Gimli's Journal

14 Baekun, 1783 DR
Valthrun, I write to you, but also to myself, because I fear this journey may be my last. This haphazard group is quite unstable, and while we may be called the heroes of Winterhaven it feels as if that victory – if it can even be called such – was one of those rare circumstance when good triumphs over evil not through the superiority of their cause, but by mere chance. The fellows who I travel with, the other so called heroes, are not all heroes in their heart. The entire incident involved with the Keep on the Shadowfell remains somewhat clouded in my mind, and I cannot help but wonder what really happened. The journal that I kept then was presumably taken with our other belongings, and it is for that reason that I write this one in a cipher. If I am to die, I should not want my musings made clear to the world, nor should I wish to give information to the Adversary. For is it not written, “There is such wrong with the world that even in death we should strive to rid it of the world.”?

A brief review of my life thus far might elucidate the troubles which we face in these times. I was born in the year 1707 by the Davek Reckoning, somewhere within the Dawnforge Mountains, past the stronghold of Hammerfast. When I was but three moons of age, my parents stopped into the Fiveleague Inn with a deathly illness. They knew their deaths were upon them, but their single driving goal in their last hours had been to find someone able to take care of their child. What they found were humans, merchants and adventurers growing fat off the weapons and arms which flowed from Hammerfast. Two elves were there also, a woman by the name of Idril and a man by the name of Elrohir. They were goldsmiths, creators of fine works of art. Even with the long animosity which has stood for time immemorial between elf and dwarf, my parents trusted those two with the life of their son; it was the far better option than handing me over to the humans with their mayfly lives.

Idril, for her part, had long been without child, and craved the touch and love of a young one more than even the love of her husband. Elrohir accepted me in the calm and cool manner of the elves, not saying a single word in protest, merely making way for me without so much as a glance. It must have been a shock for them when a few months later Idril became full with child. I was not yet aware of the world then, but I can imagine her regret at having taken in this dwarven child when a fully formed elf was soon to spring from her belly.

Legolas and I grew up as close as could be, and when I decided at the age of nine that I wanted to be a cleric of Bahamut, he quickly followed suit. I still remember the day clearly; we were far from the Nentir Vale, somewhere near the A’kraddian Heights. Our parents were traveling from large city to large city, creating large works of solid gold for this or that dignitary. As our wagon rolled down the well worn road, a solitary silver dragon flew over our heads, nearly close enough to touch. He let out a short laugh, and then sailed on through the sky. Looking back on it, I realize that my mother had been scared out of her mind, but for Legolas and I there was merely a sense of wonder. Our father told us about the great dragon god, I suppose to take his mind off how close we had all come to death.

When I was old enough, my father told me what little he knew about my parents. I had known that I was different almost since I was old enough to walk, and I had seen enough dwarves to know that they were my kind. My brother Legolas was just like our parents, and I was not. As I grew older, my desire for some kind of grounding grew ever stronger. Eventually, when I was not even a fully grown dwarf, yet already an adult by human standards, I set off for Hammerfall to learn what I could. I left my adoptive mother and father behind, as well as Legolas, and wondered if I would ever see them again.

The dwarves of Hammerfall greeted me with much suspicion. I couldn’t speak their tongue, and my Common had a twinge of the sounds of Elven language. I did not try to hide my past from them, and when they heard my story they looked on me with pity. I was a dwarf denied the dwarven heritage.

It grows late though, and I shall need what little sleep I can get while we travel. Besides that, my companions look upon this strange script they cannot read with suspicion. I do not wish to invite further inspection upon myself.

15 Baekun, 1783 DR
Last night we were attacked by two owlbears, large creatures feathered like a bird, and with the beak of the same, but having instead the body and strength of the animal from which it takes the second half of its name. One of the beasts clawed my brother quite badly, and their shrieks pierced our ears in such a manner as to leave some of us unable to so much as think. Subduing them was a fairly easy matter though, as one appeared to be a youngling. It gave me a slight pain to put it down, even though it had been born into evil. For is it not said, “Evil is not inherent in the body, but in the soul within. Each soul begins its journey pristine and uncorrupted. The journey through life is one of constant degradation.”?

On the road the day prior we had come upon two elven folk, a man and a woman, who were traveling in the opposite direction from us. They had come from the elven lands near Harkenwold, and of course my little brother felt the need to stop and converse with them about all manner of things. The half-dead Solomon stopped as well, and in his characteristic way attempted to find some purpose to our crossing. I have tried to explain to him that not all in the world exists for some purpose, that some things simply are, but he does not listen to my words. He is among the evil half of our party, as our next encounter illustrated.

A stagecoach came quickly down the Trade Road, pulled by four horses, and atop it sat a rather obese man and a comely woman, as far as humans go. Solomon’s eyes became filled with a demonic look, something common to highwaymen and pickpockets, men who see opportunity around every corner no matter the moral consequences. Dracul too, the other half-dead, seemed to want to work some magic on them, to stop them in their tracks and find out what they were doing. I had been adventuring with these two long enough that I knew it would escalate, until words became blows, and innocents lay dead at our feet. I was able to convince them not to do anything drastic, and the stagecoach passed without incident.

To people like Solomon, Dracul, and Dotsul, there is no such thing as right and wrong. Our relationship is strange. I think the reason they tolerate my presence is twofold; I am useful in a fight, and they believe that most of the time doing good is in their best interests. And while they might talk of rape, murder, torture, and the deaths of innocents with a light and casual air that makes my blood run cold with terror, I also believe that it is my duty to my god to follow them. Without me here, who knows how many they might have killed?

Tonight we camp in another clearing, having passed a family of farmers going on their way. Again Solomon wanted to interrogate them, to find out in what way they were personally connected with his life, but there is only so much that can be learned from farmers, and I think he sensed their uselessness.

Let me continue with the story of my upbringing, as it might make clear the conflict within our group (which Legolas has taken to calling the Band of the Hawk). I spent two decades in Hammerfall, learning the language, training in their weapons and ways, and trying to fit in. To an outsider I could pass, but all of the dwarves still treated me as the outsider that I was. I gave up on the search for my parents after the first five years; I got the sense that someone knew something, but that they weren’t telling. The dwarves keep unusually precise records of their family trees, but there was no trace of my parents. The lack of lineage was another mark against me for the dwarves. It didn’t help matters that I was weak, and could barely wield the mordenkrad which I had purchased. When I walked into a room, I would hear the conversations go silent, then pick up with a new, strained intensity.

But despite my isolation, or perhaps because of it, my devotion to my clerical duties grew until it bordered on the fanatic. I read through the literature on Bahamut, the descriptions of his vassals, the moods of his realm, the thick books that recounted the stories of his journeys when he was disguised as a human. I was more adept than most at channeling his energy, and impressed my superior at the diocese with the healing power that I put into curing our miners of the vile humors in their lungs. It granted me a measure of respect, but not acceptance.

Though the path of Bahamut was my life, I still felt hollow, as though I were missing something. Under the flimsy excuse of looking for ways to improve our service, I attended the church of Berronar Truesilver. Being the matriarch of the dwarven pantheon she had a much bigger following, a bigger cathedral carved out of the stone, more ostentatious ornamentation around her altars. I had talked with many of her followers before, as they tended to be attracted to the family histories and lore, but the moment that I stepped into that church for the first time I knew I had found something special. I began my conversion that very day, and while I still on occasion pray to Bahamut, my true devotion belongs to Berronar, the Revered Mother.

When Legolas showed up at our door, I was more than ready to leave with him. Two decades of social stigma had made me forget how expressive he could be, and how much he felt like family. He called me brother. He had sought me out because our parents were dead, though it had taken him many months to reach me with that news. I wept openly, another mark of my otherness to the dwarves who looked away at my shameful act. They had been killed on the highway while my brother was away, victims of the greed of man. We left to find their killers within a week, even though the trail would be cold. He seemed to think that I would know what to do, and it was the best plan that I could come up with.
But I run long again, and my writing cuts into my sleep. I shall finish this story at a later date.

16 Baekun, 1783 DR
Today I killed a helpless woman, at great personal risk to myself. I feel there is a good chance that I will die in my sleep tonight, by the hand of one of my fellow travelers.

Legolas and I worked the Killing Fields of A'muntar for a time. The Fields are inappropriately named, for they are little more than a huge expanse of dirt and mud. The soil is fertile though, and I have it on good authority that at one point in the past it was filled with the most glorious orchards. The Fields have, for the past hundred years, been the site of a perpetual war between the Kingdom of Glior and the Electorate of Pallus. Due to some quirks in geography, and perhaps some wizardry, the two fiefs war with each other in near isolation from the rest of the realm, the entire resources of their being devoted to the annihilation of the other. They are lands of individuals stressed to the breaking point, lands filled to the brim with mercenary forces, rife with swords and armor and fighting. The Killing Fields stand between them.

We were hired by the Electorate of Pallus to heal the more grievously wounded of their soldiers. We had been told, when we took our letters of contract, that we would be kept off the front lines. That lasted barely more than three days. The men of the Killing Fields fight a peculiar sort of war; they build crude fortifications, dig trenches, and secure themselves behind these ever more worthless tracts of land. It is as though they are recreating the feudal system in miniature. Outside of these micro-states we fought like highwaymen, waiting to ambush supply carts, taking copious amounts of prisoners and ransoming them back, and generally acting as though such a thing as a code of honor did not exist. Legolas and I participated as little as possible in these affairs, but we would heal those maimed in a trap, and occasionally took to arms to protect our lives.

There was one particular day which is forever seared in my mind. Legolas and I had been away from camp, trying to find some animal stupid enough to have wandered onto that barren wasteland. Failing that, we were trying to find a corpse for the central clerics to raise, or at least a corpse whose arms and armor could be stripped away and given to some young soldier. We wandered for hours, always keeping our eyes on the horizon in case the enemy approached, but we found very little. As we returned to camp, we heard the tortured cries of a woman, and Legolas and I made haste. We stopped briefly to question some of the cadets around our fortification, and we found out through many nods, winks, and leering suggestions that a Sweet Polly Oliver had been found. Sweet Polly Oliver was a tale familiar all around the human lands about a girl who dresses herself up as a man in order to follow her lover into battle. The capture of a Sweet Polly Oliver was cause for much glee, and a boosting of morale among the men. We had heard tales like this, but it had always been in my understanding that among the humans a woman involved in the fighting of war was either a Valkyrie or an aberration. The dwarfs fight man and woman breast to breast, as do the elves, but the humans specialize their tasks between the genders. There are reasons for this - we could hear her shrieking sobs from quite a distance away.

I burst through the crude wooden doors of our fort, Legolas following quickly behind me with a worried expression on his face. There are things that I can tolerate from those that I work with, and things that I cannot, and the rape of a woman is one of the later. He knew this about me, but knew also that our commander and his lieutenants were much stronger than either of us. I barreled my way past the guards posted outside his room, ignoring their grins. My stomach flipped when I looked inside. The Sweet Polly Oliver was naked on her stomach, her arms being held down by two of the senior lieutenants. Her hair was cropped close, and her breasts were small - she looked almost like a boy, and that was how our commander was taking her. Blood streamed between her legs, and he laughed as she wept. When I entered he turned to look at me, and I let loose a divine blast from my deepest reserves directly at his face. He screamed, clutching at the heat welts which had formed, and they were on us in an instant. We were no match for their numbers, and might not have been a match for the commander by himself.

We were trussed up and carried to the border, then stripped of our belongings and told to never return. I must consider myself fortunate that they viewed the death of a holy man as an unlucky act.

Today we heard bird calls in our journey along the Trade Road, obviously made by humanoids, and just as obviously communicating our presence. We continued on, for we did not much fear an ambush. After some time, we came across a cart in the middle of the road, soaked in the blood of its former occupants. There came a woman's screams from a trail off the side of the road, and immediately I took off running, followed quickly by Legolas and Dracul. The other three, to my disgust, gave the broken cart a cursory glance to see if it had any goods we might salvage. The trail terminated in a clearing, where four orcs stood over a woman, one of them violating her. My mind was in a rage as I thought of the men in the Killing Fields, and the Sweet Polly Oliver that I was not able to save. I charged into the clearing, noticing only as I passed the threshold that there were more of the grotesque creatures in the woods, and let loose a divine blast which caught all the orcs within it. I was furious, overcome with rage.

The woman suddenly lost her manic demeanor and stood from the ground, pulling a greataxe up with her. "They fall for it every time," she said with a smile. I was crushed. It had been a trap - that had been clear from the birdcalls. This I was not prepared for though. That a woman would allow herself to be had by one of those humanoid monstrosities chilled me to my core. I am unusually perceptive, but I had been blinded by my memories, by my righteous anger. I stepped closer to her and unleashed the full power of my divine magic directly at her. The orcs swarmed Legolas and I, so we released a cascade of restorative magics which weakened them. We dropped the woman first, along with the majority of the orcs which had been hiding in the woods. There were many of them, but they were weak. Eventually those members of our party who had stayed to ransack the cart caught up with us, and our foes were handily decimated. The woman we kept alive, and only knocked unconscious, as we hoped to get more information from her.

As we fought, I heard my companions casually talking of what they would do to this woman - torture and rape. I doubt they saw me tense up. When the fight was over, they trussed the woman up, and waited for her to come back to the waking world. Dotsul took some slivers from a nearby tree, and I prepared myself for what I would have to do. After a few cursory questions, Dotsul prepared to slide the slivers of wood underneath her fingernails, but before he could do that I unleashed another blast at the woman, killing her instantly.

Dotsul was furious. We exchanged heated words, with myself extorting the principles of justice and compassion, and him screaming at the top of his lungs about the need to accomplish our goals at any cost. Our goals are not noble though - we are seeking only personal gain, and perhaps hoping to help some people along the way. I know that my goals are not precisely aligned with theirs, but I had until this time been under the impression that they would not commit any acts of unutterable evil in my presence. Dotsul unfavorably compared me to the elector of a far flung province, who was widely ridiculed for his misdirected policies. I did not dignify that with a response. But is it not written, "A value you would not die for, and merely hold when convenient, is the shallowest form of morality."?

More than half of the party is ready to kill me. If it does not come to a head tonight, it will soon. I place my faith in my morals. If I die, it will be because I have done the right thing, and there can be no greater death than that.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License