By the pen of Eylee Zephyrswell,
This is the account of our leader, a plainsman by the name of Bayle. He had trouble speaking about his past, but it was necessary for us to understand the whole background of what we were dealing with. Further details came with time, as the conflict we all became a part of drew us closer together.
As far as I can tell, he still does not believe he has atoned. Despite all of his great acts of heroics, he still believes his folly outweighs them. It is a shame that such a great man should bear such a burden, but we all must feel as we must, and the past cannot be forgotten, only forgiven in time.

A Storm of Sorrow

In the cold light of the early morning, a young man plunged into the chilly currents of the sea. Bayle had passed just to the point at which the coastline had begun to blur when he caught sight of a collection of shadowed shapes far down beneath the cresting waves. Though the depth of it was intimidating, he had been marveling others with his ability to hold his breath for many minutes at a time ever since he was a young lad, and Bayle knew he might just have enough in him to reach and explore it.

The water parted with storms of small bubbles as his strokes carried him downward. As he went, the shadows began to thin, his vision of what lay before him growing clearer. He would have gasped had he not had enough sense to know the foolishness of it, as he took in the site of a ruined city strewn along the ocean floor .The stonework had been worn almost smooth by the currents, but they still held the unmistakable shape of buildings, crumbled as they might be. Sea plants had snaked their way through every available crack and crevice, giving the walls a textured look. Toppled pillars marked what might once have been the entry way of the city, and around them were the remains of buildings. He veered to his right and ventured into the first building he could find that was marginally intact. Its ceiling had collapsed and lay in scattered piles of rubble across the checkered pattern of the floor stones. Crushed pieces of white and green and blue coral mixed within the stones, and in one corner he found a giant head of brain coral intact and shaped to the distinct look of a sofa. Above it, he noted a wall carving of what vaguely resembled a man; only he knew it for no man. It was crowned with a spine and its body was thin and spindly. Behind its ears were the distinct shape of gills and its eyes and lips were large and distended. Around it, what looked like words were carved in an alien script.

What had he found? He pondered the question only a moment before a stab of pain in his chest reminded him it was time to resurface. Retreating upward, he watched the algae-coated spires disappear behind him. His chest was just beginning to tighten as he broke through the surface and let out a "whoop" into the empty sky. Bayle spent only a few moments restoring air to his lungs before diving back down for another look.


His successive trips down revealed more of the same -- ruined buildings, images featuring the odd fishmen; nothing, however, that he could really take with him. Though he was able to find pockets of air in some of the buildings, his lengthened stays did little to fill his hands. Bayle made it his occupation to hunt treasures, and though it would seem he had found a gold mine, everything portable appeared to have been smashed or long since swept away to distant locales. Finally, however, he found a building at the center of the city that stood higher than the rest. It was characterized by high domes topped in coral spires, and as he passed through the arched entryway, he noticed that at its center were the remains of what might have once been an altar and below it; something glinted in a shaft of light that forced its way down through one of the toppled domes.

He swam quickly, energized by the find, and dug among the stone and plants below the altar. As he cleared away the detritus, Bayle gradually revealed the long, golden shaft of a staff. It was untarnished and covered in curious arcane markings. Bayle would no doubt have paused to marvel had two things not happened. Firstly, he had been running low on air when he entered the temple, and by this point, his chest had tightened considerably and his veins had begun to burn. Secondly, the moment his hands clasped around the shaft of the staff, his surroundings began to shake violently.

Bayle shot up through the water, trying to dodge falling stone as he made for one of the ruined domes. He emerged just in time, watching the temple collapse into a heap around him. Throughout the city, ancient structures fell one by one, and the water filled with a storm of dirt and plant matter, billowing up from the ground in clouds as crumbling mortar landed in a chorus of thumps. Bayle pumped as fast as his legs and arms would go, carrying him to the surface with his loot. Finally, taking in a great breath of air, he emerged, and in his hands, the staff glittered in the sunlight.

Back on shore, Bayle pulled his leather boots back on over his soaked britches, constantly glancing at where the staff lay wrapped in his cloak beside him. Piece by piece he reassembled himself from the pile of gear he had left hidden within a fallen log on the shore. His last act was to strap the wrapped up staff to his back and then bind his ivory-handled claymore overtop it so that they balanced in an X shape. Pulling the strap tight, he began the journey back to his village with a spring in his step. The boy Bayle was proving himself a man.


It seemed as if every two steps it had taken him to reach the seashore now only took one, as he crossed the plains of Karana in record time. His eagerness to show the village elders what he had found spurred him. No longer would the young Bayle be called foolhardy and crippled by his dreams of glory. He had found something real, something they could all see and touch and would finally show them that his ambitions were well placed.

It was well into night when he reached the village of Oceangreen some days later, and only the central fire still burned, low and little more than embers. As Bayle approached it, his heart leapt to see a friendly face. The aged hunter Graycat sat on one of the carved wooden benches that surrounded the fire pit. He was hunched over, his long, thin gray hair forming a curtain around his face. As Bayle approached, the hunter eased up to a sitting position, and the younger man noted that the old hunter's milky white eye darted toward him almost before the still seeing hazel eye reached him. Even half-blinded, Graycat was more alert than most men could ever claim to be. Smiling, Graycat rose to meet him, arms spread for an embrace. Though Bayle stood at six and a half feet tall, Graycat had him beaten by at least an inch. Age would have bent a lesser man's back, but Graycat had been a warrior and chieftan before a voice asked him why he was so eager to shed the blood of his kinsmen, and when Graycat could find no good answer, he had joined the emigration out of the peaks of Everfrost and to the southern plains.

Though most who came to the village of Oceangreen, and many other similar settlements spread throughout Karana, claimed to have heard a similar voice, Bayle had followed nothing of the sort. Instead, the voice of a beautiful woman had invited him to seek his fortune, and he had followed, venturing to the south, where he knew the riches he dreamed of would be found. He had lived among the plainsmen for 10 years, but he had never found any of the treasures the woman promised -- until now. The villagers had thought his ambitions foolish, and only after they threatened to make him leave had he picked up a trade as a tailor. His stitches were only passable, but it was enough to keep him in town and dreaming of a different tomorrow. Only Graycat had ever believed in him, and it made him happy to know the old hunter would be the first to see his prize.

"It's good to have you home," said Graycat, brushing away a piece of grass that clung to Bayle's shirt. "The Kiersey mare had twins, and the Kiersey woman had triplets. Truly, we have been blessed in your absence."
"I'm sure many would say those two go hand in hand," said Bayle with a grin.
Graycat chuckled. "I am sure there are. So, how fared your journey, lad?" Graycat settled back down on a bench and invited Bayle to join him with a wave of a hand.
"Fruitful, I think," said Bayle, taking a seat on the edge of the bench. He itched to show Graycat his prize.
"You think?" asked Graycat, squinting at him. "How is that?"

Bayle removed his claymore from his back, placing it below the fire so that the light from the flames danced off of the ivory handle, a trophy of his first kill. With that, he drew the staff in his lap and began to unwind the cloak from around it, slowly, almost reverently. Graycat's face was emotionless as Bayle, almost giddy, showed him what he had found. The old man took the staff and examined it slowly. Bayle's exhilaration faded as Graycat showed no sign of the same excitement Bayle had been feeling.

"Where did you find it?" asked Graycat, finally.
Bayle launched into the story of his swim, and the sunken city, and of the strange images and writing he had seen on its walls. He finished with the description of the temple and what happened when he picked up the staff. No flickers of recognition passed over his old friend's face as Bayle described the unfamiliar civilization, and though he had hoped Graycat would know something about his prize, the possibility that the aged hunter was ignorant to it meant it might be all that much more precious and powerful. "...And so I plan to show it to the elders in the morning," said Bayle. "Perhaps they will know something about the city that I found."

Graycat stared at him, studying him intently and grinding his teeth as he did. "Bayle," said Graycat. "Tell me truly, is it really the advice of the elders you are looking for? Or their praise?"

Bayle bristled at the insinuation that his pride was what drove him, though deep down he couldn't deny that he had dreamed of this day for years. Standing before the elders, all would fall prostrate in humility before his heroism and his good fortune. Still, he wanted to refute what Graycat had said, but try as he might, he couldn't think of something good to say.

Sensing his young friend's reticence, Graycat continued. "If it's answers you're really looking for, I would bring this to the elves, and not our humble village men. They won't be able to tell you anything more than I, and if I'm speaking plainly, there is something about it that makes me uneasy." He paused and leaned closer to the young man. "If you care for the people of this village, I would advise you to leave with it, soon." As he finished, his words hung heavily in the air, and his eye searched those of his young companion.

Bayle averted his gaze, and leapt to his feet, fuming. "I can't believe it, Graycat," said the young man. "I came here looking to share my discovery with someone who would appreciate it, and this is what you have for me? You've always played the friend, giving me advice and encouragement. And now that I've found something, you turn on me. You never really wanted me to find anything, did you? There's only room for one hero in this town, isn't there? Well, I am telling you, when the elders see what I've found, there will be two, and you had best accept that." He ripped the staff from Graycat's hands and threw the cloak around it. The old hunter barely reacted, but in the firelight, he looked tired and worn. "Good night, Graycat."

"Good night to you, Bayle. And best of fortunes."
Turning, Bayle made for his cottage in a haze of anger and pain. Behind him, Graycat sat still at the fire, watching him go without another word.