Lizard folk in disguise
Short stories about a Bladesinger and kin
Last Updated 11/24/2021
Last Updated 11/24/2021
So...When I was playing in the Journal of the Souls of Legend campaign, one of the mechanical things, was I had decided to do a downtime activity of carousing with the nobles. And so, the Elven noble Sonalta Arnara Ustina was born. She was fun addition to Myrai's backstory, but that was it. But about the time I completed that work, I was invited to play in a series of adventures that started with the "Forge of Fury," and I needed a character. So I then wondered, "what happened to Arnara after Myrai left?" And I decided, to 'roll up' (ok I point buy; I always do point buy) her as a Bladesinger, heading out to find herself.
And for some reason, she was a hit with the players. They liked the deep backstory with Myrai, to the point that one of the characters in basically an homage to the hipped Myrai from Sigil. But as I played the character with this group, they were/are very into the roleplaying and story building, much of it done between sessions in Discord as part of the 'short/long rest.' What it led to was a number of shorts, that are an mix of discord chats, prose and verbal dialog. Later in the set are true collaboration with other players from the various adventures.
So I hope you enjoy the Vignettes as we travel from, the Forge of Fury, to the Tomb of Annihilation, Dead in Thay, and beyond.
Note: there might be some spoilers...so beware.
Story I - The Griffon’s Nest
It was in the deepest part of the night, where only the faintest light of the sun could be seen on the horizon. The wind blew across the mountain valley, whistling around the eaves and causing the wooden beams to creak of the old inn. Inside the Griffon’s Nest, the fire had burned down to embers, the candles stubs, and the torches sputtered their last flame in the darkened tavern. Sarel Bankdown had welcomed the adventurers, and their coin with open arms into her place, and the tavern wenches were hard pressed to keep up with their new patron’s requests. Sarel and the others worked late into the night, cleaning up from the celebrating from the day before, and exhausted themselves as the five adventures drank and ate their fill, spending their fresh earned coin amid the boisterous conversations throughout the night.
“Give me your most expensive booze!”
“That’ll show those orcs!”
“Where is my damned booze?”
“That was awesome saving the Gensai—”
“—Too bad he didn’t make it.”
“This is worse than the Baron’s; where is my BOOZE?!?!”
“I can’t believe I’m hipped here—”
“I can’t believe you wandered off to play with a statue!”
“You! Wench! My Booze!”
“Pardon me, can you bring me a metheglin and some of…what did you call it…’rotgut?’”
“We’ll head back, with more gear!”
“And a replacement Gensai right?”
“Maybe we can hire someone,”
“Yeah...maybe a goblin or something short,”
“You have to be joking!”
“WHERE IN THE HELLS IS MY…oh…thanks Arnara; you have class.”
“TO VICTORY!” everyone in the tavern shouted, and the ring of the cheering still lingered in the bones of inn, even now in earliest morning as the wind continued to blow.
It also still rang in the ears of Arnara, who reclined in an overstuffed chair, with the owl, Morrigan. It was perched on the back, her head swiveling to keep tabs on the rest of the common room. Arnara’s legs were curled up beneath her lithe body, while her head was supported by her right hand, while her left hung limply over the left side of her seat. Her eyes stared dispassionately to the nearly spent flames in the hearth, barely registering the movement of the fire on the logs.
Arnara inhaled sharply, shaking herself from the reverie of the past. The images of the ruins of Whitepetal, impressions from the Funeral of the Living, and the scents of flowers and wine she shared with an Aasimar with golden hair and mirrored eyes. She slowly stood, stretching her slender arms overhead and arching her back while standing on the tips of her toes. She then relaxed and looked around the common room. It was empty, the staff long since headed to their warm beds, and the other members of her impromptu party, fast asleep in their own upstairs.
Arnara walked around the room, seeking a clear space. After a moment, she pushed the stuffed chair to the side, clearing an area in front of the hearth. She then drew the rapier that was found in Ulfe’s lair and examined it. It was a simple affair, with a woven basket of steel wrapped around the hilt and quillon. Its design was one all around function, with little concern about elegance or aesthetics. It betrayed a human’s thinking of swordplay; get the job done. The one area where it shined, was the blade itself: strong, sharp and the right balance of flexibility and stiffness. Combined with the enchantments placed on it, made it a superior blade.
Arnara wistfully looked at it, turning it over in her hands. She wondered how it would compare to her house’s lost moonblade. Probably it would look the part, unlike this one. She remembered the first time she tried her hand at rapier fighting. Like all elves, she knew the forms of blade and bow, but rapiers were something new to her. It was said that humans invented the blade, and the forms of combat around it, but it wasn’t true. The elves too had experience with this style of blade many thousands of years ago, but it was a rare art. The humans just finally got around with tinkering with longswords, until a rapier was its natural outcome. But Arnara first tried the fighting style with the Aasimar that she was a sonalta for years ago. She favored the rapier, and on a warm autumn day, she showed Arnara the basics of its use.
Arnara fell in love with the style, and practiced with it, even after the Aasimar left, promising to return. And for years she did, attracting one of the masters of the art of Bladesong. Her skills with spells were well known, but her mastery of the rapier was not. So, when she was spied one morning in the Misty Forest, the master came to test her mettle. She was hard pressed but stood her ground as she unconsciously mimicked the forms the master used. And that was enough for her to be inducted into the Bladesingers. She was thrilled and was eager to tell her friend on how she was right, that by experiencing something new, it expanded understanding.
Weeks turned to months. Months to years. Her friend didn’t return or send word. She wondered if she still lived or needed help. It was then that Arnara decided to leave the forest; to test herself, to experience more, and learn and gains skills. She would find her once again; but while she had plenty of time, her friend did not. For while her friend Myrai would outlive a human, she was not immortal. She indeed rejected the idea of extending her life, as it was a sin of her faith. So Arnara felt compelled to move faster, just to see her again if only for a last moment.
Arnara began to take steps, moving in a tight circle. Her blade close to her body, as she traced the steps of the first form. She then started to move and twist, exposing the blade and cutting the air. She danced with fluid grace, with more sweeping movements. With each sweep, the blade whistled through the air, and soon a pattern emerged from the sound. The sound of the cuts, became as notes played on a viol, each one a different note on an invisible staff in the room. High and low, staccato strikes, long sweeps, blending to slurs from the tip and pommel as each created a different note that blended together. It was a song of no words, yet the emotion of the tone was evident by the skillful dance of Arnara on the floor.
And song sung was sad and mournful because Arnara danced for the fallen Gensai. She barely knew the man, yet she saved his life as he nearly tumbled into a crevasse in the stone. She quickly had danced to the edge of the chasm and threw out a web into the darkness arresting his fall. She then danced, as the orcs came from a concealed passage, holding off their blades until her companions could bring them all down. He felt guilt at the affair, on having to depend on another, but he honestly and with humility thanked Arnara with a glad smile.
So Arnara was stricken when he died. He had bravely kicked at a door futilely, before finally pulling it open. He stood there bravely only to succumb to Ulfe’s javelin, and a pair of orcs that hacked at him savagely, bringing him low. He fell, before Arnara could warn him to wait, and stand with another of the warriors. It didn’t help that the Sigilite was ill from a trap he sprung just as the Genasi opened the door. No one was ready.
But they could have been. Thought Arnara. That they were not Tel’Quessir did not matter. They were willing to fight, defend and bleed for each other. Arnara felt she might have been able to more. At one point while Arnara worked with the woman Kiana to cut down the orcs with spells, there was a sliver of hope. There was a brief moment where she could have darted into the fray and forced a potion down his throat; but it would have meant exposing the fact that he wasn’t dead yet. And then in a flash she could not reach him. A worg and Ulfe himself stood in the way of her and his bleeding form.
A tear crept down Arnara’s cheek as she danced, her blade’s tone still soft and somber. Was it her fault that she couldn’t reach him? No…but she knew better from her master’s own words:
“Strike only when you advantage. That might mean numbers. It might mean you have surprise. It might mean position. But it means do not provide your opponent an opening. The first steps of the dance are the most critical; so never let someone else lead.”
Arnara finished the dance, her blade whistling a sharp note as a final point on the piece she played. She stood there, blade at attention, before speaking aloud.
“I failed them all. They are not Tel’Quessir and have our knowledge or wisdom. But I can teach them. And they must learn. They all should be allowed, like any other person to live as Myrai said; ‘in the fullness of time.’ I cannot fail them again.”
She moved the overstuffed chair back to where it was and pulled out her spell book. She began the process to prepare the incantations needed for the days ahead. She was quickly absorbed into the century’s old forms of arcana, preparing her mind to weave the spells to defend her companions the next time.
So, she never knew that she was observed from the stairwell leading upwards to the rooms above. That another watched her dance and saw her tears. And never heard his word spoken under his breath.
“One classy lady…”
Session Notes: Most of the text above was sourced from verbal quotes or Discord chats. This moment was after the Forge of Fury's first level was cleared out, and the group returned to town to sell stuff and get potions. As the floor was cleared, Arnara became looked to as the leader of the group with Morrigan scouting ahead, and her player free to be as smart as they could be. So when Pyrite died, it weighed heavily on her.