gain for everyone in the society.

Ronhass says, law without mercy strikes at the heart of goodness. It does seem like mercy is what marks the clearest line between Good and Evil, because mercy looks beyond yourself – and beyond what is “fair” – to someone else. Mercy says there’s a higher court than your own hand – where the gods of righteousness sit above us all.

Aliana and Ezekiel got talking at dinner and kept going after the rest of us all left.

Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary…vision quest

18 Flocktime

Lovely sunrise over the mountains this morning.

Mikael and Arch Druid Talifen have more-or-less healed up this morning…still sore, though. I think they’ve both done some thinking, and the Arch Druid says he likes Mikael’s dedication and strength (even though he couldn’t quite take him down). Apparently there’s an option for Mikael to “side-step” the position of Arch-Druid in the hierarchy, and focus on reaching the next level of his abilities without the responsibilities that heading up the Order would involve. Arch Druid Talifen said a “storm” is brewing, and it might be helpful to have someone of Mikael’s strength, even if he can’t be one of the Three for Obed-Hai.

Mikael is off to pray about it overnight, so I guess we’ll see what Obed-Hai thinks. Sounds like if Mikael avoids the responsibilities of the Order, he’ll also lose some of the Order’s privileges…but that’s only fair.

Leomus says she and Hansi and No-Buckle would be happy to stay with Mikael…makes sense, I guess, when their previous master was working “outside” the hierarchy, so to speak (not for the benefit of people, though). Mikael seems to think they’re coming along nicely, and I think he wants to keep teaching them. He also said Arch Druid Talifen has been doing such a good job for such a long time, it seems a shame to mess that up…especially when Mikael’s destiny seems to lie elsewhere.

Bornthene said something about Lea “appreciating” Mikael’s company, but I couldn’t hear all of it because she tried to whack him with her staff, and he ran off laughing before he finished.

We found one of the dwarves who is pleased to make shoes for Chestnut and Madam Whinny.


Ezekiel has entrusted that pile of adamantite we found to some of the dwarves for making armor for Haven. He says it’s about time he wore armor he didn’t steal…(though that doesn’t entirely apply to this, either). Lydia says he wants to match his “sweetie.” He said he’ll order me a new shield, so that will be nice…and Mikael asked for a bronze buckle or some kind of plaque to go on his armor so he’ll match everyone else wearing the symbol of Haven: a ram’s head (like the mace). Ez could have mixed in the briar-rose Aliana has been wearing, but maybe he decided simple was better.


Master Vol said if we built a tower and roost for griffin riders, the Grand Duke could have a messenger standing by, in case we needed to send an alert from this frontier. I’m so excited! I’ve never seen a griffin, certainly not up close. What kind of man could tame and ride one?


The Caravan set off today. It makes quite an impressive line of wagons and carts, and I’m glad they have so many soldiers to discourage thieves. The Duchy is about to get stronger!

Two of the dwarves from Deepholm stayed who weren’t part of the building crew. When I met them, they were hiding behind Ezekiel, looking out at me – which is difficult, since they wear armor, and even suited up, he’s not as wide as they are. He said they want to hang out with me, so I wonder if this is a thing now.

Their names are Agni and Ragni (which will not be confusing at all), and they got over their shyness pretty quickly when we went to meet the centaurs and the dragons. They seem to get along with Madam Whinny quite well.

Ragni told us a story tonight about fighting goblins in their tunnels back home. Then Madam Whinny told about when worgs were attacking the centaur tribe, cutting off their trade routes with other people, and Sirion helped them fight them off. Then he took Chestnut and Whinny to help him track the worgs to their lair, and they wiped them out.

Then everybody wanted to know where the dragons came from, so I told the story how we fought Fang and Belch’s parents, and that’s why Heiron has manly scars on his face, now. And Ezekiel and Raven wanted to give the dragon babies a chance to choose better than their parents…and we’re still waiting to see how that turns out.


We finally have the foundation of a keep – secure enough that Ez and Lydia think we can transfer our vault from Veluna (or at least begin to). So Lydia set up her mirror, and sent some of us to Veluna.

While I was in the big city, I found a shop with healing potions. After all, the “cleric-types” are often busy with their own things these days, and you never know what you might come across on a patrol in the mountains…fire giants, dragons, who knows. (Also it’s about time I liquefied some of my assets…) So I bought one for each of my new friends, in case of emergencies.

When we got back, I heard Raven and Ezekiel have learned what Raven needs to do to prove he is growing in strength (monks are like druids that way). A couple Bakluni religions both claim to serve Al-Akbar, who is a servant of Al-Azram (Ez seems to think he’s a decent one). Ezekiel gave us a surprisingly succinct explanation from his readings – the “Followers of the True Faith” follow the Grand Mufti of the Yattles, and the “Followers of the Exalted Faith” follow the Caliph of Exbere…only they both insist the other group is abusing its authority or misfollowing the deity or something. So Raven must choose, based on the principles of the “One you serve,” which faction he wants to validate by beating up their monk. (I always knew monks were weird.)

We all got out the various maps we’ve collected over the years, and finally found the places in question (we think). Looks like if Lydia sends us Mitrik, we can head north through Ket, between the big mountain ranges, to Tusmit, then Ekbir (after checking the temple libraries for any more info).

I say “we” because Ezekiel all but said my Skills would be much appreciated, and they would really like my Help. And I guess I’m a sucker for feeling needed.

Keom and Ronhass are coming, too, as is only right, and Chestnut and Whinny just brightened up when I said I could really use their help watching the dragons and protecting the valley while we’re gone.

Lydia says she’s coming, too. I think Heiron is worried about her – but she pointed out we need someone smart and dependable to manage the hustle and bustle back here – and besides, Aliana is coming, so she’ll surely be safe. I certainly hope so…we’re not exactly heading into allied territory.

Lady Guderwinda seems worried, too, but all Aliana’s retainers will have Dree here to help them fit into the routine.


When we arrived in Mitrik we headed to the Cathedral of Rao, where they have a beautiful and (I’m told) informative library. Keom and I got a little side-tracked in the dragon section (one book was stuffed with outrageous pictures that I sincerely hope are mostly imagination), but the others found material more to-the-point.

It seems the whole split comes down to some sacred artifacts – a cup and a talisman that Al-Azram gave to Al-Akbar for “healing” the Bakluni people. But the artifacts were stolen by “elves as tall as men” who escaped on eagles, and when the Caliph blamed the Mufti for not properly protecting the relics, the Mufti left the territory and formed the “True Faith” (maybe he was also exiled, I’m not entirely sure).

Ezekiel and Raven also made an appointment with a scholar who’s made a specialty of these things – but Aliana went to buy us horses for the journey ahead. She insists she knows the most about horses, even though Raven can talk to them, and I guess it is part of her job.

Father Gren corroborated the story of the artifacts, and offered Ez and Raven letters of introduction to the Caliph (so they can hear the story closer to the source. It’s been several hundred years, so unless we find any elves from that area, we won’t get first-hand accounts). He also mentioned a priest of the Exalted Faith visiting Mitrik at this time, and promised to connect us if he could find him.


Brother Ekbarkad found us at dinner in the inn. He says he’s looking for the relics, and seemed understandably disappointed that we hadn’t heard anything about them – but then he was more than willing to explain his faith to us.

He says the teachings of Al-Akbar focus on Duty, Dignity, Faithfulness, and Guardianship…and that Al-Akbar has not claimed full god-hood (only demi-god-hood) out of humility (Ez seems pleased).

Br. Ekbarkad told us basically the same story about the theft of the relics. He says the followers of the “True Faith” rebelled against the proper authority of the Caliph, and the Mufti was at fault for not safe-guarding the relics.

I didn’t catch all he said, since his accent was pretty thick, but he seemed like a decent fellow. Now we just need to hear the other side of the argument, and Raven needs to decide who he thinks is more worthy (he asked me if the Brother was lying, and I said if he was, he was lying the whole time, since his voice never changed pitch. Reminds me I should swap out rings before we hit the road; protection will probably be more important than lie-detection in the wilds).