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9 Zephyr, 1329 AE

The other explorers suggested I keep a journal. This is a first for me, so this should be interesting.

Dear journal, or whatever.

I’ve been a member of the Priory for a little over two years now. They let me mount my own expeditions to Orr without their supervision, as long as I bring results (and don’t empty their coffers on the way). I wouldn’t have expected them to let me do it, but apparently they are as glad to be rid of me as me to be far from them.

This place is truly fantastic. Under the centuries worth of ocean grime, the dead molluscs as big as a lodge, the putrid remnants of ships sprawled belly-up anywhere you look, the giant rubble of stone and shattered glass domes stained green from the algae and the sea-bitten iron frames that used to support them, and, of course, the legions of bloated dead creatures still roaming aimlessly, this land houses a hoard of secrets.

Or at least used to.

Obviously Zhaitan had very little love for History. Every arcane artifact, every scroll, every magical gem on this soggy continent it had not already consumed during its reign is either lost under the ruins, swallowed by the waters, or got disintegrated by the combined efforts of time and the elements.

And there is only so much the defunct kings and queens can tell me before their secrets become redundant. They all seem to be focused on restoring the continent to its former natural glory. A noble goal, I suppose, but one that will not aid me in, Spirits willing, freeing the ghosts that still plague Ascalon to this day. Yes, I’ve heard of Sohothin, and I know the legend behind the blade. But it’s owner seems mighty disinterested in the fate of thousands of humans souls (and the living people they harass in their blind fury) so far. Not that I haven’t tried to contact him about it. Either he didn’t get my messages, is ignoring me, or is too busy with other charr-related business.

Are we all supposed to sit on our asses until he decides to do something? Isn’t that what the Pact demonstrated? That combined effort and action can change the course of History?

Which brings me to the reason why I decided to keep a journal in the first place:

I fear that Orr is tapped out. Wrung dry. Anything of true importance has already been unearthed. I leave the rest to the tourists, the botanists, and the historians.

Now that the Undead Dragon is gone, the sea ways have been reopened. We’ve been getting more news from Elona, trade is in the process of being reestablished between Lion’s Arch and Amnoon.

Elona is an old place. A country of kings, queens, gods, raw magic and tyrant liches. And more importantly: living, breathing people who hopefully gave a damn about their past and recorded it. If the tales are true, then this place has much to offer.

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16 Zephyr, 1329 AE

I’ve managed to barter a place onto a small merchant ship going to Amnoon from Lion’s Arch. Those Consortium thieves can eat my

Anyway.

I’ve been on this boat for a couple of days now. I don’t get sea sick easily, but the constant rocking and the vast openness of nothing but blue all around me is unnerving.

Next time I’ll try to find a place on an airship. Is it less rocky on an airship? It seems like it.

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18 Zephyr, 1329 AE

We’ve docked in Amnoon. Finally. The people here must not see norn often. I’ve turned a few heads. I can’t do much about my height, but I’ve got to find more conspicuous clothes, at least. My fur-lined leathers tends to stand out in the crowd. It might be difficult after the “entrance fee” I had to pay at the docks. Glad to see there are just as many thieves here than in Kryta.

First impressions of this place: it is lavish, despite all the sand everywhere. Lots of pyramidal structures. Sort of similar to asura buildings, but more ornate, more curves and loops in their decorations. And much less floaty (which I appreciate greatly). Mosaics everywhere. I will need to sit down and sketch a few of those. I’ve not sat down at a jeweller’s table for years, but that place is inspiring me to create again. Too bad I got more important things to do.

Other observation: this place is HOT. I’ve been to Dry Top. Briefly. This place actually feels worse. Thankfully those people have fountains and drapery hanging from building to building to offer some shade or I would have died the second I stepped out of that boat.

Speaking of which, I thank you, Mother, for the dark skin you gave me, or I would be as pink as a boiled thundershrimp by now.

How those people can survive in this place is beyond me.

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19 Zephyr, 1329 AE

People here travel on raptor back. A bigger breed than the ones back in Kryta, but featherless. A few of them even serve in the mounted guard that patrols the city.

I wonder if those taste like chicken as well.

The raptors, not the guards.

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20 Zephyr, 1329 AE

FUCK THIS HEAT

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21 Zephyr, 1329 AE

I’ve learned of a temple due East from Amnoon, dedicated to the goddess Kormir. I think this place should be the first step of my journey. After all, who better than the goddess of truth and knowledge to set me on my path?

I will need to cross the desert. I’ve been warned about the dangers lurking in the sand. I will need to find a mount for that. Or an escort. Or become part of one.

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22 Zephyr, 1329 AE

I saw one of them. An awakened. Selling wares in the market among all the other merchants. Its skin was dry, not putrid and soggy like the ones in Orr. It was also covered with bandages that oozed something that looked like tar. Smelled like it too. I almost blasted it across the mosaics out of sheer reflex.

The people here have an odd rapport with death, I must say.

From what I understand, Amnoon is a free city-state, existing outside of the yoke of the lich-king Joko. People are not subservient to him, yet allow some of those things to roam the streets and chant the glory of their creator to whomever is in earshot. They keep their distance, but otherwise seem not too bothered by its presence.

I’ve talked to it. It was an exceptionally fascinating exchange, I must confess. I’m still giddy thinking about it.

The majority of the undead minions under Zhaitan’s rule are mindless drones, responding instinctively to their master’s one desire: to feed him. Any remnant of memory, of personality in them were just that: remnants. Leftovers. The imprints clinging to the sand at the shore, easily swept away by the waves.

That awakened, however, was something different. It was still driven, obsessed even, by its desire to advertise the glory of its master. Yet there was still a spark of intelligence in it, of autonomy. I asked questions, and it answered.

It told me about its master, about the honor that being awakened was, and it asked me questions in turn. About who I was, what I was, where I came from, and, mostly, if I wanted to buy its wares (all statuettes and busts of Joko. Ugly ones, at that). I kept it all vague, of course. Just in case.

I could have spent the whole day talking to it, but it wouldn’t say much. Despite its autonomy, the creature was still a puppet. I doubt it even remembered much about its old life. And I believe I started to annoy it in the end. It got increasingly snappy when it realized I wasn’t going to buy anything.

I wonder if that Joko grants audiences to foreigners.

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24 Zephyr, 1329 AE

I managed to get me one of those raptors. I found the local farmer that bred them for Amnoon’s cavalier squad. I took the biggest raptor they had, and exchanged it for a few services, a couple simple charms to boost one’s constitution, and a few gold coins.

A lot of gold coins.

I’m down to half my budget already, and used my last precious gems and silver filigree to make those charms, but in the end a mount will be invaluable in this desert.

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25 Zephyr, 1329 AE

Turns out the desert is much cooler at night. Almost freezing even. Who knew. This I am used to. I am norn. I can handle cold. I would travel exclusively at night if the temperature wasn’t making Samantha all sluggish and slow.

I’ve named the raptor Samantha, by the way. She really has a face that screams “Samantha”.

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26 Zephyr, 1329 AE

I arrived at the temple. I can see the shadow of the Dragon Brand from here. It’s mind-boggling to see something so huge, something that scars several nations, affects several races across the world.

Sure, Zhaitan’s minions spread in all direction from Orr and would hit any shore, and if you dig deep enough in any spot you’re likely to find destroyers, but still.

I’ve never been so close to the Brand before. I can almost smell it, feel the electricity in the air.

It is a vision so alien, and yet so very familiar. Like you’ve hit the very threshold of the World.

The priests here allowed me to browse their records (the contrary would have surprised me). There is so much information, I don’t know where to start. Accounts about Elona’s History, the heroes, the calamities, the sunspears, the Scarab Plague. And Joko, of course.

Back in Kryta, his name was like something out of a fairy tale. The name of the villain the heroes would eventually beat. Oh, we knew who he was and what he did, but his influence seemed to distant, so inconsequential to the people living across the sea. But the lich does exist, and now that I’ve been confronted to one of his creation, I can’t help but feeling some dread.

When bound souls and death magic are concerned, logic dictates he would know more about it that anybody else in the country. But…

Do I really want to go near him? I understand the authority he exerts over the people here is… uneasy, at best. Folks in Amnoon and in the village near the temple talk about him with disgust. They are not under his rule, and have no respect for him. Yet they allow his underlings in their city, where they enjoy just about as much protection and freedom as anybody else.

Meanwhile, I read and hear others say that serving him is a great honor, that they prepare all their lives to have their bodies processed and turned into one of those dried-up animated husks. And they do so willingly, it seems. Which has me wonder: just how powerful is that lich? Did he manage to enchant a whole nation with his powers? Or is he just very charismatic? Is it promises, or fear, or both, that sway them to his side?

I feel like I should keep the option of meeting Joko at the very bottom of my list. I learned of something else: there is a tomb, further North-East from there. It’s beyond the brand, and it is said to still house the ghosts of the old kings and queens of Elona. I will go there, and ask them a few questions.

Hopefully, they won’t be like the ghosts in Ascalon: deluded, and trapped in the past. And violent. Unfortunately it’s often the case with ghosts.

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29 Zephyr, 1329 AE

I’ve made it to a kraal of ogres near the brand. They are rather friendly, compared to those I’ve encountered in the charr lands. I’m guessing that when your walls are pummeled by branded on a daily basis, any face with non-threatening intentions is to be welcomed.

Their home is situated up in the highlands North of the Crystal Desert. It’s also right at the Shiverpeaks’ tail-end. It’s truly amazing: so far from home, yet so near. I can even see snow on the mountain tops in the horizon. As a result the air here is much cooler, which is very welcome, though I do not think Samantha shares the sentiment. She is more used to flat expenses of hot sand, and the rocky inclines are hard on her legs. I had to travel on foot on a few occasions to spare her.

The ogres let me stay within their walls, and I’ve been helping around with the hunts and other chores to get them to tolerate me snooping around a little.

They built a high wall between their camp and the Brand, which protects them from Kralkatorrik’s minions, but also cuts my path towards the Primeval tombs. They have not manifested their intentions of opening their gates to let me pass. The chief here puts the safety of his people first, and I suppose I can’t blame him for that.

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30 Zephyr, 1329 AE

I left Samantha at the kraal. I made it clear that I was coming back for her, but I can’t trust the ogres to keep their words for more than a couple of days. They love to get their hands on “stray” animals. I can’t bring my raptor with me. The place is teeming with branded and my best chance of surviving crossing the dragon scar is by being discreet.

I’m taking a break in a small cave beyond the wall. The ogres let me climb up it, and I’ve been walking so far. I can see the crystals outside. They have the texture of a thick shard of broken glass. Smooth and sharp. And crackling with angry energy.

According to the legend, when Kralkatorrik awakened, it flew straight to the lair of its former champion, Glint, who had betrayed him to become a friend of the mortal races of Tyria. The Brand is the trace of the beast’s hate and fury, made manifest. It corrupts those who are exposed to it for too long, so I must get moving really soon.

It’s strange. This sensation. Being so close to the Brand. Right in the middle of it, in fact.

It’s something completely new, yet utterly familiar. It feels like something I’ve tasted before. I’ve tasted it when the frigid hate bit my skin long ago, when I was a child. I’ve tasted it when I basked in the remnant of a beast’s indomitable hunger and greet in my years in Orr. Now, I am feeling the fury of an event long past yet still very vivid, crackling all over my body.

It makes my hair stand on end. It prickles at my nerves like electricity.

It’s terrifying.

         I’m scared

             I have to move

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35 Zephyr, 1329 AE

This whole trip was a failure. An utter failure.

I’m back at the kraal now. I wrote down everything I did there. My talks with the dead kings and queens. What I saw. Sketches. Portraits. Transcripts of scrolls I found there. But it’s all gone. GONE.

Right as I exited the tomb to go back to the kraal, I was set upon by an ambush of branded. A whole flock of them. Ogres. Giant devourers. It’s a miracle I came out of it alive. But I’ve lost pages of my journal. My maps. The trinkets I managed to take. Everything that wasn’t in my pockets.

I am angry, frustrated and exhausted. I need to rest, but I must write down all I can remember before I lose the details in my sleep.

The tomb looks like a palace, dug into the face of a mountain. There were dozens upon dozens of ghosts there, servants, soldiers, nobles, haunting the place alongside one king (Wasi) and three queens (Nadijeh and the twins Nahlah and Dahlah). Unlike the chained ghosts of Ascalon and the lost souls of the swamp, they all seemed rather clear of mind, and aware of their state. Except maybe the soldiers. Death made them overzealous. They assaulted me as soon as I stepped inside, calling me “thief” and swinging their weapons at me. It took a great deal of convincing to get them to lower they swords, but by then they had already tore Pancake #63 apart. (Bastards)

The royals were much less friendly than the ones in Orr, all full of spite and vinegar. The continuous assaults from Joko’s minions and later on that of the branded soured their eternal “rest”, it seems. Still they talked to me. But mostly inconsequential things. Their reigns, their tragic death, the laziness of their servants. Or maybe they did not trust me enough to loosen their tongue just yet. I fully intend on going back there regularly, maybe offer them some gifts. Isn’t that a thing with human nobles? Offer them tacky expensive baubles and maybe they will like you better? At the very least, I need to go back and get them (and their fucking guards) accustomed to my presence.

Though now that I think of it, this might prove harder than anticipated.

Eventually I ran out of provisions and I had to come back. The ghost do not need to eat and drink, and the branded make for very poor meals.

That’s when I ran into them. They rushed down from the top of the canyons, tried to cut my path to the ogres’ wall. I had to run in the opposite direction. I sent Waffles into the fray to distract them while I fled (farewell, Waffles #24). I climbed up and hid in a crack of a great crystal spire, then I waited until nightfall to sneak past them.

And now here I am. With most of valuable notes and treasures lost somewhere in the cracking sands of the Brand, a deep gash in my leg from a devourer’s pincers (I will take care of that tomorrow), and a torn jacket. I will need to buy a new one with all that money I don’t have.

Actually I did find something. While I snuck back, I happened upon a large abandoned nest, sat atop a crystallized plateau. Why an animal would decide to build a nest at the edge of the Brand is beyond me, but there it was. All the eggs had hatched save for a couple of them, and the hatchlings and their mother were nowhere to be seen. One was dead and was beginning to crystallize, the other was barely alive. I could sense it beneath its shell, a tiny nugget of life force, struggling to survive. So I took it.

I was starving. I figured if I was stranded even longer within the Brand I would eat it, but now that I’m out of it, maybe I will sell it. Use it to bargain a place in the next ship headed to Lion’s Arch.

I’m looking at it while I write this. Samantha keeps sniffing at it, I have to keep her from trying to nibble at it. It’s rather large, bigger than my hand. I’m hoping it’s some sort of rare bird, it’d be worth more.

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42 Zephyr, 1329 AE

I’m back in Amnoon, finally. Crossed that blasted desert once again, glad to be out of it.

I still have the egg, it feels stronger in my hands. The little one inside is probably glad to be out of the Brand.

No one in town can tell me for sure what it is. They all seem to agree it’s not a reptile, at least.

I’ve bartered my place into a small merchant ship in route for Lion’s Arch. One of the sailors died from an “Iboga” (???) bite, and I offered to take his place. It still cost me 3 of the 5 coins from the Primeval Tomb’s treasure I had left. A steep price, but I just want to go home. The ship leaves in two days, maybe I can find someone who’ll buy the egg in the meantime.

I left Samantha back with farmer who sold her to me. The ship wouldn’t take her, and I doubt the customs in LA would even let her leave the boat. The farmer was apparently very satisfied with the charms I gave him (I’m assuming it has something to do with his newly pregnant wife) he agreed to keep her with him until my return. I WILL return. I still have a lot to do here, I can feel it.

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45 Zephyr, 1329 AE

I embarked the ship and we’ve set sails for Lion’s Arch. I found no one to buy the egg from me, but that’s alright. An “exotic” animal will most likely be worth more in Tyria anyway.

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46 Zephyr, 1329 AE

Blue everywhere.

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47 Zephyr, 1329 AE

The egg hatched. I woke up early this morning to the sound of crackling and weak cooing. It’s a griffon. I’m a bit disappointed, it’s not like we have a shortage of those back home. Still, it might be a rare breed. It’s bigger than the grifflets I see in the Shiverpeaks, and this one has wings that are both feathered like a bird and leathery like a bat. It doesn’t look tainted by the Brand, so maybe a hybrid?

I can probably sell it to a traveling circus for a nice sum of coins.

I’m feeding it bits of dolyak jerky. I have to chew it first, it’s not strong enough to tear it on its own.

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48 Zephyr, 1329 AE

The hatchling keeps trying to nestle against me every night. It starts squeaking when I put it down in the bucket-nest I made for it. I have to pick it back up every time or it’ll wake the whole crew.

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49 Zephyr, 1329 AE

I’m keeping it.

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50 Zephyr, 1329 AE

Back in Lion’s Arch. Had to sneak the griffon past customs, luckily the little one is rather weak, doesn’t chirp loud.

The poor thing probably still suffers from the after-effects of being in the Brand for so long.

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51 Zephyr, 1329 AE

I met the captain on my way home. I showed him the little bird-cat, and he asked me how I called it. I didn’t have a name for it, and he suggested “Mercer”. In all honesty, I think it’s a stupid name, but it’ll have to do until I find a better one.

Now I am back home, poorer in coin, but richer in knowledge and experience. I still have a couple of primeval gold and platinum coins, I will send them to the Priory so they can add them to their collection.

I can already hear Magister Brede’s voice. “What? That’s it?? Oh, Fiel. I am SO glad we didn’t finance that expedition of yours.” Fucker.

I’ll have to face the music eventually. Hopefully I won’t get a refrain from the Steward himself.

Eloise just flew in to look at the newcomer. She went to perch right above the little nest I made for it. I think she likes it. Him. I can’t tell, I’m not a biologist. Looks like a he.

I’ll go back to Elona. In time. I’ll know what to expect, I’ll be more prepared. Right now I need to sleep.

Author BluJ
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