Journal of the Souls of Legend (completed)

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Unwoven Strands of Fate - 4/29/2020

The past is full of many things: successes, regrets and most important of all mistakes. Now successes are pleasant enough, and regrets aren’t at all fun to dwell on. But for a Sensate, mistakes are the greatest thing. You learn so much more about the reality of things, if you make mistakes.

But sometimes, you aren’t sure what category in the past something falls into. But in case of doubt; it’s a mistake. The problem is figuring out what you are learning from it.

I floated in an open sea of distant lights, unable to move anywhere. But in truth, there was nowhere to go in this place. Nothing resembled a floor or a surface anywhere that I could see. And I wasn’t falling; it was like I was in the pond in Pathhorn’s glade floating. But nor was I moving, or was I able to as I ‘sat’ there, with the echo of the voice I heard, reverberating inside my head

I turned in vain to find the elusive source. Considering the circumstances; I should have been scared or at least concerned. But the truth was I think I would have been more alarmed if there was only silence. But in the end, I couldn’t locate the source, so I did the only rational thing that came to mind.

“Where in sodding Baator am I and who are you?” I yelled. I knew I could have spoken in my head, but somehow it was more satisfying to vent my frustration aloud.

“You are in a magical construct for the purpose of allowing element Myrai’s limited perceptions to have…context,” the voice intoned in a very matter of fact tone. It didn’t judge, it didn’t seem to care, it just was.

“Context? Construct? Limited? That’s about a clear of an answer that I would expect out of a modron!”

“A modron’s capacity for understanding would be more limited than yours if it was under the rank of hexton,” it continued. “However, the lack of context would be greater, as this place has even less meaning for them. It is for your perception only.”

“That makes me feel so much better. So how about who you are?”

“I am the construct you are meant to perceive.”

By the powers, this was worse than talking to Beepu after he has had a bowl of fruit dipped in honey. He had that once as a dessert in Waterdeep, and I swore he was weaving together two sentences at the same time and made almost no sense with either. I remembered that he passed out with exhaustion later that evening to my relief.

“You know, that really doesn’t answer my question.”

“It did answer query; element Myrai is still adjusting to the context. Until then, meaning will be without a common frame of reference.”

I rolled my eyes; no this was worse. This was like talking to a guvner in the City Courts of Sigil. I had visited there once, and it took all day to stand in multiple lines, just to give a message. I got a thrashing back at the Gatehouse for coming back after dark because it took so long. But the only reason it took so long, was I had to fill out forms to drop off the message. In triplicate.

“So, you what, summoned me here like an imp on a string for what? Annoying conversation?”

“Incorrect.”

“On…what? The conversation being annoying?”

“No. Element Myrai was not summoned. Element Myrai was compelled by the binding.”

“Compelled? What are you--?”

“Simplified, when element Myrai finally used the correct catalyst to decode the binding, this triggered a mandatory compulsion to create—”

“—Wait—”

“—a nexus between that existence and this construct that is the—”

“—hold it—”

“—mental manifestation of the agreed binding.”

“What? Alright stop. Let’s start with this ‘binding’ thing you keep mentioning. What are you talking--?”

“Appropriate. Binding is the source of the construct.”

“Alright…that’s a start. What is—?”

“Simplifying context. Answer: The Binding is the connection of element Myrai to source of manipulatable energy commonly referred to as ‘the Weave’”

I nodded silently thinking. “I almost understood—”

“Progress.”

“That was sarcasm!” I retorted angrily. Pausing I collected myself and continued. “Alright, you mentioned the Weave, which as a sorcerer—"

“Incorrect.”

I would have glared at the voice if I could have. “Fine. As a sorceress—”

“Incorrect.”

That took me aback. “Wait…what did you—?”

“Sorcery: defined as bloodline with prime material beings known as ‘Dragons’ which have natural connection to Weave enabling manipulation. Element Myrai has no such bloodline connection.”

“I’m…I’m not a sorcer—” I was confused. My mind was trying to grasp with what I was being told. “And I know I am not a Wizard—”

“Correct.”

“But this…this binding allows me to use mag--.”

“Correct.”

“By the powers, stop interrupting! Alright…so how did I get binded…boun--?”

“Simple explanation with two differing answers depending on context. First context is informational; there are multiple methods for creation of a binding. Method used in this specific case was integration of Weave to planar material within element Myrai.”

I blinked. “I thought you said I didn’t have any draconic—”

“Correct. Origin of connection to weave due to immortal connection to planar matrix transferred from immortal.”

“Great…another gift from absent—” I said almost to myself.

“Father not technically required. Many methods of infusion of planar matrix are possible. Digression not relevant.”

“So…fine. I was bound, and now I am here for what, witty banter?”

“Construct is used to manipulate loci that element Myrai refers to as ‘Strands’ an imprecise labeling of planar flux.”

“But I could cast magic before—”

“Manipulation of loci not synonymous with flux interaction with weave. The later element Myrai is already familiar with, the former provides other expressions unique to element Myrai. Interaction with loci has been accidental due to lack of knowledge. This was anticipated and was why compulsion was placed on first binding; To force manifestation of the construct to transfer knowledge.

“A compulsion…wouldn’t a readable text be a bit quick—”

“Discussion preferred method for transfer of contextual knowledge. Reading without context may cause confusion. Removal of ambiguity required construct.

“Oh, like this is really better,” I said, more agitated than before. The voice, its tone, its lack of passion was grating on my state of mind.

Oblivious, the construct continued, “Second context answer relevant. Binding created because of request made by element Myrai.”

I twisted my head in confusion hanging there. I shook it as I spoke. “What? No…I…would…I…should remember doing tha--”

“Binding request was made and completed ten years ago. Nature of binding is a slow maturation before manipulation of Weave possible. Time for full maturation was between four and five years. Binding type rarely used due to maturation time and frequent lack of enough volume of planar matrix to create needed loci.”

“Back up! Ten years ago? I was a chil—”

“Not relevant.”

“Listen you adle-coved—”

“Inaccurate.”

“—mibix spouting—”

“Also Inaccurate.”

“—proxy for mephit flam!”

“Fascinating. Insult recorded. Element Myrai made proposal:

‘Please, I’ll do anything…I want to be stronger.’​

It wasn’t the voice of the construct. It was the frightened voice of a young girl I heard, sobbing. No…it was my voice! I hung there in shock as I remembered that day; the day when Elisna was killed. Back in the shrine of Kelemvor I had stumbled into by accident.

“Binding was created at that time, as element Myrai demonstrated commitment and resolve. This was in addition to other duties already allocated.”

“What…are you talking about?” I said. The blood in my body ran cold.

“Element Myrai’s singular purpose not achieved. Additional maturation required. Additional infusion of loci required.”

From the sea of lights, I spotted a motion in the distance, how far I wasn’t sure. I then saw a Strand, black as pitch undulating towards me. I watched confused for a moment, when it suddenly struck at me. I flinched, instinctually trying to twist away and defend myself. There was a sharp flash of pain when it connected to my body, and then quickly braided itself with the strands already connected. Then I felt it.

I felt raw power flow into myself. The closest way I could describe it was the euphoria I felt when I healed myself. Or killed someone else. It was the feeling of glorious exaltation as I felt the energy wash through me. The pain I originally felt was forgotten. And then just as suddenly; both the pain and the glory were gone, leaving me dazed, panting for air.

“Assimilation of loci complete. Configuration of loci allocated to protection, based on metal state of element Myrai.”

I shook my head to clear the fog, “For a knowledge transfer, this isn’t helping.”

“Element Myrai can be more precise when element matures for another loci. Recommendation is to assimilate knowledge labelled Apocrypha--"

“That’s what I was doing, before you pulled me here!”

“—for more detailed understanding and evaluation of current duties once additional catalysts are discovered.”

“Wait! That! The duties: the ones ‘already allocated’? What duties?”

I heard nothing, as the voice didn’t respond. I looked around again in puzzlement.

“Hey! Construct…thing! What duties?” I asked again, with a little more urgency in my voice.

Again, I hung in the emptiness in silence.

“Of all the…fine. I’m not doing it whatever it--”

“—Not authorized,”

I paused a moment trying to understand the implications before I spoke again. “Authorized? You asked someone…who?”

“Not authori—”

“What duties did they dump on me?”

“Not authori—”

“Why did they bind me?”

“Not authori—”

“—You sorry excuse for a monodrone! I demand an answer…to…something,” I said breathing heavily. I felt frustrated, afraid, and on the verge of panic. I wanted desperately to be in control of this conversation. I was about to dig into the drawer of insults when the voice intoned again.

“Wait.”

My jaw snapped shut and I looked around, like I would see something suddenly. It wasn’t an eternity before it spoke again, but it certainly felt like it.

“Message authorized,” the voice again echoed. I swallowed and listened, all my attention focused, not wanting to miss what would be said next.

“Element Myrai cannot be informed on the purpose of duties, as it would compromise nature of purpose. Duties are defined currently as ‘passive with active engagement’ with proto-petitioners as far as element Myrai’s judgement is concerned--”

‘Passive with active engagement?’ ‘Proto-petitioners?’ what in sodding Baator does that mean?

“—including executions as required.”

I think I stopped breathing at this point.

Executions?

“Otherwise best guidance provided is similar in nature as former member of ‘Society of Sensation,’ with different parameters of focus.”

What do executions have to do with experiencing the multiverse?

“One final communication…”

“Great another modron headache.” I muttered.

“Quotation; ‘I am proud.’”

“Wait…wha—” I started.

“End of construct,” and the stars started to spin and blend into a soft white light, and I felt the sensation of falling. Then, suddenly I felt pain as my back slammed into the floor, knocking the wind out of me. The white light in my eyes had faded to orange. I glanced around and I was back in the hall, the orange light coming from the torch in the wall sconce, where I had cast it prior.

I picked myself off the floor and looked around. Beepu and the Prophesized One still slept, despite me colliding with the floor.

Goss? You there?

—Hm? Yes. Enjoying the night air, and nothing exciting going on.

Never mind that. Did you hear the conversation?

—What conversation?

The one with the construct?

—Have you been drinking again?

What…NO! By Kelemvor am I THAT bad?

—Lately…

Not the point. You didn’t hear my thoughts about a construct?

—No…I felt surprise at you reading something, followed by a surprise at your back pain.

Thanks…I think.


I moved to the table and looked at the Apocrypha with some trepidation. There, was a list of rituals:

  • Knowledge of the First
  • Vision of the Baatorians
  • Infliction of pain
  • Chrysalis of defense
  • Secrets of Celestia
  • Shroud of Vermin
The list continued as I pulled more tabs. But as I kept reading, I saw that some of the rituals were unreadable still, just as the text was before.

I kept pulling tabs, and I found a different heading that I could read:

‘Binding and agreed duties’

But the text there was unreadable as well. I then remembered something the construct said about ‘additional catalysts discovered.’ I knew that in the parlance of arcana that a catalyst was an effect that influenced other effects. My light was one; there must be others.

“Finally reading that...what did you call it, Apocrypha?” I heard the gnome say. Turning I saw that he was still leaning back on his chair with the child asleep on his chest.

“I finally can read it,” I said softly. “My ability to create light was the key.”

Beepu thought a moment. “I have heard of elves using techniques like that to protect important texts. But it is far from common. Here help me,” and he gestured at the sleeping child. I leaned over and gently picked him up and moved him to the basket, without waking him. Meanwhile Beepu squinted at the silvery metal pages of my text.

He had seen it before, and like me was completely clueless on how to read it. But I could see that as he pulled tabs and looked at the texts that he could see the letters I could see.

“I do not know this script, but I can see the layering of words here.”

“It’s an older form of script used by the upper planes, the language is celestial,” I said.

“I do not know anything of that language, nor anyone that speaks it. Other than you of course,” Beepu said still looking over the metal. “But what does it say?”

“I just discovered it moments ago, so I am still going through it. Some very specialized rituals, and something else. Have you heard of something called ‘Binding Magic?’”

Beepu arched an eyebrow and looked at me silently. “Well that would explain things.”

“Explain what?”

“Well you always were a strange sorcerer; but I ignored it; after all power is power. But Binding magic…that would explain things. Although the term is a bit archaic. Usually only texts going back to around 600 DR even mention it.”

“Archaic? What is it called now?” I asked, concerned with the somber, almost disapproving tone Beepu was talking in now.

“The method used is now called Pact Magic. The term has been used since the Toril Thirteen cast a rite, allowing Asmodeus to claim and mark all the tieflings here as his own sometime in the late 1390’s. All of the Toril Thirteen were bound to Asmodeus via pact magic as that was the source of the rite.”

I stood there confused. “Claiming all tieflings? That’s a bunch of barkle. I knew Tanar’lings; they certainly had nothing to do with Asmodeus.”

Beepu shrugged, “Well, trickery is certainly part of his plan. But that said, the mages at the time where dealing with the aftermath of the spellplague, which only settled down in the 1480’s. But the understanding of magic changed quite a bit. So, in addition to wizardry and sorcery we now had pact magic users as well. My understanding was that a being with enough power could enable a person to use magic. The most common source of that were fiends that had made bargains with people, hence the term Pact Magic. Although most common folk did not call them that.”

“Right,” I nodded. I had no idea what he was talking about as far as Toril’s past was concerned. I knew that Toril was called ‘Godswalk’ because of an event here. But the other historical events significance eluded me. “So, what did the common folk call them?” I said nervously, afraid I already knew the answer.

“Oh, simple. They call them Warlocks.”

I turned away from Beepu, to hide the fear in my face as I whispered to myself.

“What have I done?”
 

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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
And Many Happy Returns - 5/7/2020

One thing that death teaches you, is how precious every life is. No matter how small.



Finally, the light of the sun broke above the horizon, and we prepared to leave. Of course, I had to be told this, as I was somewhat distracted. I had spent my watch hours reading, desperate for answers to questions I had. And while I found answers, they of course weren’t the ones I wanted answers to.

What I learned were the basics; why the dead avoided me, why my vision in darkness was different than before. I learned that I could at times, change these manifestations if I wanted to create some other effect. But it took great effort and could not be changed often. I also learned something else; there were others that had left their mark in the Apocrypha. Subtle marking and sigils were present here and there; notes from some forgotten souls that weretied to the text. Finally, all the manifestations, new or existing would require the ritual to enter the construct, where I had my recent revelations.

So, while the ‘how’ was understood, the ‘why’ was unclear as before. I had a tome that was as mechanical as Beepu’s in that sense, but the idea that I had a ‘purpose’…no a duty that I was expected to do was missing. A deal made in desperation, and a cruel debt to hold over someone who wasn’t aware of the consequences. A debt I had no idea how to pay.

This sat uneasily with me; it took me years as a child to pay off the debt to the Gatehouse for caring for me, and now I found I was once again shackled. But now I didn’t know how to free myself, and only the vaguest idea of what was expected of me, which apparently involved ‘executions.’

I supposed that if it was in the name of my lord Kelemvor in the duties that he expected of his faithful, it would have been ok. I understood the tenets and had accepted the terms of the faith willingly.

But the binding was an unknown. Would it conflict with my beliefs or my faith? What would be a cause for me to deal such a grim fate by my hand? How would my adams react? It was less a matter of could I do it, but how would I know it was the right thing to do at all.

All questions I couldn’t answer, so when Daneath shook me from my thoughts I was relieved.

“Myr? You feeling alright?” he asked.

“I…don’t know really.” I said pulling my eyes away from the metal sheets, while I pushed them back into place.

“Didn’t think so…if I didn’t know better, you have been hanging around Beepu too long.”

“Huh?” I said puzzled.

“You look like him, staring at all his diagrams, paying no attention to anything else,” Daneath pointed out.

I regarded the Apocrypha for a moment, frowning. “I finally find a way to read this,” gesturing at the silvery cylinder that lay in front of me. “And of course, I find a hint that I am supposed to do…something. Or maybe be something. And yet it doesn’t say why or how. And I don’t seem to have a choice.”

Daneath was still for a moment and then spoke, “And you haven’t a clue what?”

“No…I have a clue. It just seems to involve…a lot of death.” I said quietly.

“Well, you are a priestess of Kelemvor right?”

“Kelemvor is about judgement, and about how we handle and deal with the outcomes of death. Not the act of causing it. Death does just fine without help. And now I am told…I am supposed...to…help? I don’t understand it.”

Daneath pursed his lips together in thought and then shrugged. “I guess I understand the sudden interest in reading. Do you think you will find the answers there?”

I shook my head, “I don’t know. Right now, I…just want to get out of here.”

“Well, good news we have got enough provisions from the stuff here, we can easily make our way back without hunting,” Iesa said walking up from downstairs. “And we found a bit of coin for our efforts. Here’s yours Myr,” and he tossed me a small sack of coin. “Also, Beepu looked at the booyagh’s things. This one only had the purple stone, and he said you should look at it.” And Iesa tossed me a smooth stone.

I looked at it for a moment, and then placed it in my belt pouch. Then I stood and picked up the sack to place it my pack. Looking around a moment I asked Iesa “Where are the others?”

“The dirty pair crossed over to the moat house to look for stuff. Beepu is on the battlements guiding Foggle in scouting. Darastrix was getting the boat ready for us.”

“And Mo?” I asked wondering about Iesa’s best friend.

Iesa frowned, “I’m kinda worried; ever since we entered the swamp he’s been hiding in my pack. Doesn’t want to come out much. I’m hoping that getting out of here and back in the grassland will cheer him up.”

“I bet he won’t be happy until he gets to a town, where he can climb, poke around, and…bring you gifts.” I said with a wry smile.

Iesa returned my grin, “You’re probably are right. I think he would trade some loot just for a tree to climb.”

Drik and Drok came up then from downstairs lugging a sack, jingling with metal, followed by Beepu with Foggle on his shoulders, and Darastrix.

“Well, Foggle sees no signs of hobgoblins or ogres lurking around,” Beepu said as he started packing his own gear. “Not for miles. Best guess is they headed south.”

“Sssouth not sssafe for them,” Darastrix spoke. “More Folk in the meressss to the sssouth.”

“More of your tribe?” Iesa turned and asked.

“Will ssseek them out. After ssself guide you out.” Darastrix said simply with the barest of shrugs.

“We can probably make it out without your help, if you want to find them,” I said.

“Resssponsible for ssseeing you sssafe. Think sssoftssskins call it ‘mannerssss.’” He replied.

“So, what do we do with our two captives?” Daneath asked. “I’m not walking them back to the Misty Forest.”

“Let them go,” I said. “They didn’t fight, they answered our questions. Enough blood has been spilled.”

“What’s to stop them from regrouping and following us with that pack of hobgoblins and ogres?” Iesa asked.

“Be honest, would you follow us?” Danneath asked. “And besides, Darastrix probably is going to take us back the same way we came which is not a path they know.”

“So how do we do this then?” Iesa said looking at all of us.

“Iesa, can you give me the key to the pantry?” I asked, and Iesa nodded and handed it to me. “Drik and Drok stay here, everyone else head to the boat; we’ll be down in a moment.”

The rest left the room, while the goblins and I went to the pantry door. I then flexed and placed a dull orange light on the doorknob. The instant I did so I heard movement from within and some quick muttering.

“Drik, tell them that your booyagh has put magic on the door. When the light goes out, its safe for them to leave.”

Drik nodded and started speaking in goblin to the women with in, while I set the key in the lock, and unlocked the door. From within I heard angry sounds. I looked at the pair, while Drok relayed what they said.

“They not believe you; think you want to kill them still.”

I shook my head and sighed, “Tell them that if I wanted them dead, I would have done it already.” Drik nodded with a wicked smiled and relayed the message. The voices of the women settled down, and Drik nodded. We then grabbed our things and made our way to the dock where the boat waited to take us away from the fortress.



----



The next two days were a blur for me. One thing we discovered was the Prophesized One was a demanding child. As I expected I was playing nursemaid and general caretaker. So, while he took Pathhorn’s berries easily enough, I found that he wanted to suck on the horn frequently. I was filling it constantly from my waterskin, and I used some strands to make it taste like the berries. The rest of the time he slept on the diskc with me curled next to him, with some linens we scavenged from the fort. When he wasn’t sleeping, he was of course soiling his nappies, which I dutifully cleaned and dried with some strands of the weave.

But it was not only during the day I had to do this, but the night as well. Constantly ‘feeding’ him, and otherwise occupying the little hobgoblin. And it was constant. I was mostly focused on trying to keep him quiet, so I was cradling him, bouncing him or otherwise keeping him busy. All in the fevered hope of not attracting any of the swamp’s denizens. So, I didn’t have a lot of time to myself to read, or even think. And while I didn’t mind not walking, I quickly found that I really missed it.

But what I really missed was sleep. I found myself slipping into constant naps, when I wasn’t focused on poop, feeding, or keeping the child quiet. It became clear to me, that despite his size, he was still a very young infant, as his schedule centered only on the consumption of food, or its elimination. Occasionally I could hold him, and he would look around with some interest before drifting off to sleep. Sometimes I could put him back in his basket and he would stay asleep. The only good thing that came from this, was that I was excused from watches as my focus was lacking in every way.

The monotony of the cycle of sleep and poop was broken on the third morning, when we arrived at the ruined shack on the edge of the swamp where we first met Darastrix. We had just finished our morning meal, and I had just laid the Prophesized One down from his berry meal when we said our goodbyes.

“Many thankssss sssoftssskins,” Darastrix said nodding with approval. “May your huntsss met your needssss.”

Beepu nodded, “Well I hope that your hunt for your tribe also find success.” And he clasped the large lizardfolk’s hand with his own and firmly shook it. The Lizardfolk gamely returned the unfamiliar gesture and said nothing.

Iesa clasped him on the back and spoke as well, “So long Darastrix, perhaps we will see each other again soon.”

“Only if sssoftssskin is lossst,” Darastrix said baring his teeth.

“You’re getting humor down. That’s good,” and Iesa went over to finishing packing his things.

“But wassss not trying to tell joke,” Darastrix said raising his hand as Iesa left in a halfhearted attempt to stop him. But he didn’t get far, before Daneath embraced the Lizardfolk.

“Well, softskins do hug those they like and trust; you have earned my respect.” Daneath said to Darastrix. The Lizardfolk who had so awkwardly attempted to hug us on our first meeting found himself unsure on what to do. But he slowly returned the embrace and lightly clasped the warrior on the shoulders. Nodding and saying, “Sssso that issss how it worksss.”

Drik and Drok, simply walked over and extended their hands palms up, which Darastrix matched. The two goblins then slapped the lizardfolk’s outstretched hand, much to Darastrix’s surprise. But Darastrix then quickly caught on and reversed the gesture, slapping both the goblins’ hands with little hesitation, and only small winces from Drik and Drok.

Finally, I stepped up to the large Lizardfolk and chuckled. He looked at me, and offered a hug, I stepped up towards him and after taking a deep breath, planted a kiss on the cheek of the surprised Darastrix. I wasn’t sure if I would regret it, but as it turned out it was harmless. The scales on his cheek were cool, smooth and dry to my lips, and not wet and moist as I was almost afraid it was.

“Why not hugsss?” he asked.

I gave an impish shrug and smiled, “It’s a female way of saying thanks.”

Darastrix nodded slowly, his mind working to comprehend something, before his eyes widened in realization.

“Female? Oh…explainsss much. Ssshefolk also different,” he intoned solemnly. He then without another word, turned away, and stepped back into the waters of the swamp. With a swift lunge, his body dived into the waters barely causing ripples on the surface. His form quickly was hidden by the murky waters, leaving only the lapping sounds of the water at the edge.

“So…wait,” Iesa said as he thought about the exchange between us. “Did he not realize you were a girl?”

“It probably was not relevant to him. I am not sure how females behave in his tribe, but I am sure Myrai’s behavior is vastly different.” Beepu said.




Again, my thoughts were only on sleep as the next two days passed. The Prophesied One was a surly taskmaster on his needs; food, a clean nappy, warmth, and something to suck on. I think I managed to walk on my own perhaps three times, before something called me back to the disc. The nights were getting cooler as we moved closer and closer to the Misty Forest, and I found myself having to snuggle closely with the child to keep him warm, as the linens he had with him, did little to retain warmth.

But it was this strange imperative to keep quiet that was difficult. No one wanted to risk a tirade in the swamp, and it continued as we travelled the grass plains as well. Hushed tones during the day, and since I was the one with the child, only the barest pleasantries. In between my naps I wanted to talk intelligently, and not keep the infant entertained.

In two days though we had arrived back at the ruined village. It had changed a little since we left, as it appeared to have been picked clean by the villagers we had rescued. But of the former prisoners, there was no sign. But it was here that we again said goodbye.

“Time to go to Skullport,” Drik said gesturing at the road that would eventually lead to Daggerford.

“Home,” Drok said simply nodding.

“You could still come with us,” Iesa said hopefully. “I don’t know how I would find all the clumsy targets without you.”

“That, and finding his…um…’Oneness,’” Daneath gestured to the basket that quietly lay on the disc nearby.

“We thank all from freeing us,” Drik said somberly.

“Did not want to fight for horde,” Drok nodded.

“Safe travels,” Daneath said and took a turn shaking each goblin’s hand.

“Yeah,” said Iesa, following his brother. “I’ve always wanted to see Skullport. If we ever get back to Waterdeep, I’ll have to get a message to you.”

Beepu stood there with arms across his chest and his eyes narrowed. Finally, he sighed and looked at each of them before speaking.

“My mistrust was misplaced. You were…decent companions. I do wish for you to have a safe journey north.”

The pair looked at each other and nodded, before addressing the gnome.

“Beepu may not be taller,” Drik started and Beepu’s face looked to explode in rage when Drik said.

“But owl is better than hat.” And with that the tension in the air subsided, and the gnome chuckled.

Finally, I came over and knelt down by the pair. I glanced at each of them and asked. “So, assuming you aren’t afraid of the ugly magic woman,” which caused them both to look at me in shock, which then faded into maybe an expression of guilt. I touched the symbol of Kelemvor on my neck and said a quick prayer.

“Please protect our friends as they travel home. May you live your lives to their fullest.”

I then touched each on the forehead, believing that they would find their path home.

“Myrai is nice Booyahg,” Drik said with a grin.

“Maybe not ugly,” Drok said nodding. At which point the three of us laughed, followed quickly by the others. They then turned, with their packs full of trinkets and things, and their crossbows at the ready, and they started to march on their long journey home.

We then turned and headed to the south, to climb back up out of the valley.

“I am really going to miss them,” Iesa said somberly.

“What you needed two little brothers?” Daneath asked.

“I thought Mo was his little brother,” Beepu said with a smirk.

“Hah hah…no. They were…just…interesting.” Iesa said wistfully.

“Well,” I said as I climbed back on the disc to hang on the basket as we ascended. “Something tells me that you are going to forget all about them soon enough.”

“Yeah the elves will probably do exactly that. But…”

“But what?” I asked as I sat down.

“I at least understood Drik and Drok. And that was something.”
The next day, Daneath had released the bauble, and we were dutifully following it to Whitepetal. The hills gave way to forest, the air growing cooler, and the smells more fragrant than the dusty plains below. I lay there on Beepu’s disc watching the sun light through the trees, mentally adrift.

The day was trying, as his ‘Oneness’ had been more temperamental than before. Pathhorn’s berries while satisfying for a day, only worked if you consumed them. For most of the day I spent time trying to convince him to take the horn, but he just wanted something else. In my tired state it took me a while to come up with the idea to use the strand to change the flavor from a berry to milk like taste. It was so difficult I was tempted to ask Beepu to cast a spell on both of us to put us asleep. But in the end I somehow managed to feed him and settle him down.

So, there I was in a mental fog staring upwards, when I realized we were on the outskirts of Whitepetal. I saw the bridges overhead, threading their way throughout the branches far above. I sat up, and looking ahead, I saw the familiar lift descending that would take us up to the branches above. Once Beepu’s disc came to a stop, I slid off and packed away the blankets that I laid out and picked up the basket with the “Prophesized One” fast asleep.

The elves at the lift saw us, and the look on their faces was warm. Smiles and knowing nods was visible clearly, compared to the tired and weary ones that we had left, and the suspicious and guarded ones on our first meeting. But as we stepped onto the wooden planks of the lift, their faces looked at me with confusion as I brought the basket with me. And as the lift moved upwards into the leaves above, the quiet cooing of his Oneness only created more curious and puzzled stares.


“That…that…child is the ‘Prophesized One’?” Galenas exclaimed incredulously gesturing at the babe in my arms. Alanathia, came closer and looked closely at the child I cradled in my arms. He had awoken a little while ago, so I gave him a horn of some water to keep him quiet, while we told our story. But of course, the reveal of a hobgoblin child, changed the conversations direction.

“Well…yes,” Beepu said simply spreading his hands wide.

“How can you be certain?” Galenas accused.

“Firstly, we have a journal that describes his arrival, and how their boo…er sorcerer was basically elevating the child as their future leader. But it is the second fact that is interesting; he cannot be targeted by spells from the Weave.”

Alanathia’s head swiveled to regard the gnome. “What do you mean?”

“I literally cannot target him with a spell that could hurt him, and I suspect not with one that allow for divination.” Beepu stated. “And I did try several different ones. From the perspective of the Weave, he does not exist. We believe this is why he has been so difficult to find.”

Alanathia sat next to me and looked at the hobgoblin child frowning. She placed a hand on his forehead and closed her eyes her lips whispering under her breath. Then she looked at her brother frowning.

“It is so,” she said quietly. “I cannot affect him, for good or ill.” She sighed and withdrew her hand and looked at me steadily. “But why did you bring him here?”

“When we first found him, we didn’t know what to do,” I said returning her gaze. As I spoke, I realized I could hear the exhaustion and sadness in my own voice. I knew that the fate of this child would be determined elsewhere, and likely beyond my own control. But I continued, nevertheless. “But it wasn’t until we examined the journal and interrogated a pair of prisoners, we discovered that he was brought to—”

“—That was already mentioned, who cares where it came fr—” Galenas said impaitently.

“—Because it was an elf that brought him to the hobgoblin leaders.” I cut back in. The pair of the elves were shocked at this revelation.

“An elf?” Alanathia said softly in disbelief. “I do not understand. Why would an elf be involved in this?”

“We didn’t understand either at first,” I said realizing the elves were staring at me intensely. “But we also discovered who it was that did it. Paradros.”

Alanathia and Galenas looked at each other. Across their faces came a look of disgust. Alanathia then looked downwards with a frown, trying to calm her anger. Galenas however did not even attempt it.

“How dare that n’Quess betray his kin. How many Quessir are dead because of this?!” he growled in anger. Alanathia then looked at us all.

“I doubt he did this on his own, but at the behest of the Kershak.” She said with sorrow on her voice. “I personally never liked nor trusted Paradros. But he and his ilk were given passage by Melandrach so we trusted in his judgement. It seems that that Melandrach’s trust has been breached.” She then stood and crossed the room towards the open window in the hall.

“I suppose then we should also apologize,” she spoke again, gazing at the forest in the setting light.

“What for?” Daneath asked.

“When we requested your aid, it was indeed a test of your worthiness. However, shortly after your departure, we were given a message to send you to Melandrach at once…but you had already left the forest. I cannot say what would have changed if we had delivered that message, but I cannot say I am…displeased with the outcome as things are now.”

“You mean we coul—” Beepu started, before Iesa clapped down a hand over the gnome’s mouth.

“—It’s not a problem,” he said while Beepu glared at him.

“No, we are happy we could end the hobgoblin’s assault,” Daneath said, quickly jumping in. “When should we leave?”

“An escort will be provided to guide you to him,” Alanthia said. “You can set out tomorrow.”

“Excuse me,” I said. “What do we do with…” as I nodded towards the sleeping hobgoblin.

“Yes…I would have left him for his own worgs were he anything but a infant.” Alanathia said frowning. “But with Paradros being involved, there are questions that must be answered. We will take this burden from you; there are some sages and priests that will need to be consulted.”

I looked at the sleeping figure in my arms with concern. I didn’t want to be attached, but I found myself feeling responsible. I turned to look at the elven woman, and as if she read my thoughts.

“Do not worry, we will treat him well. And we will find a place where he can be taken care of.” She said smiling.

I nodded. “Alright…he at least needs some proper milk; berries aren’t quite what he needs.” And with a wave or Alanathia’s hand, a pair of elves, one male and one female came into the room. She whispered to them in elven and they nodded. They came over to me, and the female gently took the now sleeping form of the Prophesized One from my arms, while the male collected the basket and blankets. And then like that, he was gone, taken somewhere deeper into the village of Whitepetal.

I sighed. It was strange; days ago, I was faced with the possibility of having to kill him rather than let him starve. Now here I was worried about what the elves would do to him when I wasn’t there to protect him. It had been so long since I took care of a child, and even then, never more than for a feeding. Having now done so for the better part of five days I hadn’t realized that despite the exhaustion that, caring for such a little one would be…fulfilling. In my heart I realized I was going to miss my former foe, even if he never knew it.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The King of the Forest -5/17/2020

The elves have a command of delivery I am envious of. The simplest elvish phrases communicating on levels beyond the literal words. It takes a bit of history and a bit of thinking to get to the point of an elf’s diatribe. But it is so worth the effort.

But this presence extends beyond their own language. So much so that I am certain I could listen enraptured to an elf speaking in the corrupted tongue of Abyssal.

Words are power, but a skilled elf speaking them is powerful.



I slept. The exhaustion of childcare was more than enough to send me into a dreamless sleep. I didn’t even need a flask of anything to induce it. But I certainly did regret it, in a different way.

The morning light had touched my eyes, which slowly fluttered open. I felt, aches and pains in my limbs as the fog of sleep departed. I dimly remembered being shown to the same guest hut in Whitepetal that I had stayed in before, and I remembered flopping down on the divan…which explained everything.

I was curled up awkwardly on my side on the divan, still dressed in my armor, and still wearing most of the daggers and things. And most of the things I wore, poked and prodded me in uncomfortable ways. But mostly due to the armor, I surmised that I had slept in the same position all night. So, I couldn’t exactly call it the best night’s sleep I had ever had, but it was a small step up from either a bedroll on the ground, or on Beepu’s disc.

A very small one.

I groaned and pushed myself into a sitting position and looked about. On a table with two chairs, there was a small bowl of some kind of fruit, along with a pitcher and some mugs. I stood, my body strenuously objecting and staggered to one of the chairs and sat down. I then poured myself what appeared to be water into a mug and drank. It wasn’t pure water; there was something herbal with a hint of fruit. But it was refreshing, compared to the foraging we had been doing. I took a whole piece of fruit from the basket and bit into it. The sweet and tart tastes was again a welcome change from the reality of marching around the High Moors. As I munched on the flesh of the fruit, I heard a quiet wheeze.

There on the other chair, slept Gossamer. Ever since we left Secomber, he was always my personal guardian, watching over me. As a familiar, he technically didn’t need food or sleep. But given the opportunity he would eat and doze. But I hadn’t really seen him slumber since we left Waterdeep together.

Smiling, I reached over and gently ruffled the tressym’s fur. He pulled in his limbs tighter and turned himself, so his belly was exposed to my hand’s caresses, and made a small contented grunt like noise. I saw no reason to wake him now; all he would do would lecture me…about something.

Frowning, I knew it was too early to look for the others. And so, I turned to the dreaded task of reading again. I flexed and put a dim orange light on the pitcher and pulled out my new source of dread; the Apocrypha and started to read.

The rituals of binding were interesting, but I paid little attention to them. I didn’t want to go to…that construct place again. The magical rituals that I had etched into it were also uninteresting. So, I focused on anything else that I could read.

The first section I found was an almost, mechanical description of the flow of the strand’s energy. It talked in terms of ‘quanta’ and other obscure terms that made little sense. It mentioned that the binding ‘attachment’ process was a painful (confirmed) process, that grew over time, and that the growth could be accelerated by catalyst. Parsing through it became clear that the catalyst could be many things, but one of the most common ones, was heavy use of the strands themselves.

This made sense; in Sigil when I first could cast a bolt of energy, it took me a while to figure out how to repeat it. One of the problems during my self-education, was I tried to cast and blast junk which, didn’t work. It wasn’t until a cranium rat was trying to steal a hunk of bread did it become clear why; I had to target something alive. And only much later did I realize it applied to musties as well. It was at this point, that I went down to the Civic Festhall to learn more about magic, from both open lectures, and as a Sensate from the Sensorium. But even that learning had a limit and it explained why I was stuck for a long time; I didn’t get into fights. In fact, I avoided them; in Sigil it was easy to bite off more than you could handle in a scrap. You never knew if the next berk you met was a skilled blood or not. So, I just kept my power to myself.

But once I was hipped here, things changed. Just the walk from Triboar to Yartar and forced me to defend myself from the the witherlings and gnolls. Not only did I have a target; I felt that rush after the fight. Killing a cranium rat didn’t trigger it but fighting other things did.

I sat back a moment and wondered, perhaps that was why I felt the way why I did after a fight was over. Was the euphoria of killing something a perverse way to encourage me to use the strand? That this catalyst was a strange form of addiction. And the more I used it, the stronger it got, which encourage me to seek out more things to…

I grimaced at the implication. There were other options now. I could pull water out of nothing, I could heal, I could do any number of things. Of course, none scratched that itch within me. Which only made me wonder if those other things were less effective. Continuing on with my reading, it started make less and less sense until I found something interesting.



The loci used are not symbolic, they are literal vortices connecting to energy planes themselves. However, the nature of these planes has energy flowing in one direction: from positive to negative. Normally on the prime material, this confluence of energy works through an elemental medium in a single direction. This creates many effects, but noticeably the functioning life matrixes within crystal spheres also share this flow of energy.

But when a binding agent with the loci interacts with life matrixes in this way, it alters the normal flow. The presence of a direct planar vortex attracts the energy flow and has two effects; first the flow to the negative is increased. This requires additional energy from the positive to maintain equilibrium. The net resolution is that the vortices energy flow rate increases. The more matrix interaction, the greater the flow. It also causes the matrix to cease functioning just as it would normally.


Ok…that made horrid sense.

This is an intentional design as it allows for the binding agent to function as intended.

What the sodding?! I’m not some modron on the March. I’m not a construct! I care about…death, er NOT causing death.

The agent has limited reserves in the earliest part of the maturation process. A reserve of quanta can be stored by creating an object to act as a reservoir to assist in overcoming agent limitations. It requires a measure of properly calibrated steel and a corundum infused with planar matrix. Once aligned with loci it can hold additional quata for utilization…



Where before I was offended and shocked, now I was invested and enraptured. What I was reading was how to create something…a tool. Here the precision used was helpful. The steel and the ‘alignment’ needed was straightforward. So, all I needed was a corundum…whatever that was.

--So…now you can read it, you can’t put it down, can you?

I jumped in my seat and turned to glare at Gossamer who was casually grooming himself.

What the…did you have to scare me like that?

--No. Its not my fault that you were preoccupied. I suppose if you had someone to warn you…Oh wait; that’s me! So now you are warned.


I squinted at Gossamer at the barb thrown.

Cute. Funny. You should get a job with Beepu telling jokes about third cousins.

--No need to be so rude.





Later that morning the sun rose, and I dressed and rejoined the others for the journey, deeper into the forest to meet the elusive monarch.

We were travelling on foot on the forest floor. Here it seemed that the forest lived up to its name, as there were banks of fog and haze all around. The sunlight from above gave everything an ethereal glow that made it feel less like a march, but more of a waking dream. The haze did nothing to hide the beauty of the trees and foliage. As we moved deeper within, flowers on bushes, trees and vines became more and more common; their colored petals glistening with dew and sparkling with the occasion stray beam of sunlight. The smells shifted from earth, loam and wet leaves, to floral scents, pine and moss as we ascended higher into the hills. Finally, our path came to a ridge line looking into a valley, and as I followed the path and crested the hill, I found myself looking down into it, and my breath was taken away.

The valley seemed to be a pocket of sunshine in the Misty Forest. Below I saw a scattering of ponds and on one side a lake of glittering silver. On the banks of the waters below there was a breath of vibrant colors, separated by well maintained paths. The trees here were large, and you could see the web of bridges crossing between the limbs. But within the branches weren’t the small clustered structures like in Whitepetal, but instead there were structures as large as manor houses nested within, while at the base of the trees there were elegant structures of stone, creating halls and patios. In the center of it all was an oak that dwarfed all the other trees in grandeur. Its branches spread far and wide, holding perhaps five manors within. While at its base were elegant white marble buildings, clustered around more pools of water. The stone and wood blended together cleanly, as if the stone grew around the trees, or even grew with them. There was no sign of nature overwhelming the stone, like there were in the ruins we had seen in the forest before.

I walked slackjawed in wonder, my eyes tearing with joy at the natural splendor. And I was not alone, as all my companions were silently drinking the visual feast around us. We were in such awe that we dared not speak to each other, lest we break the spell we were looking at.

As we approach, the sounds of music and laughter could be heard in the distance, as we could hear the elves celebrating joyfully. The music was fast and light in tone; glad and merry. As we walked the pathways, I realized that it wasn’t neat gardens with plants trimmed and manicured. But it was all wild and haphazard, yet no flower or blade of grass strayed onto the path, and there was no sign that a blade or shovel kept them back.

We walked ever closer to that giant oak and approached what looked to be a large hall or pavilion, with wide broad set of white stairs leading up the to the interior. On pillars and posts, there were lanterns containing light, sparkling and shining that was clearly wasn’t fire, but magic. The marble floors were covered in intricate woven rugs, that deadened the noise of our footsteps in these marble halls. The first area we entered was an open room, with a dais with six chairs, the center two more grand than the others; each carved or perhaps shaped from a rich dark red wood, with motifs of dancing stags, noble wolves, and majestic raptors. But for all the nobility and grandeur the room stood empty, the chairs unoccupied.

We were quickly ushered to another chamber to the side of the hall. This one had a more intimate feeling, with statuary and topiary side by side encircling the round room. In the center was a pond of water, while to one side was a half circle of chairs, one side open to the pond. On the table sat glasses and flasks of colored liquors and along with a small bowl of ripe red berries. And there, seated on one pf the chairs, talking to an attendant on his left was the King of the Misty Forest; Melandrach.

His hair was long reaching easily to his waist, and it was the color of honey. Turning to face us, he wore a warm smile and regarded us with eyes of a violet hue. He wore no armor, and only had a dagger sheathed at his side. But his nobility was all in his posture and surety of his motions and how hey conveyed himself; he needed no crown to assert his power.

He stood and nodded towards us and spoke with a soft somber voice.

“So, these are the souls that have faced the dark forces at our borders. I welcome you to the heart of the forest, Or’Mathora.” He strode to meet us by the pool and continued.

“Beepu, son of Pachook. You have your fathers’ determination and his thirst,” he said addressing the gnome. “You do your family credit as you continue his legacy. You are welcome here.” Beepu was silent and nodded politely. The elf then continued.

“The brothers Daneath and Iesa, sons of Umbra. Your deeds show your character and worth, and I am pleased to welcome you both here.” At the mention of their father’s name, Iesa was about to speak, when Daneath jabbed him gently in the ribs, saying “Your majesty,”

Melandrach smiled and replied, “I am king because I must be; I need no honorifics to remind me of such. You are my guests, and have no need of such formalities,” to which the pair nodded respectfully.

Finally, he turned to me, “And the ha-celas Myrai, who has traveled from beyond this world, to make a mark in this one. Though I know not your lineage, I see its blood. You too are welcome here.”

I nodded and quickly replied in my native tongue, “Mahn iya oe ka lonomaiki I na lya.

Melandrach tilted his head and smiled, only responding a with a single Celestial word in reply; “Iyanoe.” It’s a word that doesn’t have a direct translation into common, because it is dependent on how it is used, but here it would be a polite acknowledgement.

“Please…sit. Make yourself at ease as we have much to discuss,” he said gesturing to the chairs behind him. We each took a seat, and as I did so I realized how weary I was from the long walk from Whitepetal. As we did so, Foggle who had been drifting above landed on the back of Beepu’s chair, while Gossamer sat and gazed into the pool, ignoring us all. Finally, I heard the sounds from the pack that Iesa set on the ground, and for the first time in days, I saw Mo creep out. He quickly scampered to the table and quickly grabbed a small pawful of berries and retreated to Iesa’s shoulder to consume his prize.

This amused Melandrach; his smile widening and growing warmer. “How unlike Umbra,” he said mischievously.

“You…know him?” Daneath stammered.

“I admit to knowing him only in passing,” Melandrach explained. He waved his hand and attendants brought us what appeared to be wine in tall slender glasses. “But his demeanor and purpose were singular in focus. He did not seem one to be distracted by creatures. But this again was only an impression.”

“My lor…er…Melandrach,” Beepu started and caught himself before continuing. “I have come to seek knowledge that—”

“--Yes…you have come seeking that and more,” Melandrach said looking at Beepu with a smile. “You seek answers. As do your human friends. But first I must thank you for what you have done for the forest, for its people and thereby for me. I have been told of the hobgoblin child and his abilities, and more importantly how he came to be the figurehead of a horde on the borders. I wish to offer you fitting rewards for your efforts. But first I must give to you,” he said looking at Beepu, “Something that Pachook left behind.”

The elf motioned with his hand, and a pair of elves came forward from the edges of the room, bearing a chest. They set it down in front of the gnome, who looked at it with eager curiosity. They then opened it, and Beepu jumped down from his chair to look at the contents. Inside was a satchel, similar to the one we had found at Flint Rock, if in better shape than the one left in those empty halls. From where I sat, I could see more bundles of scrolls and parchments stuffed inside. But I also saw another small box within that Beepu picked up first. Opening it, inside was a cluster of metal and crystal, shaped into a rough sphere shape. Beepu turned this contraption in his hand as Melandrach continued.

“He left it here for you, and had I known you were in the forest I would have sent for you sooner. I am glad to finally see it delivered to you.”

“Delivered?” Beepu said looking at Melandrach puzzled. “You could have sent word or had someone bring it to me!”

“Alas, I could not. That was not the agreement your father made, and he was very specific; you had to come here to get it.” He replied spreading his hands as he explained. “It was partially because of this, that I had attracted the anger of the Kershak. That was perhaps a mistake, but perhaps not as great as the bargain that the Kershak and I had struck long ago.”

“Why did he demand that I wonder?” Beepu said still looking at the object in his hands.

“Presumably because he wanted the Kershak to follow Umbra and himself,” Melandrach said softly.

“So, why was Pachook following our father then?” Iesa asked, leaning forward in his chair.

“He was not; Umbra was following Pachook,” Melandrach replied. “But perhaps I should start at the beginning.” To which the three men nodded.

“Long ago the Kershak and I made a bargain; the reasons are not important, but it allowed the Kershak to travel unhindered within the forest. It had been that way for over seven decades, when Pachook came to us to ask of me three favors.”

“What favors?” Beepu asked, his attention now ripped away from the metallic pieces and he looked at the monarch once again.

“Pachook came with the poor creature Umbra and asked for the following: the first was to give you the contents of the chest when you and Umbra’s sons came looking for it.” This caused Daneath and Iesa to look at each other puzzled. But Melandrach continued before they could ask a question. “The second was passage to Silverymoon, which was an easy thing to accomplish. The third ask was to conceal the pairs’ passage from the Kershak’s knowledge. Since they came in secret, it appeared to be a simple matter to ensure that others did not disclose their visit.”

Melandrach took a brief sip from his glass before continuing. “Yet, Paradros did come and ask of my people where they had both gone. The denials of my kin did not fool him. And so, I could not conceal that they had came through here, but I did not say where they had departed to and nothing was asked about things left behind. For this my people paid a great price.” Melandrach took a sip from his glass, while we sat there frozen, our drinks forgotten as we listened to the tale he told.

“But Paradros’ offense will not be forgotten nor forgiven. He will be put to the sword, should he or indeed any of the Kershak set foot within my realm again.”

“Melandrach, why did you call Umbra a ‘poor creature?’ I asked quietly. The brothers’ heads swiveled to look at me, and then back to the monarch.

“Understand that we knew of Umbra because he was a Kershak, but we did not trust him. We trusted Pachook however, and it was because of him and his service to us that we honored his request. But while I had met Umbra once before, the man that stood by Pachook was a vastly different one.”

“What do you mean?” Daneath asked as he leaned forward in his seat in anticipation.

“Umbra had seemed to have lost all the vitality he once had, but none of the drive. I remember him standing here in my hall, gazing at me with an intensity only matched by the light of the sun, but with a chill felt only in the deepest winter.”

“The man that stood before me, was very unlike the rest of us. He was simply put, a man who had stepped away from his former life, and in fact out of his former grave.”

We all listened in a stunned silence as the King said somberly:

“Your father, I am certain was quite dead.”
 


Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Yeah well, that's interesting ...

Liked the explanation of magic as well.

High cost of living you know.

I try to avoid Cast Spell [FOO] That's not what Myrai is thinking; she may not enough know what the spell's name is according to sages. But magic like anything else is a system of rules. It just one I think is interesting to explain.

Up to a point.
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Limits of the Dead - 5/25/2020

No one likes being told ‘You cannot do this.’ It took the Harmonium five hundred years to learn that, and only after the Lady of Pain kicked them out of Sigil.

But like it or not, we have limits. Some overcome them, some are consumed by them. And others, find alternative ways.

The last one is the most interesting, if not the most dangerous.



I sat there awkwardly as I watched the different reactions of my friends. Beepu’s mouth opened and closed several times in confusion, unable to render his thoughts into words. Daneath looked stricken; the look of pain and confusion on his face as the fate of his father was revealed. Iesa on the other hand, looked somewhere between anger and disappointment; like someone else had beaten him to the punch.

“Dead,” Daneath said simply in disbelief.

“So, he was a zombie following Pachook?” Iesa said and turned to look at Beepu accusingly.

“Wait,” Daneath caught Iesa’s tone and also turned to look at the gnome. “What did Pachook do to him?”

Beepu sat up in surprise. “What?!? I do not believe my father would reanimate yours and…haul him around like luggage!”

Melandrach raised his hand, silencing the three. After waiting a moment, he continued:

“Umbra was not a simple undead creature; he spoke, if but little. He was no servant to Pachook, his will was his own. But despite his attempts to conceal it, it was clear he was no longer among the living.”

I thought a moment and realized there was an explanation. While I wouldn’t have called myself an expert on the undead, Kelemvor was always very specific about destroying them when found…usually. I remembered my mentor mentioning that some undead, like the ghosts in Flint Rock could be laid to rest by addressing their unfulfilled needs that trapped them. But it was another case he warned me about; where the will of an individual would not allow themselves to pass beyond, instead letting bitterness and hate hold them to a task not yet done.

“He was a revenant, wasn’t he?” I asked the king, looking at him squarely in the eyes.

Melandrach nodded. “I believe that is indeed was the case, but he did not speak on what drove him, or why.”

“How long ago was it since they both passed through here?” I continued.

“It has been almost two years since I saw them both,” Melandrach said simply.

Over a year ago. I took a sip of the wine I held, but barely tasted it thinking, as Beepu spoke up again. “See? I told you Pachook had nothing to do with it,” he said smiling. Then he frowned and looked at me. “I think right?”

I slowly shook my head and explained. “No. A revenant is a…undead thing that seeks out…its murderers.” Iesa took a sharp intake of breath and looked at Daneath, who sat there frowning listening to me. “They usually just head straight for them…but sometimes they will…ask for help. Especially against ones they…cannot defeat alone,” I said quietly.

“So…he needed Pachook’s help. He was killed by the Kershak’s people, and Pachook was building something. Perhaps a way to seek revenge?” Iesa said.

“Maybe,” I said and took another sip. “But he was running out of time.”

Daneath head turned to look at me, “What do you mean?”

“A revenant is created by a strong will of revenge,” I said trying to be delicate about the subject. “But it can’t hold off the call to the Fugue forever. It either kills its murder or murderers…or it fades away in bitter anger.”

Deneath nodded and asked the question, “How long does it have?”

“A year. No more.” I said looking at him sadly. “If he hasn’t killed his murderer yet, he’s…already gone.”

“He must have succeeded!” Iesa declared. “That means the Kershak is probably is dead already—”

“—No.” I interrupted. “The Kershak may not have done it; it could have been that halfling, Paradros or someone else. But he’s gone by now,” I said looking down, not wanting to look at either brother.

“So, then the only one who can clear this up, may be my father,” Beepu said quietly.

“I am afraid so,” Melandrach said. “I sincerely hope that he left you a message or clue in the things he left for you. I truly hope that nothing has befallen Pachook.”

“It may take me some time…reading my father’s notes was never easy,” Beepu said concerned.

“Of course, I understand,” Melandrach said. “Now, that your father’s wishes have been delivered to you, it is time to deliver mine.” We all turned our heads to look at the elf who sat there regarding us with a smile. “You have all done a great service for my people and my kingdom. You are, welcome to stay here my realm until you are ready to leave.”

“Um…thank you,” Daneath said looking at Iesa and Beepu. “I don’t know how long we can—”

“—long enough for the armor I have commissioned to be ready I hope,” Melandrach said with a smile.

“Armor?” Daneath asked.

“Yes. A fine suit of mithral, to do battle against your foes. I do think you should be as prepared as one can be.”

“Wow…that’s…I’m honored,” Daneath stammered.

“And as for you Iesa, it seems that your archery could be improved with a bow worthy of your stature,” the elf continued. “One carved from the the yew trees found deep in the forest here.”

Iesa’s eyes grew wide for a moment and then his head started to nod vigorously. “Yes…sure…please…thank you,”

Melandrach turned to Beepu smiling, “I foresee that your father’s writings will keep you busy, but as one who is skilled with the Weave, our libraries and lessons on spells are open to you, as is any knowledge that can assist you on your quest to find Pachook.”

Beepu nodded once saying, “That would be more than acceptable. A good-sized room for research as well if possible.”

Melendrach gave a small laugh, “Of course; all your chambers should be more than adequate.” He then turned to me and looked at me with curiosity.

"Ha-celas I admit to being somewhat at a loss on what I can provide for you. So, I put it to you…what would you ask of us?”

I sat there and thought a moment. Things ran through my mind, but one stood out:

I wanted to go home.

I didn’t know if he could provide that, but as I thought about it, I was torn. It seemed that I wasn’t done; I still felt that nagging guilt within me that I still owed Beepu, Iesa and Daneath. But as I thought about it I realized, that selfishly I wanted something else.

Here I was in the middle of a kingdom of elves and I wanted to experience it. The closest I had ever been to any since my visit to the Gilded Hall in Arborea. But there, we stayed away from the elven lands, though the spires and the pennant were visible from the highest part of the Hall; only the elves were welcome in Arvandor. But Sigil had few elves, and I knew little of their culture, their history, and only scattered bits of language.

“I…would like to learn more about the elves if I could. So, to study and learn about your ways…would be an honor,” I said with humility.

He laughed again, “It will be weeks until the armor is ready, and so your request is easy to grant to all of you. Tutors in our language can be found here and can help you expand your knowledge of the Tel’Quessir. Surely there is something else?”

My mind raced to come up with something. Anything. Put on the spot I was uncertain on what would be appropriate, when suddenly I thought about the tool the Apocrypha described.

“There is one thing. Some worked materials of iron or steel to help me…create something. But,” and I shook my head as I said the words. “It depends on if I can find something that was…described to me.”

“I am certain that we can help you in this matter,” Melandrach said with a smile. “Finally, with your coming to the heart of the realm, we also have planned two events. First a service to remember those that have fallen, and a celebration of your victory within a tenday from now. But now, your chambers are being prepared and you shall be escorted to them soon. Please indulge yourself in our gardens and paths here while they are prepared. I must however take my leave and address other matters.”

Melandrach stood and, we all clambered to our feet and politely nodded. As he started to walk away with an attendant, I called out to him.

“I’m…I’m sorry, I do have a…small request,” I said timidly.

Melandrach turned and looked at me bemused and waited.

“I know you offered…tutors in your language. Would it be possible to have a guide as well?”

“A guide? I do not understand,” Melandrach said puzzled.

“Well,” I started awkwardly. “Someone that can help me…understand the social rules and culture. Beyond the language. Someone that can show me the Tel’Quessir as they are, not as a dusty book might say they are.” I finished feeling almost guilty for being so bold and asking.

But Melandrach nodded approvingly, “Yes…I see. You wish to drink at the depths of the well, with someone to assist you. I…I think I have an idea. Please wait by the pools here, and I will see what can be done Myrai."

I bowed my head respectfully, and Melandrach returned the gesture and again made his way out of the room, leaving us to ourselves.

“What was that about?” Iesa asked.

“It is what I asked. A guide so I can learn more about the elves themselves,” I said shrugging.

“Elven armor,” Daneath said with awe. “But I would have thought they would have a lot of that here,”

“They probably do Daneath. But not in your size.” Beepu observed, looking the man up and down.

Daneath conceded, “Well…that’s probably true.”

“Especially with a reinforced codpiece,” Iesa said with a grin.

“Yeah with a…hey wait!” Daneath looked at Iesa with annoyance. “At least you might be able to hit with a bow now.”

“I doubt they could make me a worse shot than you,” Iesa said with a smile. “An elven bow…wow.”

“Well…the knowledge they have would have been lost to you two,” Beepu commented. “I just will need to plan my time so I can absorb it all. But what was it you were looking for Myrai?”

“Oh…it was something called a corundum.” I said throwing my arms up.

“What? The one I gave you is not of use?” Beepu said surprised.

“Huh? Wait…what’s a—” I started.

“It is the proper term for certain gemstones,” Beepu started. “Notably rubies and sapphires. I think that hobgoblin booyagh had one which I told Iesa to—"

“You didn’t say it was a gem!” Iesa said in surprise. “I thought it was some cheap crystal.”

“It was a sapphire specifically, but unlike most it wasn’t blue, but more of a violet; most likely because of the magical energy it was exposed to.” Beepu said exasperated. “And because of that exposure, they tend to be interesting.”

Frowning, Iesa asked “So why didn’t you keep it?”

“Because it wasn’t interesting to me. But…” Beepu shrugged “Myrai might have a use for it. Otherwise, it isn’t the best cut of corundum.”

Iesa shook his head, “Well I guess it doesn’t matter. We’re going to be here a week or two—”

“Not quite,” Daneath said patting Iesa on the back. “More like months.”

“Months?” Iesa said surprised.

“Armor isn’t quick to make if we are waiting for it.” Daneath pointed out.

“And I will say, the brief glance I had at the notes and writings and based on the time it took in Waterdeep...months is likely going to be right. Something tells me there was a reason to go to Silverymoon, and it was not to go home.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“My mother is still there, and she has not seen my father at all. Not at least since we left Waterdeep. So, if he did go there, he either did not stop to say hello, or he was rushing elsewhere. Either way, his notes will have the answers I am certain.”

“You always wanted to be around elves, right Iesa?” I said with a smirk.

Iesa gave me a wolfish smile. “I suppose you are right there. Do you suppose…?”

I shrugged, “Honestly, I would say smile and listen. I don’t know anything about elven culture, but I do know that people like to talk about things that interest them.”

Iesa nodded to himself thoughtfully and said nothing.

At that moment, a pair of elves arrived and tilted their heads in a slight bow towards us.

“Son of Pachook, we have prepared a chamber for you that your father frequently used. It is near our lyceum so you will not be far from any knowledge that we can share with you. If you would follow me,” One said smiling and waited expectantly.

Beepu nodded in approval. “I will see you later tonight…maybe?”

“I doubt we will see you until the events,” Daneath said with a grin. “Something about books and diagrams make you forget the time,”

“Ah…well. Right. Come Foggle,” and Beepu picked up the small chest and walked, quickly following the elf.

The second attendant smiled, “Sons of Umbra, your chambers are ready near the practice halls. If you would follow me,” and the humans looked at each other and clasped each other on the backs and strode following the attendant.

“See you later Myr,” Iesa said. “I can’t wait to see how the elves do things…” and their voices trailed off in as they followed their guide.

I sighed a moment and looked around the rotunda where I was, and I spied a short set of steps that led to a pathway into the gardens. I picked up my pack, discarded by my seat and followed it.

The garden was not a manicured affair but was wild. Flowers and vines from trees gave the air a heavy sweet scent. In the center was a fountain, where water cascaded from a stacked set of shallow bowls, set off-center from each other, so the water flowed around a central pillar as it dropped from bowl to bowl before emptying into the pool at the bottom. The sun was overhead and lit the flowers and the leaves around me into a kaleidoscope of color. It had all the familiar aesthetics of the Civic Festhall’s galleries, but without the need for structure. It was a wild tangle of plants and shrubs, and vines curled around columns that surrounded the pool.

I sat on the stone edge of the pool and sighed at the wonder. Smiling, I let my hand trail across the surface of the water, causing ripples to scatter. Of all the places I had been so far here on Toril, this was the most peaceful and serene place I had ever been. Waterdeep was a grand city, if smaller than Sigil, but it was that, a noisy city. The small towns of Yartar, Daggerford, Secomber, and even Triboar had a rustic charm with their own rhythms of doing things, but they weren’t quiet, just less noisy. And even the solitude you could find with the great deep ruins in the forest or the tombs at Flint Rock, while quiet, didn’t give me the ease I felt in this place right now.

I closed my eyes and thought that it would be nice to experience things at a slower pace; a peaceful one. To take my time and learn, and forget about, bargains and violence and the twisted emotions I had wrapped up in all of that.

I was so enraptured that I didn’t realize that I was being quietly observed.

Session Notes:

This is the planned beginning of a second long downtime, that would last over three months of game time. As such there were a number of rolled events that had a story attached to them which is what is going to follow.

Most of the games I have played since, didn't really have down time; just a moving from place to place. Which is great for some campaigns, but I did appreciate the options gf doing some of the things on the side.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Sonalta - 5/29/2020

Many races have cultural norms. A briaur is very particular about their horns, and the standing they have in their community; bigger being better. Githzerai are focused on the now and the reality of now, which is fine unless you mention Githyanki, which usually means now is a bloody mess. Asking a Baatorian about the Blood-war will get you an answer, and the same question to a Tanar’ri a different one. Ask both at the same time, usually creates a miniature Bood War on the spot.

Everyone has a touch point, and each one a sore point. And learning about both is the key to understand, and avoiding a potentially deadly mistake.



I sat at the edge of the water looking at the calm ripples running over the surface. I wasn’t thinking of anything in particular. I was enjoying the quiet moment, that didn’t involve a watch or a slow march to somewhere. The last time I felt this way…well I guess never. Quiet moments certainly; but most were tinged with watching for monsters or the din of a city or town. But not quiet, and calm and peaceful at the same time.

I was staring at the pool, when I heard footsteps of someone trying to approach me quietly. I didn’t turn, but I was concerned.

Goss...who is trying to sneak towards me?

--It’s an elf who seems…

Seems what?

--Well…like a tressym who is curious but unsure.


“I’m not going to bite,” I said with a small smile. My fingers continued to play with the surface of the water. At the sound of my words, the steps stopped short.

“I…I…am sorry to have disturbed you Myrae,” A soft elven accented voice said not quite getting my name right. “I was told to meet…you here.”

I lifted my gaze away from the pool, and I saw an elven woman looking at me curiously. I was fairly certain she was a moon elf. Unlike most of the elves I had seen, her platinum hair was styled in a short-layered bob, held in place with a headband. Her eyes now wide at the sight of mine were, a vivid blue grey, which stood out in contrast with her pale skin. She wore an elegant dress, that shimmered as she moved, embroidered with silvery threads, and delicate knotwork. It seemed almost out of place, with the leathers and fine cloth wear that Melandrach and his attendants wore. They blended with the wood surroundings. Her dress was finer and seemed to reflect the night sky and less the earthly wonders around me.

“I suppose you are here to show me to my chambers?” I said returning my gaze to the waters.

“No…that I am not,” she said slowly. I looked up again, feeling confused.

She stood there and looked at me with a questioning gaze, and then she moved to sit down on a bench across from me that faced the pool. Her gaze never wavered, looking at as if she was trying to make up their mind about something. Finally, after a long pause she then spoke.

“I am sorry this…this is more awkward than I thought it would be,” see said apologetically. “This…is not the way this normally works.”

I was now very confused, “What works?” I asked.

She swallowed and looked down as if to find her courage in her lap before speaking again. “I was asked to be your…Sonalta,” she said slowly. “But these are usually arranged by the houses after many years and so I find myself having to rush to decide.”

“You’ll have to forgive me, but I am not familiar with that word,” I said still confused. I turn and faced her and waited. I watched her eyes run over me, lingering as she stared at my face. After a moment she spoke.

“A sonalta is very similar to what I think are called, ‘ladies in waiting’ in the common tongue,” she said simply, still watching me.

I shrugged, “I’ve heard the term, but I don’t know—”

“—They are a companion of sorts. They accompany those of a certain…standing in social affairs. They assist with whatever their sonal requires,” she replied, somewhat unhelpfully.

I thought a moment, “Wait,” I said wondering if I my request to the king was misunderstood. “A servant was—”

“A sonalta is not a servant,” the elf said crossly. “It is an honored position that…I should not have to explain this to you.” And she stood and turned to head back up the path.

“No wait!” I said, reaching for a hand to stop her from leaving. I caught it, and she stopped and turned to look at me with a flash of anger in her eyes and pulled her hand out of mine.

“How dare…you should not…you must—” she started.

I held up my hands and pleaded, “Look, I’m sorry. Please stay a moment and…hear me out.” She looked at me and slowly nodded.

I bowed my head and exhaled, and then I looked her in the eyes, “I had asked Melandrach for a…a guide to elven culture. I wasn’t looking for a servant, and I didn’t mean to imply you were one.” She looked at me dubiously.

“I am going to be here, for some time and was going to learn the language, but I wanted help learning about…Tel’Quesser.”

Tel’QuessIr,” she corrected. “That’s a…a wise thing to say. A people are more than their language.”

I nodded, “And the best way to understand it is to experience it firsthand. But you said you felt awkward, and you had to decide. Why?”

“Because, it is a…formal arrangement made by the households. Normally after a pair has been introduced and have had time to…know each other.”

“How much time?” I asked guessing it was something like a year.

“About a decade,”

Of course, it was.

“I see why you feel put on the spot,” I said realizing I was treading straight into the depths of elven propriety. “I am sorry…I didn’t mean to make—”

“You did not make it, but the request from Melandrach for me to do this was…odd.”

“How so?” I asked becoming curious.

“Rarely is it arranged between two that have never met. And, I have never heard it being done with someone, not Tel’Quessir.”

“I see, well. Look I don’t want you to do something you don’t want to do or aren’t comfortable doing,” I said apologetically. “So, if you want to…not do it, I won’t be angry, and I won’t complain to Melandrach.”

The woman nodded and looked down and sighed. “Your concern is thoughtful, but I will not be punished or anything…but your concern does make me curious. Let us talk a moment.”

We returned to where we started and sat down, to start again.

“I guess, I should or rather we should introduce ourselves,” the elf started. “I am Arnara, Thir…er sorry First Daughter of House Ustina.”

“You almost said ‘third,’” I responded. “I am assuming that you have lost kin in the recent fighting.”

She nodded stiffly, “Yes. And I suppose that is why I am here now,”

“I don’t understand,”

“I was to be Sonalta to the First Daughter of House Xillocent,” she said quietly. “I had been preparing for it for almost nine years, but now it is no longer possible; she was killed in a hobgoblin raid in Whitepetal.”

“I am sorry,” I said bowing my head. “I was there recently, and I tried to help as many as I could. What was her name?”

“Morlea,” she said quietly her eyes closing and her head bowed in memory.

As she spoke the name, the visions of her ran through my head. Her sharing a drink with me, finding her body in the trees, and her dead face sinking beneath the loam.

“I…I…knew her,” I said quietly. Arnara’s head snapped up to look at me.

“She…helped me with my armor when I was wounded and we shared a drink under the light of the stars the night she died,” I said quietly. “At sunrise, I went to see her one last time and prayed for her swift passage to Arvandor.”

Arnara nodded, “She was a Sonalta to Alanathia and it was almost at an end. What do you mean you prayed?”

“I’m a…priest of the Judge of the Dead, Kelemvor,” and I gestured at the symbol around my neck. “It’s my responsibility to help others avoid ends before the fullness of time and to put to rest those that have fallen before us. I’m sorry I couldn’t save her.” I bowed my head, not wanting to look Arnara in the face.

I had not thought of Morlea in sometime, and the memory of her wrenched at my heart. It was now easy to see how interconnected the elves were to each other. How one life intermingles with others, how a single loss affects so many. And I knew that was only the beginning of an experience that lasted for centuries.

I heard a motion, and I felt Arnara sit next to me. She laid her arms hesitantly around my shoulders. I could feel her nervousness as I sat there.

“You are a kind person to have done those things. And it seems that there is a purpose in our meeting. I would be willing to…be a Sonalta for you, if only for a short time.”

“Thank you,” I said. “I guess I should ask for your patience though. I’m not at all familiar with elven culture. So please just…let me know if I am being offensive or saying the wrong thing.”

She nodded, “I will do so. I am sure that anything you know about us will be a reasonable starting point.”

“I doubt that. I don’t know anything about elves really.”

“Surely in Waterdeep they—”

“—I’m not from Waterdeep.” I interrupted. “I spent a little time in the city, so I might sound like I’m from there, but my home is…much farther away,” I said sadly.

“Where then? Baldur’s Gate?”

“Uh…no, farther?”

“Cormyr?”

“No…I don’t even know where that is.”

“Then what place in Faerun?”

“I’m not from Faerun at all. I’m from…the City of Sigil.” I said wistfully thinking of home.

“Sigil?” She said puzzled, before her eyes opened wider. “I have read stories of that place. You have travelled the planes then?”

I nodded, “A couple; the Outlands passing through a gatetown, and the Gilded Hall in Arborea is all. It’s more than most people in Sigil, but it isn’t really a lot at all.”

“Arborea…that’s the common word for Arvandor. You have been there?” she said incredulously.

“Arborea is the name of the plane,” I corrected gently. “There it is an infinite expanse, containing many realms. Arvandor is one of them. In fact, you could see it from the Hall itself. Pennants and spires of crystal, marble and gold in the dist—”

“You’ve seen Arvandor?” Arnara’s tone was of disbelief.

“In a distance. We were warned not to wander into it; many of the petitioners and spirits wouldn’t take kindly to an intrusion by non-elves. Even half-elves were warned against it.” I responded to her and watched. Unlike Alanathia, she displayed more emotion and seemed easier to read. I wondered if this was because she might be younger. But now she wore a face of incredulity.

“You make a sacred place sound so…common. Reachable.”

I nodded, “It’s just a different perspective; we have on one hand a certainty on how the Multi-verse works. And yet, every place has its own story. Take the story of how the…what’s the elvish word…dharrow came to be.” I saw a frown come across Arnara’s face when I said the word. “Here it’s part of history called the ‘Crown Wars.’ Another world doesn’t have a specific name for it, and yet it happened. Another place, it hasn’t happened at all…or yet.” At this her face looked at me in surprise. “So, the story I know is true, but the details differ from world to world. But to you, you know the history here in a way I could not; see truths in the details I have never heard. A different facet of the same jewel.”

Arnara was silent for a moment, absorbing what I had said. Finally, she looked at me and asked, “Will you tell me the stories you have heard, share what you have seen with me?”

“Sure.” I said smiling. “Although you will probably need to help me with my elvish.”

“Other people have said that it is a difficult one to learn, as befitting the oldest language.”

“I suppose then I should challenge you on that,” I said smirking. “It isn’t the oldest, although it probably is here.”

“What would be older?”

“There are four I know of that are older; Abyssal is the youngest, followed by Infernal which itself is a corrupted form of Celestial. And that is at least as old as the one the Primordials speak.”

“How can that be?”

“Because there were angels before there were elves,” I replied. At this point an attendant arrived and she said, “Myrai, your chamber has been prepared near the gardens. I can take you there now if you are ready.”

Before I could reply, Arnara spoke, “With thanks, Caliana. Can you please inform my father that I will need my things delivered as well?”

The elf looked surprised for a moment. “Of course, I can. Are you planning to…?” she let the sentence drift off.

“I have been asked to act as her Sonalta by Melandrach, which I have just agreed to,” Arnara said with a smile.

“Of course. Please follow me,” Caliana replied a little surprised.

“Shall we Myr…rai?” Arnara asked.

“Now that you pronounced it right…I’m sure I’m not saying Arnara right,” I said with a smirk.

“Our ‘r’s have a slight trill,” she responded.

Come on Goss…you can lay around later.

--Oh, I wouldn’t miss this; the social mistakes that you will make will be worth the wait.

Thanks. You can shut up now.


Gossamer stood and shook his head and wings and took off to fly above us, humming in my head. Arnara had not noticed the tressym until now and she watched him following us with a smile.

“A tressym? I know you can find them in Silverymoon…where did you find him?”

“The right application of magic,” I said. “He’s a very real familiar…and a very real pain.”

--You know I can hear that right?

I hope so.

--That’s it. I’m attacking your feet this evening.

Spoilsport.


“I didn’t realize that you were a wizard as well as a priest,” she said looking at my worn armor and rapier.”

“Well…that’s a longer story. Why is Caliana getting your things by the way?”

“Oh…well traditionally Sonaltas live with their charges. You…you don’t mind, do you?”

“Wha…oh no, I don’t mind…I just never considered it.”

“I guess I have a lot to teach you,” Arnara said smiling.

“Same here I suppose,” I responded. “This will be a new experience I guess.”

Session notes:

So what is this all about? Well, there was some wealth to spend, and one of the selections I made was a Carousing with the nobles, which I rolled very well on. This is the first contact that I made with it.
 



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