Diamonds are Forever

The Swift, 7pm.

I leave Jean’s cabin as I can barely stay awake myself. The cadence of his breathing indicates that he’s been asleep for several hours now, and I feel it’s safe for me to retire to my own bunk.I brought him back to life and purged the disease that still lingered within him; whether or not his nightmares will pass, only Helga knows.

I bid the rest of the friends goodnight … including Amy… but I end up lying in bed staring at one of the diamonds I pulled from my satchel. I hold it to the candle in my room, and only now recognize how finely cut it is. The light is almost amplified within its many cut facets. I had never noticed how valuable they truly are. No wonder the temple always had a stock of jewels on hand. We had kept them with the plan exchange them for gold, or maybe services – use these to barter for repairs for the Swift…but now? Even with more than a dozen between the three of us (Vegard, Hans and myself), can we afford to part with any of them on a journey that has proven so dangerous?

The simple knowledge that I can channel Her to pull someone from far side of Death is incredibly exhilarating, almost freeing; the constant fear of dying at every turn is no longer there. I tried to save Mari in Port Noonan, but failed. I learned a valuable lesson that day. I must always conserve enough holy energy that if one of my comrades falls in battle, I can bring them back… that statement gives me pause; I realize how miraculous a gift it is, and the significance of it is begins to grip my chest like a vice. I now comprehend that shackled with that power, comes the burden to decide if someone lives or not becomes suffocating. The diamond nearly tumbles from my hand, and the resulting scatter of candlelight snaps my mind from wandering back to reality. I instinctively evoke some of my mindfulness exercises. I close my eyes and take deep, regular breathes while I try let the emotion pass. I don’t try to judge it, or hold on to it, I just accept it.

Thank you again, Helga. I know that You would never burden me with something that I could not bear. I curse myself for so easily forgetting the lessons learned in Egersund. It’s only been six months, but it feels like another life. The daily chores were there to show us that people working together can accomplish much that no single person can accomplish as much as a group. I recall the day Brother Hami gave everyone in the class a stick and asked us to break them. They all snapped with little effort in our young hands and we laughed thinking we had beaten his challenge. He then pulled out the same number of sticks, but this time bundling them together

“If any of you can break this bundle, I’ll let you off or chores for a week,” he offered. By the time the last of us gave up trying, our knees bruised by numerous attempts, he was the one laughing, and the lesson was learned.

July 1st, 1136 8AM

Though I certainly wasn’t the last to wake this morning, I am the last of my group to emerge from below deck (Jean is still sleeping). I spent the hour before the others woke contemplating the ramifications of yesterday’s events, hoping to find clarity after a night’s rest.  Though nothing obvious, the warmth of the sun on my skin, and the sight of my friends means we’re still alive, and that’s as much a blessing as any. I pray that Jean was also able to avoid the nightmares that plagued him initially. I quickly find Hans manning the helm; he has found solace and purpose at the wheel, and has been eager to take the post every morning. I look around, and I think we’ve all found comfort in familiarity of the ship’s daily routine.

Helga has graced us with a steady wind, and we take advantage as best as we can. Over the last month at sea aboard the Swift, we’ve all fallen into our de facto duties. I wave to Vegard, high above in the crow’s nest, who’s keeping an eye for trouble of any kind. I clean the railing while Aija mops the deck. I sense we’re both putting in an extra effort; it might help lift Jean’s spirits when he finally wakens. The two rangers dance around the mast while working on keeping the sails full of wind. I wonder if any of us would be standing here, if Amy didn’t summon a burst of wind to accelerate away us from our faceless pursuer.

“How the hell long was I out for,” Jean asks us rhetorically, his voice a little raspier than usual. We answer his question with hugs, thankful that he’s okay. We tell him that he was knocked out during the gale force winds, and that he was a hero for volunteering to do so. With that comment, he can’t help but smile with pride. I can’t help by admire Jean’s courage; leaving Egersund wasn’t our choice – we were thrust upon this path by terrible circumstances. The captain, on the other hand still volunteered to accompany us after hearing our dreadful tale; how many would do the same in his position? I can say with confidence that I would now, but 6 months ago, before this all happened? I can’t be as sure.

The day passes quietly, until we realize that we’ve never really ask Jean how he got to own the Swift. It was obvious that it was in a class of its own, when compared to the fishing vessels at Port Noonan. At first, he was a little apprehensive about the details, but eventually the storyteller in him took over. The Swift was the prized possession of a wealthy man who had Jean arrested for having relations with the man’s wife. Jean strongly pronounced that he was found innocent of all charges, and that the Swift was fair reparations for his wrongful imprisonment. To be fair, he added, the man probably doesn’t agree. We are both shocked and amused that the man we know is most probably a felon on the run. Perhaps his murky past influenced his decision to help us in our time of need.

 

2PM

vegard-jump

Vegard Jumping from The Crowsnest

As the wind starts to wane, and the temperature starts to rise, Jean suggests that we stop for lunch and take a dip to cool off. To show his of full support of the idea, Vegard swan dives from the crow’s nest into the water. I chuckle and shake my head at the stark contrast of his apparent love of the sea compared to the scared boy who was terrified of going into the river at home. Out of all of us, Vegard has changed the most. Despite all the danger we, he is happier than I have ever known him. He looks upon the world like a baby finding wonderment in everything. I am glad, but sometimes I’m not sure some of the changes are for the better. He’s alwayswanted to leave Egersund, to escape the shadow of his father, but we cannot forget all the lives that are dependent on the success of our mission. While the others cool off in the water, I take the time to take out my weapons and armor and clean them. Hans makes fun of me, claiming I like making work for myself. I go along with chiding, since I do actually find it relaxing, but I also know that utility in my routine; the salt water air can corrode metal objects if they aren’t properly maintained. Putting in the time now, may save my life later. Plus, the equipment doesn’t belong to me (other than the holy symbol that hangs around my neck), and I fully intend to return it in the same condition as when we left temple.

 

8PM

“I think I see lights in the distance,” Vegard notifies us, back in his perch above.

“Is that Sweetwater Amy?” I ask.

“Umm, it might be, but to tell you the truth I’ve never really gone to Sweetwater from the water before,” she replies.

“What do you mean?” Eric asks Amy, a little confused.

“Well, I kind of always just teleported there by magic,” she says matter-a-factly.

“It doesn’t really matter, we’re not going to make it there before we lose light, and I’m not going risk sinking the boat trying to,” Jean interrupts us before we start grilling Amy any further. “We’ve got two options, we can set up camp on shore, or we can sleep on the boat,” he adds.

The decision isn’t obvious since we’ve been attacked wherever, but we feel safer on the boat. And, after the incident with the face creature fresh in all our minds, we opt to take the Swift a little further from shore and set anchor for the night.

As we maneuver the Swift into position, Jean grabs a bucket to get some water to clean his face and neck before going to bed. When he pulls the bucket up, it water is murkier than he anticipates. After a contemplative pause, he suggests we move to a different location before dropping the anchor. After a month on the boat, we instinctively work as a team to follow his directions without question. We drop anchor, and go to bed.

 

10PM

Hungry Gold Bugs

Hungry Gold Bugs

Jean wakes us up, claiming that the Swift has drifted further than the anchor and water conditions should allow. We all get up and go to the deck, and find the air filled with what seems to be fireflies. We are all so mesmerized by their beauty that we don’t realize how far we’ve drifted towards the shoreline. Eric unsheathes a dagger in hopes of coaxing one of them to land on it. He gets his wish and we all circle him to have a closer look. Our fascination is short lived as we realize the dagger is slowly turning to what looks like rust and disintegrating before our eyes. We frantically swat at the bugs around us, trying to keep them at bay.

“We need to get out of here NOW!” Jean screams. We are already moving before we heard the command.

Hans and Eric work together to pull up the anchor, since they are the strongest. The chain comes up with ease with their combined might – or so it seemed. The chain ends prematurely, anchor-less, and we all comprehend what is happening.

Helga must be weakened by this unnatural blight if her children are our enemy.

Like bad case of déjà vu, we all grab oars and row as quickly as we can while Jean takes the helm. Only moments pass before further disaster. A look of defeat forms across our captain’s face and he spins the wheel to communicate what has just happened. It spins almost freely, while the Swift seems unresponsive. I scramble below deck to see if I can help make repairs like before.  As I reach hit the bottom of the stairs, the scene before me wrestles any hope I had of salvaging the Swift, as I see water rushing in from leaks from all sides. I yell to up to communicate this and rush to grab as many packs as I can carry. We have to get to the life raft.

Hans and Aija come down to help, while the others are working on getting the life raft into the water.

As the three of us climb crest the stairs, we see the others eagerly waiting for us.

“I can make us walk on water,” Amy tells us. We don’t question her like we normally would this time trusting her unquestionably during the crisis.

The seconds that the spell affords us are invaluable, as half of us row, while the other half concentrate on keeping the swarm at bay. As we get about 50 meters from the Swift, seeing it slowly keel, Amy jumps out of the boat without warning.

“What the fuck are you doing?” those of us remaining in the boat yell in unison.

Biter!” Is her only reply.

Making no attempt to remain undetected, Amy’s movement pulls a portion of the swarm towards her as she approaches our sinking vessel. The only thing I can think of to help is to cast light on some coins and throw them away from her as a desperate attempt at distraction; thank Helga it works. She returns to our life raft apologizing; whether to us or Biter is open for debate.

Jean gazes at the inevitable end of the Swift. “Longer than relationship I’ve ever had with a woman,” he says jokingly, trying to lighten the mood. “I guess we should have chosen to sleep on shore.”

Amy reminds us that we can all walk on water. Keeping our gear in the boat, a few of us get out and pull the boat parallel to making a lot better time than we would otherwise. About half an hour later, the energy provided by adrenaline is slowly replaced by severe fatigue, and we search shore for a suitable landing spot. We’re all exhausted, but we only rest for a few moments recognizing that we are horribly exposed at the moment.

As we remove our bags from the boat, Aija recommends that we should thoroughly inspect our gear for any bugs. Thankfully she does, as a couple of the group discover unwelcome guests in their bags. Aija finds that the silver mirror is gone, replaced by brown dust. One of the swords that we found has been consumed by another. They both get the heel of a boot for dessert.

As I examine my own gear, I thank both Helga for luck, and Brother Hami for teaching me how to wrap armor and equipment for storage.

The light is especially low when compared to the openness of the water, so Eric volunteers take the lead after he’s invoked the ability to see in the dark. Despite being thoroughly wiped, we all agree that some additional distance between us and our current location is probably a good idea.

It’s only a few minutes before Erik, at the head of our party, slows and signals us to stop. He silently gestures in a sweeping motion in front of him, signally he thinks he sees something.

Amy pulls her bow to her cheek as though she has already picked out her first victim. I kind of feel sorry for the poor sap that’s in her sights, even though I can’t see anything.

Vegard has already darted into the darkness, in an attempt to flank our unseen adversaries. I stay close to Jean, knowing he’s the most vulnerable amongst us.

 

A giant makeshift spear hisses our heads and shrapnel from a tree trunk explodes from the impact to the left of us. In immediate reply, Amy looses her arrow. As her missile finds its mark, the tree line is illuminated by the magic lightening released within. For a short glimpse, I can see over a dozen hulking beasts staring at us. They probably thought we would be easy prey. Poor saps indeed.

The group unfortunate to be in close proximity to one Amy shot are also caught by arcing electricity, their bodies stiffen uncontrollably as they fall to the ground sizzling. The stench of scorched flesh and hair invades my nostrils.

Taking advantage of the momentary glimpse of our enemies, Aija rushes toward them with almost reckless abandon. I find myself standing alone, as Eric and Amy

Bugbear.

both dart in separate directions. Ironically, this causes Jean to leave my cover, and his right flank is exposed.

I struggle reach him, as I hear the clanging of metal weapons landing around us. The sickening sound of a weapon entering flesh is undeniable. Jean’s momentum causes his body to fall forward awkwardly. I reach him a few seconds later, and crouch with my shield between what I hope is our enemies and us.

Where the fuck is everyone?!!

I look down at Jean, and can see the ground darkening from the blood coming out of his wound. He’s not moving, and I can’t tell if he’s even breathing. I go to ensure that I can bring him back if we survive this fight. I’m not going to have another Mari on my conscience.

I crouch like a shielded sentinel, straining to catch a glimpse of impending danger. I don’t see anything, only hear the occasional yelps of what I assume/hope are not my friends.

After what seems like an eternity, all but Vegard emerge from the tree line. They tell me that they think everyone’s dead. Amy says biter ensured that anyone on the ground was finished – he bit them all. I’m really starting to like Biter.

Finally, after a few minutes, Vegard joins us. He says that a few tried to run off from the main group, but he was able to cut them off. Knowing that we’re safe for the moment, I immediately turn my attention to Jean.

I know he’s dead, but the spell I cast gives me a much larger window to bring him back from. Even thinking about it, seems surreal.

I pull out a diamond from my side satchel and hold between my palms. I close my eyes and pray to Helga to give me the power to bring Jean back, once again. I almost plead this time. I feel the diamond slowly get warmer, and then, as easily as crushing a dried lead, the gemstone crumbles in my hands. With the diamond dust in my palms, I press my hands to his head and feel the energies flow through me and into Jean.

I connect some more dots in my head. The diamonds are her body. Formed over millennia, the time and energy it must have taken to form. It’s what must be traded to save a life. Nothing comes for free.

Jean starts to stir, and I am eternally grateful once again to the Mother. This is truly a gift, and I will do all that I can not to squander it. Jean has done more than his share. I will do all that I can to bring keep him safe. As soon as we can, we should release him our group. Jean can barely open his eyes before he falls asleep again. And I realize I can barely stay up myself.

We set up camp right there. I manage to think one last prayer to Helga before the exhaustion overwhelms me. I pray to feel the warmth of the sunlight and to see all my friends again in the morning.

 

Session Ends – July 2nd, 1136 – 2AM – Camp