Garrick's Journal

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The primary source for information about the Fracture and the world of Spellbreak is a journal from Garrick Sagemark. You can read the journal in chronological order here.

Scouting the Storm: Release 19 Prologue

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 4 - Page 48

The aftershocks started to subside not long ago. It has been only a few days since The Fracture but I can't know for sure. The first survivors who surveyed the devastation have all been consumed by the spellstorm. Even Fort Halcyon is said to be little more than rubble. Castle Bogmore is in disarray and there are no spare men to cover the lookouts. I fear the worst. Massive explosions ring out from the south, even as the quakes settle. Siren's Step had not needed defending in many seasons, so a fresh patrol was dispatched only four nights ago.

The men returned this morning and said they had seen the edge of the world. At the cliffs the storm is still raging. Where there was once mountains and marshes, only clouds now remain. It is clear that the Highlands that I have called home have become hollow and I can't help but feel it is our fault.

We received word last night that Longwatch still stands. There is little time to waste, we leave within the day. It saddens me that untold amounts of knowledge will be left behind but one day we will return. We must leave the Highlands now, no matter the cost.

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 4 - Page 73

I heard rumors that a group was able to return to the Hollow Lands and escape. Despite my distaste for these looters, I hunger for knowledge of the state of the world. Through my own means I was able to learn what they recovered. Besides several gauntlets, some with gems still intact, there were a few scraps of parchment. The fools could not read them, so I was able to acquire them for little more than an old rune.

The scrolls contained powerful glyphs, the teachings of Waylyn the Scout. The stories say she was a phenomenal hunter, blessed with a gift of foresight. She was a formidable mage in her own right, but even more impressive leading a hunting party. With training we should be able to teach these skills to anyone that seeks enlightenment.

The Quest Begins: Release 20 Prologue

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 4 - Page 85

Refugees from the Hollow Lands continue to pour into Longwatch. They appear more and more wretched with each passing day, starved and barely clinging to life. Some that return have a look of corruption in their eyes and I know they have gazed into the Spellstorm. It pains me to see it, but I also find myself frequently watching the procession of these people.

Ardin, the warden of Longwatch, has somehow established order…for now. I have been working with the city guards and the other Vowkeepers to provide support. We have not been successful in stopping the Vowbreakers from returning to the Hollow Lands. I suspect that many of them are even using the very same terrible power that caused The Fracture. I can always tell when a breaker returns because they seem somehow immune to the decay of the Hollow Lands. In my studies, I have found no teachings to put my concern with the breakers at ease, which fuels my curiosity further.

We must remain strong and resist the urge to use these ancient items of power because we do not understand them. My studies have pointed to a book, very old, that could broaden our knowledge. There are mentions of an armorer, or even an entire race of them, that crafted the gauntlets. I must find this book, even if it means hiring a group of breakers to search for it.

Path of the Breaker: Release 21 Prologue

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 4 - Page 91

This morning, a Breaker came to see me. Imagine my surprise. She was quite a sight. Her hair was disheveled, her clothes worn and tattered, and she was clearly fresh from the Hollow Lands. As I am often reminded, appearances can be deceiving and are rarely important. The item this Breaker carried was what interested me. The Breakers know I pay a high price for any scraps of history they can bring me.

It was a journal, very old, and likely very dangerous. I have spent the rest of the day and most of this night poring over the contents. Large sections are missing—which may be for the best—but I offered the Breaker considerable coin if she can find them. This journal supposedly once belonged to Ferec Snowlash, the grandfather of Leoven Snowlash, my current master. I have no way to know if it is authentic, but it is now my mission to find out.

The contents of the journal read like a training manual for Breakers. It discusses, in detail, ways to control the power within the gauntlets. There are ideas and theories for how best to wield these weapons alone as well as in teams. Most of the back half of the journal is missing, so it is unclear who Ferec was training and what they expected to face.

If this truly is Leoven's grandfather's journal, it means that he broke his vow long ago. I must think more on this, so it seems sleep shall have to wait yet again. My mind yearns for the days that I could make a trip to Respite Rock in the Hymnwood to ruminate in peace under the warm sun. It saddens me that those days will likely never come again.

The Fracture: Release 22 Prologue

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 4 - Page 38

"We were too late. The Fracture happened just before dawn. The corruption of Gyle has been unleashed. The earth shakes as the world hollows. The feral elements are draining from the land and into the Spellstorm. What has she done?"

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 4 - Page 42

The damage is worse than I imagined. The bridges leading north from Fort Halcyon are now shattered, even the bridge at Halcyon Pass. The quakes continue, only furthering the destruction. No messages have reached us from Banehelm Keep and it is only rumored that Longwatch may be unscathed. Word from across the land seems to only get worse with each new report.

The Spellstorm surged last night and took with it the Vowguard unit I dispatched to recover the Vowkeeper stores from Lux Vault. Seeing the storm rise I had assumed the worst. To my surprise, a single survivor did return this morning. She seemed different, but the captain of the guard dismissed her so quickly I did not have time to study her for myself. I told the other Vowkeepers to be mindful if they hear of her and report back to me.

Our job now is to serve the people and contain the heresy that caused this disaster. I knew this day could come and I was unprepared. I cannot let that happen again.

Hope's End: Release 23 Prologue

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 2 - Page 468

Today is my fourth day in Dawnholm and I now wish I was staying much longer. The sunrise over the Brimbriar mountains was magnificent. I have not felt this alive in many years. Even in the depths of my research into this fascinating place, I can barely pull my mind away from thoughts of her.

I must focus…on my work.

In the histories of Dawnholm, there are mentions of a vault locked deep within the central keep. The doors have been sealed for ages. Curiously, when I asked Keeper Harmon, he became quite defensive. I get the sense he does not want me here; he has made it clear it is not his job to help in my task.

The keep itself has long been used as a school and training facility. Many Keepers come here for instruction and guidance. The lower floors contain numerous vaults and libraries full of a vast array of artifacts. I am surprised that so few of them have been properly cataloged, but that is why Hope asked for help.

While most people love to dig through jewels and treasures, I am most interested in scrolls and tomes. There were many in the first vaults I explored, but now that we're entering the older stashes, I have seen very few. It almost feels as if they were taken elsewhere, but I know the vaults have remained untouched for centuries. I did find one torn page within an old chest that read "Truths of Gyle". I have seen that name in only one other book and was certain it would not be written anywhere else.

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 4 - Page 51

The devastation of Dawnholm is unspeakable. Where there was once old roads, the world itself is torn asunder. The grounds I once strolled through are now fields of ash. On the road to Longwatch I knew I would see many terrible things, but nothing prepared me for that.

My knowledge of how this disaster unfolded is limited. I was unable to venture too close, but the destruction appears magnified towards the center of the keep. I knew that place well. It is nearly unrecognizable now, mostly just splinters. There are shards of stone puncturing the grounds, giving the ruins a vengeful aura I did not expect.

My memories of Dawnholm will now live only within the pages of this journal. I feared for the worst, but I believed along the road I would get word from Hope. No word has come. Seeing the ruins of Dawnholm for myself, I am more crestfallen than ever. If only we could have shared one more sunrise.

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 4 - Page 95

A group of Breakers returned from Dawnholm. I knew this day would come. During the chaos, I attempted to push her out of my mind and focus only on the people and the vow. It was a futile attempt to protect a shred of the past.

My fears were confirmed. I heard the tale from a young boy that the Breakers found shelter within a vault. Hope had led him and several others there to protect them from the Spellstorm. She did this again and again sacrificing herself to look for other students. They found her not long after the second night of storms. Her eyes were hollow. He gave me a ring that she had left to him with instructions to find me. I have never seen her wear it. Someday I will research this ring, but not today.

The Breaker that brought the boy to me also carried a strange sash. I have seen several Breakers with these strips of cloth tucked away, mostly out of sight. I realized they are covered in markings, almost like a record of feats completed in the Hollow Lands. It is risky to carry something so obvious—but the Breakers are an open secret. I will see if I can get my hands on one of these sashes to better understand what the Breakers are doing in the Hollow Lands.

I am growing less uncomfortable with the Breakers. I know the choice they made and what that choice is likely doing to them. My curiosity is growing dangerous again, but I cannot help myself.

A long walk will serve me well.

Mystery of the Runes: Release 24 Prologue

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 2 - Page 489

This morning I discovered something wondrous within a seemingly forgotten old merchant chest: a runestone. These old relics allow their caster to focus and channel runic magic. This is not the first time I have seen a rune object. While runic magic is outlawed under the Vowkeeper doctrine, it is still common to see runechips. These days I have only seen runechips used for fun tricks during name day celebrations.

My curiosity got the best of me and I must confess I had to know if it would still activate. Before I knew it I dashed from one end of the vault to the other in an instant. The runestone works! I feel guilty admitting my exhilaration.

I have spent many hours contemplating why many of the ancient texts do not mention runes at all. Many in the order believe the omission is purely accidental. I am not convinced. I believe runic magic is different from the elemental magic I have studied. I think it may even have a different origin altogether.

The chest also held seemingly innocuous letters and a ledger. This ledger is very old but details trade routes from Halcyon to Vidallah. It has been over a century since there was free flowing trade running through Brightswell Tower. Much of the business detailed in the ledger is around runestones. It makes mention of several I have never heard of before.

While the discovery of new runestones is exciting there is more to study in the ledger. Since the border closing we have heard very little from the Prisma. From my readings they were once great allies of ours, and from the looks of this ledger, great trade partners as well. It seems that they had access to runes but hungered for brilstones and opalesce ore in great quantities.

Furthering this research will keep me occupied for the next several days and I am already falling behind with each new vault I visit. I need to be careful about my focus because I tend to lose track of time. I really don’t want to miss another dinner invitation with Hope.

Whispers of the Vault: Release 25 Prologue

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 4 - Page 110

I woke this morning to a message. With order restored in Longwatch, more attention is being diverted to the Breakers. I need to be more careful about my meetings with them. I have instructed them to leave a mark by the Ribbonwood trees I pass on my morning walk if they return from the Hollow Lands with something of interest. While I empathize with their excitement, I must guide them to be more subtle next time.

I met a single Breaker outside the southern refugee encampment. The number of survivors entering Longwatch has slowed to a trickle but the camps are still overflowing. Ardin has done impressive work managing these efforts without descending into utter chaos. I worry for him now that he must deal with the politics of the Vowkeepers and Vowguard all wrapped into a single city. And that without mentioning the challenge the Breakers will present to him…

I could tell from my first glance it was an old relic. The style was clearly not from the native masterworkers of Dustpool. The Brilstone was cut with incredible precision and adorned with intricate scrollwork. Truly magnificent craftsmanship that glittered in the morning sunshine.

Holding this treasure brought memories flowing back. Its weight reminded me of traveling the Gildway as an apprentice learning accounting and trade. The power I felt emanating from the Brilstone made the hair on my neck stand up, just as it did the first time I discovered the ancient gauntlets of my grandfather. The feelings and memories were wondrous, enchanting, and dangerous all at the same time.

The Breaker wanted me to identify the necklace. She was quite disappointed when I explained that I could not. The only way to understand the power of that Brilstone was to wear it. The Vowkeeper doctrine does not forbid me from wearing such powerful artifacts, but I worry about the temptations that it would bring.

I heard rumors that there was still an armorer hiding somewhere in Longwatch. He may be the only person with the knowledge to identify such a relic. His kind has long been missing from the Highlands, even well before the fracture. While travel is not truly outlawed, the Vowguard is incredibly suspicious of outsiders. Edgewall Gate has been blockaded since I was a child, closing the entrance to the Red Stairs. The Gildway was still left open until Bron Odium took control of Dustpool Hold. His fear of outsiders outweighed his better judgement and his greed. Since those days I have seen very few armorers and even less of their wares.

When I pressed the Breaker on where she found the necklace, it was clear this is not the only treasure she uncovered. It appears that the fracture may have cracked open some previously hidden areas of Luxvault. I had heard rumors and found traces of rare items stored there many years ago. If my memory serves me well, most of that area was endowed to the Vowkeepers for use. That may mean this amulet—and whatever else this fortune seeker has found—once belonged to the order. That is both worrying and confusing and I must think on what it means.

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 3 - Page 12

I have nearly finished my work in the bowels of Dawnholm. If not for the summer evenings I have been spending in the fading sun with Hope, I am sure I would go mad. The amount of dust and well-aged grime I scrape from my boots each night is a constant reminder of how deep I delved. The last few weeks have been mired in boredom; ever since I found that working runestone, nothing else has seemed exciting.

Until today. This afternoon, upon moving a large old bookcase, I found what appeared to be a hidden door. The door itself is made of solid stone and I could find no clear locking mechanism. As luck would have it, through the passage of time, a chip has formed in one edge and I could peer through the crack. Through much hard work and some ingenuity with a broom I swiped from my quarters, I was able to pull a few loose papers through.

There is not much to go on from the scraps, but it appears to be a manifest of items. I cannot easily decipher what all the items are, but they appear to be incredibly valuable. The location is also not apparent but there was a foremark from a family that owns large portions of Luxvault. This needs more investigation and I must determine a way to open that door without Keeper Harmon—or anyone else—taking notice.

Homecoming: Release 26 Prologue

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 4 - Page 49

The first caravans are leaving for Longwatch. We got confirmation they escaped the terrible fracture somehow. There is still a small pass connecting it to the Highlands. Word is that the quakes may force it to collapse, so the order is to move as quickly as possible and take only what we need. I can’t remember the last time I disobeyed a direct command, but I feel that I can’t leave without a stop back home. I must return to Westmar, to the house of my father. I only hope it still stands and that my father still lives.

The road will also lead me through Dawnholm. I have avoided news of the school there but the limited reports I have heard are grim. Many times I have made the journey to Longwatch but I cannot escape the feeling that this will be the most difficult trip of my life.

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 1 - Page 38

I knew he would not understand. He feels that the order is only for the children of peakborn tyrants. The very fact that he thinks my talents are wasted with the Vowkeepers makes me want to join them even more. He has always wished I would stay in Westmar and take over the merchant stall. Ever since my apprenticeship in Dustpool, he has dreamed I would become an accountant. I did not work for years in school to simply sell apples and yearicots all day. I want to study. I want to grow. I want to chronicle history. There is so much knowledge we do not yet know.

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 1 - Page 44

I leave tomorrow for Fort Halcyon to meet with the other acolytes. It has been four days since I have spoken with my father and I assumed we would not talk again before I left. When I woke this morning there was a note scrawled on a scrap of parchment along with a key. The note read, "You have much to learn even in Westmar." Picking up the key, I knew what it was for. This was the key to the chest that contained the belongings of my great-grandfather.

I don't remember anything of my great-grandfather. He died when I was very young. I know he trained in the Vowguard and had fought some long forgotten battles. My grandfather and father spoke very little of him growing up. Whenever he was mentioned, there would be deflection followed by knowing glances that I only noticed in the last few years. I never pushed for much information even though I desperately wanted it. The handful of letters I found from him that I stashed under my bed were quickly taken and put in his chest. There are few times I have seen my father so upset than when he found that I had discovered those letters.

The chest sits in the root cellar mostly hidden behind barrels. I have known it was there for years and apparently my father also knew that I discovered the chest as well. I went immediately to the cellar with the key. I had no idea what I would find in that chest but I can tell you my imagination was running wild!

The chest itself is not very big and despite the age the wood is incredibly strong and heavy. I think it is made from Coldwood, which would mean even the chest itself is valuable. Inside I found the letters I read several years ago and a journal. There was an honormark there as well signifying that this man was a hero. I sat for a moment wondering why my grandfather and father seemed so ashamed of even the memory of this man.

Then, I found out why. Near the bottom of the chest, wrapped in some scraps of cloth I felt something heavy and possibly metal. I leaped back when I realized it was warm to the touch, thinking there was a family of grainrats that had moved in. After prodding a few times I finally realized it was not a rodent and picked it up.

I hesitate to even document this but under that cloth was a magic gauntlet. Judging from the Brilstones it was a very powerful one and the heat radiating from it must mean it is fire in nature. After looking at the beauty of the design for what felt like hours, I quickly wrapped the gauntlet back up and carefully placed it in the chest. I moved the chest back as far as I could in the cellar and stood for a moment thinking what to do next. I stacked barrel after barrel in front of it in an attempt to get as much distance as possible from my family's past. For the rest of the day I have avoided my father entirely and I hid the key in my hidebox below a floorboard in my room.

Do I report this when I get to Fort Halcyon? The fact that this gauntlet exists and has not been turned over to the Vowguard is against the law and also heresy! Why did my father want me to know this now? Did he think this would make me not join the Vowkeepers knowing that my great-grandfather used magic?

I need sleep. Tomorrow starts a long trip to Fort Halcyon.

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 4 - Page 53

The state of Dawnholm prepared me for the worst. I must admit with relief that Westmar, while still quite devastated, was not as bad as I had expected. Many of the houses still stand. I could see from the edge of the village that the house of my father was still roughly intact. From the first sight my stomach tied in knots, and it was not due to missing many meals since the fracture.

I had left my caravan behind in Dawnholm and the eerie silence was stifling. It was clear the village was empty and there were no signs of life left. As I slowly walked towards my childhood house, I let the emotion flow over me. I wondered if I would find my father’s body somewhere within the walls before me.

The house itself still stood. Technically. Several walls had collapsed and the roof was mostly gone. I did a quick check of the premises to see if I could find any bodies and I saw nothing. I wonder if my father survived. He may have been on the caravans to Longwatch. Part of me expected to find him here. It has been decades since we have spoken and I assumed he would die before I spoke with him again. I now hope I get a chance to see him once more.

My room was almost as I left it. The roof had collapsed but it was all too familiar. Night was coming so I had to move quickly and brush aside any nostalgia for another day. I moved my bed with some effort and found the floorboard I was looking for. It took longer than I expected to pry open the floor and find the hidebox. It was still there, just as I remembered all those years ago. Holding it up, I shook it lightly and heard the satisfying rattle of the key I needed inside.

The cellar door was covered in debris. I quickly cleared it off and went inside. The fading light of the day was not much help and I stumbled down the stairs that I went down hundreds of times as a youth. Tossing barrels aside, I made my way to the chest. It was covered in dust. It had not been touched since I left all those years ago. The key was sticky, but it still worked. The Coldwood was still strong and rigid to the touch.

I was able to recover the letters and the journal. I could not leave the honormark behind. What I came for was at the bottom of the chest, wrapped in cloth. The gauntlet was still there. Still hidden. Still warm. Ornate. Beautiful. Massive Brilstones showing in it. I dared not put it on but I must admit I was tempted. If there was ever a time to break my vow, now feels like that time.

I placed it in my bag with the rest of my great-grandfather’s belongings and made my way out of the cellar. I only made it to the edge of Westmar before it was too dark to venture further. I hope there is no Spellstorm tonight because there is no shelter here. Tomorrow I will venture south to catch one of the caravans heading to Longwatch. I hope they don’t question what I carry because I fear I may expose my own heresy.

I am already questioning my decision to take the gauntlet with me but there is so much I can learn from it. I hope the rest of the trip to Longwatch is boring, I could use the time to think.

A Seed of a Secret: Release 27 Prologue

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 4 - Page 124

The summons was abrupt, but that is not unusual for Master Ferec. I learned long ago that the best way to deal with his impetuous decision making style was to always be prepared. Ferec had sent an initiate to find me. Perhaps I am just getting older, but this young man looked barely older than a child. As he spoke, I heard a crack in his voice. Looking into his eyes, I know the experiences of the last several months have aged him more than his body will show. My days as an initiate were hard enough and the thought of experiencing the fracture during that time is unimaginable.

I quickly gathered my most recent notes and followed the initiate towards the upper keep. Although my standing meant I could also reside in the keep, I preferred the quiet and privacy of my terrace home. I knew that Ardin was reluctant to allow the Vowkeepers to occupy such a visible location. The whispers had started almost immediately; had Ardin lost his powers as warden? I was not surprised, Ferec can be very convincing.

To my surprise upon entering the upper hall I was met by both Master Ferec Snowlash and Warden Ardin Wynro. They could not be more opposite in appearance and seeing them side by side felt almost comical. Both a bit past middle age, Ferec was slightly balding and clearly enjoyed too many shombi nut pies. It would be easy to dismiss Ferec as feeble if not for the glacial blue eyes that projected immense intelligence. Ardin had only a few flecks of grey in his black hair, strongly built from years of physical training and a clear rigidity gained from his military service. They had been in a deep discussion and both turned to me as I entered.

I was prepared for a discussion on the state of the refugees or to get a new directive to pick up my previous work cataloging historical artifacts. What I was not expecting was a flurry of questions about the Breakers. Somewhat foolishly, I had expected the focus of the Warden and current ranking member of the Vowkeepers to be on the suffering refugees of the Highlands. Instead they wanted to know any information I had on the Breakers. They wanted to know how they were getting to the Hollow Lands, what they were looking for, how they were surviving the spellstorm, and more.

Unfortunately, in all my previous research, I found little recorded on the Breakers. What little I do know beyond the power of the gauntlets and runestones relates to Vital Stones. The use of a Vital Stone is central to the breaking of the vow. I have no idea if or how these Breakers found Vital Stones or even if they use them. All I know is what was in my research.

Judging by the looks I received from Ferec and Ardin, I do not think my answers were satisfying.

My gut response of being defensive is concerning on later reflection. Am I starting to empathize with the Breakers? I know the corruption that has befallen them. I know my own curiosity on their nature and their power. But am I willing to stand by and let them continue their illegal ways? Am I going to stand up for them? Defend them? Or worse...

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 2 - Page 476

This morning I found something rather strange in a manifest of Brilstones. There were two listed at the end marked as Vital Stones. These were worth orders of magnitude more than the other gems listed. Old teachings of the Vowkeepers speak of Elan Stones as being a source of corrupting magic in the same way as the Brilstones placed in gauntlets. I suspect that these Vital Stones are in fact Elan Stones.

I had not thought much about Elan Stones since my days as a student. Some part of me thought they did not even exist. Runechips are common enough and many Brilstone gauntlets still exist, but I have never seen an Elan Stone.

Elan Stones were considered the highest of treason and they were also the most mysterious. Vowkeeper initiates were simply taught that using an Elan Stone was the ultimate corruption, but were given no insight into how they worked. The texts I could find spoke of these stones granting eternal life. The information in my notes was confusing, listing that a user could still die but would return in time. One account listed a fallen mage that was able to stay in a form of stasis and the power of another was able to revive him.

I wish there was more information here, but it is just a line in a ledger. There must be more information on these Vital or Elan stones somewhere.

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 4 - Page 133

I had never ventured to the outer fringe of Longwatch before. On my morning walk, I saw the message from the Breakers and knew they wanted to meet. The lower bailey was on the easternmost edge of town far from the refugee encampments. It was a well kept secret because it was only accessible through some winding back alleys. Few people came here as this area was patrolled by Breakers at all hours. It has become a stronghold of sorts but to the annoyance of the Keepers the local Vowguard was too busy to crack down here. There was no crime reported in the area but almost everyone knew the sorts of crimes being committed.

I left around dusk and veered into one of the side alleys, my mind wandering on about what the Breakers could have found. In recent days they were making more frequent trips to the Hollow Lands. Either they are getting much better at timing the spellstorms or perhaps the worst storms have subsided. I know long ago the men of the Highlands would predict the spelltides and be able to seek shelter. The ruins of many aegis spires still dot the countryside, although they have not been activated in generations.

Word had spread that the fragile pass connecting Longwatch to the Hollow Lands was starting to splinter. Luckily it seemed that the stream of refugees had all but stopped at this point. It still saddens me that so few managed to make the journey. But that meant that the Breakers must have found another way to access the Hollow Lands. I had thought on this idly for quite some time and did not expect to find out the truth of this tonight.

Making the final turn before the outer courtyard I was met by a group of Breakers. Some of them looked familiar. In all my interactions with them up until now I had never bothered to ask any of their names. I feel a bit ashamed about that, but I know that I know my dealings here were already questionable enough. One of the Breakers held up a gloved hand and I stopped. Several heartbeats passed as I waited and watched. A whistle came from inside the courtyard and the Breakers moved aside and ushered me in.

The courtyard itself had been turned into a small tent city. It was shockingly well organized with a handful of young people buzzing in and out carrying various objects almost all wrapped in cloth. I entered a tent near the center and my escorts peeled off to return to their posts. Upon entering a young woman pushed her way around a massive table covered in scrolls and a very large map. She introduced herself as Avira Emberdane and she was the leader of this small group of Breakers. I realized that this was the same young woman that had brought me that incredible amulet many days before.

This time she did not have a magic amulet, a runestone or even a Brilstone gauntlet to show me. Instead she had a single letter. She told me this letter is proof that the fracture itself was not some catastrophic accident but instead was caused by the Vowkeepers themselves. She held the letter up to me and said this was the first bit of proof. She wanted my help to uncover the rest. I took the letter and took my leave for the night, telling her I needed to think on her request.

I walked quickly back home as if the letter I carried was some beacon of corruption. Upon entering my bedroom I pulled the letter out, stomped the floorboard that contained my hidebox and slipped the letter in quickly. I was not ready to read the letter just yet. In my haste to take the letter from Avira I was able to catch just one thing: the letter was addressed to Ferec Snowlash.

Fist of the Vowguard: Release 28 Prologue

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 2 - Page 144

Lowland! It pains me to even write it out. My first solo apprenticeship and he sends me to count delinquent children enrolling in the Vowguard. Of all the places in the Highlands this is certainly the worst. I would rather go to Mossburn and be forced to live in the stinking marsh during the rainy season!

I was so mad I took the long way back to my room to think. Over and over I considered all the possible ways I could appeal the decision. Anything that I could use to get a better placement. After spending the rest of the afternoon storming about, I returned to my room.

Unfortunately I have no choice. I am scheduled to leave tomorrow midday so I must pack and be quick. The assignment will last through the fall and I want to make the most of it.

I was given a package that contains details of my commission. The instructions read to meet the Master Instructor and her apprentice in management of recruit training. There is also a map of Lowland Outpost and it is larger than I expected from the other history books I had read. I still need to find a way to pack all the books I hope to read while there.

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 2 - Page 146

The road is not long between Fort Halcyon and the southern gates of Lowland Outpost. As the ridge wall rose into view I felt my heart beat quicker. This may not be the opportunity I most desired but I am committed to making the best of it.

The trip had taken most of the day. In the light of the setting sun I was able to get a good view of the surrounding area. I had read descriptions of Lowland Outpost before and had the map, but I was still surprised by the structured layout. It felt specific and ordered, with rows of garrison housing neatly aligned with training fields. This was one of the first areas of the Highlands I had visited that felt laid out purposefully.

It was late by the time we passed through to the center of the outpost. The Master Instructor was not present as I pried my belongings from the wagon. Our escorts informed me that she was on a training patrol and would meet with me in the morning. They offered me some dinner but I was too nervous and tired to eat.

The encampment itself was still buzzing with people. There seems to be little here that is not built to be functional. That stands in strong contrast to my time in Fort Halcyon where there is much beauty and care for form. I am starting to understand that this assignment will give me valuable perspective on aspects of the Highlands I have been previously unaware of.

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 2 - Page 147

I awoke before sunrise to knocking on my door. The bangs were not overly aggressive but instead sharp, precise and remarkably impatient. Based on the sounds I was expecting an overly virtuous young recruit was sent to fetch me. Instead I was greeted by a hard looking older woman with deep lines on her face and eyes that held both wisdom and a dose of skepticism.

The woman introduced herself with the standard two arm salute of Vowguard. Her name was Nila Qay and she was the Master Instructor for Lowland Outpost. She made a point to explain that I had overslept and that my assignment started at that moment.

I did not realize my assignment included physical training.

I joined Nila on a training patrol with several other recruits. She spoke very little and I was thankful for that. I struggled to keep up, so the thought of holding conversation did not seem promising.

The march brought us into Fever Ridge. I had read little about this area in the past but from what I remembered, most civilized people had little reason to travel there as there are barely a few small settlements. The only fact I knew was that Ghoul Grass grew there and that it was used as an herb in many medicines.

As a child I had to ingest Ghoul Grass twice. I remember both incidents vividly because of the herb’s vile taste and smell.

Our path did not bring us through the Ghoul Grass fields but I did see a spare group of dilapidated houses spread between a few hills. This was just on the edge of Northmarch Pass, the trade road that leads into the mountains. We stopped for a time while Nila and a few others scouted the area. The houses seemed deserted to me but I had heard this area was once used by drifters and outcasts for any number of unsavory things.

Not long after we stopped, Nila returned and we continued on. I was thankful for the break. Upon returning to the outpost we had breakfast and I started my formal apprenticeship.

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 2 - Page 165

My free hours I have split between the field library and studying Nila Qay. Nila is fascinating. She is an incredibly strict instructor but also smart and wise. She is not a Vowkeeper and seems somewhat annoyed that she was assigned another apprentice.

While she has not been forthcoming with much it seems clear she does not trust the Vowkeepers. She resents that they are involved with the Vowguard at all. I am surprised to see that even in the higher ranks of the guard very few interact with Nila at all. They seem to avoid her whenever possible.

I sense Nila knows things. I can only imagine what a lifetime in the guard exposes a person to. While there has not been a major war or conflict in my lifetime I know Nila has been around much longer.

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 2 - Page 172

I have always wanted to know more about Ora Fernfall. Ora created the Vowguard generations ago. She was an honored Vowkeeper who was also an extraordinary strategist and warrior. Many of the texts speak of the impressive glory she brought to the Vowkeepers by conceiving and enforcing the Vow Mandate.

A copy of this order exists in the field library here. It reads as a doctrine proclaiming the risks of the use of magic of all sorts and calls for total abstinence. It also greatly restricts the trade of all magic artifacts and regulates the travel of all non-humans through the Highlands.

The mandate itself is credited with bringing prosperity and stability to the Highlands and securing the moral future of us all. All the teachings we have received so far do not point to why this mandate was proclaimed. In all my readings there is not much I can find about what happened before this time. There is also very little information on the history of magic artifacts or studies on how they work.

I have heard there are some accounts that discuss life in the Highlands before the mandate came to pass. From my time in Fort Halcyon I am convinced that none exist in the Vowkeeper library. I was hoping to find some here in the field library. Some old maps I found show that Lowland Outpost was established before the Vow Mandate came to pass. Who used this base? Did they resist when the Vowguard took it over?

I have never understood why the Vowkeepers would restrict any knowledge. Our purpose is to instruct and educate so that history will not repeat itself.

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 2 - Page 178

I awoke this morning to find a book on my nightstand. This book contains notes from the field from a Storm Guard unit. These notes are old, from before the Vow Mandate. I skipped breakfast to read as much as I could. There are actual entries from the founding of the Vowguard!

From what I can discern the Vowguard was once called the Storm Guard and their role was to protect and run the Aegis Spires. The text is not clear on why the Aegis Spires needed protection in those days. There are hints of past conflicts but this book contains no specifics. It speaks of a recall order that was given just before the Vow Mandate and only contains a handful of entries following it.

Before the final entry I found a note. It appears to be Nila's handwriting. All it gives is a date and a location to return the book. She must know that I am curious about history and have many questions of my own. I must be very cautious with any of this knowledge. Why does she want this kept a secret? Who should this be kept secret from?

I actually look forward to the patrol tomorrow just for more time to think.

The White Towers of Halcyon: Release 32 Epilogue

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 4 - Page 80

I still remember the first time I laid eyes on Fort Halcyon. Growing up in Westmar meant being in the shadow of the massive towers, although they were always just a bit too far away to make out clearly. One year, I had the chance to go with my father while I was a young boy. We went to see the coronation of a new Hand of the Halcyon Kinship.

The towers were truly magnificent, stark white with gold trim against the deep blue of the sky. Fort Halcyon was always said to be the largest and most magnificent of the castles in the Highlands. The High Court, as we were taught to call it, is made up of the four major statues along the inner walls. That is the location where the Five Hand Alliance agreement was signed, bringing together the kingdoms of the Highlands.

Every child learns about the Five Hands of the Highlands as part of their upbringing. Tradition dictates that citizens of a kingdom remain loyal to that Hand and are given advantages when pursuing work within that area of expertise. Marriage is common across factions and although rare, some do choose to change their affiliations.

There have always been several kingdoms in the Highlands. History before the alliance is little more than folklore but the stories say that these kingdoms often fought in extended blood feuds. The Five Hands were formed many generations ago to stop the fighting and better organize the kingdoms. Although it was never explicit in the school teachings, I remember reading some messages from the time that indicated the alliance was forced to unify before an external threat. I was never able to confirm that and the books I found in the Vowkeeper vaults never seemed to cover it.

The idea was to ensure that there would never be one single tyrant ruling over the Highlands. Instead, each kingdom would get a vote in matters that pertain to the entire region. Each Hand in turn would have responsibilities and would manage a different aspect of the alliance. This is all laid out in one of the few books I was able to save during my escape after The Fracture.

Excerpts from Highland History by Nova Brightwill

Chapter 5 - The Five Kingdoms of the Highlands

Halcyon Kinship

Halcyon Kinship, commonly referred to as “The Kinship”, is the largest and most centralized kingdom in the Highlands. Its massive area of control extends from the edges of the Ruby Grove to the east, Hymnwood to the south, all the way to Edgewall Gate in the west and to Charity Crossing to the north. Despite the large size, it is still controlled as a single state, even though there have been attempts to split off the heavily populated regions of Westmar and Dawnholm.

Largely temperate in climate, The Kinship’s land is the largest in terms of population and food production. Most of the farmland in the Highlands is in this region. Much of the population outside of Fort Halcyon and Halcyon Village are primarily farmers or lumbermen. The members of The Kinship are known for their deep pride in the kingdom, their passion for hard work, and their fellowship to each other.

Fort Halcyon is considered by The Kinship to be the most impressive castle and fortification in the Highlands. The four massive statues known as the High Court were erected after the forming of the Five Hand Alliance to show that the other four Hands were always welcome in the fort. These figures are seen looking out from the center of the keep as if protecting it.

Fort Halcyon is the seat of government in the Highlands. The warden of Fort Halcyon is known as the Hand of the People and is meant to represent their wishes and voices inside the alliance. Since the forging of the Five Hand Alliance, the wardens of Fort Halcyon have all come from the Fieldbrand family. Alad Fieldbrand was the architect of the alliance and is credited with bringing several of the other kingdoms together.

Banehelm Academy

Banehelm Academy is the smallest kingdom in all of the Highlands. Nestled far north near the Brimbriar mountains is Banehlem Keep. The keep itself houses the largest library in the Highlands as well as much of the research and advancement done by academy scholars. These researchers are credited with charting the Spellstorms and developing the Aegis Spires used throughout the region.

The Academy itself is focused on both research and teaching, and it houses the largest population of students studying a wide variety of disciplines. The primary schools inside the academy focus on brilstone research and extraction, chemical formulation, and Spellstorm meteorology. There is also a school of philosophy which has become widely controversial for criticism of Vowkeeper teachings and was all but shutdown in the years following the Five Hand Alliance.

Banehelm Academy has few exports beyond teaching and research. The population is small and condensed mostly around Banehelm Keep. The warden of Banehelm Keep is known as the Hand of Knowledge and is tasked with research and learning within the alliance. The people of the region are most known for their focus on knowledge above all, the steadyhand of logic, and a deep respect for wisdom.*

*I was born and raised as part of Banehelm Academy.

Dustpool Conglomerate

Dustpool Conglomerate is the most powerful member of the Highland economy. Started many generations before the Five Hand Alliance, the Dustpool Conglomerate is a commercial entity and seen as a central body responsible for ensuring prosperity.

The Dustpool region is home to the only known brilstone mines in the Highlands. In the far north of the Highlands, the territory is largely arid and would be considered by many as barely habitable. The wealth brought on by the brilstone mines has transformed the area to allow for bustling marketplaces and villages, along with the massive Dustpool Hold. The majority of the workers in the mines come from outside Dustpool itself with the promise of wealth pulling many people from Halcyon Kinship and even other areas outside of the Highlands.

Dustpool Hold is considered by many to be the most exquisite of all the castles in the Highlands. The strong contrast of the deep pools and lush greenery to the harsh desert just outside the walls makes it something of an impossibility. The original design was done by several members of Banehelm Academy who all mysteriously went missing in the years following the original construction. The people of the region see the hold as a pinnacle of achievement showing the great power of open markets and human ingenuity.

Unlike the other Hands of the alliance, the Hand of Commerce is actually not the warden of Dustpool Hold. The honor of being the Hand of Commerce is voted on by the directorship of the Dustpool Conglomerate and is generally the wealthiest current member. This leads to strong rivalry internal to the conglomerate that has often spilled over into small skirmishes and family violence. The conglomerate holds several values in high esteem, the first being charisma and the ability to make a deal. The second is the importance of luxury and the third is prosperity at any cost.

Longwatch Protectorate

Longwatch Protectorate is the hub of the military. Located far to the south just beyond Dawnholm, the looming fortress of Longwatch stands tall on the Stormeave Plateau. Longwatch itself is home to numerous training grounds, garrisons and supply facilities. While much was moved to Lowland Outpost following the Five Hand Alliance, the vast majority of military might still lies within those walls.

The warden of Longwatch is the Hand of Defense and the leader of the Vowguard. Following the Vow Mandate and the ensuing enforcement there was many different outposts created throughout the Highlands that the Hand of Defense is tasked with controlling. The various Aegis Spires are also under the protection of the Vowguard.

Leading into the Five Hand Alliance there was worry that the kingdom of Longwatch would simply demand power since they have long controlled the largest standing military. This has never been the case due to the focus of the people on a sense of enduring loyalty, a clear code of honor and a tradition of service to all people of the Highlands.

Bogmore Collective

The Bogmore Collective is the most secretive of all the kingdoms in the Highlands. Little was known about the inner workings before the Five Hand Alliance and the collective still allows in very few visitors. The region itself is known as a difficult place to live and has long been considered the most dangerous place in all the Highlands. There are stories of raiding parties from outside of the Highlands entering the region but there has been no confirmation of those conflicts.

Castle Bogmore is shrouded in the hazy fog of the southern marshes. The kingdom is well suited for the Hand of Secrets, responsible for information both foreign and domestic. The identity of the Hand of Secrets is closely guarded and it is said that even the other Hands of the alliance are not given that information.

There is a certain level of zealotry to the members of the Bogmore Collective, members are all given a tattoo but the purpose and differences are not known to outsiders and never discussed. The people of the collective value strong ambition, cunning in the face of terrible odds, and a grace in even the most difficult of situations.

The Search for Truth: Closed Beta 1 Prologue

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 2 - Page 181

I spent the morning on patrol. We traveled west across the beautiful countryside just south of Dustpool and into a small village called Witgrave. The march would have been spectacular if it was not for the driving rain and dense fog. I welcomed the rain, it always helps me think. I had never been to Witgrave before. The residents of Witgrave all seem to be lumbermen harvesting the Ribbonwood and Dawnsong trees. We did not venture too far into the village itself. One of the men in the group was born in Witgrave and was quite disappointed he could not see the many mills he remembered as a child. I did not see them either, maybe on another visit.

Nila led the march in silence. We had not spoken since the mysterious field journal appeared in my room. I finished reading all the entries and made some notes on the previous pages of this journal. For now I have the book hidden away in my room but based on the instructions on the scrap of paper placed in the pages I must return the book before tomorrow night.

Having had time to contemplate I feel that I have put some important pieces together. I will attempt to lay out my analysis here.

The Storm Guard was originally tasked with protecting the Aegis Spires and keeping general order across the Highlands. The threats were both external and internal. External threats including bandits and interlopers from outside the Highlands while internal threats mostly focused on local power struggles and petty crime. There is word of an extended campaign outside Castle Bogmore but there are few references. This group was never deployed into that area.

This enemy frightened the Storm Guard. They speak of it almost like a plague or a sickness. I think that is because of how drawn out the fight was and how terrible the losses. The entries from those times speak of whispers within the Storm Guard of this being some sort of punishment for the Storm Guard’s use of magic.

This specific excerpt calls it out:

Last night we had a rotation of the guard from the Dreadcurtain in the heart of the southern marshes. The situation certainly seems dire but I have never seen men so distraught. They said that they would rather die in battle than live with the corruption on their essence from their magic. These whispers keep coming and word has it that Commander Fernfall is the source. She wants us to change tactics and feels this war is unwinnable. This is insanity and the worst time for a power struggle within the ranks of the Storm Guard!

It seems like the owner of this journal -- sadly the first many pages have been removed so I cannot tell who they were -- was very skeptical of this idea. They felt that this was a political push by Lyre Venthim, although they do not use his title, and, at the time, Commander Ora Fernfall, who herself was also a member of the Vowkeepers. The Vowkeepers are mentioned by name several times but it seems that they had much less influence at the time than the history books I have read. These notes indicate that over the course of several seasons of battle the Bogmore Collective was put under incredible pressure and even with the support of the Longwatch Protectorate it took the entire Five Hand Alliance to end the threat. It is surprising how much effort went into obscuring details on this actual enemy, it seems deliberately vague even in these personal notes.

The fieldnotes continue on to discuss how after switching tactics away from the use of magic the Storm Guard was miraculously able to defeat this unknown enemy rather quickly. This allowed Commander Fernfall to rise in the ranks all the way to General. I have never seen her titled this way because in all historical references I have seen before this there is no mention of the Storm Guard at all. It seems that after this rapid victory came the origins of the Vowguard, the Vowkeepers and the Vow Mandate.

It is common knowledge -- taught to every Vowkeeper initiate -- that in the aftermath of those battles the modern Vowkeeper movement was born with the creation and enforcement of the Vow Mandate. The story speaks of Lyre Venthim, the Awoken, having a divine realization upon contemplation of the stories in the ancient Vow of Honor texts. It all seems very wondrous and appears that in a time of total chaos, dismay, and strife it was the Vowkeepers who brought order and honor to the Highlands. Few, if any, of the details I have listed above were ever in any record or teaching I have found.

I understand what I am about to put down on paper and the consequences of such thoughts, but I cannot escape where these facts are leading me. While I do not question the faithfulness of Venthim the Awoken it is clear that this group of Storm Guard surely did. I must admit in my studies of the Vow Mandate I have always had a few questions.

I spent too many late nights searching of an original copy of the Vow Mandate itself to understand that none exist. There is not a single original copy in the Vowkeeper library in Fort Halcyon and after several long correspondences with Banehelm it appears they do not have a copy either. Why would these be lost or destroyed? It means the only official records of this incredibly important set of laws is second hand and only found in Vowkeeper authored books.

The actual mandate itself also has a few puzzling lines. As a doctrine it seems oddly non-specific in places. When discussing the usage of magic there are details around the powers of brilstones to focus elemental magic and to provide powerful abilities but then several confusing lines regarding other forms of brilstone magic. There are no other forms of brilstone magic that I have seen discussed in historical texts. It is certainly taboo to openly seek knowledge on magic of any form but why was this included in the mandate?

Too many questions left to answer and I still have more to do tonight. I can only imagine what Nila must know but I still do not understand why she wanted to show this to me. I fear that the more answers I uncover the more questions I will find below.

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 2 - Page 186

I went last night to return the field journal to Nila. I left it in the required spot and did my best to ensure I was not seen or followed. Upon waking this morning there was another note on my nightstand. I again heard no noise and my window and door were still locked.

The note read to report to Nila early.

Nila has shown no recognition that I returned the journal and she has barely acknowledged me at all. Upon entering her room she sat alone with a sour look on her face. On the table before her was a message on what I recognized immediately as expensive parchment. I had seen that rich, almost luxurious, parchment one time before: when I received my letter of acceptance into the Vowkeepers.

This letter, however, was an invitation to a meeting of the Five Hand Alliance! Nila asked me to attend with her as her aide. I simply do not understand why she would be so upset about this. The Five Hands are the most powerful people of the Highlands. I leaped at the chance to attend, and it is going to be held at the Verdon Estate! I’ve always wanted to visit the estate; I have heard so much about the vast variety of rare plants and birds on the grounds. It is supposed to be quite the sight.

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 2 - Page 188

We left early for the trek to Verdon Estate. Nila has been more solemn than usual along the march, saying very little. She has always been rigorous and serious but I feel she is almost avoiding me. I hoped now that we were alone, I would get a chance to discuss the Storm Guard and ask the many questions I have swirling around in my head. Along the path we traveled through Witgrave and planned to stay the night just on the other side so we could reach the estate early the next morning.

Witgrave is a little talked about village. I have never traveled through it before. The people here are mostly midborn workers, many spending their time logging the Ribbonwood trees found in Shadowgrace. Easy access to both Banehelm Keep and Charity Crossing meant that we saw a variety of travelers also passing through. It reminded me of home.

While moving through the village Nila finally turned and spoke to me. She wanted to make one stop before reaching our resting place for the night. There is a hill surrounded by several spires that sits alone. At the top is a monument that looks out over a peaceful vista. Nila walked ahead and stood just in front of where the inscription should have been. Whatever plaque once explained this memorial was long gone. It seemed fitting that even this simple gesture of remembrance and honor brought about more questions for me. In that moment I felt truly lost in my beliefs and my understanding of right and wrong. The despair and loss on Nila’s face I felt in a very different way.

The remaining walk through Witgrave felt like an eternity. We continued our journey in silence and it was not until after we had eaten dinner and were both sitting by the fire that Nila spoke again. I will never forget that moment because the question she asked me seemed like such a non-sequitur that I almost fell out of my seat. She wanted me to guess how old she was. At first I could not tell if this was some sort of joke, a way to break the ice after a long awkward silent journey but I could tell she was deadly serious.

Nila looked slightly older than middle age but still extremely fit and clearly incredibly sharp minded. I guessed 50, hoping very much to not offend here. To my astonishment she told me she was 172 years old and lived through many of the battles in the field notes she gave me to read. This just lead to further questions, I didn't even know where to start. How is that even possible? Records I have seen say occasionally that the oldest among us live to be 70 or 80 years old. Ancient lore spoke of men living to be 300 or more but no one believes those stories.

She told me that there are magical powers and abilities that have been lost or hidden for too long by the Vowkeepers. The fact that I am an initiate worried her but she wants me to know the truth. I wanted to ask her, “Why me?” This was supposed to be my first chance out in the world to grow as a Vowkeeper. This was supposed to be easy. This was supposed to be too easy! After asking many more questions which just led to more questions I could tell Nila was growing tired. This was not going to be resolved tonight.

The final words she said to me were, “Young one, you have much to learn and too much to unlearn, but first we rest.” With that she went to bed. That was many hours ago now and as I sit here wide awake still contemplating the last few days, I can see dawnbreak over the hills.

Unwanted Knowledge: Closed Beta 1.1 Prologue

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 2 - Page 189

Last night I barely slept. The mystery about how Nila could possibly be over 150 years old has eaten away at me. Nila awoke several hours before sunrise and seemed surprised that I was not asleep. We packed and made the remainder of the trip in total silence and it took every ounce of my strength to not ask more questions. I could see the pained look from Nila that she also had more to say but her determination and focus remained steadfast.

We arrived at the Verdon Estate just after dawn broke. The meeting will take place later this evening and there is much prep to do before that. Nila has tasked me with reviewing a large series of documents that are all notes on the current readiness of the Vowguard. In all my excitement and recent distraction I had nearly forgotten that my objective here is to collate information for the Longwatch Protectorate.

Nila briefed me that my role during the meeting would be to capture notes on any mention of the Vowguard. I was not to speak and would be seated behind her. She warned me to remain calm and reminded me that there is incredible penalties for anyone that breaks the bond of secrecy tied to these meetings. As if I was not intimidated enough by the coming meeting I am certainly petrified now.

I never thought that my studies with the Vowkeepers would bring me to a Five Hand Alliance meeting. This is such an honor and yet I am not energized. The weight of the recent revelations from Nila have drained me. Furthermore, I know that this distraction will likely swallow my focus and ensure I am not at my best during the proceedings. I must find clarity and leave this all behind to serve the Longwatch Protectorate, the Vowguard, Nila, and represent my order.

Excerpts from Highland History by Nova Brightwill

Chapter 6 - Forging the Five Hand Alliance

Before the Lost War there was an uneasy truce between the kingdoms of the Highlands. There were scattered bonds and agreements between various leaders but little organization. Few original documents remain from that era, so most information is pieced together from other sources.

The rising threat that would lead to the Lost War was the driver to come together as a unified Highlands. We know this from a series of letters of the architect behind the alliance, the first Hand of the People: Alad Fieldbrand.

At the time, Fieldbrand was the warden of Fort Halcyon. He had forged partnerships with Banehelm Academy and the Dustpool Conglomerate. There are numerous records of his correspondence with Kanah Grimtree, the first Hand of Knowledge. Other historians believe this may have been a romantic relationship. His uneasy friendship with Verec Grandwell, the first Hand of Commerce, is also well documented. There are many trade relationships that were signed by these three and it is clear there was strong ties.

Gryff Lawkett, the first Hand of Defense, had an adversarial relationship with Fieldbrand. There were disagreements about a longstanding truce which allowed the Storm Guard to protect the Aegis Spires. The main issue was that many of the spires were located within the Halcyon Kinship. The Storm Guard had wide jurisdiction within the Halcyon Kinship region, and this lead to friction between the kingdoms.

Little was known about the first Hand of Secrets or any person that has ever held that role. There are no known records of the internal workings of the Bogmore Collective during the times leading up to the forging of the alliance. External reports from the Storm Guard and members of the Halcyon Kinship Patrol state that there were increasing incursions and raids. There are a few registered trade agreements from Halcyon Reach that are signed by the Collective but that is all the known contact from this era.

As the rising danger of the Lost War escalated Fieldbrand made the decision to call a meeting. Records indicate this happened just after a caravan of traders were slaughtered on the Summer Road just north of Halcyon Reach. Reports of the incident show that many of the merchants were killed while others were taken or otherwise left unaccounted for.. While some records are contradictory, it appears that Fieldbrand’s niece was killed or taken as part of this attack. Initially this escalated tensions greatly between the Bogmore Collective and the Halcyon Kinship. Letters I found indicate that there were rumors of an all out war growing imminent.

Correspondence between Fieldbrand and Grimtree showed painful discussion of loss and revenge, but that Grimtree had offered to mediate a meeting between the two kingdoms. This meeting would eventually become the first meeting of the Five Hand Alliance but only after word spread to the other leaders that either bribed or forced their way in. The location was set for Verdon Estate because of the central location as well as the neutral standing of the host.

Verdon Estate was created by one of the most wealthy merchants of the Dustpool Conglomerate. Shelbi Khade was born into a mining family in the Dustpool village of Gritfeld. Her excellence in negotiation and economics secured her a fast track into the upper echelons of the Dustpool Conglomerate. She was the first lowborn to become a partner and became one of the wealthiest people in the Highlands. Her signature deal was a multistage trade negotiation that tied all five kingdoms together for the first time. Other members of the Conglomerate were furious because it overruled existing agreements but few could argue with how lucrative a deal it was.

Over time this lead to a series of internal disagreements on what is best for the Conglomerate as Khade advocated for reducing profits in some instances to improve long term prosperity of the entire Highlands. Eventually this forced Khade to exit from the Conglomerate and sell her ownership. That sale was at the peak of massive economic boom that would later be seen as the most unprofitable single transaction the Conglomerate was ever a party to.

Upon leaving Dustpool Khade simply renounced all five kingdoms as she saw no need to align to any single one. Her personal letters indicate that she purchased the land of Verdon Estate from the Halcyon Kinship not long after her exile from Dustpool. Many inside the Conglomerate still saw her as a visionary and their custom is to weigh profit opportunity over holding a grudge. This meant that even in exile she would be asked to help with certain negotiations between kingdoms when needed.

The estate itself remains a treasure of the Highlands, and Khade’s political independence made it the ideal location for such an important meeting. There was some resistance from the Dustpool Conglomerate initially but they quickly realized that they had little of value to bargain with.

With the location set and attendees ready, the meeting occurred in private just after sundown. As has become tradition, the meetings are always done in the early evening. This stems from an original request from the Bogmore Collective. Accounts of the first meeting show that the Bogmore Collective was able to enter the estate unbeknownst to Khade's security or that of the Vowguard Elite. All parties in attendance stayed until after sunrise the following morning.

Notes indicate that the discussion covered knowledge-sharing related to the incursions and raids happening throughout the southern Highlands. There were specific accounts like one from a witness privy to the attack which killed Fieldbrand’s niece. This was the only time where true conflict arose and required Lawkett to call in some Vowguard Elite to settle the room.

The initial meeting led to a series of meetings over a fortnight. The idea for a formal alliance was originally floated by Grimtree and Grandwell. Both of them wanted support from the Longwatch Protectorate as well as information on the unknown enemy first reported by the Bogmore Collective. This lead to a series of partnerships that would establish the roles and responsibilities of each kingdom and each Hand.

A portion of The Five Hand Alliance documents are copied below.

We, the free kingdoms of the Highlands, come together to form a single grand alliance. This alliance is created to share the skill, power, and protection of the Highland people to ensure our continued prosperity. Each kingdom shall have its own responsibilities and rights but also share the burdens and successes of this united group...

...In this document, we enclose our shared promise for freedom, trust, and support as one common group for the further prosperity of our people.

Signed,

Alad Fieldbrand, Hand of the People

Gryff Lawkett, Hand of Defense

Verec Grandwell, Hand of Commerce

Kanah Grimtree, Hand of Knowledge

Shadehand, Hand of Secrets

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 2 - Page 190

The meeting just ended and we’re well past twilight. I feel a second wind of exhilaration. To be in the same room as the most powerful people in the Highlands was a true honor! Even in my childhood dreams I never thought I would come to be in the same room as the Shadehand and to actually hear their voice! I had always wondered how they protect the identity of the Hand of Secrets and now I have seen it myself. I do admit that it was difficult to not stare and it was fascinating to see whatever runic magic was being used to obscure sight and sound. But that is something to ponder on another day.

Nila did not give me any information about the context for the meeting. I know from history that there are no regularly scheduled meetings and that any member can call a meeting if they deem it required. It was not clear who called this meeting but there were some surprising moments to document. Nila made it clear that I was to make a note of everyone who attended. It felt like just another exhaustingly thorough request that Nila was known for but it seems it was much more than that.

The various envoys for each kingdom and Hand were represented as expected, but then there was a sixth group. To my surprise, this envoy was lead by Ferec Snowlash, the youngest person to become the head of the order of Vowkeepers. I have never met him, but I have heard of his incredible intelligence and wisdom. Even Nila appeared to not know they would be in attendance.

I cannot commit any of the notes I took during the meeting into this journal. All proceedings are to remain secret. The overwhelming amount of information I have been inundated with over these last few days has left my mind swimming and overflowing. If only my father could see me now, complaining about too much knowledge. Tomorrow we had back to Lowland Outpost and I hope to get some answers from Nila about some of this. I worry that I still have many more questions to uncover.

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 2 - Page 191

I awoke this morning to several precise knocks at the door. The guard that woke me brought with him a letter. I had orders that I was to return to Fort Halcyon and that my apprenticeship was reassigned. The letter was signed by Nila Qay. Why would she do this? What did I do wrong? There are so many unanswered questions and she seemed so ready to answer them.

I packed my belongings and left midday for Fort Halcyon. It was a fast trip as I wanted to push myself to keep my mind from racing. The brisk walk was good for me, even carrying my heavy pack. It reminded me of the first days of my apprenticeship and how much I have learned in this short season. Most of all, it gave me time to think.

Nila wanted me to uncover some long buried truths. She hoped that I could help her and that I would be able to slow some shift she sees coming. I also think she wanted the relief of pulling back the lie she has been living for decades. Nila is hiding, but I don’t know from whom. This reassignment must be related to that. I need to find a way to reach her but I cannot expose any of her secrets. I wish I knew more! It feels hopeless to be wrapped up in something I simply do not understand.

Tomorrow I am to report for my reassignment.

Excerpts from the Journal of Garrick, Enlightened Vowkeeper

Book 4 - Page 146

It has been several days since I last met with the Breakers. In that time I have not been able to bring myself to read the letter sitting in my hidebox. The letter has been on my mind and the accusation and offer from Avira Emberdane have not been forgotten.

I have been summoned nearly every morning to help Ferec and Ardin with recovery and rebuilding efforts. Ferec wants me there to further make it clear how valuable the Vowkeepers are at this point and I think Ardin hopes I will help bring a more moderate voice.

Longwatch, and the splinter of the Stormeave Plateau that we now reside, appear to be safe from the Spellstorms and aftershocks. It has been weeks since The Fracture and there has not been a hint that we might be unprotected here. That has put the survivors more at ease and I have felt the relief that the immediate danger has passed.

Ferec has called on me to organize a meeting of the five Hands, or what is left of them. With my time spent organizing the refugee camps there is hope that I can help identify and collect a leader to represent each kingdom. So far I have been able to find representatives from Banehelm Academy, Halcyon Kinship and of course Longwatch Protectorate. Even though there is an enclave of the Bogmore Collective in the northern refugee camp I have been unable to get them to meet with me on any official terms. There appear to be very few remaining members of the Dustpool Conglomerate and they say they need to convene the directors before any new Hand of Commerce is chosen.

All of this has taken me away from my time to contemplate on the cause of The Fracture. It has also meant that several messages from the Breakers left in the Ribbonwood tree have gone unanswered. I wonder if they think I have chosen to not take them up on their offer. I will need to do something soon.

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