Song of the Ages

I prefer problems you can hit

Yeah, we were at each others’ throats for a bit there. Wyllo and Oak were going at each other, with some parts of suspicion and shady family pasts coming out and generally just confusing me. I growled at them enough that at least they will work together, something that I’m not used to doing. Not the growling part, no. I mean getting people to work together. We got ourselves patches so that we could identify ourselves as Black Foxes and that’s when it hit me again. I wasn’t just walking around with friends and punching things into submission, I was part of an organization with ranks, leaders and members. Didn’t sit well with me, still doesn’t, but maybe that’s what we need. We need some rules at least so we can work past this chaos that the Redclaws brought on top of us.

The competition? Yeah, it was going well enough I suppose. We managed to work ourselves into the final four, which I guess was more than a big thing since we were outsiders and hadn’t been expected to get that far. Qelroth was doing his fair share of the lifting though and was getting the recognition he’d need to get back into his clan if we pull this off. Belfran though was looking at things funny and insisting that we do what we can to turn things to our advantage. At the end of the day, that consisted of me and Oak sneaking out at night to smear the good name of the current king while the others managed to slip into the palace itself and somehow enter a shrine leading to their dragon god herself. Got themselves some talisman that should help against the Redclaws, but they almost lost their heads doing so, as they somehow blundered right into Belnar, the Redclaw champion. They only escaped alive because Yoon- Yoon of all people!- bluffed their way out of the whole thing.

Hearing about it, I had to admit he’s going to be a nasty opponent, but I think if we manage to pile on him, we’ll bring him down. Granted, that assumes that we get to them at the end of the competition and don’t rip each other to shreds before then.

Pass me another ale, this organized troop thing is starting to get to me.

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The Honor of the Dragonborn
Belfran

I firmly believe that if one engages in a competition, then one should abide by the rules of that competition. To disregard the rules is just as dishonerable as to not try one’s hardest. I would not associate with a dragonborn who participated in a contest dishonerably. You show respect to your opponent and to yourself by taking the game seriously.

My associates assure me that spying, assault, and even assasinations are a common and tollerated occurance at this tournament. (as long as they are suitably subtle, of course) To the point that The Underhand is just as permenant a fixture here as the Nightwing Clan. It’s clear that there is a long tradition of supterfuge, and it would be dishonerable for us to oppose the universally accepted, unwritten rules. Indeed, it behooves us to make use of every oportunity presented us by the format in which we are competing. We would be dishonering these procedings (and by extenstion, the entire kindom of Drathl) if we did not cheat.

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Fool Me Once
Wyllo

[written in Elvish]

I think I have a family somewhere. I think that family is part of nobility, and I think that they’re (more specifically, she—I guess I have an aunt) potentially going to be blackmailed because of me. I’ve been turning this over in my mind from the moment I found this drawing on my bed. It’s of a very regal looking woman, and Oak said something about an aunt to me tonight.

I don’t know what to think about this. I’m not supposed to have a family.

I don’t think I should tell anyone about this just yet, either. Thief turned nobility, what kind of cliche is that?

[written in English]

I’m going to kill Oak. Ripping his tongue out sounds just as well to start with, but I also just really want to kill him. I’ve been very clear on my paranoia, especially with people I don’t know well, and people who know me at all know I also have trust issues. You don’t make it very far as a thief, and I’m pretty sure that I’ve said that before, too.

Still: you don’t mess with people that care about. Or am about to care about—or potentially care about…which amounts to liking well enough. Mostly. Kind of.

I should have let his sorry ass get skinned.

Start at the beginning? Sure. Ok.

We came to Qelroth’s competition, where he’s trying to win back his title and what have you, etc. etc.There was a point where I was envious of how he knew where he belonged—or where he wanted to belong, and how honorable he is about his business. I think he treats people fairly, and I liked seeing that.

That feels like a long time ago, though.

We took part of our first game in the competition, but the night before we won, we were having drinks with a mixture of Dragonborn in the tavern/inn we’re staying at. At some point, Yoon had an encounter someone that we found out later is a black Dragonborn (black Dragonborn are the spy sort, I think? I don’t know where I picked this up.) who told us that someone in our group is not the honorable sort. Spoiler alert: it’s Oak. I think I knew from the start, because he has this way of saying things around me that are very insulting. By the way, he’s said I’m manipulatable.

I’m not. I think I should clarify that now.

Annoying.

At any rate, by the time we’d won this first part of the competition, we were back at this tavern and had a few drinks, and by the time said drinks had worn off, courtesy of Shadow, Yoon had gotten carried away with attempting to interrogate Shadow and making her feel like she needed to leave. I managed to convince Yoon to apologize to Shadow. Lucky. Until I realized that paranoia was right and Oak is the one who’s trying to double cross us.

Truth? I don’t know if he’s actually trying to double cross us or them. I noticed him with a Redscale dragon and trying to show off his paintings, but then he came up to me and showed me one, too. There was writing on the other side and it was something about making our encounter convincing.

I don’t like thinking about these things. They should be cut and dry.

He said he didn’t blame my parents for leaving me. If I’d throat-checked him harder, I could have broken his neck. (My fault. Rookie mistake.)

I don’t remember much of the actual fight with Oak, though. He’s fast. I tried to be faster. Afterward, he went out to the docks and I followed him. He met up with some other Redscales and they said that neither he nor Shadow would make it through the night.

What is it that made me want to save his stupid ass?

It took a minute. Maybe it wasn’t even a minute, but it felt long enough; it’s not like Yoon can’t handle anyone about to slit Shadow’s throat or her own, and Shadow can take care of herself, but I had a moment where I didn’t know if I should help Oak or not. I had a moment where I didn’t know who needed me more, and some sort of protective instinct rose up. It was only a minute—moment—but Oak was three against one, and by threatening people I care about, they’d blacklisted themselves. I’ll win this stupid competition.

So has Oak. The little shit. I’ll cut out his tongue, and then he can eat it. Maybe I’ll cut out his eyeballs, too. Yes, that sounds like a good idea.

In the end, everyone is ok. In the end, Yoon’s little encounter with Shadow was apologized for, and Shadow found out that it wasn’t regular hazing.

There’s a reason I’m paranoid. Don’t fuck with me.

I’m not in love with Qelroth.

[written in Elvish]

I don’t know what to do. Why is this bothering me so much?

I wonder if Scratch knows anything. Maybe I’ll write him a letter. I think this is the angriest I’ve been since Yoon got framed. I don’t like being this mad. It’s like I’m a teapot.

How does Oak know all of these things about me—theoretically?

If Scratch knew, he would have told me…Right?

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Turning on ourselves

We knew, based on what Qelroth had told us, that our opponents were likely to cheat. We went in expecting them to do that, but I don’t think we were expecting what happened, or how effective it was.

So, the first night in town one of those red lizards comes up to us and outright offers us a thousand gold for each person that just up and leaves. I admit, that was a tempting offer since the keep could obviously use that kind of cash. However, I couldn’t accept it. Now, I know that you might be thinking it was due to honor or a contract, but the simple fact of the matter is that I’d been travelling with Qelroth for a few weeks now and I liked him. Sure, he’s more than a little uptight, but at the end of the day, he’s a good egg.

Huh… never thought about how that phrase might have extra meaning for dragonborn. Anyway, the others did so as well, or at least they did so at first. Then we started being visited by some of the local spymasters hinting that one of us was working against us. And that’s all it took for us to start looking at each other funny! Granted, the warning was at least partly true, but the suspicion I think is what really started fraying on us. We won the first competition the next day, but the girls were eyeing everyone funny and I learned that night, once I’d gone off to guard Qelroth, that everyone started turning on each other. Accusations, misunderstandings and possible betrayals flying all over the place! It was almost a relief to hear that the red lizards tried to kill them at the end of the night since that at least gave us an enemy to look at rather than each other.

For now, I just want us to hold it together long enough to see this through to the end. If people want to leave afterwards or someone needs gutting, fine, but until then we need to pull through it. We’re made of stronger stuff than this, I just know it.

Right?

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Overthrowing a kingdom again

So we’d rounded up some new members, right? Well, it turned out to be just in time since some armored lizard that the girls knew came around and told us quite the story about his kingdom. Long story short, he wanted to hire us to win some ritual competition so that the leadership of his kingdom would change hands. Now, I know I hated being part of that very same thing in Sutherland, but that was because someone basically stabbed us in the back to accomplish that. This time, at least the lizard was being up front about it and the current leaders sounded bad enough that they should be outed. So we took the job.

We made good time, travelling through Dunkuldir to try to catch a boat. While on the way I caught up with some of my friends and family that I hadn’t seen in… well, it almost feels like forever. At least not since I marched out with the army. It was good to see them, but I could tell I didn’t fit in there anymore. I needed to vent, to howl and break things, and in the steamwork-lined caves of my home, that would certainly not work. I guess I’m just not tame enough, you know what I mean? I hope you do, because I’m still wrapping my head around it, but enough of that line of thought.

There was a little bit of panic as we traveled since we found out that there was a delegation from the lizards at the palace, but ultimately there was little we could do about that except move forward with our plan and just remove the scalies from power. Not to say there wasn’t drama with the others, mind you, but I just ignored it and carried on. We managed to catch a boat to Drathl in time for the festival. Now we just have to go up against the best that the other lizards can put forward and even stay a step or two ahead of whatever tricks the leaders have in store for us. Stone, I miss having Fulgin around to worry about that instead of me.

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Reentry
Wyllo

So…Qelroth Delmirev is back, and he’s returned with a proposition.

We have to win a tournament with him in an effort to get his honor back. I think. This is all very strange because I’m not used to speaking for others, and somehow, I suddenly have people to look after.

Is this what Scratch was talking about a few weeks ago? Something about being nurturing—if only he could see me now. (I’m not nurturing.)

I don’t mind going an an adventure, though. I guess. What’s the likelihood of us dying?

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Friendship is Overrated

Hello Journal,

It has been a while, not that I have missed doing this in the slightest. What has happened to our little band of misfits? We collected even more outcasts and useless individuals. You may think I am being harsh, but I am not. All of these people would die on their own if we did not take them in.

Now that we have officially taken my name off of the “kill” list, I have so much free time on my hands. What will I do? I guess I could find hobbies which do not require skills in fighting, stabbing, or killing.

I could…

Yeah, I could be a school teacher or something.

A school teacher whose subject is about the death and bringing people closer to it.

Yeah, I like it. This sounds like a great start.

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New blood

So where was I?

Right; lost a bunch of us, didn’t we? Dead or gone, in the end doesn’t matter to me cause they aren’t around when we need them. You know, it’s funny. I used to see Dax walk around a give orders to the people building the inn, doling out gold left and right, but when I had to start doing the same thing, I really missed that horned bastard. I might not be dumb, but I just don’t have a head for this type of thing, managing money beyond what I need for drink and sleep. I think if Walter ever decides to leave, I’ll break his legs just so I don’t have to do more than I’m already doing. And when Fulgen was around, talking about heroes from other stories, I didn’t think more about it than to ask for the bloodiest tales he knew. Now… well, it’s not just me, but some of us at least seem to be considering what our own stories will be.

And I wasn’t ready for the story of the Black Foxes to be done yet.

We started recruiting, maybe not intentionally at first, but that’s what we ended up doing. Some odd elf comes to the fort, asking to join and the next thing I know we’re on our way to kill some plants to see if he and the dragonborn we were supposed to be watching could hold their own in a fight. The plants were new to me, I’ll say that for sure. Have you ever been eaten alive by a compost pile? Well, I have now. Returned the favor once the battle died down, thinking there might be some meat in there somewhere or that it’d be a pile of some new plant that might actually make good eating. It was good eating, but no new plants that I could spot, just normal plants that somehow decided it would be a good idea to eat local farmers.

Where was I? Oh, right. Recruiting.

So, we went to fight these plants for a reward and at first, we mostly stayed back to see what these new recruits could do. Elf was a decent shot and a better brawler and the lizard seemed to have a few good spells while still wearing a suit of armor, but turns out one of the field hands watching also had some decent magic in her. We took care of the plants, then brought all three back to the fort as new members of the Black Foxes.

Let’s see what stories we’ll be able to tell you now.

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On The Road

“What do you mean you don’t have any money?”

The short elf shrugged and tied back his copper hair. “I mean just that.”

“Fine, give me your weapons and start walking. I can see you’ve got a sword in there.”

“You sure?” The elf slowly pulled the cloth-wrapped bundle from his back. “I’ve got a nice sketch of the mountains that might fetch a few silver. Oh, and some venison jerky. You can’t eat a sword, you know.”

“Don’t tell me what I can and can’t eat. Put it down, now!”

The elf looked at the two other men who had their bows drawn. “Your form is terrible.” He gestured to the one on the right as he slid a bow out of the bundle and strung it. “Don’t lock your arms, they’ll fall asleep if you go another minute like that.”

“Oi! Stop that right now! Put those weapons down!”

“Boss, ain’t elves supposed to be good archers?”

“Right. Yeah, I’ll shoot you right now if you touch those arrows.”

“Alright.” The elf slowly moved the bow with his other hand held flat. “I wrapped the quiver too tightly anyways, if you shot me it would save me the bother of getting any arrows out.”

“Hear that, boss? He wants me to shoot him!”

“Should I shoot him?”

SHUT UP YOU TWO! I KNOW HE WANTS YOU TO SHOOT HIM, IT’S SOME KIND OF-”

The man was interrupted. The trembling outlaw to his side shook his hand and swore, then gasped as he realized it was his own arrow that had silenced his boss

The elf pointed at the archer who had accidentally loosed an arrow, then to the man twitching on the ground to his side with an arrow in his throat. “See? First time shooting a man, huh? At least you nearly hit me.”

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You see? Politics can turn a man's stomach, no question.

Right, so we’d come back from Eastport to check on our little pile of rubble that we like to call a fort. Most of the people we’d left working were still working, so Dax patted them on the back and gave them additional orders. I’m just looking forward to when the inn is done so I can see if we can find a decent brewmaster or if we will have to import all of our drink like some savage. We knew we’d have to finish off the Viscount soon, as he was surely aware that his wife had been killed in Eastport. We also assumed that he’d be able to figure out that we’d done it, but the question was how he’d respond. Would he send more of his assassins to kill us or would he make up some lie and send his new ‘legitimate’ troops after us instead?

How’d he get troops? Didn’t I tell you? Nah, I guess I didn’t. The old steward of Sutherland had recently died under very mysterious circumstances and who should be the one to take his place but the Viscount himself! It probably smelled fishy to anyone who didn’t even know that he was the leader of a cult of assassins or even a vampire patriarch, but being that we knew about both, it was obvious that this new role was no coincidence. Granted, he shouldn’t have absolute power over the kingdom as just the steward, but let’s be honest. He wouldn’t go through all that effort to make himself steward to just sit around with only half a kingdom. We knew that he’d have something in mind for his counterpart, the Grand Marshal.

So, we’re waiting for the Viscount-turned-Steward to make his move, yeah? While we’re doing that, the drow girl who’d been helping us, Veshaya was her name, her daughter shows up and begs us to take her with us to kill the Viscount. Turns out the Viscount had really messed up their family and they both wanted vengeance. The others hemmed and hahhed about this, but I wasn’t about to get in the way of that. People have called me petty from time to time for it, but I know a thing or two about vengeance and I wasn’t about to hold them to a different standard than I held myself. So, we told her she’d come.

Well, we soon got a summons to come ‘meet with’ the Steward. All very normal and non-threatening on the surface, you know? Couldn’t fool us though. We knew it was a lure or trap or something, so we decided to get crafty about it. Not that being crafty has really worked out for me, but we thought we’d try it. Fulgen handed me his weapons and walked into town, stating that he and he alone had come to answer the summons. The rest of us slipped into town and then into the keep itself, fully armed and ready for a fight. Turns out a fight is exactly what we got. Fulgen met with the Steward in the main hall and eventually shouted out something, letting us know to come storming in. The Steward was there, fully armed and armored, sitting on the throne like he owned the place. The Grand Marshal was there too, but was fighting for the Steward like he was some long-time friend.

Like I said, the Viscount hadn’t settled for just part of absolute power.

So, I went in swinging and hollering like mad, trying to keep the enemies’ attention focused on me. I’ll be the first to say that I’m not as good as Wyllo or Yoon at finding the best place to stab something, but what I can do better than anyone else in the group is take a hit. However, even though I took up most of the Steward’s attention, Veshaya still died. The Grand Marshal too, though I’m still torn on that. The drow girl was a good ally and I mourn her loss. The Grand Marshal might have just been under the vampire’s control and not a willing pawn in all this, but at the end of the day he raised his blade against me and mine, so I don’t mind as much when Yoon killed him. We did however manage to kill the Steward, and I mean proper kill him, since he’s a vampire and you have to make sure you do it right or he’d just come back.

That was about the time the guards came in and told us to surrender. At first we tried to explain, just like in Eastport, that the Steward had been a vampire, yadda yadda yadda. They still wanted us to surrender. I guess we could have ran, like we’d done after killing the Countess, and just leave them to figure it all out, but I was tired by that point. All this running, all of this fighting to save people who were ready to attack us… I was done. I just wanted to sleep, so when the others surrendered, I did so as well. Granted, Fulgen put up a hell of a fight before he gave in, arguing that he could bring the Grand Marshal back and that we should be hailed as heroes for the bloody mess we’d just made of the keep. I think he’d been hoping that the Grand Marshal wouldn’t just survive that mess, but would have been able to hold things together enough to get a decent Steward this time around.

Instead we got used. That’s the only way I can describe it. Eoth, a priest we’d come across from time to time, convinced us to surrender, then eventually convinced Folgen to not try bringing back the Grand Marshal. Turns out Eoth had positioned himself to become the next Grand Marshal and thought he could do a better job of it. All we had to do was just go back to the fort. Fulgen must have hated this deal, must have hated it fiercely. He stuck around enough for us to try to bring back Veshaya, but then he just left. Went away with hardly any word of explanation to any of us. As for trying to bring Veshaya back, they cast their spell, spoke with her spirit and got turned down. She told them simply that since the Viscount was dead, her vengeance was done. I guess that was all she had to live for and now that it had happened, death was what she wanted. She stayed wherever she ended up and we took in her daughter, letting her stay at the fort and grieve.

So, Fulgen had walked off on us. That hurt. I knew we didn’t always fit with the brave and noble adventurers he often talked about, but at least we tried more when he was around. To top this whole thing off, Dax announced he’d leave us too. Just decided to head back to Cana and live the rest of his life as a book-keeper. Granted, I think a certain letter from a certain woman he’d met there was what really swayed him, but it still stung. At least he left us most of his coffers so we could continue working on the keep, but now I’m left wondering what for, you know? Where do we go from here? We had a book that a god had sent us after, but what were we supposed to do with that? We had a fort that we were rebuilding, but what were we supposed to do with that? For the first time in a while, I felt lost.

The next time we try to save a kingdom from itself, I might just tell it to go shove it. Lost three friends from it and all we got out of it was being the unwitting pawns of some power-grabbing cleric. Bah! Lords and rulers, who needs them?

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