It’s been good, being back in the city for a time. The trip to the Moss Mountains was tiring, and Cyrus’ expedition didn’t seem much better. We spent some time working around the guildhall, I returned Owain’s letter, and many scones were eaten. Of course, it’s not like us to sit around and wait for things to happen. We popped down to JJ’s to get lunch and recalled that the Brotherhood of the Sole Exception had a posting out at Xante’s, and they meet upstairs there.
The meeting of the Sole Exception was fascinating – well, at least for me and Galen. Their job was fascinating too – they’re sending us after an elemental focus, a powerful artifact tied to a given magical element. It’s a focus of water, held in an unfinished elemental laboratory. Ingrid Strongspell, the leader of the Brotherhood, said that there were two finished ones. I believe that might be our Fire and Wind gems. She also said she taught my father. It’s a strange feeling, having someone speak so highly of him. I never really knew him, after all. Even when he was alive, Marta fostered me when he was out to sea.
We also went to the guildhall of the Sawgrass Rangers. Terrifying folk, but in the way you’d want a defensive force to be. They take trophies, and will pay for the materials for new ones. Karsh Blacktail, a ranger and skilled taxidermist, sent us after some owlbears, requesting heads, or at least beaks and eyes. This is apparently a relatively quotidian prey for them – they have a mounted illithid head in the hall. Clearly Cyrus had never seen one, maybe not even in a book. Not like they pulled out the really terrifying aberrations until fourth year xenobio anyway, it’s kind of advanced material.
We found the owlbears – quite the sight. I’ve seen normal ones before, but there was one that must have been as tall as the Rose. We took them down without too much difficulty. Well, except for when the huge one dropped a tree on me. I’m so glad Marta sent me that potion of fly, I wouldn’t have been able to stand up to that thing in a fight. Between the lightning and the alchemist’s fire, the heads weren’t much to look at. Still took the beaks.
These owlbears had caravans as their targets of opportunity, so they actually had some things of value. One of them is now slung between my shoulder blades – a beautifully made shortspear that sings with electrical magic. Cyrus might have been salivating a little. It’s from the Venom Kingdoms, was next to a pile of scrolls and wands, and came with a blue leather case, which makes me think it might have belonged to another craftsman, one with a bit more of a blue dragon bent. I’m keeping it anyway – it’ll probably come in handy if I get into a tight spot.
Cyrus offered to give me some lessons with my new spear once we get back to the Rose. I’m not entirely sure if he thinks I’m as useless with weapons as your typical wizard, or if he’s flirting with me. Or both. For what it’s worth, I told him that I’d be taking him up on those lessons, not that I’m just as good with a spear as I am with my daggers.
I also asked Cyrus about exactly why we met, and I can’t say I like the answer. The Exiles were tipped off by the Collective Friend, as were Finn and Galen. As was I, now that I think about it. What does a smuggler king stand to benefit from some scattered wanderers and a frustrated noble son getting their hands on the key to a prophecy box that can only be read by a single ancient dwarf, working with the Order? How does he coordinate all these moves – telling Owain, Lars, Maman, and I to seek Wellborn, telling the Exiles to seek me, telling Finn and Galen to seek not just the Exiles, but Cyrus in particular – and why does he do it? I have to sleep tonight, but I doubt it will be soundly.
At least I can trust that Cyrus isn’t Jack’s man.
Cyrus is minding the catfish, Galen’s tending to Finn, leaving me to sit here and chronicle our exploration of the elemental laboratory of Water. It was a good half day’s hike from the nearest bend, up on a long limestone escarpment eroding into the watershed.
Getting there was a bit of an adventure in itself. The limestone shelf was falling apart, hollow underneath, and well guarded by leftover summoned creatures – elemental grues. They’re not very threatening on their own, but in a large group on unsteady ground, their ability to shoot jets of water strong enough to knock us backward was a major concern. Fortunately, I was able to swap Cyrus into the center of the ambush before I got knocked back. Down a steep, rocky hill. Face-first.
The laboratory itself was another few hours’ hike up the escarpment. Even half-finished, it was a terror, full of traps and monsters. The front door was guarded with a magical trap that Finn unfortunately sprung, releasing a bloodmote swarm. That would be why she’s laid up right now – they’re horrible undead mosquitoes and carry a lovely disease called red ache. Fortunately they are easily turnable and very easy to hit with a lightning bolt.
Inside, we were pretty heavily set upon. I shudder to think what would have happened if Galen hadn’t cast water breathing on all of us… we encountered an undead called a drowned, which has the ability to drown anyone within a certain area, even on dry land. Cyrus kept it very busy, which was good, because some unseen force commanded a necromental into the room at the same time. Oh gods the stench when I fried that thing. Clyde vomited in my hood. I’d ask why you would want an undead water elemental, but this is the Mosquito Kingdom we’re talking about. In their opinion, making improbable undead things is its own reward.
The elemental focus was hanging over a dock structure, over a deep, corrupted pool – the elemental source, long ago fouled by Mosquito Kingdom mages. Cyrus tried to break it off its chain, which didn’t work very well – fortunately, I still had a set of bolt cutters. I have a lot of things in my “purse”, Cyrus. I’m not going to tell you about all of them.
We were quickly attacked by two chuul, and we were in no shape to take them on head to head. Or head to terrifying tentacle face, as it might be. Fortunately, Finn was able to keep one distracted, slipping out of its grip, and Cyrus knocked one off the docks to give me room to run. Between Galen and me, we were pretty much amphibious, and between Galen and Cyrus, we put a hole through the wall and escaped. I fired a parting lightning bolt, but I didn’t kill them. Probably left treasure behind. Cyrus made me leave after I said I didn’t even care about the treasure… I needed that really. He was right. I was tired.
I am going to be sad to sell the necklace we found. It’s stunning. I keep taking peeks at it when I’m pretty sure no one else is looking. Still, it’s going to fetch a good price that we can use for more important things.
Success! Finn finally figured out how to use a wand, and I finally figured out how to cast shield! I’m also making headway on working with Ned, which is good – wouldn’t want to be stranded in the city if Cyrus has to go do an expedition with the Exiles again.
I feel a little conflicted about it but I’m passing the information Cyrus gave me on to a certain half-elf with a certain collective. He really needs to know that a certain friend of ours is pulling strings behind the scenes. I hope he’s familiar with invisible ink. I’ll also just write Cyrus’ name in here a few more times, so that if a certain rogue reads this entry, she’ll think that I’m just writing in a language she doesn’t know so that I can write about my private personal feelings about Cyrus. Is that enough times… probably. I’ll just write Cyrus one more time for good measure. And probably doodle a little heart too.