Roland is the fifth son of a lord who’s lands form the northernmost civilized border in Evyn. His father, when he was 45, took a new, young wife after becoming a widower with four grown sons and three grown daughters.

Roland’s mother, Elayne, was pretty much left to raise him by herself, which was not much trouble because she was an educated and strong-hearted woman. By the time he was ten, Roland could read and write several languages and was fluent in the history of his people as well as the finer arts of diplomacy, oratory and poetics.

It was at this point when his father checked in on how he was doing and, rather than being impressed, was appalled at what he saw. Roland was taken from tutors and books and placed with his uncle, Hugin, to be instructed in the arts of war. Rather than being a bookworm, Roland took to his new training in stride. He grew up strong, quick, sharp of wit and pleasing to the eye. Hugin understood that the boy was something special, and encouraged him to continue his studies and blend them with the role of a warrior, until in time he grew up and there was nothing more for him to be taught.

His finest words of advice were: “Be proud and remember who you are, you must be a better man than most, because you are the heart of a warrior with the soul of a poet. You are a bard-prince and carry within you the blood of kings!”

Of course, in the end, none of this really mattered. Roland is no king, nor prince, nor is he likely to ever inherit any lands or real title. He has four brothers, seven uncles, and his three sisters each are married to men who stand to inherit everything before him. All he has is a dream. And so he left his home and family, and in time Roland found a new family and new causes to champion. But that, as they say, is another story.

Roland’s Song
Life teaches us hard lessons sometimes.

I have been thinking about what my uncle Hugin told me about the song of the blade lately. It is the song of the hero, the song of the valiant, the song that is with the warrior poet throughout his entire life, and what gives him the courage to fight on despite knowing the inevitability of what must come.

Uncle was right about many things, and he taught me how to be strong in the face of my enemies, and to laugh in the very face of death itself, but I don’t know.

When I was on the boat in the heart of battle, I could hear the song, just for a moment, and it made my heart glad. It was as if there was something that I could reach within myself to find, some hidden reserve of strength that could be mine if I was willing to just reach out and take it. But then it was gone, and there was just the death of the men of the boat, both the pirates and the crew.

I do not think it is supposed to be this way.

Still, we did the right thing, didn’t we? The ambassador will be able to see the prince, and decide whether or not to involve her house in the conflict. Hopefully she will see the gravity of the situation and speak on behalf of committing more troops to end the war.

That would be a good thing, wouldn’t it?

Still, what we did, and what came after, has resulted in the deaths of three men, and their families. Gods! Three children have died because of what we did.

Uncle would say that they had it coming: that we all have an appointment with death eventually, and that in and of itself it is not the worst thing.

Still, I swear by all that is holy that the men responsible for those deaths will face judgment soon, and will answer for their actions. One of the men responsible is me, so it seems that I must face judgment as well.

In the end, it is all about the song of the blade, and I am finding that to be a bitter tune, but one that is all too easy to learn to sing.

“It would be vain to imagine we could be favored without effort. Miracles come to those who risk defeat in seeking them. They come to those who have exhausted themselves completely in a struggle to accomplish the impossible.”

Stony Silence

Up near the top of the world, my grandfather tells me that there is the source of the North Wind. The north wind is also the wind of winter, the wind of loss, and the wind of regret.

It is said that long ago there was a great king, who ruled over all of the lands for many years. When he finally became too old to continue to lead, he gave the lands over to his three sons. In no time the sons came to disagree over how the kingdoms should be won, as well as to covet the lands that the others held sway over. In a few short years the great king’s empire was in ruin, and his sons were dead.

The king traveled far to the north, farther than any man has ever been, until he reached the end of the world, where there was only ice and snow beyond. When he did so, he let out a howl of all the loss and pain that he had endured in his long life, and in doing so his heart broke, and he died. That howl became the north wind that sweeps down over the land even now, bringing ruin and death.

Out here in the cold, I am reminded that it is said that if you listen well enough, you can hear the old king’s cry even today. Grandfather told me that sometimes, if you are far enough away from civilization so that there is no other noise to hear, you might be able to discern a response to that cry that comes from somewhere else. Grandfather said that he never heard the second cry, but always wondered what it was. What is the response to the world’s binding you upon your back to the great wheel for all eternity? I shudder to even think of it!

I am thinking about this because of my own troubles, of course. I should not have snapped at Kiki, she is little more than a child herself, and from what I understand, has not had the benefits that I have. And now she is a statue. I don’t believe that I would believe this part of the story if I were to read it myself from the pen of a far better author than I am.

Still, they also say that there is the possibility for hope: there may be a wizard or priest with the power to break the enchantment that is upon her, so that means I will carry the little one with me until we can find out the truth of that tale.

In stony silence, my troubles lie.

Yes, Bellatrix, I think she is looking at me, too.

Entrances and Exits

“What’s gone and what’s past help should be past grief.”

Strother was right. I suppose in retrospect it makes perfect sense. The basilisks turn you to stone, and then the bugbears have something to give their young as a feast. Besides that, nothing else is making much of any sense. This entire place seems to be some kind of elaborate death trap, but for what purpose?

I am glad to have Kiki back, but we have paid a high price. Strother is dead. It happened quickly, and I wonder if he even had time to think about what hit him. I suppose we will be able to joke about it one day in the next life. A man made out of water! Such a thing has never been seen in my father’s kingdom, not even in my mother’s books. It took all of us acting together to put it down, which has former a tighter bond between all of us than there was before.

It is a good thing that we have come here, because we were able to free two of the soldiers that were taken by the basilisks and we are now trying to find our freedom together.

The rest of the group looked at me very strangely for not slaying the bugbear woman earlier. As I think about it, I do not truly know why I didn’t do it. It just seemed that she was protecting the future of her tribe, and I could not bring myself to kill it. With what Fritz did, perhaps it would have been a kind of act of compassion, to end her life. Still, I think about what we saw in that chamber, and about my own family’s war against the creatures. Is that all that there is to be between us? I think that sparing her life may come back to plague us in the future, but I do not regret it. What possible good could have come out of her death?

Now we must find our way out of this cursed place, through a dragon that, if the murals are to be believed, would stand larger than my father’s keep. Let us hope that the artist took some dramatic license.

I pray that Strother and the other soldiers souls will find their way to their rightful place in the afterlife. I wonder if there is any relief in store for any of them, or even for us, given the grim nature of this cursed place.

“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”


I hope this letter finds you and mother well. If you are reading this, it is because I have fallen in battle. I have entrusted this letter to an associate of mine, Bean, in the hopes that it may reach you. Please show Bean and his companions the hospitality of our house.

I wanted you to know that I have had a good life, and I do not regret any of the choices I have made that led me here. I have had a chance to see each of the great cities of the Confederacy. I have fought in over a dozen battles, and have distinguished our family and myself in the war. I have seen creatures out of legend: a creature of pure elemental water, who had the strength of ten men, basilisks, who’s mere gaze will turn a man to stone, and even the legendary dragon. I have learned that the forces of the dragons intend to take a more active role in controlling the fate of our world.

Our most hated foe, the bugbear, is likely to be the end of me. I have no doubt that I will hear the song of the blade and be the end of many of them, but their numbers are large. I know that I have the chance to run away, but that would mean not protecting my family and honoring the commitments I have made.

Now I find myself in the depths of the earth, in a place that has not seen the light of day since before the Confederation arrived here over a thousand years ago. I am glad that I have had the chance to see these things, just as I am glad to have had the chance to make a difference in this world in our family’s name.

Give my fondest regards to mother,


Everything has finally become quiet and still. All I can hear is Sesha’s breathing, and that is a very good thing.

Check that, some fool in the street is yelling about the eclipse ceremony being the best one ever. I suppose I’ll give him his due, because things could have been worse. They could have been a lot worse.

All of my life I have believed that I had the capability within me to make a difference. To make the world a better place. No matter what anyone told me, I knew that there would come a day when I would step up and do something that my family, even the world, would remember.

The trouble is that most of the time when I’ve tried to do this, I’ve ended up failing. I can see the litany of faces of those I’ve tried to help and failed. There ghosts are not resting easy, to be sure, and I have many more nights to be haunted by them. Of that I’m certain.

But not tonight.

We did it. Frankly I’m still uncertain as to how it all worked out. It happened so fast. Those things were huge, but they fell to the sword just like everything else in the end. As I think about it, it was all of us acting together that made it possible. I suppose that’s the real reason everything has worked out: we are finally starting to come together as a family. I guess after we left Flame Ascendant I didn’t think it would be possible to make something to take its place, but I imagine we have in our own way. Hmmn, that makes me wonder about Alysa. I wonder if she was serving in the same way we are before she was taken. I will have to ask the Keepers about this when I get the chance.

I wonder about William. The priests say that they can bring him back, if he is willing. I know that they’re right. What a strange thing it is to know the truth of the next life. It certainly puts the importance of what I’m doing into context.

There are many things we need to work on in the next few days. Bean said something about retrieving an artifact for the Society of Shadows. More precisely we need to get the artifact for Danye. I wonder if Bean understands what he is getting into there.

Kiki seems to be genuinely taken by her paladin, which makes me glad beyond words. Shiny indeed. I don’t know if the poor fellow understands what he is getting into. She was talking about some kind of venture with the wood elves…I wonder what that was all about. Still, we’ll get to it, I suppose.

Thinking this way starts the music again, and it is no longer quiet and restful in my head. There are so many questions, so many details to work out before we leave.

It is at that moment that Sesha wakens and gives me a smile. Everything stops and is perfectly silent and still.

There will be time enough for all of those other things tomorrow. Tonight is about joy.

Some things never change. Even though the surroundings have become more pleasant, the stale odor of the air, mixed with the slight smell of sulfur makes me long for the open skies of home. That, combined with the waiting makes me wonder about all the choices I’ve made. The waiting is bad: hours must pass by until they tell me they’re ready to move again. Hours under the earth with nothing left to me but my thoughts.

Strother. Kiki. Now Bean and Galros have joined you. You’re only there in my memories now. At least in Bean’s case, there is hope that we shall see him again, as the Keepers may not be finished with him yet. The centipedes do not seem to be particularly dangerous in and of themselves, but there are so many of them. In one battle, I felt the strangest sensation. As the thing bit me, it was as if my fate was being rewritten. I wonder at that…are the Keepers somehow keeping watch over me?

Still, it has been good to see Cross again. I suppose I should thank him for putting together this shelter we’re staying in. Less sulfur content, and something to sleep on! It is strange to see him again, but I realize that any coincidences in the world are likely just the machinations of the Keepers. I remember studying with Cross under my mother’s tutelage. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had stayed with the studies of magic and music rather than going off to study with my uncle. I suppose that Cross gives me a good example of the life that I could have led. He seems to have grown to be a good man, more confident and content with his role as a wizard than Bean was, which I imagine is part of his heritage and being raised under an open sky rather than in a dusty room full of books.

I long to feel the wind and the wide open spaces again, but to do that we must go down further. Ancestors preserve me from descending to ascend!

Now we are waiting. I know that there will be more people coming through these caverns on the trail through the mountain, and we should clear the way through them for that reason alone. Still, Cross says that the lake we came across had some sort of powerful necromantic magic running through it. In putting our heads together, we believe that there is a spirit trapped there, to what end we do not know. I always have believed we have a reason for the things we do, and perhaps this thing is that reason. If it is a good creature, we should free it to send it on to the next world. If not, it needs to fall to the pits below us!

A purpose at last, and only a hint of sulfur.

“It would be vain to imagine we could be favored without effort. Miracles come to those who risk defeat in seeking them. They come to those who have exhausted themselves completely in a struggle to accomplish the impossible.”


Shattered Solstice Gilheru