Having reclaimed the Regent’s artifact and defeated the Banes which guarded it, our small band – Eb, Verse, Barik, and myself – left the cloying gloom of the oldwalls and once again felt the ocean breeze of the Blade Grave. The smells it carried may not have been pleasant, but even the dark twilight it reminded us that we had survived. At times the ache in one’s boots and racing of one’s heart isn’t enough; it takes something external to really ground someone to the here and now.

Returning to the camp, we were met by a grim-masked Tracorius, sergeant of the Disfavored, blocking our way. He mocked that the oldwalls hadn’t done his work for him, and placed a hand on his sword, fellow soldiers following suit. He demanded that I give over the Steadfast Insignia, that he couldn’t let me near the keep at Sentinel Strand. He may have directed the epithet of “traitor” at me, but his eyes were affixed on Barik, standing imposingly to my flank.

Voicing my displeasure at his decisions, and the poor state of his etiquette, I turned  him down. It was apparent he couldn’t conceive of the important work I was, we were, fulfilling on behalf of the Overlord.

After fighting spectral, ghostly wisps in the oldwalls, their tendrils reaching through armour and skin untouched by mortal weapons, it was almost refreshing to fight against flesh-and-blood opponents again. Not that I relished any part of the combat, but making sure the Insignia was safely carried to the stronghold was as much my duty as obtaining it in the first place had been, and these fools were not going to stop us now.

After a solid night’s camp, we made our way to the keep the following morning, taking most of the day to reach the howling wind wall that surrounded it, the lasting effects of Kyros’ Edict trapping its inhabitants inside.

Upon arriving we saw another contingent of Disfavored – no doubt they were waiting for Tracorius to return with the artifact. I heard Barik sigh heavily from within his armour, though he said nothing as he drew his sword. I may have reservations about his former comrades, but he was proving to be a very stand-up companion when need arose. For her part Verse was always happy to dispatch a Disfavored patrol or two, and to a lesser extent so was Eb, the Disfavored having run her tribe nearly to the point of extinction. For me, this was another task, another hurdle, another unfortunate step on the path toward resolving this inane battle between Voices of Nerat and Graven Ashe.

With furrowed brow I wondered just how far my reputation with the Disfavored could sink; they had been nothing but hostile to me ever since the sacking of Vendrien’s Well, and the scores of bodies they’ve put in my way since have done nothing to improve the situation. Though they weren’t as prone to deceit as the Scarlet Chorus, I had little doubt that they would soon start sending assassins after me, if for no other reason than to stop the bloodshed they themselves wrought with every action.