Journal of the Souls of Legend (completed)

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Water and Light - 4/9/2019

Water and Light​

I don’t know much about traps. But I do know about being bobbed and peeled. To me, it’s the same thing; one is social the other mechanical.

And while I can’t do much about the mechanical, I do know that knowing what the trap/cony-catcher is expecting, it becomes easier to disarm the situation.

Usually.

We all froze and blinked. The sudden appearance of light put us immediately on edge.

“What did I do?” Iesa asked, unwilling to step forward or backwards.

“I do not know yet, I need some time to answer that.” Beepu barked, and pulled out his book and started flipping through the pages.

“So…can I move?”

“Hmm? Oh, most likely. If it was going to be harmful, you probably would have been incinerated already.”

“Inciner…what?”

“Turned to ash.” Beepu said absently.

“Ah…great. Wait. No. Not great. You sure?” Iesa said turning to look at the Gnome with alarm.

“Yes, yes. Just let me know if something else happens to you.”

“Like what?”

“Maybe you get frozen?” Daneath said sounding helpful.

“Perhaps…shocked?” I venture with a smile and wink at Daneath.

“Good point. Perhaps poisoned?” Daneath said thoughtfully.

“True…or maybe he just disappears in a puff of dust?”

“You. Are. NOT. HELPING.” Iesa said, looking at us in horror.

“Shhh…you are disturbing my focus. This will take a bit”

Daneath and I stepped into the room, moving past the mortified Iesa. Even Nestra entered with a small smile on her lips.

While Iesa regained his composure, I looked around. This was clearly a chapel. The room was rectangular, with an altar in the middle of the long side of the rectangle, and opposite that was a pair of double doors. In each corner was a pillar, and upon each was a blazing light, far brighter than my own. In the room were four stone sarcophagi, evenly spread through out the room. In the far side of the room was another single door.

Otherwise, the room was empty and dusty.

“Any guesses on who this is dedicated to?” Iesa asked as he moved towards the altar.

“Not yet…and don’t touch anything. Seriously.” I said.

“Yeah yeah, I’ll wait for Beepu. Wonder what’s in those…”

“No.” I said firmly.

“What?”

“No grave robbing.”

“They aren’t using anything anymore.”

“No.” I said simply, and I pointed to the holy symbol on my neck.

Iesa scrunched up his face, “You know, the dead can’t spend it.”

“I’m not disturbing the eternal slumber of the dead.”

“Why?”

“Because I want them to stay eternally slumbered” I turned, glaring at him. “It’s not like a random chest in a chamber you found stuff.”

“Hey now…” Iesa began to protest.

“Or that pouch from the body?” I retorted.

“Now come on…wait, you saw that?” Iesa sounded surprised.

“She’s got you there.” Daneath chuckled, “But we should really find the fastest way out of here.”

“I just wanted…” and Iesa muttered quietly under his breath.

“Now then. What is going…oh my!” Beepu said as he strode into the room. His eyes blazed with a blue light as he looked at the floor and the pillars in the corners.

“What do you see?” I asked looking at him carefully.

“Lines…lines of power.” And he started circling the perimeter counter clockwise around the room, passing the single door, and only stopping once he reached the double doors. Once there, he took a step back and exclaimed, “Well, well.”

“Well, well…what?” I said a little impatiently.

“Iesa hit on a magical trigger, that covers the floor by the doorway we came out of, and the double doors there. Both link to the pillars in the corner. But the trigger does not cover that third door in the corner.”

“Anything else?” I said.

“Yes, yes, yes. While the rest of the room, the altar and the sarcophagi do not have an aura, the there is another stronger one near the double doors. It actually appears to be on the ground on the other side.”

“But not this side?” Daneath asked.

“No. The doors have no magic on them at all.”

“What kind of magic is it?” I asked, wondering how I could learn this spell.

“Well…the door is blocking a clear read on that. But we can probably open it safely.”

“Probably?” Daneath asked dubiously.

“Yes. Yes. Yes. Go ahead” Beepu said and waved his hand at Daneath with a big grin on his face.

“Ok…” Daneath said, and he put down his sword and grasped the large handle and was going to pull when…

“Sure, he won’t get incinerated? Or frozen? Or shocked?” Iesa asked no one in particular.

Daneath glared at Iesa, “Really? Now?”

Iesa held up his hand with a helpless expression. “Just…checking.”

Daneath grasped the handle and began to pull.

“Or poisoned…”

Daneath let go of the handle and glared at Iesa, “Now look, if you want to open this door!”

“No, no. Sorry.” He said sounding almost hurt. Almost. And then under his breath I could barely hear “Or turned to dust.”

But Daneath didn’t respond to the comment, and pulled the doors open, revealing a short hallway, that opened into a small square room, with a raised pool of liquid. The pool was illuminated from another passage on the right, and we could see the reflection of the light on the ceiling of the square room. I could hear us all inhale sharply though as we saw that light.

The light was the warm glow of daylight, we were certain. Not the small light of my magic, and not even the stronger, harsher light on the pillars. It was the warm glow of daylight. We couldn’t even feel it, and our hearts were warmed by just the thought of it.

Until Beepu spoke.

“Oh dear. That’s a strong big of magic there.”

“Where?” Daneath asked, freezing.

“Right in front of the doors. Very strong evocation magic all on the floor and walls.”

“What does that mean? Myrai can you…translate.”

I shrug and say “Um…well, that means that if you step into that area, you might…”

“Might what?”

“…Get incinerated, frozen, shocked, poisoned, or turned to dust…” I said in a helpless voice, feeling terrible saying the possibilities.

For a moment there was silence as we looked at each other back and forth.

“Well…at least it won’t be me!” Iesa said smiling, clapping his hands together. “Beepu…do your stuff!”

Beepu’s smile faltered. “Uh what? I cannot do anything about this.”

Iesa smile faltered. “What do you mean? I thought you were a wizard!”

“I am a wizard…but I do not have the power to counter this.” Beepu said.

Iesa looked dumbfounded and turned to look at me.

I shook my head “I can do…stuff. But I don’t know what to do about that.”

Iesa turned to look at Daneath, frowned a moment, and turned to Nestra.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Nestra said archly.

“We can’t be this close…and…and…”

“Let’s look around, maybe there is a way around it,” Daneath said optimistically.

Iesa brightened at this and moved to the third door in the corner. “Yeah, yeah, around it. Beepu said this door was safe!” and quickly burst into the room. Just as quickly, he came out with a guilty look.

“I…need the shield.”

Daneath rolled his eyes and walked over to the door, and together entered the room.

Nestra had this point sat down by one of the sarcophagi and shook her head in disbelief. I was afraid to ask if it was the situation, the chaos that Iesa was causing or both.

Beepu, had edged himself to the doorway and was looking at the ground frowning. I walked carefully and stood next to him. I then asked, “Anything else?”

Beepu nodded, “Yes…the field is not deep, barely a finger width. But the field certainly does go to the ceiling.”

“Meaning you can’t just send Foggle through, or just jump over it.” I guessed.

“Correct. And the only thing I am certain of is that it will not heal you.”

“Wrong evocation.” I said frowning.

I looked down the hall, straining desperately for any detail. When I noticed that there were shadows on the rim holding the pool of water. Squinting I couldn’t make out what it was.

“Hey Beepu, take a look at that pool. Can you see the shadows on it?”

“Hm…no I can’t really…wait. Hold this.” And suddenly Foggle landed on my wrist.”

“Hi…Foggle. What am I—”

“Hold him up, facing the pool.”

I gamely raise him to my eye level, not being entirely clear what Beepu wants.

“No no no…higher raise him up with your arm.”

I raise Foggle up and find myself standing up on the tips of my toes. “Like this?”

“Yes, yes, YES! It’s writing! But I can’t make it out at this angle, though. I can only make out one
word in elvish…water.”

“Damn it.” Iesa said, with Daneath in tow. “It’s just a cloak room. Nothing in there, that isn’t moth eaten.”

“There’s got to be a way.” Daneath said. “Maybe another hidden door?”

“Might as well look,” Iesa said and started moving to the wall to our right. “Uh, Beepu…the walls are safe right.”

Beepu nodded and waved his hand, still staring at the magical field I assumed. Muttering, “Water. Water. A clue?”

I thought a moment, thinking back to some lessons in the Civic Festhall that I had attended. Lessons about the habits of some religions and water. “Maybe the ‘trap’ isn’t meant to keep us in…maybe it’s to keep others out.”

Beepu looked at me, “I follow the logic. We are trying to break out and not in. So?”

“Perhaps we either need to drink from the pool or bless ourselves with it beforehand to come inside the temple.”

“Of course; an infidel wouldn’t understand the ritual! That’s probably right. But it doesn’t help us much. We can’t read the rest of it from here.”

I think a moment. “I might have an idea. But I don’t like it much.”

Beepu raised up his arms and hands upwards, “At this point it’s the best idea we have.”

I turned to the pair who were scouring the wall for a door. “Hey, by any chance did you see any…I don’t know…vials, flasks or cups in that room.”

Iesa thought a moment, “Yes…there were a couple of metal flasks. Why?”

“Go grab them and bring them here please. I have an idea.”

Iesa frowned a second, and then shrugged. He then walked towards the cloakroom, pulling Daneath with him. After a moment, they returned with a pair of small flasks, about the size you would hold liquor in.

“Great, these will do. Thanks.”

“Sure thing. Now what’s your idea?” Iesa said.

“Oh…I’m going to walk through the door and get some water from the pool.”
“Oh, ok that makes...WHAT?!” Iesa said looking at me in shock. “Isn’t that going to get you incinerated?”

“Or frozen?” Daneath said with alarm.

“Or poisoned?” Exclaimed Beepu.

“Or turned to dust?” Nestra said from her seat softly, not caring if we heard her.

“Possibly. But I know a trick. All I have to do is shunt the energy that would maybe kill me, elsewhere.”

“Well shouldn’t you put that on like Daneath or something?” Iesa looking at me with more than little concern.

“Yeah put it on me…wait what?” Daneath spoke and then realized what he was saying and looked at Iesa with alarm.

“I can’t. This only is going to work on me.” And I closed my eyes seeking that dark spark of energy. Finding it with my mind, I focus in stretching it, and wrapping it around myself. All the while ensuring that a portion is attached to a stream of negative energy. Mentally I stabilize it to act as a sink, so that any energy or damage would be drained away keeping me safe. It wasn’t a real shield of magic; if I could do that any negative effects would just bounce off of me. Here I was more, redirecting it. All the while the conversations continued.

“Can’t you do that Beepu?” Iesa asked the gnome.

“Let me think. No. Very certain. No.” Beepu said decisively.

“What? I thought you were a wizard!”

“Not this again…I do not know everything yet, and I certainly have no idea what she is trying to do, and I understand less on how she does what she does to start with. This is sorcery I have never seen before.”

I took a deep breath, and moved forward toward the doorway, striding with purpose. My right hand is at my own neck, clutching my holy symbol as I strode towards the threshold of the door.

“Well come on there has to be a better…. MYRAI!” Iesa had finally noticed me moving towards the door and took a step towards it when I crossed the threshold.

I could feel the energy cascade into my being, in a blaze of pure power. Like I stood in a great beam of light magnified a thousand-fold. The energy poured into me and I could see only a brilliant white light, leaving spots in front of my eyes. The darkness that I had wrapped around me, lapped at the energy, sucking at its power and draining it. But even its thirst wasn’t enough, and I could feel the pain, spread like fire across my skin and soul.

And then…it was gone.

I was across the threshold, and I looked myself over seeing wisps of white smoke waft away from my skin and clothes. The hint of burned cloth hung in the air, as I turned to look at the shocked members of the party.

“I guess we forgot the option, ‘Seared by light’” I said, somewhat in shock that I made it across.

“Are you …well, I guess you look…what happened?!” Iesa said.

“I sent the big light somewhere else, so it didn’t hurt me…much. Beepu, is the trigger still there?”
Beepu nodded, “Yes, it is. It will go off again if crossed, so you didn’t disarm it. How powerful was it?”

I shook my head clear a second, “Well, I’m not sure. But without what I did…I don’t think I would have survived. Stay there.”

Without waiting for a response, I walked to the pool and looked at the inscription on the edge. My heart sank a second as looked at the words. Which I was pretty sure was elvish. Then I remembered, Beepu said one of the words was ‘water.’ He must speak elvish.

“Hey Beepu,” I shouted. “I’m not sure I can pronounce this right, but can you translate elvish?”

“Of course…just give it your best shot!” And I saw that the others, including Nestra, were standing in the doorway watching intently.

“Alright, I can do this,” I said to myself, and started at a point on the circle and shouted, “Sagrate aborre o tay eiya e rezo pon aguan absolvican paar enete no mey cofre.”

“That doesn’t make any…of course, you started in the middle of the sentence. Um, basically its ‘To enter, anoint yourself and pray for…forgiveness?'”

“Right,” and I knelt down to the pool and filled the flasks full of water. I then dipped my hand into the water and brushed my fingers across my brow, and then again under the eyes and chin.

“Well…here goes nothing. Please forgive me for…for…any sin I have committed. I’m not trying to desecrate your temple or show impiety. I, just…just want to go home.”

I stood and walked back to the threshold to the chapel. The others saw me approach and started backing up.

“Wait…shouldn’t you do another spell?” Daneath said.

“I am going with some faith here,” I said.

“Yeah, great. I still might have some doubts—”

And I crossed into the room. No light erupted. There was no pain. Nothing. And for a moment, no one said anything.

“Are you a believer now?” I asked with small smile.

“I could be…convinced yes.” Daneath said with a much wider one.

“Well…everyone kneels. I’ll anoint you and you can pray for forgiveness.”

“About what?” Beepu asked.

I spread the water across Beepu’s forehead, cheeks and chin. “Anything you think you need forgiven; just be honest about it. Then we will cross the threshold one at a time.”

“That’s it?” asked Iesa.

I repeated the same motions with the water, “That’s it. I didn’t even say it in Elvish.”

“Well that’s good. I don’t have time to learn Elvish,” Daneath said.

Again, spreading the water across his face, “Well it might come in handy I suppose. Someday”
“I can teach you all! It is a simple matter of getting a strong grasp of the five genders specific form and the declensions. Simple really.” Beepu said with excitement.

“Not today,” and I brushed Nestra face with the water. Unlike the others she was trembling…afraid.

“I don’t know what to ask you.” Nestra said looking at me with a pained expression on her face.

“You aren’t asking me for forgiveness. There is nothing I can forgive. Just ask. Just believe. That is all that matters.” I say, smiling at her.

And just to make sure, I anoint myself again with the water, and whisper a prayer for myself and the rest. Then one at a time we passed through the doors.

Beepu went first, with confidence and calm.

Daneath went next assured…but he still held his breath crossing.

Iesa followed, gritting his teeth and his eyes tightly closed.

Finally, I took Nestra’s shaking hand and together we crossed.

While there was no dazzling light, and certainly no pain, there was a feeling of a weight being lifted from our shoulders. Perhaps we truly were absolved of some sins. I don’t know how we could have felt gladder than we did at that moment.

We passed the pool and looked down the hall, and we could see the final remains of the sun as it rose in the distance, putting the tunnel back into shadow.

The Hate Night was over.

But the ordeal was far from done.

Session notes:
A year later after this event occurred, I realized that I (and not the DM) screwed up. You see in the campaign I had cast False Life to get by the field. That was fine. Except I cast it on Daneath, and he walked through the field.

False Life is a self only spell, so really only I could walk through the field. So, I did change the story a bit to hem back to the rule, because that type of mistake bugs me. But I would have done it for them all the same.

And it wasn’t the only time; we’ll get to abuse of another spell I did later, because I didn’t read it properly. And disengagement movement was another one we kept getting wrong as well.
So, I wish there was a good elvish primer somewhere, or that I had the time to write my own parser for this. But I don’t know one (or least one I like), and I don’t have time. I just hacked Portuguese to be elvish…because I wanted to.

The original phrase was close to “Para entrar na minha abóbada assustada, irritar-se com as minhas águas, e orar por absolvição.” And since it was machine translated…well I’ll let you go figure it out.


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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Altering the Deal, Part 2 - 04/17/2019

Altering the Deal, Part 2.

There is a difference between being intelligent and being smart. An intelligent person rationalizes everything, and really intelligent people do it to a degree that leaves nothing to chance.

A smart person though, doesn’t rationalize anything. In fact, they would point out that most people don’t behave rationally at all. And really smart people come up with solutions that make an intelligent person say, ‘that makes no sense to me!’

Of course, it doesn’t. It only has to make ‘sense’ to the party that matters.


While the light had faded somewhat, we were still able to see. We moved down the passage and up a flight of stairs. We arrived in a chamber, with a tall arched ceiling, and near the top, was a rough open window in the rock to the outside. The light from the window above guided us and fed our hopes. Below it, the passage was choked with debris. Not just rock, but roots of plants, soil and scattered leaves.

We made our way through the passage and we could hear the sounds of the river rushing past, the smell of soil and the taste of moisture in the air. As we made our way up the passage, we finally arrived at curtain of foliage, and we pushed our way through them.

Finally, we were outside. The roots covering the passage were nestled in a cluster of boulders in the hillside. There was no sign of buildings or ruins anywhere near. Why was a temple here? Why hide it? It didn’t make much sense, but it didn’t have to I supposed. We made our way towards the river, and the brush cleared enough to see that we managed to come out upstream from Yartar far from the fisheries and the tanneries. We found ourselves on a bluff overlooking the eastern road, entering the town. We were still hiding in the brush, uncertain on what to do. A quick walk and we would be in the town itself. Of course, that would be people with normal business.

“Foggle can see the gate, and a lot of foot traffic entering the city as well,” Beepu said after the owl landed nearby.

“Did he notice anything suspicious about the guard’s behavior?” Daneath asked.

“No. He did not get that close, and I do not believe Foggle would be able to determine ‘suspicious behavior.’”

“Give me some time, I’ll scout ahead and see what’s up,” Iesa said.

“What? In your finest clothes? Is that wise?” Beepu said pointedly.

“I’ll take care of that. Stay here out of sight,” and with that Iesa moved towards the town. The sun rose steadily higher and higher, and was near Peak, when he returned. In his hands, were some rough spun tunics, cloaks, and robes. But more importantly he had some interesting information.

“What do you mean? They aren’t looking for anyone?” Daneath said puzzled.

“Yep; the guards are completely bored,” Iesa explained. “They aren’t searching wagons, going in or out. I made some conversation with some of the locals, and beyond drunken stories about the Hate Night, there isn’t any news. Certainly, no one is publicly talking about strange events or wanted figures.”

“That seems odd. With all the strange goings on in the manor that we caused, you would think that at least someone would…react?” Daneath said.

“I don’t think we got away that clean,” I said after thinking a moment. “It might be that they don’t want to cause a lot of barkle.”

“What?” everyone said at once.

“Um…distracting noise? Or perhaps they want to keep it quiet.”

Iesa nodded, “You read my mind Myrai. I’m guessing that the guards aren’t in the know yet. Maybe that Drow has friends looking for us instead.”

“Comforting,” I said drily. “So, can we get to the Blades without being seen?”

“Well, let’s get everyone dressed up,” and he tossed the bundle of clothing to Daneath, “…or down rather. I know enough of the town that we can take alleys and stay out of sight for the most part.”

“That’s good. I’m eager to get this over with,” Nestra said with relief.

I start pulling over my head a rough spun robe, “So, get past the guards, get to the blades’ compound, and find some time to get our stuff back.”

“Yeah mostly that,” Iesa said half focused on the conversation.

“We could send Foggle to pick up Mo,” I said with a smirk.

Iesa returned the grin, “Well…yes. I do want Mo back at my side. But I doubt he has changed his mind about Foggle.”

We donned the robes and cloaks and made our way down to the eastern road. The roadway was packed with farmers and livestock, and not cargo and wagons like the western gate. And as Iesa had said, the guards were barely paying attention to really anyone of note as we entered Yartar again.
The streets of Yartar had signs of disarray. While banners were being taken down with care, many of banners and ribbons appeared to have been torn down and damaged during the revelry. The mood was somber; many folk were avoiding making loud noises, and others were walking unsteadily, trying not to look at the sun at peak. But few paid attention to us, as Iesa lead us down several alleyways, keeping us off the main thoroughfares. It was quicker than I expected, as we encountered little in the terms of crowds. All the while, I felt on edge. Were we really being watched or hunted? For the moment I was simply glad we weren’t heading towards ‘The Lusty Bard.’

It wasn’t long before we found ourselves circling a squared, walled compound. The grey stone walls stood at least three men high, with battlements, and towers on each corner. We made our way to the front where a pair of guards, dressed in mail stood attentively in front of a heavily reinforced oaken door. As we approached, I could see their hands move towards the swords at their hips. They were expecting trouble, and their open helms didn’t conceal the look of concern on their faces as they looked over each of us one by one. One of them took a step forward and pointed at Beepu.

“You; what is your name and business?” the guard intoned. He sounded nervous, like he expected trouble but not clear from where.

Beepu was taken aback for a moment, and quickly repied, “I am Beepu, and I wish to see Arryn Quinte at once!”

The guards looked at each other, and the second guard nodded, and pounded on the door with his mailed fist. “You are expected; are there any others?” and the scraping sounds of wood against metal was audible.

Beepu thought for a moment, “Erm, no. We do not expect anyone else.”

The guard nodded, and the double door, split open and two other guards emerged, with hands also at their sword hilts, eyes looking around with concern. The second guard then said, “These are the ones, take them to Arryn immediately.” The pair nodded and waited for us to follow them.

We stepped inside the compound; it was essentially a walled fort with a large open area dominating the courtyard. Pells were arranged on one side, and archery targets were arranged on the other. From here, I could see that guards were patrolling the walls, while none were engaged on either the pells or targets. Today was not a day for practice it appeared. The guards led us past the unused equipment, and towards the entrance to an inner bailey. Quickly ascending some steps, they opened the door, and led us within.

Before long we were ushered into what appeared to be a small dining hall, where the silver haired Arryn Quinte was pacing near the head of the table. Upon seeing Nestra, the look on his face changed from concern to relief.

“Nestra you are safe. I was concerned when you didn’t appear at first light.”

“Some…complications underneath delayed us. But my…guardians saw me through.” Nestra said, gesturing towards us.

We had begun to remove our peasant garb, when a valet appeared to take our robes from our hands.
“I see. But I do forget myself, I did ask you to prove you are the real Nestra. Do you have something to show me.” Arryn said apologetically

Nestra nodded and reached into her satchel and pulled out an oblong object and some parchment and handed them to Arryn. He looked over a pair of documents with interest, and then looked at the object at one end.

“I remember these, and the seal matches. And not just any seal either; your personal one not the general business seal. Forgive me for doubting, but I needed to be certain.”

Nestra nodded and pulled out a chair from the table and fell into it exhausted.

“Some food perhaps, Arryn? We are all quite famished.” I said, “Especially her excellency.”

“Of course,” and a quick clap of his hands sent the valet out of the room with the discarded clothes, and in a few moments he returned with flagons, bread and cheese. We dove in, our hunger stripping away any pretense of manners.

“So Arryn, what happened last night after we left?” Daneath asked. “I know we caused a bit of excitement on our exit.”

“Surprisingly enough, not much. Arakhan made a lot of noise about a torch, but nothing really happened until very late in the morning. I saw that that Vicam’s mood changed and was angry. He was very angry at the drow he hired, as well as at Arakhan. But it wasn’t clear on what. But he was certainly eager to get us all out of the house once the fog retreated.”

“Can’t imagine why,” Iesa said tearing at the bread with his teeth. “It sounds like someone poisoned his puppy.”

Arryn looked at Iesa with a bemused look, “Well if you believe Vicam has tears, I have a decanter full of them for sale. But he was indeed furious. I did notice that he certainly didn’t consult or even speak to…the pretender Nestra. The Nestra I know always wanted to know about the important details.” Turning to Nestra with a smile.

“He did like to try to keep my nose out of things too often” Nestra commented sourly. “Pity, he actually had potential. Now I see that he simply wants to grow beyond his place.”

“So, are all the tinmen, and iron for show, or were you expecting trouble?” I asked after swallowing some cheese.

“Well, I didn’t know what manner to expect you, but I was worried about Vicam,” Arryn explained.

“But I have a few friends in the watch. Last we heard, no orders beyond celebration clean up and assessing party fines where needed.”

“Thank you again, Arryn for your help. Can I trust you to help to remove Vicam from my seat?” Nestra asked.

“Of course, your excellency. Our loyalty has always been to the ruler of Yartar, and you are still that.” Arryn replied, his fist touching his heart.

“While the nap below was helpful…I feel the need to retire and rest properly.” Nestra said arising.

“Thank you again, Daneath, Iesa, Beepu and Myrai. Once I have taken back my seat, I will make sure that the ‘Crimson Star’ is aware of you…value to me. Now Arryn, if you could spare a chamber for me—”

“One has already been prepared…for each of you actually,” Arryn arose from the table and clapped his hands together. “My valet can show you the way. Rest well your excellency”, and the valet bowed and led the tired Nedra from the chamber.

“Now let us get going! We have a lot to do.” Beepu said.

“We aren’t going anywhere,” Daneath said.

“What? Why not!?” Beepu glared at the warrior.

“Because the Crimson Star isn’t paid yet,” Iesa said. “Nestra can’t do much until she is back in power.”

“Arryn,” I turned to ask. “What are you going to do to help Nestra?”

Arryn sat down heavily and with a frown said, “Well right now I can’t do much. I have men in the wilderness hunting down some packs of gnolls that have hitting settlements recently. That accounts for the majority of my men currently. I usually send them out to avoid the Hate Night. This whole event was…unforeseen.”

“That’s an understatement. How long until they return?” I pressed.

“About a week, and I will have a well-armed company. More than enough to handle the city guards. But…”

“But?”

“Vicam has Nestra’s coffers. The various encampments ranging for Uthgardt burial mounds have enough ne’er do wells to outnumber my men three to one.”

Daneath frowned in thought. “Those are bad odds for any fight. Whose side did you put the city watch in?”

“Vicam’s, because he’s still paying them. It would be helpful to get the Crimson Star’s support now though, but I don’t know where they are in this either with your…recent entanglement.”
Iesa stopped chewing a moment, “Why? What forces would they bring?”

“Fighting wise? None. But if they choose a side, noble and commoner alike will tend to not bet against them. Guardsmen stay home, certain paths become more difficult. That type of thing. By the Hells, even the nobles might lend men to the effort…if they thought they were backing the winner.”

“We should not be involved in this political theatre!” Beepu shouted. “I am sorry but we have more important things to do.”

“Beepu,” I said “This isn’t done. And the path looks like we need to encourage the Star to take a side and have them call off our debt. We have to show them the real winner.”

“Utter nonsense! No good will come from this maneuvering and machinations. We should let Nestra solve her own problems. Regardless, I need time to decipher these scrolls and catch up on this work I have been putting off because of you Myr,” and he stormed out of the room, almost bowling over the returning valet.

“Show me to my room! I have enough to do withou—” and Beepu’s voice trailed off as he walked away from the room.

“Thanks Beepu,” I said with my eyes downcast and more to myself. After a moment I turned to look at the others. “Well, I guess we need to do something that will get the Star’s favor.”

“What did you have in mind?” Daneath asked, leaning forward in his seat.

“We bring them Nestra’s head as originally asked. The fake one.” I corrected as I saw Arryn looked at me in shock.

“How? Arryn said he needs the men from the wilds.” Iesa said.

“We go back the way we came, break in at night and,” I gulped as I put the words together “remove her from the playing field.”

“Why would that help?” Daneath asked.

Iesa’s eyes widened. “Of course. Vicam still doesn’t really have his own power base yet, it’s based on Nestra. He’s lost the ability to make laws and orders in her name. But if she were to say something in a council or conducting business, everyone would follow her lead.”

“Right,” I nodded. “Without having the fake one, he can’t claim that Nestra is a fake. Without someone who was convincing, he can’t have her order the others around. She’s the key.”

“Just the three of us?” Daneath said incredulously.

“We’d be armed this time. We know the way, and they wouldn’t be prepared for anything.”

“I don’t like this at all.” Daneath said.

Iesa leaned forward, “A quick dash in and out. And we can end this? I’m all for it.”

“I’m not!”

“What’s the difficulty you are having with this Daneath?” Arryn asked.

“It’s not like the passages below are safe; large spiders and troglodytes at minimum. And house guards.” Daneath explained.

“I have an idea for the spider,” I quickly said. “And I’m not worried about the house; they aren’t going to have a pack of men upstairs, when they still need to cover the rest of the grounds. Granted the trogs…we could use more men.”

Arryn thought a moment. “I can perhaps spare two men to help you. I do prefer a more traditional fight. But this isn’t going to be one of those fights, and if you can do this—there might be less blood spilled.”

Daneath looked at Arryn in surprise, “What? You are taking their side?”

Arryn smiled, “They have the grasp of strategy. Your enemy doesn’t know you are coming, and they don’t know when. If I gather all my men together here, they will know who to watch, and where. Striking now you have an advantage. The longer you wait, they have time to ready themselves.”

“I admit, you are making a risk Arryn if you do this.” I said.

“That is true. But, a true commander knows what he can gamble. I can lose two men to help you.”

“What happens to us doesn’t cost you,” I countered with a wry grin.

“No. But you are motivated.”

“So Daneath? Five is better than three.” I said looking at him intently.

“We should do this. You are ‘Big D’ after all.” Iesa said in agreement.

“Oh, you have got to be…fine, fine FINE. Let’s get it over with.”

“Arryn,” I turned back to the old warrior, “Can we have a man drop a message off to a person in town? They have many of our things.”

“Of course. And I am willing to do one better. If you need any arms or armor, I can supply you from my armory.”

“Well, then. I need some parchment, a pen and a room. If you can send your messenger to me I will have a package ready for him.”

Arryn nodded. “Certainly, when will you leave?”

“Tonight, after we rest a bit.”

“Of course. Now Daneath, you certainly need some better arms. Come with me. You might learn something. You too Iesa. My valet will deliver your message.” And again, Arryn clapped his hands, and the boy appeared. He simply said, “Assist her. Until evening Myrai.” And he stood, bowed and left the room with the curious pair in tow.

I looked at the valet. Young, thin limbed, with sandy hair and brown eyes. But the one thing about him that stood out, was the aura of exhaustion. Even now he seemed winded, after had escorted Nestra and Beepu off to rooms elsewhere. But now he stood, breathing heavily and avoiding my gaze.

“Been a busy day?” I asked?

The boy shrugged, “Lots of runnin ‘round. Arryn’s squire isn’t ‘ere to help neither,” he said while staring at his feet.

“I see. Do you have a name?”

He nodded, and still didn’t raise his eyes. “Jarris, ser—er m’lady.”

“I’m not a noble, but thanks I suppose. Jarris, I am going to give you a bundle with a note to run to a tailor in mid-town. I will have a couple of errands for you on your return and after I rest a bit.”

“What kind of errands?”

“Well, I need to see if there is any arms or armor I can use, get some empty flasks, and lastly I need someone to purchase something for me.

“Sounds better than cleaning the scullery.”

“I would have killed for a chance to clean a scullery. When I was your age, I was polishing the rust off of manacles…for days.”

“By yourself?”

“No... with about twenty other kids. There were a lot of manacles.”

“I guess a scullery wouldn’t be as bad. What did you need bought though?”

“Oh that? I need a large sheep.”

Session notes:

So why did Beepu leave? Because Beepu’s player wasn’t going to be available for the next session. The DM didn’t want to play him, nor let us double up. But we did make an elaborate setup, to do basically what happened next.

1654
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Past Paths of Darkness - 04/24/2019

The Past and Paths of Darkness​

If Sigil is anything, it is about belief. In the universe. In yourself. In what you perceive. In order. In entropy. There is even a belief that that powers aren’t what they claim (barmy Athars.) But it is all about you in the end.

That isn’t the same thing as faith. Faith is belief in something or someone else. It requires no proof. It only demands your trust.

Finding what you believe in is easy. Finding faith in something, is a struggle that will last a lifetime.

The brimstone stink hung heavy in the air in the Lower Ward. The dank muggy air, cling to clothes and skin alike here at the Gatehouse. For the folk in line for bread or healing, or a room for the evening it is something to endure as they wait. Perhaps they get what they seek, perhaps they sleep the night in the dirty gutters till the morning and start the wait again. Some might not last that long, and the collectors come for their shells.

I had finished my tasks for the day, and I rested my bones outside the Gatehouse, alone. I’m always alone these days. Once I would have thought about sneaking off into the night and getting jinx by lighting people home. But now, even as the darkness begins to fall, I have no desire to move in the oppressive heat. No will to chase the jink that would let me leave this place. Nothing mattered. Perhaps there wasn’t a point to the multiverse. It is as it is, and no action would change it.
I sat there looking past the throngs of people. Their faces covered by hoods, robes, cloth strips across faces. All to hide the truth of loss. An eye. A pox. A scar. Pride. Or that there was nothing left to lose.

The fetid air made the alleyways and thoroughfares alike appeared choked with a yellow haze. I was simply staring into it, when a lone figure, slowly and deliberately made its way through it. With uneven steps, it unhurriedly walked past the mass of the poor that gathered here seeking out respite from the uncaring multi-universe.

As it approached the entrance way, I could see her…no it, clearly. The reddish skin mixing with dark purple botches on the arms. What was once fine copper hair, was now matted against the skull with clumps missing from the scalp. The hair did not hide the thick leather cord that kept the head attached to the once young body. No cloth hid the milky whites of blind eyes, no longer needed. No pox or scar blemished the dead skin of her cheeks. There was no sign of pride, and certainly not fear on the face of this wreck of bone and flesh that stumbled ever forward.

Elisna.

I shivered as I saw her…it. My name day adventure gone wrong, when the multi-verse took the one thing that mattered to me. My defender. My friend. My…sister. She moved towards the great gate slowly, and none blocked her path, or even gave her a second look. No one cared about her now as a corpse for the Dustmen.

She shambled slowly past me, her head turned and locked on a point within the gateway. It did not turn to face the other living poor. Or me. My heart’s wounds were still fresh from the day when she was slain in the streets near the Armory. And the cold reality of the multi-verse struck hard again. For, the first time in days I could feel again, as all the emotions boiled forth within me.

Sorrow. Horror. Guilt.

For the first time in weeks I felt the urge to move. To get away. To run. To hide. I clamored to my feet and ran. From her…it. From my sorrow. My guilt. My shame.

I didn’t really run far. Time seemed to have slowed to a crawl as I moved through the dirty streets. Tears welling up in my eyes, blurring the hazy path in front of me. I blinked madly and wiped my dirty arm across my eyes. Soon, I was deep in the Hive, and darkness was starting to set in. Still crying, I turned and ran into a building with a random open doorway.

No…it wasn’t random. I saw a warm light, and like a moth to flame I sped towards it and crossed into the dilapidated tenement. Turning the corner, I sat on the ground, with my scrapped knees pressed against my eyes, and sobbed. I remembered screaming when Elisna died; I’m sure I cried. But this seemed to be the big one; the one where you are overwhelmed with the moment and meaning of the emotion. My heart was giving everything into the effort, holding nothing back, when I heard a sound.

My eyes were full of tears, and I could barely see. But I remember that dry papery voice; “My child. What leads you here in such sorrow?”

I turned my head to look at the voice, and I saw the yellowing skin of an old figure. His skin pulled taut against bones in his arms and hands, which while thin belied a wiry strength. Beneath a cowl, I saw that his eyes were a pale green, and I could barely see pointed ears and some semblance of hair on his head, pulled back tightly. His face had a thin moustache, and a thin beard neatly trimmed into a point. His facial features highlighted strong cheekbones as do many of the Githzerai race.

“My friend…she…she…died…and…and…” I stammered.

“You feel…responsible? Guilty? Ashamed? Uncertain?”

I felt these things, but the word ‘uncertain’ took me by surprise. I looked at the Githzerai puzzled, mouthing “Uncertain?”

“Yes. Uncertain on what you should do. Can do. Must do. How to move on, in essence.”

“It…it hurts.”

“Yes. I am certain it does. But have you considered there is a reason for that young one?”

“N—n—no. What good is…pain like this?”

“So, we remember of course.”

“I don’t want to remember! I want…want”

“You want the pain to end yes? Then you must remember in a…useful way.”

“Why remember at all?”

“We remember to never forget the one who passed beyond the veil. We remember to honor for what they stood for. What they taught us. What they meant to us. And that is why we should not forget.”

“But…but…wh—”

“Why? Because the lessons the dead give are important.”

“I..I..don’t..under—“

“No. Not yet. Think about your friend. What would she want for you?”

I looked at him and turned away my eyes were searching aimlessly as I thought about Elisna. The times we spent together dreaming of a life far away from the Gatehouse. A life unfettered with debt, in control of our destiny. Doing things that were more important than meaningless chores. A life where we embraced the future.

A life without fear.

With that revelation, it put all the antics she had done into contrast. She pushed me to do outlandish things, not because she desired trouble for anyone. But that she saw that my fear held me back from being more. She always wanted the best for me, even if things didn’t turn out the way she anticipated. Even my name day.

Still sitting on the ground, my heart slowed and my tears began to dry. I then felt the hand of the Githzerai on my shoulder.

“I see you have found some peace. I hope that my small part helps.” He said with compassion and warmth.

I turned to look at the Githzerai in the eyes. His eyes were tired, but his face was serene and certain. Around his neck was a simple chain, which hung a bronze disk of a skeletal arm holding a set of balanced scales.

“Are you a cleric?”

He shook his head, “No. I am not blessed with the power of the divine. I am a lay priest who assists whomever I can with my lords’ tenets.”

“Who is your power, and what tenets?”

He smiled at me, “His name is Kelemvor, and he is a god of death. As for his tenets, they are relatively simple. Live long, help others to live, help others to deal with death, and help those with death who cannot help themselves.”

“The Bleakers say the multiverse doesn’t have a point or purpose, and the best we can do is help the berk next to you.”

“I admire their ethic, but if the multiverse isn’t about life and living, why do we need death then? It’s a waste of an otherwise wonderous creation.”

Kneeling there I thought more and asked, “Why does a power of death, care about anyone living at all?”

“We believe that everyone has a finite time, and that time should be used to experience, grow and pass on that knowledge. For a soul to be claimed by their god, they must have time to demonstrate their faith; and the longer the better.”

“Can…can…you teach me more?”

“Of course, all you need to do now, is…” and the hand on my shoulder gripped me tightly, and I watched the skin and tissue crumble into dust. Looking at his face, I saw the skin sloughed away and then I watched his eye sink back and disappear into his skull. The pools of darkness held my vision and the darkness burned my eyes, as I could not turn away. I squeezed my eyes shut to hide from the horrific visage in front of me..

Open your eyes Myrai!

I sat up in the room, chest heaving. The room that Jarris had taken me to, was simple; a bed, a table and stool, and a small chest near the foot of the bed. I could see the green vial of ink, and the brown parchment paper on the table, along with a half-eaten red apple.

Sighing, I pulled myself up off the bed and stood, stretching. I was only dressed in a long tunic that I had found in the room. My dress was sent away with a simple letter back to the tailor. It said little, only thank you in Celestial and Common. The under garments were a wreck, and I felt lucky to have the tunic to cover myself.

I had started a second letter, this one to Beepu when the candle I had in the room ran out. At that point I decided to try to get some rest and slept. Now, I looked at the letter, and was thinking about what I had written, when I realized something was different.

On the table was the remains of a half-eaten apple. I looked at the apple and realized that It cast no shadow. It certainly did before in the flickering candle light, but now…nothing. I looked down at the floor, at my feet and I realized that I didn’t cast one either. In fact, nothing did. Not the stool, not the bed, not the table. There were no shadows, and no darkness. Everything looked like it was in peak on the brightest day.

I shook my head. This didn’t make any sense. Why were there no shadows? I turned to look at the letter and the writing on it, when I realized something else.

I could read the words.

My heart started to quicken its pace. I could always see in the dark, I suppose since birth. Nothing ever was truly dark. But before, when I looked around, everything was a shade of grey or black. But I couldn’t read in it; I needed to create or use some form of light. Otherwise the page of a book would be a uniform grey. But now in what should have been true darkness it was different. No shadows from light, yet all the colors that light revealed were visible.

“What the?” I pulled my hair forward, so I could see it, and I could clearly see the color of beaten gold. The inkwell, the apple, even my brown tunic; all had clear color.

<Knock, knock>

“M’lady, Myrai?” came the muffled, tentative voice of Jarris.

“Come in.” I replied, and the door swung open, flooding the room with shadows and light. A torch in a sconce opposite my room’s door, barely lit the room. But in doing so, the colors faded to grey. The words on the page were there, but much harder to read in the dim light.

I was absorbing this, as Jarris stepped into the room with a bundle, and on top of the bundle was a simple note.

“Any trouble getting this?” I asked taking the bundle and placing it on the bed. I was picking up the note as he replied.

“No. The old man was delighted to get your note and package. Luckily his apprentice had a cart and we got all other stuff.

“Stuff? What about Mo?”

“Mo? The monkey? He followed along making noises and throwing pebbles at us. Didn’t stop until we got in the compound and he saw the lean one. Made a bolt right towards him screeching. The lean one was happy though.”

I smiled, “I imagine so.” Taking the note, I saw it had written inside a single phrase:

‘Thanks for the memory.’

I then opened the package, and saw within my pack, boots, leathers, and my belt with three daggers within. Drawing one, I spun it in my fingers. It seemed like ages since I needed it or used it. But the weight of it in my hand was comforting. Not having a weapon on me during the party, made me feel vulnerable; almost naked. But with the dagger in my hand I felt confident again. It was something visible that I wasn’t some cony waiting to be bobbed and peeled. I was a cutter, and I would make you hurt if you assumed otherwise.

Jarris watched my display silently for some time before speaking again, “You might think about something bigger. That’s what the men at the pells always tell the recruits when they start with daggers.”

“Well, I guess they might have a point there. Let me get dressed and finish this note. Then you can take me to the armory to find a ‘proper’ weapon.”

“Yes M’lady,” and the boy left the room sheepishly.

But once the door closed, blocking the torch light, once again the room lit up with clarity and color. I could see the reds, blacks, and browns in my leathers, the dull shiny steel color of my daggers. Everything.

Something had changed within me. I didn’t understand how this could be. Why now? I did feel stronger overall, but I had also eaten and slept. I decided I would have to ask Beepu later about it…assuming he was speaking with anyone at all.

I put on my gear, hurriedly finished my letter, and left the room with Jarris. Jarris took me outside to the training yard. The pells and targets were unused, and the yard itself was empty, although two guards were on the wall patrolling. Jarris led me toward a different door on the main building and motioned me inside.

There were some oil lamps in the room, and along the walls arranged in neat orderly rows, were weapons. Spears, swords, hammers, polearms and others all leaned in their racks on one wall. On the opposite wall were stands of armor, and shields arranged on the floor leaning against the walls.
I walked over to a sword on the rack and picked it up. I held it a moment, feeling its weight. It was crafted well enough, but it felt too heavy; like I would exhaust myself trying to swing it. I returned the weapon to its place on the rack and moved down farther, until I came across a slim blade, with a fancy cross hilt. Unlike the other weapons, it was sheathed. I grasped the scabbard and drew the blade, which rewarded me with that fine metal on metal scrape as it came free.

I saw that while it had an edge, it was meant to be used as a thrusting weapon. I remembered that some cutters in Sigil preferred blades like this; they were fast, and a hard thrust could create a grievous wound. After cutting the air for a couple of moments, I nodded to myself. This would be a blade I could use effectively.

“A rapier? I’m not sure that’s what they meant by ‘bigger.’”

“Probably not.” And I shifted my dagger to my right hip and attached the rapiers’ frog on my left. “But I can use this better, than those other swords.”

I then moved down the line of armor, and found on a stand a simple chain vest, with some rents in the metal rings, and a bunch of extra leather thong. Staring at it a moment, I realized it was the chain shirt that Daneath had used during our escape from the mansion. I knew it didn’t fit well, but I didn’t realize how much extra thong it took to make it work for him. Looking it over, it appeared to be sized for either a slender man, or perhaps an elf.

I focused a moment on the chainmail shirt and pulled on the light within me. I poured the energy to fixing the rings, and slowly the rents began to close.

I could Jarris next to me, “You can do that? Arryn would make me do that with pincers.”

I shrugged, “I can fix some things. But here, help me put this on and size it a bit. I draped the shirt over my shoulder, and looked at the floor, when I saw a round buckler on the ground.

“Perfect. Just what I need.”

It took a bit to get the armor sized appropriately, but Jarris was a help. He clearly was working hard to be a squire, if for no other reason than to pass the valet work to someone else. Soon I exited the armory and entered the yard. There near the pells stood Arryn, Iesa, Daneath, and two other armored figures I didn’t recognize. I noticed that Mo was bounding around the roofline, and that Iesa kept an eye on his furry pal’s wandering as I approached.

Daneath was dressed in different armor than when I first met him and was nodding to something that Arryn was saying when I stepped up to the group with Jarris.

“Ah…Myrai. You look…different. Like you are expecting trouble,” Arryn noted with approval.

“Well, if you aren’t prepared for trouble, you are going to be surprised.” I replied.

“Indeed. Now Daneath, remember those strikes and moves. It will help you gain an edge over your opponent. I bet Iesa could do the same, if he focused on the technique more.” Arryn then turned and gestured to the two armored figures standing nearby.

“This is Berevan and Viceri. They are solid soldiers and have volunteered to help you.” At this point, both took their right fist, and thumped their own chest with enthusiasm. Arryn continued “I found out that the guards at the western gate are former blade members. They won’t stop anyone in Blades livery, nor will they report your leaving the city at all. Beyond that it is all up to you. I wish you luck and may the gods protect you.”

We all nodded our thanks and turned to the pair. Daneath spoke first, “Well, as I am sure Arryn told you we are taking a hidden path to our target. There are monesters in the caverns below, and then eventually some house guards once we reach the manor house. If we do this right, we won’t have all the guardsmen coming down on us.”

Berevan and Veceri nodded. Berevan then spoke, “This doesn’t seem to be the honorable way to do this.”

I stepped forward and paced in front of the two. “Perhaps not. But is it honorable to stuff a person who has done no wrong into a cage? Is it honorable, to summon a foul servant to help keep her penned?”

Both men shook their heads, their faces expressions grim.

I continued pacing in front of them, “These aren’t honorable foes. They have lied and deceived the whole of Yartar from noble to commoner. Why would they fight on fair terms? And so why should others die, if we can avoid a larger fight?”

“We are taking the fight to them, where they think they have the advantage. Our hope is to be swift and to do the unexpected. Can you handle that?”

The pair didn’t hesitate. They nodded and said in unison, “Yes m’lady,”

“Alright then. Jarris, drop off the note under Beepu’s door, and then I will need the…”

“Right away, I’ll be right back with it” and Jarris bounded off without me finishing my sentence.“Alright then. Let’s do this and get back before the next morning’s light,” Daneath said.

“Great, but what’s Jarris getting for you Myrai?” Iesa asked as he was feeding Mo a small piece of dried fruit.

I looked at Iesa, “Something to keep the spider busy.”

Session notes:

Everyone leveled at this point, although the joke at the table was that Beepu would be behind because he missed the session. It meant some spells, hp, and stuff, but most of the upgrades were in gear items and less wealth.

1,718
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Interlude: Professor Morkbottom - 5/1/2019

Notes from the symposium on “Heroes – Social constructs or deviants?”

Candlekeep – DR 1842

Now as I explained in the last hour, heroism takes on many forms. But too often it seems that bards and minstrels overlook in their songs the thought behind actions. Too often we hear tales of heroes jumping into the fray without a care or thought. But the reality of course is much murkier. And in the case of heroes on their opening steps in their adventures it can be perilous.

So, taking an example from the late 1400s, let us discuss the “Souls of Legend” as we now know them. As is the case of early heroes, we have a wide array of various writings of the time, but fragmented and often contradictory. Often the sources themselves seem questionable. But sometimes we are fortunate to have some complete writings, and even writings from the protagonists themselves.

The first of the heroes is mostly known today as “Big D” as his name has been lost to time. And as typical for many of the period, he left no written work. Most of what we know has been come from two sources. The first source are remains of gambling chits with the word “Big D” upon them. Around these chits is a great oral history of a peerless battlemaster in the ring. One able to control opponents and guide allies equally on the field of combat. Here too, the wealth and success of those gambling on his fortunes were legendary in their own right. The second source of information stands in contrast. Remains of souvenirs sold by halfling merchants; dented codpieces with small signs in common saying “How about them Apples?”

<Chuckles from the audience>

The halflings of the time had a very low regard for the warrior, but it isn’t clear why. So, it’s hard to reconcile these diverse opinions from the times, and the one thing that could settle the truth once and for all, something from his own hand, simply doesn’t exist.

A pity.

Next, we have Iesa. He is a cipher really. As typical for someone in his profession, he avoids leaving evidence like a plague from Talona. But we do know of his trade from the writings of his peer calling him a “Knight of the Post.” We’ll talk about that author momentarily, but even today in the planar cant it paints him and his deeds in a shadowy light. But from what we can tell, it was used dare I say affectionately. Even in Sigil, this can be seen as a mark of regard, one that many take in pride. But for Iesa, it is more nuanced, as we do have a fragment of his own writing. It shows a man conflicted; growing up in a world and he try to find his place in it. He calls out to his mother in these fragments, trusting to family and not gods to provide guidance. It is writings such as this, that places these early heroes in perspective; they are mortal, and they know it, and sometimes the getting by and surviving is the most important thing.

Next, we have the most prolific author of the four, and unfortunately the least accessible; Beepu. His writings are vast, ponderous, and woefully incomplete. As typical in the Gnomish writing style of the time, he used written Gnomish as a memory jogger, and so there are gaps throughout his personal writings. So, an example is that most diagrams are incomplete, as they only can be pieced together with thoughts of the author. Some others derisively call this “lazy note taking” but considering the multiple volumes written before he ventured out in the world, I doubt this interpretation. But in his writings that survive, they are almost all about construction of magical items and family, specifically his father. It is difficult to ascertain context or meaning behind what appears to be the ramblings of a half mad bullywug who has smoked too many herbs for their own sake.

<Chuckles again from the audience…gnomes are glaring>

For most humans, not versed in gnomish this is a barrier to research. But occasionally, a piece of written text appears that is much more complete in both what is written and context. In this case we do have a fragment of a letter that is basically admonishing his peers, not to get involved in politics, and to move on to search the north for “Flint Rock.” It is in clear common, that he also senses mortality and cares for his peers. This is a direct contrast to our image of heroes jumping in and doing…well…heroic things! If we didn’t know of the exploits of these individuals, it might seem cowardly. But is it cowardice or caution? Should we take these words seriously?

That leads us to the last one, Myrai. That she is unique is a dramatic understatement. She isn’t from Toril; a being native to Sigil that gives her a jaded and highly biased perspective on people. Her journal, once you scrub through generations of planar cant idioms, clearly has a negative view of many folks she encounters. The closest parallel is dropping a Waterhavian noble among the Uthgardt tribe for a spa day.

<Mild chortles>

But, unlike the writings that the bards have written about her, are strikingly honest and unflinching. One example is her litany on fiends and celestials; the true immortals and how mortals are nothing more than tools in an endless war. She shows in her texts, a stark view of the multiverse and mortals place in it.

Which gives one of Candlekeep’s treasures, an original complete copy of a letter to Beepu from Myrai before they set out on a dangerous undertaking.

“Beepu.

I know your study and research is your passion is top of your mind. Your letter is an inspired warning of fools who shouldn’t dabble in politics. It certainly set “D’s” mind going.

But we are going after her. Not because of the politics though. That was unavoidable once that bargain was made. And I feel trapped in that bargain.

But the fate of those in politics are their own; I’m only keen to tip the scales in our favor. And right now, we have two groups that aren’t kindly disposed to us. Vicam and all the power he has is going to be focused on us for what we have done, and the Crimson Star’s power and influence for what we haven’t done. All because of that bargain and the choices that led you all to save me; to bring me back. I can’t walk away from that…gift. And I can’t let you all pay for it with blood.

So, we can’t repair our standing with both groups; it is too late for that now. But we can square the deal with one and get the favor of a third, the Waterbaroness, to tip the scales in our favor. And maybe do the right thing in the process.

During the Factor War five years ago, I spent my time hiding on a battlefield. The Cage had lived up to its name, letting no one in or out. I spent my time helping. Mostly by getting folks out of harm’s way, not fighting or being in the way. But I did pickup on tactics that the Harmonium used.

1. Always have a safe place to retreat to
2. Don’t leave a safe place for your opponents
3. And always go into a fight with eyes open.

Yartar isn’t safe for us to go to Flint Rock. We can’t come back easily without taking care of problems here. Our opponents are still strong here; and we have a chance to neutralize one and weaken the other. And lastly, I intend to move fast, strike hard, and get ready to run if need be.
So…thanks for the advice. It took an hour, but “D” agrees. Kelemvor’s symbol is a scale held up by a skeletal arm. With some blessing and luck, I hope the scales tilts our way.

Myrai

P.S. – Iesa is really mad you didn’t use his name in your letter. I’d watch your component pouch for monkey poop if I were you.”

So, a scion of immortals is also concerned with her own mortality. But it drives her forward; committing her to taking action and embracing the risk. But why? Because, it is the safer action? Because the payoff and good it does is worthwhile? Because of a debt and obligation to see a deal through?

All of these reason matter to the hero. Only at the beginning of their path, can we see that they truly understand its cost.

Trandlehard Morkbottom, Avowed of Candlekeep

Notes:

I wrote a version of this, so not to reveal to Beepu what happened while he was out. Let us say…he was surprised.

Personally, I found the idea of researchers looking back 300 years at the past exploits of adventures hilarious. So Morkbottom does appear time to time to give folks a different take on events.

1,791
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Retracing the Path - 05/09/2019

Retracing the path

Some barmy hardhead once said that ‘Criminals always return to the scene of a crime.’ That’s a load of blex.

They only do if they have a good reason, or they are really daft.

Usually, its’ both.​


“So, I don’t understand--” Daneath started.

The sun was close to setting, and we had just passed through the eastern gate. Following the road, we were making our way back to the hidden entrance of the temple.

“Trust me it will work out fine,” I said.

“I’m not worried about the plan. It just feels wrong to bring it along at all.”

“I’m sure you can be its gallant defender if the time comes.”

“Baaah,” was the only response from the docile sheep I was leading along with us down the road, oblivious to the risks it would be facing in the near future.

Deneath held his tongue as the five of us continued to make their way to the vine covered entrance of the once forgotten temple. The sheep followed peacefully enough on its own. I was told by the farmer to avoid looking at it, and it would simply follow along. He said he ‘bred the smarts’ out them, so he didn’t have to chase them around. I for one wasn’t to complain. Before long we had arrived at the vine covered passage.

“And to think we were so excited to have found the exit,” Iesa commented with a wry grin. His mood was light as Mo was on his shoulder once again. The monkey clung onto him as much as a lost child clings to their mother. I was envious. While Foggle was interesting and useful, Mo’s behavior was more than just a simple Lim-Lim. Mo seemed relatable. But while interesting, it wasn’t what I wanted.

“Call it penance for leaving a job unfinished,” I commented.

“So…what are we facing in…there?” Berevan said pointing to the darkened entrance.

“Well, a trap, troglodytes, and spiders,” Daneath said simply. “The trap isn’t a problem as Myrai can get us all past it.”

“Troglodytes?” Veceri spoke up. “Those are like lizardfolk but smellier right?”

Iesa nodded, “Yep, those are the ones. And the smell isn’t a joke.”

“So, what’s the sheep for?” Veceri pressed.

“The spider,” I said while looking over my gear.

“How big is this spider?” Berevan asked with some concern.

“About as big as a horse,” and I looked directly at Berevan whose face was taut with a look of consternation. “So hopefully the sheep will occupy it’s time.”

“That sounds cruel,” said Veceri.

“Well, it was going to be mutton for someone already. So better it than us,” I said.
The two men looked at each other with the look that said, ‘What have we gotten ourselves into?’

“Don’t worry,” I said smiling. “We came through it all once before, barely armed. I think that together armed as we are, the monsters won’t be a problem.”

“Well, let’s do this. Light Myrai?” Daneath said hefting his own familiar shield.
I closed my eyes and focused, and felt the warmth spread up my back once again. Opening them, I saw Daneath duck down into the dunntl.

“Wait…were those…I mean…did I see?” Veceri stammered.

Iesa patted the man on the shoulder, “You did see them. Don’t point them out to her though. She gets cranky about that.”

“I heard that,” I said glaring at him, and I followed Daneath down into the hidden tunnel, leaving the darkening sky of the surface.

Heading back into the depths, the tunnel had lost all the warmth we saw earlier in the morning. The sun no longer lit the corridor with hope. Now it felt that the darkness we descended into would stain our souls. It felt appropriate considering the task we set upon ourselves. It was as if my meager light was all that stood between us and damnation.

We reached the pool, and the here too in the dark the character changed. The water appeared black, and the elven letters on the rim of the pool gave it a sinister look. I stepped up to the pool and filled the two flasks I was carrying, so we could leave once our task was done.

I then anointed myself, whispered a prayer of absolution to myself. I then anointed each of the others in turn. While Iesa and Daneath were indifferent to the blessing, Brevan and Verceri looked at me suspiciously.

“Just ask for forgiveness. It doesn’t matter what but be honest.”

They looked at each other and consented, each kneeling and kissing the pommel of their swords. Finally, as a precaution, I touched the faces of Mo and the sheep.

“Is that necessary?” Iesa asked. “I mean, I’m not sure that Mo…prays.”

“Oh, I’m sure he does.”

“What do you mean?”

I smile and look at Iesa, “Because he worships you.”

Iesa looked at me and was about to respond, when he instead shut his mouth in a grin. Looking down he nodded and chuckled at the truth.

We moved down the hall to the still open doors into the main temple. While I was holding my breath as we crossed, nothing happened. After we all crossed the threshold, I noticed that Daneath and Iesa both gave out a loud exhale.

“Faith you might have found…trust might take longer,” I quipped.

“Well, considering searing light wasn’t what we expected the first time—” Daneath started.

“Searing light?” the two blades said in unison.

“That’s what happens if you don’t use the water and ask for forgiveness.” I said.

“Wait, what did you expect?” Brevan asked.

“Oh…there was a list. But it isn’t important now.” I said, trying not to giggle.

“Alright…so, where are we?”

“In a forgotten elven temple. Keep your eyes open. If we find anything, odds are it’s the spider.” Daneath said, all business.

We moved to the ajar panel that once concealed the hidden passageway on this side and we all stepped inside. Once in position, Iesa put his hand on the lever. Looking at each of us a moment he nodded, and I could tell he mouthed counting to three and then pulled the level down. Farther down the passageway, from around the corner I could hear the loud scraping of stone on stone. I grimaced at the sound remembering how it attracted the spider the first time. While Brevan and Verceri looked at each other grimly as they noticed the door to the temple swinging shut.

As the scraping noise dragged on I looked down the tunnel and shook my head. What I saw was strange; everything in range of the light of Daneath’s shield was bright or dim. But beyond it everything was as bright as daylight. And I now noticed that it wasn’t just how bright everything was, but how far. I could easily see in the dark for about twenty or thirty paces, but I could see twice that now. Another oddity I needed time to think about it. Time, I didn’t not have now.

The scraping stopped, and Daneath started to move forward when I put my hand on his shoulder.
“Let me lead, I can see farther anyway.”

Daneath’s brows furrowed a moment and he then shrugged and stepped aside. I moved in front of him and moved forward. I really wished that Foggle was here to do this for us. Beepu for all of his annoying quirks was if nothing, reliable. Foggle was a great asset, and I could only hope that between my new sight, and our friends that it would be enough to make up the difference.

We reached the end of the passage, and the door stood wide open. Swallowing and suppressing my fear, I looked around the corner.

The last time I was here I remembered seeing the spider emerging from the darkness. Now, it was bright without a shadow on the wall, floor or anywhere. I could see the room with the dry well ahead. What I didn’t see was the spider.

“Baaaah,” the sheep bleated. It was remarkably calm considering it was in a darkened temple and had followed submissively to the rope I held. At least one of in group was calm, ironically.

Waving the others forward, I lead the sheep forward to the opening ahead. I wasn’t really trying to be quiet or hide my movements considering the amount of armor and leather scraping and creaking behind me. Swallowing, I pushed the fear out from my mind and moved forward and crossed into the room.

It was as dusty and dirty before, but the bodies of the little spiders had disappeared. The room of course seemed brighter to me, and I could see the walls clearly now. The main thing that might have been different, were the shrouds of webbing that hung from the ceiling. But honestly, I wasn’t sure they were really new. I didn’t have nearly as good a look before, so were they new, or did I just not see them clearly?

I started moving along the edge of the wall; I wanted to stay away from the dry well where we suspected the giant arachnid laired. We had had all entered the room, and the rest were following my lead when from the edge of my vision I saw a motion.

I turned my head to look. At first, I saw nothing. And then saw the slight movement again. Focusing I realized I saw a large forelimb touching a wisp of cobweb. And then with horror I realized that what I thought was a veil of webbing hanging from the ceiling was much more. The webbing draped around the thorax of the monster. Its unblinking eyes trained towards our band against the wall.

I didn’t even have a moment to say a word or shout a warning, when it dashed forward. As large as it was, it was shocking at how swiftly it moved, taking us by surprise. Its attention was focused singularly at one us as its new prey. The smallest one.

The sheep.

The sheep didn’t even hear it approach as the spider grabbed at it and bit. It barely had time to make a half-hearted weak noise. Iesa’s reaction was quick, backing away from the sheep. Then he swiftly started to circle around the backside of the monstrosity, making his way to the next doorway. Mo was even quicker; bolting from his shoulder disappearing into the darkness. I moved toward the same doorway, never turning my back to the thing. And Daneath, who was following me was nearly as fast, backing up, with his shield pointing directly towards the thing.

Berevan and Verceri were stuck flatfooted by the predator, and while I couldn’t see either clearly, I could hear them shout, followed by the whistling of blades. And then finally, I heard the sound I was dreading; the sound of a blade against the carapace.

The prey and my plan was now forgotten, half wrapped in silk on the ground. The spider shifted quickly to face the attackers striking it. Iesa notice the change in focus immediately, and moved forward to strike at the spider, missing with his rapier. Daneath moved toward it and struck a solid blow against the abdomen. I focused a moment and send a blast of energy at the thing, striking true as a purple blast of energy flew from my hands to strike its thorax.

The spider turned to face the its greatest annoyance, Daneath. It quickly spun and lurched forward at him. Its forelegs reached out to grab the shield and pull it down with its weight, so it could bite him. But the bite missed its mark, and I saw Daneath take advantage of the moment and quickly reposted, clipping it. This did leave an opening for Iesa, but the spider pushed him away using a pair of its rear legs. Unbalanced now, it was able to dodge Berevan’s clumsy swing, but Veceri struck true with a hard blow against the abdomen to which the spider gave out a great hissing sound turning suddenly, causing me to miss with my next bolt of energy.

The spider retaliated against Veceri, batting away Veceri’s shield easily. It then lunged forward, sinking teeth into his flesh where the shoulder met the neck. His scream quickly started to fade, and I saw him drop his sword to the ground and he sinking to his knees. Iesa thrust with this weapon, now the spider was busy pumping poison into the helpless warrior, sinking his blade deeply into it. The spider shuddered at this, and again, when Daneath’s sword came crashing down on its thorax. The spider quickly turned again, it’s forelegs again flailed against the warrior’s shield.

While the spider was focused on breaking through the defenses of the warrior, Iesa took advantage of the spider’s singular focus. He lunged and thrusted his rapier striking deep into the seam between the abdominal and thorax plates. The hit was rewarded with ichor spurting from the wound. The spider shuddered for a moment, and then sank slowly to the floor. It’s quivering legs curling beneath its body reflexively.

But while the battle was over for the spider, it wasn’t for Veceri. I ran over to the fallen warrior and laid my hand upon his chest. I started to pour light into him, trying to stave the bleeding. The energy came forth in a rush and as I channeled light into him, his eyes fluttered open. He gasped for air, and then his breathes started to slow down to a measured pace.

Satisfied, I stood up and made my way to the poor sheep, wrapped in the webs. It was breathing quietly, and lay unconscious on the floor. I pulled out my dagger and cut away the webbing holding it fast. I let it rest there on the floor, somewhat relieved it lived through the attack, and a little guilt for using it as bait.

“Anyone else hurt?” I asked, not seeing anything obviously wrong with the others.

“No. Perhaps thanks to your gambit with the sheep there,” Iesa said pointing at the animal, and as Daneath shook his head.

“Perhaps it was for the best, now that we don’t have to worry about running into it on the way back,” I replied.

“Do you suppose I could go into the well and…” Iesa asked looking at the dry well again.

“And what?” Daneath asked.

“Well, get the coin I dropped in—”

“No.” Daneath and I said at once. Iesa looked as us crestfallen. At this point, Mo returned from the doorway leading deeper inside the ruined temple and jumped on Iesa’s shoulder. Iesa smiled and ruffled the monkey’s fur.

“Well, if we are all good, let’s keep going. No more spiders; just Troglodytes.” Daneath said to the two warriors.

“So, keep a nose out,” I said. I refreshed the energy on the shield and took the lead. Soon we arrived in the rotting library. Where the air was once dry, it tasted wetter now, and the smell of wet paper permeated the air. The hole to the caves was still very visible and seemed much as we left it earlier in the day.

We crawled through and made our way down the passageway until we reached the intersection where down headed to the burrows, and the right turn that led to the caves and pools and the iron bound door leading up into the manor. Beforehand, we used Foggle to scout the way for us. Now I found myself with the sharper vision and looking for threats ahead.

I really wished that Foggle could do it instead.

Looking down the tunnel I could just barely see it open into a large chamber, but there was no sign of anyone or anything below. I then turned to the right-hand passage and stepped up into the large cave system that separated us from the spiraling staircase.

I entered the cavern and knew that something was different. The first thing I noticed was that there was no sign of the bodies that we had left behind from our original decent. But the second was more relevant; the odor. I could smell that odor that marked the presence of the Troglodytes. Yet not the scent of decay or death.

It was then that I could hear the hissing in the cavern. And then I knew we were being hunted.

Session Notes:
So if this sounds like Jurassic Park…it was. Sorta. It was a random roll for who the spider went through…and it was the sheep.

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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Of Fire and Fate - 05/23/2019

Of Fire and Fate​
There are many regrets one can acquire in a lifetime. Should have, Could have, Would have.

It is occasionally nice to say though: “Nope! I don’t regret that!”

Not that it was obvious at the time.

The hissing sound came from the left and the right, and within moments our small band was surrounded by troglodytes. The smell was overpowering, and it took quiet the effort to contain myself and not retch.

Daneath and Iesa went left, and Berevan and Veceri went right. I don’t remember how many there were total, but it became chaotic, as the lizard like folk charged from behind stalagmites from both sides. I focused more on the right side, guessing that Berevan and Veceri might need more assistance.

The iron blades worked well together against the Troglodytes. They stood shoulder to shoulder and covered each other well. Berevan on the right would strike out at one first, and pulled back defensively, allowing Veceri to lunge forward, strike and retrench, readying themselves for the next go around. Except while they focused one creature at a time, I was able to focus on two at once.

As I reached towards the Troglodytes with some of the dark energy, I realized that if they were close enough, that I could lash it to two of them. So I coiled my will around a pair, and pulled at their life’s essence. Tapping it and pulling it away from them in equal measure. Berevan certainly noticed, exclaiming, “by the Gods,” as ghostly skeletal hands reached out and clung onto our smelly foes.
Meanwhile Daneath was proving himself a more dangerous foe; several times one of the Trogs would miss him, creating an opening for a quick riposte. The surprised foe then would be brought down quickly with a rapier thrust from Iesa.

The creatures were disorganized; flailing at shields and attempting to bite at anything within reach. As they assaulted our party the stench they exuded became even stronger. I fought as hard to maintain control of the dark magic I was tapping, as much as my stomach to hold onto its contents. Tears were streaming down my face as the combat dragged on. Berevan at one point was almost overwhelmed and was staggering barely able to hold up his shield. But Veceri was able to lean into him and together held up.

Fortunately, because the troglodytes weren’t organized, they didn’t swarm us all at once, rather streaming in one or two at time. This enabled us to cut them down quickly in time for the next ones rushing to our weapons. And soon, we stood over a pile of nearly a dozen corpses. The only sound in the air was the ones of our heavy breathing and the dripping of water from the ceiling.

“See? Smelly Troglodytes, decent arms, no problem,” Iesa said with a smile.

Mo ran back on Iesa’s shoulder, and he patted him gingerly. “And you shouldn’t run off like that Mo,” he chided.

“Let’s get to the door, and see if we can get a quick breather. It should be close,” Daneath said business like.

We continued to the left and the air became clearer, and within moments we were in front of the bound door, that led upwards to the manor house. We approached it, and Iesa placed his ear to the surface a moment, straining to hear anything. After a moment he nodded and produced the key and with a little work, unlocked the door and Daneath pulled it open.

Daneath shone his shield into the chamber. Nothing had changed. The scraps of cloth on the ground from our escape. Iesa quickly looked at the inside of the door, brushing his fingers over the lock.
“I don’t think they found this place,” he whispered. “There’s no sign that anyone tried to force the lock, or pick it open.”

“Then they haven’t found the door either,” I said. “Let’s rest and get ready.”

“Ready for what?” Veceri asked.

“That is the question. Hopefully only some guards. Otherwise…well we’ll improvise,” Iesa replied quietly.

We sat down on the chamber floor. I tended the limited wounds our band had, pouring in more light where needed, and then sat down myself. And hoped.

This was the moment, the gamble we all took. Well…almost all. Beepu was dead against it, and stood by his principles. I guess I could respect that, although I wished he was here. Sitting there I wondered if I could really do this.

I wanted to leave. This town. This plane. But that ever-present feeling of being trapped just clung to me. My friends agreed to a deal that essentially was a “life for life.”

Mine for hers.

I didn’t even know who ‘she’ was.

Could I even turn back now? I kept telling myself that it was going to work out fine. That it was for the best. With my head hung low I did the only thing I could think of. I prayed.

No one should be alone, in life or death,

Death is part of life, not an ending but a beginning

Death is without deceit and has meaning,

I will strive to help those to live,

So, they can die at their appointed time,

I will honor those who have died before me,

For it is their lives and deeds that give us the world today,

Bless me to live until my appointed time,

So, my deeds will live forever,

So be the will of my Lord, and my desire in faith

May Death grant us peace.​

I just hoped my deeds were worth all of this effort.

“You ready Myr?” Daneath asked, snapping me back to reality. I simply nodded and after quick deep breath, stood up and began the ascent up the stairway.

If going down took forever, going up with arms and armor took an eternity. It was exhausting work, and I lost count of the steps after a hundred and twenty. But, this stairway had an end, and finally we reached it.

As we approached the top, I changed the light on Daneath’s shield from a bright yellow to a deep red. Iesa once again stepped in front and listen to the wooden closet door that led into the sitting chamber. He pressed his ear against the wood and we all held our breath. He took his time, and then he turned his head to look at us and shook it.

“I don’t hear anything,” he whispered.

“Get ready to open the door,” and I saw Iesa hands on the lock mechanism, and I snuffed out the light.
The darkness only highlighted the noises of our breathing. After a moment I heard the door open, and dim light entered the closet.

We all stepped out one by one. Somehow Daneath sounded quiet in his armor, more so than Veceri or Berevan. In the sitting room was a lone set of candles in a sconce. The door to the adjacent chamber was closed, as was the one to the bedroom itself. But there were no guards in the room itself. Mo scampered to a nearby shelf and watched quietly.

Iesa made his way to the doors leading outward and listened. His head moved sharply upward and held two fingers and then he pointed to either side of the door. He then bent to the door it self and took out his picks and very slowly began to work the lock. After a moment, he retracted the picks and put a small rod of metal in the lock. He then made his way to the bedroom door and listened. After a moment, he held out a single finger in the candlelight.

Our target was alone.

Daneath moved over towards the door, and Veceri and Berevan were about to follow, when I stopped them.

“No. Leave this to us, we need you to hold this door.”

The two looked at me puzzled. “What? We are in this together, as dirty a deed as it is.”

“No! Right now, if something goes wrong, we need this door to stay shut. It will mean the difference on everyone leaving!” I said hissing. “This is about all of us going back alive! I am not ready to die again…and you aren’t going to start.” And I gestured to the door.

Iesa opened the door to the bedroom quietly and stepped inside, and Daneath entered as well.

“Look, Myrai, we are here to help do this,” said Veceri.

“Then help by keeping this door—”

And before I finished, an explosion of flame came from the bedroom, and I heard Iesa scream in pain. From beyond the door I could hear muffled sounds.

“Hold. That. Door.” I said.

“What with?” Berevan asked.

“Block it with the furniture. Do anything. This is your mission!” I said, and I turned and ran to the bedroom where I could hear a fight.

Entering the doorway, I saw crumpled on the ground Iesa, still smoking from flames. Daneath was moving towards a figure standing in the bed. A figure that I was familiar with.

The room was dark enough that my new site had clarity. The woman was dressed in a nightgown, made of silk. Her dark hair was shoulder length and was a chaotic mess. Her red skin had a slight sheen in sweat and in one hand she held a dagger pointed straight at Daneath. Her eyes were simple molten orbs of red. Her horns elegantly curving around her eyes, like a ram. Her face was a mixture of pain and anger and she cast a bolt of fire, striking Daneath square in the chest, sending embers everywhere. She was screaming as she wove her magic. She was going to be heard.

I quickly threw a bolt of energy at her, catching her in the shoulder with the blast, nearly knocking her of balance. She turned to glare at me, and her eyes kept darting between Daneath and myself. But she wasn’t focused on me enough for her to hear a simple word I said.

“Lannasa,” I said in Celestial.

Iesas eyes twitched a moment and he blinked. Still laying on the floor, he quietly reached over to his rapier that had fallen next to him. Behind me was a racket as many people were working on beating down the door. I could hear Veceri and Berevan both make strained noises, keeping the guards from interfering.

While the tiefling was preparing another fiery blast, Daneath swung at her with his sword. And just as she was about cast the bolt of energy at him again, Iesa sprang up to his feet and lunged, striking her square in the abdomen. I could see her face puzzled and she turned to look at him in surprise as she fell to her knees. Her face struggling to process how the foe she had just felled, had now struck a mortal blow. Her head rolled backwards and she fell down onto the bed.

She lay gasping for breath, and Iesa in a fluid motion had drawn a dagger, and was about to plunge it into her, when he stopped. His hand shaking. His face was contorted and confused; just by looking at him I could see all the emotions I felt before cross his face.

“Spare her; take her with us,” I said.

With those words, he brought the hilt of the dagger against her temple, and her eyes closed.

“Are you serious?” Daneath said.

“Yes,” I said “She knows more, and we don’t know the questions. She’s worth more alive. Bind her hands, gag her, and blindfold her somehow.

Iesa looked at Daneath and nodded and pulled some rope from his pack. “She’s right. Besides, can’t call it murder this way either.”

“Put some cloth on her wounds; I’ll fix them on the way down.” And with that I moved to the sitting room. A divan, a table and a pair of chairs were pushed up against the doors. And against them, the two warriors were straining. The looked at me in desperation and as they did so, the blade of an axe pierced the door.

Behind me, Iesa dashed out and held out his arm for Mo, who quickly scampered onto his shoulder, and he ran into the closet and down the stairs. Behind him Daneath ran with a figure wrapped in bedsheets over his shoulder. As he ran I poured enough energy to prevent her from dying outright. And then I put energy to make light appear from his gauntlet. He nodded and ran into the closet and down the stairs.

“Time to go, you first, I’ll close the door.” Berevan and Veceri nodded and ran for the closet, with me close in tow. I could hear them clattering down the stairs, following the light ahead. I could hear the axe blows and could here the bellowing of the captain now:

“Inside! We cannot let them essscape!”

And I closed the door and fled in down the stairs in the darkness.

As we fled downward it was at first quiet. Then I could hear the axes on the door above and knew that our time was short. We pressed on again with our descent. When we all reached the chamber with the pools and the door we stopped a moment. I checked our captive and made sure she still breathed, and we exited the bound door. Once on the other side, Iesa took the time to jam the lock with another iron shard.

Grinning with satisfaction, Iesa nodded. And together we fled into the darkness.

-----------------

The gate opened, and Mordai stepped into the marshalling yard of the Iron Blades. His look was bemused as he looked over the grounds. Exiting from the main building, Arryn emerged with a similar smile.

“Arryn…it has been a while.”

“Our interests seldom intersect Mordai, so not much reason for social calls.”

Mordai chuckled, “No, I suppose not. So why the change in heart? Is there some offer I made that you wish to take advantage of? But I don’t ever recall making one for you. You didn’t seem the type.

“All I’m doing is facilitating a meeting.”

“A meeting? Isn’t that what we are doing now?”

“Perhaps,” I said as I stepped out of the shadows of the armory door. “But, we did need to make sure you were in a mood to listen.”

Mordai turned to face me “Ah, so I was correct you haven’t left town. Saves me a lot of time.” He looked at Arryn, “I’m sure she has quite a tale she has spun with honeyed words.”

“She has…but the tale is mostly for you. I’m just keeping the peace,” Arryn said simply and stood impassively watching the two of us.

“And so, what would you have to say that would have any interest to me?” Mordai said with a tone of distaste.

“Well, I admit we may not be the best in following orders as given. We do take some pride in not making mistakes.”

“Mistakes? Like this?” Mordai said gesturing around himself. “A broken deal is still that; a broken deal.”

“You are absolutely right. But being unable to ask questions, put us in a bind. Perhaps we could have done better if we knew what to do with two women each claiming to be Nestra.”

Mordai narrowed his eyes and looked at me, as I approached him in the courtyard. “What game are you playing at?”

“The oldest one. Practiced by Baatezu, Tanar’ri and Yugoloth alike. A game of bargains. And one lesson that you learn very quickly, is that the one with the most information has the most leverage in any deal.” And I circled him, seeing his face getting more confused.

“You are playing with words. Get to the point, two women?”

I nodded and continued circling, “Yes, one upstairs holding a party looking all rare and fine and in charge. But little did you know of another, trapped beneath the manor by her own staff. A captive. The real Nestra.”

I could see Mordai’s mind racing and thinking, “That’s an interesting…tale. Original if marked with the flaws of a bad trope used by bards. And so, you had difficulty figuring out which was which then?”

I stopped and looked him in the eye, “No that was pretty easy. But your…orders didn’t give much in the way of discretion. What if harm came to the wrong one. So, the nice thing about being in the halls of power, is that you can ask the right questions. And so, we did, and we have a new deal for you.”

“A new…deal. You are presuming a lot. Even if I believed you.”

“You should Mordai,” Arryn said. “After all, Myrai there is telling the truth and you have a good deal on your hands. If you let it.”

“Alright then,” Mordai again looked at me. “What deal?”

“Nestra, the proper one is interested in keeping its deals with the Crimson Star as it was before the recent…problems. In fact, it has come to her attention that her seneschal has been acting against the interests of Yartar, and therefore you as well.”

“You have my attention then, there is more?”

“In fact, one of Vicam’s staff has been impersonating the Baroness for some time. So, she has seen fit to pass sentence upon her.”

“Worthless. This imposter is beyond your reach now.”

“Sadly, that is true. However, she is within yours.”

“I don’t understand,” again sounding puzzled.

“The Baroness has passed sentence on her imposter in person. And it seems she has some, not so fond memories of her. So, the Waterbaroness’ sentence places the women’s fate…in your hands.”
Now he was taken aback, “Mine?”

“Of course. It takes someone sneaky and underhanded to ask the right questions of someone sneaky and underhanded,” I said with a smile, and watching him bristle. “So, her life is yours. Yours to question and root out all the conspirators against her Excellency. Her rewards for you are…great I’m told.”

Mordai looked at Arryn with disbelief, “I admit what I am hearing is…interesting. And you vouch for this, you agree with it?”

Arryn shrugged, “This is treason we are talking about. A time when loyalists are rewarded for service. But the offer is good. The woman can be brought where you need her.”

“No need, my men are outside the walls here,” Mordali said and took a step towards me, nodding slightly and with a slight grin on his face. “Our bargain is concluded, and your debt paid. You do understand the currency of the realm it seems.”

I smiled and stepped close to him and said in a well-practiced voice; “En mar a lechtang’gi et a sanjeb tantok.” To which his eyes widened in surprise.

“I didn’t realize you spoke…the tongue.” He said eying me nervously.

“When you live among Baatezu and make deals with them, you better understand the pitch you are playing on.” I said. “Take care Mordai. The future might be messy, but somehow I think you will do…just fine.” And I turned and made my way back to the main building in the yard, passing Arryn.

“What did you say to him? He looks…shocked.”

“A reminder that the games we play, were invented long before us mortals.”

Session Notes

The quote uttered was “I had the oldest and best teachers.” And as far as my backstory was concerned, if you make a bad deal with a fiend, you better learn something.

Yep, Mordai was surprised. As it turns out the players collectively are terrible interrogators. Partially because lack of skill, and really really bad questions. But in the end, we realized we didn’t need answers, Mordai did. So, we made it his problem, and made plans to leave town.
I was really done with Yartar as were the rest of us. So change was good right?

2,000
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Leaving Yartar - (6/6/2019)

Leaving Yartar​

Good friends are hard to find. And what makes a good friend is dependent on what you need. A good ear, sage advice, support when you need.
But even rarer is one that will lay their life down on the line for you. The purest form of love you could ask for, but never would.
Rarer still is when a stranger does that.​

I was smiling to myself as I climbed the stairs. It seemed like a great chain had been lifted from my neck, and that I could finally move on. Of course, moving on still meant finding a way home. I was still trapped here on Toril. But being trapped there was far easier to handle than being trapped in a debt, and not being threatened by a horrible fate of cutters trying to the deliver the mail. It was back to the new normal from my perspective.

All of the discussion with Mordai was done in the early morning. Our schedule was a bit messed up, so it would be a long day ahead, and Daneath and Iesa wanted to get moving as quickly as possible. But we needed to deliver our good fortunes to our wizard.

Once on the second level, I made way to the chamber that Beepu had been lent as a room. No one had talked to him since he stormed out of our plan to sneak back into the manor. I did have a note dropped off, but he never responded. Not that I really expected a response.

I stood in front of the door, and hesitated a moment thinking about what to say. I then knocked on the door and waited. Hearing nothing, I knocked again louder and called out Beepu’s name. No one within responded. Frowning for a moment, I considered my options, and decided to appeal to Beepu’s ‘better half.’ I drew a dagger from its sheath, I used its pommel to bang on the door and called out:

“FOGGLE! Can you wake up Beepu and get him to the door?”

Instantly I started hearing repeated hoots from his mechanical familiar and within moments I could hear Beepu calling out “What? What? What? Door? OH!” The door swung open in a rush, just as I sheathed my blade.

“Oh, Myrai! Yes, um…come in.” the disheveled gnome said, his eyes still bleary eyed.

“Woke you at your desk?” I asked looking at him critically

“No! Why would you say that?”

“Because I can see the imprint of your bookmark on your left cheek.”

“Wha…oh. Well yes. More comfortable than the straw mattress here. Too firm.” And he walked back into the room. As I expected the desk had scattered bits of brass parts, sheaths of papers full of diagrams, and his spellbook propped up on the table, leaning against the wall. The bed was unused for sleeping as far as I could tell, but clothes and other items from his pack were spread across the surface. On a small table was a plate with some assorted dried fruits, bread, a pitcher and an empty mug on its side. Finally, I noticed on the ground by the door, was the note I had Jarris deliver to him; still sealed.

I picked up the letter and chuckled a moment. “Well, I see you be been busy reading.”

“Yes, yes, something to do while you argue about going back into the manor. I assumed that once you came to your senses you would come find me.”

I looked at Beepu and then the room and then the letter in my hand, “And so…have you even left this room?”

“No. No need. Prestidigitation is good for cleaning anything, including chamberpots, and I do not eat or drink much anyway.”

“So, you have been studying your…stuff for the last two and half days then?”

“Of course I have been….what? Two and half days? It took you that long to finally not pursue that path of madness and go back to the manor?”

“No…that was pretty quickly decided after you left.”

“Oh, so you just left to study?”

“Um, no. We were busy. In the manor.”

“WHAT? Why did you not tell me?”

I threw the note at Beepu, “We did. Somehow I assumed you would have read the letter.”

Beepu caught and regarded the note frowning. He simply stared at it with his brows knitted together, and yet made no moves to open it.

“I see. Well then, is the…deed done?” he asked with the note of distaste as he turned to look at me.

“No. We chose…a better path.”

“How so?”

“We brought the fake Nestra here. The real one basically accused her of treason, and we handed her over to Mordai. And as such we are free to go.”

“Oh. I see.”

“You sound, disappointed?”

“Well…maybe. I discovered some things I guess over…two days you said? But I suppose, I just expected that you would not have been—”

“Successful without you?”

“Yes. Yes, in fact. Perhaps I should have gone.”

“Well, what is done is done. It would have been nice.”

“So, what is next?”

“Well, we are meeting downstairs to discuss that. Assuming you can break yourself away for a moment.”

“Certainly. Especially if we can finally get on with our travels!” and he grabbed my arm and started pulling me out to the hall. “No more delays! We should have been moving already!”

Beepu continued to pull me along, like I was a petulant child, berating me the entire way. And all I could was shake my head and smile.

A quick journey downstairs, and Beepu stood in front of the dining hall, and he with all the majesty he could muster in his three-foot frame, threw open the doors and strode in.

Daneath and Iesa were the only occupants in the room and they both turned at the ‘grand’ entrance.

“Alright then. Finally. Flint Rock!” Beepu declared, challenging the pair to disagree with him.

“No. Portstown,” said Daneath and he bit into a hunk of cheese in front of him. Across from him Iesa nodded and fed Mo a piece of fruit from a small pile he had finished slicing.

Beepu was stunned a second. But he didn’t speak first; I did.

“Portstown? What in sodding Baator are you talking about? And what kind of name is ‘Portstown’? Call yourself after the local industry? What’s next? ‘Smithstown.’? ‘Fishtown’? ‘Whoreto—‘?”

“Because I have a lead that will help us get to Flint Rock there,” Daneath said glancing at us both.

“Lead? From where?” Beepu finally interjected.

“Leoras,” Daneath said and again bit into the cheese wedge.

“When did you talk to Leoras?” I asked.

Daneath leaned back in his seat. “Well, while we were investigating the manor, I saw him enter a room sneakily. I thought he might lead me somewhere interesting. Turns out, he baited me, and I found myself with a sword at my neck in a dark room. So, we had a…chat.”

“I’m sure that wasn’t awkward or anything,” I said crossing my arms. “So, what exactly did you talk about?”

“Well, the short version was, he knew Vicam was trouble, which is why he wasn’t going to interfere with us doing, anything. He knew that Nestra stopped trusting him and kept sending him out digging in graves. But more importantly, he knew something about me.”

“What exactly?” I asked curiously.

“This,” Daneath pulled his left sleeve up to his elbow and revealed a tattoo. The design was well done, but simple. A snake tied into a double loop. “I have this tattoo, as does my master. He also told me something else. He was traveling with a ‘tinker’; a gnome.’

Beepu’s jaw dropped open, “Wait, together? Your Master and my father? That sounds suspicious. Why would my father follow your master? I have never seen that tattoo. Are your sure that Leoras did not pull a fast one.”

Iesa chimed in as he continued to feed Mo, “I thought about it as well, but think about it. We have talked about Flint Rock, but we haven’t talked much about why we are going since we met in Triboar. So how would Leoras know? Plus, why? He was the one with the sword. He knew something about what the tattoo meant and said that a half-orc smith in Portstown could shed some light on it. Even better though, it’s on the way.”

“I’m not one to believe in coincidence,” I said slowly. “But, this sounds like we should make the attempt and find out what’s going on. Otherwise we’re in the blinds here.”

They all looked at me for a moment with a questioning expression, before I remember, “Right, in the dark..um not in the know?” to which they all nodded.

Iesa then spoke up uncomfortably, “And well I…may…know how to get to Flint Rock.”

Daneath’s head twisted suddenly to look at Iesa. “Wait, what?”

Iesa reach into a satchel and pulled out a folded piece of parchment. He unfolded it and it was a crude map. Scattered on the surface were strange words in a common alphabet that I didn’t recognize.

“So, you have a map? How does this—” Daneath started, when Iesa pointed to symbol of a mountain on the top edge of the map. Next to the mark was a second one.

A snake set into a double loop.

“How did you get this?” Daneath looked at Iesa with surprise.

“Mo found it…I thought. But I’m beginning to think that wasn’t an accident.”

“What?” I said. “that he was given it? To give to you?”

Iesa nodded. “I mean after I got this, I was thrown in jail, Beepu gets me out, and then I met Daneath.”

“Beepu, how did you know to find Iesa in the jail?” I asked.

Beepu thought a moment. “Well, I knew that I needed to get to Flint Rock, because of my father’s notes. I remember remarking this to a man in Triboar marketplace, and he mentioned that a man who was just arrested could help with that.” Beepu’s eyes scrunched in thought. “I don’t remember anything about the person though.”

“It’s no coincidence. It can’t be,” Daneath said. “But how does it tie together?”

“That’s the dark of it,” I said. “Sounds like I’m the only one here that doesn’t have an interest in Flint Rock. I don’t have a master, I doubt my father is involved, and I don’t have a tattoo like that.”

“You have a tattoo?” Iesa asked with sudden interest.

“What?…no! That’s not important! What is, this that this is all tied together, and none of understand how or why. So, while I don’t have a vested interest beyond seeing if Beepu’s father can get me home, it sounds like we need learn a bit more.”
Everyone nodded.

“So, to Portstown?” Daneath asked the group.

To which we all nodded quietly.

“Get your things, say your goodbyes. And let’s get out of Yartar.”

It didn’t take long to get our gear together, and somehow word got around that we were learning. As we made our way to the gate of the compound we ran into Arryn, Jarris, Berevan and Veceri. I exchanged a quick goodbye with Arryn and Jarris, while Daneath and Iesa spoke at length to him. I was occupied with the two warriors that had joined us beneath Yartar.

“Goodbye Myrai,” Berevan said. “And thanks for well…keeping us alive I suppose.”

“And you were right,” Veceri spoke up. “If we didn’t hold the door, based on the pounding, we might never have left.”

“Well,” I replied, “To be able to tell the tale later, is pretty important. We can’t learn from others that came before us unless we survive and share it. Kelemvor wants us to have a full life, so we can pass on the best of our knowledge and works onwards. So …take what you learn and pass it on.”

Both Berevan and Veceri nodded. “We will,” Berevan said, “And perhaps there is more we can learn from a god of death.”
I nodded, and so we departed the Iron Blades’ compound and made our way towards the eastern gate and the docks. While we struck a blow against Vicam, we weren’t sure if we were being hunted. So, we followed Iesa through the alleys, avoiding guards and giving The Lusty Bard a wide berth.

The eastern gate was busy with traffic as always, and the guards either weren’t particularly observant, or we were simply paranoid about having a target on our back. We made our way to the docks and wandered up the river, seeking barge or other water transport that could take us north to Portstown.

It wasn’t long before we found a large cargo barge that appeared to be heading north based on the young crier calling out for passengers. Finally, we could put Yartar, and its politics and machinations behind. Ahead the road forward to Flint Rock and eventually home. But I was chatting with Iesa as we made our way to the pier, when things became...problematic.

“So, you’ve never been on a boat before?” He asked with some surprise. Mo was on his shoulder and looked bored as Iesa and I talked.

I shook my head “No. The only ‘river’ in Sigil is what we call ‘The Ditch’ and no one plys a boat on it. In fact, the only boat I know of is part of a bar called the Black Sail Tavern in the Lower Wards. In fact, no one remembers how a boat even got there to start with.”

“So, did you ever learn to swim?”

“Well, normally the Ditch is just a smelly, grimy and horrible river of muck full of trash and…corpses. But every so often a gate to Oceanus would open and flush it clean. When that happened, all the orphans would run there to play in the water. So, I did learn. I’m not good at it though.”

Iesa shook his head, “I can’t imagine that. Waterdeep has its charm in the poorer sections, but I can’t tell if I am in awe in what you describe as commonplace or disgusted on how it seems one of the worst cities for crime and filth.”

“You never ask about the nice parts!”

“You mean there are nice parts?”

“Well…sure. The Lady’s Ward of course, and the Guild Ward and Market Ward have nice parts. I just…didn’t spend time there.”

“What? Couldn’t fit in?”

“No…not enough jink,” I said rubbing my thumb and forefinger together. “You can’t tell me that Waterdeep is any different?”

“No…No I can’t. Maybe you should visit just to compare.”

“I’d like that actually. It’s got to be better than Yar—”

“You there, stop!” a voice spoke behind us. And as I turned I saw that a guard, wearing the livery of the Waterbaroness had grasped Iesa on the shoulder. I was about to tell of the sod when Iesa spoke with surprise.

“Kingsley!?!” and Iesa started looking around nervously. Slightly ahead of us, Beepu and Daneath had heard Iesa’s exclamation and had turned to see what the fuss was about.

“My…my friend. What have you done? Do you know that Vicam’s men are scouring the docks and bridges looking for you? What happened? You are in danger!” Kingsley was stumbling on his words, clearly surprised to have found us, and his voice was warm and genuinely concerned.

And scared.

“Umm…that’s a long story and we don’t ha—” Iesa started to speak when blood erupted from Kingsley’s chest, spattering Iesa, Mo and me. Mo gave a screech and bolted to the buildings near-by, as we stared at Kingsley in horror. All the blood came from a gaping wound, caused by a javelin that was now lodged through Kingsley’s torso. Looking behind him, we saw the source.

Arakhan retracted his arm and drew his sword. His heavily scaled face was sneering at us. He drew his sword and strode forward, leading a small group of guards towards us.

“That’sss what we do to traitorsss. And the ssssame fate awaitsss you.

My jaw hung open in surprise. Not at the violence directed towards Kingsley and his betrayal. I was surprised that Kingsley was warning us at all. In Sigil, no one ever seemed to stick their neck out to help someone. The Harmonium didn’t have the reputation of being compassionate. They were the ‘Hardheads’; there to enforce order that they defined. And here was Kingsley, slumping the to the ground. His blood was rapidly pooling on the cobblestone. I turned and looked for Daneath and Beepu screaming “Help.” I was not going to let this man die!

Beepu, Iesa and I were dumbfounded and were slow to react to the threat of Arakhan and the four guardsmen with him. Daneath’s reflexes kicked in however and he was truly the man of action.

And his first action was to bolt swiftly straight to the barge. Only after he reached it did he turn and realize that we were engaged with various guardsmen, and that Kingsley lay motionless on the ground. I saw him turn to look at a crew member and shout at him, throwing a coin purse at the sailor. Then he drew his sword and started to make his way back.

Meanwhile, Iesa rolled to his left towards some nearly warehouse buildings and pulled his new bow from his back, and quickly fired an arrow at one of the guards heading towards us. The arrow sank deep into the chest of the guard, but he still charged forward in pain, but unable to close with the swift Knight of the Post.

Beepu quickly recovered from his shock, and pulled a vial from his pouch, while Foggle flew straight up from his shoulder. After a moment he flicked the open vial and a solid bolt of ice shot forth, striking another guard. The bolt exploded into sharp icy shards, lacerating several of the guards, and one fell down to his knees.

Two of the guards looked at me, standing over Kingsley’s body and started forward, swords drawn. I was angry; I expected friends to perhaps take a blow for me. I didn’t expect a stranger to do so. And while we ‘knew’ Kingsley, he really didn’t know us at all. I was not going to let him die saving my skin. It wasn’t right and It wasn’t close to fair.

Staring at the two guards I reached within and pulled at the darkness, and skeletal hands grasped at the throats of the approaching men. Their eyes had the look of fear at first, and then they glazed over as the fell, slumping down onto the ground.
Arakhan was unconcerned and strode forward toward myself and Beepu who was only slightly behind me. The ice and cold didn’t seem to bother him at all, and he wasn’t even bleeding. I swallowed in fear, not particularly prepared to take a beating from the longsword the Dragonborn held.

(See! I can tell Lizardthings apart!)

Arakhan swung at me, but the blade went wide. I sidestepped to the right, hoping to expose his back to the Knight of the Post’s new toy. But Daneath arrived first, swinging his blade. But his strikes were deftly deflected by Arakhan’s shield.
Iesa took another shot at the remaining guardsman, sinking an arrow in his throat. The guard gurgled for a moment, and fall forward onto his knees, and then flat on the earth.

Daneath with renewed energy swung again and landed a solid blow again the captain. He continued to circle him, when suddenly the sneer was replaced with a smile. Arakhan puffed up his chest and blew icy frost on Daneath, Beepu and myself. Daneath took the full force of the icy gale, which shielded Beepu and I from the worst of it. But he too slumped down to the ground.

Seeing Daneath sink to the ground, I prayed to Kelemvor. Kingsley was hurt, but Daneath was in bad shape now. I wanted desperately to save both them, but with Arakhan so close to me, I was equally concerned with living. So, I tried a different tactic. I pulled in measures of light and dark from myself and focused the energy on Arakahn. To force him to stop his assault.
At first it seemed to work; his posture softened, and he pulled up in surprise. But just as quickly he shook his head, and focused his hatred towards us.

Arakhan looked ready to bear down on the two of us when I heard Iesa shout at the captain.

“Hey lizardboy, you look like you hatched from a rotten egg!” . But he followed up his verbal volley with an arrow, which solidly connected with the captains’ shield.

The Dragonborn turned to face Iesa. He bellowed at this new torment, and charged. Iesa smiled and shot at him again, all the while running for his life as the Dragonborn bore down upon him. As the captain moved towards Iesa and the warehouses, I knelt down quickly and touched Daneath on the brow and focused some light into his fallen form. I could see the marks of where the frost had froze his skin, return to a warm pink.

“Get up! Get Kingsley! And get to the barge!” I said quickly, trying to recover my energy to save Kingsley. Arakhan was busy chasing Iesa through the streets, and I could hear the occasional twang of an arrow, followed by it striking the shield.

Daneath looked at me confused, “Wha…why?” he stammered climbing to his feet.

“Because he tried to save our lives, grab him and go!” I shouted at Daneath. He shook his head and turned towards Kingley’s limp form. With a heavy boot he snapped the javelin into two, leaving only a stump in his back and the point out his chest, and he carefully picked up the fallen guard, and made his way to the barge.

“Yes! Yes! Yes! We must make haste!” Beepu said, running ahead of Daneath and jumping aboard, with myself close behind.
“Captain? Captain? Captain?” Beepu shouted looking around for someone in charge. “We need to depart immediately once our friend arrives, but no sooner.”

A stocky dwarf regarded the gnome a moment, and then looked at Daneath. “You know, that gold was to hold the boat for you. And right now, I’m lookin to move on to spend it. Cast off boys!” he barked.

“No wait. I will double the gold if you hold us here a bit longer!” he said, and the captain raised a hand and said.
“Cast of boys. Slow like.” and the sailors continued to remove the last of the lines securing the barge from the pier, but with far less haste than before. They finally removed the last of the mooring lines and slowly the barge broke away, as the oarsmen below, pushed the barge away into the river.

During this exchange, I poured a bit of light into Kingsley. He would not pass into the Fugue today, but I needed time to heal him further. A pair of sailors, had picked up his fallen form and moved him to what appeared to be a tent on the deck. No longer concerned with Kingsley, I turned to look for Iesa.

The delay was just enough, as Iesa came skidding around a corner running for all his worth. He looked panicked and wild-eyed, and Mo was now ahead of him on the rooftops. While Daneath had quick reflexes, Iesa had him beat in swiftness on the ground. He saw the barge was slipping away and focused his efforts to gain speed for a leap across the water.

Close behind running like a lizard possessed was Arakhan. Even the heavy armor was not enough to slow him down, and he looked to make the same leap that Iesa was about to try.

Beepu and I glanced at each other. “I do not think I can penetrate that armor at all,” Beepu said as he flung a bolt of fire at Arakhan to watch it strike its chest with no seeming effect.

“Let’s try something else,” I said and reached within. This time I looked not to the darkness, but to the light instead. And I grabbed at it desperately, pulling its energy down towards the Dragonborn.

From above, a dazzling white beam of energy appeared and struck down from above, squarely hitting the Dragonborn. He howled in pain as the energy coursed through him. The strike stopped him cold, and he turned and moved towards some crates on the side, looking for cover from the assault from the heavens.

I was going to have none of it, so while Beepu tried to strike again with a bolt of fire, the cover of the crates where more than enough to deflect the attempt. No such succor existed from the radiance I was calling and again I called it down to strike my target. Arakhan howled in pain, and realizing the futility of hiding, started to move again towards the barge.

By this time, Mo had jumped and easily cleared the distance across the water to the barge. Iesa, with some amount of grace also easily cleared the distance, landing on the deck with room to spare.

But Arakhan was dressed in much heavier armor. So, while he strode forward towards us, it became clear that he would not be able to make the jump. Instead he bellowed, powerless to stop our escape. I continued to pull light down upon him and the Dragonborn yelled in pain. Finally, he gave up and moved farther away from the dock and the torment I provided.

We stood there, breathing heavily watching Arakhan depart; denied his quarry. We heard the oars start to pull against the weak current of the river, and we began our journey north to Portstown.

I wasn’t going to miss this Blexburgh.

Not one bit.

Session notes:

The fight at the end caused no amount of retconning during the session. The first problem was understanding the simple language of Maxilian’s Earthen Grasp and the phrase “On the Ground.’ Was the dock a ground? During the session the DM said no, which bummed Beepu’s player out as he felt then that he wasted his spell book choice. Later on, after much pursing, this interpretation was deemed to be an error.

A second problem arose with my attempt at casting Charm Person. This actually succeeded at first, and we started to have a dialog, when the DM (correctly) remember that during combat he was have advantage on the saving throw, which he then made. Then he backtracked and reasoned that I should have known that and asked if I wanted to do something else.

Because we couldn’t hit the AC he had (something in the high 17 or 18, and dice were not working for us) I tried again…which also failed. High risk, high reward. I mean how good of a wisdom save could he have? ( 17 and 20 on the dices, so good enough)

Fortunately, his Dex was terrible. Which gets to a point about Myrai. I had a lot of cantrips at that point. About eight. This allowed me to have quite a bit of utility, as only three were damaging attack spells. Eventually I would end up with twelve. I for one loved the flexibility it gave me, pulling out something to turn events in our favor. More on that type of stuff later.

2,123
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Return of Big D - 6/13/2019

The Return of “Big D"

It amazes me often about who lives and who dies. The cruelty and unfairness of it all.
But what amazes me more, is that we get along at all.

We stood on the top deck, winded and watching the Dragonborn fade back into a gathering crowd near the pier. But my thoughts didn’t linger there long, but instead I turned to look around for Kingsley.

The sailors had laid the guard, face up on a trestle table inside of a rectangular tent on the deck. I rushed over to him, and already could hear the muttering:

“Ill-luck to bring a dead man on board.”

“He’s surely a gonner.”

“What are we going to do with him? Pitch him back into the river?”

I pushed the sailors aside and looked over the form sprawled on the table. What I saw did not give me comfort. While I stopped him from dying in the street, his fortunes didn’t look good. The remainder of the javelin still protruded through his chest. While it clearly missed his heart, it must have pierced his left lung. The wound oozed blood, but only because it had clotted around the wooden shaft. But with every breath the wound would bubble with air.

I had seen this before during the war in Sigil. My mentor in the ways of Kelemvor was a healer. He commanded no magic beyond the use of his mind to help. And many were saved by his hand and I tried to learn as much as could. And the memory of this kind of wound filled me with dismay.

Kingsley was going to die. The only question was what would kill him first. He might slowly bleed to death with the shaft of the javelin. He might drown in his own blood. And worst to my mind, was rot would set in, leading to fever. I knew what my mentor would have done out of duty.

But this man had warned us. Saved us. It wasn’t right he pay with his life, for me. For any of us. And unlike my mentor, I had something else.

I had power.

But I didn’t have time.

“Guys! Find some cloth quickly and help me!” I shouted.

Iesa came in first, and his face probably mirrored mine. “Um…how is—” and Daneath and Beepu then stood next to me, both looking at the stricken form of Kingsley. Beepu was holding what appeared to be canvas.

“That does not look good,” he stammered.

“No, and help me, before he leaves to see the fugue,” I said moving to the other side of the table. “But I am going to need your help.” And I looked at each of them in the eyes. “All of you.”

“Sure Myr…but can you heal that?” Daneath asked doubtfully.

“Not with that piece of wood in him. We have to remove it.”

“Wait,” Beepu said concerned. “That will probably cause him to lose whatever blood he has left. Additionally, it might damage his insides.”

I nodded, quickly and listening to Kingsley’s breathing, I realized his death was approaching fast. His breathing was labored, and I could hear the sounds of gurgling in his throat as his blood slowly filled his lungs.

“I am damn well going to try. Take the cloth, and put a bundle of it under him, right where the javelin entered his back.” The three were still staring at him and didn’t make a move.

NOW!” I shouted, snapping them into focus. Daneath came to my side of the table, and slowly rolled the guard towards his right, exposing his back. Beepu took out a dagger and cut some of the cloth he had into two and stuffed a bundle underneath him.

“Ok, lower him down.” He told Daneath. The big warrior carefully returned Kingsley to lying flat on his back. As he was shifted, Kingsley started to cough and convulse.

“Quick, Iesa hold down his shoulders!” and he quickly responded, pressing down on the shoulders, trying to keep Kingsley still. At the same time, I climbed on top of the table and the guardsman him, using my weight to keep him from moving.

“Beepu, wrap some cloth around the shaft and hold it there.” I said as I grasped at my medallion at my neck.

“Daneath, I’m going to say a prayer. When you hear the word ‘live’..pull the shaft out.”

“Like an arrow wound…yeah yeah got it.”

“Beepu, there will be …a lot of blood. Just push down on the cloth. And if I do this right. It’ll stop.”
Beepu, had shifted to the right side of Kingley, and climbed up on the table and knelt on Kingsley’s right, gathering the cloth around the shattered javelin. His hands spread it out and he breathed deeply and nodded. I quickly glanced at Iesa and he nodded, pushing down on Kingsley’s shoulders.

I placed my right hand upon the right side of Kingsley’s chest, and I did so, Daneath moved to Kingsley’s left side, standing closest to the wound exit, and grasped the shaft with both hands and breathed deeply twice and then nodded.

I was now up to me. I closed my eyes and centered myself; reaching to for the strongest point of light within me. I took a breath and steeled myself.

I would save him.

Everything felt to be moving through honey; everything felt slow and delibrate as time slowed to my eyes. I Pulled at the light within me and prepared myself to push it into Kingsley. I then whispered the prayer:

“I will strive to help those to live.”

I could feel the energy start to pour into Kingsley’s form slowly. But on the utterance of the last word, Daneath lexed his muscles pulling the javelin through his chest, wrenching it free. As he did so, I felt Beepu pushing the cloth over the now gushing wound. I could feel the warm blood splashing on my face as it sprayed everywhere. His body bucked and convulsed again. I heard Iesa straining to keep him from moving and causing more damage, as I tried to maintain my position on top.

But as the blood flowed out from Kingsley, I was feeling something very different. Where I was at one point pushing energy into him, now I could feel his soul pulling at it…tearing at it. It felt like I was drowning in water, as he pulled at the energy I had to give.

“I will strive to help those to live,”

I chanted again with some desperation, channeling more and more energy. My heart was beating faster, and I was starting to feel fatigue. But I knew somehow that it wasn’t done. He needed more.

I will strive to help those to live,”

I was shouting, tears in my eyes as I could feel the last of the light leave me. I was at the limit and, I could feel Kingsley’s life pull more and more from me. And then…it let go my own light and it settled back within the guardsman. He stopped moving, and his breathing was less labored.

I opened my eyes and saw the aftereffects of our effort. We were covered in blood. All of us were all panting trying to catch our breath. I moved my right hand over to where Beepu held the cloth and pushed it slowly and carefully aside. At first, he resisted, but after looking at me for a moment, he relented, allowing me to peel away the cloth from the wound.

As I had prayed for, there was no wound. The skin was whole, with only the slightest hint of a scar where the javelin once stuck out of his chest. Just blood, darkening and cooling on his softly breathing chest.
“Did…did…did we…do it?” Iesa asked looking back and forth at Kingsley and me.

I nodded, breathing heavily. “He’s going to need some rest…we all are. Let’s…get Kingsley off the table and put him…somewhere.” I slowly, unsteadily got off the sleeping man.

“I will see what someone can do for him as far as accommodations,” Beepu

“Might want to see about us as well,” Daneath said.

I stepped slowly out of the tent on the deck and had a good look around for the first time. There were a scattering of tents and some tables. A large hole or rather an entrance to the deck below was laden with cargo, and rowing benches on the far sides, allowing the barge to move upstream. On the deck were an assortment of sailors and some passengers, sitting at tables underneath an awning.

All of them staring at me. It took me a moment to remember that I was probably covered in blood. I moved over to an edge on the deck and pulled out a small mirror from my component pouch. I then started the incantations to begin cleaning myself off.

I chuckled to myself, only seven or so days I ago I was doing the exact same thing. But instead of my own death and return, I stopped someone else from crossing over to the fugue. Smiling I returned to midship and then moved towards the tiller. There, a sailor had a steady hand on the wood, while the captain looked over the main. The dwarf seeing me approach, nodded and spoke.

“Hear you brought a dead man onboard,” he growled.

“I seem to remember that one of your men said it was bad luck,” I said walking to the stern of the barge. “Well, he’s quite alive now. That means good luck then?”

“I don’t see how.”

“Another passage to claim fees for?”

The dwarf for the first time cracked a smile, “I guess that may be so. And I can get the rest of my crew to stop whining.”

“And I don’t suppose that the captain might have something that passes for a decent mug of bub…er…drink on board.”

“I might, is my luck holding?”

I smiled, “I pay my tabs.”

“I’ll see about a clean mug then and see if ye can…hold some fire in your belly.”

“Well, it has got to beat the swill in Yartar,”

“Almost anything do that girl,” and the dwarf moved back towards midship and one of the awnings, and then came back out with a mug and handed it to me with a wolfish grin. I grabbed it and could smell the potent vapors. Quickly I took a swallow and could taste the smoke and warmth of the alcohol.

It was heaven. And only then did I become aware of an argument among the some of the passengers:
“I’m sure of it.” A human said almost whispering

“Yeer, imaginin things, that’sss not him.” Said another, a bit tispy from cheap ale.

“Not who?” said a third.

“That’s Big D! I’m sure of it.” Said the first.

“You mean the guy that beat the ‘Apple King?’” Said the second one.

The first one nodded vigorously.

“Well,” the third one started. “You should ask.” Pointing to the table nearby, were I saw Iesa and Daneath both sitting. The two nodded and encouraged the first. The man then stood up and walked toward my friends. He had the look of a first year namer in the present of a Factol; Scared. Awed. Uncertain. He reached the table and spoke.

“Excuse me sir. Are you…Big D?”

The warrior winced as Iesa stifled at laugh. “Well…I…um…yes. Yes I am.” He said, guiltily as Iesa barely contained his laughter.

“And you were the one that brought down the Apple King?”

“Well, I admit…I don’t remember much about that bout.”

“Well I remember!” And from another table sat a trio of halflings, and one gave a glare of hatred at Daneath. He stood and strode slowly over to where Daneath sat. “And I remember putting a dent in your codpiece as a parting gift.”

The three humans that had fingered or argued about Big D before, were unanimous in their exclamation in awe: “The Apple King!”

Daneath’s face was calm and unconcerned. But I could see his hands clenching, readying himself.

“So…you enjoy low blows. Only way you can win?” Daneath said with a touch of contempt.

The halfling’s eyes narrowed with a venomous look, “You entered a ring no-holds barred, and expected a fair fight? Your brains are as big as your balls.”

Iesa at this point stood up and theatrically spread apart his arms as if welcoming the two. “Excellent then! A rematch it is between the Apple King and his nemesis, Big D! Here and now, place your bets.”

I at this point almost choked from swallowing the fiery whiskey. I had a moment of dread of having to put Daneath back together again.

Daneath turned to look at Iesa in a mixture of horror and hatred. “What?!? I am n—” he started to say when he saw the large amount of coin started to be changing hands, placing proposition bets on the outcome. In the meantime, the Apple King had shed his pack and other equipment and was stretching out his limbs in preparation for ‘the match.’

I could see Daneath pull Iesa close to him, and him muttered, “Next time, you step in the ring!” to which Iesa only smiled and clapped him on the back. Daneath stood up and removed his pack and sword belt, placing them on the table. He then strode forward on the deck towards the Apple King.

The King didn’t hesitate, and quickly threw himself at Big D. Whirling around the King attempted to land a pair of firm kicks. But unlike the prior fight, Big D had heavier armor, and the King was having less luck finding open spots to hurt his larger foe.

Big D by comparison started using his new techniques he learned while at the Iron Blades. So a miss resulted in an opening where Big D could land a punch on the chin. A normal person would likely be sent sprawling. But the Apple King, took the blow and rolled, taking the shock and remained upright.

Big D while he could retaliate, had a hard time landing his own punches. Swinging wildly, and frequently whiffing by the halfling. The halfling’s blows when they connected clearly hurt, but the armor again kept that from being common.

It was clear after a moment that unlike their first meeting, the match was far more even. Big D was taking the punishment from the halfling and could endure it. The Apple King relied more on never getting hit, so when Big D did land a punch it comparatively did more damage.

The pair circled each other and kept swinging. The Apple King trying to finesse his way to a victory, and Big D just trying to pound his way to victory. Finally, it was luck that cast the die on the two combatants. Big D, moved forward to swing at the Apple King, when he lost his footing briefly on the rough deck. The Apple King took advantage and dived low and punched high. With a sickening sound of metal crunching, and Big D belatedly covering his apples.

I could only wince as I saw Big D sinking to his knees. The crowd on deck was excited. Mo was hopping up and down on a table, while Beepu had his fingers in his ears as he was attempting to read. But it was Iesa that turned the entire bout on its head.

“He cheated! I saw him throw something on the ground!” and with that statement, the crowd’s cheers hushed, and a dead silence set in. You could hear the wooden boards creak, and the water running by, but that was it. All the oars stopped, the crowd was silent looking back and forth between the Apple King and Iesa. Even Mo stopped hopping up and down. I stood by and took a swallow of my drink, wondering how this was going to end.
Iesa moved forward and pressed his palm against the wood in front of Big D. When he lifted it and turned it over, there was the sheen of oil on his hand. He then pointed his finger at the stunned Apple King. “You cheated!”

The halfling’s face had honest confusion on it and he stammered, “What I didn’t throw any—”

“I saw you,” Iesa shouted. Then another human, the one that was a fan of Big D chimed in.

“I bet you did! You couldn’t win a fair fight!”

The crowd now started to shout and jostle. I put my mug down and went to Daneath and helped move him to the side as the shouting continued and increasing in intensity.

“Did…did I win?” Daneath asked, barely coherent.

I smiled, nodded and replied, “Your fame has once again exceeded you.” I led him to a low tent nearby and helped him inside, when he promptly passed out. I returned to the deck, and it was clear now that the majority of the crowd believed that the Apple King cheated. I also noticed two things about this group.

Firstly, it was clear that the bettors for Big D, were in the majority. But the second thing was more important. Almost all the crew of the barge were betting for Big D, and the Captain was now in the thick of the crowd and siding with his crew.

“You don't cheat on my boat!”

“I did nothing of the sort!”

"So…your calling my crew liars?”

“I. Did. Not. Cheat!”

“Right then. Here’s your stop.”

“Wait, you can’t just leave us here!”

“You start a fight with a passenger, cheat and try to take my crews hard earned coin? Well, now you can take it to the shore and walk it!”

I noticed that the barge was being steered towards the bank. The helmsman was skilled though and kept the barge from running aground or getting caught in the plants.

“But as a courtesy to you; take your passage fees back and you can throw yourself and your two friends off. Unless ye be needing some help with that!” The captain said glaring.

Moments later, the three halflings were on the western bank having swam or waded to shore. They were shaking themselves off when the Apple King turned and shouted.

“Hey! This is the wrong side of the river!”

“So, it is! And your on the wrong side of my manners!”

I made a mental note to myself. Don’t annoy the captain on their boat.

The excitement was over, and I moved towards a small table with my mug. I was tired and just about done for the evening. Night was coming soon and I for once just wanted a good night’s sleep.

At that point, the three humans sat next to me. And one of them started;

“Wow, so you know Big D? Are you a fan or his—”

This is one of those times I rolled my eyes. However, I have come to realize that unless you have an iris or clear whites of your eyes, people tend to miss it. I found that out from Elisna, who as a tiefling had solid red eyes. And the same problem.

“I just…travel with him.”

“Oh, wow that must be…oh WOW! Your eyes…you are…wow can can I?”

“No wait, can I?”

“No me!

And finally, all three said at the same time:

“Get you a drink?!”

I spent the rest of the evening drinking lightly, and shifting mugs, so they ended up drinking what they bought for me. The conversation was somewhat about me how I looked, and a bit about Big D. But it was the same dance of each of them trying to get a coveted spot in my tent to sleep in for the evening.

It must have been near Anti-Peak when the last one passed out, and I could extract myself from the table. I moved again to the stern, where the captain was alone holding the tiller. He glanced at me amused.

“You were right.”

“About?”

“Your good luck. Made more in drinks off them drunks than their passage.”

I looked town on river drifting behind us. “Glad I’m valuable for something then.”

The dwarf cocked his eyebrow and looked at me, nodding.

“Ye'd fit in at Citadel Adbar. Good food. Good drinks. No one pesters you, if you donna want it. Helps that the dwarves wouldn’t hit on you as much.”

“Oh?”

The dwarf nodded, smiling. “Nah. You look too breakable, and you don’t have a beard.”

I laughed at that a long while as the we continued our way north in the night.

Session notes:

This is what happens when you get a dialog that goes like this in the game:

“Kinglsey appears to be dying”

“I heal him.”

Sorta boring.

The second round with Big D was pretty much as is; a bit more even, and accusations of cheating.

2,214
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Entering Portstown Gingerly - 6/19/2019

Entering Portstown Gingerly

(And a special welcome to the folks who have shot my pageviews through the roof!)

My faith spends a lot of time with people preparing for the final days. Either their own, or someone close to them.

So, preparing someone to live is an uncommon experience.

I was up relatively early the next morning, watching the sun rise. The last time I watched it was somewhere between Triboar and Yartar. It was still a novelty to me, and this seemed to be a great way to watch it. Sitting on a chair on the deck, doing essentially nothing but watching. I could look at the color of the sun, and the colors it painted across the landscape as it rose. Closing my eyes, I could see the light, and feel the beginning of warmth on my face. It was a peaceful indulgence.

But truth be told, I was up, not because of the sun. It wasn’t even because I couldn’t sleep much myself, although that did have a small part in it. I was truly awake because I wanted to see Kingsley when he first woke.
During the war in Sigil, there were many patients who after taking a grievous wound that weren’t the same. Most causes were obvious; a loss of a limb, or an eye were enough to break the spirits of a person not prepared to be a casualty. But there were others that while the wound healed, they didn’t act the same. Some were quiet, some were slow, and some were violent. The Gatehouse would often take in the last and keep them from others so they didn’t harm anyone. The others hopefully had family to care for them.

I didn’t know where Kingsley might land. We didn’t know anything about him. Did he have family in Yartar? Anywhere near? What would he do now? Was his mind intact? Hopefully today we would know.
I heard a soft groan from another tent and I turned my head hoping. But the quick hoot of Foggle, made it clear who was stirring. And not long after, Beepu crawled out of the tent that we had shared. He pulled himself upright and stretched. Seeing me he both yawned and waved.

“Morning. I guess you slept well,” he remarked.

“Well, once the three humans passed out on the deck I could think about it.” I said gesturing at the still forms by the table nearby. “Daneath and Iesa were up longer, still talking when I finally called it. Thanks for…being a gentlegnome last night?”

“Oh well…yes. I do not take as much room as the others, so it only made sense. And besides I do have manners.”

“Yes…yes you do.”

“Ahem, any sign of the others?”

I shook my head, “They were snoring right before sunrise. Saw Mo somewhere, probably looking for food or something.” And I looked behind Beepu at the tent that held Kingsley. “And nothing from our…friend yet.”
“Yes. Quite the conundrum. Hopefully he can tell us a little more on what we left behind.”

It was then I could a hear a groan from Kingsley’s tent. I pulled myself onto my feet and walked over to the closed tent. What I heard was some muffled whispering and frantic searching. Presently, the flap to his tent was flung aside and Kingsley, wild-eyed and confused emerged. He stood up and was starting to look around when I addressed him.

“Are you feeling better Kingsley?”

He turned to look at me with surprise. “I…well…I guess? I thought I was dreaming. But I don’t know what was dream and what was real.” Looking around for the first time his confusion continued, “I don’t quite know where I am for that matter.”

“I’m told this is the River Surbrin, and you are heading north on a barge. What do you remember?”

“Well…I…swore I was dead. I remember seeing you and the dark-haired fellow. And I…I was stabbed? Yes…I remember that. But—” he looked at the tunic he wore, that had a clear hole on the left side. But looked under it, clearly trying to find something else.”

“Well, you did have a javelin sticking through your chest.”

He looked puzzled, “But I don’t see a wound...or blood even.”

“No, you would not,” Beepu said. “Between Myrai and I, we cleaned up most of your blood. And she used some magic to close your wound.

“So…I didn’t die?”

“Well, if we didn’t remove the javelin, you probably would have. Seemed too good a person to visit the fugue so soon.”

Kingsley stopped looking for the wound and looked at each of us, “Well…thank you. I owe you my—”

“No,” I said. “We’re even. Your warning probably saved us. So…why did you?”

He stood there thinking a moment before talking again, “I had been a house guard for about six years, and the last year had been strange for certain after Vicam arrived. Then…Nestra seemed to change. I put it out of my mind for a while, but when I saw you and the other fellow I knew something was going to happen. And something did but they wouldn’t say what. Had us search the rooms and the guests. Then the next night was even stranger.”

“How so?” Beepu asked.

“Well, I was downstairs, when the upstairs sergeant called for help. Then all of us were trying to break down the door to Nestra’s room. We finally made it through, and there was dirty smoke in the air, but nothing else. No one else. It was another guard that found the hidden door, and we all charged down the stairs only to be blocked in a room with another door. At that point some of us were told to go back upstairs and secure the house. Did that, got little sleep and then in the morning we were told to start looking for several guests. Her for certain, and you being the only gnome at the party, plus the other two men. I had no idea why, and I was just surprised to see you at all. You just didn’t seem the type to cause trouble. It didn’t feel right somehow,” he rambled, recalling the haze of the last several days.

“Well, Eragon—” I started

“Arakhan,” Beepu corrected.

“Right, Arakhan. He seemed to take it personally that you told us. Thank you.”

“Well…I’m glad I could…help.” Kingsley said, his face plainly looking like it needed to sort things out.
“It was a great help,” said Iesa who had crawled out from his tent. “After leading Arakhan around the docks for a bit, he clearly wanted to kill us. And I for one appreciate being alive.”

“I have to agree with you there; he wasn’t pulling hits with his sword. Probably would have bled right there if Myrai hadn’t of helped me,” Remarked Daneath.

I gamely shrugged, “Glad to help…we should try harder, so I don’t have to maybe?”

“So Kingsley,” Beepu started to ask. “Did you leave anyone behind?”

“Wha—oh no. Family passed away a while ago. Don’t have a wife or anything either,” he said, almost disappointedly.

“No one?” I said frowning. “I mean it could be worse, but somehow I don’t think you can go back to Yartar.”

“No…probably not.” He said glumly.

“Well cheer up! I can write you a letter of reference! This barge should continue up to Silverymoon. If you want you can go to my mother’s place there, and she can help you get established!” Said Beepu enthusiastically.

“R—really? You would that?”

I turned to look at Beepu, “You can do that?”

“Yes, yes,” Beepu said waving his hand nonchalantly. “Least we can do. There was no way for Kingsley here to know that he would be, well ending his employment. So, it is the least I can do to get you restarted.”

I was surprised, and a little envious. I could only offer what I had. I didn’t have a family like Beepu. And have the confidence to offer what he did, with the certainty that his mother would help. The same offer that I had from Beepu for his father’s help. Beepu was not the easiest to get along with, but I wouldn’t ever say that he wasn’t generous.

“Well…thanks. That will help,” Kingsley said with some tears in eyes. “Now If you don’t mind, I’m starved…I need to…”

“Please! Don’t worry about it. It’s not your week to die, and perhaps the change will work out for the best” I said hopefully. And with that he started toward one of the tends, where some cheese and bread were already laid out.

“That’s generous of you,” said Daneath. “You are sure your mother will help?”

“Of course! No question at all!”

“Well, that’s good. Now, what do we do about Arakhan?” said Iesa.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well…he might not give up easily. We might need to disguise ourselves at the next stop just in case.” Iesa said.

“Makes sense, but can you do it?” Daneath said.

“That could be challenging,” Beepu frowned.

“Bet I can,” Iesa said and then started looking at me. In fact, all three were.

“Wait…what? I can just cover up under a hood, right?”

“Well, that’s the first thing that a person searching for another looks for; someone trying to hide features.” Iesa said. “We’re going to have to do something about your hair.”

I felt defensive suddenly, “I…well…sure…I guess. Nothing permanent right?”

Iesa smiled, “No, not at all. But…I don’t know what to do with the eyes.”

Beepu was frowning, “Well…we could cover her eyes. As if she were blind.”

“Any magic you could use?” Daneath asked Beepu.

“My illusions would work only if she stood still. I will have to think of something else.”

“We have some time to figure it out right?” I asked, somewhat alarmed at the attention about how I looked.

“Well, we’ll need an idea by tomorrow, before we dock,” Daneath said.

“And what are you berks going to do? I mean he’s distinctive per Kingsley,” and I pointed at Beepu.

“Fake beard and a burlap sack. He keeps Foggle hidden,” Iesa replied, and Beepu shrugged and nodded without much fuss.

“And the Big D?”

“Fake mustache and braid his hair.”

I blinked,” And yourself?”

“Well, I was going to cut down my hair, so I had some for the beard, and darken my skin, and wear a hat.”

“A hat.” I less asked, than stated the obvious.

“Myrai, you are just very…distinctive. The gold and the eyes are dead giveaways.”

“I bet he doesn’t even show.” I said.

“Can we take the chance?” Daneath asked?

“I…I guess not. We’ll take care of it tomorrow I suppose.” I said defeated. Turning away to look at the passing water, I realized that it was an odd argument to have. It made sense that we might be looked for. So why was I putting up a stink about it?

Frowning I thought about it and I realized that deep down…I wanted to be distinctive. Like it or not it was me. I never wanted to hide who I was in the Gatehouse, in Sigil, or even when I first arrived a hood was fine. But the prospect that someone might actively look for me and I had to hide was uncomfortable.

The next morning found myself sitting down on the edge of the deck, with Iesa seated on a stool behind me. He was rubbing some smelly oil through my hair that he claimed would alter the color. He had already trimmed his hair down, and honestly it looked like an improvement. It was strange having another person work their hands through my hair like this. It actually felt a bit relaxing, as he gently pulled sections of my hair and coated it.

All the time I was thinking about my eyes. How could one disguise them? I sat and thought, and something then just fell into place. One of the incantations I knew could alter aspects of my voice and presence. Could I use that? As I thought about it, I decided it was worth a try.

“Iesa, what color is my hair turning out?”

“Well, I would describe it as coppery at the moment. It doesn’t really want to get much darker.”

“Ok,” and I remembered that green eyes worked well for that color, and I sat and thought about Beepu’s eyes. I then focused both light and dark energy, and painted magic over my eyes. I pulled out the mirror from my pouch and looked.

The hair was coppery alright; metallic copper but not as shiny as my natural gold. But my eyes were now a bright green. I focused a little and toned it down to be less vivid and after some trying had a look that I could live with.

As a red head I was going to be tolerable. But the first thing I discovered was that I had to constant put energy in keeping up the appearance. It just wouldn’t stick around for very long. The second thing I found out was that it was giving me a headache. At least I knew when the spell was working.

“Well, I’m about done.” Iesa said. “Hope I didn’t hurt you.”

“Same here, and no you didn’t.” I stood up on the deck turned to face Iesa, raising his chin as I bent down. His eyes locked with mine, and I watched his jaw drop and his eyes blink with surprise.

“How did you—”

“A bit of effort, even now. I need to actively keep it up. But I gather it works for you.” I said with a smirk.

“Looks good, what else could you want?”

“A wide brimmed hat obvious. This actually hurts to do.”

“I’ll keep an eye out.”

“Great. Are we the only ones getting off in Portstown?” I asked.

“Yes, everyone else is travelling north past the ruins of Nesmé and eventually Silverymoon. That includes Kingsley.”

“Well, then we don’t have to explain to others leaving the boat then.”

“Nope. And hopefully this will be enough. Oh, before I forget here is some coin I owe you,” and he passed me a small bag of coin.

“From our findings?”

“Yes…minus some expenses.”

“Expenses? Like the orphans that were waving their hands at you as we left Yartar?”

“Ah…yes. I didn’t think anyone noticed.”

“I don’t think the others did. But I’m sure they could use the help,” I said approvingly.

“Well let’s get ready to leave.” Iesa said, clearly happy that the discussion on his soft spot was over.

It didn’t take long to get our meager things. Daneath was surprised at my new look, and his new braids screamed dwarf. Beepu looked like a poor gnome with a patchy beard and simply nodded at my new look. Foggle was hidden…somewhere. While Mo was bounding around the boat.

“Isn’t Mo somewhat distinctive?” I asked.

“Yes, but I’ll carry him in my pack once he burns off some energy,” Iesa replied.

The barge was pulling toward the dock and the crew was getting ready to cast mooring lines to fasten the barge to the jetty. As this was going on, I took a moment to thank the captain for the journey. He looked at me and laughed, saying he wasn’t sure if he was drinking more now or before to have a missed a second woman on board.

Finally, we said our goodbyes to Kingsley. Beepu gave him a letter, and Iesa gave him some coin as well to “Help him get restarted.” Kingsley had tears in his eyes and simply said “Thank you.” I touched him and gave a simple blessing.

Bless Kingsley to live until his appointed time,

So, his deeds will live forever,

So be the will of my Lord, so when Death comes,


All will know his worth forever.


He looked at me and nodded and asked, “And when is my time?”

I shook my head, “It’s not for us to know. But I’m pretty sure it’s not today, and probably not tomorrow.”

“What about the day after?”

“Pretty good if you don’t annoy the captain.”

“I guess that will do. Thanks, Myrai.”

And with that final good bye, the four of us walked down the gangplank and stepped into Portstown.

So, if I ever said that I was disappointed in Triboar or Yartar, looking around I realized that indeed it could get worse. Portstown was optimistic in being called a town. It couldn’t be larger than twenty buildings, which would put it at half the size of Triboar. And it was far poorer, with most of the buildings in rough shape. Even calling the buildings, ‘buildings’ was a stretch in most cases. At least one was a burned-out shell and others ready to fall apart. The main road was a muddy track leading through the town. Few horses of any kind were visible hitched by the buildings, and only a few people were making their way around the town.

“Guys, other than Beepu and his sack, we’re going to stand out just on the virtue of the towns inhabitance being this poor.” I observed.

“That is why I chose this sack. It gives off the vibe of poor and unwashed. I learned that from ‘the Dirty One’ here.”

“Hey! I was in jail, they don’t give baths in jail.” Iesa said hurt.

“Can we move, I’ve got a large headache already,” I said resisting the urge to rub my temples.

“Whatever, we need to find that smith,” Daneath said, his patience already a bit thin. He was eager to get on the next step.

“Keep your ears open then,” I said and started down the main road, and the rest followed. Daneath stayed with me, and Beepu and Iesa stuck to each other on the other side of the street. As we made our way, we quickly found the local Inn, but also heard that distinctive sound of hammer on an anvil. Daneath and I looked at each other, nodded and made our way to the noise.

On the very edge of Portstown, stood a smithy. It was a large building, larger than I would have guessed for a town of this size. As we approached I whispered to Daneath.

“Let me go in first…I have some actual business I want done.”

“Business?”

“Yes, an actual transaction. Once that is done, he might be more willing to talk. Wait for the others and see if anyone else is paying attention.”

“Sure, why not. It’ll let others catch up anyway.”

Nodding, I strode into the smithy.

It probably would have been dark for most eyes, as there wasn’t a light source anywhere, and most of the windows were shuttered. But to me, everything was brightly lit with no shadows at all. But what I saw on the walls surprised me.

Large weapons; huge axes and blades were fastened to the walls. They were hung above the reach of people, which told me these were trophies, and not items for sale. The walls otherwise had various tools, horseshoes, some weapons and shields. Standing tall at the anvil was a grey skinned half-orc. He didn’t wear a shirt or smock, and his chest was covered in scars from weapons and burns. He barely lifted his eyes to look at me as I entered.

“What did you want?” he asked simply in a deep gruff voice. His tone was what I expected, someone who talked when necessary.

“I’m looking to have some work done on a shield,” I said as I browse over the weapons that hung on racks on the side of the smithy. There weren’t a lot, but what was there was good quality.

“Work? The shield you are carrying barely looks used. What work could you need done?”

“I would rather the sign of my faith be on display for my friends…and foes to see.”

The half-orc snorted a moment, “So what, they fear you? That might be a stretch,” he said derisively. “So, what did you want on the front then?”

“A set of balance scales held aloft by a skeletal arm”

The half-orc looked up at me and stared, his eyes focusing on me. As he did so, I pulled out my holy symbol out from under my armor with the image I described.

“You aren’t what I would expect for a doomguide.” He said, looking at me carefully.

“Death can wear many guises. Why would his faithful…or acolytes be different?” I said with an edge of challenge in my voice.

“True enough. I have seen many battles and many deaths. And some are more pleasing than others. Did you have a preference on how it is done?”

“Well, if I had a day to have it done what could you do?”

“I’m not much for gilding, encrusting or untherin styles”

“Untherin?”

“It’s an eastern technique, where you make a dovetail channel and pound gold flush into it. There’s also fake Untherin which is a simple pattern that you hammer gold into. Works just as well. But it isn’t exactly scary, and it takes a week. But what I can do etch it and fill in spots with lampblack. Seems more fitting.”

“Alright, that sounds good. So, how about I buy a shield from you, and you etch it, and I pick it up tomorrow evening? You can take this one as part of the trade.”

“Ten gold then for the shield and work with the trade,” he said.

“Done,” and I pulled out a pouch from beneath my armor and removed five gold coins. “Half now in good faith with one small request.

He took the coins from my hand and looked at me quizzically. “Request?”

“Yes. On top of the business I have, my friend outside has some questions, and you might be able to answer.” I then turned and raised my voice to say, “Hey D!”
The half-orc frowned, “I’m no innkeep with rumors.” As Daneath came inside with the other two in tow.

“Well, thank you for your business. And I do hope you can help.” I said, and I looked at Daneath.
Daneath was taking in the trophies and tried to start off casually;

“So…wow, how much is that axe up there?” he said completely missing its importance.

“It’s not. Is that the question?” the half-orc growled.

“Uh…no. You see I am looking for someone and I was pointed your way by a mutual…acquaintance.”

“Not ‘friend.’ Who?” the Half-orc bluntly asked, clearly on edge.

“Leoras of Yartar.” Daneath said as nonchalantly as he could.

“Leoras. Not a friend. And why would he send you here?”

“Because you might know someone that can help me find someone else.”

“Know some people. Do you even know who you are looking for?” he replied, his arms crossed. His agitation was visible and clear in his voice.

“Someone with a tattoo.”

“Look. I don’t have time to play with words. I have a commission to do,” nodding at me, and turned to get a shield that hung from the rack nearby.

The headache was getting to me at this point, and my patience was running out. “D…show him.” I said simply pointing at my own arm.

Daneath looked at me a moment with a pained expression and then nodded. He rolled up his sleeve and exposed the snake tattoo on his arm. “This tattoo.”

The half-orc turned to look, and he looked like he was about to drop the shield as his eyes opened wide.

“No. I won't help you.” He said shaking his head slowly and with a touch of fear in his voice.

Daneath looked at Iesa with a puzzled look, and Iesa simply shrugged in surprise. Turning back to the half-orc.

“What? We need to talk to someone who has this mark. Why will you not—”

“Because,” he interrupted “I swore not to.”

“Please,” I appealed. “We’ve come a long way and its important. If there anything you can do…”

The smith thought for a long time, and finally nodded and raised a meaty hand. “I won’t lead you. I’ll tell you where to go. But I can’t guarantee you’ll…”

“Get what we want?” Iesa asked.

The half-orc turned to look at Iesa and said:

“Survive.”

Session notes:

Ever notice that its hard to find French toast, or French bread, or wines from Burgundy in D&D? Well, you also can’t do Damascening either, which is a style of inlay used on armors. So Unther has now replaced Damascus.

Source of this type of stuff below:

https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/dect/hd_dect.htm

2,781
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Grove of the Brethren - 6/26/2019

The Grove of the Brethren

There is nothing a bottle of bub can’t fix.
Except the real problem.

“This seems like a setup,” Iesa muttered.

“Why is that? Because it always is?” I retorted. We had left Portstown and were on the road out. I had dropped the magic concealing my eyes. However, the headache was still there and had not faded.

“No…yes…right…Crap. It’s too convenient is all!” Iesa stammered. “A short hike outside of town, and follow a path after hitting a stream? That’s it? “ he exclaimed, as Mo skittered ahead from shrub to shrub.

“You want a long arduous quest? I for one just want to find my father. If this happens to be the shortest path, so be it.” Beepu lectured.

Daneath was silent throughout the discussion. His face was knotted in concentration, but he was unwilling to share his thoughts. Ever since the half-orc had reluctantly gave us directions, Daneath seemed to be steeling himself for something. A fight? An argument? I couldn’t tell.

“Well remember that the smith also didn’t say we would survive,” Isea tossed back. “Why should I feel comfortable.”

I stop and turn to look at Iesa, “Fine, let’s go back now.”

“What?” He was taken aback and looked at me in surprise. In fact, everyone had stopped and were looking at me.

“We came all this way, to get answers and all you are doing is shouting screed.” I said leveling a gaze at Iesa. “I don’t care if you’re afraid or paranoid. I already know you don’t like it. But what I am not hearing, is something better to do. So, either get ready to dance, or go home. But tell me now, so I stop wasting my time.”

Iesa’s mouth hung open a moment taken aback and stunned into silence.

“Let’s get this over with,” Daneath said, continuing down the trail. “Coming?” he glared at us and turned to continue down the path.

Iesa and I stared at each other for a moment and we both nodded. We knew we were heading into trouble, fighting now was a waste of energy. We all followed Daneath, making his way on the trail.
The directions were simple enough:

“Follow the main road out of town until you hit a stream. Just before the water, you should be able to find a game trail on your left. Take that trail until you enter a grove of trees. What you are looking for will be there.” The half-orc said grimly.

“And what are we looking for exactly?” Daneath had asked.

“They’ll find you.”

That was all we had to work with. It had been a while since we had found a game trail and were making our way to some trees settled into a small valley. Considering that this wasn’t even going to take a day, on one level this did seem too easy. But something else was bothering Iesa and I couldn’t finger what exactly it was. So, there was only one recourse.

“Beepu. What’s got Iesa going on edge?”

“Oh. That is simple. A woman.”

I wasn’t sure I believed what I heard. “A woman?”

“Yes. As Iesa and I were looking for the smith, he ran into an elven woman, and I he had some words with her. If I did not know any better, I would have said he was smitten.”

“And? What happened?” I was very curious at this point for reasons I didn’t even understand.
“Well…nothing? As I recalled he approached her, said something, and she gently laughed and walked away.”

“That’s it? You didn’t hear more?”

“I was busy looking for the smithy, and it did not seem important.”

“You know Myrai, if you are jealous you could just say so,” Iesa said with a wicked grin on his face.
I could feel my face flushing in embarrassment. “What? Of you? Not likely. Mo on the other hand…you might break his heart.” I said glibly and strode ahead of Iesa so he couldn’t see my face.

“Sure Myrai. Whatever you say,” Iesa chuckled.

Jealous? Why would I be jealous? I liked Iesa certainly. And he was attractive in that unkempt style of his. Clean him up a bit, and he could easily make many women swoon I was certain. But beyond flirting with me on occasion, he never really showed interest in me.

Did I miss something? He had a cute and playful personality, but I never gave anymore thought to it than that. Should I have?

That had to wait, as we crossed some boundary and found ourselves in the outskirts of the grove.
Now Foggle was flying about ahead of us and slightly above us. Before we had arrived in Yartar, he did this daily. So much so I frequently forgot he was around. So it had been a long while since he had done this type of ranging. At some point though, Beepu stopped in his tracks and looked around flustered.

“Where are you?” he muttered to himself aloud.

“What’s wrong Beepu?” Daneath asked.

“Foggle. I…I cannot feel him.”

“Wasn’t he just ahead of us?” Iesa said. “Perhaps we should catch up with him.”

“I am inclined to agree,” Beepu said, and we jogged along the path. At a certain point when we ‘crossed-in’ the grove he stopped again, looking confused. And then Foggle, flew down and landed on his arm.

“What happened?” I asked.

Beepu focused a moment and then looked at me. “It seems we have crossed into something. He could not talk to me, but it was more than that. From his perspective we disappeared from his sight as he watched.” Beepu looked at each of us in turn and then said. “We have crossed into a magical field of some kind. We should be cautious.”

Now we were under the shade of the trees, I could feel the hairs on my neck rise. The air felt alive. An almost primeval air surrounded us, and the whole atmosphere felt…The trees felt like they were closing in, watching us. I could see it on everyone’s faces that they felt the sudden change. Even Mo, who normally charged around chattered, was silent and apprehensive.

We moved slowly through the trees, looking and searching for something we couldn’t see. We knew we were entering someone’s demesne, but little idea who…or perhaps what. But as far as we knew, and we were warned; we were likely uninvited guests. And perhaps unwelcome as well.

Finally, we entered a clearing, with a solitary oak in its center. A small brook ran through the center, circling around the large tree. Various bushes, and ground foliage was scattered around ground. Some wildflowers had blossomed, giving the floor of the clearing vibrant yellows and violets. It looked tranquil.

And yet, it felt anything but. The omnipresent feeling of being watched. No being judged hung there in the air. There was no birdsong or rustling of animals in the brush. This included Mo, who had drifted to Iesa, and now sat on his shoulder. Beepu’s minion seemed loud by comparison, with metal gears whirring as it took off to fly above us.

We were looking around apprehensively, when I spotted her. Standing next to the oak tree I saw a woman leaning against it, watching us. Her skin was a deep brown, her eyes had the lightest grey. At first, I thought she was an elf, but then I realized I was seeing something far more fey. Her fingers were longer and thinner, trailing off into long tendrils. Her hair moved in the breeze in a cascade of oaken leaves attached to flexible shoots that hung loosely down to her waist. All of this concealed the fact that she wore no clothes, and probably had never had.

A Dryad, I thought to myself. I heard of them from stories. The Sensates had many stories about many of the fey creatures as they were fairly common in Aborea, where the Sensates had an enclave established for training and…rehabilitation. The stories told were lumped into two main categories. The first was all fantasy and romance, where protagonists of all type chased the maidens of the wood for a dalliance. Fun stories and of course the most common. But the second group were more practical and interesting. Dryads were fey and were fickle. They were focused on their domains with care and joy; but that did not include trespassers. Especially, non-Fey. While I knew enough about creatures of belief to know how they looked upon mortals as barely animals, the Fey would take a very similar perspective; even to true creatures of belief. For while they weren’t truly immortal, they had all the attitude of one. What they wanted is what they got. If they needed a man for something, they would take them. The fantasies are all from then ones who leave their clutches. The second set of stories tells the rest of the story of the ones who never leave…dead or at all.
All of which were enough to take me aback, but it was the severe look on her face that gave me chills.

‘We were not wanted here,’ was what its face said.

Daneath broke the silence of the grove first, “Ahem. We were hoping that—”

“Leave this place. He is under its protection,” the Dryad said in a strongly accented voice. She was now no longer leaning against the tree, but had taken a step forward, fists clenched and staring hard at us.

Iesa spoke up, “We need to just talk to him, and we’ll be gone.”

“No.”

“This doesn’t have to be a conflict,” I said hopefully. “We don’t need to fight.”

“I…disagree,” she simply said.

From the bushes burst out a barrage of sharp spines. Daneath reacted first, placing his shield in front of him and ducking for cover. I was lucky with several grazing me, and two more splatting against my shield. I threw a bolt towards the dyrad and hit her in the leg. Beepu, took a single needle as a flesh wound, and started to move to a nearby rock for cover. but it was Iesa that took a full shot to the chest, with blood spraying everywhere as he sprinted towards one of the bushes.
The dryad face appeared frozen, regarding us all with an indifferent expression. She raised her arm palm up and then flexed, closing her root like hands into a balled fist. A greenish emanation of light appeared around her hand and I could feel the energy spread out from her.

From the ground, first the grass grasped at my legs, and then roots erupted and wound around my legs and ankles. They pulled at me, holding me in place. Beepu had some cover but was equally immobilized by the grasping roots. As for Iesa, he had already moved far from the grasping tendrils, and Daneath easily broke their hold. Unrestrained, he moved towards one of the bushes spitting needles at us.

I watched with surprise, as the bushes started to move on their own accord. What once appeared to be a simple shrub now looked to be a short-hunched figure, covered in conifer needles. And now, they had a single focus; Iesa. There were three of these vicious bushes all throwing needles at Iesa as he scampered looking for cover, as he tried to safely close with one. Fortunately, Daneath’s break from the spell holding Beepu and I was a welcome distraction.

Iesa closed with a bush and made a quick cut with the tip of his rapier and managed to lop off a side of the bush. Unfortunately, the bush swiped at Iesa, and a knotted ball of needles struck him in the gut, winding him and causing him to sink to his knees. Daneath however led with his shield and cut the bush down, while more needles bounced off his armor and shield.

As I saw Iesa fall, I worried less about the roots holding me fast, and instead called the light within, to close Iesa’s wounds and put him back into the fight. The shrubs from Baator however focused their fire on Iesa and Daneath, giving me breathing room. Or rather us.

From behind his rock, Beepu had pulled out some clay from his pouch and quickly made a small hand with it. And with a couple of words, the earth erupted around the dyrad and took the form of a giant hand, which grasped and squeezed the fey. If it caused her pain or any type of discomfort, it wasn’t obvious. She made no noise, and her face kept the same flat expression. But I could hear what sounded like creaking wood coming from her, as she did struggle to free herself.

My magic had the effect I expected, and Iesa quickly scrambled to the next shrubbery, parrying its blows until Daneath closed and chopped at it with his heavy sword. The shrub momentarily distracted twisted to defend itself, giving Iesa an opening, allowing him to cut the second bush down. The last shrub threw more needles at Iesa and moved away, trying to keep distance from the pair. This barrage was as accurate as the last, and Iesa was faltering again.

The Dryad twisted in frustration, unable to move and act. But it still held us fast with its spell. It turned to look at Beepu with that frozen face. I would have felt more comfortable if she looked angry, or in pain, or even annoyed. That inhuman look of permanent disdain was she offered. She didn’t even utter a scream.

I could only pour more energy into Iesa, unable to strike a blow at anyone. But Beepu, focused and briefly released her only to grab and crush her body again. Now the wooden creaking sound became louder, and the Dryad twisted more and more attempting to free herself from her bonds. But he then threw a bolt of fire striking her form.

I can’t unhear that sound; it was primal. A horrid mixture of fear and revulsion as the fire licked over her. Her face finally changed from impassive to one of frustration and fear.

Fortunately, keeping Iesa alive was enough for the Daneath and he to strike down the third shrubbery, with Daneath taking a mild punch to the gut with a ball of needles. Now that didn’t have to pour more energy into him, I threw another bolt of energy at the dryad, striking it in the chest. But it was Beepu that finished her off. First there was this sickening sound of wood cracking and shattering, followed by another bolt of fire to her midsection. The Dryad then lost…cohesiveness, as her body broke apart into ribbons of fiber, leaves and loam. And as she collapsed, so did the ensnaring magic holding myself and Beepu in place.

We were looking around a moment, for more murderous vegetation when we heard the unexpected sound of slow clapping.

Turning around there standing on a rock in the open field, was a halfling. He was unassuming, with tousled black hair and bright blue eyes, and his weathered brown face had the slightest smile upon his lips.

“It was about time that you arrived,” he spoke confidently.

Daneath’s eyes narrowed “We were what? Expected? And who are you?”

“Yes. Our organization values its privacy, and we do try to keep tabs on people that are important to us. And my name…is not important for this conversation.”

“What organization are we talking about? Some part of the Zhentarim?” Iesa said confused.

“No…not the Zhentarim. But, I am bound by certain strictures and codes. So, without the correct currency I can’t say more.” He said, crossing his arms in front of him, and looking at us expectantly.
Beepu and I looked at each other blankly; neither of us had a clue what currency he was talking about. Daneath’s mouth opened and closed as he stood thinking about what the strange halfling wanted.

Suddenly, I heard the ringing sound of a thumb flipping a coin. The halfling caught it in the air and then held it up. It was more of a large token than a proper coin, but on one side was the same mysterious looped snake symbol, that was tattooed on Daneath’s arm.

“Is that what you are looking for?” Iesa asked with the faintest tremor in his voice.

The halfling regarded the piece, “It is. And it buys you some answers…and your lives today.”

“Our lives?” Beepu exclaimed. “While I do appreciate the offer, I do question the necessity!”

“To be fair, it was essentially paid for by his master,” the halfling said. “But the organization normally keeps its secrets close.”

“What organization exactly?” I asked feeling more than a little lost.
The halfling looked down and smiled, “The Kerhak. We…adherents serve our master’s ends. We are given power from him, and we are to use them for his ends alone. Your master was one of these adherents. As am I.”

“So, you know my master then? Where is he?” Daneath asked.

“North I assume, travelling. Running in fear I suppose.”

“Fear? Fear of what?” Daneath pressed.

The Kershak, his master. Because he broke one of the rules in accepting the power. The Kershak will always reclaim his power. As it grants many abilities and long life. But if one of us has children, it…diminishes us all. Makes us weaker and makes it harder to reclaim. And so, it is your Master, your father ran.”

Daneath was taken aback, “What…he never said—”

“No, he didn’t. He did expect you to find me. He said as much when he travelled here with an older gnomish fellow.”

Beepu’s ears pricked up, “What? They were here…together?”

“From what I know they were..friends. But I couldn’t tell you how or why they travelled. He paid dearly for me to…delay the inevitable.”

“The inevitable?” Daneath asked fearfully.

“The sins of the father must be paid in blood. His blood and his progeny.” The halfling said simply.

“I thought you said we paid for our lives already,” Iesa said concerned.

“And you did. You all will walk out of here alive today. But should you return, you would not walk out again. And at some point, in the future, I will not be able to delay the inevitable either.”

“Great. Daneath, I don’t know what to say but sorry?” Iesa said guiltily.

“Well, your brother I am certain appreciates your concern,” the halfling said smugly with his grin growing wider.

“Wait…what did you say?” Iesa looked at the halfling in shock and involuntarily took a step toward the halfling.

“You hadn’t figured it out? Why else would you have a Kershak coin? You are both prodigal sons of your father. How wonderful. I am…glad I could at least clear up that mystery for you.”

“You are certain of this?” Daneath said.

“Of course, unless you think your father is a liar? But I wouldn’t worry about it much. Your fate is written; the Kershak will have his blood. And the blood of those who help his quarry escape his wrath.”

Beepu started to look concerned, “Wait what?”

“Oh yes, your father I suppose is a marked man as well. As are you. Both of you,” he said pointing to Beepu and I.

“This has got to be a soddening joke,” I said uncomfortably.

“No. The Kershak isn’t known for its sense of humor.”

“So, why are you letting us go then,” Daneath asked intently, becoming more alarmed.

“Because, I…respected your father and owed him a debt. It is now paid in full and then some,” He replied mildly. “I will not pursue you…for now. I do hope you find your fathers. The next time we meet, will likely be your last,” and with that utterance the halfling jumped down from his stone onto the earth. But we never heard him land or saw him walk away. He simply vanished from sight, leaving the four of us standing confused in the diming light of the afternoon.

After a moment Beepu spoke, “So. How could you be such a dolt Iesa? You have a map with this mysterious Kershak symbol on it. A mysterious coin with the symbol on it All mysteriously in your possession from a mysterious benefactor. We have Daneath with it as a mysterious tattoo. So, it is no mystery that you are brothers. The only mystery is why my Father is involved.”

I looked up at the sky. I had heard the story and the threats and was quite done with it. “I’m going back to town,” I said and started back towards the trail that let us in.

“Myr…what’s wro—” Iesa started and reached for my shoulder to stop me and turn me around, when

I swung with my fist and punched him dead in the face.

“OW! What was that for?!?”

“For dragging me into…this!” I said, “First you get me killed wandering in the plains, even though we had a map. You have me brought back in a barmy bargain with a criminal with ties to the Lord of the Nine, and now…now I find myself marked for death, just because I travelling ‘helping’ you.” And I started stomping off in frustration.

“Where are you going Myrai?” Beepu shouted. "To the Inn, to get drunk since I can’t go home.”
I was not in the mood to talk and led the way back to Portstown. Beepu was following right behind me, but said nothing. Iesa and Daneath were talking, excitedly however. The threat to their lives far from their conversation, as they were excited to be brothers.

It was dark when we reached the inn, and I had barely remembered to cast the magic to cover my eyes again right as I walked inside. The lower floor was segmented into two sections, one being a general common room, the other was a little nicer, presumably for those with more coin. I headed straight to that section. My foul mood must have been on full display, because the tapkeeper looked concerned as I marched up to his bar and growled for a bottle of whiskey. The keeper just nodded nervously and handed me a bottle and a glass to fill.

“Anything else?” he asked with a note of concern.

“A room for the night,” and I slid about twenty coins of gold to him. “Will that cover it?”

He simply nodded. He retrieved a key from a cabinet nearby and slid it to me. Meanwhile, I pulled the cork out of the bottle and took a long drink from the dark bottle. It was strong, and the burn was harsh and raw as it poured down my throat. I could feel the rush of the alcohol warm its way through me and could begin to feel the calming effect work its way to my head.

After a moment Beepu came over to the bar and joined me on a stool beside me. He sat silently there looking at me with concern. I wasn’t very receptive and was seriously thinking about dropping the spell on my eyes so I could focus more on the drinking when he spoke.

“It was not exactly fair to punch him you know.”

“Probably. I should have punched Daneath was well. That would make it fair.”

“Or say what you—”

“Beepu, I know. And it also isn’t fair that you and I now living on borrowed time.”

“Yes. I do not understand why my father was involved.”

“It’s that gizmo you have in your pack. They probably were looking to go somewhere.”

“But that magic can be found in many ways. Why my father? What was so special that he brought to the table?”

“I wish I knew. If we are lucky we can ask him.”

“And if we are not?”

“Then I hope he left you a note.”

“Perhaps that isn’t the worst case. I am going to call it for the night. I suspect you will be drinking for both of us.” And he slid off the stool and headed for the stairs.

“Night Beepu,” and I took another long swig.

In the common room, there was celebration. Iesa had bought a round to celebrate his new brother, and Daneath for the first time in a while was smiling. Both looked complete. They didn’t care about the threats anymore. They had each other; a family long since sundered now reunited. The patrons around them eagerly helped them celebrate with raucous laughter. But when the singing started, I grabbed my bottle and made my way to the stairs unsteadily.

I opened the door, threw my energy at a candle to light the room in a soft red light, and closed and barred the door. I dropped the pack I carried on the floor, and removed the sword belt and peeled off the armor I wore, letting it all fall in a heap. The gambeson, shirt and pants followed. I climbed onto the bed naked and sat upright in the bed with bottle in hand.

“It was not exactly fair…” kept running through my mind.

I was happy for Iesa and Daneath really. Finding each other to be more than comrades, but family. And their family was connected to Beepu’s via his father. And there it was: a Rule of Three. Three souls searching for their father. Intertwined with destiny.

So of course, that made me a 'Fourth Rule.' An exception. I tried looking for my family once. Cost a lot of coin, and I found nothing. My father remained hidden. My mother, I knew even less. Siblings? I had no idea. And the closest surrogate, was dead all because of my name-day. My last love…died in front of me, as I helplessly watched. Finding out he never loved me made it even more painful to bear.

It didn’t help that I didn’t really know how the others thought of me. Was Iesa joking? What about Daneath? Beepu had some respect for my abilities, but that didn’t say anything about me. And I had just acted like an ass in such an endearing way in front of all of them. At least it was honest to them. To myself? I wasn’t sure.

I sat there, feeling the tears flow freely down my cheeks as I drank to quell my thoughts, and dull the pain in my heart.

It wasn’t fair.

I wanted more than partners in crime or acquaintances.

I wanted more than memories.

I wanted family.

I needed family.

I needed someone.

Anyone.

But all I could do was sit there and cry in the dim light, naked and unconnected. I don’t remember when the darkness finally took me. I was just glad that for once, I couldn’t remember the nightmares that plagued my dreams for an evening.

Session notes:

This dialog was a long time ago, and my notes were rough because I was tangential to the main story here. But it was indeed now DaddyQuest.

2990
 

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