From the journal of Alaric Clay:
It has been hard to return to this journal and write this next entry. I apologise for any omissions or errors.
When we returned the village, there were bodies – the bodies of the Swords of Astrid. And more – the signs of fae magic. In the town hall, we learned from Hugolin, the one survivor of the slaughter, what had happened – a group from Chuton had gone into the woods and struck a deal with a powerful fae creature who lived there. Fae forces had already killed all the Swords in the village, but the rest would soon return. We had to choose – to pledge our souls to the Swords of Astrid, and have them cleansed as we destroyed the fae, or sell those same souls to this “Red Leaf”.
I do not love the Cult of the New God, but I had only recently seen firsthand the capriciousness of the fae – how the gremlins I had been sent to slay delighted in human suffering. I worship the Old Faith, but the fae are not my gods and they cannot be trusted. And yet when we were told to take sides, no-one save Sister Hüvje, myself and one or two others wanted to sign the declaration of the Swords. I tried to appeal to my fellow villagers, to tell them we could not side with inhuman creatures, but in my anger and despair I see that I did not choose my words wisely and pushed some of our townsfolk away. Not that it mattered. The sister and those few of us who had tried to side with her heard the last words of the Swords’ commander before he was dragged away to be murdered by people with whom I had shared a town for decades. I think he said something about a chalice…
I was in shock. The Lion came to me asking for assistance in some maintenance, before the coming battle, and I complied, welcome of the distraction, and when I was done parties had already been assembled and plans decided upon. Not knowing what else to do, now forced to kill my fellow men in protection of my town and in service to a creature of old magic, I joined my friends Branka and Henri. My new friend, the wordless clockwork I had found in the gremlin tower, joined me too, but only out of simple mimicry.
The battle itself…I wish I could forget. I tested out my newest invention, a box which unfolds into a self-firing bolt thrower which I had designed to protect us from demons or monsters. It took one of the mounted Swords of Astrid apart. Another I meant only to knock from his steed with my magic wrench, but I killed him too. And others – sneaks in masks they sent scuttling towards us from the woods. I fought because it was my duty to the town, but all I could think was that more would come, that I was doing the work of no gods at all, only that of a capricious fae whose word could surely not be counted upon. Worse, Tonk the goblin, with whom I had once sought to share learning in the magic of time, animated the corpses of the dead as though they were nothing. I know and believe that the soul moves on after death – but to see a mortal vessel treated so disrespectfully? Perhaps the Swords were right to cleanse Chuton from the face of Urth.
Then the Swords sent forth a box of their own, carried by two youths, children really. I sensed it was magical, but before I could act, the youths activated the box and it burst open in a whirlwind of blades and arms, obliterating them both. The Cult had unleashed a Reen – a terrifying, remorseless mechanical creature from beyond our world. How could so-called men and women of faith do such a thing? And send innocents to their deaths? I helped destroy that too, and then our battle was over.
The clockwork helped me gather pieces of the Reen for me to study, something I did out of habit as much as necessity, and we returned to my workshop. I did not speak to the others. I had nothing to say.
It seems the gods, old and new, have forsaken us. I know not where to put my faith. Perhaps my only choice is to flee. But I will not…not yet. I must discover what fate has befallen my family, and Bzzzantine, and Hüvje, and see if anything can be done to drag our town out of the hell into which it rapidly descends.
If nothing…then perhaps I will go. I have no wish to murder any more men.