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Journal of the Souls of Legend

Nthal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Incorrect.”

“On…what? The conversation being annoying?”

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

“Compelled? What are you--?”

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

“—Wait—”

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

“—hold it—”

“—mental manifestation of the agreed binding.”

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

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

“Alright…that’s a start. What is—?”

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

I nodded silently thinking. “I almost understood—”

“Progress.”

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

“Incorrect.”

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

“Incorrect.”

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

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

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

“Correct.”

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

“Correct.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But I could cast magic before—”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not relevant.”

“Listen you adle-coved—”

“Inaccurate.”

“—mibix spouting—”

“Also Inaccurate.”

“—proxy for mephit flam!”

“Fascinating. Insult recorded. Element Myrai made proposal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, I hung in the emptiness in silence.

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

“—Not authorized,”

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

“Not authori—”

“What duties did they dump on me?”

“Not authori—”

“Why did they bind me?”

“Not authori—”

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

“Wait.”

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

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

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

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

“—including executions as required.”

I think I stopped breathing at this point.

Executions?

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

What do executions have to do with experiencing the multiverse?

“One final communication…”

“Great another modron headache.” I muttered.

“Quotation; ‘I am proud.’”

“Wait…wha—” I started.

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

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

Goss? You there?

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

Never mind that. Did you hear the conversation?

—What conversation?

The one with the construct?

—Have you been drinking again?

What…NO! By Kelemvor am I THAT bad?

—Lately…

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

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

Thanks…I think.


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

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

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

‘Binding and agreed duties’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Explain what?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, simple. They call them Warlocks.”

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

“What have I done?”
 

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Nthal

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Myr? You feeling alright?” he asked.

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

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

“Huh?” I said puzzled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



----



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why not hugsss?” he asked.

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

“Home,” Drok said simply nodding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But what?” I asked as I sat down.

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

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

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

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


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

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

“How can you be certain?” Galenas accused.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What for?” Daneath asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nthal

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

A very small one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


Ok…that made horrid sense.

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


I squinted at Gossamer at the barb thrown.

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

--No need to be so rude.





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You…know him?” Daneath stammered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Nthal

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

Liked the explanation of magic as well.
High cost of living you know.

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

Up to a point.
 
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Nthal

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

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

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

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



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

“Dead,” Daneath said simply in disbelief.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Armor?” Daneath asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wanted to go home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melandrach turned and looked at me bemused and waited.

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

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

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

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

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

“What was that about?” Iesa asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Huh? Wait…what’s a—” I started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Months?” Iesa said surprised.

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

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

“Why is that?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

Iesa nodded to himself thoughtfully and said nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Session Notes:

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

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

Nthal

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

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

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



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

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

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

--It’s an elf who seems…

Seems what?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“About a decade,”

Of course, it was.

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

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

“How so?” I asked becoming curious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t understand,”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Surely in Waterdeep they—”

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

“Where then? Baldur’s Gate?”

“Uh…no, farther?”

“Cormyr?”

“No…I don’t even know where that is.”

“Then what place in Faerun?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What would be older?”

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

“How can that be?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Shall we Myr…rai?” Arnara asked.

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

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

Come on Goss…you can lay around later.

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

Thanks. You can shut up now.


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

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

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

--You know I can hear that right?

I hope so.

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

Spoilsport.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Session notes:

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



Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Creation and isolation - 6/1/2020

Somewhere I remember attending a lecture in the Civic Festhall called ‘Art and pain.’ The talk was a wordy screed about how true art takes not just effort, but pain and anguish in some form in the artists soul. The pain crystalized the art with that emotional state which could then be felt by the observers. Without it people couldn’t feel the true intent.

Later I heard that magic can be seen the same way, and that some practitioners used their own blood to enhance and empower spells. Some said it wasn’t the blood, but the pain was what made it so.

At the time I dismissed both as I mentioned, as screed. Later I learned there really was a truth to it. But nothing teaches better than personal experience.



The hammer on the anvil was light and quick, the tones from the strike almost musical. I realized that every smith did things a little differently, in the quest of their own creation. In Sigil, I had met and delivered messages for a family of dwarven smiths from the Godvoid. Their hammering was a solid, firm tone that would make the earth shift. The human smiths in Waterdeep were lighter and tended to tap the anvil in between strikes to the metal being worked. The half-orc smith that worked on my shield was more random, making only as few strikes as needed.

I walked into the elven smithy and saw Talans and his apprentice Kalis shaping a spaulder out of a silvery white metal. Talans was reviewing his student’s progress when he saw me at the doorway and smiled.

Adon Myrai,” he said, moving towards me.

Adon, Talans iquar’kerym,” I said smiling focusing on the trill on the two ‘r’s.

Still smiling, he switched to common, “You are getting better, although you do not need such formality in talking with me.”

“I need the practice, and I thought it was still proper as we have not been yet named an elf friend. And it is your home, I should know the right words.”

Talans nodded his approval, “Your attention to our culture, shows much in your character befitting you ha-celas. Your actions show even more.”

“Thank you again. I received your message that one of the items is ready.”

“Yes, Kalis had finished it yesterday, and I checked the temper. The steel is true and is ready for the setting if that is your wish.”

“Yes! Yes it is. I appreciate you sparing the time for it, as I realized Daneath’s armor is going to take a while.”

“It was a simple request, and easily handled by Kalis on his own. The commission for Daneath has a number of complexities, and we still need some more mithril before he starts on the larger parts. And so, while we wait for it, we will be able to start on your armor as well.”

“Really? That soon?”

Talans laughed, “You didn’t ask for it to be made of mithril after all, so the amber steel is handy. And smelting the raw mithril into usable steel will take time once it has arrived. All we can work on are the spaulders until then.”

“I thank you again, how long will it take?”

“With two of us, one working the front and the other the back section we will have it done within two weeks. By then, we can focus and finish Daneath’s piece. But come,” and he motioned me to a wooden bench, which was upholstered in leather. This one was clearly used for polish and detail work, far from the anvil and the coals of the forge.

There on it lay a rod of darkened steel. Most of the length was smooth and polished, with a simple rondel. The other end had a flared top, that resembled four wings, stretched upwards. The shape of the wings at the top of the steel, looked as they would hold something between them.

“Do you have the Kiir?” Talans asked.

I nodded, and pulled out of my pouch, the purple sapphire that Beepu had given me. Where once it was a mishappen rock, it was now smoothed and polished, with what the jeweler had called an asterism in the form of a six-pointed star within. I handed the jewel to Talans, and he removed from the wall, a small hammer and tongs and set them down on the leather, as he pulled on some thin, leather gloves. He then took the steel rod and took it to a box of white sand and submerged the winged top within, turning it. He watched and waited and spoke.

“The steel requested, is an interesting one. The metallurgy is of a type I have not seen in a long time.”

“I don’t know much…well anything about it, other than what I had researched. What do you know about it?”

“The steel is of a type that was used for holding enchantments, but there are many mixtures that do that,” he said turning the rod in the sand. “But this particular one is not used much in weapons as it doesn’t hold a sharp edge. But it is not brittle, and it would return to its forged form if were bent. The high heat required, and the rapid quenching is one that is difficult to master, it is all too easy to cause the metal to shatter.”

“I don’t plan on swinging it at anyone,” I pointed out.

“Of course, you would not; not enough weight and the shaft is far too narrow. But it is clear what your intent is in general, if not in the specific.” He pulled the rod out of the sand and moved it to the leather covered bench. He wrapped a cloth around the end and then clamped it down with a vice, keeping it from moving. He then with the small hammer and tongs began to seat the jewel at the top. He delicately tapped it and bent the wings inward, so they acted as a setting for the stone holding it fast.

“There, it must cool a bit before you can take it with you.”

“My thanks to you,” I thought a moment and then asked. “How much do I owe you for the rod exactly? Yyou gave me a price for the armor after all.”

“Nothing; you have done something for me, that would be difficult to repay.”

“I did?”

“I did not know until my son came home, but it seems that you and your companions found him locked in a cage in a quarry. Keeping my kin safe was one thing, my family is quite another.”

“I…I…see…thank y—”

“And besides, Melandrach is paying for these works, so I will lose nothing in the materials.”

“Then…you are welcome; I’m glad I could help your family.”

Talans nodded and returned his tools to their places above the bench and walked over to Kalis working.

“Very good, Kalis. This indeed will be a worthy masterpiece.”

“Masterpiece?” I asked.

“Yes; if the others agree this piece will be the one that grants him the title of master smith, and it will be the end of his apprenticeship. “I am doing all the other work that needs be done.” He then turned to Kalis again. “When you are ready, we can create a pattern with her.” Kalis nodded, and then Talans moved over to another bench, where he started to cut some soft leather.

“Measure?”

“Yes…well we call it that, but what we do here is akin to a tailor making a pattern,” he replied as he continued cutting. “For a breastplate it is simple, we cut the rough shape out of the leather, and fit it to you, and then use it against a blank of amber steel and bend it to the right shape.”

“That makes sense; no waste and reduces bulk,” I said nodding.

“Very good, you are observant ha-celas,” he said. “You too could learn the secrets of working steel if you wished.”

“I suppose; I would never get anything done though; there are so many interesting things to distract me.” I said smirking. I watched him continue to make a shape that vaguely looked like a sleeveless shirt. But as he was doing so, I thought a second and realized something.

“Uh…wait. Do I need to…to…undress for this?”

Talans didn’t even look up, “The best fit has nothing between the leather and skin; the leather itself will be used for lining the steel afterwards.”

“And you do this for the…women as well?”

“If you feel uncomfortable, you can indeed wear a muslin top if you like.”

“Well, the bathing pools here aren’t different than Sigil’s; I think it bothered my human friends more,” I said smirking at the memory of Iesa and Daneath’s blushing as they one day visited them. And just like Sigil, there wasn’t a sign of clothing to be seen around the pool at all. I’m not sure which shocked them more; naked elves or the naked woman they had been travelling with for months.

“It’s just a bit more…well doesn’t matter. I paid for this piece; I certainly am going to get the best fit I can,” I said as I started to unlace my leather bodice and pulled it and my tunic off.

“Measure away.”




It was late afternoon when I finally left. The funny thing it was the second time in a tenday. The first one was for an actual dress in a home of an elf here, and it was just like the tailor in Yartar. There were a lot of needles and poking and prodding involved, and I had Arnara’s help.

This one was almost the same, but it was just going to be one made of metal, and the concerns were different. The form the leather took, looked like an inside-out shirt, with a cutout for my bosom, which required a different section of leather. Extra lengths of the edges to cover sharp metal from cutting into me. But the pair were as professional as any tailor, and my partial state of undress did not even register a concern with them. They as smiths probably had seen it all in their fittings.

I finally returned to my ‘chambers,’ but to call them that was an understatement. It was more like a small house on the grounds of one of the many gardens with a large pool behind it. The interior seemed to be almost grown into place, with no sign of cut wood anywhere except for the doors. There was a central spot for a fire, and a stone chimney to guide the smoke out, with over half of it an open porch area, and the other half were interior rooms for food preparation, storage and rest.

Rest turned out to be a problem though for me, which led to an interesting discovery. I had for the first several nights slept on the largest divan in the house, which wasn’t nearly large enough. After three days, my back complained. I then built a ‘nest’ by gathering and scattering sheets, blankets, and pillows in front of the firepit. All to lay down straight and flat on my back. And it worked.

But I woke to the sound of Arnara laughing at the sight of me, “What have you done with all the…did you grab all the sheets?”

“Every one I could find that you weren’t using,” I said as I lay there, eyes shut, my back no longer complaining at the contortions needed to sleep on a divan. “And my back is happy,”

“Oh my, you are quite the sight I must say,”

“Well if the elves believed in a proper bed, I wouldn’t need to do this!” I said, propping myself up and looking at the smiling sonalta.

“Oh, we do have beds its…just…” and she trailed off, her face turning into a frown, as she struggled with a thought.

“Oh, that would be great, if you can get a real bed in here.” I said, smiling at the thought. But as I looked Arnara kept opening and closing her mouth, not quite saying something.

“What? Did I ask for something…strange?” I asked, suddenly wary.

“Well…no…um, yes. You see, we do have beds, but we only use them occasionally.”

“Well then what’s the issue?” my social skills not quite picking up on the problem.

“Well, when a pair decide to…well…enjoin themselves in…um…” Arnara said her cheeks turning a bright red.

“I don’t…OH!” I winced, finally picking up context. “Of course, that makes complete…never mind. I’ll camp on the floor…sorry to have asked.”

Two days later, an ornate bed arrived in one of the larger side rooms. It was a lovely one, with either carved or grown images of flowers and animals on the wooden headboard and footboard, and four solid oaken posts at the corners, with the imagery of vines and mistletoe wrapping around each one in relief. When I saw Arnara next I simply said, “Thank you,” in elvish and she nodded politely in response.

We never discussed the bed again. In fact, the room itself to me became an awkward joke as it was only referred to as ‘that room.’ If it needed to be referred to. But as it turned out, I used that nest of cushions and sheets often for a quick nap, and the simple fact that Arnara was there most of the time to talk to. Every time I snuck into the room in the back to use the bed, Arnara had a bemused look on her face that was the elvish equivalent to “I know what you have been doing.” When an occasional guest, or my elvish tutor arrived for my daily elvish lessons, I noticed that Arnara always made sure that the door to that room was closed. But she did the same thing with my nesting materials as well, which basically explained a lot about relations between elven couples.

I entered the house, with my new prize, wrapped up in an oilcloth. Arnara wasn’t there, as I had remembered she had an errand to do that afternoon. However, Gossamer was there, fast asleep on a divan with a ray of sun shining down on his black fur, which color turned into a reddish haze as he appeared to ‘rust’ in the bright light.

I made my way to ‘that room’ and closed the door behind me. Beyond the bed, which was situated in its center, there was a writing desk. With a stand for holding open a book near the back edge of it. I lay the rod on the top surface and pulled out the Apocrypha and pulled out the sheet I wanted while flexing and using my light on an unlit candle. It bloomed into a warm orange light, which illuminated my silvery Apocrypha.

The layered letters on the sheet lit up, and I sat down at the desk. I quickly ran my finger over the formulae listed and then I placed both of my hands on the rod and started to focus my will on it. I slowly weaved a lattice of light and dark strands around it, one at a time. All the while chanting the same phrase over and over; pulling at the weave to bind the strand into knots on the hardened steel:

“Piko ma lana leya I ke punaeyalwalo ho’anpona I ke mea kunokuno haie I ko’noua makeamakea”

I knew that it would take several days to complete, but I didn’t realize that it would be a taxing process.

Or a dangerous one.

I remembered that first day chanting. I felt like I was pouring my heart and soul into it, as I felt what my Apocrypha called quanta flooding it, imbuing it with energy and power. I remembered pushing more and more into it when I suddenly became dizzy and I had the sensation of falling. The next thing I knew I saw Arnara staring at me, speaking or maybe shouting at me; I couldn’t tell as no sound left her mouth as I stared at her uncomprehending, shaking in a cold sweat. She with some effort dragged me off the floor and lay my limp form on the bed. As soon as I felt my body hit the quilted feather bedding, darkness enveloped me and I saw nothing more.

It was late when I came to, I felt a little sick and somehow very hungry. I started to move, when I realized that lying next to me was Arnara watching. I must have moved enough to disturb her reverie, as she moved her head to look at me, her hand touching my forehead.

“Myrai, what were you doing? I was worried.”

“Well…” I said slowly, “I was enchanting a…a rod.” I gestured to the desk, where the steel rod lay. “I’m alright, I just need some food,” I said and swung my legs over the side of the bed and stood up woozily.

“Have you never done this before?” Arnara asked, as she clambered off the bed.

“Well, I’ve made a scroll or two, but this is a new thing. But I’m following a formula so it’s not unkno—” I started.

“—It was unknown to you. Enchanting can be dangerous.” Arnara said as she stood. Moving to the desk, she ignored the rod. She instead picked up the Apocrypha. While my light had gone out a while ago, the main room had enough light from the magical sconces to allow the illegible letters to be seen. She looked at it critically and turned to me.

“What is this…a spellbook?” she asked confused.

“Not exactly…its…a part of me really. It does have spells in it I can cast, and many others I can use ritually. It is my…binding I guess.” I said trying to think how to explain it.

“Binding?” she echoed looking at it with concern. “You should not blindly just do what it says, it could have unexpected results,” she said looking at me critically. “You might consider getting rid of it or giving it to someone who can research it.”

“Well…I can’t really.”

“I do not understand.”

“Here, give me,” I said, and I took the silvery cylinder from her, replacing the metal sheets back within. I then moved towards the small window in the back and opened it to the cool night air. Taking a moment, I put the Apocrypha in my right hand and tossed it up in the air and catching it. I did this a couple of times, getting a feel for the weight of it. Then suddenly upon catching it, I cocked my arm back and then threw it outside into the dark night and then closed the window.

Arnara looked at me in shock, “You can’t just—”

“Follow me,” I said somewhat resigned. I led her back into the main room, where a low table sat in front of the fire pit. Normally my nest of bad things would be there, but I had not laid down my bedding for the night yet. I then turned to Arnara and gestured.

There on the table sat upright the Apocrypha, unmoving and unblemished, glittering in the light from the sconces. Arnara’s mouth opened in surprise as she pointed at it.

“How did?” she stammered.

“I don’t know,” I said shaking my head unsurprised. “Learned that trick in Waterdeep when I got frustrated and couldn’t read it. I also know if I melted it in a forge I could, just recreate it with a little focus and time. And I don’t even know how I know that.” I sat down on a nearby divan across from the table and looked at Arnara.

“It’s a part of me you could say, part of the magic I am bound to,” I said looking at her and then at the cylinder again. “I can no more get rid of it, than I can break the binding and…the debt I am subject to.”

“Debt? Binding? How do you know this?” Arnara asked, stepping closer to look, but avoiding touching it.

“It told me.”

“What?”

“It had a compulsion on the writing that brought me to a place where I could...talk with it.” I said. I was feeling better physically, but I was more worried about Arnara who seemed to become more agitated as I talked.

“You should talk to ones of our learned one here, perhaps they can cure—”

“—Its not a disease! I talked with Beepu about it, and he believes that its true; that this binding, this pact; it can’t be undone, doesn’t matter if I don’t know why.”

“Why are you not more concerned about it?”

I bowed my head, “Because it might…just might…be the only thing from my father I have.”

“Your father…the one that is…”

Celas. And for whatever reason, he can’t tell me about it. He wants me to do something…I just can’t understand what.”

Arnara looked at me, and then the cylinder on the table, and then looked at me with pity. “I…I understand. Not this, but I understand when your family wants something out of you but will not say what. It just seems to be…unfair.”

“It probably is, and it’s still here,” I said glumly. I then changed the subject. “Do we still have that cheese that the temple sent over as a gift?”

“What? Oh yes, there is a small wedge left in the pantry.”

“Ok, I’m going to eat and wash it down with some wine and call it a night.”

“Very well, shall I get your pillows and things?”

“No…don’t trouble yourself, I will just collapse in ‘that room’ and get some sleep,” I said as I got up to hunt down the cheese.

“I am going to keep checking on you until morning comes,” Arnara said and she moved to where a small rack of bottles lay on their side. She was about to open it when she frowned and looked at me.

“I know you tend to have a bottle every evening, but perhaps you should let your body recover from your exertion without it.”

“I’ll be fine, thanks.”

Arnara keep the frown on her face and nodded. I then entered the pantry and found the hard cheese with the salt crystals and buttery herb taste. I quickly peeled the rind away and bit into the wedge tasting the tang and the salt. I then walked back to Arnara who had prepared me a glass of a red wine of a vintage I liked from Melandrach’s cabinets.

I took the glass and half drained it, with Arnara looking at me concerned.

“Thanks,” I said. Her concern didn’t lessen, and I sighed. “I’ll be fine, trust me please.”

“Very well” she said, and I quickly finished the wedge and drained the rest of the glass, setting it down on the table next to the Apocrypha. I then moved towards ‘that room,’ when I realized that Arnara was following me.

Puzzled, she took me by the hand and sat me down on the side of the bed. She then knelt and then unlaced and pulled off my boots. I stared at her, uncomprehendingly at this; she had never done this in any of the prior nights. She was more inclined to read a book she had with her and would wave at me when I headed to whichever surface I was going to sleep on. But now, she set my boots aside and unlaced my bodice and lay it on the dressing bench at the end of the bed. She then lifted, or rather encouraged me to lift my legs on the bed, and she quickly unlaced the sides and pulled off my leggings as I lay there, feeling the wine course through my body. She then covered me and stroked my hair.

“I worry about you ha-celas. I don’t understand what I should do,”

“We learn about the multiverse through experience; the easy answers aren’t the important ones,” I muttered; the wine soaking quickly into my mind and diffusing my thoughts. The care and concern were new as well; tender and genuine. I started to drift off when I heard a familiar lecturer in my head.

--You know you should at least be honest.

I don’t want to burden her with my issues.

--I meant with yourself about those issues.

Leave me alone…I don’t want to…talk about it.

--You never do…that’s the problem.


And I could feel the echo of Gossamers last words in my head as the darkness washed over me and carried me out to another dreamless slumber.



Session notes:

The smith is the second contact from carousing. The elvish words are most gleaned and modified from Elven Dictionary
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Nice, this session seems like a character dive, more so than the others.
thanks! I like my vanity project and I am glad you like it too.

It is for couple reasons; one this is filling in the gaps of a downtime...which is a hour of rolling dice and discussion; its boring. Thiis is about what happened.

Another is that there are some important ties for later, so context is kinda of nice.

The third is so I have a variety of topics to write about.

So we will be getting back to the action soon... :)
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
A Morning’s Catharsis - 6/6/2020

We always remember things about the ones we lose. But sometimes it is a duty to remember things about others we don’t even know.


Arnara and I entered the temple grounds, quiet and somber. Today was the day of remembrance, for those that sacrificed themselves against the hobgoblin horde. It wasn’t really a single service or a session. Instead, each person came to the Temple of the Seldarine to pay their respects to the ones that meant the most to them.

I considered not going at all, as I was afraid, I would intrude on something private for the elves, but Arnara encouraged me to go. I could at least remember Morlea. For Arnara it was more personal, not only did she lose her, but she had lost other kin; Palas, Casia and Zyana.

When she first introduced herself, she almost called herself “Third daughter” of her house. I learned that it wasn’t literal; she wasn’t the third daughter by her father; such a thing would be remarkable, and it would also be considered a bad omen as many children implied a need for them. What it did mean of the next generation of girls in the house, she was now the eldest living. The other two were cousins of some sort. There was also a First Son and a Second son as well, but the prior First Son, Palas had also died fighting in the southern part of the forest.

I assumed at first that they were close, but I was surprised to learn that despite the honorifics, they were quite separated in age. The other Daughters were 304 and 231 years old, while Palas, was 278 and the current First Son was 210. This meant that which made Arnara at 118 a was a youngster. She did not grow up with the others; they were active adults centuries ago. It also meant that while as close as family was, she wasn’t close to any of them due to timing. The one she was close to was Morlea, but only because as Third daughter she was expected to be a Sonalta for another house for a decade or two and then find her own path.

But becoming First Daughter changed this.

“It is duty,” Arnara said sadly as she sat there one evening sipping on her mead.

“That you must either become head of the house or at least marry? And it isn’t even your choice?” I said as I lounged drinking my wine. “Why does…what’s his name, Wyan get to choose?”

“It’s not that he chooses, its because of his age; he would be the next head of Ustina assuming the elders think he is right for the role. He could perhaps marry into another house, but that is unlikely.”

“But he gets to choose? And not you?”

Arnara looked at me with some frustration. “No, again it is because of his age only. Because of the others were older, he…and I for that matter, it was of no consequence. He wasn’t going to have to do anything, as Casia is…was going to be a wise head. But losing her and Zyana and Palas changed that. With only two of us out of six pairings…someone must be ready to lead. And so, all eyes are on him. And I.”

“But why does that mean you have to marry for the sake of the house?”

“He does too…but if something were to happen to him, I would be the only Ustina left of my generation. It isn’t likely that a sibling or a cousin would be born at this point. And if one were to do so, both of us would be far older and ready to assume our stations as needed. So, someone must marry in the house to continue the family and ideally both of us should.”

“So, you wouldn’t become part of another house?”

“No. I have heard that this happens a lot in human nobility, where only the son matters. For elven houses, anyone can marry into another house and take their name for their own. But now…I could not do so. Someone would have to marry into mine.”

“I guess I thought that well heeled nobles had choices.” I said shaking my head. “I guess I was naïve.”

“Well...I did have choices.” Arnara said. “I chose to study arcana and history, because they interested me and because they supported being a sonalta well. I didn’t really have a plan beyond that. But, as it appears, they also support being the next leader of the house.”

“But I thought you said Wyan would be next?”

“I said the elders would judge if he would be. But…” Arnara looked away and sipped her mead again. “He doesn’t have the skills; he was working closely with the druids and rangers here, and that is where his heart lay. I do not think they would choose him as he is too far down the path. But he will be pressured to marry and father children, keeping him away from the wilds he loves. I think it is likely he will choose not to marry at all.”

“Which leaves you.”

“Only. Because I am not yet set into a path, I can be guided. And so, I am resigned to lead…someday it seems.”

I shook my head, “Why is this so important? It seems to be a lot of concern about something…intangible.”

Arnara looked at me crossly, “We are the only two noble moon elf houses left here in the Misty Forest. Many of our kin left in the retreat, but our house chose not to because we thought it was important to stay. And the only way we can stay…is to be a functioning house.” She looked at the fire in the open pit, its embers slowly dying down.

“We were fortunate to have had five. Everyone got what they wanted. Now with only two, either Wyan and I have our choices made for us, like it or not.”



So here we were in the Temple, quiet in our own thoughts. Arnara gave me a an overview on the few things I needed to know to show the proper respects. But it wasn’t all I needed though.

The temple wasn’t a temple that I was used to; it wasn’t even a single building. It was an open area, with covered shrines in a small grove of trees. There were buildings around for the priests to study and teach, but it wasn’t like the large cathedrals in Waterdeep, or the bigger ones in Sigil. This was a place for quiet, and personal retrospection.

Because we were honoring our sacrifices, Arnara lead me to the shrine that was at the center of temple; the one dedicated to Corelleon Larethian. It was a stone stele carved with a relief of a quarter moon. The stele was almost completely shrouded in vine and moss, with only the moon showing. There surrounding the stone stele were objects of memories, Poems on scrolls, or in folded leaves. Arrows were common, as were carved bone and wood trinkets. And some left small sweet cakes, in remembrance of better times. Arnara told me of this, but she also said that some things left behind could only be carried in the heart, something that no simple object could convey.

It was with her, as she knelt down and bowed her head quietly. I waited, wondering what she was thinking, when she leaned forward, almost touching her nose to the stone path leading to the stele. I was wondering what she was doing when I listened and could barely hear the sounds of tear drops falling down and splashing onto the stone, as she left behind her feelings. She then straightened herself up and moved out of the way, so I could pay my own respects.

For me, this remembrance was of Morlea specifically, and I chose to leave something of that memory. I knelt down and pulled from my pouch a small vial. Inside the vial was a dark amber liquid; the same liquor that Morlea and I shared together the night she died. I pulled the stopper from the vial and poured the vial’s contents at the foot of the stele.

“To that second drink we never had,” I whispered. I then stood up and looked around. Arnara had started to walk back to our dwelling, when she noticed I wasn’t following her. I was instead making my way to a priestess that was tending to another shrine. Arnara had just caught up with me, when I reached the priestess and asked a question.

“I am sorry to trouble you,” I said in elvish.

The woman was surprised but nodded politely, “And what can I do for you…Ha-celas?”

“I am a priestess of Kelemvor,” I said continuing in elvish and watching carefully for signs of offense. “I have read that he and one of the Seldarine have…an understanding. I think it was Naralis Analor if I remember correctly.”

She nodded slowly with respect, “Yes. He aids Sehanie Moonbow in the shepherding of the dead, from Kelemvor’s realm.” I heard behind me Arnara as she caught up with us.

“I would like to, say the …appropriate prayer. I saw many fall in Whitepetal, but I knew only one by name. I feel obligated to honor them—”

“I understand. There are no formal rites for the dead as each one is personal. However, saying a prayer to your own god at Naralis’ shrine would be…acceptable if you feel you must.”

“Its an obligation. Where is his shrine?”

“There, under the willows at the edge. Others have left their thoughts there as well.”

“My thanks,” and we bowed our heads to each other, and then I turned and made my way to the shrine she pointed out, with Arnara in tow.

“I didn’t realize you had more to do,” Arnara said.

“Duty is powerful thing,” I replied.

The shrine was another stele of stone, but smaller, and instead of grey granite, this was one was of a dark polished stone, with veins of white running through it. Here too were offerings, but unlike the ones at Corellon’s shrine, these were all keepsake boxes, tied shut with strings.

“Messages,” Arnara said guessing at my thoughts. I nodded and knelt on both of my knees and sat on the back of my heels. Bowing my head, I grasped my symbol of the skeletal hand with the balance, and prayed aloud in elvish:



No one should be alone, in life or death,

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

Death is without deceit and has meaning,

May all your souls find passage to Arvandor,

And gaze from the Overlook, into the Crescent Grove,

May your kin guide you on the next step of your journey,

Because Death is never an end, but a way post,

Not a destination, but a Journey,

The memory of your deeds will live forever within you,

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

May Death give way to Rebirth.




I breathed in deeply and tried to remember the many faces that I had seen at Whitepetal. I thought of Alanathia, and Galenas. I thought of Arnara’s cousins. It didn’t matter if they were living or dead, both needed blessings, if for different reasons. For good fortune, for peace and comfort, for rest now that their labors were complete.

I don’t remember how long it was that I knelt there, but finally I stood again and turned around. Arnara was still standing there, looking at me, her brow furrowed in thought, and she followed me as we made our way back to the house by the pond. By the time we had returned, it was only midmorning.

I was about to head back into ‘that room’ to finish my work, when Arnara spoke.

“That was…unexpected. I did not know you knew the Seldarine well, as we had never talked about them.”

“I don’t really,” I said. “I can’t say a know a lot of powers. But I do know most of the ones related to death. Many of them are involved with Kelemvor in some way.”

“But he is a new god is he not?”

I nodded, “Yes, but his position has been held by others before him. The original one is now said to be Kelemvor’s scribe. So, Death is eternal, but the one who guides the souls in the Fugue changes.”

“For all souls? For all races?”

“Kelemvor is the judge of the dead, not death itself. So, while all `go to the Fugue, its perhaps the only the first step of a journey. The dwarves are guided from the Fugue, by their respective servants of the Morndinsamman, the elves by the Seldarine, the dharrow by…well anyway very few stays.”

“Why would any stay?”

“They were not devout or were false I am told; they get judged and punished or rarely rewarded. The worst are the Faithless and the False, they become part of the wall that surrounds the city and…fade away.”

“And you…where do you believe you would go?”

After a moment I said, “I would go the Fugue and remain as a loyal servant I suppose.”

“I just have never heard of any elf going to that place; we go to Arvandor and are reborn.”

“I believe they just pass through, it’s not like I saw any elves when I there.”

Arnara was taken aback, her mouth dropped open in surprise. Finally she asked, almost whispering. “What…did…you say?”

I closed my eyes and I grimaced; this wasn’t a door I had meant to open and talk about. But now it was open a crack, I felt my heart pound as I talked. “I was killed by a hyena outside of Yartar and I was…brought back.”

Arnara was quiet for a moment before she spoke again, “And you…saw the afterlife.”

“Briefly,” I sighed as I sat on the bed, shaking a bit. “According to my friends it wasn’t even a day. There, I had no idea. I knew I was dead, and I…” I let my words fade away, uncertain if I wanted to explain. No, that wasn’t right. I was certain. But I was very afraid to.

“What?”

I steeled myself, hoping that telling someone might help me find some peace.

“I didn’t want to return,” I said looking at the elf revealing myself. I had told the others that if I hadn’t come back that they wouldn’t have been in debt to Mordai, but I never told them my true shame; I never wanted to.

“At the time, everyone else I had cared deeply about was already dead. I had no reason to come back,” I hung my head and teared up a bit. “So many others deserved to live. Far more deserving than me. I’m no one. Why not Daneath’s and Iesa’s father? Why not your cousins or Morlea? Why not--”

I couldn’t say Elisna’s name as I couldn’t hold back anymore. The anger and the guilt burst forth up from within me, on full display to a woman who had lost her kin and her freedom. The tears welled up within me and I slumped on the mattress, unable to contain myself. Here I was alive again, and I was complaining about living, to a person who lost loved ones. It felt selfish, and yet what I felt was more constricting than the binding. Unable to escape the guilt, that tied me to my friends. To everyone I met and saved; Pathorn, Alanathia, and Revelvan. Was it ever enough? And yet the ones closest to me were the ones I couldn’t save; Elisna, Markell, and Morlea. Who would I fail next?

My tears poured from my eyes like rivers, my stomach ached and heaved as I gasped for air. I felt a fraud; a person unworthy of the gift bestowed on me.

No forced upon me. By my father. One of several cruel ironies and unwanted gifts with even less wanted obligations. An undefined purpose: a secret arrangement made I was to honor and uphold like…Arnara’s duty to her family, where all pretense of choice was revealed to be a sham.

I lay there gasping for breath, and I felt Arnara lay behind me and pressed herself against my back as she embraced me. I continued to cry as she spoke gently to me.

“We don’t always make the choice; all we can do is live with what comes, and what doesn’t. You should not feel guilty about something you did not do or could not do. That you do, makes you…a worthy person. To not squander what has been given, you must be aware of it.”

My tears slowed as I rolled on my side to look at her in those grey eyes. “I cannot blame you for my cousins; their fate was never in your hands. And I do believe, you must be worthy to be returned to the living. These are not casual mistakes or games of chance, no matter how it looks. Just because we do not understand why, doesn’t make it less worthy of a miracle.”

I sniffled, as I lay there looking up. “I’m sorry…I shouldn’t burden anyone with my problems.”

“It is not a burden; it can be painful. And though it may not look it, we elves feel as deeply about matters as you. We just have better—”

“—manners?”

“Timing,” she chided.

I chuckled softly. “Thank you…you are a good—”

Sonalta?”

No. A good friend. A good Sonalta would help me get dressed after I finish my project,” I said with a grin and a sniffle.

I see,” she said archly but with a smirk at the same time. “Well, I will leave you to it, while I fetch your dress. And she climbed off the bed, and gently waved as she left, with a kind wry smile on her lips.

“I should do something for her,” I said to myself as I sat up, and looked at the desk. The rod lay there, waiting for its final binding. I got up, and stood at the desk, and centered myself. It was time to finish my first creation.

I picked up the metal rod, its surface smooth and cool to my touch. I focused inwards, pulling on the strands to weave its final lattice. I pulled from myself two strands; one light and dark and began to wrap them round it, starting at the base, and working their way to the purple sapphire at the top. I pulled them taut and stretched them, drawing the pair until they covered the rod in power. Finally, I pulled them around the corundum itself, crisscrossing and knotting it at the top.

I could feel the quanta begin to follow the Strands, maintaining a balance between the opposing poles of light an dark, as the rod began to soak the ambient energy. It wasn’t long before the rod was saturated with the quanta. I took a deep breath as I started the final step.

Talans mentioned that the difficulty in working this steel was the quenching needed to temper it. As I found out, magic was no different; it just had a different method. And unlike a suit of armor, or a sword you didn’t need to break it away from the fires of the forge to call it done. But you did with magic; I needed to first infuse it with power, and then sever it from the source.

From me.

I began to open the rod to the power of the strands. It first flowed easily, until I felt it hit some limit. Then I gritted my teeth and focused. I started to push more and more into it. I could feel the strands first strain and then give; increasing their volume as the Strands now penetrated the surface of the rod, and now began to truly infuse it with power. I kept pushing and straining, pushing all the quanta I had into it. As I pushed, I could feel the energy waiver and resist; wanting to flow back into me.

This was the moment; I started to knot them at the top, stemming the tide of energy from returning to me. I could feel the strands waver and shake in oscillation, desperate to release their power. As the oscillations became more frantic, I then focused the last energy I had and welded the ends of the strands together.

I felt a violent wrenching as the polar opposite ends of the strands touched; the energy started to travel from one end to the other, moving fast. I then pushed one last time and focused my mind on one task: breaking the connection to me.

I pulled the strands taught; swollen and full of power, and now resistant to my attempts to order and bend them to my will. I gritted my teeth and yanked, and suddenly the strand burst, nearly knocking me onto the ground.

I could see the corundum sparkle and glow with a light of its own. It now had its own power; power that once I held, it now contained in a single never-ending strand. I could feel what almost were like filaments caressing the object. They connected me to it, without becoming a part of me once again.

I held the rod level at my chest; and could feel the power circulating through it on its own accord. Moving into the main room, I could feel it…searching. I then spied Gossamer, sleeping in the sun.

I turned it towards Gossamer, and I felt its power focus its attention at him. Smiling I knew if I channeled magic at him, it would have an easier time binding my personal strands to the task. I straightened the rod and pulled it close smiling, and kissed the jewel at the top.

--If you use that thing on me, I will scratch you so hard, you’ll wish you were in Baator.

Sorry; you were handy.

--Expedient is more likely.

Sorry!


Ignoring Gossamers’ lecture, I was pleased with myself, despite the mornings’ emotional toll. Now my emotions were at a peak as I admired it...my will, my creation. And I suppose they were correct, that a little bit of pain did need to be involved.



Session Notes:

Originally this was just GIVEN to Myrai as a reward directly from Melandrach, and was laid out in her chambers. But as the story evolved, it made more sense that he provided the means, and that Myrai put the pieces together. It was something that was researched in Waterdeep originally as well (and gold paid for) but we never ran across as CR5 undead that was the original component.

But the hobgoblin warlord, and devastator were close enough 😊.

As a note, the next section will be the last of the downtime stories, but will quickly get back to us doing, whatever we were doing.
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Friends and Consequences - 6/9/2020

I once took pride in being as independent as possible; you could only trust yourself and others may not have your back. But those are both lies; you can’t always trust yourself all the time because of bias, experiences and beliefs, and you can trust others because many if not prevented from doing so, will help.

But the real dark is that its all connected. Realizing you might be a part of the problem usually takes an external perspective and depending on the right people to tell you that. And those same people are probably the ones that can help you. Both are all about making choices about trust.

But sometimes, the choices they make affect you too, whether they intended them to, or not.



“…and so, I call these four Athkaraye, for what they have done for the Tel’quessir. We honor you. Uluvathae!” Melandrach spoke to the crowd gathered in the main hall of the great tree. It was late in the evening, with the full moon overhead. Light from magics glittered across water and crystal, giving the room the experience of being a part of the night sky. Which explained name of the place we now stood; ‘The Hall of Stars.’

Here the four noble houses and the well born of the elves smiled and spoke prettily about our exploits. Or at least most of it. The fate of the Prophesied One was a dark to all but Melandrach’s trusted aides. But it didn’t matter. The elves had paid respects to the dead in the morning, and now we were the focus of their attention.

Of the four of us, Beepu was the least happy to be here. He made it no secret that he had work to do. He wore a simple tunic with a belt with brass fittings, breeches and his traveling boots. But while he was unhappy at the distraction, he did find respite in the food and drink being served. While the wood elves were not as keen on the use of magic, they did not shun it. So, he did have a gathering of wizards, to share bits of knowledge about their craft with each other.

Iesa and Daneath had matching attire, both clothed in burgundy tunics and dark breeches with black trim. Each wore a dagger with a bright golden sheath. Their hair was finally trimmed, and Daneath had found time to shave. Their dark hair was oiled and slicked back, and they were both happy to talk about their battles outside the Misty Forest. They were surrounded by the younger rangers and warriors of the elves and making assertions and challenges to be carried out in the following days.

As for myself, Arnara had helped me prepare for the evening. She had introduced me to a tailor that was able to craft a dress with a high collar with a keyhole neckline in the front. It was dyed a deep blue, with small golden chains framing my chest, which cascading down from my shoulders to my wrists. My hair was tied into braids, with black ribbon woven between the tresses, finally tying off in knots on the ends. The dress was belted with a silken rope, with golden tassels. It was draped from my hips with the ends plunging down in front of me, swaying back and forth as I walked on soft black leather boots, no higher than my ankle. Of course, Arnara walked beside me. She was dressed in a white dress, with a dark silk belt around her waist. Her hair was in a single long braid, that was pulled around and draped down her front. As we walked, she whispered to me about who I was meeting, and interesting tidbits about them as we moved our way through the hall. Floating behind us, were our glasses of wine ever at our beck and call, through a ritual I was maintaining. And of course, I was attracting my own set of elves.

“I don’t see why you think I am going to gather all the attention,” I said to Arnara as we left for the hall. “Sure, I’m a ha-celas, but why is that important?”

“That’s simple,” Arnara said smiling. “We haven’t seen one here in perhaps a hundred years. And none here can claim to have seen other planes or seen a city like Sigil. Many elves live a long time, so anything new piques their interest.”

And she was right; they were drawn to me because I was a change. Magic? Archery? Tactics? They were all interesting I suppose, but the elves wanted to hear about new things; they craved it more than anything, because for them there was so little that was new. And now I was the bright sun of the evening, beckoning them to hear tales from far beyond. I told stories about Sigil; explained what the factions were, the Lady of Pain. How a Deva would be seen in the same street as a Cornugon, and exchange frosty words not blows. Even the monster Cadyx had a moment, as part of a grisly tale of fear involving a dead dharrow in a rope web.

After a while, Melandrach pulled the four of us together for a private moment. Arnara excused herself and disappeared into the crowd, while Melandrach spoke.

“I do hope you understand the honor given; the first time in two centuries that any have been called a friend of Tel’Quessir.

“It means we are welcome here always,” I said having a little more context from Arnara. “That shelter will be gladly given as honored guests.”

“Quite right. And it cannot be taken from you. It is why it is so rarely given. I am quite glad to have given it to you for it was timely that I did so. The Kershak, have made their displeasure known. To put it briefly, they have demanded you never leave here again. A demand I will not grant.”

“We are in your debt I suppose,” Daneath said.

“No, you are not. Their threats do not concern me. But I do offer you words of caution; once you leave here, it may become difficult to return. I fear you will be harried and pursued.”

“So, what should we do? Hide here?” Iesa asked.

“Nothing of the sort; but come to me when you are ready. I will ensure you have a head start. After all it will be eight weeks until your armor is done correct Daneath? Until you decide to leave, I will ensure your safety.”

“Perhaps only six; the armorer is very skilled.”

“Well, I did not want to give you concern, but I wanted to tell you when so you can make appropriate decisions when needed. I do have others to see this evening, and I bid you farewell…for now.” Melandrach nodded to us, and he moved towards a collection of elves waiting nearby, leaving the four of us together for the first time in weeks.

We stood there awkwardly digesting what the monarch said, looking each other over. Finally, Iesa broke the silence.

“That pout, does nothing for you in that dress, Myr.”

I felt my cheeks blush, “Well, this time wearing a dress was slightly more fun than the last time. And you both look well,” I said to the brothers. “And much more put together since the last time I saw you.”

Iesa chuckled while Daneath turned beet red stammering, “I didn’t um expect to see so um…much of you,”

Beepu sighed, “Oh let me guess, you went to the bathing pools here, ill prepared.”

“They were prepared,” I smirked. “They just saw more than they were anticipating. You look good Beepu. A little rounder though.”

“They keep bringing me fruit! And while the mind runs, I apparently do not run enough.” The gnome said sourly. “But it does not matter, I must go.” And Beepu turned, with drink in hand and walked away towards where the Lyceum lay.

“What’s the matter?” I asked watching him depart.

“He’s not making headway,” Iesa replied. “I went with Mo to see him, and I swore he hadn’t bathed in days. He looked terrible and his temper was worse. He actually had Foggle chase Mo out, and almost hit me with a blast of fire.”

“You didn’t tell me that,” Daneath said surprised.

“What were you going to do? Beat him up?” Iesa asked.

“Well…no. but that is a bit extreme.”

“Anyway, as he chased me away it was clear that he was frustrated. Papers and scrolls everywhere. In the morning I stopped by that library place. Seems even the elves were avoiding him, and his temper has been getting worse.”

“I can imagine,” I said understanding the frustration. “How about you two?”

“Daneath has been sparring with the elves, keeping up his skills.” Iesa said smiling.

“Make any money yet?”

“Some,” he said with a grin, “They at least play fair and we return the favor. But there was one that just handed Daneath—”

“—His codpiece?” I asked smiling.

“No! They played fair remember! He used a rapier, Daneath never touched him.”

I looked at Daneath and he was nodding at the memory, “It was true. He was literally dancing around me. Every time my blade would get close, he would slap it away. And he was fast! Not just in how he moved the blade, but just how he moved with his feet. And as he moved, I swore that I could cut the air with the blade, and each one would give off a different note. It was like he wasn’t fighting but was instead conducting music. I have to say it was a lot of fun chasing him around the field.”

“Who was he?” I asked.

“Elanthyr I believe. The other elves held him in high respect. And he only sparred once with me…but that once was enough. I was exhausted afterwards trying to keep up.”

“What about you Iesa?”

“Hunting actually,” Iesa said with a dreamy smile. “They have a patience here on taking shots that I appreciate. Moving to get the right look, and only letting an arrow fly when you are certain of hitting it in the neck. I was out in the forest for a week, only to track down a single stag. But when I finally let it loose; it was magical.”

“Couldn’t wipe the smile off his face for days,” Daneath said nudging his brother, who kept smiling. “Hey Myr, we’re going to some of the other gatherings nearby. Apparently, it is a bit livelier with the music, drink and dancing as well. Want to join us?”

“Maybe. I was still being introduced to some of the families here. They like listening to my stories.” I said politely, and extended my hand for my glass, which I grasped, sipped and released. It then returned to float behind me.

“Well I can tell you like the wine at least,” Daneath said. “We’ll see you later.” And I watched the pair bound off smiling to a distant spot of lights in the darkness.

As I looked, I realized there were many of these spots, where shadowy figures danced, the notes of instruments, and the light voices of song could be heard. The entire community near the great tree was in celebration, not just the court of the king. I decided to ask Arnara about it, and I sent out to find her.

The court had its music as well, as harps and lyres played softly in corners around the halls of wood beneath the tree. The tones reverberated through the natural columns and beams that stretched throughout the main hall. It was such that the strings echoed vibrantly even though the player was nowhere near.

Listening to the music and feeling it throughout my being, put me in no rush to find Arnara. But as I sought her out, I found that she was a topic of discussion as I wandered.

“…Arnara has been staying with her I understand,” said a voice out of sight, around a pillar of wood.

“How lucky. The ha-celas is interesting to listen to,” said another.

“I heard that she demanded something…something scandalous though,” said the first.

“What?” said several elves at once.

“A bed!” the first said in a hushed tone.”

“Reeeallly?” said another elf in surprise.

“They barely know each other!” a third said.

I stood there, out of sight of this conversation in shock. I knew that the topic of a bed was somewhat sensitive. But I didn’t know that it would be seen as scandalous. As I thought more, I realized that Arnara not only knew that, but was willing to ask anyway, no matter how it might look. I straightened myself up and walked around the pillar.

There huddled closely were five elves talking. And of course, one saw me, and her eyes opened wide, sensing they had been caught in something unseemly. But before she could warn the others. I spoke in Elvish.

“She knows me well enough that my back aches trying to get a good night ‘sleep’ on a divan. Excuse me,” I said using the common word for sleep as I wasn’t sure what the right word was in Elvish. The five all nodded their heads respectfully and with some embarrassment, and quickly left in a hurry.

I worried how much of a scandal I was causing, when I saw Melandrach again, taking his leave of another elf. This one I knew from description only, but after hearing what I did, I felt compelled to talk with him.

“Kylan Ustina?” I asked wearing a smile as I approached the elven elder. The raven-haired man turned to look at me with surprise. His eyes were the same shade of blue that Arnara had. His face still had the vitality of youth, with only the slightest creases around the eyes to indicate that he was older. He nodded politely at my inquiry.

“I would like to thank you for your daughter’s assistance these last few weeks. She has been a wonderful help understanding the Tel-Quesir. She does me great honor.”

“Does she?” he said simply, but I could just detect the tone of disapproval under his breath. I gulped and continued.

“Yes. She…appears to perform as a Sonalta should,” I paused trying to put what I was thinking into words, hoping my elvish was sufficient for this. “And I realize not being Tel’Quessir has required some adjustment. And some…difficulties in understanding.”

“Difficulties. In what way? In attempting to…bed?” he said dryly, leaving no room for polite maneuvering.

“That…that was only so I could sleep and nothing more. If I had known how it would appear—”

“—I understand your problem in that regard,” he said with a scant smile. “The others have had them provided as well,” so I have no doubt of your intent with it.

I exhale relieved for a moment. “However,” he said catching me short, “Her infatuation with you is…distracting. Arnara has much to focus on in the coming years. But I trust when you depart, everything will return to as it should be. Now If you excuse me.” And Kylan turned, and moved towards another gathering of elves, leaving me alone in my awkwardness.

"That could have gone—“ I whispered aloud.

“—Better?” Arnara finished as she approached me from behind.

I turned to look at her guiltily. “I didn’t realize I was a—”

“—You aren’t. My father is just concerned. You have done nothing wrong. My lack of discretion has embarrassed him. Not yours. It will pass.” She said.

“I think I am done for the evening,” I said the feeling of emotional exhaustion creeping up on me.

Arnara nodded. “Let us return, so you can get some…. oh, the word is ka’sana in elvish.”

Ka’sana…yes. That. Thanks, Arnara.” I said and she took my arm and patted my hand.

“There is nothing to concern yourself. And do not trouble yourself about my father. I will handle it when the time is appropriate.”

I nodded, and we walked down into the gardens, to find one of the many paths to return me to the house by the pond.

I sighed and looked up as we walked, seeing the stars and the moon Selune through the branches of the trees, marveling at the night sky. I felt the touch of a soft breeze upon my cheek as we walked together, wondering what else might be in store for me this evening.




I screamed and sat upright with a start. My heart was pounding as my hand clasped at my chest, as if to keep it from escaping. In my head were images of blood and horror fading fast.

A blade swiftly cutting air.

A red skinned head with dark black hair twisting, covered in blood.

As the hair twisted, a different face came into view, cold and beautiful with a look of cruelty on the sneering face.

A candy of red cinnamon, bouncing off the cobbles on the ground, which shattered the street, which then collapsed into darkness.

Me falling into the pitch, screaming.

And now I found myself screaming on the floor, surrounded by sheets, pillows, and cushions, trying to put my thoughts back together, and the memories back into a long-forgotten box.

“Myrai? What on--?” Arnara said, sitting upright in her divan, throwing her book on to a low table nearby. She knelt next to me, placing a hand on my forehead, as if looking for fever.

“I’m…I’m fine. Just a nightmare.”

Arnara nodded, and stood moving towards the pantry and returning with a goblet, saying “Drink this,”

I grasped the cup and gulped, tasting fruit, spice and herbs. Its taste wasn’t familiar to me, and I turned to look at her.

“It will sooth you, and still your heart,” she said. I nodded and kept drinking, finishing it off. I put the goblet down on the table, and then flopped down again on the nest of sheets and pillow in the room, taking deep breaths.

“This…this is why you drink so much?” Arnara softly asked.

I nodded, saying nothing.

“It…hurts?”

I nodded again.

“Why?”

I sighed and between clenched teeth and muttered, “Because the pain won’t stop.” I took another sip and continued. “Sometimes I remember the details, most times I don’t. But it always seems to be about my sister.”

“You have a sister?” Arnara started. “You’ve never said any—”

“—She was killed in front of me, after she bought me candy for my name day, nine years ago. Anyway, we weren’t really sisters, we just liked…believing we were.”

“That’s horrible! Who would do such a thing and why?”

“A spiv was running, and she…was…in the way. And…and…” I closed my eyes, looking for the courage to say that name. That name I cursed for years in my head. The name of all that pain wrapped around me just as her own dark tresses wrapped around her lithe elusive figure.

“And…Pentar,” I finally spat out her name “cut her down all the same, just to kill the spiv.” I said sadly. I didn’t cry; there were no tears left for this nightmare. Just a tired resignation of a past I couldn’t change and never escape.

“Your dreams haunt you. Do they always?”

I furrowed my brow for a moment, “I don’t know. I try not to think about them. I guess it’s a good thing you never have to experience them.” I said. As I laid there, I could feel the herbs in the drink work their way into me, calming my heart, and letting me feel at peace.

“I…suppose. I admit I…like watching you sleep. But I would rather you have pleasant dreams and not these nightmares,” Arnara said, as she again sat on her divan and then leaned over, her hand touching my shoulder.

“I…can…agree…with—”

My mind faded to darkness as the herbs took hold and ferried me away. I just barely remember thinking that maybe I should move into ‘that room’ when everything faded.

Session notes:

On one hand, elves are so common in D&D, but on the other, we only the highest level of detail. Snippets of culture, and belief. So, learning about elves isn’t the same as learning elvish, and yet when you try to research this stuff you find a lot of oddball holes, some of which I poke at for fun here.

But the same is true with Lizardfolk (which is why I like Jhasspok in Raiders of the Overreach), trying to play a character that isn’t in the words of Marc W. Miller, ‘a human in a funny suit’ takes work, and sometimes the details matter. It makes for interesting characters and hopefully interactions, which is the stuff I like. Writing about it is a bonus.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
An Elven dark and bitter urgency - 6/15/2020

The best darks are someone else’s secret shame.



“That is the most…gorgeous piece of work I have ever seen,” I said, my eyes wide. I leaned in closer to look at the polished silvery cuirass and could see my own mirrored eyes reflected in them.

“Stop that, you’ll fog it all up!” Daneath said. The big warrior had speed but not the grace of his brother, but you wouldn’t know it watching him wear this set of plate. It was a suit made for him and him alone with nothing ill fitting. Just as remarkably was as he moved, there was little sound; the plates slid over each other smoothly and noiselessly, and the buckle didn’t clatter against the metal. It was a far better set than the mish mash of hobgoblin and human armor he had before, which made him sound like a small smithy when he moved.

“So that’s why you asked us here, in arms and armor…to watch you strut?” Iesa asked. His former set of leather had finally worn out and now had been replaced with a new one, dark black and with close sets of copper rivets, that had been treated to have the look of corroded copper, without compromising the strength. It would clearly blend well in the foliage and the darkness easily.

“Ye---er no! No, I wanted to spar and get a feel of it, with people I normally work with.” He said glaring at Iesa.

“Sure, you did; then why is Myrai here? She never spars.” Iesa pointed out.

“Because she IS in the thick of it with me, healing your sorry ass,” Daneath retorted. “Besides, I heard from Talans she also had something made.

“I did too!” Iesa said, pointing to his studded chest.

“Well…hers was in steel, and I wanted to see it.”

“Well, I’m wearing it,” I said spinning on the toes of my boots. Talans called it 'amber steel’ for good reason; it wasn’t the silvery shine of mithral that Daneath wore, nor was it the dull metal of the chain I had prior. It was closer to a bright brass in color, but with far greater durability. The piece was a curiass, with a small set of faulds, to cover my hips. It was exactly what I wanted, something that didn’t require as much time to repair as the chain shirt I had before and had stronger protection. And because of the few parts, it also was quiet when I needed to be so.

“It is…form fitting,” Iesa said admiringly.

“You’re just jealous that my chest is bigger than yours!” I said.

“Now wait—“ Iesa started to say, but was drowned out by Daneath’s laughter as he caught Iesa comparing his pectorals to my bosom. Iesa clamped his mouth shut and then started to laugh as well.

“Alright, that is funny…not what I meant, but funny.” Iesa said wiping a tear. “And it does look better than Daneath’s cast offs.”

“I should hope so…I had to remove a lot of links to make it work, and it never did sit quite right.” I said. “But are you serious; you wanted to…spar?” I asked.

“Why not. I mean come on, when is the last time we sparred? Secomber?”

“No, we—”

“Daggerford!”

“Um..no, we—”

“Waterdeep then?”

“No Daneath, we—"

“Yartar! Of course, after we rescued—”

“No Daneath, we have n—”

“Wait…did we in Triboar?”

“Um, D,” Iesa interrupted. “I keep telling you, she doesn’t spar.”

Daneath frowned and thought. He opened his mouth and raised his finger twice, before saying “I know! We …oh wait that was Iesa.”

I waited patiently for him to come to the truth.

“You’re right. We never did…why is that?”

“Truth? You never asked, and I always had something else on my mind, so I never did.” I said shrugging.

“Oh…does that mean you don’t—”

“Look I’m up now early in the morning, might as well.”

“Ok…but I don’t think its fair.” Iesa said.

“What you are afraid of Myrai might actually beat you?”

“That’s optimi—“ I started when Iesa said.”

“She has an audience cheering her on!” and he pointed at Arnara seated on a bench overlooking the field. She unlike most days wore a set of soft breeches, tunic and soft leather vest, typical wear for the elves near the training grounds. But at the sound of her name, she quickly sat up, pulling her nose out of her book and snapped it closed.

“I’ll cheer quietly then, as not to trouble you.” She said trying to sound helpful.

“See, she’ll be polite and will pat me on the back saying that you boys ganged up on me,” I smirked.

“Right sh—wait. That’s not right!” Iesa said in protest.

“And besides you do have your own audience,” Daneath pointed at Mo, who was sleeping on a branch of a nearby tree. “See, his faith in you is so high, he doesn’t need to look.”

“Hah hah, funny.” Iesa frowned sourly.

“Look, we’ll take turns, at each other.” Daneath said. You and Iesa first” Daneath said to me.

Iesa drew his rapier and looked at me with that grin, “No magic Myr!”

I drew my own, “Fine, no sand in the face, low blows, or pointing at…who is that?” I said pointing with my blade at Iesa.

“Huh?” Iesa said and turned to which I smiled and lunged, only to have iesa spin and parry off my strike.

“Oh…so that’s how you are going to play?”

“I learned from the best,” I smiled hopefully, while thinking that I had made a horrible mistake.

Nine bouts later it was clear that as far as sword work was concerned, Daneath was generally the best, with Iesa a close second, and I was a distant third. I did win a bout each against Iesa and Daneath, and it all came down to if I managed to land a blow first, I could keep just ahead. Iesa had problems working around my shield, but when he did it was usually enough. Against Daneath it was just hard to find an opening period. Daneath would just knock my shield out of the way with his broad blade, but I was a little lighter on my feet. But not enough.

When the two brothers pitted themselves against each other, it generally favored Daneath. For Iesa, the armor and shield on the big warrior, made it very difficult to land a blow on Daneath. Conversely, Iesa’s agility just made it hard to connect any blow with Daneath slower sword. But his blade wasn’t as easy to parry or block with the lighter rapiers we used.

“Well, you aren’t bad Myr,” Iesa grinned, as he drank from water from a skin he brought. “You might need some practice is all.”

I shook my head, “It’s not what I focus on; I can’t exactly do what I normally do. I might actually kill you.” And took the skin from him and swallowed some water, before passing it to Daneath.

“I suppose that wouldn’t be a spar then. Oh well,” Iesa shrugged.

“She’s actually pretty good with a rapier,” Daneath said after finishing off the skin. “And most rapier wielders can’t use a shield worth a damn against an arming sword, or worse a heavy mace."

“Thanks,” I said. “So, the armor passes the test?”

“It does; I can’t imagine wearing anything else.” Daneath grinned.

“You might need to take it off to get some sleep.” Iesa pointed out.

“Nope nope…I’ll just have you hunt up some rabbits, line it with fur and sleep in it.”

“I’m not cleaning that, magic or no.” I said wrinkling my nose.

“Probably best; I’ll be heading to Talans to tell him how it worked out, and to get some spare straps. Talk to you later!” Daneath called as he headed towards the smithy.

As I stood there, I felt a touch on my shoulder. Turning I found Arnara looking at me and she asked a question. “Can you show me how to use that?”

“What a rapier?” I said surprised. “Sure…wait a second. Hey Iesa, can I borrow your blade for the morning?”

“Hmm, sure. I’m going hunting and I don’t bring it for that,” he unbuckled his belt, and handed the blade to me. He then glanced at the elf and looked at me quizzically. “You going to teach her?”

“I’m going to show her, I’m no sword master.”

“Play it safe Myr. Have fun.” And Iesa headed off to his dwelling.

I drew my blade and handed it to Arnara. She grasped it and moved the blade around in a broad cutting motion. I smiled and said, “It’s not a arming blade or a longsword. You usually thrust with it, and only some like mine have a cutting edge near the end.”

“I know…I watched. I am trying to feel its balance. It has far less in the blade as well.”

I nodded, “Elves don’t practice with the rapier?” I asked.

“Some do; it isn’t as much tradition as the longsword. It’s funny my house had a sacred blade, a moonsword that was a rapier unlike most of them. But I haven’t used one before.”

“Had?”

“Yes…few moonblades were ever made, and a good number have been lost; unable to find a worthy heir or lost in battle to foes never knowing their value. So, it was with ours. But even still, I think everyone in the house uses a longsword.”

“Well, I wouldn’t have known you never have used one based on your stance. It’s probably better than mine.”

“Can you teach me?”

“I can show you some basic moves. If you like it, you might find someone here to teach you with better skills.”

“That sounds fair,”

“I’ll trust you’ll remember that later.

“Why do say that?”

“Because you’re going to be sore. Now, swing low…”




The sun was setting, and I lay on a divan on the porch. I was playing with another creation, one that was easier than the rod. I discovered at the celebration that I liked the ritual to create a true servant to hold my things allowing me to keep my hands free. So in the weeks after I created a slim wand that could replicate the effect. It was a small toy, but it was a useful exercise on creating useful items, so I didn’t have to spend time or personal energy to make things easier. But it was all Gossamer’s fault.

I had some wine at hand, and I was using the servant to slowly move and keep Gossamer in a ray of light as he slept. I found I had far less lectures from him, the more his fur soaked up the warmth of the sun. I just was tired of getting up and moving him, or casting and creating a hand every time he asked, while I was in the middle of something. A wand made this so much easier, especially because I didn’t need to think about it at all.

As I sipped my wine, I heard the door open as Arnara had returned from her errands, and as it had been traditional for the last ten weeks, I greeted her in Elvish, while she responded in Celestial which she was trying to learn from me.

“Welcome. Did the springs sooth your pain from the spar?”

“Yes. You were an infernal female for beating me so.”

I frowned, “Not infernal, cruel. Long E on the second syllable. Beating might be the wrong word, but technically accurate,” I said in common.

“Argh. Its been weeks, you think I would get that right.” Arnara said flustered.

“It’s an old and very particular tonal language. How matters as much as the what. Its why I sound so stilted in Elvish, I keep trying to apply tone in areas that don’t need it.” I turned my head to look at her. “Why don’t we let it rest today in honor of your bruises.”

“You are sooo kind,” Arnara said dryly. “But I…I have a favor to ask of you.” She said and sat down on a divan across from me.

“Sure, what is it?” I said sipping my wine.

“I…I…want to sleep with you.”

My wine flew from my mouth as I almost choked on it. I sputtered ungracefully, “Wait what?”

“Did I say?…Oh No no no.” her face changed from innocent, to horrified to embarrassed swiftly. “Not like that! Let…let me explain better.” She took a deep breath.

“You know that Elves do a reverie to relax right?” Arnara said. “What you call ‘Trancing’”

I nodded, “I think you said that as adults you remember your past and reflect on them, like an exercise. Because elves can’t sleep and dream like everyone else.”

“Yes…but not quite right. You see…elves can dream. We can sleep.”

I sat up straight. “I thought that was impos—”

“No. We cannot be compelled to, but we can if we want. It is…it is socially frowned upon to put it simply. But the clergy of Sahanie Moonbow do sleep and take guidance from her that way.”

“I had never heard of this,” I said.

“It is…not discussed with those not of Tel’Quessir. And truth be told only several elves in a generation try it, mostly to satisfy a curiosity. But they never talk about it. It is a…private matter.”

“And you want to sleep...by me?”

“Not exactly…I want you to watch me. In the same way I watch you.”

“This isn’t about repaying something is it?”

“No,” she said. “It is because you said once, to understand the multi-verse you have to experience it. I don’t understand the dreams you have, how they make you feel. But I want to.”

I nodded slowly, as I realized she was serious about it, “You don’t have to do this for me.”

“I’m not. I’m doing it for me. I just want you to be there when I wake up. And I want you to never tell anyone what happens.”

“Of course. I will be here, and I won’t tell anyone. I am going to need a lot of tea.”

Arnara smiled and bowed her head. “I have some for myself to…assist, and for some for you to stay awake.”

“I’ll get a kettle going.”




We had both changed into robes, and with a cup of tea in each of our hands, we entered ‘that room’ together. Arnara sat on the edge of the bed for a moment, and took a breath and swallowed the tea, which had the scent of chamomile, lavender and valerian wafting from the steam. She then pulled her legs on to the bed and lay flat on her back staring straight up.

I quickly swallowed my tea, which was a dark bitter and black with a tinge of spice and sat next to her on the bedside and held her hand. She was breathing quickly, and nervously, and I tried to calm her.

“Why is my heart pounding like this?”

“You’re doing something very new…I suppose a little fear is appropriate.”

“I’m not afraid!” she said glaring at me. I sighed and smiled and said nothing. “Alright I’m a little afraid. I know what I am not supposed to do, but I don’t know what I am supposed to.”

“Sometimes we have a hard time sleeping too…Some villagers count sheep.”

“Sheep? Why sheep?”

“Because…I have no idea,” I shook my head. “Try counting something else…arrows maybe?”

“Arrows? That sounds vaguely…”

“Flower petals?”

“Alight…I like that…so what? Slowly.”

“Yes, that works. One rose petal, two lavender,” and I motioned with my hand for her to continue.

“Ok…just promise you won’t leave me,” She said her eyes relaxing.

“I won’t leave.”

“Alright, one rose petal…two lavender petals…three orchid petals…four…”

It took a while, around forty mistletoe petals before her eyes closed and the elf fell asleep. It was strange. I had watched her trance of course, but there her eyes always were focused on something, just not you normally. Wide open, slowly blinking, their movements slow and precise for reasons of comfort.

Here it was different, her limbs were now slack, her breathing deep, and her eyes closed and focusing inwards. Her face was now smooth and flat as the muscles relaxed completely…perhaps for the first time in her life. Where once she was flat on her back, she now curled onto a pillow and clutched it, as I sat on the chair by the desk and watched and read.

What I was reading, was the book she always carried. It turned out to be a spellbook, but unlike the one that Beepu carried, this one was illuminated with gold leaf and fine colored inks. While the letters and many words were in elvish, I wasn’t trying to read them or understand them. I was simply drinking in the artistry of the pages. This wasn’t a workbook, or an everyday book. This was an heirloom of a wizard, who loved their art, and wished to convey it in all is magnificence and glory. At the same time was almost religious in nature, as the symbols of the Seldarine were scattered through the pages. And it applied to all the spells, even those with violent means or ends. I was halfway through it, and moving to the 3rd circle, when I jumped.

At the door to my dwelling, there was a furious pounding.

Goss? That isn’t you right?

--Not me…oh. He’s here.


“Sodding gnome,” I cursed, unfolding my legs from beneath me and leaving ‘that room’ and shutting the door. I checked my robe and carried my teacup and then strode to the door.

“Myrai! Myrai! Wake up…where is that woman?!? Either one! Myrai!”

I flung the door open and looked at the gnome.

“Beepu.”

“Good you are awake.”

“I am now. What do you want?” I said looking the disheveled gnome. His hair was unkempt, and his face, normally shaven clean had a thick growth of fuzz on the cheeks.

“We have to talk and get packed.” And Beepu walked straight inside.

“Why don’t you come in?” I said sarcastically.

“Thanks, now get packed, we have to leave at once!” Beepu entered my pantry and started to pull cheeses and the like into a sack.

“Wait a…what do you think you’re doing?” I said stunned at Beepu’s sudden obsession with my food.

“We are leaving! We have no time to waste.” He said, and he started to empty the silverware drawer into the same bag. “We will sort this out on the road.”

“Stop Beepu—”

“—Good…what else. Oh, you should bring that armor there on the stand, it might fit you. Wait, why are you not getting dressed?”

“—Stop Bee—”

“—We will get the brothers, and then I have a plan. We will borrow some bucks to get us to Secomber and then catch a wagon to Yatar and then—”

“BEEPU!” I shouted, reaching and pulling on a white strand, focusing it on my voice to give a clear command. Beepu yelped and dropped the sack, and looked at me in awe.

I sighed, “Sit down and talk. Explain what has happened.” And I pointed to a divan by the fire pit.

“Well it is a little chil—”

I snapped my fingers and with my mind snapped a white strand to the wood like a whip, suddenly lighting it.

“Yes. That is better.” He said holding his hands together like a schoolboy who had been scolded.

I sat across from him, and looked him in the eye. “The last time I tried to visit you, you had Foggle, land on my head, pull on my hair and try to pull me into a pond.”

“Yes. That was a bit much I agree. It is why I did not complain when you dropped him off as a bag of parts at my front door.”

“Right so, what has happened?”

Beepu took a deep breath. “I finally decoded it. The device my father was making was a new one to travel to the planes…originally. He changed it though.”

“Changed? How?”

“I understand the what, and I know the why had to do with Umbra. But I now know what parts that are missing and how to put it together. What for is murky. And that is why we must go now.”

“Why now? What is so urgent?”

“Well the first piece will need some work to find, and I hope that my father’s workshop will have a clue in Silverymoon. But that is not the problem, the other part needed…is a wedding ring.”

“A wedding ring? Any wedding ring?”

Beepu shook his head, “No. Either my father’s, or my mother’s.”

“Ok, I get it…so why the rush?”

Beepu sighed sadly. “I was a fool. I translated the notes openly, not thinking about encoding them. But this evening I found…a homunculus in my room reading my notes.”

“Wait like an imp or something?” I said starting to see the problem.

“No, it is more of a construct of magic. But it is similar yes. And it may have read about the rings. My…my mother may be in danger.”

“Sodding Baator,” I stood thinking. “You’re right. At first light—”

“We must leave now!”

“Beepu! At first light we can ask Melandrach to get us there. You need to rest, as do I so we are prepared. Neither of us are any good otherwise.”

Beepu was about to retort and then thought again, “No. You are right. Rushing too fast is not a good idea.”

“Right,” I said “So, go, wake the brothers, and tell them to get their gear ready and meet at the Hall of Stars at first light. Then go rest, prepare and do the same.”

“Right right…sure. I will see you there.” Beepu then rose and walked out the door and closed it behind him, and I heard him run down the path.

“Nice to see you too Myrai, take care, good night,” I said rubbing my temples. I sighed and looked around, realizing that it might be awhile before I could return.
Arnara’s breathing quickened and suddenly her eyes opened. The room was beginning to light up with the kiss of the orange morning light. Her eyebrows knitted together as she struggled to recall the fading memories of what ever dreams lingered. She turned to look at me sitting on the bed holding her hand.

“Morning sleepy head,” I said smiling bitterly.

“That was intense. And you do this every night?” She questioned her eyes still having a faraway look to them as a wistful smile crossed her lips.

“No, I try to avoid it. You seemed to have had a good dream to start with.”

“I…I…I guess so.” She sighed and then looked at me. Then she frowned as she looked me up and down.

“Myr, why are you armored? What has happened?”

“I’m sorry but I…I”





“So, you remembered to shave Daneath,” Beepu said with a mocking tone.

“Well, yes. I’m more impressed you remembered how. I was wondering if you were growing a beard to use it as a bookmark.”

“Well, it was more efficient not to.” Beepu retorted.

“Must be why Iesa never bathes; more efficient that way.” Daneath smiled looking at the sleepy Iesa.

“Hmm..what? Hey now that is slander and calumny!” Iesa said angrily.

“You do not even know what that even means!” Beepu pointed out. “Or even how to spell it.”

“But am I wrong?” Iesa waggled a finger at the gnome.”

“I suppose not…ah Myrai, about time.”

Their voices and banter carried through the hall, so it was hard not to hear them as I approached. I walked toward them briskly and didn’t even get a chance to speak.

“An attendant is looking for Melandrach,” Iesa said. “So, I guess we cool our heels here.”

I nodded, “Fine.”

Iesa looked at me concerned. “Something wrong?”

“I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night,” I deflected.

“Well, Beepu told us everything. I don’t like this to say the least,” Daneath said.

“Well we couldn’t stay here forever…even if we did take that offer,” Iesa agreed.

“Not at all. The research options are limited. Silverymoon has many more options…once family is taken care of.”

I nodded quietly, saying nothing.

It was then, that a lightly robed Melandrach appeared with his attendant. The look of concern on his face was apparent as he came and knelt by Beepu.

“I understand your mother may be at risk. My condolences. As I had promised, I will help you. I understand you wish to get to Silverymoon, swiftly.”

“Yes, quite correct.” Beepu said.

Melandrach nodded, “I have arranged for Kylan Ustina to meet you north of here. There can be found a teleportation circle, tied to one in the High Forest, and with a days march you should be able to reach Silverymoon, on the southern back of the River Rauvin. If you are fortunately, you may be able to find a either a barge or some horses to get there even faster.

“Why not there directly?” Daneath asked.

“The Mythal that protects it, has wards to prevent such transport. This is as close as I know how.” Melandrach said. “Are you ready? Have you said all your goodbyes?”

The others nodded quickly, while I nodded far more slowly, thinking.

“Ginakan here will take to the circle. I wish you luck and I do hope you may return to see us in happier times.”

We all nodded and said thank you, as the four of us and our familiars and pets followed our guide north, away from the great tree, and its wonderous halls.

The forest was only just awakening to the morning light, the mist was rising still, shielding it from our prying eyes. The walk was easy enough; more than long enough to turn my morning’s conversation over in my mind.




“I have to go!” I said, stuffing some spare travel clothes into my pack. “The thought of that…that lovelorn, unhende, sinker threatening Beepu’s family sickens me.”

“Is that the only reason?” Arnara said calmly.

“What? Isn’t that enough?” I said a little on edge.

“Are you sure that’s the only reason?”

“What else could there—”

“My father didn’t scare you off,” she said with that maddingly calm smile.

“No, he—”

“—No unfinished business of your own?”

“I…I…” I stammered.

“—Concerned on how you feel about me?”

I looked at her helplessly. I gulped. “If he can threaten Beepu’s family, he can threaten anyone. I don’t want to put you at risk.”

“Is that all?”

I mouthed the word “No,” but I couldn’t speak aloud. Arnara smiled and took my hands.

“You are still at the start of a long journey. It isn’t done. But I would not cage you and have you leave those tasks undone. I want you to find what you must out there. And like many journeys, you will revisit many places. And when you do, I will be here waiting. Not as your Sonalta, but as your friend.”

I stood there with tears, unable to speak, as she leaned forward to kiss me on the cheek.

“Travel well, Myrai Aerasume’. I pray you find what you must.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means ‘Silver moon of the Evening’ for it is in that light I have my fondest memories, ha-celas. Of it lighting your hair, and the reflection of Selune in your eyes…”




“Hey Myr!” Iesa poked and prodded at me, bringing me back to the present.

“Hmm…sorry…what?” I stammered.

“Is that new?” he pointed to the elven rapier I now wore.

“Yes…it was a parting gift from Arnara. I left her my old one, so she could practice.” I said smiling looking down at the blade.

“Anything special about it?”

“Just…just the memories,” I said still smiling.

“By midday we had reached it; a hidden circle of stone lost in a deep copse of trees. The stone was ancient, with elven runes etched almost indistinctly around the edges, while six great ones, filled with silver were equally spaced on the outside edge. There already was Kylan Ustina, his hair set into braids, and dressed in fine travelling leathers. He nodded at our approach, and we made our way to the circle. After the others had passed him, I stopped and spoke quietly in elvish.

“Your daughter is a wise Etrielle. Wise beyond her years. I am fortunate in my short life to have met her. Guide her well on her journey.”

I swallowed, and moved towards the circle, when I heard.

“I will Myrai Aerasume’,” to which I turned in surprise. “Travel well.”

I nodded, and stepped within the boundaries of the runes, and watched as Kylan summon power from the weave. While subtle there was no hiding the power he called, as he bridged the gap between the stone here and elsewhere. In my eyes the dim morning light grew to a blinding white, and then it faded away.

We stood on a circle of stone, in a darkened forest, where the morning light had not yet reached. As we looked around trying the clear our sight, I saw the crouched figures of elven bowmen, aiming arrows our exposed group in the circle.

I quietly raised my hands to my companion’s surprise and said in elven smiling:

“Good morning! Can you point us in the direction of Silverymoon?”

Session notes:

And off we go, 3 months later, and one session in real time.
 
Last edited:


Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Homecoming Deeds - 6/20/2020

There is a nasty saying that ‘Fiends love to undo the deeds of charity.” It might be true. But there was a sect in Sigil that believe, the more you gave, the more you got in return.

So, its nice when the latter happens. But then you keep looking over your shoulder for that fiend.

And powers willing; poke him in the eye.



It was, once again, a long walk. The forest on our flanks was grander, the air cooler, and there was the sound of the River Raurin next to us. We stayed near the banks as we marched, hoping to find a barge to take us to the city. But no barges plied the waterway today. And after a while the march feels like any other. But it had been almost three months since we had had shared the road together. And it was different.

Iesa and Daneath were in the lead; Daneath’s new armor allowed him to stay near the front with Iesa and do so quietly. The pair were animated, eager to get out and travel the world again. The rest had done them good, and they were in good humor, despite the circumstances. In fact, I noticed, they were as happy as Mo was, who ranged freely ahead, climbing trees and looking about. He too wanted to see new thing again.

Beepu, however was on edge; short with us all, and constantly muttering to himself. Foggle reflected his mood, circling around constantly. When he landed, his head would spin in circles, never stopping, watching all around. Then Beepu would glare at his familiar, and it would be off again. There was no mystery to this, but his mother was clearly on his mind and his concern clear.

As for myself, I was somewhere between melancholy and dread. Until I was here on the other side of the portal, I didn’t realize how attached I had become to the Misty Forest and its people. And Arnara. But sadness grew distant, as the spires of Silverymoon came slowly into view. The debt I that had, felt almost physical; a weight on my shoulders measured in yards of chain. How this wasn’t my journey, but theirs. Following the trail of Umbra and Pachook, and their efforts against the Kershak. I helped them because it made sense at the time, a potential path home. But now?

Umbra was certainly dead at this point, and as for Pachook it was unclear. Certainly, Beepu’s mother was of a more immediate concern. But nothing was leading me home. Paying off this debt, didn’t change the second debt that I was guessing that involved my father. The Kershak was a threat to me only because I was helping the others. I knew that if I could run far enough away, that problem would probably disappear.

But I could no more do that, than I could force the sun to rise in the west. The chains of the debt laid upon me was too strong…and I cared. I cared to see them through their journey, because they saved me to continue my own.

“You alright Myr?” Iesa asked, as I realized he now walked beside me.

“I’m not looking forward to this,” I said looking at Beepu who was muttering to himself, and not paying attention to any of us. “It feels like something bad has already happened, and we are still in the blinds.”

“You didn’t want to leave, did you?”

I looked at Iesa, “No…in the end I didn’t. I have my own mysteries to solve, but no reason to chase it right now. And I guess after years of being in the Hive, a little peace and bliss seemed overdue.”

Iesa nodded, “After my mother died, and I was on my own in Waterdeep it was hard. Even Mo couldn’t chase away the darker days of rain and hunger,” he said scratching the monkey sitting on his shoulder. “So yeah, the forest was something I didn’t want to leave either, especially after meeting Hylias.”

I looked at as Iesa in puzzlement, “Hylias? She was one of the rangers as I recall. You two were…?”

He shook his head, “No…she was a hunting partner only. But, she was masterful one at that; she knew everything about the forest. She knew how to prepare and hunt her quarry. She taught me a lot. And I have to thank you Myr.”

“For what?”

“All I had to do was let her talk about hunting and we connected. I would have loved for it to have gone further, but…she wasn’t interested. But she did enjoy hunting with me, or so she said. I suppose that memory is enough,” Iesa said with a sad smile.

“It was the same with Arnara and I,” I said.

“Really? I heard a rumor though—” Iesa started.

“I found out about that rumor during the celebration. We were close, but not as close as the rumor implied,”

“Are you sure about that?”

I said nothing, as I really wasn’t sure of the answer. However, I didn’t need to.

“Well, I suppose we have other worries right now, with…wow,” Iesa stopped talking suddenly, as we came around a hillock and saw our destination.

The Hall of Stars at the tree in the Misty Forest was a sublime piece of nature combined with skilled stone craft. But that was a city of the wood elves, tied to nature and an outright rejection of the ancient elves magic and rule before the Crown Wars. That was not this city; this one embraced both magic and civilization. The buildings were low, and constructed of fine stonework, and shale rooves. The city was bisected by the River Rauvin, which we could see piers with barges moored on the northern bank. That bank had the majority of the city, with the southern, being much smaller and newer. But spanning and connecting the two was a shimmering silver white bridge, the Moon Bridge. A work of great magic of the elves. The late afternoon suns’ light caused the river to glitter and reflected off the white stone walls daring time to tarnish them.

Before long we had reached the ‘New Gate’ and without hassle, found ourselves inside the city. We crossed the Moonbridge and I admit to being a little slow to do so. I could feel the magical power coursing through what felt to be solid stone. But it looked more like a ribbon of shimmering silver, and not stonework at all. I was walking slowly just looking at it when Iesa prodded me to move on. I smiled and chuckled to myself, here I was the jaded Sigilite, and here I was cagestruck in a Prime city.

After crossing the Moonbridge, Beepu’s pace picked up considerably. Normally our paces were a bit slower so he could keep up with our longer legs. But now, his pace was relentless, and it seemed to quicken as we passed through the narrow streets west of the open of the market. We turned a corner, and Beepu dashed towards a building with us, struggling to keep up.

The street was lined with townhouses, all with a shop on the first floor, and what appeared to be residences above them. It was on a street that clearly was one of successful craftsmen or merchants; well to do, but not a noble or merchant prince. Beepu had run straight into one, which a green door of a height comfortable for a human, but the handles were set low, for a gnome or halfling. He threw it open and called out for someone in his native tongue. The windows in front were of a frosted glass, not letting us see inside, but over the door was a simple sign with a gear and a doll painted on it. I was the last to step inside, but before I did so;

Goss, fly around outside here, see what you can.

--Sure thing; am I looking for something in particular?

Yes. Anyone interested in us.


I stepped inside what I guessed was the darkened shop; there were no lamps or torches lit inside. On the counters all around were clockworks and dolls. Even more toys and automatons crowded the shelves and even some hung from the rafters. A passage led beyond and a stairwell let to the upper floors. As I looked around, I realized there was a bit of dust on the tables and other flat surfaces. As I looked around, Daneath came from the passage shaking his head.

“Kitchen and pantry back there, and a door to a common garden area,” he said quietly. “But the door is locked, and the bread and cheese in the pantry are moldy.” From above, I could hear Beepu calling out for someone.

“That’s bad,” Iesa said, running a finger on the counter. “Dusty as well…no one has been doing business here.”

Foggle had set itself down on a perch and twisted its head back and forth and uttered a solitary ‘Beeeepuuuu’ before going silent. I then started towards the stairs to head upwards.

“I’m going to poke around some more down here,” Daneath said. Iesa and I nodded and made our way to the second floor. As we reached the landing, Beepu dashed from a room, and headed up another flight of stairs.

“Not good, but at least he hasn’t found anything bad yet,” Iesa said. I nodded quietly in response. The floor was a hall which led to four bedrooms. Nearby there was a window that overlooked the front door, which had a table and a lantern on it. I moved over to look closer and noticed that it had little dust on it. I pulled open the panel door and saw the remains of spent of a lot of candlewax at the bottom. As I looked, Iesa poked his head in the rooms.

“Interesting, one of the rooms has a human sized bed,” he said.

I looked at Iesa and thought and then remembered. “Could Kingsley have been staying here?”

“Very likely, but not recently.” Iesa said looking around concerned. “No one has been here in at least a month. Maybe more. But nothing seems horribly out of place either.”

I nodded and decided to follow Beepu upstairs. As I reached the topmost floor, it was clear that our concerns were justified.

The top floor was a workshop; there were racks of gears, and chests of small drawers and benches to on projects. Tools would have hung from hooks and harnesses jutting from the sides of the wall. But the room was torn asunder. Tools and papers scattered everywhere on the floor along with gears, sheets of metal, some flat, some bent, and shards of glass everywhere. The drawers were pulled from their chest and scattered across the floor along with their contents. Benches were overturned along with a pair of tables. Nothing was where it should have been.

In the middle of this cacophany was Beepu, kneeling on his knees, his mouth agape, arms slack at his sides. His breathing was short as he looked at the disarray. Iesa and I looked at each other unsure on what to say to Beepu. Then from behind us we heard the armored steps of Daneath climb the stairs.

“What happened here?” he whispered as he surveyed the damage.

“Someone was looking for something,” Iesa responded giving Daneath a dirty look.

“I get that,” Daneath punched Iesa in the shoulder. “But why here? The other floors are untouched.”

I thought a moment. “They weren’t looking for a wedding ring,” I said.

“Why do you say that?” Daneath asked me.

“Because they have his mother; they have one of the rings now. They were looking for something else.” I said. “And they haven’t found it yet.”

“How do you know that?” Iesa asked confused.

“Beepu told me there were parts needed. A wedding ring was only one of them.”

“Well they didn’t find one thing,” Daneath said.





Moments later Daneath, Iesa and I were standing over a mound of earth in the shared courtyard of the buildings on the block. The grass had already covered it up completely, but the arrangement of the stone ring around it gave the firm impression it was a grave.

“Who’s is it?” Iesa whispered.

“It’s small, barely the size of a gnome,” I said. “How did you find it?”

“The stone ring. When my mast…Umbra was training us, one of the students died in an accident. He had them buried on the site, just like this.”

“Could it be…” Iesa asked Daneath not finishing the next word.

“It’s small, but that may not mean much,” Daneath choked on his words. “Myr can you…do you have…”

I looked at Daneath in shock, “I could exhume whoever it is and put them back…if that’s what you want. I don’t really have anything else,”

“I need to know. Please.” Daneath whispered.

I gulped and nodded. I then knelt by the grave and whispered aloud, while clasping the symbol around my neck.

“I pray for forgiveness on disturbing the rest of the dead. I shall return them swiftly back to your care after we find the answers we seek.” I then reached out and slowly pulled on strands, scraping them across and beneath the earth. Quickly, the earth churned, and I slowly moved more and more dirt and silt away from the rocks. Suddenly, an oblong shaped box came into view; far too small to hold a body. It was no more than a foot deep, and the box itself wasn’t very large either; a hand and half in length, and a hand high and deep.

Hesitantly I reached for the box and pulled it out of the earthen hole. I scraped away the dirt and doing so, exposing the wood underneath. I shook it gently and could feel the shifting of something loose inside. I then cleaned off more of the outside of the box with my fingers and I found, burned into the side of the box the image of a double looped snake, eating its tail. The sign of the Kershak.

Grimacing, I turned to the two brothers and sadly said.

“I think this is the final resting spot of Umbra, and these are his ashes,” and I gave the box to Iesa for him to look at.

The brothers looked down at the small box in Iesa’s hands in silence. But both of their eyes were watering with emotion.

“I’ll leave you together for as long as you need, and I’ll reinter him when you are ready,” and I walked back into kitchen and then reentered the shop, leaving them to their grief. I sighed and looked around the shop seeing if there was anything amiss here.

--Hey Myr, there is someone looking at the shop across the way

Are they being sneaky?

--No…not really. I think they are a shopkeeper…yes! It seems to be their shop and he is closing up. But he keeps looking at this one.


I considered a moment getting the others and decided that everyone else had enough on their minds. So, I opened the front door from the shop, put on a smile and walked across the thoroughfare.

Across the way an old man was lifting and putting baskets into a cart, each holding bolts of cloth. His hands were meticulously clean, with callouses on the edges of fingers. His slight frame was a knot of corded muscles as he lifted each basket.

“Need a hand?” I asked.

“You don’t look like a merchant…or a Tilteepockey,” he observed. “A little tall, a little young, and a little nosey.”

“I am certainly some of those, but I do count Beepu as a friend.” I counter hands open and smiling.

The man nodded, “I thought it was him. He still has that monstrosity with him?”

“Foggle? He’s not so bad once you get use to the oil drippings.”

The man nodded, “That’s good enough. I won’t say no to your help then.”

I moved over and lifted one of the baskets and placed it on the cart.

“Don’t suppose you’ve seen his mother, or Pachook?” I asked as I moved to grab another one.

“Pachook? I haven’t seen him in a long time, over a year, I think. And Helsa? The shop has been closed for what, five or six weeks. Haven’t seen her or her manservant.”

“Manservant? Kingsley?” I asked as I lifted another basket.

“You know him?”

“Beepu recommend he come here after he ran into…trouble,” I said evasively.

“Not my business I suppose.”

“It wasn’t Kingsley’s either, but he did us a good turn, and we returned the favor.”

“So, you sent him to Helsa?”

“He saved our lives, and we helped him start a new one,” I said thinking back to the dock in Yartar.

The old man nodded, “He’s a good man. But I haven’t seen him either, but someone keeps coming home.” And placed a basked on the cart and leaned on it looking at me.

I lifted the last basket onto the cart, “How do you know that?” I asked looking at him quizzically.

“I’m not a learned man, but I finally got around to learning my letters and I try to read in the evenings. My bedroom looks across the way and there has been a light on the second floor from near dusk to dawn.”

I leaned against the baskets looking at him, “So Kingsley has been home?”

“I doubt it; normally he’d help me in the morning and the evening like you are now. I’d like to think he would stop by if it were him. But I never seen who it is that lights it,” he moved toward the end of the cart, and starts to push it inside. “Thank you, I hope you can find them…For Beepu’s sake.”

I nodded and started back. But then something occurred to me.

“Hey, one last question.”



“How you doing?” I asked Daneath and Iesa as I entered the workshop.

“We…said our goodbyes,” Iesa said quietly.

“Do you need me to—”

“We buried him again ourselves. If you think you need—”

I shook my head, “There is no one right way. People have buried kin without priests, without ceremony for as long as people have been. You’ve done everything you need.” I said with a tear in my eye and a smile. “There is nothing more I…need to do. This was his final stop though. The weaver across the way saw Umbra with Pachook here over a year ago. And now, he’ll never leave.”

I looked down at the floor and turned my head to look at Beepu.

He had not moved from his spot. His eyes looked glazed at his father’s work area. Tools, gears, cogs, rods, shattered constructs.

Shattered dreams.

Shattered hopes.

Shattered souls.

I closed my eyes and breathed a moment, clearing my head.

“We have to get ready,” I said.

Deneath’s head snapped up. “What? Why?”

“The lantern on the second floor has been getting lit every night for weeks.”

The brothers look at each other and then back at me frowning.

“I want to meet the lightboy.”



Session notes:

For reference, this is literally the first thing that happened after a bunch of dice rolls “what did you do in the Forest.” What happened wasn’t really described.

But the dread was real enough.
 
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Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters

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