Pulls me in unworthy grave
I cannot die yet
In the absence of proper, non-blessed scrolls and calligraphy brushes, I am told by one of my newest companions, Roux-san (It is still strange to me that almost everyone insists on the usage of given names; does one honor the self more than the family in the south? It appears not. So confusing), that one writes in bound tomes such as these. While it was a gift from her, it was Arianna-san that suggested I keep this diary as a way to practice writing and thinking in southern common and draconic. Though I believe both have… ulterior motives. I believe they are worried for my strength of spirit after my series of displays yesterday. Is this meant to comfort me? Allow them to spy on my thoughts? Am I meant to lay myself bare to mine own eyes? We shall see.
This leg of my journey began upon an airship bearing to the Southlands. There was nothing left for me in the North. With the crest of my liege scratch from mine armor but a katana remaining by my side, my dishonor was recognizable by all. It has just occurred to me… I have not drawn my blade since that day. At first, my purchasing of a naginata was simply a survival decision, a way to keep many foes at bay with a longer weapon but… was it truly. I do not wish to think on this.
Tanaki-san was kind enough to take me aboard the ship, or perhaps simply desperate enough for an ounce of protection. Nevertheless, I shall see it as a kind act. Perhaps that is why our vessel was taken by the storm. Perhaps the spirits curse Tanaki-san, doomed his vessel to ruin for taking a ronin such as myself. Perhaps I, or Tanaki-san, are simply unlucky. Regardless of which, the ship crashed and fearsome, southern monsters were upon us. The screams of my fellow passengers… more to add to those voices that haunt me. I was too dazed by the crash, too deaf and blind to save them. Swinging my weapon wildly, I shouted for them all to barricade in the captain’s quarters. Without light by which to see, I committed greater dishonor and hid with them like a coward, my weapon not avenging the dead but barring a door so that my worthless hide might live till morning.
When the rest awoke from that frightful night, we made our forced march towards civilization, the dwarven city of Black Crag. Having kept vigil the entire retreat, I summarily lost consciousness upon reaching safety, yet another weakness to be ashamed of. The crew watched over me for two, feverish days before I had strength enough to climb to my feet. I joined Tamaki-san in beseeching all passerby for aid, but to no avail.
It was on this day that I met the people that I travel with now, who dig me out of my death and gift me things like this journal and unreasonably strong alcohol.
They came as travelers to a land at least partially more familiar to them. A dwarf returning to his homeland (unless the dwarven empire is larger than I believe, which it might very well be) bearing hammers and spears, focused on maps and other scrolls. One of the southern ilk of my people, a priestess by my estimation though her gifts seem to be held in lower esteem in this strange land. Another who appeared human but with some sort of… spiritual essence to them and with a strong bearing. All of them came with a cart closely followed by a distant… elf? I still do not know.
When Tanaki-san beseeched them for help like so many others before them they announced they were trying to travel further and were about to seek audience with the governor. And seek an audience they did for Abur-san, my new dwarf compatriot, is the governor’s cousin. I do not know what discussions took place behind the close doors, only that the two burst through them in the midst of a brawl. This must be how diplomacy is conducted in dwarven society, and Abur-san, a master diplomat, for he not only secured favor for a small, monstrous inventor, but also secured us temporary passage out of the city with permanent passage should we secure the cargo from Tanaki-san’s ruined airship. These adventurer’s agreed to take me on this short quest, if only to help translate for the northern crewmen. We passed the day travelling without incident, to my wary surprise. Even the night’s watch was passed without ambush or any sign of the creatures that had once terrorized us at this very sight. It seemed by the sunrise that we were safe. We were wrong.
The sun had reached it’s when the trembling began. The crew’s sense of safety was shattered when a ferocious roar emerged from the plateau west of our crashed ship. I had no time to react before a storm of sand tore at my flesh and battered against my armor. When I wiped the sand from my eyes, I caught only a glimpse of a young, western dragon, brown in color, before it dove into the plateau. I would have been terrified. I should have been. But all I saw was a fight against a mighty beast, the thrill of the hunt. I did not draw my blade, no, would not. I only held my naginata, my hand never moved towards my katana. Abur-san, by some dwarvish expertise, knew at all times where the beast lay hidden. I made for under the pass so as to ambush the savage beast who dared called itself a dragon, to make myself a target so that Tanaki-san and his crew might escape to safety.
My strategy, such as it was, was a success. It leapt from the rough stone wall and attempted to drag me into the stone. I crashed against its claws to escape its grasp, slashing its snout before it returned to stone. We clashed along and atop the plateau, Arrayah-san and I giving chase to the dragon wherever it hid, the spells of Arianna and Roux-san crashing against its hide. In a rage, the dragon took to the skies and blasted us with sand once more. I was blinked, but not by the sand, but by my rage. I scaled the nearby cliff and threw myself, naginata in hand, at the beast, screaming “Give me an honorable death!”
I do not know why I said those words. I am too afraid to think on the matter.
I almost was granted my wish in part. When I skewered the beast, I kept a tight hold of my weapon. Whether it sensed its opportunity to finally slay me or even noticed me at all, the dragon dove underground. I became trapped in a shallow grave. Truly, I was only entombed for six seconds, though it felt like hours, punctuated by the pounding of Abur-san’s mystical hammer upon my grave. He did what was needed so that I may dig myself out. I owe him my life. The victory this day was owed to Arrayah-san, who brilliantly surmised that the dragon must be close to where I once was. She struck the ground with her maul and found scales. Where it not for her softening the hide, I doubt my blade would have pierced it as it did, slaying the beast.
Finding that we were safe, Abur-san and I spent the day toiling against the cliff side, digging out the dragon to recover my new friend’s magic spear that had lodged into its hide, as well as carve him out a trophy. After this small victory I felt… drained. I felt no elation over our victory against the dragon. I trudged up the mountain with the rest of the party and was simply exhausted. I had nearly forgotten our purpose (finding the dragon’s hoard to recover the rest of the ship’s cargo) and merely followed close behind the party, eyes to the ground and arms limp at my sides. It was like something had been left behind in that shallow grave.
No. This was something left behind in my homeland, the parts of me that would gladly draw my blade at any command. The parts of me who knew the necessity of plunging that same blade into myself.
We all returned alive. I fulfilled my oaths of drinks to the party. But before I could retire, Roux-san offered me a drink. I was still past caring of much at this point, even by the fact that earlier that day she had been a male dwarf and was again in her familiar shape. She offered me not only drink, but also riddles and purpose. The group does not want her speaking to me of her allegiance, of her order, of her god, but she offered me a way to find purpose in my life, should I want it in the southern divines.
Do I want her purpose? Do I want any purpose? The lordly blade I wield, it is still in my possession, it is mine to hold. But I cannot unsheathe the blade that is meant to take my own life, not until I know what it is that I desire. Do I desire release from my dishonor? Do I care of such dishonor? Do I want my old life back? Do I wish for some new lord, some new purpose? Or is there honor in this freedom; am I more than violence without purpose?
I shall have to meditate on this. This group has agreed to let me follow them as they make their way towards the Nest. If I cannot resolve this conflict within me, I should at least quiet my inner demons lest they weigh me down into worthlessness. That would be worse than death or dishonor.