Session Stories - Moments in Roleplaying (updated 6/15/2023)

Wilpower784

Smug Bladesinger
This is one of my favorite parts. Even rereading it, I had a grin on my face.

But even I wonder what happened after she pinched Rafelor’s butt…
 

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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
I will leave it your imagination if her reach was beyond her grasp, or Rafelor's reaction to a successful caress.

Otherwise; it would be telling.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Part XVIII - Severance - 11/4/2021


The sun elf sat in a patch of sun in the forest glade in the Ardeep Forest. Her eyes were closed, and her face soaking in the warmth of the sun, as she waited. Her lustrous gold hair hung loosely around her shoulders, and her tanned face was unmarred by scars or age. The beech trees rustled softly in the wind, as leaves were scattered about the clearing. It had been a long time since she had left her home in Evermeet, but it was even longer since a need was as great. She sighed and opened her eyes to watch her companion hover around the stone circle, much like a predator impatiently waiting for its prey to emerge from its burrow. The stone itself was old, the runes carved into it were older than either of them, laid near the founding of the nation of Ilefarn, 11,000 years ago. Some of the runes were worn smooth from rain, others cracked and splintered away with from icy freezes. But its secrets to its use was known to a few, the sigils kept in dusty tomes hidden in libraries of the knowledgeable. One such record was found in the private library of the Ustina’s, and of that house only two knew the sigils by heart. One of them was Kylan, who continued his circling of the stone with a deep scowl on this face. All because the other one who did know, was late.

“You would think that she would understand the courtesy of being punctual with as much that is at stake here,” Kylan grumbled impatiently.

“It does not matter Kylan,” the sun elf said. “I am certain that there was a reason for it.”

“I thought I instructed her on the basics of courtesy. She at least should have sent a message.”

“Kylan, you did say she needed to collect some things for the ritual, and she would be here before midday. The sun has just reached its zenith. Patience.”

Kylan stopped and looked upwards at the sky and sighed. “You are correct. I just want this to be done with.”

“I am sure they do as well.”

Kylan was silent for a moment when they both felt it; a pinching of the Weave as the sigils on the stone, illuminated with a blue light, showing the delicate runes true form, now lost to the elements. The runes flared briefly and as the light dimmed, four figures were now visible on the stone.

Kylan looked at them in turn. The first one he saw was an eladrin, her hair was an emerald green, with leaves woven amongst the wild braids, and her solid-colored eyes matching. She was clad in leather armor, stamped and colored with leaves, and she carried a staff with a green gem on top. He knew her name was Zinetra, an heir to a noble eladrin in the Feywild, and it was by her reputation which made much of this possible. The second was the half-elf Rafelor, his mace was in hand at the ready as he looked around uncomfortably at what must had been a sudden change in location. He saw Kylan and nodded curtly and breathed a bit easier. Following him, on a glowing yellow disk lay the mishappen form of Arnara’s clone, dressed in a plain white robe and nestled among a set of blankets. Finally, next to her stood Kylan’s daughter Arnara herself, her rapier at her side. She noticed Kylan and quickly stepped over to him.

“It took a little longer to find what I needed; Candlekeep is not as stocked as a normal town is and we had to find some creative solutions,” Arnara explained.

Kylan opened his mouth to respond, but he stopped himself and shook his head. “It is fine. This has been a tiresome journey, and I would like to see it through. How are—”

Arnara looked at the mishappen form of herself on the disk. The clone was already laying back with her eyes shut tight and covering her ears. Turning back to Kylan she said, “She is enduring…I must keep conversations short in her presence.”

Kylan looked at the clone with sympathy and nodded. “Of course. Arnara…both of you, the Royal Council has asked Selu’tar Salensyna Durothil to perform the ritual.

Arnara’s eyes widened suddenly, and she bowed her head respectfully. “A’Sum Selsharra. It is an honor.”

Rafelor looked around awkwardly, and said “Um…greetings, A’Sum Selsharra.”

Salensyna arched an eyebrow and smiled at Rafelor. As he looked at her, he noticed that in her eyes, she appeared to have moon shaped cataracts. He remembered that this indicated that she was near her the end of her days, and it would be time to go to Arvandor. Looking at the half-elf closely nodding ever so slightly, she spoke; “You are the bridge then. I hope you are ready.”

He let out a nervous laugh. “About as ready as I'm gonna be.”

Salensyna nodded, “This may be the last time this ritual will ever be performed. And certainly, it was never intended to be used in this way. But the Royal Council feels the attempt must be made to undo the hag's crimes.”

Arnara looked at Rafelor and explained, “High Magic is...an art we are choosing to forget. Salensyna is one of the last of the high mages. No one is being taught the rituals anymore.”

Rafelor looked at Arnara in confusion. “What's wrong with High Magic?”

The woman on the disc moaned and Arnara snapped her mouth shut. Zinetra then continued, “High Magic is a wonderous thing that only elves can perform. Its power is far greater than any wizard of Netheril ever dreamed of.” Zinetra looked off to the side sadly. “But during the First Flowering of the elves, we were...arrogant. We used High Magic for wars against our kin. We turned forests to ash. And we, split the world apart to create Evermeet. The damage was so great, that the Seldarine had to lend us their divine power to fix it. Because of this...the dangers, it is a temptation best left forgotten.”

“And yet here we are, For the last time...wow. Today's going to be a day to remember. For all of us.” Rafelor as he realized the rarity of the event about to unfold.

“True,” Zinetra acknowledged. “But Arnara and I think that High Magic, in combination with the Netherese necromantic ritual, is the only way to save them both. Or so we hope.”

Rafelor nodded. “So, I'm here now. What happens next?”

Zinetra smiles, “Akh'Faen'Tel'Quess will make the Weave, pliable. It allows for an elf to be transformed into another form. During this time, I will attempt to split their souls in twain, using the Netherese ritual. This happens naturally on rare occasions, when identical twins are born. At such times, we believe the souls repair themselves. But here things will be more complicated. Which is why we need you.”

“Cool. Cool. Just uh, tell me where to stand.” The half-elf said trying to calm his nerves.

“Actually, you will lie between them,” corrected Zinetra. “Standing would be problematic for all of you. As you lay there, you will guide them. Their soul will share each other’s memories, and they may become torn or fragmented during the separation. You, Rafelor, will help by acting as bridge through the Weave. Holding their memories together until the souls can do it themselves. I cannot tell you what you will see or feel. You will have to discover this on your own.”

“That doesn't sound too bad.” Rafelor said confidently, “So, if I'm taking trip down memory lane, what's Kylan's gig?”

“I will be assisting the Selu’tar,” Kylan said evenly. “The ritual is demanding, and so I must address her needs during it. And ensure that we will not be disturbed.”

“Gotcha,” Rafelor said, unsurprised that Kylan had the easy job.

Kylan continued, “The Fane of Naralis Analor is a part of the Crypts of the Deepening Moon. Fortunately, we have already spoken to the guardians before you arrived. We should not be disturbed, so long that we leave the Laranlors and Laranlas undisturbed—”

“—Huh?” Rafelor said, unfamiliar with the old elvish words.

“Kings and Queens. This was once part of Ilefarn, and then later the moon elf realm of Ardeep. The Fane itself is over 10,000 years old, so…be respectful A’Tel’Quessir.” Kylan said to Rafelor. “Come let us get below.”

Kylan took out of his pouch a small orb and whispered to it, causing it to burst with light. It then drifted above the elf, and he led them through the ruin. Nearby a set of stone stairs descended deep into the rock below. Deep into the Fane of Naralis Analor.

Time had worn on the stone here, as ancient carvings on the wall had cracked away and faded to almost smooth ridges on the side of the passage. The driftglobe’s warm yellow light was a comfort in this hallowed place of death. Soon the tunnel opened wide into a large chamber. In the center were four biers, each large enough for pairs of people to lay in state in preparation for burial ceremonies. Set in between the biers, were old braziers, already lit by Kylan and Salensyna before the other’s arrival. On one bier set on a white cloth, were a set of silver goblets, and a bottle holding a sparkling yellow liquid. Then Salensyna stepped next to Rafelor and bent down and laid a hand on the reclining elf on the disc and spoke to her. “Are you ready?”

Arnara’s clone who had been focusing on shutting everything out, nodded and opened her eyes and uncovered her ears and looked at the Selu’tar, “I think so.”

Salensyna nodded, “Have you chosen a form, and have you chosen a name?”

“Whatever the ritual decides is fine, I just…don’t want to look like Arnara. But as for a name…I..I choose my adult name to be Apolyta.”

Arnara turned to look at Apolyta and choked up a moment as she spoke, “That’s…a good name.”

Rafelor laughed. “Apolyta. Not bad. It's familiar...rolls off the tongue nicely...not too hard to spell. You know, it's almost as good of a name as Rafelor.”

Apolyta smiled at Rafelor and Salensyna nodded and spoke again gesturing at the two elven women, “Please, you will both need to lay on the bier over here. Rafelor, please assist Apolyta. Kylan, pour the Blessed Evermead into the goblets and serve them to everyone,” she said in a soft gracious tone. The patriarch of House Ustina, Kylan bowed his head and made his way to the bottle and goblets and began to pour. He then served each one of the participants a cup.

Salensyna then spoke reverently in Elvish;

“Naralis Analor, we ask you for your doves to guide us this day and for you to shield us from harm in your temple. We drink of the mead of our eldest cousins and open ourselves to your blessing. I ask your forgiveness as I transgress against the Weave to undo a greater transgression. I beg your wisdom as I sing, ‘Life of Duty, Form of the Peoples Need’ for Apolyta and make her one from Arnara. Blessed may we be.”

She then took a sip from the silver goblet as did the others. Rafelor swirled the wine in his glass a few times before taking a sip. Once he did so, he realized that this was the greatest wine he had tasted in his life. His focus trailed off into his taste buds as he quietly uttered to himself, “Hooolllllyyyy naughty word.”

Arnara elbowed Rafelor and gave him a reproachful glare. Then Apolyta spoke to him softly, “Rafelor, help me please.” She pulled herself upright from the disc and swung her uneven legs down, sitting up. She then unfastened the leather belt holding her robe, and then slid out her arms from its folds, exposing her shoulders, chest and back. Across her back were the lasting memories of pain at the hands and tools of the Sewn Sisters.

Rafelor had witnessed many punishments of whippings in cities, burns on the arms of smiths, and scars from soldiers. But Apolyta’s skin was covered in many such marks, far more than criminals, unlucky smiths or hapless soldiers ever bore. She sat there shivering and extended her one good hand to Rafelor in a silent plea for help. Rafelor said nothing, and lifted Apolyta from the disc and set her naked form on the stone bier. After looking up, he saw that Arnara, had also undressed. Her skin was by comparison flawless; unmarked by any blemish, even though Rafelor knew that she had been wounded before. The magic of various healers prevented many scars or marks from setting into her skin. She looked down demurely, swallowed, and sat down on bier before swinging her legs onto it, trying to forget her nakedness as she laid down on the other side of the bier opposite of Apolyta.

Rafelor looked at Salensyna helplessly a moment, before she tilted her head and spoke, “No…you do not need to be skyclad as they do as you are not the intended target of my ritual. But you should disarm, lay between them, and hold their hands together with your own. He nodded, laid down his mace, and crawled up onto the cloth and slowly reclined between the two women. They both reached forward with a hand and Rafelor guided them so they could grasp each other, and both were clasped together on his chest. The silence in these moments caused the nerves in Rafelor to fester.

Arnara and Apolyta lay there a moment, before propping themselves up a bit so they could look at each other in the eyes. They then each glanced at Rafelor with small smiles that spoke volumes about their nervousness, and their relief of a friend so close to them. “Sal o, Aral’Sha Rafelor,” Arnara said, echoed by Apolyta. And they closed their eyes and lay back and clung to Rafelor’s hands and waited.

Salensyna then spread her arms wide and began to sing. The song was in a language that was distinctly elvish, but the words and diction where unlike any elvish he had heard before. The words reverberated in the chamber, and he felt the Weave quiver in response. It was similar how the Bladesong felt, but here there was no river of magic, but an ocean. An ocean that was pulling them deeper into its depths. He felt warmth build and spread from the elves that lay next to him, and felt it flow through his hands. Turning his head, he saw Arnara face, and it started to glow with the power of the Weave, working its way through her. Turning to the other side, he saw that Apolyta shared the same glow.

As Rafelor processed this, from behind him, he heard the swishing leathers of Zinetra approach, and then she whispered into his ear, “It’s Seldruin you are hearing, the first language of the elves, and she…she is one of its last speakers. I am going to start my ritual now.

Rafelor quietly nodded, bracing himself for whatever would happen next, as Zinetra continued, “I am sorry, but the ritual I have to perform is not kind or subtle. You will understand. Just hold them in your hands and keep close your memories. Hold them all tightly, as there is no turning back once I start.”

He had the feeling of a gentle wave, that felt comfort as it washed over him. As he felt the waves of light had cresting and flowing through him, he realized he didn’t only feel himself. But he could feel them…no their soul. A single soul stretched impossibly thin, and that bound the two together. He could feel a constant trickle from Arnara to Apolyta. And it was then he realized the awful truth.

They were imbalanced, Arnara’s soul was smaller somehow, and it was slowly bleeding into Apolyta. But Arnara’s side, as strong and fiery as she could be, seemed to be waning. The flow to Apolyta was more than Arnara could take, and there wasn’t enough for either Apolyta or Arnara to survive. Both halves of the single connected soul were doomed.

“No…the souls…”

The Eladrin had a puzzled look as she stood behind Rafelor. He could hear a book set down next to his head. She then placed a hand on his forehead, and she began to read the text. The tongue was harsh, almost guttural. But Zinetra read in confidence. From where she touched him, he felt another swirl of energy within him, lash out towards the soul of Arnara and Apolyta. It struck the trio violently, causing them all to shudder and shake. The lash of energy pulled at the single soul and started to pull them apart. The soul’s halves started to separate each other, with the connection between them, growing thinner and more tenuous. Then he felt a second lash, and then connection snapped. The waves of energy rebounded within Rafelor, as he felt as if he was being whipped by the two sundered souls. But this was a momentary feeling as then he felt the new sundered souls lash out and strike him. He felt them grasping, clinging and tearing into his own.

Rafelor opened his mouth and howled, as the two elves’ souls, ravaged his, tearing at it, seeking a way into himself, and claiming a part of him. They peeled away Rafelor’s soul in strips and as he howled to heavens, his vision started to fade as whisps of smoke and vapor filled his mind and eyes...
 
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Wilpower784

Smug Bladesinger
Fun times!

Sometimes, I feel a little embarrassed at how often Rafelor asks questions because a handful of it has to do with me still trying to understand the lore of Toril. On the other hand, I also think playing Rafelor was a good idea because it gave me the opportunity to learn about the world through someone who knows very little.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Sometimes, I feel a little embarrassed at how often Rafelor asks questions because a handful of it has to do with me still trying to understand the lore of Toril. On the other hand, I also think playing Rafelor was a good idea because it gave me the opportunity to learn about the world through someone who knows very little.

Well DnD is cursed with lore. A lot of it changes between editions (which gods are around, which are not), a large series of books defining it on the fly, and then retcons/errata that changes the history because the current sourcebook is considered to be canon, whereas anything else isn't.

But it is fun to dive into areas like elven lore. The dnd elvish language as opposed to Tolkien's I use where I can is an easy one so I can write (and say in game) “Sal o, Aral’Sha Rafelor,” and it has meaning. Elven High Magic has a lot of references (most of it in YouTube), as do locations like the Crypts of the Deepening Moon. And then building it up from there. This last set of stories had me think a lot about how House Ustina is organized. What was their history? Why are they in the Misty Forest, and not say Everseka or Silverymoon. What was Kylan's role as a noble in the Misty Forest. And then you get obsessive compulsive about the lore to try to make it 'right.' Changing a nameless caster of High Magic, to a member of a famous line of elves on Evermeet.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Story XIX - Fractures 11/11/2021

The vapors faded into the springtime sun warmed the solarium of a mansion, somewhere in a forest. Rafelor turned around in confusion; he had never been anywhere like this. It was elegant, and the wood that framed the glass seemed to be not carved but encouraged to grow in place. Looking out the glass roof, his draw dropped as he realized the room was an extension of an elven mansion that wrapped itself a mammoth oak. Looking out the windows, he saw other oaks, and other homes, but they appeared different. The ones nearby seemed to be graceful extensions of the tree with little else added. This home integrated smooth marbled stone with subtle notes of silver and gold. But none of trees that he saw had the stature of the one he stood in now. As Rafelor stepped to closer to the window, he heard a soft sound. Turning he saw seated on a divan, Arnara humming to herself and reading, while soaking in the warm rays of the sun

Rafelor took a look at Arnara and let his eyes begin to wander around his environment. “Damn, Arnara, you live here? I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

To see Arnara with a book in her hand was not a surprise to the half-elf. He had journeyed with her enough to see an occasional text on magical theory, or a tome about a school of arcanum, and even once a journal of outlandish experiments from Lantan. But now as she hummed and giggled, it was evident to Rafelor that she read for the simple purpose of pleasure. The smile on her face was pure and unconcerned. It was unlike the Arnara he travelled with who’s troubles with family, or missing friends, or compatriots at risk always placed a calm and sometimes aloof countenance on her face. But now, the look of joy was clear as she smiled bemused at the story she read, her thoughts most likely busy conjuring images in her head. Rafelor was curious on what she was reading, and started to move closer to her, when he heard soft boots, approaching from the hall. And a quick glance told him, that Arnara was oblivious to either him or the imposing figure that stepped into the room, with the sound of grumbling disapproval of her selection of texts.

Rafelor stiffened, as he saw it was Arnara’s father Kylan that had entered the solarium. His eyes bore into his only daughter with a look of disdain on his face, as he waited to see if his daughter was even aware of his arrival. But Arnara’s attention was elsewhere in the story, and her father’s presence went unnoticed by the young elf. Rafelor walked in front of Arnara’s field of view, blocking the sun. “Psst, Arnara, behind you” he quietly whispered.

To Rafelor’s dismay, Arnara did not react to his words at all. Additionally, despite his relative position to Arnara and the sun, his body did nothing to stop the beams of light from hitting her.

“Arnara,” Kylan said in a soft yet commanding tone, startling the young elf.

Arnara jumped up from her divan, and quickly hid the book behind her back, as she looked her father in the eyes. Her breathing was quickened, and her arms shook, as she answered timidly, “Yes…father. I…I…was not expecting you.” Rafelor looked at the two elves, and he could feel the tension in the air that hung between the two. But he was more struck by Arnara’s behavior as it had none of the confidence, or calm that he normally saw in his mentor.

“Reading trivialities?” Kylan said disapprovingly. “A story of forbidden love, or heroic exploits? I expect the Third Daughter to be a bit more studious and disciplined.”

“I…I’m not neglecting my studies! I just…wanted to read here in the sun this afternoon,” and Arnara pulled the book in front of her and clutched it as if it would deflect her father’s glare at her.

Kylan stared at his daughter, his face a mask. “Arnara, you are fortunate. I had breakfast with Corlia Xiloscient, and we have agreed on your future.”

Arnara blinked confused, “My…my…future? I thought I was continuing my studies so I could assist Casia—”

“The First Daughter is in good hands as it stands now,” Kylan waved his hand dismissively at his daughter. “You are to be Sonalta for Morlea Xiloscient in the near future, so you should start preparing for your role in their house.”

Arnara looked at her father still confused, “But…I should be Casia’s…or Zyana’s—”

“As Third daughter, you will be strengthening our bonds with House Xiloscient,” His tone even but with a hint of annoyance. “So it is…best that you perform as a Sonalta for them.”

Arnara awkwardly probed her father, “Xiloscient is a…fine wood elf house of course. But I do not understand—”

“—And perhaps you will find someone…compatible…and you join—” Kylan continued.

Arnara’s eyes widened, and her face flushed with anger, “Join? Join!? You mean leave, I think. Give up my name and claim to the Ustina house so you can be rid of me. All because I am an inconvenient reminder for you!”

“Arnara, you are to fulfill your obligations to this House, and that will be the end of it.” Kylan said his voice showing a hint of anger. “And that obligation is to…ingratiate yourself to House Xiloscient. And if you don’t, I will find another house. And another if I must. As many as it takes.”

Rafelor turned and barked at her father. “Kylan, you naughty word! Don’t go giving your kids away like that! Don’t care how fancy this house is, it’s no excuse to cast off your daughter…and be a dick about it too.” And much like Arnara, Kylan did not react to Rafelor in any capacity. Rafelor threw his hands in the air “WHY ISN’T ANYONE LISTENING TO ME!?”

Arnara stood there fuming a moment before responding, “Very well, father. If that is what you desire.”

“The needs of House Ustina come first,” Kylan coldly reminded his daughter.

“Of course it does,” Arnara said bowing her head. She stood there quietly before lifting her head and giving her father a withering glare, “If me leaving will…cure you of your hatred towards me. Towards what I did 115 years ago. When I cut out of your life a cherished part of you. One I never got to know. So be it.” Arnara said, walking briskly to the doorway to exit the solarium. But before she left, she turned to look at her father again.

“But at least she loved me in that brief moment. But it seems the soul of House Ustina died with her then too.”

Rafelor turned back over to Arnara. “Wait, huh? Arnara, what are you talking about? You never mentioned anything about...what the? Hey!” Rafelor found himself engulphed in mist, as whirls of mist and vapor crept all around the room. As it spread and thickened, Rafelor’s vision of everything around him rapidly dissolved. “Hey. Hey! Wait! Cut it out! I can’t see anything!”

He began rapidly swinging his arms through the air, trying to move the mist out of the way. Eventually, his vision was completely obscured by it. His environment was nothing but the quiet, mystifying vapor for a few short moments until it cleared, revealing an entirely new environment.





___
The white tendrils of vapor swirled and whipped around Rafelor before his vision was blinded by the light of the sun. Looking around, Rafelor knew where he was, a slum called Rivington, on the outside edge of Baldur’s Gate. It was loud and bustling as it always had been, and it was well-known haven for crime and smuggling. There was much to see and much to forget about if you were smart. One forgotten young man shuffled his way through the streets, anxiously looking at all the people passing by.

Rafelor stared at the man and felt his stomach drop. “OH NO…”

He was dressed in some dirty, plain clothes, but he gave off the impression that he still cared about his hygiene. His hair was smooth and crept down to his shoulders and his face, bearing no scars or scratches, looked as though it was washed regularly. He didn’t look bad. He didn’t look good. He only looked like another bystander trying to find his own footing in town. Finding a clearing between the crowd of people, he found who he was looking for: a towering goliath and a strong, but not quite as large, half-orc. Taking a deep breath, he approached the half-orc and spoke to her.

“Excuse me, uh, are you…Carrie?”

She turned her head to meet him. “It’s ‘KAR-ri’, actually. What do you want?”

He began to mumble “I…heard you were, um, looking for people that might be good for uh…“

“What’s that? Speak up, I can’t hear you.”

“Sorry! You’re looking for people to help smuggle stuff?”

Rafelor watched the trio until his palm met his face and he turned his head away. “It was so long ago...I really, really, don’t want to watch this.”

The half-orc raised a brow, not expecting someone to be familiar with her line of work, nor discuss it openly, “Yeah, we are. Do you know anybody that could do the job?”

He looked down sheepishly, “Yeah, actually. Uh…me.”

There was a brief period of silence. A look of shock and bewilderment froze on her face. Shortly afterward, the silence was broken by an eruption of laughter from Kari and the goliath.

“Stop it! Don’t blow it, you idiot!” Rafelor shouted at the man. However, his words fell on the same deaf ears, just as they did with Kylan and Arnara.

“You can’t be serious; you want to be a part of the ring? You’d have to be able to stand up to people like my pal here to stand a chance. And you? Hate to break it to you, but you don’t even look like you have the guts to squash a bug.”

The man let out a sigh of defeat.

“What’s your name, boy?” she continued.

He didn’t respond; he had nothing to respond with. After an awkward period of silence, she kept talking once more.

“…Okay then. Tell you what, why don’t you run along home and make some better use for your time than bothering us.”

Without another word, he left in silence. Even with no home to go to, he disappeared into the streets, leaving behind the goliath and half-orc to ridicule him behind his back.

Back into the bustling, crowded streets he walked. Blending into the crowd gave him some time to think about himself. At this point of his life, he had nowhere else to go. Nobody gave him the opportunity for a job in Baldur’s Gate, nor did he believe he had any exceptional skills for one. He thought there was no chance he could survive anywhere outside the streets of the city; any chance at braving the unknown past Baldur’s Gate would lead to his death. On top of all that, there was never a single piece of reassurance given to him by anyone in his life, which led him to believe that even if he could pick himself up, would he even deserve it? The man had no clue what this smuggling job meant to him, but he thought if there was any chance that he could escape his personal hell, this lowlife job was his only chance to do so. Despite this, he failed to apply himself when it mattered the most, allowing that opportunity to waste away like everything else he knew.

The half-elf watching all of this continued to pout. “This blows, why do I have to see this?”

A growing anger began to grow inside of him. Despite his best efforts, he could never seem to accomplish anything in his life. This latest interaction with the smugglers had only proven to himself how much of a failure he thought he was. It was impossible for him to get anything he wanted by himself.

So, he began to think about what would happen if he tried to be someone else.

Meanwhile, Kari and the Goliath were talking amongst each other, having forgotten about the man that approached them before. That was, until Kari turned her head and saw the same person marching towards them.

“Hey, you, what did I tell you? You don’t have the guts for this” she hollered to him.

He ignored her and kept moving towards them.

“Are you deaf? Scram!” she barked.

Rafelor breathed in “And so it begins…”

With a furious intensity growing inside of him, he quickly made his way over to the goliath, and before either of them could react, he punched the goliath square in the face with all his strength. The force of the blow was strong enough to knock the goliath down to the floor. The man put his foot on the goliath’s chest and leaned towards his head.

“Don’t have what it takes, huh? Well, it looks like your weak-ass goliath is currently stuck beneath my heel. So, get your priorities straight and know talent when you see it, bitch.”

Stunned for a moment, she let out another fit of laughter. “Look at that, he smacked your naughty word, Spulitz.”

The man looked down at the goliath beneath his foot, only to realize that it was no longer a goliath that lay beneath. Instead, there beneath his heel was the lanky figure of a changeling.

“Zat was one of many recruitment tests, and you passed” the changeling spoke to the man.

Kari chimed in. “In the ring, you need to be someone that isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty like that. Could have had me fooled the first time you showed up. Welcome to the team.”

She held out her hand, which the man took for a solid handshake. The rage that festered inside of him began to fade. Instead, confidence and a small feeling of pride began to build inside of him, something that he had not felt in several years.

Meanwhile, the opposite effect was happening on Rafelor. “Come on, just get on with it already!”

“Now, what did you say your name was?” Kari asked him.

Despite everything, he still did not have an answer for her. He thought of the many stories he had read about people of great might, strength, prestige, and charisma. Trying to emulate the heroes of his past, he decided to say the name he thought best emulated that kind of person…

“It’s pretty simple, not too hard to remember. The name’s…”

The same mist and smoke returned from before crept all around Rafelor. He bowed his head and closed his eyes, eagerly waiting for it to whisk him somewhere far away from here.





When Rafelor opened his eyes again, he found himself in yet another place. However, this environment was another place he wished to forget. A rectangular chamber with benches and cages of different shapes and sizes. Dolls sat on shelves and looked down with empty eyes from their perches. Near the middle of the room a corroded brass cauldron sat, with wisps of green smoke billowed forth. The sickly vapor flowed across the floor, with wispy tendrils grasping at nothing in the air. Along one wall was a massive door bronze door, with five bronze seals, that Rafelor remembered, concealed locking mechanisms. And beyond it lay the remains of a never born god, now hungering for all the souls in Toril.

As Rafelor looked around, he heard a soft groan. Turning he saw a familiar mishappen elf laying on the stone table. She groaned again and her eyes fluttered open. She turned her head to look around in confusion. It was clear that to her, that the stone chamber was unfamiliar. Rafelor stepped closer to the elf, and he realized this must have been shortly after Apolyta had been ‘born’. Her skin was smooth and unblemished like Arnara’s. And while it wore her face, he cringed at what the elf was about to discover.

The elf grimaced in pain and then tried to sit up. But she stopped short when as she looked at her own hand. Her hand was folded up against her forearm, the fingers locked together barely able to flex or wiggle. Shivering, she then looked down at herself, to find that she was naked on this table. But beyond that shock, was that somehow her other limbs were also twisted and bent. One foot was turned inwards as a club foot, while her legs seemed to be of different lengths.

“What…happened…to me? Where am I?” the elf said confused and the barest hint of fear in her voice.

“Oooo…you are so much improved. Much better than before,” a gritty voice in the shadows said. “You were a hideous elf. The most hideous I have seen in quite a spell.” Turning she saw the voices owner trundle into the light. A tall lanky woman with purple skin, and patchy bristle like hair. Over her skin crawled a multitude of ants, and her eyes were covered with crust laden gold coins.

Rafelor grimaced at the sight of the grotesque woman that stood over the elf that had in the real world just named herself Apolyta. Despite its absence in the ritual, he noticed his morningstar back in its usual spot at his waist. “Nope. We’re not having this. Not letting jackasses like you have any fun. EAT THIS!”

The best-looking half-elf in the room swung his morningstar, aiming for the woman’s head. But, what would have been a direct hit to the skull, ended up being a whiff as his morningstar simply passed through her head. He shouted angrily to deaf ears once more. “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me! Is there anything I can do here!?”

“Not just any Arnara. The REAL Arnara is here to bare her soul and tell us all the truths,” said another voice, and another woman, with a peg leg, and a necklace of chattering teeth around her neck. As she spoke, yellow vapors escaped from her nose and ears. “Poor dear, look how she cowers like a rabbit for stew.”

Three bolts of fire soared through the second woman’s chest, going straight through her. No damage or reaction occurred from her or the room. Rafelor clenched his teeth out of anger. “It’s like I don’t exist. And now the hags get to do whatever they want to her.”

“Well, stew she’ll be if she doesn’t talk, but I am sure…” Said a third voice, muffled by a squirming leather sack worn on the head of a third woman. From beneath the sack, a snake slithered out and looked at the broken elf and spoke. “…Ssshe’ll tell usss sssisters all we need to know.”

Apolyta shivered in fear, as she realized she was amongst a coven of night hags. She wasn’t going to just lay there for their amusement however, and she laid back down and raised a hand and said, “Vas Flam!” But nothing happened, no bead of light, no eruption of heat and flame. She looked at her hand in puzzlement, and then at the hags in fear.

“Tsk tsk…and we haven’t even started to chat,” the one with coins on her eyes said with malice and mockery. “She has no manners does she Peggy?”

“No,” the one called ‘Peggy’ answered with a cruel smile on her lips. “That’s why we said no Weave for her. Hard to chat when the rabbit is trying to roast the cook! Isn’t that right Nanna?”

“The guilt you carry…that makes you so delicious. And with a beautiful form now to match! You are exquisite! Unlike that ugly guilt trip of a woman calling herself Arnara,” the one called ‘Nanna’ said with a smile full of rotten teeth. “But no…she will never see you…never know you…”

“Hmph. If that were true, then we wouldn’t really be here, would we?” Rafelor interjected.

“…you are here for two reasons. First, you are here to tell us all about…yourself…and your friends, right Widow Groat?”

“Yes,” the coined eyed one said. “And then…we eat you. Maybe fast, maybe slow, maybe a little at a time if we want to snack.”

“Elves chewy…will need to cook a while,” Peggy complained.

“True,” Nanna said with a vicious gleam in her eye. “But a slow roast as will help loosen her tongue and make her tender.”

“No…No…I…No!” Arnara said trying to shrink back away from the hags as they approached. Her malformed body was strange her and didn’t move as she wanted. But in truth there was nowhere to run from the fiends in front of her. She saw that in Widow Groat’s hands was a cat-o-nine tails, made of strands of rusty wire with bits of sharp metal bits along the length, dripping with green ichor.

“Questions first, and snacking later,” Widow Groat said with a crooked grin holding up the wicked instrument so that Apolyta could understand her fate to come. “This will soften her up a bit. Now let’s start with you telling us all about the ugly one with that morningstar.”

“Was that really necessary? You’re one to talk, it looks like I’m looking at a backed-up privy!” Rafelor interrupted again. As usual, there was no reply. His eyes rolled to the side as he silently commented to himself “This is a lot funner when someone can hear you…”

“Let’s see what pain can tell us.” Widow Groat continued. Her arm quickly twisted, casting the tails across Apolyta’s flesh, tearing open wounds with the jagged bits. The future Apolyta screamed as the ichor seeped into her wounds. Acrid smoke rose from where the ichor met blood and boiled on her skin. Her eyes were wide in horror as she realized that this was only an opening round in a long battle that she was likely to lose.

“Such lovely music!” Nanna said with an evil grin. “We’re going to have such a lovely dinner party dearie.”

The mist returned, and as everything began to fade away, Rafelor spoke once more.

“I don’t care what bargain we made back in the tomb, when I find that last surviving hag again, I’m gonna give what’s coming to her.”





The mist cleared to the now familiar wood and marble of House Ustina. The hallway was a graceful curve around the trunk of the oak, lined with statuettes and paintings. Rafelor nodded a moment and grinned. This was a place of luxury that had already taken a liking to. He felt a bit of relief returning to a nicer area, but his smile faded once he saw the scene before him.

Running through the intangible half-elf, Arnara stormed down the hall, her face a torrent of anger and shame as tears streamed down her reddened cheeks. Her dress whipped around her as she ran, and her sobbing echoed through the ancient halls of the Ustina mansion. Rafelor saw that she was dressed in the same dress as before, and still carried the same book. Sighing, he realized that she was dealing with the sad reality of being removed from the only home she had known. That she was to be cast out, stripped of her family name, and essentially forced to join another House. Banished for something she had no control of.

“I wish I could say something to her, but there’s no point in trying,” Rafelor said glumly trotting behind her. He followed her as she ran through the halls, seeking succor to her inner turmoil. Soon, they found themselves far from the living areas, and had what appeared to be an armory. The room was round, with the roof open to the sky, and a ring of flagstone stone in the center. Around the edges were pells, and racks of blunted training blades, spears, and shields. Arnara stomped into the ring and dropped her book to the floor. She then pulled a long sword from the rack and gripped it tightly. She then turned, and marched over to a battered pell, and swung at it, shouting in incoherent fury.

Like all elves, It was clear to Rafelor that Arnara had been trained in the use of the sword. But it was also clear that her lack of strength made her a less than skilled wielder with the heavy blade. But most surprising was the raw open emotion on her face as she unleased her fury on the defenseless pole of wood. She showed none of the discipline she showed when she danced the Bladesong. She instead swung wildly with both hands at the pell. She tried to cleave it into two bringing the sword down on the target, only to have it bounce off the sturdy wood, barely notching it with her blow. She swung again and again, tears still streaming, but the wood refused to yield to her, as it stood resolutely against her weak blows. Eventually, her swings became slower and slower, until finally she swung at the pell in a great sweeping arc. The blade struck the wood, denting it and bounced off. The jarring blow caused Arnara to lose her grip and the sword sprang out of her hand and spun across the flagstone. She then collapsed onto the floor, her hair matted, and her dress dripping in sweat as her tears flowed freely.

“Now that is a pitiful sight. Laid low by a practice target,” came a voice from behind them. Rafelor turned, as Arnara wiped the tears from her eyes. There he saw another elf standing, leaning against another pell. He was dressed in fine silks, and high leather boots, with a gleaming longsword at his side. He was muscular for an elf and was a bit shorter than most. His reddish hair was an odd cut, that swept around his head. But he wore a look of concern, as he knelt down to the crying elf.

“Oh, come on, Arnara, I do not look like that!” Rafelor shouted.

He hesitated after speaking. “Or…do I?” he questioned. Suddenly morbidly curious about Arnara’s previous claim, he crept back into the hall. On the wall, a small, decorated mirror hung. Rafelor peered into it, trying to confirm whether there was a resemblance. However, even the mirror refused to respond to Rafelor’s presence, for his reflection was completely absent.

There was an annoyed look on Rafelor’s face as he grumbled, “Now that’s just cruel.”

He walked back into the armory, Rafelor saw the elf had taken her into his arms and held her, as she cried into his chest.

“I can only assume your father…has told you about the arrangements?” the elf said with a sigh.

Arnara sat up and looked up at him in confusion and after a couple of sniffles asked, “Pallas…you…you knew?”

Pallas nodded, “My father told me this morning. Kylan had announced his intention to the heads of the lines last night.”

Arnara shook her head in disbelief, “So I’m…the last to know.”

“Well, not by much. Casia and Zyana are away at Greenpine, but I’m sure a missive to them is being penned.”

Arnara looked down again and said bitterly, “How…how can he do this?”

Pallas sat down next to her and let her lean onto him, “I am not taking his side, and I know you hate this, but as you have grown, your similarities that you have with your mother are many. And as I watched you mature; I saw how you two became more distant to each other.”

“It’s not fair,” Arnara said softly. “That constant comparison, and the…surprise. No disappointment that I am not her. She was a poet, and a skilled swordswoman, and wise. An elf that everyone looked to for guidance. I’m none of those things.”

Pallas sighed, “No, your sense of rhythm is terrible and your skill with the longsword…well…you might as well use a mace or morningstar. No finesse whatsoever,” and a wave of mist erupted from the ground and covered the form of Pallas. As it dissipated, the elf now took the form of a bulkier half-elf who now pet Arnara on the shoulder.

The spectator grinned. “Ha! This guy knows where it’s at! You tell her, Rafelor! Wait…what!?” As he looked at the figure, it was no longer the elf dressed in silk, but himself in his white cloth duster, and dark muslin shirt, his Morningstar in easy reach.

Arnara playfully punched the half-elf, “I had to settle for a teacher that half trained me and was terrible at any attempt at wit or verbal sparring.”

“Well, as I said. There’s only room for one naughty word in this family. And that’s me!”

Arnara softly chuckled and was quiet a moment. The then spoke quietly again, “It’s been hard since the drawing of the veil for me. The Reverie was such a comfort, now all I have are just my own memories. And just I want to forget them. I wish you didn’t have to leave for Whitepetal so soon. I wish you could stay and brighten my…dwindling days here.”

Rafelor’s doppelganger grimaced and said, “You deserve to be happy in life without getting swallowed in guilt and unyielding burdens. I want to help you overcome your challenges. It is the least I can do for you.”

“I mean, he’s right, but he doesn’t have to sound like such a dweeb saying it.” Rafelor commented as he watched this interaction.

“You have no idea how bad the last couple of weeks have been...how...broken I feel. I... I thought we would have time to…but...it’s too fast...everything feels rushed.”

“…have I heard this somewhere before?” asked the spectating Rafelor.

“Nothing ever bothers or flusters you.” The image of Rafelor accused.

“Frustrated or Jealous?” Arnara retorted.

“What difference does it make?” came the familiar response.

“I suppose none, I do get…frustrated…” Arnara’s voice trailed off a moment and she shook her head.

“Alright, time out. Time out. Time out,” the spectating Rafelor said, “I don’t know what the hells is going on here, but I’m pretty sure this is all naughty word. There’s no way I was ever here before; I think I’d remember a house as awesome as this. And that right there, that is not me. That’s her cousin that she’s always compared me too. Cool guy and all, but there’s only one Rafelor and he’s currently very annoyed that he can’t seem to do anything.” And he glared at himself standing there. But after he spoke the mist began to surround the Rafelor that Arnara was talking to. It covered him completely, and once the mist faded away, Pallas had returned in Rafelor’s position.

“Holy crap, did I do that?” Rafelor asked, “Well then, maybe I can do something here after all.”

“No, not it…I’m…lost. What should I do?”

“Perhaps your father is right,” Pallas said softly with a note of reluctance as he cringed.

“What!?!”

“You need time away from each other. Perhaps his perspective will change after some separation. And you would be a Sonalta for Morlea, right? You always did like her. Maybe being away from the house is a good idea, and perhaps someone in Xiloscient may have good advice.

Arnara sighed, “Feels like I’m losing somehow…but perhaps you are right Pallas.”

“I don’t know about that,” Pallas said lifting Arnara’s chin to look at him. “I just know that unless something changes, you aren’t going to be happy.”

From the door to the armory, the white mist rose again to cover the scene. Rafelor’s expression became serious. “So you want to play rough, huh? Well, no matter what, I’m ready for whatever comes next.”





As the Mists cleared, Rafelor quickly realized he was wrong.

Morningstar clashed with scimitar as Rafelor attempted to hold his own against the lizardfolk in vain. As the ship they stood on rocked back and forth, Rafelor was successful in parrying various slices, but he was not in any place to gain the upper hand. With every parry, Rafelor could feel his energy deplete more and more. Knowing full well of Rafelor’s limits, his opponent spun around with a great swing, strong enough to send the morningstar flying out of Rafelor’s hands. With Rafelor having no means of defending himself, the Lizardfolk lunged forward for the killing blow. In that moment, the best Rafelor could do was scramble backwards, twisting around to avoid being slashed. Fortunately, it was just enough for a fatal blow to be turned instead, into a deep scar across his cheek.

He yelped in pain as blood gushed out of his face. Desperately, he held his face, trying to stop the blood from oozing out. At that point, all he could do was taunt the victor.

“Oh great. This sucks; can we go back to Arnara and Apolyta now?” Rafelor complained as he watched.

“You...you’re a psychopath Garzuxl, you know that, right?” Rafelor watched himself say.

Garzuxl snarled, slowly pacing the deck of the ship. “Sssso, what if I am? I’m the one who’ssss walking awayzzz with my prizzzze today.”

“Why even bother with all of this? I didn’t have any beef with you. I’m just minding my own business.”

Garzuxl pointed his scimitar at Rafelor and began walking closer to him. “It’s sssimple. You are an object that ssstands in my way. The Ring is mine to do azzz I zzzsee fit. I kill when I wantsss, I take when I wantsss, I feassst when I wantsss, and I kill whiny actorssss like you when I wantsss.”

“I... didn’t…didn’t want it to be like this--” the weary Rafelor stammered.

“I. Don’t. CARE.” Garzuxl yelled pointedly, and he thrust the scimitar forward, aiming for the half-elf’s throat. With the last bit of his strength, Rafelor frantically twisted out of the way, trying to keep his footing. However, with little room to work with, he ended up throwing his body over the side of the ship. The last thing he remembered before he blacked out was hitting the water below.

When he woke up, his face hurt. As he felt where he was cut, he noticed that a bandage had been applied by someone. Observing his environment, he found himself on a wrecked ship in the middle of a large cavern. Sitting in the middle of the deck, around a makeshift fire pit, was Spulitz, the only person in The Ring that was close to a friend.

“Oh, thank goodness! You are awake! I am so glad to see zat you are not dead!” exclaimed Spulitz in his half-elf form.

“Huh, I haven’t heard from Spulitz in a while. I wonder how he’s doing” said the observing Rafelor.

With every thought that rushed into Spulitz’s head, he changed his body into a different shape with a different personality to compliment it. To Rafelor, he knew the one that stood before him as ‘Mr. Happy.’

“I take it you saved me?” Rafelor replied glumly.

Mr. Happy’s body morphed back into the same, lanky changeling that Rafelor knew from the start. His true form was who Rafelor referred to as Spulitz.

“Correct, I fear that had I not come sooner, you would have perished. And us two are the only survivors. The rest were tragically slaughtered.”

“Yeah? Sure, as hell don’t feel like a survivor. That naughty word got under my skin and then got the best of me. Made a fool out of myself in front of everyone too…”

“Yes, but does it matter since everyone else died?” Spulitz pointed out.

“Is that supposed to cheer me up?”

Spulitz changed into Mr. Happy. “Now, now, turn zat scar upside down!” and just as quickly started to change again, but this time a wave of mist covered the figure. It quickly disappeared and left behind the image of Arnara.“ But the important thing is that you’re still alive. Garzuxl is a deadly foe, one where most people who meet him don’t come back alive. That alone, is something you can be proud of.”

Still watching, the spectating Rafelor shook his head and held up his index finger. “Either Spulitz knows something, I don’t, or this is completely wrong.”

Rafelor clenched his fist in anger. “Damn it...I don’t understand; why can’t I seem to be the person I want to be? Every second someone’s out to destroy me no matter what. It’s not fair! It’s naughty word!”

Arnara looked at Rafelor squinting, as if she was deciphering what Rafelor really wanted, before asking “Well, Rafelor, what kind of person do you want to be?”

“I don’t know!” he shouted. Hearing the sound of his voice echo across the cavern, he calmed himself down, speaking in a somber voice once more. “Nothing ever changes, even when I do.”

“From what I can see, this line of work is cruel and unforgiving. Might I suggest you try going on your own for a little while? When my friend Myrai was still here, she spent a good amount of time in the Misty Forest with me…” she trailed off a bit, letting out a deep sigh, “...although not enough time. Either way, the change in environment seemed to ease some of the terrors she faced every night...”

The younger Rafelor sat there quietly as he meditated on Arnara’s words.

“...When I first left my home, I attempted to do the same. However, once I left, I found that I couldn’t bring myself to come back home. Perhaps you’ll feel differently depending on the path you take,” her eyes looked at Rafelor from top to bottom before she began to speak again, “A solo mercenary seems like a good fit for you. It’s possible going on your own may make you strong enough to stand up to Garzuxl, but the decision is up to you. This is your choice; not mine.”

“You know, as interesting as it is seeing Arnara in this scenario, I should probably do something about this,” said the spectating half-elf has he concentrated on fixing the scene, “naughty word, do I even remember what form Spulitz was in right here?”

He focused on Arnara and thought hard about what he actually remembered. Recognizing Spulitz in his own thoughts, the mist immediately surrounded Arnara and turned her back into Spulitz.

The other Rafelor broke his silence. “Yeah, now that you mention it, I would like to cave that dude’s head in.” he looked up at the cavern. “We should lay low here until he thinks he’s dead. Then, we sneak out and regroup with the others on land.”

He nodded, stood up, and made his way below the deck of the ship. This left Rafelor alone with his thoughts.

The silence was broken only by the Rafelor watching “Seriously!? All that brainpower to fix this vision, and Spulitz just gets up and walks away? Thanks a lot…”’

Rafelor in the vision broke the silence he heard by himself. “That mercenary idea doesn’t sound too bad. I’ll try it someday. If there’s answers to any of these things in my head, I’ll find them. Someway...somehow…”

The mist began to dissolve the scene for yet another time.

“And now we’re already out of here! You already made me sit through this crap. Would it kill you to let me enjoy the fruits of my labor? Whatever, the next one better be nice…”





The cage that Apolyta hung in was covered with dried blood and reeked of her own filth. It was so small that she couldn’t stand in it nor lie in it with comfort. She had to twist herself to lay in the cage, unable to straighten out fully. Her malformed arms, legs and hips made it impossible to get comfortable. Her silver hair was a fright, matted into knots and sticking out in places. Her skin was covered in sores from lying on the iron bars, burns from rods, and cuts from various implements. Her eyes were sunken in as she lay there in a daze. Rafelor had to guess that she hadn’t rested in some time. As bad as things sometimes seemed for Arnara, it was clear that Apolyta; had endured a lot more. And yet, she never said a word to anyone about it. Not even as they travelled to Candlekeep.

“What did I expect? Of course it’s not nice; it’s everybody’s favorite tomb. What disturbing horrors await us today?” Rafelor growled to himself.

She lazily looked over at a tray that sat withing easy reach of her cage. There was sliced roast boar, a bowl of cooling squash stew, and iced cakes with a sugary glaze. She licked her dry lips and then closed her eyes and turned away trying to ignore it. Rafelor heard footsteps, and he saw a tall thin man coming down from the landing above, bearing a fresh new tray. The warm spiced smells were welcome relief to Rafelor compared to the stink coming from the cage. He watched the servant, swap out her old tray of cold untouched food for a new one. And then he stood and gestured with a smile at the new tray. But Apolyta laid there silently and glanced at the meal with hungering eyes. She moistened her lips again, the haunting look of want and desire on her face. But she again closed her eyes and shook her head.

“No…no…” she whispered feverishly. “A trap. A trap. You’re just trying to fatten me up. Like calf on a human farm. I won’t do it. I’ll starve first. I won’t give them the…” and she spat on the floor, “…the satisfaction. I will bear the pain as I give up all I know. I can’t stop them.” And she closed her eyes and a tear dripped from her eye down her cheek before falling to the ground. She and sighed and continued, “How I tried not to talk, not so say anything. But..the..pain,” and she sniffed and started to cry again as she had for many of the days. “And now they are here in the tomb…somewhere…I don’t think they can—”

“—Aw…does our pretty Arnara feel sorry for herself…again? How pathetic.” Widow Groat said as she materialized from the ether. She reached into the cage and grasped the elf by the chin, holding her head still so Arnara was forced to look at the hideous hag. From behind the veil of coins, ants descended down her arm, and crawled on the elf. Apolyta ignored them crawling over her, as she was caught up in her shivering fear.

“And she’s a naughty, naughty girl,” Peggy Deadbells said as she materialized. She then limped over to the workbench near the cage on her stumpy wooden leg while she talked, “You don’t get to choose to starve. No no no. That will not do.” In her hands she carried a machine, full of grinding gears, with a funnel on the top, and a curved tube hanging downwards. She placed it on the workbench, and Baggy Nanna giggled as she moved to the machine and hung a pail underneath the tube. She then took a funnel off the workbench and moved to the cage wearing a wicked grin.

Baggy Nanna approached the cage and from under her leather hood, the snout of a dirty terrier emerged, “Bark bark…well we can’t question her on an empty stomach, can we? Mister Threadneedle, could you be so…kind,” she said with a tone of dripping sarcasm, “To prepare our fine dining for poor poor hungry Arnara?” The human servant said nothing, but took the contents of the serving tray, and dumped it into the hopper of the grinder, and he cheerfully began to turn the crank.

“I can’t believe what I’m seeing. I didn’t know it was this bad. Apolyta…I’m sorry,” Rafelor said as an anger began to build inside of him, “You’d have to be an absolute monster to be a part of this. Who would possibly think this is, okay?” as he watched the hag grind the food into a thick, uneven paste.

“Well then,” said a familiar voice. Turning he saw the faintest tendrils of mist fade, revealing himself, holding Apolyta’s head and chin in place with an iron grip. . “Open wide!”

“WHAT THE naughty word!?”

A shadow stepped forward, and this time the hag Peggy Deadbells now appeared as Kylan. He looked down at Apolyta and then forced the funnel’s small end into Apolyta’s mouth. “The Third Daughter of House Ustina will eat as she is told to. The needs of the House come first.” The image of Kylan said. Threadneedle had stopped grinding and carried the now full pail of liquified boar, squash and cake over to the cage.

“Wait, wait, wait, it was me!? And now it’s Kylan? I need to sit down…” said Rafelor, as he hopped on top of a workbench nearby. However, in that moment, he forgot about his previous attempts to interact with the environment. As his rear touched the workbench, Rafelor phased right through it and fell to the floor.

“…I hate this” he said as he got up on one knee, when he heard the pail being removed from the machine. His heart sank as he saw a familiar elf, in a flowing green dress holding it, and moving over to the helpless Apolyta. Arnara then took the food and held it above the funnel with a wicked gleam in her eye, “And you’re wrong. Not a calf. A goose. This the best way to fatten you and your liver. You could have done this the easy way, but you were always so…difficult!” the elf said with a sneer and she began to tip the pail to pour the contents into the wide opening of the funnel. Apolyta was beyond screaming or crying. All she could do was whimper as she faced her end, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Just as Apolyta started to swallow for her life, the image of Rafelor then suddenly looked up and raised his hand before barking, “What the naughty word is that noise?”

“Aren’t you supposed to be me? Figure it out, dipshit” said the Rafelor watching, as he got up from the floor.

“Oh, come on! I thought this would work!” a voice exclaimed bitterly in the distance from the direction of the stairs.

The spectating Rafelor groaned. “Oh god, is that Hawthorne? Oh gods, go away, Hawthorne. I feel like whenever I’m around you, everything is a hundred times more confusing. You are not going to be a help as I try to fix this.”

“Told you; nothing to see here. NOTHING!” came a jibe in retort.

“I hate this cursed place!” another voice said.

Kylan frowned and pulled the funnel from Apolyta’s mouth and Rafelor released her head. Apolyta then turned her head and started to cough violently, as the image of Rafelor spoke. “It seems that our guests have arrived early. We will have to finish our meal…after we finish them.”

Arnara handed the pail to Mister Threadneedle and leaned down to whisper to Apolyta, “I thought you were made of stronger stuff. But it seems you are weak willed as well. Your tears aren’t going to save anyone. Didn’t save Pyrite. Or Ametrine, and certainly not Toddy now. You’re just a failure waiting…to be eaten.”

Rafelor sighed. “I better fix this before they all arrive and make this even more confusing.” On that note, Rafelor began to recall the appearance of the three. He winced as he recalled all the grotesque details of their faces. As he did so, the mist rolled in and restored the sisters to their proper places.

The Sewn Sisters looked at the helpless elf and the hags cackled as they held their hands in a circle. Then they faded from view, and all Apolyta could do was to lay in her cage and cry in joy as the voices on the stairs grew louder.

Like clockwork, the mist rolled in. Rafelor watched as it slowly crawled across the floor and into the air.

“Come on, can’t you roll in any faster? I got places to go, things to do, and I want to get out of here before I have to see Yaka again.” Fortunately for him, the scene disappeared before any of them could come down the stairs, and the next scene appeared before him.





_____
“Alright, what do we have this time?” asked Rafelor.

It was raining outside the shrine, as Arnara knelt in front of the stone bier, her eyes red from tears, that still flowed down her cheeks. Ralefor was shocked to see himself as a corpse, laying there peacefully although his corpse had signs of a violent end. His body was pierced and slashed by many blades. His eyes were now closed forever, his broken form a shadow of its former self.

“…well naughty word. Wait a moment, this isn’t right.”

She was so absorbed in her grief she didn’t hear the person approaching the small chapel that Rafelor lay in state.

“Arnarrra,” the lizardfolk said simply.

The elf turned her head slightly, “So what disfavor have I done now for you to visit me? Perhaps I breathed too close to you? Did my scent offend? My lack of respect perhaps?”

Garzuxl growled, “Yourrr tone with me isssss beneath you. Neverthelessss we mussst talk.”

The Rafelor that was not dead took a double take at his corpse and Garzuxl. “Oh what the hell, who invited you here? Get out of here, Garzxul. Don’t care how much you want to see it, you’re never gonna get to see my corpse.”

“Sorry father, but…I am a little preoccupied with my grief, and preparing for my new duties” Arnara continued.

“Garzuxl as Arnara’s father? Ew. EWWWWWW. I don’t want to think about that! This sounds like a nightmare after a really bad hangover.”

“It isss about that; thingssss have changed.”

“What? Must I leave the Misty Forest now? Will I still be too close for your fragile memory to handle?” Arnara said with venom in her voice.

“Arnara!” the lizardfolk hissed causing Arnara to look at him with hate. “The hobgoblins have ssstruck again.”

“Where?” Arnara said, her face looking forlorn as readied herself for bad news.

“Whitepetal again, and also Greenpine,” the mists flew through the chamber and the lizardfolk was replaced by the figure of Pallas. But this Pallas we covered the wounds of battle, with a deep cut below the breastbone; a fatal blow. The image of Pallas then said. “Many Tel’Quessir have been lost. Including Morlea.”

Rafelor scratched his head. “Did that corpse just talk? Wasn’t that Garzuxl a moment ago, not Pallas? With all due respect, Arnara, I think I’d rather see Pallas dead than my corpse.”

Arnara’s shoulder’s slumped, “Oh…I…see. So…what house are you banishing me to now?” as she turned to the body of Kylan on the bier.

Rafelor could only shake his head trying to clear the confusion swimming in his head. “And now Kylan’s dead!? At this point, why not have Arnara die and join the party?”

The form of Pallas shimmered as ghostly mist quickly enveloped the elf, and it was now Rafelor who stepped over and forcibly pulled on Arnara’s shoulder and turned her around, “ Zyana and Casia were killed.”

“It’s really confusing when I’m watching myself do things. Guess this is how Arnara felt when she met Apolyta? Why couldn’t they have just cloned Biff or something? It would’ve so much easier…”

Arnara’s face drained of color and she took a step backward. “What? No…No…No.”

“And since Wyan has already…chosen another path, you are now…” Rafelor continued.

Arnara moved over to the body of Kylan who lay in repose and looked at him with a look of helplessness. “The First Heir,” she said bitterly. “I’m not sure who’s being punished here, you or me. All I can say is you deserve it.” She then turned around, she gasped in shock as she received a hard slap.

Rafelor turned in surprise, and saw it was now Apolyta standing there who had swung with her flipper like hand and had struck Arnara. Arnara rubbed her cheek and stared at Apolyta in shock.

“DAAAAMNNN. That’s cold from both of them. Except I know all of this totally messed up because there’s no way that slap actually hurt.”

“You will show some respect,” Apolyta said. As she spoke her form shifted to the lizard folk once again, “And you will act like the Firssssssssst Daughter. I have been too lenient with you, and it is clearrr I have a lot of work ahead of me to forrrge you into a proper heirrr.

Arnara rubbed her cheek, and looked at Garzuxl incredulously, “You…how dare you—”

“Silence,” and the form again shifted to the corpse like Pallas who said. “You will do your duty, and as will I finding you a proper husband. Our lives have changed, and despite that, the duty to the House comes first.” He then turned and strode to the door and turned his head to glance at Arnara. But to Rafelor’s surprise there a different woman stood there. She was dressed in an elven breastplate and wore a rapier on her hip. She had hair of the color of beaten gold, but it was her eyes that stood out. They were like mirrored orbs of silver, reflecting everything that they saw. “So, start acting like the Daughter of the House that you are.” Pallas said pointedly, and he strode off into the rain fading from view.

The woman face was full of anger and hate, but instead of following she turned and sank to her knees in front of the bier. On it now lay the lifeless body of Arnara. The woman spoke, with an unfamiliar lilt, “I…I…don’t know how to sodding do this. You said you would always be there. I…need…your help. I…need…you.”

“So that’s Myrai. Holy crap, was not expecting those eyes. I wonder if I’d be able to see myself in them if my reflection worked here. Nice to meet you…sorta, but I got to put everything back now.”

Rafelor began to think but hesitated on his own thoughts.

“Now that I think about it, this was way more jumbled than anything else I’ve seen thus far. Do I even know who’s actually supposed to be there?”

For a short while, Rafelor stood there, trying to think of who could belong where. “Given that Pallas was here, and not mentioned anywhere else, I can assume he is the corpse. Garzuxl is being a prick as usual, and Pallas walking around is just wrong, so that must be Kylan.”

The thoughts raced into his head and transformed the scene in front of him, matching his assumptions about everyone’s placement. He grinned at the success of his logic. “Now we’re talking, now I just need to put Arnara back in her true form.”

He concentrated in his mind. Then, Myrai was replaced by a fish flopping on the floor. Rafelor blinked in surprise, as he realized it was the same fish that Arnara briefly transformed into back in the tomb because of a magic trap. Almost immediately, mist began to sweep across the room.

“WAIT! naughty word! NO! WRONG ARNARA! HOLD ON! WAIT!” he yelled in a panic. Just before the mist covered everything, he could see Arnara turn back into her normal self.

“Oh thank goodness” Rafelor said with a sigh of relief. As another scene appeared before him, Rafelor thought about how the memories were starting to become more and more scrambled. He was unsure if this was the job he was supposed to do, but concluded that he better do it or else something bad would happen.





After all the confusion that transpired in the scene before, Rafelor was somewhat relieved to see a much more recent, familiar memory of his.

He found himself in the middle of the Misty Forest, where a stone circle lied beneath his feet. Although this memory was recent, Rafelor felt he stepped into that circle to travel to Candlekeep a long time ago.

"We're here. The attendants will bring my daughter here presently," Kylan said dismounting from his horse. "You might want to stretch your legs."

"Right. Stretching legs. That's good." Rafelor said, following behind Kylan.

Watching himself, Rafelor poked fun at his double’s attempts at socialization. “Smooth, Rafelor. Real smooth.”

Kylan arched an eyebrow and said nothing as the half-elf hopped off his horse to get a good stretch in. He clasped his hands behind him, and looked south down the forest pathway.

To help alleviate the awkward tension he felt, Rafelor resorted to small talk. "So...I've heard a lot about Candlekeep. What's it like?"

"A human's idea of a library. A collection of haphazard towers, surrounded by a curtain wall to keep the Sea of Swords at bay. But I have heard the towers descend deep into the earth, where they store vast vaults of forgotten knowledge. I have only been on the outskirts once...what two centuries ago? I have never been beyond the gate."

"Wow. That's really something." He looked around awkwardly, trying to keep the conversation going. “So that's a human's idea then? What's an elf's?” Once again, a misty column swirled around Kylan, and replaced the figure with another image.

"Sssssimply put, Sssssilverymoon. My daughtersss considered going there insssstead, but they felt that it would not be likely that Netheresssse texts would be found there. Candlekeep, desssspite its organization, hasss the larger collection of bookssss. Sssilverymoon is better if you want to usssse it. Though, I agree with my daughterssss; the softskinsss do not possess the knowledge that is sought.” Garzuxl commented.

At this point, the observing Rafelor stopped watching. “No. NO! No thank you! I’ve already had to deal with the image of Daddy Garzuxl once today, not putting myself through that turmoil a second time.”

"Well, good thing we can go to Candlekeep then..." an elvish voice said, and Rafelor’s annoyance, his past self was replaced by the mists, with Pallas.

Garzuxl’s head turned from the circle towards Pallas. "You've never heard of Sssilverymoon have you, ssssoftskin?"

"Wh-what? NO! No, of course I have” he replied quickly, with a drop of sweat rolling down his neck.

“You know, it’s not so bad when they swap you out for the embarrassing parts” chimed in Rafelor.

"And you know that it on the outskirtsss of the Misty Foressst to the ssssouth, off the trade road."

Rafelor remembered this gambit clearly. He knew this area well, for he had passed it many times before. And he knew that there were no major cities until Baldur’s Gate. Also, he had known that Silverymoon was not on the same trade way north to Waterdeep or even up to Mirabar and Baron Althon’s keep. But he watched himself as Spultz answer has he tried to refute Kylan.

“Wait for a moment, zat can't be right. ‘zere's nothing out there.”

The lizardfolks form wavered in the mist, which then revealed Arnara who gave a wan smile, "Pride enough to lie, and travelled well enough to cover his tracks."

Caught in the act the mist once again swirled around revealing the hideous hag, Peggy Deadbells. Lamely they could only emit a gulp.

“Seriously!? I DON’T WANT TO BE THE HAG!” shouted Rafelor.

"Half of something is still something I suppose” Arnara continued.

Peggy Deadbells regained her composure for a brief second. "Huh? What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that the gaps in your skills...your knowledge...your capabilities can be, with effort, improved” Arnara circled the hag, and the mists changed her into the form of Kylan.

"I...I...yeah okay..." The hideous hag belched forth a mist and coughed. It faded away leaving behind a quiet, Spulitz, in the sea-elf form known as ‘Mr. Sad’, who looked down in defeat. But as they did so, Rafelor realized that the mist did not dissipate as before. It now was a constant stream, flowing over their forms, changing them as it did.

Rafelor facepalmed. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve reached my limit. You know what sounds really great right now? Drowning myself in that wine from earlier. In fact, I think I’ll do that for the rest of the week at this point.”

The stream of mist changed the hag into Garzuxl once again who noticed ‘Mr. Sad’s’ crestfallen spirit. "Interessssting. You were more...feissssty in your office."

Challenged, the feistiness in Rafelor’s past self-began to awaken within the image of the sea elf as they became more upset. “Oh come on, I can't win, can I? I'm feisty and I'm still fighting an uphill battle. I keep my mouth shut and now I'm not feisty enough.”

Rafelor watched himself as Mr. Sad complain to Garzuxl who’s forms was morphing into the hag Widow Groat, Rafelor then replied to the other Rafelor who was still Mr. Sad for the moment, if only to distract himself from the rapidly changing people before him. “Buddy, you think you’re confused? Think about what’s gonna happen to you in just a couple tendays.”

Mr. Sad did not react to Widow Groat’s sudden change in demeanor. "To whom are you trying to prove yourself? To myself? Or to you?" Kylan as the hag asked.

“HA! Now it’s your turn to be a hag, Kylan!” said Rafelor, perking up at the latest change.

Once again unable to find the right words to express himself or rather herself as the mists swirled and replaced Mr. Sad with the form of the half-orc Kari, while this hag changed again into the Lizardfolk Garzuxl. The image of Kari simply shrugged and said, "Both, I guess."

Garzuxl shook his head, "You already have for...both my daughterssss. That should be enough. Otherwise, you are just wallowing in self-absorbed pity."

Those words stung at Rafelor in a way he could not understand. Desperately, he wanted to reply to Kylan in some way, but he had no clue where to even begin. To Rafelor, Kylan felt simultaneously correct and incorrect. All he could do was stand there and be lost in his own mind. Even when he was watching this from the future, Rafelor could recall the feeling in that moment well.

With no response to reply to, Garzuxl form changed into Baggy Nanna and continued to speak on his own trail of thought. "For all of her mistakes, she wallowed in her own self-pity only briefly. I wonder if the other one will be..."

Spulitz snapped out of his train of thought, changing into the tiefling form, Mr. Angry. "Briefly!? You think Arnara felt zat briefly!?”

“Then she is better at keeping it to herself than I thought.” Kylan as Baggy Nanna replied.

“So zat’s what you think, ja?” retorted, ‘Mr. Angry’ as the past image of Rafelor.

The Sewn Sister remained silent.

“I’ve had enough of this.” Rafelor said bluntly, as he focused on restoring everything to its normal state, focusing on his fleeting memories of Kylan and himself, and pushing away the rest..

“Well, I'm gonna be honest about something: I'm kind of stupid. But if someone like me can see that Arnara is struggling, then that should say something about how much those feelings are seeping out of her” said Rafelor, finally in the correct position.

Baggy Nana was slowly changing into the form of Widow Groat, but the mist quickly swirled and revealed Kylan in his normal place once again. The elf considered this until he broke his silence, “Perhaps it is more accurate to say, I was no longer looking for it. And now with two of them...”

“Two of them what?”

“A burden now doubled.”

Kylan looked away from Rafelor. “I did not expect to have another child. I certainly did not expect...this.” he gestured to the south, where in the distance, Rafelor could that Apolyta was approaching, laying on a disc with some attendants escorting her.

“Even as twisted as the hags made her, I can still see her.”

In his limited time with Kylan, Rafelor barely knew this side of him: the side of being a father. That was a kindness Rafelor never got to know himself, and he didn’t expect to see it emerge spontaneously in the Kylan he knew. This gave Rafelor the words he was looking for. He moved towards Kylan and spoke once more.

“You know you said my knowledge has gaps in it? Well, one of those gaps is family. I don't think I fully understand what she's feeling, or what you are. Perhaps you both have your reasons.”

He stood next to Kylan, turning his head to look at him. “Somewhere through this whole charade, you'll make it work.”

"Perhaps." Kylan said, looking at Garzuxl, “You might not have had a family. I am at risk of losing it all. I'm not sure which is the better condition.”

Rafelor did a double take. “Hang on a second, I thought I fixed that! Oh, so this scene’s a fighter, huh? Well, you can’t fool me. You really think I could mistake these looks with someone else?” remarked Rafelor as the Garzuxl in the scene changed back to Rafelor once more.

“Hard to say, but I’m not about to let you lose your kids” concluded the restored Rafelor.

"And for that...I am grateful."

Rafelor smiled, feeling content after getting unexpected kindness from Kylan.

Their conversation came to a halt when Apolyta approached the pair atop a floating disk. She was accompanied by an attendant. “You two seemed to have gotten along,” she remarked.

“One can...have hope in... either my daughter's successes.” Kylan remarked as he approached Apolyta. He stopped next to her as she dismounted the disc and stood on the forest floor.

“Find what you seek...for your sake.” Kylan continued.

"Thank you. I hope for your success as well." Apolyta asked in response.

“That...that as well.” Kylan nodded as spoke softly.

Rafelor wiped his brow, watching the mist come back again. “Phew, this is wearing me out. Oh well, what’s next for cleanup duty?”





The mists cleared, and he found himself in some sort of guest house. The design and architecture were different than the Ustina mansion, being more subdued, and somehow even more ancient. Glancing around he found Apolyta lying on a divan, attempting to trance. But it was apparent she was distracted, and more to the point uncomfortable. She lay there frustrated, but suddenly she looked around with curiosity. As she did this, suddenly she smiled in recognition. It seemed clear to Rafelor, that this cottage held some significance to her, as the fond smile told him.

As she looked around, it appeared that another thought occurred to her, and she spoke aloud, “I wonder if it is still here. Maybe if I lie down…”, and then she stood. She started to limp painfully heading deeper into the interior of the cottage. She entered a hall and turned, following a memory. She came to a door and opened it slowly, her face nodding with satisfaction as she looked inside. Beyond was a study with a desk and chair in a corner, while in the center of the room, was a large ornate bed, decorated with carved images of flowers, and prancing deer and stags. Apolyta looked at it and sighed.

“Hmph. Nice room” Rafelor plainly remarked.

Apolyta’s forms shifted ever so slightly, and now it was Arnara who stood there.

Rafelor sighed. “Great. Feels like I’ve been here for five seconds, and things are already starting to change. Ever heard of a break?”

She closed the door behind her, and then walked over to the bed. She undid her rapier belt and hung it on a bed post. She then took off her boots and then climbed up and lay on the mattress flat on her back. Finding a measure of comfort, she looked like she was about to prepare herself to start a Reverie, but before she began, there was the sound of the front door opening, and she heard a pair of voices arguing.

“I know this sounds strange but listen—” Rafelor heard a voice say.

“—You run away from your responsibilities and now I have to listen to you? We should be talking in private, but instead you drag me across Melandrach’s home like a child with no self-control!”

“You need to see—”

Rafelor heard the voices grow closer and the door was thrown open, by Apolyta, limping ahead of the figure of Myrai with a stern, almost imperial look on her face.

“What? The sordid little love nest that you and that b—” Myrai said angrily, before stopping in her tracks, her mouth agape.

Arnara struggled to sit up on the bed, and she stared in confusion at Myrai and Apolyta. Myrai turned to look at Apolyta. “Who…who is that?”

“Yeah...this is what how I imagined this interaction going,” stated Rafelor. “Although I guess I had hoped it they would’ve bickered about it and then come to a resolution. Boy, families sure love to make naughty word complicated”

“My…clone,” Apolyta said calmly. “A coven called the Sewn Sisters, created her…and—

“—She should be destroyed then,” Myrai said coldly. “The products of a hag’s coven is a dangerous thing.” And the Aasimar then drew her rapier.

“We can’t!” and Apolyta blocked her path, preventing her from approaching the supine Arnara.

Rafelor had become invested in his own thoughts, and paid little attention to the fracas next to him.. “Myrai…no..wait…Kylan has a point here. If it was my clone, I know I would’ve felt the same way he does. I think my clone and I would both understand, even if we didn’t understand the whole ‘connected souls’ mumbo jumbo. Even if Kylan and I were both wrong…I know how he feels.”

“—Get out of my way,” the Aasimar said as she lunged to plunge her rapier into the helpless image of Arnara. But Apolyta leapt in front of the blade before it could reach her. As the blade slid deeply into Apolyta’s ribs and out the other side, she and Arnara screamed in pain. Erupting from the other side her ribcage, Apolyta’s blood splattered the bed sheets and poured onto the floor. She slowly slid down onto her knees struggling for breath, her eyes open wide in disbelief.

Myrai stood there, her hands shaking, and she dropped her rapier, which clattered onto the stone tiles. She then leaned over and held the gravely wounded Apolyta, who was slumping down to the floor. “What…why…?”

Apolyta blinked and her brows knit in confused pain, “We’re…connect...connected,” she said as she passed out on in Myrai’s arms.

“What the….what the hell!? Did that actually happen? Is this another false memory? Oh gods, Arnara. You weren’t kidding…”

“What…what is happening…?” said Myrai, holding the malformed elf. She looked at the figure of Rafelor, who now lay the bed doubled over in pain.

“We think we are sharing…our soul. I know and feel what she does, jackass.” Rafelor said clutching his stomach and looking to be on the edge of passing out.

“Calling Kylan out to your last breath. I know this is fake and all, but I’m proud of you, fake Rafelor” said the half-elf.

Myrai screamed over her shoulder at the open door, “I need a healer, quickly!” Her mirrored eyes set loose a torrent of tears streaming down her cheeks as she stroked Apolyta’s hair. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. I never…never did.” Outside there was frantic calling across the grounds, calling for a healer. Myrai clutched Apolyta’s form close to herself as she watched her breathing slow and become shallow. Her eyes were now unfocused, and half closed as her breathing started to slow to nothing.

Myrai continued to cry and held Apolyta tightly, talking to herself mostly, “No, no, no…Nerina didn’t want this. I never…never told you…. How she begged me to…to..to... How I cut her out from.... How she smiled to see her only daughter in that brief moment of time. How I cursed myself for being so afraid that I…

Myrai hung her head, her face contorted in pain as she whispered, “I killed Nerina…not you. Not you…I loved you…I always have…”

Quicker than ever, the mist began to roll in. Rafelor was stunned. Not at the false memories but the real ones behind them. He had so many realizations which led to so many questions. These overwhelming thoughts made him almost forget to restore everything to their former state. Realizing his inaction, Rafelor immediately went through the same process to correct the vision. However, the mist was so dense, that he could not tell whether or not he succeeded.

“I can’t believe this. Does she know this? Do any of them? Arnara? Apolyta? Kylan? Where are you guys? My head is…burning.”





The three figures on the bier, Arnara, Rafelor and Apolyta twitched, convulsed and shivered. Rafelor’s breathing was labored, and his teeth was clenched tightly as he breathed through them, creating hissing sounds as he coped with pain. Zinetra, her part done, watched the trio on the bier. She took turns caressing each one’s face in turn, as she looked over each with growing alarm. Salensyna continued her song, her eyes rolled back into her head in rapture. But her voice had now the hint of strain as the ritual continued.

Kylan stood by his arms crossed near Salensyna as he watched his daughters and Rafelor struggle. He looked at the Selu’tar and realized that something was amiss. Kylan then moved from his place and walked quietly over to Zinetra as she cared for the struggling figures.

“What is wrong?” Kylan whispered.

“It was as I feared; the hags changed the ritual so when they split Arnara’s soul, not only did it not split entirely, but they ensured it could not heal. Coupled with severing Apolyta’s portion from the weave, and only allowing energy flowing from Arnara…” the Eladrin shook her head. “…It is worse that I imagined.”

“How exactly?” Kylan demanded.

“As we suspected, Arnara was dying, slowly, and inexorably. Apolyta’s soal was consuming Arnara’s as her half tried to survive. If either part of the soul had been allowed to heal, the hags could not have used Apolyta to spy on Arnara and her party. Severing the pair apart, has broken that part of the magic. But in doing so, I created a wound for them both; one they cannot heal. Apolyta’s soul can’t connect with the Weave to heal itself fully. Arnara’s side is even weaker, and while he has the Weave, but not time. In fact, as far as I can tell, they are trying to consume Rafefor’s soul. The Selu’tar’s ritual cannot be ended yet until all of their souls are healed and stable.”

“And? Will he endure?” Kylan asked in an even tone.

“He is strong,” Zinetra said looking Kylan in the eyes. “But he does not have an elven soul. They will try to consume it, like how a banshee consumes an unwary traveler’s soul. All it means here is that it will just take him longer to die. And then they will start to tear each other’s souls apart.”

The Eladrin sighed and looked at the anguished Kylan, “And there is nothing I can do about it. I’m sorry.”

notes:
There is a lot here; Wilpower784 and I share a love of tragic backstories. And the DM, leveraged a lot of it; Garzuxl was a rival from Rafelor's past, and that dastardly Lich actually summoned him, and several other character's nemsises during the Tomb of Anniliation. Apolyta, wasn't a throw away person for Arnara; as an elf she was horrrfied at the hag's work and wanted to save her, and this was woven into the fabirc of Dead in Thay. The DM and I had a long discussion on Kylan; what was he likely to do?

But we rarely had a reason to discuss this with the other players; Some of them were down right intimdated by Arnara the character, so she wasn't a part of the banter (faithfully reproduced above). Rafelor started a bit too edgelord like, and became more interesting as he and I worked out our characters issues. So it's fun being able to write about and lay bare the secrets of the Ustina household and share how being a noble, doesn't give you a free pass in life.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Story XX - Love​

The mists swirled around Rafelor, but it was no longer gentle. They cut and whipped around him, like a hurricane landing on the shore. Rafelor staggered against the onslaught as he felt the wind tearing his shirt into ribbons of cloth. He shielded his eyes from the dust and mist as the storm grew around him. As it whirled around him, images and voices appeared in the torrent. Garzuxl, Spulitz, the Sewn Sisters, Kylan, Myrai, and even himself. But the loudest voices were of Arnara and Apolyta. Both of them were shouting something he could not understand, desperately trying to get something out of him. Overwhelmed by everything, he began to feel his sanity slip. In his panic, he felt as though the last string holding his mind from the brink of madness was seconds away from snapping. Then suddenly, the wind receded, and standing in front of the half elf stood Kylan, dressed in white.

“Kylan?” asked Rafelor. The familiar face was enough to put Rafelor's mind at ease. With the newfound clarity, Rafelor could only laugh weakly. “I guess you were right. In the end, looks like I wasn't good enough to help either of them.”

Kylan shook his head, “It was a risk. But to do nothing, would have had a worse result. You were…are necessary.” Kylan looked at the maelstrom surround them, with the cacophony of memories echoing all about. “But in the end…this isn’t your duty.”

“What are you talking about?” Rafelor asked, puzzled.

Kylan sighed, “The House is my responsibility. However, I have other responsibilities as well. To my daughter chiefly. She was the only demand my wife Nerina made of me. A demand in which I have been…negligent in my grief.”

The maelstrom receded, and Rafelor found himself standing in a cave. A pair of dead hobgoblins lay at the entrance, their bodies showing signs of deep slashes, as they lay in pools of their own blood in the light of a setting sun. There in the back of the cave, hovered a driftglobe emitting a warm yellow light. Beneath it knelt Kylan. He looked no younger than the one clad in white next to him, but this image of Kylan was covered in blood, some his own, but far more from foes. Laying on the cave’s hard stone floor, lay an elven woman, with long silvery hair and violet eyes. She lay panting for air, her legs akimbo. Rafelor saw two notable things, the first was that the size of her stomach showed that she was heavy with child, and the second were three crossbow quarrels lodged in her chest.

“Nerina,” Kylan said sadly, his eyes watering as the cold mask he wore melted. Rafelor remained silent as the couple in the cave talked.

“I’m tired, Kylan…I have nothing left…I used my last spell to bless you.” Nerina said panting softly.

“Hold on Nerina! We aren’t far from Greenpine. I can move swiftly and find help!”

“Kylan,” Nerina said shaking her head. “The rest of the horde is too close. Their worgs will track us down soon.”

“I can’t leave you here.” The other Kylan said in an urgent voice.

“You won’t. You will take part of me with you. Our child.” Nerina said calmly, taking Kylan’s hand.

“It isn’t time yet!” Kylan looked at his wife and shook his head. “No…It is a moon too soon.”

“I feel like I shouldn't be seeing this. And yet...I don't even know what to tell you, Kylan." Rafelor whispered.

“It is cruel to see the past,” Kylan said somberly. “For a hundred years, I have seen this memory in my Reveries. So many times, I look to see if I could have done things differently and find none.”

Rafelor looked at the two Kylans, realizing the depth of Kylan's regret. He considered that Arnara and Kylan were perhaps not so different after all.

“I wont live to see tonight’s moon, let alone another turn.” Nerina said softly, caressing Kylan’s cheek.

Kylan pulled a dirk from his belt sheath and cut apart the front of his wife’s dress, exposing her belly to the open air. He held the sharp blade just above her groin, his hand shaking. “I can’t do this…” he whispered.

Nerina placed her hand on Kylan’s. “But we can…for our child.” And she pushed on the pommel, forcing the blade into her own flesh. Her head rolled back in pain her eyes wide as she covered her mouth with her other hand to stifle a scream. Kylan slid the blade through his wife’s abdomen, his tears mixing with the blood that spilled forth. After he made a wide cut, he dropped the dirk, and reached inside his wife. The blood that flowed from the wound was enough to be fatal; Rafelor had killed enough men to know that. After a moment he pulled free a tiny figure; a newborn girl. It was incredibly small, its round head crowned with long silver hair, and ears ending in delicate points. Her tiny shivering body was covered in blood, and a white wax like substance. As the light illuminated the child, she began to cry softly. Kylan quickly wrapped her in the remains of Nerina’s dress and placed her in her mother’s arms.

Nerina looked at her child and smiled, her pain forgotten. “Oh…Xinather, how pretty you are. Please take care of my husband.” She then looked at Kylan, “Don’t forget me. You will take care of her, as you have done for…me…” and her voice trailed off with her last breath.

Rafelor did a double take at the infant. “So, you're telling me Arnara was that tiny. Kids can get that tiny? Was I that tiny!? How did I survive day one?”

“She was a full moon early,” Kylan said looking down. Kylan watched himself shedding a tear and with his hand, closed his wife’s eyes. He then took the swaddled child in an arm and retrieved his weapons. With a quick motion of his hand, the driftglobe dimmed and dropped into his palm, which quickly stashed into a pouch. He then moved swiftly to the mouth of the cave, skirting around the corpses of hobgoblins, and then ran out into the light of the setting sun. As he did so the mists started to reform around Kylan and Rafelor.

Kylan then continued, “Many born so early do not survive. She was a third lighter than she should have been. And probably only half your weight when you were born. Humans and A’Tel’Quessir are larger at birth as I understand it.”

“This may be the craziest thing I've seen today. Not even sure how.”

"She almost did not surive the journey to Greenpine. I was harried by worgs and hobgoblins. And I had no way to feed her, and barely could keep her warm. Somehow, we made it, and she survived." Kylan then took a deep breath, “This is why…it is not your responsibility. It is mine.” He turned to look at Rafelor. “Stop…resisting them. Let my daughters come to us.”

“Huh?”

“The maelstrom is your creation; your shield for your soul. You must relax and let them come.”

“Well...if you say so.” Rafelor closed his eyes and attempted to relax. The winds around them started to recede, and in the mists on opposite ends he could see a pair of golden glowing lights. As the lights approached, he could see they were the iridescent forms to the two elves, Arnara and Apolyta. But inside their nimbuses, they appeared haggard, their hair whipping around them. Their faces looked sunken, almost skeletal, and their eyes were almost hidden deep in their sockets. As they emerged, they looked at Rafelor with a hunger as they both flew toward the half-elf.”

"Oh....OH! OH GODS! KY—"

The pair lunged at Rafelor, who found himself suddenly pushed away by Kylan. The souls grabbed onto the elder elf, the pair and started to tear into his spirit with their nails and their teeth. Like wolves they pulled on Kylan and shook their head with goblets of his spirit as their hands tore at his chest. He stood there as they rent his soul, with a look of serenity on his face and the faintest smile.

"Kylan! Wait! What are you doing!?" Rafelor reached out towards him as they teared into Kylan like starving animals. Rafelor could see as the image of Kylan started to fade, the two souls became less skeletal and more elf like, their faces filling out, and the haggard look fading from view. As he watched, he watched as Kylan disappeared between the two, who now embraced each other. They then turned to look at Rafelor.

Rafelor gulped. “Really missing that maelstrom right now.” The pair suddenly moved towards Rafelor, and he closed his eyes awaiting an onslaught on his own soul.

_____​

Cool air brushed cheek Rafelor’s cheek. His eyes opened, and he found himself back on the bier of stone. “What...what happened? Where's Kylan?” he asked as he panted for breath.

Zinetra stroked the half elf’s head a moment, and Rafelor felt the elves next to him stir. On his right, he saw a tanned elf, with long coppery hair cascading down around her shoulders. She propped herself up and opened her eyes, revealing their emerald color. She looked across his chest, to his left. And there, Arnara stirred and sat up weakly, breathing heavily. The women looked at each other a moment and smiled. Then their brows furrowed, and they looked in the direction of the selu’taar. She had collapsed on the floor, her breathing ragged. But on the floor slumped next to the stone bier, lay Kylan; his eyes focused on nothing in the distance. The elven women slid off the stone and both hugged their father. The naked pair wept freely as they cradled Kylan’s still form.

“It worked, didn't it? But...”

“It worked,” Zinetra said as she moved to the fallen selu’taar. “But High Magic is dangerous. Many elven souls do not survive performing the ritual, let alone its intended purpose. So, Kylan sacrificed himself to allow its completion, saving his daughters, Salensyna…and you. That was his purpose here; to see it done.”

Rafelor remained silent; he didn't know what to say. Instead, he stared at Kylan's daughters and then his own hands, wondering about Kylan's decision.

Zinetra, had placed a cloak underneath Salensyna’s head and returned back to the bier. She then gently, helped Rafelor stand upright before saying, “We should let them have some time together and grieve. Come,” and she motioned him towards the entrance to the Fane.

As they walked, Zinetra staggered, and reached out to steady herself on the half-elf. She smiled and looked at him with her solid green eyes. “Sorry, I guess the ritual took a lot out of me as well.”

It wasn’t long before they finally emerged into the open air. To Rafelor’s surprise, the sun had already set, and warm orange light was scattered off the few clouds above them. The full moon of Selune was high in the air, and a breeze blew through the trees of the forest. Zinetra staggered a moment, before dropping her pack to the ground and collapsing on the turf. She turned over and flopped on her back and sighed.

“I don't get it. I means sure, I get why. But...it's not fair.”

“Fair?” Zinetra asked. “How so?”

“I was the outsider in all of this. Yet, Kylan is the one that dies. It should've been me. At least, I would understand that.”

“And that is why you could not Rafelor.” Zinetra said looking at the half-elf as she lay there soaking in the rays of the moon. “Only an elven soul, could heal an elven soul. But more than that; part of a father’s duty is to care for his children. Kylan did what his wife did before him. Even if it were possible, he would not have demanded you to sacrifice yourself, for him.” She looked up at Sulune and sighed, “The ritual was called ‘Life of duty, Form of the People’s Need,’ it makes sense that Arnara’s and Apolyta’s need required Kylan’s life – his duty to his daughters.”

“Yeah...I guess you're right.” Rafelor turned around and fell flat on his back. With his hands behind his head, he laid there, taking in the moonlight in a manner similar to Zinetra.

“So now what? What happens next?”

“Its up to Arnara, and Apolyta now. Apolyta might have gotten more from the bargain. She no longer has Arnara’s new thoughts, and for the first time will be able to think with just her own. She is now Second Daughter, and perhaps the only Sy’Tel’Quessir in the history of House Ustina. As for Arnara, she probably will feel a bit of relief that she helped Apolyta become her own person. I doubt however, this will do little to help Arnara face her new role in her House. But for both of them, they have lost a father, and it’s hard not to think that this will sit uneasily with either of them. They will probably lean on each other for support for a while. Or so I hope.”

He sighed. “It never gets easier, does it?”

“I suppose not,” Zinetra said as she rolled over toward Rafelor and curled herself against him, “They will need all the help they can get from us. And I for one, am glad I was able to keep you all of you alive. I especially did not wish for your blood to be on my hands. You did…just fine.”

The light breeze continued to blow, rustling the leaves in the nearby trees. The last of the sun's rays faded, and the firmament of the night was now visible. The twinkling stars and the beauty of Selune above, stood in contrast to the ugly memories of the past below.

“I wonder if they have any more of that wine...”

Zinetra giggled and laughed. She turned over and pulled over her pack, and from it pulled the nearly empty bottle from below. Pulling the cork, she leaned over the half-elf and poured a measure into Rafelor's mouth. She then placed her lips on the bottle and drained the last of the Evermead. Both of them then breathed easier as the honey wine coursed through their blood, and soon Rafelor found the realm of dreams pulling him under as exhaustion finally set in.


Two Months Later​

Rafelor found himself in the solarium of the Ustina mansion. It has been a whirlwind of activity for Arnara's formal investiture as the heir apparent for the House. The formalities, the rituals and, and the speeches, which seemed to be poetry in disguise were strange, confusing, and beautiful at the same time. Rafelor looked at the divan, and the memory of a smiling Arnara, reading a book came to him, and he wondered if he would see her smile like that again. As he wondered, he saw a flash of light and felt the breeze move next to him. He then felt a light tap on his shoulder as Apolyta finished materializing there with the same impish smile that Arnara frequently wore. Her hair copper hair was pulled up into a messy bun, and she wore a violet dress made of silks and shot with silver embroidery.

“Come on,” Apolyta, the Second Daughter of House Ustina nudged Rafelor. She finally has a moment to herself, and she wants to see you.”

“Well, excuse me for intruding on R&R for ‘R-an-Arnara’.” He followed Apolyta who now walked confidently through the halls, unimpeded by the deformities inflicted on her by the hags.

Apolyta ribbed Rafelor, "Be nice Raf...she's been a slave to form and protocol all day. Even I have barely had a moment with her. The heads of the great houses are all here, and of course King Melandrach himself." she took Rafelor by the arm. and led him through the halls of the sprawling mansion.

“All this honor about the house suddenly makes a lot more sense once you see how nice the place is.”

Apolyta smiled, “The estate was built up over several thousand years. I think it was one of...many reasons we ignored the call to retreat to Evermeet. And its why we are the only noble Moon Elf house in the Misty Forest. We didn't have the heart to abandon it, and we felt the Ar'Tel'Quessir were...well wrong to abandon everything and leave the world behind.”

Apolyta guided Rafelor through the halls and then ascended a grand stair case. At the top of the landing, they came to a pair of polished oak doors. Apolyta grasped the handles, pushed them open and with a flourish motioned Rafelor inside.

Rafelor found himself ushered into a library. Unlike what he remembered seeing in Candlekeep, the library here was built using light color woods. The sunlight streaming into the room gave the room a warm welcoming feeling compared to the darkened spaces below Candlekeep. There on a chair by a window, sat Arnara. She wore a green formal dress, that was a sheath of silk, covered in crystals, and embroidered with golden threads. She was looking wistfully out the windows when the pair approached. She turned she smiled, and quickly stood and ran over to Rafelor to hug him.

“Sorry...I should have greeted you earlier, but...it’s been a busy day. You would have thought there was a marriage offer hiding somewhere in the agenda.”

“I'm here now. Couldn't have been too busy, right?”

“I make time for my friends, and my family.” Arnara looked down a moment before backing up holding both of Rafelor's hands. “I wanted to thank you again. For being my student...and being my friend...our friend when we needed you most. And because of that I want to offer you a gift.”

“A gift? Like that wine wasn't enough?”

Arnara looked down, “There's more of that tonight at the ball, and I will demand you dance with me—"

“—And with me,” Apolyta interrupted.

Arnara smiled. “But this is something a bit more personal, if a little less tangible than your next hangover.”

“Last time I danced with you, I seem to recall rapidly changing hair colors in the depths of Chult.”

“Well...this isn't about returning the favor,” she grinned. “I consulted with the family council, and... we wish to offer you something that our House hasn't done in about two millennia. I wish you to be...a member of House Ustina.” She saw the confused look on Rafelor’s face and quickly continued. “We are a Moon elf house, and we have had branches of the family with half-elves. They are called...Cousins. We have not had any for some time, so your standing would First among any others that may arise. It has no obligations or responsibilities. But the House name is one that commands respect and honor. I would share that with you as I see you as more family, and not just a wonderful friend.”

“First... Cousin? Sheesh, the respect and honor of an Ustina on top of me?” Rafelor leaned against a chair and looked up “You really think I should have that?”

“It would...honor me if you accept. Apolyta would be honored as well, and...so would Kylan.”

Rafelor looked back at Arnara confused, “How?”

Arnara and Apolyta looked at each other and Apolyta then spoke, “Kylan is a part of us now. We've seen his memories in our Reveries. He felt...pride in knowing you. For knowing what you could do. For what you did do.”

“Wow. I would've never guessed. And you call the shots now too.” He thought silently for a good while.

"Well...not quite yet, but this is something I can offer," Arnara said placing her hand on Rafelor's cheek. "But it is up to you to accept. If the idea is uncomfortable, if you wish to chart your own course, you can. You aren't beholden to me; only yourself. If you say no, I may be a little sad...but I would understand."

"I might stab him," Apolyta muttered, as Arnara glared and waved her hand at her new sister to shush her.

“I mean, if I took it,” Rafelor considered, “There's still nothing really stopping me from charting my own course, is there? I'd just have a big, flashy sign that says 'Ustina' on it. If you really think it's best, then I'll accept.”

Arnara and Apolyta chuckled. "No... there wouldn't. You just might have to attend some weddings eventually." She sighed. "I intend to announce it at the ball. But I would be remiss to point out, we have a private family dinner first. Are you coming...1st Cousin?"

Smiling, Rafelor nodded and said “...Sure thing.”

Notes:
This is end of regular play for Arnara, 1st Daughter and heir to House Ustina. These stories a the in between moments where the dice only tell the result, and not the story. It was fun filling in the details with Willpower784.

But it isn't quite the end. The campaigns that this set of people are a part of, are set together in the same continuity, and the new characters sometimes cross the paths of the old. I specifically DM'd the 'Rime of the Frostmaiden' in which Apolyta appeared instead of a very boring verbeeg npc. And much more recently a one shot was...er IS almost finished, where we see an Arnara at the end of days as a retelling of Fate Stay / Night with 8 very competitive zulkirs, using Waterdeep as a dueling zone to determine who should rule thay in the "Thay Slay Rite"

Yes its a bad play on words, and yet it only became obvious when "Archer" showed up, and peppered everyone with arrows. At that point the meaning of the title clicked. The players love(d) it, many being anime fans and the encounters were a lot of fun...but there is an ending I want to leave it on, and I may a tale to tell there.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Story XXI – A Dance for a Quarry

Context and warnings: There are spoilers to events that occur in "Rime of the Frostmaiden" below.

Having said that, there is a point in the adventure that Apolyta catches up with the party to interogate a character Nadin, about the wherabouts of a chest. But, there was a question of course on how did Apolyta actually find them in Icewind Dale to start with, so I wrote a short and posted in our discord...and left it at that. So enjoy!




The mood in the Northlook was grim. It had only been a few days since Dougan’s Hole and Good Mead were leveled by a fearsome monstrosity. Some said it was a clock work dragon, with a giant key twisting in its back creating flurries of ice and rime. Others said it was a magical creation, made of deep blue ice, and spat out rays of sunshine, that melted flesh from bones. No matter what it really was, it was laid low in Easthaven by a group of adventurers, although not before half the town was set ablaze.

And there was the source of the darkened pall in the inn; hundreds of lives displaced, and all came to Bryn Shander seeking warm and food. But the winter in its third year, had left shelves bare of both oil and sustenance. Many now huddled outside the walls in makeshift tents and lean-tos, while the acolyte of the House of the Morning lord did his best to feed the hungry with tasteless gruel served from a rusty pot left behind by an adventurer who was using it to hold toys, pillows and bags of herbs. But while the gruel was thick and filling, but it wasn’t enough. The town itself was already on the edge of starvation before the refugee’s arrived, but oil for lamps and stoves were too becoming scarce. It was growing time for the next drawing; on who would be cast out to placate Auril this moon, and some had reached the point that it couldn’t be worse than the winter that gnawed at them now.

This made The Northlook a paradox of sorts, a bright place in a field of darkness if only by comparison. Trout stew was still plentiful, and there was enough oil to keep the interior above the temperature of biting cold, to somewhere above chilly. The liquor stores, while low, hadn’t run dry, although that might have been Scramsax’s pricing. And while Good Mead was leveled, Scramsax had the fortune of the last known batch of mead to leave the namesake town, even if others had less fortune to buy it from him.

The crowd huddled in and savored their lukewarm soup, and some with a chaser of mead to keep their bellies full and warm. And while the mood was grim, there was a note of excitement. The dragon thing was destroyed; it didn’t level all the towns, just two of the smallest ones. Things could be worse, and there was a swell of pride that the Towners could take anything, no matter what the Reghed thought of them. So tonight, an old man played a viol with a slight bounce, and there were smiles to be found as a bit of hope had crested over the denizens of the Ten Towns.

As the fiddler warmed his strings, the door to the inn opened a crack, and a figure slithered in. Heads turned and faces hardened with dark times, found something interesting to look at. The lithe feminine figure was not dressed in the thick clothes seen here in the north; that wasn’t a surprise as the Goliaths tribespeople had little need for it, as did the rarer Oyaminartok or bearkin folk. But the figure was clearly neither of these. Nor was she Reghed who occasionally were said to have Auril’s blessing to endure the freezing temperatures of the north. She was instead dressed in close fitting white leather, with a slim sword at her hip, and bow folded up on her back. As she closed the door behind her, she pulled down a hood and shook her copper hair free and shook it about. Her skin was deeply tanned, and her green eyes sparkled with curiosity. What caught most of the patrons’ eyes were the ears; slender points marking her as a Tel’Quessir. She, like others of her kin, had that grace and poise rarely seen among the other races. And rarely were they seen this far north, away from the warmth of their forests to the south.

And yet here she was. She looked around a moment, and then approached the bar, with the ox-built man behind it.

“Greetins. You lookin for food? Rest? Something to warm your veins or your…limbs?” the beefy man known as Scramsax said with a devil like leer.

If the elf noticed or cared, she gave no indications. “I heard you are as well informed as anyone Scramsax,” the elf purred.

“Have we met before?” the man asked puzzled not recalling giving out his name.

“We have not…but my father had been here about a decade ago and his memory of you…well let us say you haven’t changed much.” The elf gave a small smile.

Scramsax shook his head, “I can’t say I remember another Quessir that I would call your kin.”

The elf pursed her lips, “I don’t…look much like my father, so your confusion would be understandable. But his name you might remember; Kylan.”

At the mention of the elf’s father, Scramsax froze like a hare caught in sight of a distant wolf. “I..I..do know that name. What do ya want miss?...”

“I’m looking for someone. I understand that they passed through here recently.”

“A lot of people do.”

“Do all they descend from dharrow and carry a golden harp?”

“That’s…pretty specific of a description,” and the man reached behind him to grab a mug of clay and started to fill it. “Brandy? Miss?...”

“A brandy would be wonderful.” The elf smiled, demurring again on the topic of her name.

“Ah yes…well…you see most folk here prefer to be…left to their own devices. We don’t ask where they’ve been or where their goin neither.” He slid the mug to the elf and watched expectantly.

She smiled and ran her finger around the rim of the mug. “Well, I am sure that your conscience will be relieved that it isn’t about him; just where a misplaced object might be.” She slid over to him, five golden coins in a stack. "I hope you might be able to tell me something.”

Scramsax wiped the counter and scooped the coins off the top in a swift motion. “I am glad to hear that Nadin isn’t in any more troub—”

“—Nadin?”

“Ah…yes. Seems to fancy himself a ladies’ man, and I can say he can ply his harp with a bit of skill. He’s travelling with a number of other folk; you couldn’t miss them if you tried; A goliath, a human, a tiefling, a scarred half-elf, a bearkin, and get this…a Tabaxi from Maztica!”

“I don’t see how anyone could miss a group like that,” the elf agreed. “Where did they go?”

“Well…that’s just it I don’t—”

“—give me back the coins.”

“Wait, I told you what I—”

Then she leaned forward over the bar and wrapped her hand around the much larger human’s neck. But instead of pulling the surprised bartender towards her, she pulled herself across the bar top until she was eye to eye with the startled human. She then just stared into his eyes and glanced downwards.

Scramsax followed her eyes and saw that her right hand was just where his thumping heart was. There in her fingers was a shimmering blade of light; one that he swore wasn’t there a moment ago. The shimmering light was poised to make a fatal blow; all the elf had to do was push.

“Waitwaitwait…I do know who might! Right here in the bar even!” He said stammering and near tears. He pointed with his chin to a corner of the bar, “There…that woman there. Her name is Letya. She was with them until they left. She’ll know more I swear!” the man swallowed visibly in fear as the elf coldly stared at him.

The light at his heart winked out, and then her lips parted into a smile. She then kissed the frightened barkeep on the cheek and let herself slide back down to her side of the counter. She turned to look at the woman that Scramsax pointed out, and over her shoulder said. “I’ll need another cup of brandy…in a clean mug.” Scramsax wasted no time complying with the elf’s demand. She smiled, tossed a pair of coins on the bar, and took the second mug, and slowly approached the oblivious woman.

Scramsax sighed in relief and muttered to himself, “Well…she’s nicer than her father.”




The elf slowly made her way across the common room and looked at the woman. She was huddled in her wools and furs keeping to herself. The first impression she gave was one of a frightened hedgehog, puffed up and blocking their burrow with quills. But as the elf watched she could tell it was something quite different. Her ginger hair was in a pony tail, that now looked frayed, her bangs disheveled. Her deep blue eyes were full of remorse. Her strong toned build spoke volumes on its strength, but her posture spoke of sleepless nights and her cheeks were stained by fresh tears. The woman wore her feeling openly to those who could read the language; she wanted comfort and safety; but not alone, simply on her own terms.

The elf moved quietly to the table and then smiled and asked softly, “Excuse me, but may I sit with you?”

The woman’s head shot up in surprise and blinked. Her mouth hung open in surprise as she looked at the elf, who’s face wore nothing more than warmth and kindness. In her hand she offered a mug and said, “I’m a stranger to this town, and I would rather sit with another woman…If you don’t mind.”

The woman swallowed, and nodded dumbly, not expecting to be approached. She gestured to the seat next her, and the elf sat down gracefully. She pushed a mug towards the woman, and the elf took a sip of her own. Out of habit, she offered a hand knuckles up, but before her tablemate could react, she quickly clenched her fingers. She then turned it offered her hand out for a hand shake.

“Sorry…and old habit. My name is Apolyta. What is yours?”

“Let…Letya. Letyaof Amphail.” The woman said, taking her hand timidly. The elf’s hands felt soft and warm, and she clearly didn’t want to let go. But after a moment, she did and then quickly took several swallows of brandy mug

“Amphail?” Apolyta said surprised. “I’m from the Misty Forest, not far from Daggerford. I guess we are both a bit far from home then.”

“Wasn’t exactly by choice,” Letya said as she took a long sip of the brandy.

“Nor I suppose,” Apolyta said biting her lip. “But what brings a single wom—”

“—I’m not single!”

Apolyte blinked, “I’m sorry…I meant…a solo traveler out to the ends of Toril.”

Letya shook her head, “No…I’m sorry. It’s been…been…oh,” and she sank into her seat dejectedly. “I don’t even know how to describe it now.”

Apolyta narrowed her eyes and then asked delicately, “I don’t mean to pry where I’m not wanted, but did you need…to…talk?”

Letya looked up with her deep blue eyes to meet the elf’s gaze. “I came up here because of a bargain I made and…and I had to…to…shoot my wife.”

“What?” Apolyta set her drink down and leaned forward. “You killed you—”

“—No! I didn’t kill her…I guess I was lucky. But I didn’t want to either! I was forced. But she survived and she…came after me. Not, to hurt me though…she wanted to save me! To help me! And I…”

“Hush,” and Apolyta slid next to Letya and put an arm around her. “I take it, nothing went according to plan?”

Letya shook her head, “I…I made a bad decision…I thought that she left me and joined a cult. I tried to save her, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t even find her.” She hung her head in shame. “I then…um…how does one say this…sold my soul to stop the cult. I wanted to stop it and save her. But…” and the tears flowed down her cheeks freely. “I didn’t want to…mean to kill her as part of that.”

Apolyta stroked Letya’s hair and sighed. “And you sold your soul? Isn’t that a…”

“It’s a terrible idea. But I was desperate! I didn’t know what to do. But it gets worse,” she said morosely.

“How?” Apolyta gritted her teeth, unsure on what she would hear.

“My wife…made a counter deal to save me; a quest I guess. But she was turned into a…shes…shes…a tief—” and Letya sniffed and cried and clutched onto the startled Apolyta.

“Isn’t what’s inside, that matters?” Apolyta said, feeling suddenly out of control of the conversation.

“That’s…just it. She was going to…no she did sacrifice herself to save me…and I I…” she took another sip from her mug.

“Didn’t handle it well?” Apolyta guessed.

Letya shook her head. “No…I was confused and angry. Not at her, but what had happened. At myself. At my poor choices. And I blamed her for it all, and I didn’t…didn’t know what to feel about it. Or say. And I probably hurt her.” Letya said sadly and took a deep drink from her mug.

“Probably?”

“No. I hurt her.” The woman said bitterly, and she took another sip. As she put the mug down, Apolyta slyly switched her full mug for Letya’s nearly empty one. “And now she’s risking everything to save me. I should have been thankful or told her I’m worth it or …anything but what I said.”

Apolyta thought a moment, “She’s not trying to do this quest alone is she?”

“No…no…she has some friends helping her…well maybe not friends…but others are helping.”

“That’s…that’s good,” Apolyta said approvingly. “So..where did this quest take them?”

“I’m …not sure,” Letya took another deep sip from her mug. “I remember the…the…d—d---d”

“Dark?”

“No…<hic> Dead looking one…although he did have dark skin now you mention it. Something about a duchess and a bell…Angajuk’s Bell!” Letya took another sip of her brandy and sat back.

“The Dark Duchess,” Apolyta said with a smirk nodding. “When did they leave?”

“Oh, a day ago by sled with that...Harpell woman.”

Apolyta sat up, “Harpell? From Amphail?”

Letya nodded, and took another swallow of brandy, “Small world, isn’t it? And she sighed as she leaned next to Apolyta. As she did so, the fiddler in the bar struck up a soft slow waltz. An elderly couple, in heavily dressed winter clothing, stood up and embraced each other as they slowly danced on the floor.

“That’s sweet…” Letya slurred a bit as she eyed the couple.

“Come on,” Apolyta said as she stood and pulled on Letya to stand.

“Dance? With….you?”

“Elves dance for many things; to celebrate; to grieve; for joy and for sorrow. There are as many reasons to dance as there are emotions. And you…don’t even need name them. And you can dance for joy when you see your wife again.” Apolyta pulled Letya up onto her feet, and pulled her close, whispering more. “A dance is to be shared with others; it is not a breech of trust. It is something for you alone to feel and let your soul embrace. For if you can’t dance for yourself, how can you dance with ones you love?”

Apolyta turned Letya on her unsteady feet. The human woman murmured to herself and started to sway and felt the slow rhythm of the viol in her bones and heart as she stepped awkwardly on the floor. “I’m better with a hammer than my feet.”

“You are the best dancer in your heart; no need to compare yourself with another.”

Letya’s eyes drooped as she rocked back and forth on the floor, the liquor firmly taking hold of her head. “You feel so…so…warm…the warmest I have felt in…”

“Shh…its magic,” Apolyta said with a smirk. “I hate heavy clothing…too hard to move in”

“I’m…I’m feeling …tired. Can you help me to my…my room…upstairs,” and as she moved, Apolyta merely smiled, and slowly moved and spun slowly on the floor towards the stairs leading to the rooms. But as they danced, Letya’s stumbling feet no longer touched the ground. She floated just above the floors, as Apolyta directed her up the stairs with only the lightest touch. She continued to waltz down the hallway, following Letya’s drunken lead. Leyta took out from her pouch a key and nearly dropped it when she stared at it in a haze of drunkenness.

The key had fallen half way to the floor, but it now hovered there and floated to the lock on the closed door. Letya looked at it confused as Apolyta took it and turned the key in the lock and opened the door.

Letya looked at Apolyta her mouth quivering, “I…I…don’t want to lead you on…I am…I am…”

Apolyta placed a hand on Letya’s mouth to quiet her, “This is a friend helping a friend find her room safely. Nothing more. Just lean back and fall into bed Leyta.” Letya’s body went slack as she murmured “The little horns and tail are kinda cute…”, and Apolyta guided her falling body to the nearby mattress, and with a motion of her other hand, she covered the now passed out human for a nights’ rest. Apolyta laid the key on a nearby table, and exited the room, closed the door behind her and with a small motion of her hand, the sound of the lock engaging in the latch was heard.

Apolyta sighed and she leaned against the wall looking upwards and talked to herself, “I don’t know how you did these types of things father. It’s too intimate for my tastes.” She exhaled and looked down the hall before muttering,

“Alright Nadin. You can’t hide from me now.”
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
So this story is one of the last ones about Arnara I that I plan to publish for a while; she hasn't been active in a campaign to play in after all. But this one needs a bit of setup.

We were in between ideas for a campaign, and I had an terrible terrible idea that I just had to do. I offered to the group that I would run a oneshot for a single evening, that was going to be a grand melee of sorts. Several rules:
  1. They could bring a single character from a prior campaign
  2. That character would be at level 20.
  3. Each character could have 1 legendary, 2 very rare, 2 rare, and and 3 uncommon/commons.
  4. The legendary could not be a named item, but it had to be unique in the party.
    1. Chosen were: The Robe of the Arch Magi, Luck Blade, Vorpal Blade, Rod of Lordly Might, Staff of the Magi, and Cloak of Invisibility
  5. Several items were banned as needed:
    1. Scrolls of the Comet or Tarrasque summoning, or Nether scroll of Azumar. Legendary ban: Gloves of Soul catching. Very Rare ban: Illusionist Bracers
  6. The combat would allow for several short rests, but there would be no long rests.
So several characters I have written about were selected, notably Sage Redoubt, Adrissa, Rafelor, Hawthorn (with Yaka), Shalai and Kianna. The last thing I told them was the name of the one shot was Thay Slay Right. They arrived and were told that the Zulkirs of Thay were fighting over who would be the next leader, as Szass Tam couldn't be bothered with it anymore. So the other seven Zulkirs, summoned something and were using the city of Waterdeep as the battleground, and had manage to trap key figures in in the Castle with a barrier.

What the event was based one was the Holy Grail War from the anime Fate Stay/Night, with some elements of the story from Unlimited Blade Works, Fate Zero all mixed up. Then I rolled up the Heroic spirits, some using stats from published sources and buffing them (primary stat at 30, con at 30, Legendary actions equal to party minus 1.) Each of the heroic spirits was accompanied by a lich in a modified version of Ottiluke resilent sphere (it couldn't be moved). If they could defeat the lich, the spirit would join them. If they beat the spirit, the lich perishes. Also the Spirits would take shots at each other as well to balance things out. Who were the Spirits? The Spirits were from the history of D&D...mostly. They were:

  • Round 1
    • Lancer - Aeren from Ebberon, cast as a Valanar warrior with a double scimitar.
    • Saber - Aribeth de Tyrmarande, as based on the Minsc and Boo's guide to Villany, and buffed oathbreaker abilities.
    • Archer - Pentar from Planescape, Factol of the Doomguard as a Arcane Archer.
  • Short rest, then Round 2
    • Rider - Kitiara Uth Matar from Dragonlance with Skie, an Ancient Blue Dragon. Kitiara was a Cavalier
    • Assassin - Aran Linvail, Guild Master of the Shadow Thieves of Amn, rogue Assasin
    • Berzerker - The Lord of Blades, from Eberron. He was just slightly modified from the source material, and he's an artificer.
  • Short rest, then Round 3
    • Caster - Arnara from the future, a level 20 Bladesinger who could use the spell slots of the lich and her own. (she did open with a Meteor Swarm, and cast Foresight on herself.)
They managed to rescue Saber, and also managed to rescue Arnara. Then Szass Tam revealed himself, and the fact it was all a ploy to have the other Zulkirs die, and power his monstricity Grailitus, which was based off of Tromokratis from the Mythic Odyesseys of Theros.

It was challenging, and as a one shot it was for entertainment. So I wasn't trying to kill everyone. But we had fun with the Epilogue as we tied several families together in the future from two campaigns.

So enjoy!

Story XXII – The End of All Things

All Rafelor could feel was exhaustion, as he slid down the wall of a house in Waterdeep. Nearby the corpse of the magical corruption of the Weave was slowly, dissolving into nothingness. It took all they had to bring it down, and it very nearly killed them, as it swallowed up some of them alive. In fact, if wasn’t for the earlier actions of the group, they would have certainly perished, Rafelor thought.

Earlier in the night, they managed to rescue a damned soul from the clutches of a lich, and with her help they were able to defeat the summoned heroes and villains from ages past, present or future. The one that fought at their side was the infamous Aribeth de Tyrmarande. Rafelor didn’t remember a lot about her, other than she almost destroyed Neverwinter over a century ago. That seemed to earn her a trip to the Nine Hells where she had been burning ever since. But at this moment, saving Waterdeep at the cost of herself, may have redeemed her in the end. Or so he hoped. But it wasn’t her that Rafelor was concerned with, but the second person.

Taking a deep breath, Rafelor groaned and stood up again, and looked for his mentor. He found her standing and looking over the city, her moonblade point down on the stone. She was not garbed in her normal flowing dresses or skirts, but instead was strapped into a form fitting black leather garment festooned with golden locks and cords sealed with metal. Eldritch runes and sigils were stamped all over the dark surface and over the seals and locks. All to keep her from using her own considerable power to escape and destroy it. The lich that summoned her as a tool but was right to fear her, for once set free loose from her chains, she was perhaps one of the most dangerous women that Rafelor knew.

But the woman before him seemed different than the one he saw recently. First was the moonblade she bore. It was unfamiliar to him edged with bright mithril silver and seven glowing runes along the fuller. He knew it must have been the blade that forged her house thousands of years ago. But he had no idea she had found it and had claimed its power. Her hair was no longer in the bob she usually preferred, but her silver hair was now long, and drifted around her shoulders. She gazed over the devastation they had wrought over the city, pulling on the gloves in annoyance, the locks unwilling to give. She then heard Rafelor’s approach and turned to look at him with a smile.

“I don’t suppose you have a knife and could…cut my hands out their prison. Rafelor nodded, and pulled a dirk from his belt, and quickly cut the bands of leather binding the leather to her wrists. She pulled them off and dropped them to the charred earth and rubbed her wrists, massaging feeling back into them.

“Thank you,” the elf said, as she looked at her former student. She stepped closer to him, and for the first time tonight, Rafelor could see her face clearly. She smiled warmly but she still seemed distant as she reached out to touch the half-elf on the cheek with her now freed hand. Her gaze at him was pained as she sighed, and she seemed to be looking at him as if he were a distant memory. As he reached up to touch her hand, he noticed her eyes had changed. Where once before they were a bright blue, they now had cataracts of crescent moons, their points down in them partially obscuring her pupils and part of her iris. But it clearly didn’t interfere with her own vision as she smiled at his touch.

“Your eyes—” Rafelor stammered.

Arnara nodded slowly, “I will explain. But I do not have a lot of time.”

“You look diff—”

“Rafelor…this might be hard for you to understand. But I’m not Arnara. I’m probably in the Misty Forest now doing…something. I…am not real.

“You’re right. I don’t understand this.” Rafelor said confused.

“The Zulkirs…used a Netherese spell to conjure us to fight here. But their conjurations sought out strong souls, noble or fell. But it didn’t summon the souls, but rather it made a kind of simulacrum of us. The ritual knew no boundaries, pulling in souls from other planes and in my case, time. The others,” and she pointed with her chin at Aribeth, “May not even realize the truth as I do. We have gaps in our memories, but not on who we are…or were. But even though I am not a real person, I…feel. The wind in my face, the emotions in my heart, the pain…all of it.”

Arnara took the dirk from Rafelor and then turned and looked at the city and scrunched her face, “This has to almost what…around 1500? I’m guessing that as Undermountain is still there, and not a crater in the earth.” turning around she smiled again at the confused Rafelor. “My memories are hazy on a lot of details; I’m not a perfect copy after all. But I am from around 2400 Dale Reckoning. In my time the city looks much different. It’s grown beyond the walls and magic powers so many things. But the world is very different too. There are far fewer Tel’Quessir. Most of the Teu left on the Second Retreat, as did many of the Sy and Or. That included the rest of my house. But it matters little now; my eyes,” Arnara gestures at the cataracts, “wopuld be the Seldarine’s way of saying ‘it is your time to go to home Arvandor, we call you.’”

“No, I can’t lose you now!”

“Raf…I’m a simulacrum remember? Arnara is at home. And I won't be going to Arvandor...or anywhere else.” she looked down and furrows her brow a moment. “But for me this is still difficult. As I said, I...I still feel all Arnara would have. And for me, I last saw you over six centuries ago. You were a distant memory in my mind for a long time.”

“What you forgot me?”

“No…never. The Reveries would never let me…in this life or the next. And seeing you again brings with it all the memories of that time we spent with each other…and the sorrow of losing you. And it is wonderful to see you as you again.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You passed away six centuries ago,” Rafelor’s jaw dropped as he realized that this Arnara had lived many times his own and was finally approaching the end of her own life. “But I saw you constantly, as I watched you and yours grow older. I saw you in your children, they grew and called me ‘Auntie Arnara,’ had children of their own, and passed on themselves.”

“What really? Not 1st Aunt of House Ustina? And children? How many?”

Arnara pursed her lips together, “I don’t know what I should or should not tell you. Your future isn’t written yet, and nor has it for the real me here. This Arnara may not be the one that arrives at the end. But I can tell you that for me, I watched your family grow. I saw over twenty generations of your family carry the Ustina name. And together they had more children, and they then passed beyond the veil. But I have seen you in all of them, and I have felt your passing in each one too.” She clutched her upper arms with her hands as she shivered at the memories. “It’s why elves as a rule do not spend long periods of time with shorter lived races. You may not see it often, but Tel’Quessir are full of powerful emotions. We hold them close, and do not show them often in public, and sometimes not even in private. But with humans, and others we choose not to form close bonds, because we wish to spare ourselves the pain. The pain of caring for someone that is a for us only a momentary bright flicker in our memories and hearts. A memory too short for the pain we feel.”

Arnara looked down a moment and sighs, “I broke that rule, watching your family for centuries. I could not look away; I didn’t want to. So, in my mind, all of you were ‘Rafelor’ in some way or form. It made it easier considering you all kept writing journals. So many that I had to create a simulacrum of myself whose sole job was keep track of them and to correct them. There probably is a small wing in Candlekeep now with the collection. But it made the pain of every generation passing on almost bearable. I could read their experiences even though I wasn’t there. Understood their hopes and fears and dreams. Every one of them.

“But now after watching so many of your kin depart, I am sad that it is now I who must finally leave. As I said I don’t have a lot of time. I can feel the spell the Zulkir’s wove unravelling, and I will soon dissipate back into the Weave. But I still feel the bittersweet pleasure of seeing you, as you, for a final time. As she would.”

Rafelor stood there stunned at what she said. Confused at how she wasn’t Arnara yet and so calm at her approaching end. That she wasn’t destined for Arvandor but was simply to melt away like winter’s snow in the spring. It seemed unfair to create such a copy and to give it joy and pain, like any other person and be cursed with the knowledge that she isn’t even real.

“I guess you and Apolyta have something in common then.” Rafelor quipped.

Arnara chuckled, “You are right…we do. I am sorry I do not have time to see her again. It’s been a while.”

“What happens to the others? Can you tell me?”

Anara sat down on a stone wall for a moment and used Rafelor’s dirk to slice away cords that bound a pair of high boots to her legs. She spoke as wrestled to pull each of her feet free from their prison. “Well, Hawthorn starts his own family…and Yaka becomes a treasured heirloom. Once Hawthorn passed away, Yaka would talk less and less and fall into a deep sleep on the mantle. But every couple of generations, someone would touch him, and wake him up and they’d harangue Hawthorn’s descendant for the rest of their life. The last time it was one of the girls was dared to lick it which got her quite a tirade. But, It’s happened at least seven or ten times now.” Freeing her feet, Arnara wiggled and stretched her toes, feeling the ash and dirt with them as she continued. “I remember that at some point their house blends with another one in Amphail…the Grosks I believe. It was a big wedding to say the least; the affair lasted a tenday. But I was busy tracking your family’s descendants, so I didn’t follow them as closely, sorry.

“As for the others from our party, I remember that on one of Myrai’s visits, she took Shalai to Eberron, to a place called Adar to meet some ‘kindred spirits’. I know that Adrissa and Sage and I met at some point as well. She adopted a needy child or two, and she and Sage took time to raise them. The rest, all drifted in different directions, and I lost track of them.”

“What about Apolyta?”

Arnara looked uncomfortable but smiled nonetheless, “I was proud of her. She found the Moonblade of the house, but—” and Arnara frowned a moment and shook her head. “—It didn’t give her the peace she wanted. The Sy’Tel’Quessier never accepted her as one of their own. They didn’t trust the hags and were suspicious of the High Magic used. I always wondered if I could have done something different that would have made her feel at home with us, and them with her. But, in the end, it created a rift between my house and our Sy’Quessir kin. It became a such a sore point, I moved everything and everyone to Evereska.”

“Moving the house sounds like a lot of annoying problems.”

“Well…I moved everything, not just my kin. The tree, the mansion, everything. The Sy wanted to wipe away the mansion down to nothing. To ‘remove the taint of magic’ they said. So, I chose not to leave it for the others to repurpose. I was angry; I felt that we had done nothing to earn their distrust. But it was perhaps simply time to leave. Melandrach didn’t want us to either, but he released us from our duties.

“That tree and the estate was our house for almost seven millennia; since ancient Illefarn, the Ardeep kingdom, and the second Illefarn. Before the Sy came and claimed the Misty Forest. And I did ask the tree’s opinion before I did it, and he was fine with a new place to grow. And with a ritual I moved it all to Evereska, and there Apolyta found some measure of peace, and she remained with us for a long time. But Avandor called for her, and she departed a century ago. She was happy that the Seldarine wanted her.”

“Did you ever have your own children?”

Arnara leaned back and looked at the moon, Selune above with a smile. “I found someone acceptable and had three wonderful children. Two remained in the house, and the third joined another in Evereska. I’m proud of what they have become. Less happy of having said goodbye to two of them already.”

“I’m glad you and your husband—”

“I did not marry my mate.” Arnara corrected. “We agreed to raise children together. We cared for each other dearly, but we never married. That’s not uncommon for elves to do that; to mate for children and marry another for love. It’s rare for a head of a house to do it, but…well…it’s done.”

“And I bet that Myrai has already passed on. Did you—”

Arnara shook her head, “Myrai was with me. As it turned out, she…she was going to outlive me by about a millennium. But as to what happens…I don’t know what my fate would be.” Arnara looked at the Moonblade next to her and sighed. “Binding oneself to a Moonblade comes with great responsibility. I didn’t want to particularly do it, nor was I planning to do so. But circumstances required me to make a choice. You see, every wielder spends time as…part of the blade when they pass on. I would spend time with my ancestors within the blade and guide the next wielder and delay going to Arvandor and my rebirth…for seven bearers of that blade. It does assume that someday my son or one of his line will take up the blade.

Arnara looked at Rafelor with a sad look. “But if the sword believes it has accomplished all it must, and then it will free all the souls, and become a beautiful heirloom. But it is possible that none of it will happen. I don’t know. I just know what this…Arnara saw. Perhaps it will not come to pass. Perhaps something better or worse will instead.

Arnara smiled as she looked at her friend. “But I don’t regret it, despite it not really being me and none of it real yet for the real me. But you did save me. If they had won…I don’t want to think what could have happened, trapped in their control. But I’m sure that Szass Tam would have treated my family poorly. So, thank you for that.” Anara smiled again and stood. She embraced the half-elf and rubbed Rafelor’s neck as she lay her forehead against his chest. They stood there quietly for a moment, with only the hint of sniffle coming from her.

Suddenly she inhaled and looked Rafelor in the eyes again and returned to him the dirk she had borrowed. “It’s time. Please cut the rest of the leather away from my body. It is holding me here unnaturally, and it quite frankly hurts a lot.”

“Right…” Rafelor murmured, as he started to cut the straps along her back, that bound tightly the eldritch garment to her, starting with the locked leather bustier, and then he cut away more straps underneath freeing her arms from the sleeved top. Finally, he cut away as the cords bound with once molten metal that held the tight pantaloons onto her hips. With a quick series of slices, he shredded the cords that held the leather to her thighs and calves. She shook off the garment, and it fell away revealing her smooth white skin, now aglow with the power of the Weave. Right then, the moonlight struck her naked form, nearly blinding Rafelor as her body gave off an iridescent glow. She turned and gave an impish smile to Rafelor and spoke, as her form dissipated into motes of light as the Weave claimed her.

Al Hond Ebrath Rafelor, Uol Tath Shantar En Tath Lalala Ol Hond Ebrath. Avluve’ Tyss.”*



* Rafelor, A True Friend, As The Trees And The Water Are True Friends. Farewell Cousin.”
 


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