The Fifth Path (30/30)

November 30, 2016

The First Draft of the Autobiography of Uras Hailt, Soon to be Father

Running Title: Many Paths: Choices make Fate

Composed Nisanu 4th In the 3rd Year of First President Anatu

Chapter 87: Reflections

As I reached a turning point in my life, the upcoming birth of my first child, it just so happened that an important date came by just then. The fifth anniversary of the day I left my homeland and went out on a journey of Awakening. Every time I think about my quest, what it started out as, and what it ended up becoming, I cannot help but chuckle. Truly it was a journey of Awakening, both of myself, and in the more literal sense of the god Anshur. But neither I, nor those who had helped make the decision that put me on that journey had understood even faintly, what the implications would have been. Looking back, it seems clear to me that my journey was something of a political move by my father. The danger of having twins, especially in a royal family, is that it is not clear who has seniority. And so by sending me out on a dangerous but potentially glory filled quest, he was going to create the hierarchy. Either I would fail, or not return, in which case my brother would be the more important and senior of the two of us, or I would return in glory and claim my spot as a soon to be king, and thus take my seniority. It helped of course that my studies seemed to align me the greatest with the skills of languages and negotiations, the two most important skills for walking the fifth path. I do still wonder who it was that had the idea initially. There was a certain amount of creativity to the decision that I have come to respect in time, even admire. The bite of being used has faded over time, leaving only the reflection of why I was used, and how that affected the final outcome.

I think that the trip was sufficiently powerful that, even if the final island had not changed everything, I still would have come back different, and may very well have moved the homeland in the direction it now moves, though obviously not nearly as quickly or as decisively as Anatu has been able to. Still, the thought that I might have been able to make something of a difference as a result of having the experiences I had is one that makes me feel warm. My effect on the world has always been something that has driven me, both when I thought I had a destiny, that I was a chosen leader of men, and afterwords, when I was simply a person with unusual and valuable experiences. In the last five years since that day, my fear that my life shall not truly make a difference has faded, the joys of living a life with a loving wife being part of it, but having been a part of, in at least some small part, the revolution that brought down the corrupt god Bel and transformed my homeland into a modern democracy, certainly helped as well. As I consider the future and the child I will soon be raising, my effect on the world becomes again something of a focus. What shall I have done that that child will be able to point to and be proud of? Those are the thoughts that troubled my mind on that day of reflection.

As such thoughts often do, these worries faded, replaced by other, more pressing concerns, but over the day, they returned again and again. It seemed madness of course that I would feel like I had not made a difference after all the changes my choices had wrought upon the world, but I am not entirely unhappy with the continued uncertainty. What can one accomplish if one keeps believing they need to make a difference, that the one they have made is not enough? Well, hopefully you’ll get a chance to see gentle reader, hopefully you’ll get a chance to see.

The Fifth Path (29/30)

November 30, 2016

Nabua’s Journal(2) Entry for Adar 25th

The year almost finished. Only five more days before end of last month. Then only five days celebration before turning of year. Strange think less than one year ago left homeland. Seems like forever already. Was on mind recent after get news from campaign. Still fighting there. Anatu has most followers now but Bel hold on tight to own. Not let go and pull out all tricks to keep hold. Fight dirty. Fight painful. Fight long. Hard help with economics or outside influence. Years isolation make people not care. Early appeals dangerous because appeal Hishtu. Seeming well liked by other means less trusted. Reason had to avoid seeming to close Anatu. Has to maintain feel of purity for hardline homelanders. Can not be corrupted by foreigners. Instead simply gained truth and protecting own people. Very strange how minds of many work. Want help getting over hard things but only if help of certain kind. Help too different or help seem too much or not make sense then not trust. All make feel glad not have to deal with each day.

Been asked help with propaganda bit though. Anatu wants push returned goddess angle bit. Creating demonstration with fire and jumping and danger. Like circus that can see in capital but free and apparent origin divine. Not sure about using fake divinity to try counter lying divinity but fun job and for good cause so have been working last few days. Get chance to try knowledge from sages on chemical fire though. Different colors of flame based different ingredients. Certain colors easier but been focusing on few for show. Straight red fire important to make seem very hot. Purple flames add drama. Green flames represent Bel trying to trick people. Then white flame for Anatu. She act as overpowering force. Makes Bel flee. Makes light of Bel seem weak within comparison. Hope is actually provoke Bel. Still hiding other gods. Not reveal have ready to help. Want Bel to commit so can ambush. Need Bel anger though first. Have to mock. Have to tear confidence of worshipers away. Only jealous angry god leave earth to be in striking range.

Good to visit too because get to see Hadia. Some awkwardness first now that have fiancee. Relationship between had change to be no romance. Better now though. Was too young anyway. Nice able to speak with her. She feel like not able help team well. Know do lot for Anatu feelings. Moral very important. Explain best can. Talk about new things learned for me. Talk about new things learned for her. Representatives from Xexan came to help with part of revolution force for bit. Had been able to work well with. Lots of new things talk about. Even talking about landscape be very strange. Xexan people never know desert. Hadia never know mountains.

Xexan group originally group to just meet current leaders but managed intercept before talking current regime many months ago. Able return Xexan an explain change situation. Changing of regime well understood by Xexan though less often overt war between factions. More subtle for them most time. Still conflict be powerful in local place like capital. Just never spread more. Not like homeland conflict now. Least less violent than was for last island. No burning of cities or killing in forests so far. Mostly moving of people. Followers Bel go one place. Converted go different place. Movement between places represent changing attitude. Lots of converts early but stagnated now. Thus need propaganda piece. Would been better maybe for Uras here. Still not want help with though. Says ex-Baals not good to save or rule homeland now. Need remove old structure. Because part of old structure not able really make new. If too important then old structure stick round. Need new people for new system. Understand on principal but think going to hard. Helping with words and ways to speak be very important. Taught all life to convince and speak with people of homeland. If can use training to save people from Bel seems worth even if Bel gave authority to get training first place. Even seem amusing because flip flop for me. But now Uras still stay away.

So revolution continue. Going on though. Early days think only few short months but changed prediction fast. Now thinking years maybe. People minds change slow sometimes. See better world for those accept change then will change self though. Slow adoption much better for many people. Too stubborn to change in one argument or with one show of facts. Have to be lulled over. Have to see everything working over time. So just living good life in area controlled by Anatu does much for efforts. Discussion about folks from outside coming.

Two different thoughts. For many outsiders source of fear. Only contact through bad stories. Think of as not man or false man. Assumptions bad. Now know true land not more true than others and not only small amount of world outside dream then is good change feel about foreigners. But same time also want convert those on fence to side of Anatu. If see dramatic change with many foreigners might cause fear which slow change in other direction. So bringing in people want immigrate be hard. Want let help make homeland strong but fear lead to slow change in traditional thinking people. More important change mind to better place in total or more important make first steps away from false words Bel.

So far Anatu listen to those want be conservative. Immigrants not let do much so far. Need able to earn citizen. Like Hishtu long ago. But better integration. Hishtu second class citizen need stop and not replace by new bad race. Focus different for different places. At edges of border with Bel try show still seem conservative. Make seem like nicer happier better version of same. Further away border then focus on change minds. All lead into each other. Enjoy thinking about. Lots complexity new in last few months. Missed out cause wedding. Very fun but came strange time.

Crew of Mae ship plan event as secret. Not know getting married till day before. Mae not know till hours before. Very well planned. Not give chance to freak out. Know maybe thinking about ahead might been stressful. This way no stress. Just simple calculations. Want spend life with Mae? Yes. Want have nice day and make bonds together next day? Yes. Not have to weigh effort of wedding vs reward because all effort done already. Just want to or not which easy choice. Mae seem like happy as well. Last whole month been kind of vacation post marriage. Crew still around mostly but lots of mysteriously empty ship decks and suddenly empty rooms. Crew really love Mae. Glad able meet expectations for them for her. Would been bad if they think not good enough. Being official Xexan citizen help lot.

Plus many games Xiwan help status lot. Game helped so much. Think about where be without Xiwan then not know. Uras talks about destiny. Or talks now about thinking not destiny. But so many small things need go right for journey work. Whole travels decided by simple board game at least once. Other small things. Feel like only destiny let so many lucky things in row. Maybe just lucky. Guess lots extreme unlucky in many places too. Lots of unlikely events both good and bad. Life like epic songs and tales of adventure. But suppose looking at backwards. Unlikely lives happen. Just more likely such lives get recorded in stories. Not story that make things more likely be unlikely but unlikely things make more likely become story. Strange idea for fiction in some ways but powerful. Games and stories tell so much.

Self reflection only go so far though. Have to look at future and other events outside own life and lives of friends often. World shifted in recent months in different ways. Learned many in post wedding travels to many different islands. Seems cyclone that saved from Green Sea also tore up much of Green Sea. Many more paths through in recent times. In months since then trade across Green Sea been much improved. This affect many things. Bring world together. More knowledge of Xexan outside Green Sea area. Lots of culture trade between west and east.

Speaking of west. Agaan cults seem to be in flux. Consolidated control over large area of islands. Capturing and converting all in area. But now different factions in area make less like one group. Still dangerous around Agaan area. Convert or slave labor usually still choice for new people. Or more like convert and slave labor or do not convert and worse slave labor. One big fear is Agaan expanding towards homeland. With civil war island in position weakness. If Agaan think can defeat homeland while in split situation might try and do so. Could also serve unite Agaan again to have focus of efforts. Potential reverse too. Maybe Anatu draw many to side by being effective general in conflict. Seem like could work out well if attack happen. But think attack will happen likely. If not from Agaan side then something will attack it. Because disrupting trade routes now. When boats not able to stop without being converted and stolen then ships either need protectors or sudden navy. But many islands not have good navy. Ships need lots of wood. Many islands not have lot of wood. Homeland is full of it but not in situation to build big navy now. Maybe other culture near will try fight. Hard though because islands tend be independent. Because Agaan united at least for now it is stronger than any one other island. Need create coalition of nearby islands to oppose together.

Seems like idea of island coalition against Agaan not new idea. When visiting islands near Agaan have many complaints about expanding empire of Agaan and defenses of islands from such thing. When common discussion and complaint then in public mind and much easier to enact. Again wish Uras was not giving up on this kind of thing. He traveled wide and knows how to negotiate. Able to unite different island perhaps together. Because foreign from each island then not think has favorite. Would do self but not good with speaking or negotiating. Not have status to talk with kings and rulers. Uras thinks not have for self either but loss of status mostly in own head and not true for much of world. Even if not Baal any more he still one that negotiate with many islands and reached agreements.

Being kind of ambassador might be good job for Uras. Can help old land without having to live there again since determined to keep Baal bloodline away. Also likely not want to fight brother.

Main opponent of Anatu has been Usil brother eldest and Usil brother twin. Not want to lose power of Baal. Together with priest been doing much to counter slow conversion to new ways. Dangerous because of history of power for Baal and because training during youth. Baals have much skill in convincing population things.

So many different things going on. Exciting be back to help out with things after period of sort of being alone with Mae. Very lucky Mae likes travel and good at finding jobs in all places. Only able travel so far because Mae ship can take. Been more like merchant than pirate lately though. Only piracy been against Agaan ships few times. Easier to pirate Agaan ships many times because when fight starts half of crew switch sides. So many unwilling converts means that chance to fight can be dangerous. Wonder what process to convert is. Has to be very public if being forced. Wonder if private if not forced.

Many interesting things in world now. Excited to be able to change things bit. Though not like Uras or Anatu. Still making difference now. Glad travels continue even after end.

The Fifth Path (28/30)

November 30, 2016

Anatu’s Diary Entry for Tisritum 8th

Dear diary, I am sorry it has been so long. More than two months since I last wrote to you about the boring ride to the island that was to be the last on my former Baal’s Awakening. I had promised you then that I would write again soon. I was unable to complete that promise. Or rather, I did not choose to. I am sure I could have. But I had not been in the right mood for some time. I had to get everything sorted in my head. I still am not sure if I do have everything sorted. But I’m doing something now, so I guess its sorted enough. And now that I am doing something again I can write to you. As for having stuff to write about, at least I can deliver on that part. There is a fair bit to write about. In fact there is way more to write about today than is at all reasonable. I won’t be able to do justice to any of it. But I figured I should get it all out there now. Then I don’t have to worry about hiding it from you or something. I can go back and write more later. Now I shall just be writing the quick version, just to keep you informed of the happenings in my life. Lets get started, lest I get cold feet.

I guess the first thing to talk about is the island. It was definitely an exciting island. There was technology there like great en-jin as big as buildings that did more than propel a boat, but seemed able to do anything, like make light or open and close things or a hundred others things. They were terrifying and enormous, and the locals seemed to think they were gifts from a god, but they were quite impressive all the same. The locals also seemed in general to have better technology in most areas. Better hand cannons, better metals, better lamps. I can only imagine Nabua’s journal entries about the place. And in addition to being exciting in terms of new stuff, it also had nice clothing, pretty, but in respectable styles. I ended up in the military for a bit, as I’ll explain in a moment and the uniforms were very nice indeed. I kept the uniform, even though I was not supposed to, and just wear it some days as my normal clothes. Plus, the people were really nice. At least when they were not murdering one another. Any time I was not in a direct martial conflict with someone however, they were the very model of polite and attentive. Were it not for the whole civil war thing, it would have been one of the nicest islands on the whole adventure.

Lets talk about the civil war then. Basically, when I got there, the fighting had been going on for quite a while. I learned later that Nabua had kinda set it off on accident, though it would have exploded soon regardless most likely. I’ll get into the reasons for the conflict later, but suffice to say it was large scale. I ended up getting involved in it almost right away. As soon as our little boat touched down on the dock, a pack of rebels charged into the boat, hoping to commandeer it. I held them off for a while, with the help of some tight corridors and a miniscule amount of assistance from my scared stiff compatriots. Then the army arrived, routed the bastards, and since they saw me fighting and appreciated my skill, gave me a chance to join up right there. Considering their opponents had just tried to pirate the boat I was on, and I wanted an excuse to be on the island anyways, I took them up, leaving the crew behind terrified. I think they managed to actually make a decent profit before they left since the city was kind of under siege and really needed the supplies anyways. Didn’t really wait around to find out though. Just kinda joined the army and went off to war.

It was actually less than three hours after I joined before I was in combat officially. They had fitted me for a suit, gave me a hand cannon thing and taught me to use it, and given me instructions on the whole chain of command structure in that short interval. Still didn’t know why the fighting was happening during my second fight, but at least I was impressed by my side’s efficiency. I fought well, and I managed to get the attention of the leader of the ground based military for the whole island, one General Amkius, supreme commander of the homeland forces for Udisur Island. Ended up as part of his personal unit for the rest of the time I was fighting. Helped me get the big picture pretty fast. Learned the basic gist of the reason for the conflict. Seems like Amshur ended up on this very location when he passed out and started dreaming up the false lands, and the people of this island, as well as a crazy five headed woman defend the sleeping body in order to prevent almost all of reality from disappearing. At least that’s what I was thinking at the time. Some of the details ended up being a bit off later, but I’ll get to that.

In any event, the bad guys, or at least the guys we were all fighting decided the ancient task had been a trick, and that the best idea was actually to wake Mr Amshur up, and with it the world or something. They thought the five headed lady was in fact a monster that was trying to cause negative things to happen. In the end they don’t end up being totally wrong. Everyone was a bit wrong though. Neither side really nails it. But anyways, I fight for the side with the snazzy general and the tons of resources, mostly because I liked the people I was fighting with, and again, it gave me a chance to try and find my companions. Plus defending Amshur seemed like a good idea. Perhaps some priests might make the argument that the false lands are an evil distraction that should be ended, but having lived there and met people who were born and lived within the false lands, I could not in good conscious end its existence. That would include the peoples lives, and as much as they are not men and not women, they actually are men and women too. They are people, and wiping out their reality seemed like a really terrible thing to do. So I was on the side that did not want that to happen.

The fighting was intense. Lots of battles. Some were close, others were complete domination. Though we kept winning battles, we were somehow getting pushed back anyways, our positions being pushed in by more and more recruits on the enemy side. We were being pushed back to the temple where the god, Amshur, was kept, as well as where the five headed lady was often seen. As we got closer the battles got more and more crazy. Weird monster beasts started joining both sides, which was something I did not really understand. It was not so much our section of the campaign which had the monster allies, but other bits of the army commanded by others did. I ended up seeing glimpses of Nabua on the other side of the battle, which worried me. I could not really see how the other side was justified, but if he was over there then there was something I might have been missing. If I could have found time to go and talk to him I would have, but that doesn’t happen very much between two opposing armies. With the benefit of hindsight, I know I was in a couple battles with Uras as well, though I never did see him until the end. Did not know he was part of the other large military force fighting in the south while my General held the north.

As the battles got closer and closer to the great temple, General Amkius came up with a plan to decisively win the war. The other army would lure the rebels into the temple, holding strong at the deepest possible point, and then our army would flank around, and we crush them in a pincer attack. From what I heard the other army was not particularly happy with the arangement, but it was really the only way to ensure we could get enough of the rebels to end the fighting. If they were able to escape they would just recruit more and expand again. We needed to take them out decisively in a single blow, and this was the way to do it. We had to risk our most precious resource, the dreaming god, but with the other army as a shield within it did not feel like much of a risk. Ended up being a close thing on everyone’s parts.

There was a lot of fighting, we surrounded the forces, but they were able to use the terrain of the temple to hold our force with a much smaller one, while sending the bulk of their force in to try and break through the other army. It was a good plan, and I wondered if it was Nabua’s. (As it turned out, he inspired it, but he did not actually order it in that fight.) Our counterattack was focused attacks designed to force a couple units at a time through the defenses. I was one of those units, and soon found myself past the initial defenses of the rebels. I moved deeper and deeper into the temple, eventually reaching the deepest chamber where everything was going down. It was something of a standoff. A small group of defenders from the other army, including Uras and a well dressed woman I would eventually learn was the leader of the other army, was standing around something like a large stone bed with the unmistakable shape of a sleeping god lying upon it. I can’t tell you why it was so unmistakably a god, but it was. Or at least it was something non human. God is a word I don’t use as lightly any more. Anyways, standing with them is the five headed woman, each face more beautiful than the last, each pair of eyes a different color. And opposite them, was a large contingent of rebels, all heavily armed, with Nabua standing uncomfortable off to the side. I consider what to do. I was not sure if I had been seen yet, so I decide to wait and see what is happening.

One of the rebels talks to the leader of the army. It all seems relatively humane. But then they get to a part of the argument that they can’t agree on and it breaks down from there. It looked like a fight was about to break out. Before it can though, both Nabua and Uras speak. They talk about how different beliefs don’t have to mean combat, don’t have to mean death. Its pretty poignant, Uras’s for its elegance, Nabua’s for its raw nature. The fighting hesitates another moment. The five headed woman gets a chance to talk, but ends up aggravating everyone. The fighting starts. Nabua calls out some sort of scheme. I rush in to try and end the fighting as quickly as possible. The rebels drop fast, with me, the five headed lady, plus the other army people all together against them. But Nabua’s plan is clever. One of them just stood back and pulled out a trumpet, and blows it as hard as can be, hoping that she can wake the dreaming god with just a loud noise. All eyes turn to the sleeping god. He rolls over. Then he stretches. And while everyone is distracted with that, Nabua creeps up to the god and tosses a canteen full of water on the guy. Spluttering, the gods eyes open. I prepare for the end of all things, for the world around us to vanish in a poof of dream. The god rubs his eyes and stands up, yawns and looks around. He is very much awake. And reality, the false lands, are in fact still in existence. Everyone is quite surprised, even Nabua, who looks relieved. The five headed woman’s heads all retract down into one, and she rushes over to the newly awake god.

There is a few moments of almost comedy. Anshur is pretty confused about how long he has been asleep. When the answer turns out to be more than a millennium, he has a hard time accepting it. With Uras acting as something of a mediator, and Nabua inputting some questions and suggestions here and there, the story unravels. Long story short, Bel, the god that I had grown up worshiping as the one true god of the true lands is a super terrible person that ended up deceiving everyone for a thousand years. There was some sort of fight between him and Anshur as well as the five headed lady, who turns out to be named Tiamet, which is the given name of the Monster. But the Monster is not actually a terrible being hell bent on twisting the false lands into a hell scape and taking over the true lands. Turns out she was just a rival for power for Bel, and he had a complicated scheme to get her and Anshur out of the way.

Basically Bel ended up putting Anshur to sleep in a ways where he would never wake up naturally, only if woken up by another. Then he convinced almost everyone that it was somehow Tiamet’s fault, including Tiamet, and that their was a huge distaster that would happen if he was woken up early and did not wake up on his own. This got Tiamet to take him away and protect him. Once she was gone the story was able to be shifted even further, where Tiamet became the big bad of everything, Anshur became a victim who had made bad choices, and Bel became the only god/leader left in the area that came to be called the true lands because of further screwing around with stuff. Anshur being asleep ended up being associated with the continuation of all lands that were not controlled directly by Bel, and this trick held up for a thousand years. Tiamet took on the form of the five headed woman protecting Anshur because she was frightened of using her old name for fear people would try to hunt her down because of all the rumors. She believed Anshur would wake up on his own eventually.

Its quite a mess, and it had to be explained several times before I, and most people present got the idea properly. Kinda threw my whole concept of the world out of wack though. Baal are chosen by Bel to be rightful leaders. But Bel is not someone I want choosing leaders any more. Uras agreed and renounced his title. There was a lot of talks of what to do next. Somehow I ended up being tagged in as being the one that needed to go back and free the “true lands” from the tyranny of Bel. Got marked by Anshur and Tiamet with some special marks that makes me look like the Princess of Flame, a former goddess that Bel killed somewhere in this whole mess. It sounded exciting at the time, but after I got around to thinking about it, the idea kinda scared me. I was not sure at all that I was up for the freeing everyone from tyranny under Bel, the god I have trusted completely and totally my entire life. I was kind of a mess for a while. Ended up just kinda wandering across the ocean, island hopping, not wanting to think about what I needed to do to save my country. The marks that made me look like a dead goddess were good for getting people to give me rides and stuff, but they didn’t come with any special powers or anything, and with my language skills I ended up being quite confused and pretty lost real quick. I felt like I should have gotten an entourage. I had been a bit flushed with the whole, looking like a dead goddess thing at the time during the meeting and kinda missed a lot of the points. Then I walked out of the meeting and realized no one was traveling with me.

It turned out I did not get as screwed as all that, dear diary, Nabua met up with me about a month later, with one less hand, but with one extra pirate lady to whom he was now apparently engaged. Seems he had wanted to find her again, then was willing to help me get back to homeland. The whole losing a hand things seemed like a pretty big deal to me, but he didn’t seem interested in talking about it. He was so ecstatic about finding the pirate lady, he said it was a fair price to pay. It wasn’t his writing hand, which was at least good for him considering how much he liked his journal. He didn’t feel comfortable actually helping with the whole conversion of my people away from Bel thing, because he figured as a member of another religion he might actually make things harder, which made sense. He did inform me that I would be getting some help on that front though. Seems that Tiamet and Anshur were going to show up to help me out later, but they wanted a bit of time to spend together before going back to face the guy that put one of them in a coma for a thousand years and turned the other into an obsessed guardian hated by most of the world for that same period. Also seemed reasonable.

It was also reasonable for me to get a bit more help in the whole scenario then just myself and a few other humorists. And so, before I went back to my homeland, and faced that empty journey to the capital and the endless battle for acceptance that would begin at that point, I acquired a few more friends.

These friends were largely those we had met on our journey, who had stood out as being expectational and useful, as having gone over and above the usual call of duty. It was just such people that would be essential to beginning a revolution within homeland. There was some more than small amount of emotion shared between myself and Nabua, when we stopped on the desert island only days from homeland, and at long last reunited with Hadia. It was a good reunion, though one who’s celebration would have to be delayed, for we had to return to the boat, and head back towards land. And so, dear diary, I write to you know, telling you everything about my life in these last few months, and hoping that you too can help in my, yes dear diary, my, quest to save my people from the wickedness of our once thought god. So, we start tomorrow, wish me luck.

The Fifth Path (27/30)

November 30, 2016

The First Draft of the Autobiography of Baal Uras, Soon to be Savior of the True Land

Running Title: Points in Time: The Conflux of a Thousand Years

Composed Abu 15th In the 1st Year of Baal Makru

Never in my wildest imaginings, gentle reader, had I though that the culmination of my journey would be as climactic as it turned out to be. I had thought to discover a new land, to see that which had not been seen before, to be awed by strange cultures and customs, and to strike an accord with those much different from myself. I imagined learning that which was new and unknown, not some ancient secret long lost to the people of the true land. I considered myself a pioneer perhaps, a king destined to be far seeing and respectful of the lands around us, but not some special individual, not a king with a destiny much greater than average. I never imagined myself a savior. And yet, as time passed and events conspired on the final island, my fate began to seem more and more akin to legend. The world around me seemed to focus in on me and my situation and the map of my journey seemed an arrow, each step preparing me for that which I was to do here on the island past the edge of the world.

I shall not ruin for you now, gentle reader, the surprise, for the figuring out and the realization of what was truly at stake on this island was something worth experiencing, and so I shall take you on that same journey of discovery, not skipping a step or a way, but leading you along just as I walked. In so doing, you will see the world as I saw it, and feel, perhaps, some small part of what I felt as my world was turned upside down and my understanding of all that surrounded me and my place in it was focused to a sharp point. This path shall be a gnarled one, but the view will be well worth the exercise required to follow it. So join me now, gentle readers, as I take you from the point I last left off, when I finally managed to convince my lovely admiral to allow me onto the island and I spent my first few day exploring the port town of the island past the edge of the world. From here we will move as I did, and the grand story shall be uncovered.

So our tale shall resume in the stables of the military barracks of the port town on the island past the edge of the world, a place which I had finally been able to name, the Island Udisur, a word that sounded much like a combination of words in the tongue of the true land. I assumed it was an amusing coincidence at first, but I would come to see soon that it was much more than that. I had slept in the stables, a place warm and dry, and honestly rather comfortable, despite the obvious attempt at flirtatious harassment my dear admiral had intended by getting me a place to sleep there. I was lucky indeed that I had no weakness to the long cuts of grass used to feed the horses of Udisur, for I knew some for whom such a bed would have been a living hell. Instead, I woke refreshed, prepared for a new day upon the island of miracles and wonders which I had barely begun to understand in that day before. The power of the God Towers was still incredible to me, that the divine would interact so directly with the world of humans. It was proof indeed that as the dream reached its furthest point, the border between fantasy and reality became less and less harsh. I knew not just how correct that thought was.

The day started out peaceful enough. I was able to get food from one of those assigned to work in the very stables in which I had slept, sharing an early morning meal, feeling togetherness through the connection of food and a mutual loathing of the sunlight slowly coming over the horizon. Perhaps I need not have woken so early, been able to sleep in and thus not so loathe the light, but I was excited to begin my day, and the prospect of spending any more time on the relative waste of sleep was something I could not allow. And so me and the stable hand met the rising sun, finishing our meal just as its full face crested the horizon. Belly full, I headed out into the town, interested in exploring a bit on my own before the admiral woke up. Her tour the previous day had been most enjoyable and I expected to spend most of this next day in a similar fashion, but the idea of getting a short period of time of self direction had a strong draw, which I gave in to.

I waved at the on duty guards, who motioned back, bleary with sleep and the coming of morning, who, if they had been more awake, might have stopped me, or at least asked questions. Then I walked. I heard strange chanting, and saw many people moving together towards a short, but wide building with marks I had seen many times the previous day, but not understood. Figuring the best place to start learning was from concentrations of people, I moved toward the group, then followed after them into the building. A woman at the door looked like she considered stopping me, but I gave her a confident smile, which was apparently enough. And so I entered into the building, amidst a large group of locals, all in somber attire and with serious expressions. Inside it was easy to see that this was some kind of temple, something I had guessed but it was distinctive in a number of ways. For one thing, the deity apparently worshiped was different than any others I had encountered on my travels. Seeming to be a woman with five heads, it was depicted in numerous situations, acting as a fighter and a protector, a sleeping man being defended often in much of the art within the temple. The second distinctive element was the coloration and style of the pictures within the temple. Each portrait seemed to have a color theme, but they were too, distinctive, colorful, and emotive. One could see strong emotions in each piece, the goal of the five headed woman clearly visible on its many heads, with mixed faces being found on painting in which the emotional response of the group was particularly susceptible to interpretation, or several distinct interpretations of emotion were very much both there.

The third noticeable thing was something that shocked me greatly. While there was often text upon the pictures, most of it was in the strange alphabet of Udisur. However, upon closer inspection of a few of the pictures I found something strange indeed. The runes of the true land were written under these pictures. The wording and phrasing was incredibly old, like something out of a direct reading from the ancient scriptures. Yet I could read it well enough, and the message was clear enough. The sleeping man was Anshur, the dreamer who gave form to all of the false lands. The five headed woman must then be some kind of guardian, for common was the depiction of the many headed woman defending the sleeping god of sky from a variety of beasts, who were perhaps possessed or mislead by the Monster. It seemed that this protector was greatly honored as a defender of the dreamer, and a defeater of monsters. I was of course too taken aback by the presence, not only of the presence of my language, a rare enough occurrence as it was, but also by the apparent usage of one of our prime religious figures within this place so far removed from the true land. How had this place, never visited by any member of the true people within recorded history, have the same deity as us, so far away? Then of course the answer came to me. It would have been instantaneous if I had not been so changed by the ways of the false world.

How might a civilization know of the dreamer, the spinner of all of the world outside of the true lands? How might they have encountered knowledge of the god who ruled over the sky, and slept out in the darkness of the false lands, dreaming worlds into existence around himself? The obvious answer, was that this place was either the place in which he had lain down to rest, or someplace close. Had I thought of own beliefs as true, as the stories of Bel and Anshur and the Monster as history, and not as legend then that would have been easy to see. Instead, I thought of them in much the same way that I thought about the religions of the other civilizations I encountered, as stories which could be spread and shared, but which came from man, and could originate only from them. I had not truly believed that somewhere out in the false world the still sleeping body of the god Anshur could be found, assuming instead, that it was more of a tale, or something outside the physical plane. But now, it seemed as though the stories of the priests might very well be true in the literal sense, instead of the way I had slowly been changing to think about them, as a good basis for life, but something entirely removed from the cause and effect of standard, every day, life. My faith, slowly weakened by my education, and by my travels had punched back in those swift moments, as I stared at the portraits of Anshur and his mysterious protector, lost in the wonder of it all.

I walked around the room, taking in each picture, trying to piece together the exact mythology of this place, the extension to the story that I knew as a denizen of the true land. For while we knew the tale of how Anshur was born, his adventures with Bel, their battle with the Monster, and his eventual departure from the realm of the real, that is where the story ends for us, when it comes to Anshur. We know he yet dreams, for the false lands remain, ever changing, yet eternal. But more than that, we know not. This place though seemed the opposite. They knew not, perhaps, the origin of the god Anshur, seemingly worshiping his protector more ardently than him. They knew the continuation of the tale, but not the beginning. I hoped to learn that part which I did not know, that segment of the story beyond the knowledge of the true land. And so I observed the pictures, read the text beside them, at least those parts in the true language, and listened to the congregation of townsfolk begin to worship, a process that was apparently just as filled with arguments as any political meeting. I did my best to understand the proceedings, discovering, too my surprise, that something of this foreign language too was similar to the language I spoke as a child. This place was a bent and fractured mirror of the true lands, a place thick in dreams and ideas.

After the service was over, I sought to speak with one of the congregation members, hoping to learn more about this religion, and about how it might compare and contrast with the stories of my own. To complete the legend was something I had never thought I might do. Strangely however, while I was able to get the attention of a few members after leaving the stocky sort of building, they all seemed reluctant to speak, looking this way and that, and giving me clear indications that while they might be happy to discuss such things in a private place, such things were not discussed out in the open where any might hear or mishear. And so I ambled back towards the barracks, considering if I might converse on the topic with my admiral, or if she would be angered by my self driven exploration. In the end my curiosity got the better of me, and I sought her out, wishing to learn more of this thing which seemed so incredible. That my final island, the goal of my journey would be the very location where the dreamer laid down his head seemed incredible beyond belief. Perhaps, my thinking went, I truly was blessed, given a destiny higher even than all the others who wear the crown of Baal.

When I finally found her, and told her of what I learned, she quickly took me aside, away from all the clerks and aides and lower ranking soldiers who surrounded her, bring us to a place where we could be alone. In hushed tones she explained that there were schisms within the island of Udisur’s religion. For centuries the faith which I had observed would have been considered the one true faith of the island, a depiction of what was valued and believed. The dreamer, Anshur, was not truly known, a sleeping being who’s sleep served either to sustain something or keep some terrible thing at bay. What was known, or at least believed by the vast majority of folks on the islands, was that some great calamity would fall if the dreamer would ever awake, and that the five headed woman, known to them as simply, the Lady, or the Protector, was the one responsible for preventing such a disaster. She had protected the sleeping god for centuries, preventing all things from reaching its place, and keeping him sleeping and content, and thus protecting the world from doom.

Such an indomitable spirit, a willingness to believe in, and act upon faith, and a general feeling of competence all combined together into a focus upon the Lady, relegating Anshur to something of a set piece roll, neither good nor bad, but a force of nature. And in his sleeping form, this might very well be true. Could one be truly described as good, if they help us not at all, but simply dream, thinking not of the world they inhabit, but merely describing it. The dreams of Anshur could be wonderful and good, but so could they be terrible. Had I not been met with a host of both sides of that coin on my journeys thus far? Without the context of the sleep, the reason why it had happened and what it meant, it was reasonable to think of the dreamer as something incomprehensible, and anyone who might protect him as someone more worthy of worship. I wished to learn more about the five headed woman, but of course, the comments of the admiral were such that there was only one reasonable response to such statements, a question about what had changed, what new beliefs had begun supplanting the faith of the youth all round the world. And so I asked, and so she answered.

It would seem that somehow, after a millenia of the peaceful sleep of Anshur, people got it into their heads that whatever he might be dreaming was not truly important, or that he was perhaps trapped in dreams, unable to actualize himself into this world. These heretics, for that is what they would have been considered for much of history, opposed the five headed woman, believing her not a Protector, but a Jailer. That it was her that kept the dreamer asleep, and it was because of her that the next section in history, the next pivotal time, would be a distorted illusion of a time, and not the true world that might be seen in an awakened world, a world in which the dreamer has woken from slumber. Thus it was, that each side opposed the other, each seeing each other as the ultimate foe. For those of a conventional bent, the heretics were yet another manifestation of the beasts which sought always to awaken the dreamer. For those heretics, the view was flipped, and the five headed woman was the ultimate evil, a creature which kept the world from changing, creating a decaying place for little to no reason, unable to be seen in the light of the awakened morning. For them, the earth and the sky were alive, which was technically true, places of beauty which ought to grow and progress as the times change. That the god of the earth seemed absent entirely, and that the god of the sky was asleep, unable to wake and change the world, created a fatalistic feel.

I was glad for the candid response, thanking the admiral sincerely. There was a moment of hesitation, where I decided whether to ask new questions, or seek further knowledge of the old, or perhaps to simply move on, leaving the questions of such things for a better time. Then, I asked the obvious question, a somewhat daring move at that point in our relationship. She hesitated, something uncommon for her, as she was almost always decisive and quick to decide. It seemed that she too was weighing both what to say, and what affect she wanted to have on our burgeoning relationship. And she too chose simplicity, a strengthening of the relationship through honest discussion. She told me that she was unsure, that while she was a member of the military, and the government, and as such sworn to the church of the five faced lady, in many ways, she had heard often and many, the arguments in favor of the other way of thought, and she felt hard pressed to dismiss it without cause. She was conflicted, not knowing who to believe, unwilling to accept other on faith alone, as each demanded. This was an answer which was true, and an answer that showed a certain level of vulnerability, which I had never before seen in the woman. I felt a great compassion for her in that time, and I did my best to exhibit the understanding and tolerance which I both felt, and knew that she was hoping to receive from me.

I was rewarded with a shy smile, again, something new and open, but before I had a chance to respond to perhaps take it further, there was a hard knock on the door of our secluded chamber, and moments later a soldier was reporting to the object of my affection, speaking rapidly in the language I could now understand small fragments of, interpret words I had not known to be cognates before. It was still incomprehensible in its entirety, as the crossover was low, and the speaking had been fast, but it was fun to listen and try to understand. What was less fun was the change that came over the admiral’s face as she listened to the rapid fire report. The soldier left once the report was finished, and Samunith Hailt spoke with me alone for a moment more. It seemed that the very things we had just been discussing had become significantly less academic. The heretic faction had begun a rebellion, burning the temples of the five faced goddess and killing all those followers which stood to oppose them. This behavior was spreading across the island, the heretical teachings having grown even stronger and further than any might have predicted. Her answer from before was now unacceptable. She was a soldier of the Isle of Udisur, and as such a defender of the five faced goddess. She would be fighting the heretics, and should I choose to follow her, she explained, so would I.

That she would invite me along was a strong sign of trust, and doing anything but agreeing would be throwing any shot at the relationship out the window, but I still stopped to consider. I had been guilty of not taking my religion seriously, and I would not commit the same sin again. I knew more of the story than those out here, and I should be able to determine the correct choice from what I knew. And so I considered, and, as you, gentle reader, might have seen straight away, it was indeed the side of the admiral which fit best with our own teachings. Thinking upon the story of Anshur, his love for the Princess of Flame, the tragic outcome of that love, the conflict with the Monster and with Bel, and the outcomes of all that, it was obvious that awakening Anshur before the proper and anointed day was doomed and foolish. His sleep was essential for the existence of all the world around it, and until the great shaper forged the dream bridge and carried the heart of the long dead princess to his resting place, any periods of awakening would be moments of horror and despair. I could not allow these heretics to succeed, and in so doing destroy all those things around us, and all the places I had been and visited. My journey had taken place in the world of dreams, and for it to have meaning, that dream must continue.

And so, after considering it carefully, I gave my admiral a nod, which was rewarded by a salute more filled with happiness than most smiles I had seen. Soon, I was assigned a place in the military structure, and was working to move out, assembling weapons and loading equipment on to carriages so that all could be moved to the front lines. Never had I been in a war before, though I had heard often of them, strange conflicts, largely between close islands. The feeling of being part of something larger, of being a small piece of a greater whole was infectious however, and despite the general lack of interesting features in my particular job that day, I found myself quite happy, when at last, later that day, we began to move out. I, by dint of my role as logistics coordinator, was allowed to ride in the middle with the commanding officers, including of course, my admiral, who was in charge of this whole section of the military, despite its currently land based maneuvering. It felt good as we marched along, or rather as I watched others march while I rode amidst a cart of spears and blades. Outside of my expectations for the island, but certainly an exciting twist. I would, in time, come to feel a bit bad about my initial enthusiasm, but it was perhaps inevitable. I think none could feel the movement of an army for the first time from within, and not be impressed.

We rested that night, set up in tents, slept well from a day spent in busy preparation and quick movement, then moved out again upon the first light. By noon the next day we had reached one front of the conflict, observing the smoke and hearing the loud noises of conflict as we got closer and closer. And then, but moments after having reached the scene, we joined the conflict. This was much akin, in many ways, to that first violent tussle with the bandits in the desert. I don’t know what I was doing, or what anyone around me was doing. The whole thing seemed a stream of still images and terrible fear. This was of course a thousand times worse, for it never ended. I would scramble for my life, stabbing and cutting, leaping and dodging, running and turning, looking around, helping others, being helped, a hundred little fights, a thousand attacks and counterattacks. Every moment was filled with the momentousness of danger and fear of death, but without any sort of conclusion, as every moment you lived, or killed, or were injured just led into another such conflict, no less deadly, bringing you no closer to any sort of resolution. I fought and wounded and was wounded in return. And in the end, the endless conflict ended, the battle stopped and things slowly calmed.

I could not seem to find any more to fight or kill. The conflicts became less, and I noticed the enemy was routed, running away into the forests. Some chased on, and I heard the fire of the pistols that were so common here, and still smelled the smoke of the many burning buildings around this place. But I was good and done. I had no desire to chase a fleeing foe into a forest I knew nothing about. So I got to work instead, searching the many bodies upon the ground for those that yet lived, and slowly helping them move, or carrying them to medical tents, which had been set up on the edge of the battlefield, even as the battle itself had happened. The thought of someone calmly putting up a tent that close to such a chaotic thing as this battle was not entirely comprehensible to me, but it gave me great respect for the healers within. For hours I moved the wounded, and when at last all those had been safely stowed in tents, I began to help moving the dead, bringing them together, laying them out to be identified before they were burned in a great funeral pyre. When that was finished, I pitched my own tent, and passed into sleep.

It was during the middle of the night that I was awoken from my sleep by the sound of something moving, opening a flap in my tent. I tensed up, fearing an assassin, or a random soldier from the enemy side, seeking to cause damage. It was the smell that stopped me from striking out as a shape moved through the darkness from the edge of my tent up to my sleeping bag. It was the smell of fresh apples, a scent which hung to the uniforms of the crew of my admiral, who always served apples with every meal, in order to prevent some special disease. I smelled that scent, and I realized then that this was no killer come to take my life, but instead the woman I had been courting slowly these last days. She slid in next to me, and we held each other. She was shaking a bit, and I could not understand why at first, knowing she had been in many battles before, but then, I realized that never before had her own people been the enemy. For me this had been a fight like any other, me against the evil foes trying to kill me. For the rest of the people in this conflict, their foes could be neighbors or family or friends. In winning this battle, she had caused the deaths of hundreds off her own people. I held her tight, and she held me tight, and we fell asleep like that, never letting go, seeking nothing more than to hold and be held.

When she snuck out in the morning, I wanted to hold her again, not let her go, but I understood that she could not be seen, could not have this sort of thing effect the moral of her people during a conflict such as this. So I stayed my arms, and feigned sleep. I kept up the illusion until I actually did return to sleep, only waking several hours later, with the loud sound of a trumpeter. I began the early morning process of taking down the tent, stowing my things, and reporting for orders and breakfast. And so began the cycle. The next days were much akin to this. There was the mundane parts of the day, when food was eaten, things were packed and carried and stored and catalogued, when we marched and set up tents and cooked and planned. Then, at some points, sometimes well planned, other times out of nowhere, we fought, and it was chaos and it was blood and it was death. And then, at night, I would get a chance to hold the woman I had come to love in the days or weeks since we had met one another. There was not much else to it than these things. There was occasional moments of exploration and deduction, when we looked at maps, trying to figure out where the rebels would strike next, or checked out a burned temple, trying to figure out something about there methods and members.

I saw some strange things during that time, and I am not sure now which of them were true, and which were the fabrications of a tired and frightened mind. Once, I thought I spotted my Scholar, dressed as a rebel, fighting and creeping around the other side of a battle. I tried to fight my way across the battlefield to see him, but when I arrived he was gone, and likely he had never been there at all. Another time, I thought I saw my Protector, cutting through the fight like an avenging angel, striking down friend and foe alike on some mission that I could not fathom. I have the memory, but I do not know when it was gained, as my memories of the battles are often jumbled and confused. I saw too my dead father on the battlefield, as well as several other people who had no business there, such as our many guides and captains that brought us this far, Bel himself, my brothers, and nightmarish creatures, like animals but fighting like men, tearing and ripping soldiers to pieces in tight formations and whirling dances of death. That time was chaos and I did not know what to believe. In the light of the slow times, when everything was normal, it seemed that none of those things could be real, that my mind was fabricating it all, but when I fought, and when I held tightly to my love, these things seemed more real, more possible. A world in which my destiny had brought everything to this point, where all the players had returned again for the finale seemed more real then.

Such thoughts, of my own importance and roll to play, were infrequent at first, despite the sheer implausibility of having reached this island, let alone days before this conflict erupted. But as the battles moved closer to the center of the island, and I began hearing tales of a great temple, the place where Anshur truly rested, and the possibility that we might literally defend his sleeping body from these heretics, the whole situation seemed too perfect to have come born from chance. That I might be at the right hand of the leader charged with its defense, that I might be one born with special knowledge of the secrets of Anshur and the scriptures about his return, that I might be here, on this island, in this scenario, defending a god from those who wished to wake him and end all the dreaming lands. I had come to love this place, this false land, and while some might say that it would be better if its temptations ceased, if Anshur awoke and forged a new true land beside or above the domain of Bel, the thought of all those that lived in dream dying for such a future could not be accepted. I would be fighting to protect each and every friend, foe, ally, annoyance, shopkeeper, traveler, and shipmate I had met on my journey. I would be fighting to protect the people of all the cultures I had made agreements with, fighting to protect the pirates who had enslaved me, fighting to protect the Green Sea, and fighting to protect my love.

We got closer to this great temple, and I started to hear about it in the strategy meetings, not just in the rumors of the troops. It was indeed a place, and it did apparently contain the body of a god. There was also some argument as to whether the five faced woman would be there to help us defend. Some believed she would be there to help, while others did not believe she would harm the citizens of Udisur, despite their dangerous intentions, that she was to protect the dreamer only from external forces, not from the mind and hands of men and women. That I might be fighting beside a pseudo god with five heads was something I had completely not considered at all, and the idea struck me as ridiculous, despite my attempts to really treat my religious beliefs as being factually accurate. Something seemed too fantastical about that scenario. And yet, as we got closer and closer to the great temple, things in general seemed to get more and more fantastical. The beasts I had been imagining on the battlefield began to appear more and more, and I started seeing them even outside the battlefield as well, limping away from the fight after it was finished, or eating the corpses of dead enemies. They had many shapes, but they all seemed off somehow, as though slightly to much like humans, and not enough like animals. They were also all the wrong side. Elephant beasts as small as a man, as well as rat beasts as large. I knew not what to think of these creatures, but after all I had seen in the campaign and on my travels I simply avoided making them angry, or even communicating with them much at all.

My admiral wanted to do the smart thing and win the fight before the enemy could make it to the great temple, or even just form a perimeter around it, and not let the heretics through. The one member of the military higher ranked than her had flanked around from the other side of the island as well however, and had a different plan. He wanted to have my admiral’s forces defend inside the great temple, drawing the enemy inside, before crushing them completely with a flank around from behind, striking them from both sides with nowhere to run. My love was angered by this, but she had no choice. Despite understanding it was dangerous, I was personally a fan of this plan because it would bring me into the situation I had been thinking about, an epic final confrontation to save the world I had come to love and the people within it. Still, as the heretics pushed in, us now not defending nearly as hard because of this new plan, the hugs became tighter and I could feel the worry and stress this plan was putting on her. I felt selfish for my own thoughts about the situation. Still, it would be happening the way I wanted it to, and there was no sense in fighting that. We retreated to the great temple. We planned our defense. I was not permitted to see the sleeping god. Instead I prepared the outermost defenses.

I had the dubious pleasure of working with some of the strange beasts that had been involved in the fighting. One of the soldiers claimed to be able to communicate with them with a little brass whistle, and they were able to direct the creatures this way and that. And so, not only was I directing soldiers into defensive positions, but so too was I directing animal creatures for the defense. It was not something I was really familiar with, but I supposed few really would be prepared for something like that. I did my best, which I think was pretty reasonable at that point. My love and I met secretly that day earlier than night, for we would be defending in different places that night. We had both been in constant threat of death for the last week of constant battles, but somehow this seemed even like a more precarious position. We kissed for the first time. They were much akin to the holding, something tender, but also rather desperate, wanting to feel each other and be connected in a sort of primal way. I was more determined than ever to survive this and make sure she did too.

There was one last notable event before the conflict. I had finished everything I could in terms of preparation. I had even reached into my bag of tricks and pulled out something of an inspiring speech, sadly not in there native tongue, but at least in one the troops all understood, or at least the human ones. But as I returned to my tent, preparing to record the events of the day and rest myself for the coming conflict, I suddenly realized I was not alone. The lighting was strange and I saw a shape, like a woman, but different. I saw a beautiful face, stunning in its perfection. Then I saw another, even more beautiful in a different way. Then another, and another, and another. I realized that the Lady, the Protector of the sky god was standing outside my tent. She looked me over with each of her five pairs of eyes, sizing me up, determining my worth. Then she spoke. It was five languages at once. Most I did not know, and the ones I did were hard to hear and seemed to be saying different things. I latched on to one of the languages, trying to block out all the others and at least understand the gist of one instead of only a fragment of all.

It was some rather simple stuff. Telling me to defend the dreaming god with my life. Telling me to strike hard and fast to kill the leaders of the enemy team, especially those who might be planning something or doing something sneaky. Explaining that brute force and quick action could trump crazy plans if executed well. I managed to get in a word edgewise before she vanished, asking who she was. The reply was just a name, Tia Matir. It was not a name I recognized, though something about it gave me a bad feeling, connecting to something half remembered in my brain. It kept going through my mind, something wrong about the name and the five faced woman in general. But I could not figure it out at the time, and so I had to let it go, let myself relax, write my notes, and then sleep. Even so it, nagged, and my sleep was not what it could have been. I had a lot to loose, and I was perhaps not at my best, but I was as ready as I was going to be. The next morning would be the climax of my adventure, the ultimate end to a journey that had been filled with crazy things. I was ready. At least I hoped.

The Fifth Path (26/30)

November 28, 2016

Nabua’s Journal(2) Entry for Av 8th

Too much of a good thing. Be careful what you wish for. Phrases heard many times. Never really understood till now. Tried start mutiny in crew of ship was on to save orphans. Succeeded. Then accidentally started full scale revolution on island of orphanage. Crazy civil war. Things beyond bizarre. Stuff never seen before. Battle viscous and bloody. Little mercy. Lots of death. Fight between men and women but also beasts too. Not quite understand how or why started. Have short time to write before have to fight more. Will try to assemble thoughts. Want to figure out how all came to pass. Maybe saw companions on battlefield. Not sure. Do not know if on same side or not. All is chaotic. This island is mad. Start from beginning.

Crew prepares to sneak onto island. Will be raiding orphanage. Taking items from them. Unclear what exactly. Saw those around. Not good at faces but still saw many look sad. In time before when tension is going up and all thinking of crazy knife guy that killed so many then talk to some that looked most sad. Ask if want to risk everything to steal from kids. Tell think captain tricked us. Not what we signed up for. Raiding civilization and raiding orphanage different. Plus islanders scary. Throw knives too fast. Move too fast. Not want to hurt kids. Seem like maybe good guys. Fill hearts and minds with doubt. Never really talked someone to something before. Kinda makes feel bad even though think good outcome. Like tricking even if think maybe better choice them too. Glad not have to do most time. But works. Those talk to then talk to other. When captain say move out everything go dark. All in charge of light be on revolt side. In darkness attempt to take captain before any conflict with rest of crew. If him dead then maybe rest of crew see no reason fight can get out with no bloodshed. Captain quick react though. Assassin not able to kill only wound. Shouts that islanders attacking. Everything goes crazy. No one knows who is who. Try to get lights back but hard. Lights on ground. People not knowing who with and who against. Tight hold of ship become filled with grappling and stabbing and cutting. Screams in dark. Bits of light illuminate grisly scene. Try not to get stabbed. Almost succeed. Light stabbing all things considered. Want revolt side win but really just want to make escape and get onto island not as raider. Use confusion to sneak off. Only little bit of bleeding from stab in leg. Move with limp. Think of next move.

Decide go to orphanage. Drag self to door. Knock. Door cracked open. Worried looking person peeks out. Must have heard some of screaming from boat. Try several languages fast as can. Able to understand one. Explain raid coming on orphanage. Tell that some trying to stop raid but that might not able to. Say got stabbed defending orphanage. Say felt like could not let children hurt. Not actually lies. Still feel bad. More manipulation. Person sees stab wound. Hesitates but lets in.

Dark inside. Taken to room to lie down. Person leaves me for moment. Comes back with child who starts washing out wound and fixing me up. Person lights lamp in corner of room. Interesting light source. Seems to run on oil. Seen few like it on journey but rare. Never seen attached to wall before. Require lots of oil and lots of glass made in specific shape. Wonder if this room special or if every room has own light source. With light able to see kid. Pretty adorable even while cleaning blood from stab wound. Very young. Ask about languages to person that let in. Says most kids only know local language though some know one or two others. As get older try and teach second language to ones know island language only. Girl knows two though. Before orphan family spoke two languages. Language one know little bit. Thank child in language. Gives me nervous smile then finishes bandaging up and runs from room.

Talk with orphanage worker. Speak about defending from attacker if revolt not win. Says will go get locals help defend. Nod. Say will do best hold down position till return. Looks at leg and face with suspicion. Shakes head then goes out. Hobble around bit. Find candle and light with lamp. Look around. Do not try to climb stares so only see bottom floor. Each room has lamp. Very impressive. Kids must stay upstairs cause no beds or kids seen down here. Find few different doors out. Make sure to bar and lock all that can figure out how. Find kitchen. Eat little bit bread. Drink water from basin. Wait back in room where got treated. Hear sound of whispers from upstairs. Whispers sound same in every language. Must be kids talking about strange guy downstairs. Consider trying go up. Decide not good idea. Just scare kids and hurt leg. So wait instead. Short time passes. Hear kids creeping downstairs slowly. Step by step. Step by step. Make sure not stare at staircase. Let kids keep creeping. Think maybe got bravery come down but then interrupted.

Orphan watcher return with many men and women to help defend. Leader seem to be young man. Shakes hand. Asks many questions. Gets people organized and prepared. Listen and wait for attack. Hope not come because that mean people tricked not dead because trick. Feel bad if died because me. Hear running outside. Frantic knocks on door. Watcher panics but young guy says to answer. Has me able to see out door when opened. See faces out window. Captain and woman loyal to. Wonder what happened captain wife and kids. Probably OK. Shake head at young man. Man orders attack. Group bursts from hiding. Captures captain. Kill woman. Three injured on our side. Tie captain down but still treat wounds. Then lock in room for little boys with thick door. Have discussion with people. Seems like running from something. So must be revolt won. Feel good. Still probably lot dead. But better than all.

After time of no more encounter people calm down. Late at night so decide all stay together here. Young man leader ask about me. Start to tell story. Early on face gets strange expression. Interrupts to ask questions. Asks about Uras and Anatu. Asks about homeland and Bel. Asks about old legends and our quest. Asks about path taken here. Shakes head. Laughs strange laugh. Not funny laugh. More like too excited or horrified. Not understand. No part of story told so far when stopped be too exciting or scary. Leader wakes people up. Has me repeat parts of story again and again to different people. Talks in island language. Not follow well but able to understand kinda. Seem to be giving information then giving orders. Some very happy. Others very seem somber. Some argue loudly. Others listen in silence. Some very big facial changes. Very surprised. Others make not expression. All march out after finished listening. When finished turns back me. Tries explain.

Hard to follow explanation. Kid jumps around. Seems too excited. Talks about destiny. About freeing someone from someone else to complete my quest. Says be best with Uras but that I can do. Says time of living under burden is near end, Talks of end times of new world order. Speaks of magical things becoming real. Maybe crazy person. Eyes look crazy. Also determined. Many crazy people determined though. Was in on situation now though. Even if not understand had to follow through. Know very few people so have to rely on those around.

Go to sleep. Meet with orphans next morning. Get to know kids and play with. Also many not kids together at orphanage though. Wearing colored armband. See weapons gathered. Some recognize but some not. But enough to not be coincidence. Not hunting expedition. Not random drop off of weapons. Orphanage become hub for kind of revolution. Seemed to be following along with me lately. Did not try start this one. Seem to be cause though. Or something in story did. Only thing makes sense. Something in first few bits of story provoked revolution. Obviously mostly there already. Had to just be spark. Not know what was though. Try to ask but leader act coy. Says will see.

As night approach people gather. Many more than night before. Overrun inside orphanage. Have to meet outside. Leader gives speech in local language. Then tells me battle to finish my quest starts. Follow along with army. No idea if on right side or if good or bad but end up following anyways. Strange experience. Mood seemed jovial for bit. Then get very somber and quiet after few minutes. Then something spotted. Large building.

Fighting. Miss most of it because in back. But bloody and painful sounding. Break into building then kill people inside. Then light whole thing on fire. Became signature in next days. Burn lots of buildings. Cannot describe all different things after this. Many buildings. First just like murder. Break in then kill then burn. Then after first few there is fighting back. Guards for buildings. Then counterattacks on this group. Raids from others attacking people am with. Lots of death. Many use of thing like hand cannon but smaller. Faster to shoot. Very dangerous. Fights blur together. Look for patterns.

Notice much breaking and burning of certain statues. Pass by many buildings without burn but any time see statue of woman with five heads then burn down and break building. Ask about woman but refuse talk. Say name gives power to. Better to kill and not talk. Realize from things seen and stuff over days that revolution spread. Groups like this all over island. People who hate five headed woman fighting those that like. Still not know who is right. Know nothing about woman or people really. But dragged along and sometimes asked to speak. Always just to tell the story of the journey. Over time able to see parts of story that cause most reaction. Describing quest of Uras always get very strong shouting. Talking about Bel makes reaction. Rest of story result in some shouting and enjoy but two main things. Bel and quest cause reaction. Could be some strange cult of Bel that ended up here? Not really make sense. Do not follow any of Bel commands. Do not chant Bel name. Do hear chanting of some words. Not know if names or just words.

Battles get bigger. Getting close to cities. In chaos of battle think see someone that maybe Uras on far side of battle. Try to get close but battle too intense. Able to reach spot but long gone then. Later think see Anatu. Could be crazy though. Try not to get stabbed during fights. Mostly in back not fighting but still have to sometimes. Crazed fanatic tried to kill me and shouted something. Get told not to speak it when repeat so must be five headed woman name. Do not believe in power gained by speech or writing. And none can read in code journal. But whole situation is crazy. Not want to push luck so wait tell name till after conflict. Sounds familiar. All things feel like on edge of understanding. Camp on edge of city tonight.

See brightness up close. Still not understand. Glass things like lamps but no oil and too bright. No flame just light. Able to ask about. Every city has large thing in center. Like temple but filled with smoke and noise. From smoke temples come many long strings of metal. Strings cause pain and death if touched but cause magic too. Can make things glow or move. Smoke temples sound like engine almost but very big. Using engine for magic seems strange. Tomorrow get to see up close. Get to experiment maybe. Tomorrow attack city.

The Fifth Path (25/30)

November 28, 2016

Anatu’s Diary Entry for Abu 7th

Dear diary, the trip to the island we have been working so hard to reach, the island I described as myth and legend, was really boring. After I managed to get myself a job as security for a vessel, we set out the next day early in the morning. But we sailed a leisurely pace, and when I spoke with the crew, who had seemed reasonably exciting the day before, it soon became apparent that they were all generally not that interesting. Each one seemed interested primarily in the money of the endeavor, which was itself a not so great sign, but in addition, they didn’t even have any particularly great ambitions for what to do with the money. Buy a better house, or buy nicer food, or pay for more nights at the bar. These and more like them were the reasons I heard when I inquired into the motives of my fellow crew members. After having spent my life among the desperate poor, or the nobility, the wants and desires of those somewhere in the middle seemed painfully unimportant. Not that I begrudged these men and women their normal, average sort of wants, needs, and lives, but I became glad indeed that my life had turned out the way it did, that I had been the defender of kings and Baals, and not a simple trader or merchant. I could not imagine such a life being fulfilling. At least for me.

Even the captain, usually the person most interesting on the boats, was but a simple merchant, wanting a safe and easy voyage for a not particularly large profit. A modest reward was sought by all of these people, and in exchange they wanted no risk at all. I became more understanding of my companions interests in the absurd feats of nautical legerdemain that they had sought to and basically succeeded in performing in the days past. While I had never really considered myself a thrill seeker, or one much in favor of risks, the fear and complacence of the crew members here had me wishing we were sailing through another Gap, or heading towards another unknown civilization. I suppose, dear diary, that that last one is true. At least for me. I still know little about the culture of the place we are headed to. Some of the majesty has been lost to me however with the knowledge that men and women such as those aboard this vessel frequent it with little problem however. I wonder if my Baal and Nabua will be disappointed by this place, which has, to some extent, been the ultimate goal of our whole journey. It seems unlikely that a place so casually traveled too shall be quite as exciting or engaging as the mysterious lands of the unpronounceable kingdom or the dangerous depths of the “Green Sea”. It always felt to me like the last place would have to be the ultimate experience in a whole slew of interesting adventures. But it has begun to feel unlikely to me. But I could perhaps be being lured into a false sense of security by the people around me. Maybe they are truly rough and tumble individuals, who face danger, but treat it as just a days work. I guess we’ll see, dear diary.

The other aggravating thing about the journey, apart from the lack of interesting company, and the sheer banality of everyone around me, was the slow pace we set. I was already behind Nabua by a day or two, and it was quite possible my Baal had also managed to set out quickly, wherever he might have washed ashore. I was sure I was losing time however as my ship crept slowly across the water. My worst fear was that I would discover my companions had indeed arrived there, but then left without me. It didn’t seem particularly likely, but the possibility of it added to my general frustration with the ship I was on and the people around me. I was never directly confrontational, but as the days passed, people talked to me less, so I imagine that I was not the easiest to be around in that time. The days passed slowly but steadily. I was bored, and I thought to write to you, dear diary, but I had nothing truly to write about. I sat down to describe my day or days, but nothing came. The idea of filling you with the banality of the lives which surrounded me was not an appealing one. And so I sat around, talked with people I cared not a bit about, and did some exercises to stay in shape, in the unlikely event that my services as a guard would be called upon. Plus, seeing me doing active things seemed to put my crew members in a bad mood, as though the very thought of action or violence was too much. This was and effect I found not entirely undesirable.

At last however, I decided it was time to write to you, dear diary, for we are at last close to the island. My expectation, and hope is that whatever I encounter there will be at the very least, more interesting than what I found on the ride over, and I wanted to get through the boring bit now, so that I could cut right into the exciting bits next time I write to you. There were in fact a few interesting things that occurred at the tale end of the journey as well. I encountered the illusionary effect that had led to the island being considered beyond the edge of the world. It would perhaps have been exciting if my crew mates had not described exactly how it was created, and how it was nothing to be afraid of approximately five hundred times before it even came into view, apparently not wanting to see the unsettling sight of someone even momentarily excited or frightened by something. We did increase our speed a bit in order to crest the gap safely, reaching a speed which would have been barely above average for most vessels, but for this crew was positively startling. I tried to look over the edge, to the consternation of my crew mates, and get a look at the emptiness below, but it was a strange angle, and somewhat late at night, so I could not see far. Still, despite the best efforts of the rest of the ship, it was an exciting sight at least, unlike anything I had seen before, a crack in the ocean, where water fell in a massive waterfall, before continuing almost invisibly a bit past, above a black surface that looked like so much emptiness. I smiled as we passed over.

The island too managed to catch my attention a bit as we approached. In the night the towns lit up more brightly than I really thought possible. I could not imagine what could possibly be causing them to glow with such fervor unless they were on fire, and they lacked the warm red and orange glow of that kind of light. It was interesting, and the crew members had no simple explanation for it. I learned, when I asked, that they had not in fact ever gotten a chance to walk upon the island itself. Always they docked, and goods were transferred while they remained aboard their boat. That the place was at least that mysterious, and that its secrets were not known to people such as these, raised my spirits a good bit. Perhaps this place had the chance of meeting my expectations. In the last few hours, as I have been slowly writing down these events while considering and eating lunch, as we have been traveling the last short distance to the port where we are to dock, there have been a few more signs that have peeked my interest as well. A great deal of smoke became visible rising from a number of inland locations as we got closer. In addition, distant crashes, sounding somewhat like cannons could be heard in the far distance, as well as bright flashes of light here and there. It seemed like there might be something going on on the island of mystery. My fellow ship mates have been pointedly ignoring these signs for the last hours, which has amused me greatly, and as we close in on the dock, I can hardly wait to find out what news we shall discover. In fact I shall not wait, but rather prepare for disembarking. I shall write again soon, dear diary. And this next time I’ll actually have something worth writing about.

The Fifth Path (24/30)

November 26, 2016

The First Draft of the Autobiography of Baal Uras, Soon to be 29th King of the True Land

Running Title: A Point of View: Things Seen in a Year Outside

Composed Abu 6th In the 1st Year of Baal Makru

Chapter 19: Captain Hailt

My companions and I boarded our little vessel, my Scholar having read up on the proper methods of locomotion and navigation for such a journey. It was much less relaxing than previous non-enslaved nautical expeditions, as I had to row almost constantly, alongside my companions. My Scholar sought to alleviate that need, by searching for a current that might carry us along without needing to row, but he never found it, so instead he simply added a strange weaving pattern to our travels, one that I do not think was truly appreciated by my Protector. I was generally too busy being completely exhausted by the rowing to give our exact navigation much notice. I did manage to notice however when the seas started to roughen and the sky darken. It would seem that this novice crew would have to deal with something of a storm on our way to the next island.

We fought the storm as best we could, doing a respectable job relative to our experience and skill. We were able to survive rolling waves and avoid being crushed when they crashed. We managed to stay on target even as tides pushed us to the sides and harsh winds blew us every which way. There was even a notable incident with a particularly large wave, where we managed to ride the wave and time our turn in such a way that our little boat all but leaped over the space between waves and landed on the top of the next one over without falling into the intervening space. In the end though, we were not good enough at this, or the waves and wind were too fierce, or our little boat was not made to handle this kind of situation. Whatever the excuse, not far from the island, near to some rocks and coral outcroppings, we crashed, our boat flipped, and everyone was pulled into the depths. At the time I had no idea what had happened to my companions, but truly, in those moments I thought not at all of them, but instead merely on staying alive. Not drowning was my top priority, and one that was certainly a challenging task.

I am not entirely sure how it came to be there, perhaps our boat crashed into a rock after we were all evicted from it, but somehow there was a chunk of wood, which floated above the rolling waves, and I managed to grip it. As water crashed over me, and currents pulled me, and as I whirled this way and that, I simply gripped the chunk of wood, trusting in it to keep me alive, and trusting in Bel to deliver me safely to the island, and not crush me cruelly against a sea-born rock. I was torn and cut a little by rocks that I was dragged past, but never was I crushed, and so I hung on, and prayed to Bel and was carried through the water. It was a long time before the moving stopped, before the storm ceased in its pulling and pushing and dragging and throwing. My arms had lost all sensation long before then, and I had reached a state somewhere between consciousness and sleep, not really perceiving the world, but not truly gone from it either. My hands had become vices, gripping only, not willing or able to do anything else at all. All of this together made it difficult for me to realize the storm was over.

I had been expecting to either die, crashed against some rocks, or wash ashore on the island that had been our goal. Instead I found myself hours later, blearily perceiving a world in which I was still clinging to the bit of wood that had been my salvation, and farther from the island than before the storm. It seemed as though I had been pulled into a current that had taken me out to sea, and not in towards the land. This was a worrying predicament, for once I realized that the storm was over, the numbness in my arms turned to searing pain, an incredible tiredness filled me, and the vices which had once been my hands began to feel more like hands again, their gripping strength draining away. I managed to maintain my grip, but only barely, my body not wanting to be part of this whole situation at all. I noticed then how far the island was from my location, and I must admit, that in that moment I did perhaps give in to despair. Maybe more like exhaustion then despair. I was quite tired. And yet I could not release my grip, I could not allow myself to let go or I would drown, for while hanging on is tiring, it is much less so than swimming. And so I hung on, watching myself drift further and further from the island that had been my goal. I had no particular plan or hope for how to survive, but I could not simply let myself go. I had a goal or drive to simply hold on, to extend my life by those few minutes or hours, or however long I could hold it. Despite my pain and exhaustion, I refused to let myself go. I hung on.

In the end this primal instinct, this desire to simply continue, even with no purpose or hope, saved me. It took me far longer to notice my savior than it should have. My eyes were mostly down, staring at my hands and arms that so burned and cried for release. When I did look up it was to stare at the ever receding island. So imagine my confusion when I happened to glance to the side and see a full blown ship sailing through the water not far away at all. I almost let go of my plank of wood and drowned right there and then. I managed to flail about and avoid that fate, then wave with one arm and yell with all that I could muster, coughing and spluttering with my parched throat. And someone on the ship saw me, and the ship came for me. A rope was thrown down to me, and I tried to climb, but I could not. So they pulled me up, and I did what I had done for so long, and hung on.

I was greeted by a crew, better dressed than many crews I had seen, which gave me hope I had not just found myself captured by pirates again. They were also remarkably similar in terms of appearance and dress, a uniformity that had not been evident at all in the pirate crews I had seen, which gave me further hope I was not in fact condemned to another period of servitude and rotted food. Their dress was similar enough that it might in fact to be appropriate to call what they were wearing a uniform. I wondered if this might not be some kind of military, for the uniforms and the sameness of appearance made that seem possible. The particular combination of skin tone, facial features, and general appearance was one that struck me as strangely familiar, but which I could not place, not seeming to fit any of the cultures that I was aware of, or had witnessed on my travels thus far. I similarly did not understand the language that they spoke to each other after I first made my way onto the ship. This worried me for a moment, but then one of them tried a few different languages out on me, and I was able to recognize a couple. It seemed like I was to be questioned, but after only getting to the point where I explained my name, there was an interruption. Someone from the back of the group spoke up.

The tone of voice and the way the others responded made me realize that the speaker was the leader. When the crowd parted and I saw the speaker I was a bit surprised to find a woman, but it seemed that there were many more female leaders in the false land than the true, so it was less surprising than it would have been a few months ago. I shall wait to describe this woman, for she becomes rather important to the story going forward. Suffice to say that at the moment, she was directing the others to give me a chance to rest before interrogating me, and since sleep was the thing that I most wanted at that moment, it would be fair to say that I took a shine to her right from the start. I nodded thanks to the woman, who gave me a curt nod as a response, then I was directed to follow one of the crew.

The room I was given was tiny, barely having enough room for the small pallet that it contained, but it had a place to sleep and was dry, which was more than enough for me at the moment. I closed the door, took off my soggy clothing, and then, managing to stave off sleep for a few more seconds, took a quick stock of what I had with me. Thankfully, we had been all wearing backpacks on the boat for space reasons, so I had mine on, which contained my notes for the very book you hold in your hands now. It had managed to avoid being destroyed completely. Unfortunately, that appeared to be all I had. I did not even have anything to write with. Just a backpack, a book, and my clothes. The lack of any resource for payment worried me a bit, but I was too tired to do much more than be glad that I at least had my notes. Then I threw myself down on the mat on the floor and immediately fell into sleep.

It was when I woke up that I really managed to understand the precariousness of my situation. I had lost almost all of my worldly possessions, as well as my two companions. And I would soon see that I had lost something else that I had thought never to lose. I felt relatively confident that my companions had survived. If I had then my Protector would certainly have made it, and I really couldn’t imagine my Scholar dieing to something as mundane as a boat crash. Not exactly compelling evidence, but the fact that I lived seemed evidence enough for me, who’s mind was not particularly willing to accept much more loss at that moment. It did soon become a priority of mine to try and meet back up with them, and I resolved to make landing on the island and searching for my companions a priority in my upcoming negotiations with the boat captain. I was sure there was something that could be worked out to that effect. Little did I know that their would not exactly be “negotiations” in the traditional sense that I was used to. Once I had put back on my clothes, dried now in the time I was asleep, I knocked on the door to indicate I was rested and ready for my interrogation and then waited for someone to retrieve me. Shortly, a member of the crew did.

I was brought to the office of the woman in charge. It is here that I shall describe her, and the general features of most of the people of this boat. The people were a mixed color, somewhat similar to the tone of the true people, though slightly darker. Their hair was either brown or a dark blonde. It was their eyes that made them unique however. For typically those with darker skin and hair tend to have darker eyes as well, but these people all had very pale eyes, either blue or green in color, but lighter even than normal for these colors. The woman who was sitting in a large chair behind her enormous desk when I came in had striking eyes indeed, the palest blue. They contrasted with her skin in a lovely fashion, her color being a bit darker than most of her peers. Her people tended to have thinner facial features than most of those I had encountered, and she was no exception, except that her eyes seemed particularly large in comparison to the rest of her face. It might have been an illusion however, created by the intensity of her gaze. It was not the same level as the leader of the island I had just visited, but it seemed a similar vein, the gaze of an effective leader. I smiled as I came into the cabin and sat down at the chair on my side of the desk. I noticed the tiniest hint of a frown as I did this, not from the smile, which had been apparently ignored, but from the act of sitting down. She apparently did not know she had communicated this though, as she shifted into an open smile after a moment, and invited me to speak, after introducing herself briefly.

I told her my story, or rather a very brief summation of it. I explained my situation and my quest, several of the notable adventures my companions and I had overcome and my current goals, both to retrieve my companions and the go to the final island beyond the edge of the world. While I was speaking, I was also taking time to really look her over. She had a slightly more complicated version of the red and blue uniform this ship seemed to favor. Her hair was a lustrous brown, grown out into long curls. Her face was above average in terms of appearance, but she would not have been considered a great beauty back in the true lands, on account of lack of thick lashes and the thinness of her lips. I could not see her body well underneath the uniform, but she seemed in shape, which made sense considering the military feel that I had gotten from this vessel. When I was finished, I was greeted by an expression unfamiliar to me, not so much in concept, as I had seen it used before, but in personal experience. The woman was leaned back in her chair, and she at last let her face move from the neutral but interested expression she had maintained for the whole story. She was smiling, but her one of her eyebrows was raised considerably higher than the other. She responded, and I realized with horror that she did not believe me. She did not believe I was a Baal, or indeed anyone of any real importance. She thought I was lying.

Her reasoning for dismissing my tale as being one of fancy was compelling. There had indeed been many incredible events upon my journey, and the skills and luck of myself and my companions are sufficiently above the norm that our feats might easily be considered unlikely without something to back them up. And seeing as how I had only myself and the notes for this very book you are now reading, I did not truly have much evidence, as the notes might very well be considered evidence of making this up just as well as being an actual record of my travels. Without my fortune or my companions to back me up, what did I truly have? I had a reputation and I had people who could vouch for me, but only on the islands behind us. Ahead of us there was nothing of my story. I had my skills at language, and my ability to negotiate and interact politically, but might those also not be skills of a professional liar?

As she explained all this, I searched for some thing that might persuade her, but I could think of nothing at all. And her last point was the most shocking of all, for she explained that while she had indeed heard of the true lands, it was that recent knowledge that really pushed my story out of the realm of the credible, for she informed me that the ruler of the true land was not named Shamas as I had told her, but instead Makru. This was of course the name of my oldest brother. It seemed that my father had died in these last few months. And to add insult to such painful news, it seemed my twin brother, Alam, had been sent on an Awakening to be ready as the next ruler. And this woman had met him, heard a very similar story, but with actual wealth and companions to back them up. And in the history of the true land, never had there been two such potential rulers out on their awakenings at the same time. The timing of my father’s death was unfortunate and had created an unprecedented situation that served to make my story seem particularly unlikely. I insisted that my story was true, refusing to admit that I was lying which seemed to be her goal, but I did admit that my story seemed implausible from her perspective. This seemed like enough of an admission to her, so we moved on to other topics.

Of course I was not truly prepared for the tone of these other discussions. In my whole life I had always been important. Sometimes disliked, opposed, or made to seem incompetent or young, but always important in some fundamental way. I was always known to be rich and powerful, and even if someone chose to not care about my opinion or wishes, this was an active choice, this was someone deciding that they were going to go against the grain and not do something that was accepted and normal. But now, I was a moneyless vagrant saved from death on the sea. I was not a Baal, not a potential future ruler, and I was not even rich. I was poor and I was perhaps a liar and I was as such, not in fact important. I was a person, and thus worth some small amount of consideration, but not much more than that. This was well established by the tone of the conversation after it was understood I had no evidence to suggest I was anyone important. The woman was in fact important, as the captain of the vessel, and so she would be the one talking and largely making decisions, and I was only here due to her charity, and so I would listen and make some small decisions within the context of what she told me. I did not quite grasp this at first, and tried to interject a few times but she did not respond well to this, and I figured out the situation pretty quickly. It was a bizarre feeling.

I had of course been in a situation where a woman had a great deal of power of me recently. My brief but intense relationship with my Protector had been that way, but there had still been an understanding that I was important to her, that this power dynamic was special because of its difference than the natural order of things. Here was different and I felt rather put out by it. I listened to the woman, and respected her choices, understanding it from her point of view, but I felt insulted, as though this was something inherently unnatural. It made me feel like how I had been on the pirate vessel, though obviously this was much less extreme. I was distracted and my emotions were not particularly stable, but I managed to disguise this as best I could. My first try at interjecting had been when she explained where we were going, as it did not include a stop on the island that likely contained my companions. I of course wanted to stop there, but she said it wasn’t on the schedule and that she was not rerouting a whole ship because of one lone vagrant. I was informed that I would be allowed to depart at any of the ships next five or so stops, but would have to be off relatively soon, not being a part of her crew. She further explained that no one rode on her ship without working, and that while she would not throw me to the sharks unless I did something to deserve it, I was not going to get any food or water unless I worked. I just nodded at this, slowly coming to terms with the fact that I was poor. Then the interview was over, and I returned to my room, being told I would start working after lunch that day.

I thought about what I should do. I considered trying to make it to shore somehow, maybe stealing a rowboat or something. But then I stopped, going back through the islands that the captain had told me we would be visiting, that I might be dropped off at. I had not know the names of most any of the islands that she mentioned, but she had described basic locations in relation to each other, and when I imagined them in respect to each other, I realized something. Based on the vague maps that we had been able to acquire from a few of the islands we had stopped on of the furthest lands, it might very well be that the last stop of this ship’s voyage was the very island that was to be the outermost destination of my Awakening. Thinking back to the title the woman had given herself when she first introduced herself to me, it became to seem more likely.

According to her, she was one Samunith, Third Admiral of the Wakeword Fleet. There were a lot of rumors about the island we were hoping to visit, that it was off the edge of the world, that it is the last island of the world, that it has technology beyond human imagining, that it is entirely populated by people with the heads of dogs, and a hundred other fanciful tales that are unlikely to be true. What seemed more likely to be helpful was descriptors of its people, how they were described by others and how they might describe themselves. I had only been half listening when my Scholar had described these details to me, but now, thinking back, it seemed that they mostly fit. It seemed very likely that this was indeed a ship of the navy of the very island I was hoping to visit. And if my companions could not find me, then they would assume that I was continuing the journey. And so, then, instead of running away, I needed to sail on this ship back to its home. I could potentially accomplish all my goals by simply doing whatever job these people asked of me, and staying aboard the ship. Off course the one place that the good captain Samunith had said I could not depart was their home island, but I’d just have to deal with that when I got too it. And so I resolved to win the trust of these people, and figure a way onto their island and prove my royalty at that point. So I got to work.

The next days passed pleasantly enough. I got to know the rest of the crew, who were suspicious at first, but came to like me once I got a chance to know them. Telling my stories directly did not go over super well, as the captain must have told them to distrust me in regards to that, but when I rephrased the stories as being events that happened to a friend of mine, they appreciated the stories more, and liked the adventure and romance and exploration of it all. I worked hard, doing my best to learn how to actually do these jobs, not only because I wanted to be liked, but also because I figured now was as good a time as any to actually pick up some skills that I might be able to be better at understanding the jobs others would be doing for me later.

The other interesting thing that happened over that period was something I was not initially trying to do, but ended up just sorta happening. It seemed that my attraction to woman in power was not restricted to my Protector. This may very well be a weakness in my character, and it will be something that needs overcoming before I could assume power back in the true lands. The attraction was not the same extreme complete surrender of self that had occurred previously, which was certainly an improvement as far as my ability to actually accomplish anything while feeling these things, but it was definitely something. I thought of Admiral Samunith rather frequently, though again not to the same crippling extent that I had for my Protector back in Xexan. And so, being in a strange situation far from home, in a somewhat uncomfortable situation, I acted on this impulse, and began to court the winsome woman. It was subtle. The different in our perceived station was such that the direct approach would be inappropriate. I am not exactly bad at the wooing process, despite the evidence to the contrary you have thus far observed in this story, gentle reader. While I had never before this trip actually considered any individual a real potential wife, I had learned the appropriate methods one would use when one was found, and I had been particularly studious in those particular lessons.

So it was that my efforts were not met with complete disapproval. The smiles and fleeting glances and such things that I was good at noticing indicated some amount of interest being returned, and so I continued, growing a bit bolder. I began to play the careful game that would be required to ever actually have something of a relationship. This of course was the game of power dynamics, this time played to win, or at least break even, as opposed to the complete failure of last time. Since she was in fact my superior in this situation, and currently had all the power, it was important to always be respectful, never oppose her directly, or even really imply I was. But it was also necessary to assert myself, to oh so subtly imply equality, or make reference to my noble status, even in jest. This was initially not received very well, but as I continued, and it became clear that I was not trying to usurp her power so much as carve out a place for a potential relationship within that dynamic, she warmed to it, and began to play along as well, biting back with the occasional flirtatious utilization of the current dynamic. It was an enjoyable game, one that was played well by both sides. It served to help pass the time, and while it did in fact serve my own interests, as it made me more liked, and thus more likely to be allowed to depart upon the island of her home, it was in fact an end in and of itself, because, as I said, I had become rather enamored of this woman.

So the days passed, in work, and then after work in song and swapping of stories, and the occasional intriguing exchange of dialogue with the Admiral. It was a happy and somewhat carefree time, one of the first times in my life that the burden of leadership was lifted, and while I was still committed to my goals, they had a timetable and a schedule I could not control, and so I was able to simply allow the trip to happen, to simply enjoy my time with these interesting new people around me. It was a good time all together. We stopped at several ports, and each time I was offered a chance to depart, and each time I turned it down, and the crew members and the admiral were happy with that choice, glad I was staying on for a little bit longer. The only annoying part of the situation was that I was unable to acquire anything with which to write for the longest time. It was only at the last port before the island of my goals that I was finally able to get one, the captain presenting it to me as a present, something for which I was most grateful, not only for the renewed ability to write, but also because of its symbol as a new step in our relationship. The giving of gifts is symbolically powerful in many cultures, and I expect it is the same for hers. So it was with joy in my heart that I was able to write down the notes for this part of my story, moving towards the island I have so long dreamed about, observing its bright lights, too bright to my eyes, and wondering how things would turn out.

Would I be allowed to depart on this island? Would my companions be waiting for me? Would I be able to prove my status and make an agreement with the rulers of this place? How would this affect my relationship with the attractive admiral? These questions and more rushed through my mind as the boat docked at the end of a long spindly black dock, and I put the last few words into my notes. This was the culmination of a lot of time and effort. The island off the edge of the map, the island past the edge of the world. It was an exciting time, in a life filled with such wonder.

The Fifth Path (23/30)

November 24, 2016

Nabua’s Journal(2) Entry for Av 4th

Traveling without Uras and Anatu weird. Had not been without homelander for longer than day ever before. New people alright. Too serious. Did not know what goal of trip was when signed up. Just knew was going towards goal. Hope companions can also find way there. If I not die then they be fine. Least good swimmer. Apparently goal of trip is raid. Trying to steal valuables from island off edge of world. Very stealthy though. Island very powerful. Will win if we discovered. Not sure what I will do. Maybe stay on island after raid. Or maybe we get captured. Will have to see.

New books on new ship. Been reading when not talking to crew or captain. Lots of info about lands around here. Everything about goal island very mysterious though. Lots of crazy stories by sole survivors and stuff. No maps. Seems like fantasy many times. Keep open mind though. Be stupid not too this point. Wait noise on deck. Go check.

OK. Open mind good. All stories about island past edge of world. Assume metaphor. Apparently not. Saw edge of sea. Just stops. Water fall into darkness. But island visible still in distance. Seems to be floating in darkness. Some crew very scared. Others seem unconcerned. First timers and veterans. If veterans not scared then must be something not understand. Maybe trick to it. People say world is flat but not know about science. Namesake proved was sphere long ago. All educated people know. And yet edge is in front of us. Falling water. Blackness beyond. Accept new evidence. Take into account. Figure out implications. Too many. Does not fit understanding of world. Understanding of world wrong or evidence wrong? Read too many books and learned too much to dismiss understanding right away. Double check evidence. Go ask veteran about.

OK. Double checking good. Edge of world kind of illusion. Water does fall but into crack in ocean floor. Still sea on other side of crack but very shallow. Black rock of distant island under the water. Makes look like empty blackness. Only problem is crack, then will be back on sea, just shallow sea over black rock. Glad all knowledge not useless. Good to ensure things. Accepting what sees important but doubting what sees be valuable too. Still can believe theory of namesake. Easy to see how stories started though. And not be able to see truth if not try and sail boat right towards apparent drop off into nothing. Wonder who was fool enough to try and find secret truth first. Seemed damn stupid but added to human knowledge. Want to be that some day. But also not want die for dumb reason. Tricky. Suppose just have to trust instincts some times. Or trust knowledge even in face of apparent contradiction. Maybe first who tried believed in round earth. Refused to accept edge of world because understood math saying not thing. Would be good story. Good reason to pilot ship towards endless drop. Faith in mind and mind of others.

Discovered new game to play with crew members. Not as fun as Xiwan but still good. Two phases. One is placing people. Then moving people after placing. Saw other games as well. One with many stones moved around in different little holes. One with white and black stones on grid. One with pieces carved into different shapes like horses and towers. Many people play different games with something never seen before. Use paper to play games. Like a bunch of thick pieces with different symbols on them that are all stacked. Pick up different amounts of paper and look at symbols and make decisions. Never seen so many different games from one thing. Guess games all come from different places. Very few games from homeland though. Wonder why. Will bring lots of them back. Or maybe not. Should make sure at least Anatu and Uras know some games and can teach them. Homeland needs Xiwan. So many different ways to play. Different set ups make game very different each time. Drafting team is fun.

Strange thing about captain of new vessel is that brought family. Ship filled with people going to go raid and steal in dangerous place but brought wife and three kids. One maybe old enough but two very small. Like talking to kids. Think my accent funny. Showed them stab wounds. Like my stories. Good practice for language. Plus only people not serious. Everyone serious even when playing games. Heard laughter from not kids maybe three times since got on boat. Assume goal very dangerous probably. Which makes kids strange choice. Maybe fatalistic. If going to die at least die with family nearby. Seems morbid. Not responsible. Feel like keeping kids safe important. But maybe showing them the world more important. Guess never thought much about kids. Made vow not marry so never even thought about. Could have been nice with Mae. But likely never see again. Ocean big place. Plus maybe all die on this voyage. More noise. Lots of interruptions today.

Went over gap. Was bumpy. Scary to watch. Really interesting though. Only long boats can make it. If was shorter then could have fallen through and been crushed underwater. But ship can skate over crack in the sea. Now looks like sailing in darkness. Can barely see water even now. Very clear. Just black stone down below. Getting dark too. Can see far island easily. Very brightly lit towns. Maybe bonfires? Color seems off though. Boat is changing sails now. Putting up black ones so harder to see as we get closer. Covering all things that could reflect with black cloth. No one allowed on deck except if need to be there. Apparently is certain place on island trying to get to where can hide ship. Far from bright cities. Place with rocks. Kinda nervous about rocks now after last time. But on ship now not little boat. Can deal.

Got job in few hours. All on ship can communicate but not well. Can translate orders into language each crew member understand well so no miscommunication. Really lucky learned Xexan. Very important out here. Even though Xexan self very isolationist language is wide ranging. Not sure if Xexan people spread out or if larger population that happened to also live on Xexan. Maybe used to be more expansive but retreated back to isolationism. Hard to find history of civilizations outside of each island self. And then books only talk about what want you know. Never get negative stuff. Only propaganda. Have to rely on personal accounts to discover info about old cultures. Just pick up details not even trying to record. Stuff they take for granted and assume that is different then me. Use that to figure out what world was like. Like puzzle or game. Very fun. Hard to succeed though or even know if right unless confirmed later from other source. Lots of guessing. Lots of almost knowledge. Feelings that do not have enough going to make full thoughts. Slowly build into ideas over time.

Managed to get some more fighting training. Had started on boat with Mae but not had chance since. Should have done when on island alone with Anatu so long but never seemed right time or forgot. But other crew willing to show me some tricks. Lots of different things from different people. Just a tiny bit of whole styles from different places. Guess can hope at least one trick works in fight. Just need so many that no one has seen all. Not sustainable fighting style but might be best for me. Only need to fight when situation desperate. Not want to get stabbed again. Hope not freeze up again. Will have t-

Froze up again. So many interruptions. Least not get stabbed. Some kind of guard or something for island. On tiny little boat that we not spot. Climbed onto ship then murdered people. Killed five before any managed to scream. Ran out to see what going on. Saw guy that taught new board game stabbed. Could not move. Watched other person try and attack but get stabbed too. Attacker very fast. Threw knives crazy fast. Moved fast. Dodged fast. Apparently bringing kids was counter though. Captain came out onto deck with kids in front. Attacker hesitated. Captain shot with crossbow. Dead attacker. Lost maybe quarter of crew to one guy. Had surprise sure but still crazy. Wanted to look at corpse check out equipment but captain pushed body into ocean then ran over the little boat the guy had come in. Managed to collect one of knives though from body of friend. Very small. Strange shape of hilt. Not big enough for holding. Not sure how thrown. Realized later that too many had died from wounds that should not kill. Realized knife poisoned. Glad did not cut self. Would have been dumb way to die. Guess most ways to die are dumb. Still.

Going to continue with plan. No way for attacker to have told anyone. Less crew members means more dangerous but already committed. Captain made speech for survivors. Tried to imply quitting would mean men died in vain. Still want to go so no complaint but speech seemed in bad taste. Was not grand ambition for most. Just job. Turning deaths into symbol seems strange. Whatever. Captain kind of a creep anyways. Using kids as shield was smart but still seemed wrong. Apparently islanders do not like to kill kids. Definitely going to jump ship once we are there. Do not think on right side right now. Wonder if any would go with. Probably not. Like said just job for most. Quest for me but not for others. Maybe for captain too but not understand why. Bringing child shields and trying to manipulate people seem extreme just for some loot. Maybe has ulterior motives too. Have to watch out for him. Make sure not in danger. Glad writing in code. Not for first time is very useful.

Got to plan what to take with when leave boat. Only backpack to hold things. Got to keep journals of past Baals. Only thing left from our supply. Had in backpack when crashed. But maybe need other supplies too. And could steal some new books. Tough decisions. Least will not have to make third journal. Still hope can secure old journal again. No way though. So far away now. Wonder if pirate lady decoded it. Doubtful but Anatu thought could. Not important now. Maybe some money? Not useful on this island but later. Generic useful stuff like rope and camping things. Maybe too much weight. Can get that later. Cities seem common on island here so not need to camp hopefully. Knives. Gotta do the stabbing and not reverse. Hopefully no stabbing but experience tells different. Little food. Usually useful. Clothes? Not likely useful. Can get in cities. Books. Money. Weapons. Food. Everything need. Pack light so easy to carry and easy to sneak away. Books already heavy enough.

Getting close to land now. Passing by some rocks. Everything dark where we are. Came from angle with no city lights. Gotta go translate orders. Maybe can translate something wrong to help me get away.

Realized bad idea before did it. Too many people know too many languages. Would need to have planned exactly what to say and who would hear. Not worth danger. Just have to figure out on fly. Planning seems to never go well anyways for me and companions. So many random crazy things. But we made it here. Or least I made here. Hope all did. Will see in next few days.

Bag packed. Not plan made. Mind is ready. Game of Xiwan planned for last hour before operation starts. Finally learned who stealing from. Glad leaving behind. Not want to steal from orphanage. Not understand what stealing but was told who. Saw faces of others. Maybe mutiny instead of escape. Will try.

The Fifth Path (22/30)

November 23, 2016

Anatu’s Diary Entry for Abu 1st

I am sorry, dear diary, that I have not written to you for so long. Its been a week since I wrote to you, the day before we left the island of grey skinned people and sailed out on a little boat. And what a week it has been. A great deal has happened, and I am not entirely in a good place right now, but I will do my best to record the facts, get everything down on paper. Its helped before. Hopefully it will help again.

So, to start, we boarded the boat. It was very small compared to anything else I have used to cross the water. Room enough for maybe five people if you fit them in tight. As it was, with three of us, we still were close together. None of us really knew much about boats. I mean, we had all been sailing on ships for a while now, and we knew a bit about them, but this was a boat, it had no sail, and it was small, rocked and rolled by the waves more than any other vessel we had been aboard. I was not enthused, and we should have been more cautious. Maybe we should have tried to get a local guide. But we didn’t and we set out in the tiny boat, overloaded with all our gear and supplies, and us three. We all rowed together. My Baal was in excellent spirits after his lone excursion, and although it had not been nearly as much for those forced to guard the treasure, it was good to see him happy again. He had seemed down for a while. As such, we were all in a pretty good mood. We rowed, and kept watch for the next island, which would be close enough to see within a few hours of rowing according to the locals. Sure enough, about two hours after we began, almost on the nose, we spotted land. It was far off, and considering how tired my arms already felt from the journey thus far it was a bit discouraging, but it was good to see where we were going.

Nabua was acting as our navigator, and he kept having us weave back and forth through the water. He was convinced there was a current somewhere that would carry us most of the way without us having to row the whole way, and kept trying to find it. I don’t blame him for what happened, but had we stayed straight on track, then maybe things would have been different. Probably not, but maybe. So we weaved our way across the way, and as we did so the sky began to darken. The clouds became thick and black. The wind began to pick up, and the gentle up and down which had been so constant in our journey thus far became more of a jostle and then shove as we continued, doing our best not to let the little vessel capsize. That we might simply tip over and lose all our stuff and likely our lives was a constant fear, as the boat seemed not very stable at all. Somehow we continued on, the waves ever rising, sliding over the crests and rushing down and back up the next, only getting lightly splashed each time. It was a testament to Nabua’s general skill at picking up skills that we got through that part of the journey. He knew we might need to have someone who knew about boats at some point, so he had, before the journey began, packed a book on that subject. Then, the day before we were to set out on the fateful journey, he read the book cover to cover, picking up a hundred little things that most would not have realized after ten readings.

Cresting and rolling, barely able to see where we were going except at the top of each wave, we moved slowly towards our destination. Often times we had to move parallel to it in order to avoid being crushed by waves, but never further away. Inch by inch, meter by meter, we approached the distant island. Then, after hours of fighting for our survival, fighting each wave, fearing death with each fall and each rise, we appeared to finally be close. We could see rocks nearby, little extensions of the island. And then we messed up, and there was water, and I tried to swim and I hit my head on a rock and their was blood and I swam, and I started to drown, and I dragged myself up on a rock in the sea, spat out the water, then was pushed back in by a huge wave. I swam underwater, then above, trying to get air. I could not see where I was going or where I was coming from.

Again and again I found temporary refuge on small rocks and bits of coral, but they were both a blessing and a bane, for while they gave me temporary respite from swimming and bobbing, they were hard and sharp and when the waves pushed you up against them you could bleed or faint of be crushed. I don’t know how many times I grabbed onto a rock, was pulled away, swam towards another rock, and repeated the process. Somehow eventually, by the grace of Bel, I ended up on sand. My legs were bruised and bleeding and my whole body felt tired, but I managed to drag myself up the shore, away from the sea, get myself free from the water so when I passed out I would not be dragged back into the ocean. I looked, and saw no water reaching my feet and I passed into darkness.

I was awoken by a dream. It was fortunate for me that I was, for my first sight upon waking up was of a crab claw reaching for my eyes. Had I stayed asleep a moment longer I might very well have lost one or both eyes. As it was, I managed to pull myself away, and kicked out at the crab, startling it enough for it to back up. I noticed a dozen more like it nearby, in something of a circle around me. It seemed they were hoping for an easy meal. I planted my hands into the soft sand and pushed, getting myself to my feet, able to stand, but only shakily. With my full height reached, the group of crabs retreated, deciding they might seek easier prey. With that threat gone, my mind was finally able to take stock of the situation. I realized then that I had no idea where my companions were, or even whether they yet lived. I was not happy about this. Had the crabs known the language of Bel, they might very well have been shocked at the words I used in that moment.

My priority of course was Baal Uras, though finding Nabua was a close second. The shock of having lost track of them both managed to push my weakened body into a state in which I could run. And so I ran, up and down the beach, calling out, looking for any sign of my companions. After three beaches and over three hours of searching, I finally found a clue. Footsteps in the sand far down the third beach, and marks that could only be made by dragging someone along behind you over the sand. One of my companions had washed ashore here, and some group had taken them. I followed the tracks up to the edge of the beach, but after that, when the sand was no more, I lost them completely. I had never learned the art of tracking, as I spent most of my life in a city, where knowing who to talk to is much more important than knowing what to look for. Now of course I cursed myself, blaming myself not knowing a skill that I had really had no reason to learn. Had I been Nabua, maybe I would have packed a book on the subject, carried it in my backpack, and been able to figure it all out after an afternoon with it. But I was not so adept at learning from books, and in fact had no books on me except for you, dear diary. So I did what any self respecting bodyguard would do in that situation and rushed blindly into the jungle.

My maces had been washed away in the storm, but my belt held one long knife, intended for blocking. I pulled out the blade, intending at first to use it as a protective measure, but soon discovering the other useful property of such a long sharp blade, namely cutting through the vines and undergrowth of the jungle, clearing a route where it was possible to walk. I shudder to think how slow the travel would have been if I had had to climb under or over or between every vine and bush. While I was not focused much on the landscape and the surroundings, focused instead on any signs of human life, or any clue to the location of whoever had been dragged in here, I still managed to spot the incredible number of snakes that seemed to flee from my presence. The place was thick with them, both in the trees and pushes and on the ground. My interaction with snakes had largely come from the true land of course, so I had no fear of them, not really believing the tales of men dieing from simple wounds. Had I known that half the snakes I drove before me could have killed me in less than a day with a single bite, I would perhaps have been a bit more cautious. As it was, I killed two snakes that tried to bite me, and then was caught by a third, which moved much more swiftly than I was expecting.

From that point I lose a lot of memories. I remember continuing through the jungle, not aware of the danger I was in. I remember the arm swelling up, and a numb feeling spreading. I remember my lungs becoming harder and harder to use, and my heart fluttering. Then, there is a long time where my memories are not but images. The jungle from below. A snake slithering across my body. A great black beast walking solemnly past. A monkey taking my knife. The terrifying face of a demon. The view of the jungle from someones back. A house up in a tree. Strange plants and weird smells. A bed made of leaves and dirt. The demon giving me food. Night and day and night again.

While I was never truly unconscious for long, I woke up from my stupor like state after two nights. Or rather in the middle of the second night. I did not really understand what had happened to me. I saw the demon sleeping on the ground, but his face was propped up against the wall. I realized then that it was a mask. I knew I needed to keep looking for my companions. I tried to stand up. Pain. I was on the ground, face planted, nose first on the wooden floor. My nose was broken. I made noises and the man behind the mask woke up. He looked at me, and then, eyes filled with fear, he put on the mask, before lifting me up, and sitting me back down on the bed. He tried to speak to me, but I could not understand. I tried to speak, slowly and not making a lot of sense, but he could not understand. And so the miming began. It was a long slow process, but by the end I had a sense for what happened. The snakes were dangerous, and I was lucky to be alive. It seemed that most died when bitten by the snakes of this island, and that it was only due to the strength of my body, as well as the power of his herbs that I had been OK. I tried to get across that I was looking for my companions, that we had all washed ashore, and that at least one had been taken off the beach and into the jungle.

We tried to communicate about where my companion might be, but it proved impossible, until we started using lines in the dirt, as maps proved to be a universal language. It seemed there was a village where one might potentially find someone who had been taken from the beach. It was apparently dangerous for some reason however, and he did not want me to go, but I insisted, in my non verbal manner. There was little he could do to stop me, unless he wanted to try to trap me here however, so, I was soon moving about and on my way, I was weak still, and I had to get help from a long sturdy pole that I found near my saviors house. It would be useful in a fight certainly, especially with all of my other weapons gone, but the main reason was simply to help me move. My body was still not responding quite correctly, and it was much easier to walk with three legs than two. And so, I hobbled away from the shelter of my new friend, and out into the jungle, towards the village that my friend kept warning me away from.

It took me a day to find the place. The maps had not been very specific, and it was impossible to see more than a tiny fraction of area around you in the jungle. I likely passed within a few dozen yards of it many times before at last, stumbling into the very center of town. There appeared to be some kind of celebration going on, but all of the villagers, each dressed in a different horrifying demon mask, stopped short as soon as they saw me. Before I could respond, they had me raised up in the air, and carried around and around, before being put down in a large golden throne, which was sitting nonchalantly next to a house of leaves and twigs, and a pile of human skulls. They all shouted different things to be, none of which I understood, before at last, some kind of leader came up to me, and bowed low, before presenting me with a morbid gift, a large skull, with dried blood caking it. It was not till I brought the skull in close that I realized the blood formed symbols and letters, and soon I had a message decoded.

It seemed that it had been Nabua who had been dragged from sands to this place. The citizens had treated him kindly at first, but he soon discovered that they hoped to use his bones for fortune telling and he went into overdrive, trying to figure a way out. He apparently managed to do so by convincing them that he was one of their gods. He had left them the skull, to give to anyone who looked like him, for according to him, they too were gods. And the final part of the message was simple. It was instructions on where to meet. The final island, across the sea. It seemed that Nabua had gone on ahead, having some kind of a lead on a boat or something that might be able to take him on. I was hesitant. On the one hand, it was one place that we were all likely to try and go, but on the other, it seemed like abandoning the Baal to go on ahead without trying to look for him. Even as I was presented with a lovely and horrifying meal of meat, insects, and root vegitable, my mind jumped from place to place. Was my Baal also going on ahead? Was he dead? Should I look for him here, or would he need me in those future islands? I was very unsure of what to do.

When at last the party died down, and the people brought me to a very large and comfortable grass bed, this one covered with soft sheets, the same fabric that they had used in the unpronounceable land. I slept well, though my dreams were strange, filled with arguments and mysterious disappearances. I woke up and I slipped out of town, taking a handful of gold from a trunk that was sitting on the ground in my room, and a long spear with me as souvenirs. I had to look for the Baal, I could not give up just yet. And so I headed north. For north was where the port town to this strange island was, a place much different then the jungle that covered most of its surface. It would be there where boats could be hired, and there where my companions would have to have been seen or heard from.

It was a long journey. I killed a lot of snakes on the way, careful now to strike even quicker than they. They were dangerous foes, though thankfully they largely ran away from my presence. My most terrifying encounter was with a huge, twelve foot long brown snake, which reared up, as tall as myself. It struck in a flash. Had I kept my had in the same place on the spear than I would have lost it. Instead, it struck wood with its fangs and I pierced the creatures body with the spear. I stabbed it a couple more times to be certain. It had been a formidable foe. I had other encounters similar, though none quite as heated as that one.

At last I reached the port town on the northern edge. It was completely unlike everything I had seen on the island that far. Pirates and soldiers of Adroth and natives of the island all walked and talked together. Houses were made of stone or cut wood. There seemed a hundred ships out along the shore. I asked about my companions. Of Nabua, there was word. He had come in here, dressed in a rainbow cape, a gift from the tribe that had proclaimed him a god, and traded his services as a translator and navigator for a spot on a boat heading out into the wild lands beyond. But of my Baal I head not. None had heard of another foreigner landing on the sand, not even the locals. Could he be dead, drowned in the ocean before he could wash to shore? No body found indicated this was not likely the case. Still I was worried. But with no news, there was nothing to go off of. I could not search for him with no location where he might be found. So I was forced to follow Nabua’s plan. I would meet him at the fabled lands, continue the journey, alone now.

I did a demonstration of my fighting skills with the spear I had taken from the bone reading tribe, and soon had a job as a soldier on a boat heading in the direction of the fabled lands. It departs tomorrow, and I took this time, to at last speak with you diary. I am alone in the world now, though I know at least Nabua lives still. The quest continues however. If my Baal is dead, then his quest at least is not. I shall complete it for him if need be. The map shall have his name on the isle of legends. I hope that I shall see him there, but if not, then I will see it through at least. Tomorrow I travel the final leg, to the lands of myth and legend.

The Fifth Path (21/30)

November 22, 2016

The First Draft of the Autobiography of Baal Uras, Soon to be 28th King of the True Land

Running Title: Earning the Throne: The Acts of a King

Composed Dumuzu 24th In the 59th Year of Baal Shamas

Chapter 18: The Isle of Ogdash

In order to secure my fifth agreement, I had to go on a quest. While it has been true that this whole endeavor could be termed a quest, there were a number of components to this particular leg of the journey which made that term seem particularly appropriate. First off, I traveled alone for this section of the journey. While my increasing trust and respect for my companions and those around me had been a theme of my journey thus far, so too had my own increasing feeling of inadequacy. I felt a need to prove myself on my own, so when my Scholar told me that the first Baal had made the trek on this island by himself, I decided that I would follow in his footsteps. It was true that I had been instrumental in securing the agreement on Adroth, and even got a chance to save my Protector from a terrible fate, but I had also had to be saved by her first, and likely would have been executed if both of my companions had not had my back. This of course seemed like a very compelling argument to not leave them both behind, and yet I did so anyways. The need to rely only upon myself, to have no backup or safety net should I fail was strong. Could I do what needed doing by myself? That question is of course what this chapter shall answer for you gentle reader.

Before I describe my quest, first let me describe to you my initial impressions of Ogdash. The word that perhaps best suits it is stark. The people are tall, thin, and grey, with dark clothing and few words. Even their hair and eyes seem to reject the idea of bright colors, for they are pale and dark respectively. In contrast to the isle of Adroth, only a few days travel by boat away, this island had few resources. Its people were hungry, and possessed few things. The island is largely flat, with grasslands covering all but a few small forested areas. Water is scarce. My initial impressions of the people’s general disposition was not favorable. I thought them fatalistic and a bit depressed. My opinion would change as I worked my way through my quest, but in general I felt a very gloomy vibe from the whole place at the start.

I did not spend much time at all in the initial port town. We said goodbye to the pirate captain who had helped us so much these last weeks. I had had some apprehension that my Scholar might try and go with her, but it seemed that he had made his decision before we landed, and while sad to see her go, was committed to finishing our journey together, or at least seeing the furthest lands, the places beyond the journals. I was not happy to see the captain herself go, though no longer being surrounded by pirates day and night was something of a positive. Of course I gave myself little time to enjoy my time with my companions again, for it was less than two hours after we said goodbye to the captain that I said goodbye to my companions for a time, loaded up a leather backpack and headed out into the plains, searching for the leader of Ogdash.

Why did I have to search? Well, it turned out that permanent residences were rare on this island, for most places did not have enough resources to support human life. As such, much of the population wandered from place to place, and this included the leader, who’s job it was to look after the small communities that did not move, ensuring that they were able to get the resources they needed to survive. The exact journey of the leader was not known however, for they had to adjust their path with the turning of the seasons and the needs of the communities they ruled. And so, I searched. I had no idea at all where the leader might be, or even much idea of where the next community might be. I knew only that this was how the first Baal had traversed this land, and trusted that I too would be able to survive the wasteland somehow. It would perhaps have been wise to put a bit more thought into the journey ahead of time. Packing some food and getting something of a map would have been really good choices that would have saved me a lot of time and effort. But alas, that is not what I did. Instead I set out with not much more then some money, some trading goods, and some supplies for camping and hunting. In the end it was enough, but only by the slimmest of margins.

With the exception of a rather exciting episode near the midpoint of my quest, it was those first days that came the closest to killing me. I had hunted a little in the true land, but always in large parties and always with the tracking part done by others. I had never had to search for water before. We had been careful to carry a lot of it in the desert at the beginning of this journey, but other than that, it had never really been an issue. Food and water both became an issue very quickly. I had brought one canteen of water, which I carefully rationed out for the first day. Then however, I was out. I had not thought to take any food at all, having trusted that I would find something out in the wastes. I saw a few small animals, but was unable to catch them in any way. As such, while I was not exactly thirsty at the end of my first day, I was quite hungry, and had no water for the next day.

I was lucky, in that I had the presence of mind to collect some of the morning dew that next morning, managing to fill my canteen about a quarter. This lasted me maybe two or three hours, but it was something at least, and I might very well have not made it at all if I had not done that. I tried again that day to hunt, but I found nothing at all. So mostly I just walked. I had no idea where I was going. I had gotten one of the people in the first town to point me in the direction of the closest village, but I was pretty certain I had gotten turned around, and there were basically no landmarks out in the endless waste. That second day was extremely hot, and I became incredibly thirsty very quickly after I had exhausted my supply of dew. I tried eating some of the grass, hoping it would have some wetness in it, but it tasted vile, and I was unable to finish it. I had though I might be able to eat anything after having had to deal with the worm ridden bread in my period of captivity, but it turned out that I had gained no such power. So, when at last it turned dark, and the sun dropped below the horizon, I was barely able to get out my blankets before dropping to the ground to rest. I was more thirsty than I had ever been before, and the hunger of two days without food gnawed at me. I thought perhaps I should try and walk during the night instead of the day, but the thought of walking another step was too much for me, and instead I curled up and slept, my throat parched and my dreams ragged.

Had it continued like that for my third day, I might very well have died. Instead I was saved by the fall of rain in the night. This woke me up from my sleep. At first thoughts were of only how to protect myself from its cold touch, but then, as my throat again interjected its own thoughts on the discussion, I realized that I needed to act now, to collect what water I could. I only had the one canteen to store water for travel, but I was able to set up some of my gear as little pools, so that I could at least drink deeply in the morning. I drank my fill in the night, set up what I could to catch more, then huddled under my blankets, shivering. I managed again to sleep, lulled by the sound of the rain. In the morning I drank all of what I had captured, then secured my canteen tightly, vowing to preserve the water better than I had before. Then I once again set off with no direction in mind. It was cooler that day, with the dark clouds still covering the sky, and occasional sprinkles of water throughout the day. The ground became muddy, which made the travel slower, but it was still better than the day before. Still, when I stopped at last, I still had no food at all. It was hard to quiet my stomach and ignore its cries. Had I been less exhausted by the endless walking, I might not have been able to sleep from the pain in my gut.

On the forth day I met another person. It was not until after a great deal more walking, but around noon I spotted a shape in the distance, and all but ran. I greeted them, and while they were as short on words as the others I had met, when I explained I had not eaten in days, they were quick to give me supplies from their own pack. Then they simply watched me while I munched away on the dried meat and tuber things they had given me. After I was satisfied, or rather after I forced myself to stop eating lest I consume all of my savior’s food, I asked them about the leader, and explained my quest to find them. They offered to travel with me on my search, but, still hoping to accomplish this task with no guide or companions, I turned down their generous offer, instead asking for only directions, and perhaps some tips on how to acquire food and water in the wasteland. They did not seem to understand why I was turning down their offer of accompaniment, which was probably because it was completely irrational, but they were happy enough to help with what they could. They showed me how to find the tuber things that I had eaten, what to look for, as well as a few other edible plants, including one that was quite juicy, and hence could be seen as a water replacement if the rain did not come or the dew did not suffice. The practice of hunting was too much for them to really explain in such a short time, but they gave me a few things to look for if I wanted to try and track down some of the small animals or even some larger ones. Then, they gave me some directions to a town they knew had been visited by the leader not too long ago. From there I might be able to find their next destination and catch up with them. I thanked the wanderer profusely, tried to give them some money to no avail, then continued on my way, feeling better then I had since arriving, finally not dying of hunger.

There is not too much to say about the next several days. I was able to keep myself fed and watered enough to survive in the waste now, perhaps not comfortably, but well enough. I was greeted with suspicion by the residents of the small village where the leader had visited. I managed to convince them my motives were pure however, and was soon on way with information about the next village the leader had been headed to. I was able to purchase a second canteen as well in the village, which made my water supply issue a bit easier. Then I continued on my way. It was about a day to the next village, whose residents confirmed I was catching up with the leader, but had not yet caught him, and the next day I was on my way again, towards the village they had told me the leader was visiting next. A day or two of travel later I was at my third village, then a bit later, my fourth.

It was in this final village that I learned I had caught up. The leader was not in town, but was returning. They had trekked out to hunt a dangerous beast who had been terrorizing the locals and their livestock. My body wanted me to rest, to simply wait for the leader in the village. I had been walking almost constantly the whole time, only stopping to eat, drink, talk, and sleep. All of me was exhausted. But, this was a quest, and waiting was not what I had set out to do. I was going to meet with the leader, and hopefully, could even help with the dangerous beast killing.

So, I ate some food I was able to buy in this latest village, drank deeply of their water supply, then took my hunting supplies in hand and set out. Once again, I really had no idea what I was doing, having still not ever actually successfully tracked or hunted anything without help, but that did not stop me. I simply started walking in the direction the villagers had pointed me. In the end it was pure luck, or perhaps lack of luck, which resulted in me finding the creature. It was much more that the creature found me than anything that I did. One could perhaps say that it was me who was the hunted, and not perhaps the hunter.

I was walking through a particularly dense area of grass, when I heard rustling to the side, and turned in that direction. I saw fur and claws, and I barely managed to get my arm up to protect my neck. The creature was on me, having leaped from somewhere, its force knocking me to the ground. Its teeth were in my arm, and it was biting again and again, while its claws clung to my chest, and its back ones rakes across my legs. I did my best to keep its gnashing teeth away from my face and neck, defending myself with one arm, while trying to push it back with the other. I flailed about, feeling incredible pain in my arm and my chest and legs as I was being cut and bit. I was not really able to think in all of this, simply pushing away, but some part of me understood that if this continued, then I would lose blood, and I would die. So, instead of just trying to keep the mad beast away from me, I struggled to turn over, to get the beast underneath me instead of the other way around. And so, using my somewhat free arm as a brace, I pushed against the ground, rolling over on top of the creature.

I had been carrying a bow with me as I walked, intending originally to try and shoot the creature from afar if I saw it. The bow itself was somewhere behind me, but the arrow I had held was on the ground next to me. I snatched it off the ground, and stabbed randomly. I tried to keep its head back, and get inside the range of its claws. I wrestled and stabbed and pushed back the head and stabbed and felt new gashes torn in my body and stabbed and wrestled and eventually, I realized I was wrestling nothing. The creature had stopped struggling. I slowly pulled myself out of its grasp, and looked at its body. It seemed that one of my blind stabs had gotten the creature in the neck, and that had likely been the fatal strike. I knew I needed to bandage my wounds, to stop the bleeding. I tried to get up, to get my backpack off so that I could wrap something around me. But, I was so tired. I was exhausted and tired and then I was asleep.

I awoke not feeling any pain at all, which was not at all what I was expecting, and was in fact, a little alarming. I had a hard time sitting up, and everything felt weird. It was dark wherever I was, but I was able to make out the shape of my own body. I was naked, except for an apparent mile or two of bandages wrapped around me in a number of places, including some places that I think were perhaps bandaged less for medical reasons and more for reasons of propriety. I thought perhaps to shout for someone, but I figured it had to be late, and I was healing, so I decided to wait till morning, letting myself fall back into sleep, something that was very very easy.

The next time I awoke, I saw a face staring down at me, a complex expression etched into it. In many ways I will continue to argue, until my dying day, that the face of the leader of the isle of Ogdash is the most beautiful face that there is. The leader was a woman, something that had never been implied by anyone I had talked to, and something I had not been expecting. She was not old, but she was no youth either. Her skin was the same grey shade as the rest of her people, and her hair white, pure as snow, with a soft look to it. Her eyes were intense, dark on dark, and large. All of this was attractive, but it was the lines in her face, and the complexity of her expression that made her truly beautiful.

Her face was like a map, with thin lines intersecting and splitting apart all over it. But while normally one’s face wrinkles and the lines of a hard and difficult life set in with age, you could see that these lines were not those of an acceptance of fate. These etches in her face were each a symbol, a representation of a person or group for whom she was responsible. A hundred times and a hundred times again her face screamed out that this was a person who cared. She ruled this whole island, and she did not just think of the good of the island, or the good of each town. Once could see, if they can read faces like I can, that she cared about each individual, every life on this island was her charge, her responsibility, and her pride. This was a woman who cared in a way that I have never seen another living being care. And now, looking down at me, I could see that this care extended to me. Though I was but a visitor, I was on her island, and as such, under her care. Every wound I had suffered at the hands of the beast was one she wished she could take upon herself instead. And now, looking down at me, she was trying to think of how best she could help me, what would be her best course of action so that I would be best helped. I did not really understand how to react to this expression.

She helped me sit up, and then we spoke, softly and gently. She had found me and the dead beast less than an hour after our battle. She had been tracking it, and had finally caught up. She had found me, and thought that I was dead, but she bound my wounds all the same and carried me back to the village upon her back. There I was given an herb which numbs pain, and my wounds were cleaned by local elders. She learned of my quest to find her from the locals, and decided to wait for me to awake before continuing her journey, since I had come so far. Now I had awoken, and she would hear my story. She thanked me for killing the beast, but expressed sadness that I had been so hurt, feeling that it would have been better for her to have caught the beast, and that what I did, while brave, was foolish, not only as an individual, but as a leader. She explained that I had a responsibility to my followers, and getting myself mauled was not living up to that expectation. Then she apologized for yelling at me. I confirmed that I understood why she was saying what she was saying, and that I understood that I had not done the most rational thing.

We talked for a long time. About leadership and responsibility. About my quest, both my long term journey one, and the one specific to this island. When I explained that I was putting myself in danger in an attempt to improve myself so that I might be a better leader she seemed to soften a little on my decision, but she still generally thought I was being a bit of an idiot about the whole thing. Her point was that going and doing things on your own does not mean going and doing things without a plan or without asking questions and figuring stuff out. I agreed. Most of what I had done on this island had been very impulsive and not really the right choice. In the end, I think we were friends. She agreed to sign an agreement between our nations, but only if I traveled with her for a few days. She said I had the potential to be a great leader, but that she thought that perhaps I could be improved if I saw some of her work. I agreed, and the next day we traveled together.

I think some day I will have to write a book about those few short days I spent with the leader of Ogdash. It felt very deep and important, like I learned something essential in those days. But to try and express it all in a short paragraph within this story here seems somewhat disingenuous. Still it is an important part of my journey, perhaps the most important part so I will see what I can do.

In terms of actual things done, there was a lot. We traveled to different towns, and each one had different needs, different ways it needed help. But it also had different ways it could help. In one village we brought food for the two dozen residents, helping prepare a big soup for everyone that night. Then, we went around to each of the citizens, and collected from them spare clothes that they had, for they were a village of clothing makers. Then, we went to the next village and helped them set up a system for collecting water, for they were having a hard time getting enough, using an idea someone had created in a village weeks before. We took from those people a few spare tools for digging, which were needed in another town, which also had need of the clothes from the first. It was a network of interconnected needs, and somehow the leader kept it all straight in her head. She seemed to know every name, to know what each person was good at, what each person had and could spare, even if they did not think they could spare it. We traveled quickly, on great birds that ran as fast as horses. From village to village, being the messenger and the mailman and the leader all at once. It seemed too much for one person, this job that the leader had, and perhaps it would have been, for anyone less than her. But it was done, and she did it, and I watched and learned.

I learned many things in those days. If I were to pick only a few, only the most important out of all the essential things she taught me, it would have to be the importance of responsibility and of caring. As a leader, you need to be willing to take all of the weight upon yourself, to be the one to whom all can look, and all can rely upon. And in order that you do so as best as you can, in order that you really do what is right for all of the people, you need to care, not just abstractly, but individually, and specifically. For the leader, the only true way to lead was to know and believe in every single member of her people. It was an incredible way to be, and something I will always strive for, even if, in the end, the true land is too big for such an approach. On the last day, when she signed my agreement and lent me one of her great birds to return me back to my people, she spoke with me again, and taught me another lesson.

She explained that she had one great failing as a leader, and that she saw in me that same failing, though perhaps more extreme, but perhaps more fixable. She explains that while it is your responsibility as a leader to take all of the responsibility upon yourself, it is also your responsibility to make sure that those things which need doing are done, and this almost always means relying on others. The villages rely on each other she explained. None could live without the others to help supply what it lacked. Each has a specialty and focus and is valuable in its own way, but each has needs as well, and ways in which it must be supported. So to are people. Including oneself. She says that for her, though she knows this, she has a hard time letting others help her. She cannot seem to let go of any of the problems which she takes for herself, accomplishing them herself, even if it might be faster and better for her people if she were to share the problems. And so, in my quest to prove myself alone, she saw the thread of that same problem.

She had listened to my story, and knew how I felt myself to be the least useful member of the party. What she said then is something I will never forget. She explained that pride is the most dangerous weakness of a leader. She herself has too much, which is why she believes her successor will be better than her. And for me, she says, accepting that I might not be the most useful could be a step I need to take. You can’t always be the best, and sometimes people are better than you at one thing, or many things, and accepting that is also an important part of leadership. If you refuse to admit others are more skilled, or stronger, or smarter, then you are limiting yourself as a leader. Only by understanding the true capabilities of everyone, including yourself, can you make the best decisions. And with that thought, she left me. I road the bird through the wasteland towards the small town I had left my companions. I was lost in thought for the whole journey, glad the bird knew the way, for I still couldn’t navigate well in the emptiness of the grasslands.

My companions were happy indeed to see me upon my return. It had been a long and boring time for them, protecting our stuff being a task that both took time and was not interesting at all. I apologized to them for making them do this, and said I would not be going off on my own again, but that it had, I think, worked out for the best this time. My Protector was a bit annoyed at this, and I explained further that, while it had indeed worked out, it was only through a lot of luck that it had, and that it would have been the wiser choice to have not gone alone. I did not bring up the fact that someone still would have still had to watch our stuff, and leaving only one person to do that would not have been kind. Once I told the basics of my story, and showed them the agreement I had made with the leader, we moved on to the next subject, which was finding a new boat to continue on our way.

In terms of islands to be dropped off on with no transportation, this was not a particularly great one. The locals did not make boats for traveling long distances, and their were few traders in other boats that came this far. In the end we were able to find one local boat that was supposedly large enough and secure enough it could make it to the closest island to this one, where the locals said there were many more ships. We purchased the boat, and prepared to set out in the morning. I gave my two companions a chance to go out in the town together, and stayed to guard our stuff alone. I took the time to reflect, to think on the wisdom of the leader of this strange island, and to think about the future. For now, there was but one more destination. In myth alone was our next destination recorded. We would be traveling beyond the border of knowledge.