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Tephu, City of the Reed People

The conf luence of the Crook and the Asp, where they join to form the great River Sphinx, is the site of the three sister cities Wati, An, and Tephu. Founded in –1605 ar, Tephu sits on the west bank of the conf luence, across the water from its sister cities. While An and Wati glower enviously from across the rolling river, Tephu folk look down upon the other two cities, regarding them as lesser, and those two cities bear the butt of Tephu’s jokes. Tephu is not the oldest of the sister cities, nor is it the largest, but having made a fortune in papyrus and become a center of scholarship, Tephu regards itself as the home of culture—not just in the region, but in all Osirion. Surrounded by tall, swaying papyrus reeds and towering orchards of date palms, this ochre city teems with movement, its famous papyrus merchants busily filling the latest shipments for Sothis and beyond. The papyrus of Tephu, they say, does not keep secrets; the secrets return home like fish returning to spawn. All knowledge eventually returns to the Great Library of Tephu, sitting among millions of words of recorded history and academic texts carefully shelved into the stacks, for the library to either boast about or hide.

Yet it’s not only the library that most know Tephu for—it is also Tephu’s papyrus trade. This was a town that grew on the back of the papyrus that was so easily created here, and later a city that grew on the money of the traders in the town. This is a land of plenty and fortunes are waiting to be made. From the lowliest apprentice rolling her first fibers to the master artisans crafting the finest quality papyrus, all work and trade here, hoping to make their fortunes and often succeeding. As competition within the city is fierce, Tephu traders are astonishingly aggressive. They learn from their masters, who in turn learned from their masters, and have over centuries honed their talents for commerce and negotiation. To a merchant from Tephu, the only reason the word “no” enters a conversation is because the price is not yet quite right.

The River Sphinx toils on its way to the Swells of Gozreh nearly 200 miles northward. Near the city, the fields of papyrus plants that grow for miles around keep the river’s f low calm. These plants add stability to the shore and keep the worst effects of erosion at bay, while intermixed white and blue lotus f lowers lend an air of tranquility to the landscape and a gentle perfume to the breeze. From the endless parade of barges to the abundant fish that are devoured by the great hetkoshu, the waters of the River Sphinx are never still. Those who fish here are always on the lookout for the black-skinned crocodiles, the clumsily aggressive hippopotamuses, and even worse creatures that lurk in the depths of the river.

TEPHU’S DISTRICTS
Once, Tephu sat back from the River Sphinx as though afraid to dip its toes in the water, but it now presses against the river’s edge, trusting that the swaying papyrus fronds will absorb the worst of the f loods’ fury and the embankment will do the rest. Space is at a premium within Tephu, pinched as the city is between the river and the desert—only the Old City remains free of crowding. The city is further divided by a canal that cuts deeply into the city, bending behind the Old City before meeting with the Sphinx once again. Along the canal, the papyrus manufacturers and merchants have erected elaborate and sometimes gaudy townhouses called riads, built on the backs of slaves who toil day and night to meet the demand for the finest quality papyrus in Osirion. In the shadows of these townhouses and warehouses live the majority; crammed into apartment and shanty towns, raising their chickens, they strive to keep the jackals, both animal and human, from their doors.

New City: This crowded and chaotic district has grown up between the river and the Old City. The New City is the center of trade in Tephu, and the streets of the district are congested and noisy. This district caters to visitors, who can find welcoming coffee houses, take a deserved bath in a hammam, or barter for commodities such as dates, olives, carpets, and of course papyrus. The New City is separated from the River Sphinx by an earthen embankment. Beyond this levee—which teems with traders, guides, and children—are the papyrus fields, filled with carefully tended plants guarded jealously by their owners and hired workers. Sturdy piers stretch into these reeds, allowing moorage for harvesting boats, and further out, where the river is deeper, providing safe harbor for shipping vessels and the barges of visiting dignitaries.

Old City: The original city of Tephu was built at a distance from the river to avoid the worst of the annual f looding, with stone walls to keep out the rest. Throughout the Old City, remnants of the past stare mournfully from sandstone walls worn by time. Sandstorms over the ages have worn away many of the features of the dozens of statues and hieroglyphs that populate the plaza; some are known only because of diligent record keeping by the scribes of the Great Library. The Old City is built around the Great Plaza, which was built upon the ruin of the old palace. This airy, open space amid the bustle of the city is home to both the Sanctuary of Nethys and the Great Library. In the plaza’s atmosphere of calm, sisters of Nethys shuffle past temple guards, wealthy merchants, and scholars. The library’s Outer Sanctum stands at the heart of the Great Plaza, surrounded government buildings and the finest townhouses and offices of Tephu’s worthiest citizens. Two gates allow access into the Old City—the Gate of the Sun, which faces the river, and the Gate of the Moon, which faces the desert. However, countless alleys and passages have punctured the old walls over the centuries, leaving the surrounding wall riddled with holes that allow people to pass into the Old City. While beggars and pilgrims are not turned away from entering the Old City, peddlers and hawkers are actively and aggressively removed. The area is diligently patrolled by the Tephu watch, who aren’t known for their patience.

Outer City: The edges of Tephu where the city greets the desert are collectively known as the Outer City; here the poor and working class make their homes. The back streets are crammed with improvised dwellings, children at play, and squalid souks selling anything from rope to staple foods to flax. Those toiling in the date orchards and papyrus mills return to this district each night, and the scent of garlic, onions, beer, and sweat wafts from cramped houses and small public squares.

Wadjet’s Walk: Tephu’s canal, named Wadjet’s Walk in honor of the goddess of the Sphinx River, runs through the district that shares its name. The Walk was designed to bring water deeper into the city and to facilitate trade. It f lows through the city, flanked on both sides by fine apartments, the offices of the papyrus merchants, and bustling markets. Water is drawn from the canal by those locals not wealthy enough to have access to wells, while laundry women ply their trade at its edges, carefully watching out for the crocodiles that also call the canal home. Wadjet’s Walk is navigable by all but the largest sailing vessels, and visitors regularly arrive at the Old City to visit the haty-a (or governor) via this canal. The merchants, traders, and wealthier artisans of Tephu live in this district in colorful riads with lush green courtyards and beautiful arched doorways. Others make do with simpler dwellings, generally mud brick or sandstone compounds and apartments. Mausoleums, souks, and even fortified communal granaries are crammed side by side with temples, small palaces, papyrus mills, and warehouses. When particularly popular or notable caravans come to town, the squares are overtaken by bright circular tents while carts and overloaded camels block the streets.

NOTABLE LOCATIONS
The following are some of the more prominent or noteworthy locations in Tephu.

Academy of Scribes: It’s said that nothing ever happens in Tephu without someone writing it down. The Academy of Scribes, the largest such academy in Osirion, is run by the kindly Grand Scholar Fatimid, who recently has been suffering from bouts of prolonged forgetfulness, and has been picked up by the watch in various locations about town—partially dressed or spouting mad ravings. The day-to-day running of the academy has fallen to Scholar Idriss, who correctly fears that the old scholar is succumbing to dementia. Idriss keeps the vast number of scribes busy and oversees the training of the clerks, who enter the academy at 5 years of age and remain until they are of marriageable age, when they’re given the choice to continue their careers or leave the service of the academy. The youngest are tutored by a dozen elderly wizards, while those drawn to the gods’ service are trained by the Seer Sisters from the nearby

Sanctuary of Nethys. Being trained in Tephu is a great honor and badge of respect; those who study here are very serious as they engage in research in various parts of the Great Library or move silently about the city.

Anippe’s Date Orchard: A pleasant, shady retreat from the bustle of urban life, Anippe’s Date Orchard sits just on the outskirts of town. The orchards have been worked and maintained for generations, and the city has expanded right up to the operation. In fact, the groves were much more expansive 2 centuries ago. The siblings who inherited the orchard back then sold off parcels of the land to eager agents looking to expand the city. This sale transformed the former orchards into a significant nest egg, an investment that has launched the Anippe family into social circles far higher than farming ever would. The grove produces dates of excellent quality, and many dishes served within Tephu feature their distinctive taste. The dates are also dried and exported beyond the city’s borders, and sometimes to lands beyond Osirion. In addition to harvesting the fruits of the palms, workers tap their trunks to extract their sap, which is then fermented into palm wine. Some of the palm wine is further distilled into a more potent drink called lagmi.

Camel Souk: This square is given over to a camel souk—a noisy mass of livestock, temporary pens, and traders haggling. Many of the stock are lazy or aggressive camels that no one would wish to own, but characters who succeed at a DC 15 Handle Animal check can find animals suitable for use as mounts.

Caravan’s End: This inn caters to merchant caravans and travelers just stopping through or to those that don’t have lingering business in the city. Located just inside the city on the road that heads north along the River Sphinx, it features comfortable, well-appointed rooms at fair prices. Because it caters to traveling merchants, Caravan’s End has an impressive amount of space dedicated to stabling horses, camels, and even rare mounts and beasts of burden. Stabling carries an additional cost, and guests can spend extra to have their animals groomed, healed, treated for infections or diseases, and even trained if the owner wishes to leave his animals for an extended period of time (often between regular visits to the city). The inn also has a deal with a local granary, allowing it to provide discounted feed to its guests.

Eye of the Heavens: A massive dome capable of being opened to the night sky caps this huge marble and sandstone building. The Eye of the Heavens is one of Tephu’s oldest buildings, and lies in a plaza just beyond the wall of the Old City. Here, astronomers plot the movement of celestial bodies and record their measurements on long papyrus scrolls. They keep an archive dating back to before the founding of Tephu itself, and those interested in the stars pay handsomely to peruse the records kept here. The astronomers are always cautious of those who come to study the movements of Aucturn, however, and turn them away more often than not. The observatory is built around an incredible device of brass, copper, and sandstone known as the Oracle of the Heavens. The Oracle is used to predict the passing of comets, eclipses, the precise time of sunrise and sunset throughout the year, and other celestial events.

Fort Tephu: A squat sandstone building houses the main military force of Tephu. The fort covers a broad footprint, and has two f loors and a tower that rises above the main building, commanding an excellent view of the city. Commander Abdallah, who leads the city watch, has a perpetually stern face, and she rules her soldiers with iron discipline. Her admiration for the city and its haty-a borders on fanatical, and she is a devout worshiper of Abadar, encouraging her troops to attend prayers regularly. She also personally oversees the drilling of the watch three times per day with the aid of her two captains, Daghreb and Maranad. The fort has a large stable housing hundreds of camels and horses, and a percentage of the watch are trained cavalry, able to cover long distances and fight from camelback. The fort is rarely in a state of alert, however, and attack is considered not only unlikely but almost unthinkable in these enlightened times.

Gate of the Moon: The Gate of the Moon has a magnificent arched bridge that crosses the slow-moving Wadjet’s Walk. Said to be blessed by Thoth, the Gate of the Moon bears a curious attraction to scholars, who gather there to philosophize and consider the finer points of life. The scholars are often seen strolling along the bridge while talking to themselves, or loudly extolling some new theory. The haty-a finds the bridge a valuable resource for scholars and encourages such activity—providing those scholars don’t contradict the teachings of Nethys or foment rebellion. The philosophers are a diverse group, ranging from portly layabouts who have not washed in months to bright young idealists confidently predicting the rebirth of the Osirian Empire.

Gate of the Sun: The Gate of the Sun is the main thoroughfare between the Old City and the New City. A row of guards ensures that the hawkers, false guides, and other shady dealers who cram the gate do not enter the Old City, but they allow in pilgrims, beggars seeking alms, and those with official business.

Great Library of Tephu: The vast blue dome of the Great Library looms over the Great Plaza. The walls of the building are propped up by enormous footings, and a massive bronze door allows access. The building actually houses only the Outer Sanctum, the public part of the Great Library; access beyond is granted only by the haty-a of Tephu. The Outer Sanctum is watched by day by curators and temple guards, and at night the place is empty save for its guardians and the rare scholar with special dispensation to stay later. The Spiral Archive, part of the Great Library’s Inner Sanctum, lies beneath the Outer Sanctum, and access to it is tightly controlled
by the library’s curators. Beyond, the library courses, weaves, and slithers into the very fabric of the city, and is said to touch every part of Tephu, much like the catacombs or sewers that underlie other cities. Building works often uncover forgotten wings, strange cabinets of ancient crumbling scrolls, or caches of tomes and books.

Hammam of Jebel: This enormous hammam claims to be the largest public bath in Osirion. The pool beyond the disrobing chamber is almost 100 feet long, while the steam and cold rooms can each seat hundreds of customers at a given time. An army of masseurs await to brutalize bathers at the end of the process with scented oils and strong hands. Visiting the hammam costs 1 sp.

Houses of Order and Wisdom: This large building contains two temples—one dedicated to Maat and the other to Thoth. Though they share exterior walls, the temples are largely separate, with only a pair of doors penetrating the wall between them. The Houses of Order and Wisdom were built shortly after the founding of Tephu and served as the center for civil administration until Qadira’s satraps came to rule Osirion. As worship turned to the modern gods, the Sanctuary of Nethys overshadowed the Houses of Order and Wisdom both spiritually and physically. High Priest Khu sees to the shrine of Maat, and his wife High Priest Netukheret maintains the shrine of Thoth and the library within. The priests of Thoth keep vast records in chambers within and below the House of Wisdom, and they gaze at the Great Library with envy, feeling that they should have the exclusive right to catalog the wealth of knowledge held within. An accord settled long ago restricts the priests’ entry to the Great Library, however—no more than three of them can peruse the library at any given time. High Priest Netukheret takes every opportunity to assign her clergy to study within the Great Library, where they copy and memorize the more valuable information they encounter in order to add to their own sizable collection. While the priests of Thoth maintain their original task of cataloging knowledge, the clergy of Maat are no longer as heavily involved in the administration of Tephu as they were in ancient times, although a few priests still serve as judges or magistrates in Tephu’s government. Instead, most priests now administer to the needs of members of the community who still revere the old gods. The House of Order holds small shrines to all of the nonevil ancient gods, and keeps its doors open throughout the daylight hours, allowing worshipers to come and go freely as they leave offerings to the old gods. Other visitors to the House of Order request mediation from High Priest Khu, who is well known and appreciated by many merchants in Tephu for his skillful service.

Inn of the Desert Winds: This inn is among the most popular in Tephu among travelers and those new in town. The inn has comfortable rooms and a spacious tavern where dozens of patrons drink and dance long into the night, with performers every night of the week. The kitchen billows mouth-watering scents throughout the building, carrying the aroma of roasted waterfowl, roasted vegetables, grilled fish, baking bread, and bean or barley stew with sliced eggs. The inn’s owner, Thabat Pehta tends the bar, serving up an array of beverages for thirsty travelers. In addition to yeasty beers and palm and date wines, Thabat makes a pomegranate liqueur that is easily considered the best in town. She has considered leaving the operation of the inn to her husband in order to expand her distillery, but can’t yet pull herself away from the bustle of tending bar. One regular patron of the Inn of the Desert Winds flows in and out of the building like a gentle breeze. This unscrupulous figure, known as The Viper, involves himself in a list of criminal activities as extensive as the tavern’s menu. He mainly acts as a fixer, but he also fences stolen or illegal goods, traffics in various drugs, and can even be contacted to arrange a hit.

Medina of Tephu: The vendors in this complex maze of shops sell everything from brass lamps, herbs, and spices to linen and cotton fabric, enormous clay pots, and copperware. The shops are crammed into a handful of alleys in which light is f leeting at best, so it’s quite possible to get lost. Every 15 minutes spent in the medina, PCs must succeed at a DC 15 Survival check to avoid getting lost when looking for a specific shop. Those who become lost in the medina often end up victims of pickpockets or worse—many petty criminals stroll the medina hoping to spot the look of confusion that identifies a potential mark. Because of this risk, new visitors to the medina often hire guides, who charge just a few coppers for an hour’s service. These guides are frequently children, and many are paid by merchants to bring patrons to specific shops. The merchants in the medina haggle like it’s an art form.

Palace of Gentle Reeds: This lush estate is set aside for the pharaoh’s use, but more often than not his representatives enjoy the palace’s amenities instead. Gardens and water features surround the property, and peacocks pecks at insects in the soft grass. Though this is usually a quiet and peaceful block of Tephu, recently the Palace of Gentle Reeds has become a lively whirlwind of entertainment and commerce as performers and merchants have f locked to the growing collection of tents that have sprung up since the coming of Muminofrah of Sothis. With her ostentatious pleasure barge docked in the canal in front of the palace, the spontaneous revelry has expanded down the bank of the canal and now winds through neighboring streets.

Papyrus House: Home to the taxation and mercantile services of Tephu, the huge Papyrus House is run by the grumpy Abderrahmane Zagora with the help of a large body of clerks, assistants, inspectors, and enforcers who collect taxes and dues from the thousands of merchants and citizens within the city.

People’s Square: By day this plaza is busy, if pedestrian. But by night, after the hot sun descends, it’s transformed into a stage for fire-eaters, street-vendors, acrobats, dancers, contortionists, snake charmers, and other performers. The square throngs with life, and the scent of charcoal-cooked food, incense, mint tea, and densely packed bodies is almost overpowering. The plaza is crowded with locals wearing their finest clothing, wigs, and makeup and ready to be entertained. The entertainers are incredibly diverse: storytellers, jugglers, magicians and wizards, bards, dancing baboons, artists, and singers. Slipping among these entertainers are hawkers, petty traders, and thieves. Apothecaries, dyers, perfumers, wig-makers, and other artisans are some of the many diverse traders frequently encountered in the square after dark.

Plaza of the Bright Horizon: Built partly upon the ruins of the first palace to stand in Tephu, the Plaza of the Bright Horizon stretches almost 500 feet long and nearly as wide. Its marble surface echoes the footfall of visitors, and 16 huge pillars depicting the history of the city rise from it between the Great Library and the Sanctuary of Nethys. Magnificent riads and official buildings surround and overlook the plaza, which during religious festivals and  civic events is opened to all visitors and crammed with celebrating crowds.

Sanctuary of Nethys: The present haty-a of Tephu, Deka An-Keret, lives and works in this magnificent marble and sandstone building, one of the largest buildings in Tephu. Every inch of the Sanctuary is painted or carved with depictions of the life and miracles of the All-Seeing Eye.

Tower of Ra’s Glory: The remains of an ancient marble and sandstone tower clutter the center of this small plaza with stacks of stone blocks. A cluster of coffee houses, markets, and small businesses ring the rubble-choked plaza.

Well Digger’s Plaza: This open square was once the site of a short but bloody rebellion, but now the place is an idyllic escape from the bustle of the city. A gorgeous marble fountain is built upon the location of the first well dug outside the Old City. The well was dug without permission of the city’s haty-a over a thousand years ago, and for generations it was a gathering place for the poor and working classes. Citizens would gather and commiserate with one another about new regulations and taxes, between glowering glances at the walls of the Old City. When city officials came to block access to the well, the citizens there refused to abandon what they considered theirs. Refusal turned to aggression, which then turned to bloodshed. The fountain was built on the  location of the first well dug outside the Old City. The well was dug without permission of the city’s haty-a over a thousand years ago, and for generations it was a gathering place for the poor and working classes. Citizens would gather and commiserate with one another about new regulations and taxes, between glowering glances at the walls of the Old City. When city officials came to block access to the well, the citizens there refused to abandon what they considered theirs. Refusal turned to aggression, which then turned to bloodshed. The fountain was built on the site centuries later.

TEPHU PAPYRUS
In most markets in Tephu, standard grade papyrus costs 4 sp per sheet, but more robust papyrus and sheets with special qualities are also available in the city’s markets
and shops.

Impossible Papyrus: Touted by its creator as being so strong that it’s impossible to tear, this papyrus is popular with adventurers, builders, engineers, and others who take books, journals, and maps into difficult places. Impossible papyrus has hardness 1, and tearing it requires a successful DC 24 break check. Impossible papyrus costs 3 gp per sheet.

Set’s Papyrus: Dark papyrus is mixed with a dye made using a secret recipe that gives the papyrus a vague luminescence when pressure is applied via a stylus, rendering whatever is written on it visible even in complete darkness. The writing faintly glows red for 1 hour before fading to normal writing. Set’s papyrus costs 5 gp per sheet.

Sphinx Papyrus: Some merchants claim the process for making this unusual papyrus came from a sphinx, while others say this form of papyrus merely borrows the great river’s name. Sphinx papyrus is thin and light, but surprisingly robust. A full-sized sheet of sphinx papyrus can be folded down to the size and thickness of a copper piece, allowing the message or magic scroll to be hidden within a tiny space. Sphinx papyrus costs 10 gp per sheet.

Tephu Spellbooks: Tephu spellbooks are among some of the finest in the Inner Sea, and are in great demand across Golarion. No two are the exactly the same, and they are often created with a particular type of user in mind. Many of these are lengthy and ornate scrolls, as opposed to bound books. Tephu spellbooks cost 50% more than normal spellbooks, but it’s said that such books can take any amount of abuse and damage. Tephu spellbooks have hardness 2 and 20 hit points.

The Blade

The door opens with a subdued hiss, sliding apart at the middle to allow Sulfur entry into the training room. He smells the air. It was almost sterile, all steel, leather, and plastic. He wasn’t sure if it meant it was not used often or if the Chairman was very dedicated to keeping it clean. He shook his head. That did not really matter. He was here for quiet and solitude to meditate, not idle contemplation.

He sat on a bench and unsheathed the weapon. Inari’s Burden. The sword of a Paragon. He stared at it with wonder and disbelief. Had he fought the Paragon alone, he would undoubtedly have perished swiftly at his hands. With the help of his new allies, however, he had survived and escaped the dying prison.

He gripped it tighter, a spark of electricity arcing over its steel. Was it steel? Now that he thought on it, he was not sure. He was no smith, but it -was- an ancient weapon and he did not know what sort of materials they had to work with back then. Either way, it was his now, and with it came prestige.

He started to envision the next steps. He would need allies to rebuild his clan. Carter’s group of freedom-fighters might not be too keen about aiding in the restoration of a clan of assassins. After all, many of these same clans had been hired to hunt down and potentially eliminate the very people he was hoping to get help from. This wasn’t even beginning to cover how the clans would react if they found out Sulfur was requesting external aid for what was supposed to be an internal affair.

His gaze hardened. ‘To hell with what they think. As of right now, I am not part of a clan right now, just an escaped convict with specialized skills.’

He blinked. This didn’t add up. ‘Surely they didn’t send a Paragon just for me? There must be more to it. The abominations from Valtiel, maybe? Those would be worth retrieving to the right people. Or maybe they had a different target.’ He set the sword aside and rubbed his forehead. ‘It makes no sense.’

He was struck by another realization. ‘The Apostles of Bentu are responsible for the nigh complete obliteration of an entire clan. Why are they still active? The Arbiters should have stepped in.’

Sulfur grimaced. He paced from wall to wall, irritated with his inability to comprehend what had occurred behind the scenes. All this time in the prison he had felt certain an outside force had destroyed the clan.

He caught himself, taking a deep breath. ‘This is around the time Master Seifon would tell me to stop, sit, and meditate.’ He did just that, crossing his legs as he sat on the floor of the training room.

‘There are so many questions and I have such few answers.’

Analysis of Self

<This journal entry does not have the usual format, and it isn’t encrypted. It is a sheet torn off from the rest of the journal that has been slipped inside the book’s thick leather cover, which had been sliced open and then carefully sown back shut. It is very well hidden.>

 

This is not a confession.

 

I have killed so many I have lost count. I commit terrible vengeance on those who cross me, eliminate everyone who impedes my progress, ensorcel and tempt those who hunger for the rewards only I can give, and sacrifice the lives of those whose worth to me would be null save for what results their flesh and minds could yield. I’ve devoured the meat of sentient creatures on land and the high seas, ripped them open to discover their secrets, and experimented on their still-living bodies to discover secrets of my own, yet this does not make me ‘evil’. To call me a monster would be to call a predator a murderer. It is illogical to expect a creature whose survival and supremacy depends on its ability to prey upon others.

 

Not once have I felt pity or disgust for my own actions. These are the actions of an unfettered man. Redemption is not something I consider necessary, as I simply do not see that I have done anything I wouldn’t or shouldn’t do. I behave as per what I have chosen to believe based on my life’s experiences, much like any other sentient creature would whether self-conscious or not.

 

Despite all this, I feel fear still. Not believing in good or evil does not dispel the reality that the cosmos is judged by the Boneyard Bitch through such terms, and the things I have done will mean that only Abaddon awaits me on the other side. That is one of the many reasons I, in beliefs that are undoubtedly appearing warped to outside observers, have for seeking immortality.

 

I am a pirate. It wasn’t a life I chose to be thrust upon but it is one I have taken advantage of to achieve my true wishes. It suits me oddly well, though. I’m not especially fond of long voyages over large stretches of sea, cramped inside a ship with pungent scallywags for company. If possible, I would want to spend my time on solid ground where I do not constantly have to tether my equipment for fear of a sudden wave sending it all crashing to the ground, spoiling weeks of work and effort. I would have my own secluded laboratory where none could disturb me, funded by the fruits of my own genius instead of depending on the success of merchants to feed upon as the a black flag parasite. At the same time, I cannot deny the boons this time of my life has given me. The sea has many mysteries, the sweet trade many thrills, and I’ve enjoyed such delightful pleasures as I would not otherwise have felt. It is hard to admit, but long after the eons have worn this archipelago to nothing but monoliths adrift a forgotten sea, the Shackles will still have a place in my heart.

 

At the time of writing this entry, I have succeeded in claiming my own island and I and my officers have become lords in the Pirate Council of the Shackles. Tonight, I had an encounter with Maxime Constant, whom in his unequaled boldness had the gall to violently confront me of my sins: twenty-six men and women, faceless among the blind, whom I raptured and used as expendable test subjects. I had offended him with what he perceived as my cruelty. Anyone who reads this journal will be familiar with his lethality, yet he did not aim to kill me. Our brawl was intense, prolonged, and full of loaded dialogue on both ends. As time wore on, however, I realized I could not win, not because Max was a ferocious contender or because he had won the debate, but because I simply could not bring myself to do it. I realized I had come to depend on the Galtman as my only true friend, and I could not end him for his outrage. We reached an accord, and our lives continue together as of this entry.

 

The reason I write all of this is because while I have always been painfully aware of my own mortality, I refused to believe I would die. Tonight, however, for the first time, I genuinely thought I would perish both in mind and in body and for a moment I felt the cold, steely fingers of regret come to me – regret that I had offended, alienated, and turned my only friend against me. It has led me to record who I am on this secret page. If I should survive to achieve my goal of immortality, this journal, along with all of its contents, will be hidden away to become objects of legend that will inspire a new wave of dreams to be chased by the ambitious, the crazed, the bloodthirsty, and the hopeful. If I should die, however, then this journal shall come under the possession of someone who will have the chance to carry my legacy. I do not know who it will be, but if you are reading this page, then know this: immortality can be yours. All the secrets needed to discover it are hidden in the contents of this book. Use it, and prove to that cold-hearted cunt that judges the dead and condemns the living with her lies that she has no true power over us.

 

But be warned. I am a worshiper of the Pale Mistress. To deny the temptation of this book may yield no consequence, but destroy, damage, or otherwise tamper with its contents and I will find you in spirit or in the flesh and whatever fate awaits you in the afterlife will not compare to the kind of agony I will expose you to.

 

Sincerely,

 

- Captain Sakhbet Al’Saahib

Analysis of Clockwork Maze

Notes:

 

<No new notes have been added.>

 

Log:

 

We were visited by a curious mechanical bird who identified herself as Merle, familiar to a powerful wizard known as Elzak March. March was responsible for swaying Andoran’s favor against the Chelaxians during their war, using his massive golems to shatter the Chelish defenses and prevent Andoran’s violent annexation by the Empire of Devils. He is now a successful businessman owning March Industries, one of if not the largest manufacturer and distributor of magical goods in the Inner Sea and abroad.

 

Attracting the attention of so powerful a wizard is as much a blessing as it is a curse. When individuals of such impressive caliber happen by, it is a humbling and even somewhat despairing event. I tried not to let my nervousness show, but that proves difficult when a platoon of clockwork mages and the aforementioned clockwork behemoth turn up at your doorstep. A lot of security for the sake of only delivering a message.

 

March was scouting for distinguished individuals to test his newest creations against, not that his snobbish sense of infuriatingly justified superiority hinted at him believing us to be. His company had surplus goods and he was offering them as an incentive.

 

I had my suspicions, of course, but the display of power coupled with what I knew of the man said that he could at least be trusted not to kill us, and it was a risk with a high reward. Even as I write this, I can feel a thousand new doors opened before me, thanks to my new headband.

 

March’s maze was challenging, with riddles, puzzles, traps, and various other obstacles too numerous for me to bother jotting down on these pages. We are well-equipped for whatever the Shackles has to throw at us from here in out. I have the inkling that March’s intentions were not solely to test drive his inventions, though, and it is likely he will contact us in the future. We have a mutual enemy in Cheliax, after all, and it is apparent he is building greater and stronger weapons of mass destruction. How long before the leaders of the world take note of his developments remains to be seen, but whatever he is planning is likely to alter the course of history for an age. I can say that the man is an ambitious genius, socially lacking as he may be.

 

The pirate lords will be meeting soon. Let’s see how well I exercise my new power.

Analysis of Feast Sabotage

Notes:

 

- Inspect Eel’s equipment and journal.

 

-New Project: Poison delivery system inefficient, expensive. New effective method of poison delivery required.

 

- New Project: Mutagen enhancement becoming obsolete. Improvement required over original formula.

 

- Arrange list of topics for discussion at Council meeting.

 

- Name the goddamn town.

 

Log:

 

The pirate lords arrived at the appropriate time. I felt nervous. This was possibly the most important party of my life, but Max had pulled all the stops, hiring a nigh-legendary bard to perform (much to my joy, Cerise Bloodmourn is a fan). Entertainment, food, drink, fine company and lively tales. We met every test and challenge the pirate lords tossed at us: our guns demolished Sorrinash’s dummy target off the bay when he asked to see how well our cannons performed, Cerise was readily disarmed by Charlik’s masterful swordsmanship (aided, of course, with a touch of my potions), and Captain Darrimar was pleased to hear of our dealings with undersea cultures was civilized.

 

Then the troubles started. First, it was rats, an unnatural number of them, rising up from the cellar. A cursory inspection revealed an alchemical lure in the cellar. Someone had intentionally summoned them there with it to turn the stomachs of my guests. Professional, intelligent, but petty work. I was not astonished until after the meal was served. Everything was checked for toxins yet nothing was detected, but in a matter of a few minutes, we saw the signs of food poisoning. It was a cunning and very complicated maneuver: place a harmless substance in one part and a catalyst with another substance in the other, and when the two mix, the poison is created. The catalyst and first variable were placed in the food, the other in the drink. Thankfully, Cerise was the only one truly affected. Sorrinash accused me of tainting my food. Normally, such an insult would be met with grave consequences, but I didn’t have that luxury in this scenario.

 

As though he wasn’t done being a boor, Sorrinash began acting as even more of an ass than even his peers deemed him to be. Max attempted to distract him with clownish antics, but it was to no avail. It wasn’t until I offered him the services of Calistria’s worshipers that he abated, though much water and healing potions were required to offset his relentless lusts. As it were, a servant had served Sorrinash an aphrodisiac. He described the one who told him to do it, a beautiful, naked woman with long black hair. It was unmistakable that Sefina was responsible for this.

 

We traveled to her grotto to confront her. By now, I was livid and out of patience, and killing Sefina seemed a viable option, especially when she signaled someone once we arrived. Max got to work, and likely would have killed her were we not racing against time to stop whatever plot was at hand. I would not have stopped him. In fact, I would have demanded to get my fill of revenge first. In hindsight, that would have been an unwise choice, though not one I would have regretted.

 

In any case, Sefina revealed what was going to happen. The saboteur was going to destroy the ships of the pirate lords. We flew to the site only to witness Sorrinash’s Blood Moon go up in flames. We opted to have it repaired once this was over. We disabled the time bombs in the other two ships.

 

The operation was interrupted, but the culprit was still at large. Charlik’s knowledge of the island, coupled with his tracking skills, found the imp for us, a devious halfling called the Eel. He was summarily defeated, and with his dying breath he whispered these words:

 

Disciple of the cross and champion in the suffering
Immerse yourself into the kingdom of redemption
Harden your mind through the chains of the divine
Make way for the Shepherd of Fire

 

This is Grandidius’ calling card.

 

I expected something like this to happen. My instincts were telling me it would. Of course someone wanted to trash my party, ruin my reputation, and ultimately cause the pirate lords to deny my position in the council. The joke’s on them, however, because even with a saboteur, the feast went so well it was downright legendary. In fact, I’m glad the little shit came here. Not only did I show the pirate lords I can throw a feast, I showed them I can effectively deal with any adversity that gets in my way, and on a more subtle note, that I am not to be fucked with.

 

Furthermore, the Eel is an alchemist, and his research journal will no doubt help me jump ahead in my research, not to mention his body may hold secrets (It annoys me to no end that Sorrinash crushed his head under his boot. Someday down the line, I may need to have him assassinated and replaced). Still, the real reason for him sending the Eel was more likely to herald his return. Cocky bastard. In sending him to me, Grandidius may have sowed the seeds of his own undoing.

 

We’ve to figure out how to deal with Sefina. I intend to claim a favor from her in return for sparing her life and returning her shawl, which the Eel had stolen to ensure her cooperation. I don’t know what I would ask of her. I’ve considered requesting she pay for her life by giving me one. Fucking a nereid would be a unique experience and I’ve yet to test whether I am capable of having children post-operation (not to mention the boon of having a half-fey servant), but on further thought I realized that would not go well with Gareth and her capabilities extend beyond that. She could be invaluable as an envoy to Mase or another subaquatic race. I might simply be a bit libidinous at the moment.

 

Addendum:

 

Gareth may have named the island, but there’s no name for the town yet. I’m throwing about ideas in my head. Nothing too tacky or on the nose, but nothing overly . [i]The Endless Hunger[/i] was suitable  for the ship, but a name for a town needs to be more familiar and open. Something harbor or port? Something alluding to the island’s history. Maybe I’ll just call the town “Sumitha Harbor”.

Mummification

Every variable needed to be exact. The magical properties needed to be perfect, the mixture needed to be perfect, the timing had to be perfect. Everything needed to be perfect. This was most likely to be the most difficult procedure Sakhbet had ever performed, and the anxiety was as likely to kill him as a mistake. He wiped the sweat from his forehead as he finished preparing the concoction.

 

He called it ‘embalming blood’. It was a vile fluid, having the consistency of blood, a sickly amber-yellow hue, and strange, barely-visible globules of white and red freely floating within it. Anyone who would see it would dismiss it as some wretched waste that should be tossed and forgotten, but to Sakhbet, it was his magnum opus. He the mummification process, had helped to do it many times in the Grand Temple of Pharasma, even learned to perform it alone without any assistance, but to do it on a living creature and expect it to survive? It would be suicide to try it on himself, or at least, it would be if he had not gone through the necessary trials to prove to himself it could be done.

 

During the Endless Hunger’s short stay at Drenchport soon after fully gaining control of the Isle of Empty Eyes, he had hired thugs to acquire suitable test subjects for the experiment. Twenty-six people had been dragged, beaten but alive, to the ship in the cover of night. Sakhbet had left instructions for their undisturbed passage aboard, and twenty-five badly mutilated, discolored, dissected bodies had been disposed of using the same thugs when he was through with them.  The twenty-sixth was the one that survived. She was in agony, to be certain, begging for death with her pleading eyes as her gagged mouth could not, but the artificial blood kept her alive and no matter how much pain she experienced, she would not fall unconscious. It was clear to him that the issue was not fundamentally in the mixture, but in the body’s rejection. Sakhbet exposed her to every form of harm he could muster, using blunt instruments, flesh-eating acids, fire, electric shocks, bleeding, all the while keeping her from death to ensure she was ready for the next round. It was when he exposed her to dry ice that he noticed no reaction other than the usual attempts to escape and struggle in vain. No reaction. No jolt of sudden motion. He exposed her to more extreme cold for a prolonged period of time. No change. He felt delighted. Of course she’s immune. The artificial blood doesn’t freeze. Unfortunately, it was at this time that she finally expired. Her body had fully shut down. The blood had run its course. ‘How disappointing. I wish she would have lasted more than ten minutes.’

 

He had everything he had learned from the trials recorded in his journal. A few hours of calculating, theory, and more experimentation, he had made the connection and realized what he needed to do. For a full month he had slowly been injecting himself with the blood, included a few special chemicals in his diet, and drank a mildly poisonous tea that, with his unique physiology, would help ease his body into accepting the embalming blood as if it were its own. When the time came for the procedure, his body would not cripple and kill him, but accept the boons wholly. Success without sacrifice. It was a supreme victory for the captain.

 

His preparations were complete now. The chair waited for him. The embalming blood was suspended, tubes ending in long needles dangling like butcher’s hooks from where they were suspended. He couldn’t use any anesthetics, but he couldn’t be awake for the entire procedure, else he might scream from the pain, so he had arranged to use a magical elixir that would not disrupt his body chemistry to induce a 24-hour coma, long enough for the transfusion to be complete.  Now all he needed was-

 

‘Fuck.’

 

Twenty-four hours of inactivity. That meant only one thing: Max would grow bored. Very bored. Bored enough to look for him while he was unconscious.

 

Sakhbet sighed. ‘Alright, then. Let’s see if I can keep him entertained long enough to leave me alone.’ He produced a stack of paper and got to work.

Analysis of Festivity Preparations and the Sacking of the Jester’s Grin

Notes:

 

Requirements for party are as followed:

 

- flexible wenches (Calistrians preferred)

 

- suitable drink and food (Jester’s Grin noted target)

 

- entertainers (Max included)

 

- trophies and decoration (bring great cyclops’ head from ruins, strip it, display skull in prominent location)

 

- reconstruction of docks and fort

 

- research of party guests (Ask Tessa?)

 

- standard contingency plans

 

- backup contingency plans

 

- backup contingency plans for those plans

 

- final emergency contingency plans

 

Log:

 

The isle is now ours. After eradicating the bothersome pests from the fort and returning the dreamstone to Bikendi, we immediately began preparations. We have a month and a half before the pirate lords come to visit.

 

First on the agenda was the restoration of the fortress. Supply lines will need to be established. I’ve sent a missive to the Thresher to serve as a means to ferry these supplies. In the meantime, the Endless Hunger will go about doing other, more important work. I need to speak with Tessa and find out more about our guests.

 

Our freshly-obtained prize is defenseless, however. We need defenses. The bay is already a natural bottleneck, but that is not enough. I plan to have a line of archers with tar-drenched arrows. There will be three cannons lined to fire on the bay. For the feast, I will be placing the cannons from the Hunger to provide a more impressive array. The centerpiece, however, will be a massive bombard I will have placed at the top of the tower. It will require destroying the quartz at its peak, but it is a worthwhile sacrifice.

 

Curiously enough, Pierce Jerrel has sent us some alluring information. There is a schooner preparing to set sail for Cheliax to smuggle some rare, high-quality rum. What surprises me most is that this vessel operates under the orders of Arronax Endymion. It seems so strange that Endymion, Cheliax’s rebel son, would risk even a single line of contact with his home country. Could he be seeking to subvert their economy? Are there other, more traitorous reasons? My suspicions are growing, but these are only assumptions. I must first test and reach an undeniable conclusion.

 

On our way to intercept the Jester’s Grin, we will pay Tessa a visit. She will undeniably have information on the party guests that will be attending.

 

===========================

 

Log:

 

Tessa has yielded the information as expected. She is as eager as ever to help us, though this last meeting was much more palpably business-like. She must think the same as I do: ‘I’ve sampled you, and thus I’ve no reason to crave more.’ Shame.

 

The guests are as followed:

 

Lady Cerise Bloodmourn: Captain of the Come What May. Former Taldan nobility. Notably enjoys challenging foes to duels to test their mettle. (Charlik should prove more than a match for her.)

 

Avimar Sorrinash: Lord of Ollo, captain of the Blood Moon. A natural lycanthrope. Noted for being the most mercilessly brutal captain in the Shackles. (Likely respects power above all else, and if his appetites are like any other pirate’s, he’ll be hard pressed to be disappointed with an Urgathoan feast.)

 

Mase Darrimar: Captain of the Wave Crest. Half human, half aquatic elf. Not much information is known, save that he is a handsome man prone to interacting with the undersea dwellers. (Sharma should prove a suitable peer for him.)

 

With this, we can truly begin specializing the feast. As of right now, the Thresher should have arrived to Besmara’s Eye with food and materials as well as specialists that will expedite the process.

 

===========================

 

Log:

 

Our raid on the Jester’s Grin went fairly well, save that the captain was far more cunning than I gave him credit for. The rat bastard pretended to surrender, using an illusion to hide himself. He then cast some sort of charm on me that prevented me from informing my crew of the ruse. Nevertheless, my strange change in demeanor led my crew to realize the deception and once his invisibility had run out, he became easy prey. I wanted him alive, but Max opted to show him a bit of mercy. Some part of him must still hold on to a sense of right and wrong. I won’t hold it against him, however.

 

As we were loading the rum into the cargo hold, I found a letter in the captain’s quarters. It was from Endymion, written to an official in Egorian thanking him for a potential pardon from the House of Thrune. I do not know why I would feel as much anger as I did then. If Endymion was turning, it would be the perfect chance to eliminate him and claim credit for rooting out a Chelish sympathizer for the council. I felt something was off, however. If I was mistaken, I would be losing a valuable ally. Endymion hated the Thrunes. The evidence in my hand spoke against what I knew of the man.

 

Max was the one to solve the issue for us. He simply did not believe that this was him. It was too different from what he would sound like. After rereading it, I had to agree: this was not even Endymion’s handwriting. The entire affair has Max shaking with excitement at the prospect of ‘being a detective again’. Whatever floats his boat. I do admit it is intriguing and worrisome that someone planted a false letter in a ship we were tipped off about and were expected to sack. To be sure, I had a drink of the rum. Delicious, certainly unique, but not poisoned or otherwise toxic. Curious.

 

It is almost time for the feast, but most importantly, it is almost time for my latest procedure to come to fruition. It is dangerously close to the party, but I simply cannot wait. It must happen then.

Eternal

I am dreaming.

 

I rarely dream. I always figured that since I had forsaken Pharasma, Desna had forsaken me in turn. The last few days have been filled with nightmares and phantasms, ghosts of the past brought by magic, malice, and fiendish specters.

 

As the smoke swirls around and into me, my sight fades. I begin to grow lucid. My head swims. My mind’s grip on reality loosens yet tightens. Surreal and real become distinguishable from each other yet no less important, just two faces of the same coin. Most people focus on one side or the other, some teeter on the rim, but me? Right now, I can see every facet, every side, all at the same time. No part is hidden or obscured by the other.

 

It is beautiful.

 

I turn and slowly walk up the stairs, my blindness betrayed by my magical extract, granting me direction through sound. The stone feels cold against my feet though boots block their contact with my skin. The air is stale, hundred, maybe thousands of years of inactivity. I take a deep whiff and smell its ancient, musty aroma, heavy with corpse dust, crumbled texts, muted incense, and lost prominence.

 

It was breathtaking.

 

I am in the Iris now. Suddenly my world explodes. I could hear the sacred chants and see the vast cosmos expand around me. The entire universe, and yet only a small, insignificant fraction of reality. It made me feel small. I know most would have felt insignificant and despondent at seeing their lives through this otherworldly lens, but I did not. Here was everything and yet it was just a taste. To think there was this much…

 

It was wondrous.

 

I feel a pain shoot through me, my life force drained out. The dreamstone is responding to my presence. I hear the rumbling groans of aching, calciferous joints creak as the guardians waken, beckoned by some time-lost instruction of old. I feel my essence ebb and quiver. I hear the screams of anguish and agony emanating from the stone.

 

It is exhilarating.

 

I walk forward, the stars flashing and dancing around me, my thoughts flowing one after another, the roof of my mouth dry from the experience. I reach forward to the stone, the sounds of combat, eldritch magic being cast, thundering bullets being shot, and deadly arrows whizzing through the air to meet their mark. I pay it no mind. They know what to do. They have faced worse and triumphed.

 

I reach forward and grab the stone. It responds, once more siphoning bits and pieces of my life force into itself. It thinks to consume me. It does not know who I am. I grip it tightly as if to squeeze the unliving essence from its jagged surface. ‘You are mine now, and you will serve your purpose.’ With that, I place it within the bag of holding, its extra-dimensional pocket certain to cut me from the malicious effects of the stone. Tension washes off my back, and the ether gleefully swirls and sings.

 

It is relieving.

 

My task complete, I feel violence grip my heart. The battle rages behind me. My wings twitch before they buzz into hysteric flight. I buzz through the door, the chamber behind me left for the sound-sight of an undead cyclopean behemoth clawing at my navigator. One corrosive missile is all I manage before the gunner brings him down.

 

It is euphoric.

 

It is done. As the action dies down and I force my senses to collect back into the single face of reality, I realize that this will be the only time I will ever experience what I have. I prefer it that way. Why should I do the same thing twice? It is madness. The world is so exquisite, so full of wonder that I would have to be mad to commit to one action over and over again, denying myself that rich, endless reality.

 

I have never been so certain as I have now. No doubt remains. No questions. No hesitation. The philosophers, the priests, the nay-sayers are more damned than my own Abaddon-bound soul could ever be. They cannot see. They will never see. Death, the final frontier? Foolishness. Idiocy. Those who deny eternal life deny life and the cosmos fully. The only benevolence granted by their sight is that they deserve their resigned fates. It will not be so with me. I can see. I have seen. I will see more.

 

Immortality will be mine.

Analysis of Fort Sublevels

Notes:

 

- Varied situational ineffectiveness of acidic bombs noted. No longer most efficient method of circumventing resistances to combustion. Require more versatile concoction. Shame. Will miss satisfying results.

 

- Mind is greatest weakness. Must research methods to prevent mental and emotional capabilities to be magically compromised.

 

Log:

 

We returned to the fortress, determined to finish exploring it. We went to the tower, where we were ambushed by the remaining phase spider and its matron. They proved little challenge and it was not long before they were blasted apart and riddled with bullet holes.

 

Captain Bikendi Otombu is a ghost. At the very least he is not malicious. In fact he was quite eager to seek our help. I’ve little reason to trust the man, but I prefer his cooperation and promises of valuable treasure than the threats from the animate dream. He also has a stockpile of memory crystals that interest me greatly, partly due to scientific curiosity and partly because there may be something worth gleaning in there regarding the dreamstone.

 

Our good fortune ran dry there. I still feel the sting of humiliation. The sheer terror I felt at the hands of the animate dream is infuriating enough, yet I was deprived of the chance to get even return the favor. Bikendi killed them before we had a chance to do anything once we returned.

 

There is more. Not a day later, I have us scout the caverns up in the hills west of the fortress. Charlik, a new member of the crew we recruited who had been stranded on the island, had informed us of large one-eyed harpies living there. I do not wish to have my men be preyed upon by them, so extermination is the best recourse. Certainly enough, we engage in combat and I have lobbed not one bomb before their damnable singing leaves me enthralled. The harpies do intrigue me in some way, however: they had a fiendish appearance. It would seem the ancient Ghol-Gan cyclopes also dealt with evil outsiders of some kind.

 

<The rest of the entry has been ripped out. Half the page is missing. No more is written about this date.>

Analysis of Zalan Voidwalker, Gabuyo, Chelish Fortress, and Consequences

Notes:

 

- Explosive potency of bombs sub-standard. Greater corrosion capabilities and concussive force required. Reworking formula will require days of dedicated labor and resources.

 

- Growth of internal organs progressing as expected. Will be ready for transplant surgery within the month.

 

- Subaquatic demolition charges obsolete. Replace with refurbished original immolation bomb formula.

 

- Risks accumulating. Acquisition of more outstanding crew members recommended. Crew capable, but individual strength lacking. Spellcasting capabilities limited.

 

Log:

 

We departed the island to go to the nearest port to resupply. My alchemy lab is beginning to grow lean, and I would not want to be improperly equipped for the challenges ahead. Certainly, I have been neglecting my area of expertise more than ever before. I am a scientist, and my lack of progress in my research has so far been inexcusable. I’ve locked myself away after purchasing the required supplies and went on a research binge. I’ve succeeded in increasing the potency of my bombs and supplanting the subaquatic demolition charges for the original immolation bombs, which I had failed to realize were far superior when used with the appropriate admixture and tactic (not to mention were far more versatile).

 

During my time at this port, I met a man who goes by the name of Zalan Voidwalker. He is somewhat unsightly, painted with pale makeup, sharp-looking teeth, and foreign attire I am not familiar with. A conversation was struck. He has revealed he is a sorcerer whose power comes from the malevolent oni of Tian Xia, owing credence to his unusual appearance and clothing. As to why he was in the Shackles, I have no clue yet, but he had heard of the Hunger and its skyrocketing reputation. He wishes to join, perhaps to feel what it is to be a pirate. I am not fully certain I can trust him, but he seems sincere enough. I will allow him a place on my ship. If he proves traitorous, I’ve the full confidence that the crew will make ribbons of him in response.

 

================================

 

Notes:

 

- Discover new drug for trade. Once island has been ‘colonized’, will proceed to inject this drug into market. Scout suitable land for farming.

 

Log:

 

We returned to the island and cleared out the grotto as Sefina had requested prior to our departure. Tetrolimuli have astounding poisons, but none of us were capable of harvesting it without risking exposure or, worse, wasting it. We made due with leaving the creature’s carcass intact.

 

We traveled inward toward the small forest at the base of the large mountain northeast of the bay. We found Sefina there, and almost immediately were struck with an amazing sensation. Lights became brighter, colors wilder. I soon realized what had occurred when the being came into view: Sefina’s friend, whom she had told us of previously, was a kapre named Gabuyo. He smoked a large cigar and seemed as relaxed as could possible be. Gabuyo thanked us for helping Sefina and shared his cigar with us. I was the only one to remain standing of all of us, as I had grown accustomed to fumes and drugs through practice of my craft. The rest, however, promptly dropped prone from the effect. Sefina herself took a deep hit of it, but seemed unaffected save for a slight buzz. I admit, my first thought was on how this could be sold. Gabuyo calmly refused the idea of granting me access to his secret tobacco recipe. That suited me just fine, really. I somewhat doubted I could replicate the growth needed anyway.

 

Still, a drug enterprise is something that would come easily to me. I made a list several months ago of potential candidates, yet none suited my purpose. Maybe this island holds what I seek to create my own unique drug.

 

================================

 

<The entry is written in Osirian.>

 

Notes:

 

- New ship law: in the event non-lethal punishment, crew members may take the place of the punished. The sentence for the punished is lessened. Crew is forbidden from paying for substitution, as it defeats the purpose. Any crew members caught making such arrangements will be punished twice as severely.

 

- Find ways to combat sleep. Lesser restoration highly recommended.

 

- Organ transplant successful. Organ filtering systems tested successfully.

 

- Rewrite journal in coded Osirian.

 

Log:

 

We entered the abandoned Chelish fort early this morning, a stillness and lack of activity being all that greeted us. We know this is all a front, as very night, this fort is a hive of shadows moving about in a frenzy. We had not hardly gotten to the kennels that this proved correct. A conglomerate of mummified giant hands attempted to ambush us. Though their obscene pus-filled flesh shot its vile fluid when struck with weapons, not a drop landed on any of us and though they grasped at us, not a finger was laid on our persons. They fell rather easily. I have theories of their origins, but those will have to wait for when I have time to properly study them.

 

The church held a wonderful gift as well as an infuriating surprise. The boon was a large symbol of Aroden, old but still intact. This colony pre-dated the death of the god of humanity and the Age of Lost Omens. That was hardly surprising, but such a fascinating piece of history is tempting to keep, though its substantial worth in a collector’s market may prove far more practically valued. As to the unwanted surprise? Phase spiders had made the church their home. What bothers me wasn’t their annoying ability to switch between the material and ethereal planes or their painful bites. It was their poison. My body had grown so resistant to toxins of all kinds I’d grown certain nothing could penetrate my immunity, yet their unimpressive poison was able to do so. It was humiliating. I decided I would do something about it when I got back to the ship.

 

We proceeded further into the remains of a brothel or barracks. There was little of interest there, save some rooms that clearly could serve us in the future. Maxime pestered me to keep the largest for himself, stating that he and Sharma would need the space. I denied him, no matter how much he whined. I finally told him we would possibly install another one, but for now, it was too early to make plans for remodeling. He had started to grate my patience thin. Perhaps that is what made the events later today all the more inevitable.

 

We went to a new building. I’ve little idea what this one was once, but when we entered, I saw something I dared not believe true. Pharasma herself, standing there, judging me, ready to sentence me to Abaddon. Much to my relief, though hardly, was that this was not Pharasma but a creature known as an animate dream. The dream did not attack us, though I know its kind to be malicious. It wanted to bargain with us. It spoke of something called the dreamstone, an object of vast oracular power used by ancient cyclopes. It mentioned a man it had tortured for many nights who had barricaded himself on the second floor of the building who knows of its location. We agreed to retrieve him to find where it was, though I have no intention of giving the dream this artifact.

 

The man is Ederleigh Baines. He is a survivor from a previous crew. They are all dead, including the captain, and he claims that their ghosts now haunt the fort. When inquired about the dreamstone, he grew hostile. A single charm monster spell from Zalan was enough to keep him amicable. We had him brought back to the ship. On the way there, the animate dream contacted me, demanding his prize. I asked why he wanted it. He mentioned that his master was interested in it. When I asked what I would gain from this, he responded that he would promise not to torment the dreams of me and my crew. Threatening me is the poorest way to bargain, and I promise when next I meet this fool he will be unmade. It is only fortunate that he was mouthy enough to provide some valuable information, though now I need to wrest with the thought of crew members being plagued by nightmares. I’ll simply have our cleric prepare lesser restorations every morning.

 

<What follows is a detailed description of the operation. In addition to their hardiness, the new organs can filter any harmful poison and break them down into harmless proteins. The details of the procedure are in the story “Preserve”.>

 

After the operation, I felt the need to show the fruits of my labor. Max continued to goof and fixate on my wings. Sharma acted like a worried mother hen, thinking that I had put myself in undue danger. As for Gareth? Gareth I could hardly gauge as interested. It had nothing to do with guns, alcohol, or women. I’ve not talked with Alianora or Zalan of my discovery, but given that the former is almost mindlessly devoted and the latter is a fresh face, their opinions would hold little weight in the matter.

 

I am a scientist. What I do, I do not do for the praise of my peers and underlings, the wealth that invention could bring, or any such superficial reasons. I do it for two things: passion and power. “Live to Hunger, Hunger to Live” are the words written on my back in ancient Osirian script. I do not want to learn everything, for learning everything would be the death of learning. I want to live so I can continue to learn. It is my calling. Beside that, I wish to reap the boundless power such revelations bring, things no mortal man would know, things no mortal man was [u]fated[/u] to know.

 

And yet, for all my grand fantansy, I face a sober reality: I am only human. That I crave recognition, prestige, acknowledgement from those that I interact with every day is as natural as breathing, yet I am deprived that by their sniveling remarks, single-minded fixations, and apathetic demeanor.

 

My foul mood would only be twisted further by what would transpire next.

 

Max claimed that he knew of my procedure, having read about it in ‘my blog’, a slang I realized stood for journal. He listed all three organs I had replaced, one by one, my anger growing more rabid and uncontrolled with each item. How did he know all of this information? I had not let this journal out of my sights. I had not revealed the details of my procedure. How the [u]f*~&[/u] did he know?!

 

Gareth provided an answer, which I grasped at like a drowning man. A collection of common sense, logical deduction, and Max’s outrageous random lucky guessing were enough to dissuade me. I had decided not to punish the Galtman for stringing me along. Part of me wished to refute it, to pour all my frustration on the Galt for pushing me so. Nevertheless, I suffused the lust for violence. I had grown used to Max’ audacity. It was, despite it all, what made him unique. I opted to walk away and sate my lusts in food, company, and drink.

 

I was swiftly reminded of whom I was dealing with.

 

He opened his stupid shit-spitting mouth and told me that he knew I wrote my journal in Nekril. I am not sure why I was surprised by this. It was classic Maxime Constant behavior. He never knows when to shut the fuck up and let matters rest.

 

My wrath became a tranquil sea. I looked to him, telling him that that was something he had not explained. He said I was right and it would not be revealed. Then he walked away from me.

 

I could endure his antics, his infuriating tendency to make willingly ignorant statements. Now, however, he had sullied the sanctity of my private thoughts, dismissed the impact and importance of my life’s work, and disrespected me by deeming me unworthy of receiving answers I deserved all within the span of ten minutes. No one walks away from me on my ship and leaves unscathed. No one mocks me or my work and taunts me with knowledge they should not possess without sacrifice for their blasphemy. I made the decision at long last. Maxime Constant had crossed the line, and I would watch him bleed for it.

 

I demanded that Sharma rip him down from the mast he was climbing with his boots of spiderwalk. Sharma turned to me and, in Nekril, said that he was responsible, that if he had not been so careless when studying Max would not have learned the language. I told him I could not punish him, as Max would simply opt to try to kill me and I’d little interest in seeing him dead. We came upon an agreement: Sharma would take the place of Max, by his own choice. I accepted to the terms, thinking this would show Max that his actions would lead the suffering of those he cared about. Sharma pleaded for Max to come down, and so he did like a dog answering to the fingersnaps of his master.

 

We explained the punishment. He acted predictably, demanding that I veto the suggestion or he would shoot me. Sharma told him this was his decision. Max did not lose focus. He said one of three things would happen: Either I vetoed the punishment, dropped him off at the nearest port, or he would put a bullet in as many of the crew as he could, knowing that the fight between us would cause immense collateral damage. I rejected his ultimatum. I am captain. None will force options upon me. This misery was his own doing, bred from his childish inability to accept consequences for his actions.

 

Bordering on tears, Sharma begged Max to relent, saying that their rings of matrimony would shatter if he continued like this. Cursing in his native tongue, Max put his guns away and allowed the punishment to proceed. Nineteen lashing did Mr. Sharma suffer for the sins of the Galtman. He was hardly able to stand by the end of it. He has been afforded food and medical attention. With any luck, this means Max will be more easy to control.

 

Who the fuck am I kidding? The dog might be on a leash, but he remains a dog. One cannot remedy the nature of the beast.

 

PS: FUCK, now I have to rewrite everything in this book and burn it afterward. Damn you to the pits of the Abyss, Max.