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Familial Complications
It happened so fast, I could hardly say how it happened, but I know that Ser Jarrad and I both pressed the attack on the Argent Blade - Aoife - at the same time, and my blade found its mark. She looked at me as if she wanted to speak, but there was only blood.

The Red Spear began to slip into the Realm of Shadows. We had to run, or be trapped. But I couldn’t leave her there. I tread water, clinging to her, as I watched tentacles wrap around the doomed ship. Just before the portal between realms closed, the Aegerian hellfire caught and the ship shattered. It was a long swim back to shore, and as I swam the suit of coins fell away from my sister. By the time I reached safety they were all gone. She looked so fragile. She had always been the pretty, delicate one.

Magret and I carefully arranged her burial. It was necessary to perform a number of rituals, to protect her soul as best we could from the worst of what might happen to it. She had opened herself to the sort of evil that is not stopped by merely dying, and even if I hated her in life, I had no wish to see anything of that sort happen to her.

The journey home was a blur. We managed the four-week journey in less than three, thanks to the cleverness of the crew and some good luck with the winds. Perhaps the Storm Lord himself hastened our journey, as we were told that the orb used by Mad Trista wanted to be returned to the temple in Halvor. I was grateful for the sleeping tincture, I fear my worries of what was to come would have fed my nightmares otherwise.

In Tiranin we scarce made safe landing before I (accompanied by Jokula and Cabhan, and wearing the finery provided by the Fae) made my way to the Silverhill estate.

There was no easy way to break the news, and so I settled for the simple, unembellished truth. Mother was shocked, and it hurt me to see her eyes. Something in her broke. She had hope, for a moment, when I started speaking of Aoife. And it was horrible to shatter that hope. Her smile didn’t change when she slid into a chair, but...

It was easier to speak with Father, although the image of him from my nightmares hung over his real face as we talked. He was not shocked in the same way as Mother, he was almost unsurprised to receive the news. He asked me to tell him how it happened, and I did, as baldly as I could. I tried to emphasize it was her own poor decisions, her own greed and jealousy that led her there. Truthfully, I hoped there was time for him to change his own behavior. He called her foolish, which I could hardly disagree with. He asked what the funeral arrangements were, and on this point I spared him the details, merely summing them up as appropriate.

He eyed my clothing, and surely did not fail to miss either the family crest nor the masculine cut, but did not comment on either. We passed a few other pleasantries, and I was able to ask after Arlan. He said that they had received some letters, but that his duties at the palace kept him busy. I did not wish to extend the interview much longer, and gently suggested that he might check on Mother, and saw myself out.

That duty done, I made my way to the palace to break the news to Arlan. I was pleased that the guards checked my name and description very carefully when they heard my surname before allowing me inside.

Together we wept. I realized later that I had not cried over the loss before that, but it was good to finally let myself grieve for her.

Alice has made him one of her pages. He said he likes the uniform, and the responsibility, and even the lessons. I am glad to see if he is thriving, and if I can do nothing else for my family at least I can say I may have saved him from following my sister’s example. One can hope.

We did not stay in Tiranin much longer than it took for me to check in on my family, and within a week we were in Halvor. A priest from the Storm Temple waited for us (or more accurately, the orb). From here we were going to set out for the Monastery. It fell to me (naturally), to arrange for supplies for the trip.

The work of bartering and haggling was a welcome distraction. I worried over what we would find there, what would happen. Would they insist that Cabhan stay? Would they do something to make him? Or do something to me, if they felt I was in the way of their plans? What if he, despite his promises, decided that he wanted or needed to remain there?

But before we could begin our journey, there was another wrinkle. A trio of ships bearing warriors from the Lotus Realm arrived in the harbor. They spoke to Kaela, and they are seeking justice against her mother...
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A Message to the King
The following is a transcript of the letter sent to Cuthbert, King of Myrce, by way of the two grugach elves freed from the Hill Giants' steading:

Unto His Majesty, King Cuthbert, Royal King of Myrce and Sovereign Protector of the Realm

Valindra Silverbark, High Priestess of Rillifane Rallathil, faithful representative of Winter's Bane, and Your Most Humble Sevant, sends her greetings

Your Majesty, I hope this missive finds you well. I write with urgent, and what I hope shall be welcome, news. Firstly, my faithful companions and I, Winter’s Bane, have mightily succeeded in accomplishing the task that your worship had set before us when last we spoke. Having trekked some four leagues north of your encampment, we learned that a large tribe of hill giants, the very ones of which you had spoken, had just completed the construction of a large timber holdfast and were in the process of making plans to directly assault your forces. We came upon these villains in the midst of a great and jocund merriment, a feast in fact, to which a variety of their loathsome allies had been invited. As per your instructions, we engaged the giants without delay, and, I am happy to report, prevailed in our endeavors. We slew virtually all their number and put fire to steading forthwith, thereby setting it ablaze and eliminating the threat that Your Majesty had so wisely and presciently identified.

Secondly, during our encounter, we discovered that an emissary of Constantine, Overlord of the Bugbear hordes, had been sent to the Hill Giant lair with the aim of brokering an alliance between the forces currently arrayed against us, and a tribe of Frost Giants led by one Jarl Grugnar. We gained this knowledge through the interrogation of a Frost Giant leader who had been guest at the Hill Giant feast. Moreover, we also learned from this loathsome figure that Jarl Grugnar has in his possession the legendary Orb of the Autumn Winds, a relic which we are most certain your Royal Wizards and Mystagogues would dearly wish to gain control of.

This being the case, my companions and I plan to journey north to Jarl Grugnar’s lair on the far shore of the Eastern Bight. There we hope to recover the relic and put as many giants to the sword as we may. We beg your forgiveness, Your Majesty, for not returning in person with this news straightaway, but given the portentous nature of our discovery, we deem it prudent to attack the enemy immediately and without delay. Until we meet again, may all the Gods of the North bless you.

Your Most Humble and Loyal Servants,
Valindra Silverbark and Winter’s Bane
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Applesauce, Apple Oatmeal, and Session 2 and 3 Notes
Apple Sauce

3 lb. apples
½ C apple juice
1 T lemon juice
½ C sugar

Instructions: Peel and core apples and cut into large chunks. Put heat apples, apple juice, and lemon juice in a large pan and heat until apples are tender but not mushy. Mash apples and juice and add sugar to taste (Optional: keep apple and lemon juice mixture for oatmeal).

Apple Oatmeal

½ C Ground oats
½ C Apple water (from apple sauce recipe)
½ C milk
½ apple, cut into chunks

Mix ground oats, apple water, and milk. Heat and add apple chunks.

2nd and 3rd Session Notes
We did some research and found some nice people who we are now working together with to find a thief. We took a breather after tough battles against the books, and did some individual work and research. We are now investigating the old dockyard for rats and maybe thieves. We’ve already had a tough encounter with some thieves, but we also met some nice people down by the docks. Scotti is a very good smith, and I think we can all understand Vasili a bit better now.
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Cinnamon Dried Apples and Session 1 Notes
Cinnamon Dried Apples

1 tsp. Sugar
¼ tsp. Cinnamon
1 apple
1 C orange juice
½ tsp. other berry juice
1 tsp. lemon juice

Instructions: Mix the juices, put aside for later. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Remove the core of the apple and cut it into thin slices. Dip the slices in the juice mixture and put them on a metal mesh. Drizzle the cinnamon sugar mixture over them. Leave the slices in the sun to dry.

1st Session Notes
I’ve ended up with a very interesting party. They seem strong, but not so strong that I can’t help them. This adventuring job is dangerous, though. We’ve already been attacked by some very dangerous books, and I worry about what will come next.
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Finnian's Backstory
Finn grew up the only son of the leader of a clan of halflings that lived in a village in the north built around a gigantic cedar tree. They called it the 'Night Cedar' and everyone in the clan got a necklace when they were 10 with a piece of the bark of the tree on it. He had one sister who was three years younger than him. Finn didn't like it there because the clan was almost completely secluded from the outside world and he was pressured by his parents to do well in all that he did, because he would be the next leader of the clan. This gave him almost no time to spend on the one thing he loved to do, cook. It also didn't help that there weren't many decent cooks in the village, so he didn't have anywhere to learn, and that it was pretty much just wasteland around the village, so there weren’t very many natural resources for him to forage or hunt for. Finn felt cooped up in his village, and a few days before his 16th birthday, when he would have to start his training to be the next leader, he ran away from the village. He went to a dwarven village known for their artisans and begged them to teach him cooking. It turned out that there was only one old dwarf who had that much expertise in cooking in the village, and after much begging from Finn, he finally agreed to teach him. Finn spent the next two years learning all that he could from the dwarf. Still, there was a limit to what the dwarf knew, and there still weren’t very many natural resources to be found, so Finn decided to travel south, to the Crossroads, and then on to Zobeck. He found plenty of amazing plants and animals along the way, but he needed to get a job. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any credentials or anything, so the best job he could get for his cooking was at a temple to Baldur, the same god that he had grown up worshipping. Here, though, they were called Lada. Finn enjoyed the spirit of the temple and worshipped Lada in almost all his free time when he wasn’t cooking. Still, he wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to adventure, to find new places and people and to expand his cooking. He put these desires into his prayer, and to his surprise, Lada responded to him one day. She told him that if he showed his resolve and belief in her, she would grant him the power to get what he wanted.
Finn worked hard day after day, cooking for the people in Lada’s temple, praying to Lada, spreading her word throughout the city, and one day, she told him that he could not avoid his family any longer. He found a priest who helped him contact his dad and he spoke with him, apologizing for running away but explaining that he wouldn’t be coming back. His dad, glad that he was still alive, accepted this but begged him to stay safe. He talked with his dad a few more times and then told him that he would be setting off soon and that he wouldn’t be able to talk to him for a while. They said their goodbyes and Finn went back to the temple for one more prayer. Again, Lada answered him, and told him to do well in her name. Finn suddenly found himself in possession of the power that he had been promised. The next day, he set off.
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Tags: backstory