Well, there was no sign of the tiefling's ships on the beach. I guess that makes sense seeing how Finnmaela is a fishing town. The next place I checked was their docks. About half of their ships looked like they were still serviceable. It's not much, but it's better than the entire town reduced to ash. As I was walking around the docks, Malik came running up. It turns out that the tiefling we didn't kill was awake and talkative. Malik filled me in while we walked to the shack he was being kept. It seems that he assumes we were a mercenary company and wanted to talk to the leader. He wanted sanctuary in return for information about the base the tiefling force is using. I don't know why Malik asked me to pretend to be the leader. I'm not that great at lying or pretending. I went with it anyway, though we didn't get anywhere. The mercenary wasn't saying anything until after we got him away safely. Malik made his hands crackle with lightning and killed him while Benmor held him down. Before he died, he called Malik a sorcerer. I'm not sure why, but I asked him his name. He died before he could answer, but I wonder what made me ask in the first place. It's certainly easier to fight a nameless and faceless enemy.
With the tiefling dead, Malik started to leave. I quickly moved between him and the door and demanded an explanation about what he just did. Benmor also wanted one, though he seemed satisfied with slapping Malik and saying that he should work on his aim. Malik claimed that he was granted power by Koed. I knew that was horseshit before he even finished. I can't cast magic. At least, not like Amatus. Or Darvin for that matter. But I have felt closer to Koed ever since I found my pendant in the old temple. Whatever Malik did felt different on some deeper level. The words he used, the way it looked. None of that felt like the forest. I've also known him since we were both little. He scratches his elbow whenever he's nervous and trying to come up with something on the spot. I'm not entirely sure if he notices it. Even if he was telling the truth, why would Koed give someone control over lighting? That's Weliad's domain. In any event, I didn't call him out right there. It wasn't the right time or place. Besides, there was an entire village of people to deal with.
Finnmaela doesn't have an elder council like we do. There's just the one elder. I think Amatus was trying to convince her to bring the survivors back to Corkirk in case the tieflings came back to finish what we interrupted. I just laid out the town's options. They could either travel to Corkirk, go to another village somewhere, or stay. Really, there was no guarantee that the tieflings wouldn't attack them again regardless of their choice, but I kept quiet about that. It would have caused needless fear. They eventually decided that they'd travel to Corkirk. Leading over a hundred villagers through the Grimarden was begging for trouble, so Darvin was chosen to lead then down to Stones End and then up to Corkirk while the rest of us cut through the forest. As we were leaving, Malik let us know that Corkirk was the next target of these raiders, and they numbered between 40 to 50. THAT would have been good information to let the elder know about. Maybe they wouldn't have chosen to travel to the next village that was going to be attacked. Instead, they're probably going to have to live through that horror twice.
The first night on our way back, I woke Malik up during my watch. I was going to get to the bottom of what was going on with him. He tried to play coy and brush off my questions, but I eventually got an answer. Turns out some of the rumors about his family are true. He isn't blessed by any god, but he was born with a talent for magic. And he's terrified of what will happen if people find out. He's right to be afraid, but it seems like he thinks just claiming to be given magic by the Gods will be enough to convince anyone who sees him use magic. I told him that if he wanted others to believe he used magic for good, he should show them. Don't try to hide behind words. Prove to them with actions that they could trust him. Then he gave me an ultimatum. I had to keep his talent a secret or else. He kind of petered out with what would happen if I didn't, but it was enough to impress me. He's come a long way from that sick little boy I delivered medicine to. I agreed that I'd keep his secret as long as no one's life was in danger.
Our travel through the Grimarden was the same as before. Complete with the singing coming from the cottage. We all ignored it. I guess the knowledge that our home was next on the executioners block gave us focus. We arrived at the Tamwaer as dusk was falling. Both Amatus and Malik made balls of light to get the attention of the sentries that had to have been posted by then. Luckily, they were, and we were met by the elders on the dock. I swear someone should just carve a sign on the door in the Rooster so everyone knows it's the "important discussion room". Or maybe paint it red. We were shuffled in and gave our report about what happened. The elders seemed upset at the realization that over a hundred new mouths would be arriving in just under a week. I can't say I blame them. I wasn't able to bite my tongue when they said I didn't know how the tieflings' magic worked. I was pointing out that one of the reasons the villages were destroyed so easily was that even if the illusion didn't work on everyone, it worked on enough that those who could see what was happening were drowned out by the others. Because we know how it works, trust those who could see the tieflings. They dismissed it out of hand! I was there! I saw the attack from both perspectives. I know the illusion can be beaten. I also know that most of the villagers wouldn't try to break it. The room was quiet after that. Branigan broke the silence by saying the town should throw a celebration for our safe return. Give the village a chance to forget its fear for a night.
As the rest of the elders left, Mother Gram stayed behind. She congratulated us for surviving in her backhand way and reprimanded us for expecting the rest of the villagers to stand and fight as we did. She's not wrong that every time a man runs from the walls, the two next to him are more likely to do the same. But I think several of them would stand and fight to defend our home. This attack isn't coming unprepared in the night. We know it's coming and are preparing the best we can. We know they have magic to make them seem like something they aren't. We know the illusion can be broken, and we know the tieflings can be killed. Anyway, she spoke to us about needing something more than a stout heart and a strong arm to protect Corkirk. There's something underneath the old temple. Something ancient that might help us. She mentioned wards, but says that the method of their use was forgotten before she was here. We decided to enjoy the night and enter it in the morning. That's not to say we forgot about what's happening. Our group met during the party and tried to think of ways to defend Corkirk from the water as well as on land. It didn't go very far, the Tamwaer is just too wide. Benmor relayed what little we did come up with to Ingram while I did the same to Branigan.
It's been a while since I've been in the temple. There was the first time where I found my amulet. But I've snuck in there a few other times since then. The last was after that noble came by. The night I came back to the village after hiding from him, I spent it in the temple. There's an energy there that's like nowhere else I've been. The air itself feels old, even though the windows are broken and the roof has holes. I'm sure most of the villagers would look at me like I'd gone insane, but I find it kind of peaceful. It's like nothing that happens outside its moss-covered walls matters to the temple. It was here before our problems, and it'll be here after. It just watches the world go by.
After the party, I spoke with Mother Gram at home about what's been happening to me lately. There's something different about me. I can feel an energy not only within myself, but in other people too. It's not the same energy as when I make a spark or my vine whip. It feels, human? Like something that has been inside me since I was born and I'm just now noticing it. Mother Gram says it's a very old energy. Something everything has. There was once a time where entire communities of people who could sense it existed. They called themselves Monks, trained themselves in ways to use and control it, and taught others. Unfortunately, she doesn't know of any that still exist. She calls it a gift. Not from the Gods, but from the world itself. The trees and the rivers and the earth and the wind and the animals have allowed me to feel what they feel. To see how everything connects to everything else, like a giant web. It's a lot to take in. If everything she says is true, then I've been given a power that has been lost for ages. A power no one really understands, but it seems I'm expected to use. We are meeting tomorrow to go down into the temple. I hope its ancient stones can give me guidance.