The Thorns of Winter -(updated 8/1/2023)

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise

The Thorns of Winter​

(Based on a homebrew campaign in Eberron)
(This is updated weeklyish. Last post August 21st , 2023)
Story by Nthal
Additional Material by:
Ryan aka 'The Blade'
Graysire aka 'Sage Redoubt'
Jess aka 'Adrissa'

Introduction – Even Harsher Landings - October 14th, 2020​



Krona Peak, Ironroot Mountains.


Moravan carried up the mugs on a tray from the kitchen, with steam still pouring forth from their rims and bodies. He sweated not from the exertion, but the heat from the mugs themselves. But it was a small thing, and the mugs always were…cleaner this way. Sure, a Gold Dragon Inn of House Ghallanda (or at least the bigger ones) could clean off the crockery, flatware and tableware just by waving it over a runed block in the corner. But how did that teach anyone the value of hard work, and doing it right?

Moravan wasn’t against the new tools being produced by the Dragonmarked Houses, but how was one to instill the value of hard work, if you never did it? Not everyone could pursue a craft, and not all were cut out for duties requiring martial skill. It would be the spoiling of the young Moravan thought.

He set the tray down near the bar, and as he did so, the tolling of the bell above told him, it would be an hour till the 3rd quarter of the day started. Smiling he hoped that the dwarven expeditions below brought their hard-earned coin to the ‘Pattern Welded Blade.’ On one side, it was good fortune to have the tavern so close to passages to the Realm Below, on the other an ill-omen, a somber reminder that not all that venture below, return. It was feast or famine as a business, but lately fortunes had been high.

He smiled looking around at the vaulted ceiling. While most of Krona Peak was outside on the face of the mountain, the legacy of mines below weaved through the roots of the rock itself. Many galleries and foundries had been converted to other uses; warehouses, temples, and bars and inns like this one. The ‘Patternweld’ itself stood in the bones of an ancient foundry, long since repurposed, with a great common room below, and four stories of rooms above, circling the common festhall in tiers above. It was the last stop down, and the first up. Many business deals were held in private rooms, and plenty of beds to sleep off success or forget failures.

Nevertheless, Clan Mroranon took no chances; only Mror Dwarves could tread below the city on the way to the colonies below, and recently the Mror had been bolstering the guard. Some said that the denizens below were waiting for the right moment to attack. Others thought that Clan Mroranon was ready to push the front deeper. All Moravan knew, is that it made all the clans thirsty.

“Stack those mugs, so I can get my tray back,” said Igneve behind him. “There is more to bring up from the wash, I heard that success is coming our way.” The tapkeeper said with a grin.

“That is good to hear. Perhaps we can keep the profits and not spend it all on new mugs this time,” he replied to her, as he stacked the mugs on the shelf behind the bar.

“That’d be a welcome change,” said an older Mror, who trundled into the bar. “At least you haven’t had to buy new furnishings.”

“Gavin! Let me pour you a stout,” Igneve said with a smile, searching for a cool mug. “Well, it’s been a while since we had a chair swung in here, but I do take pride that the bones of these tables are strong enough to weather another war, and not just a brawl.”

“Hah. After the last month’s meeting of the Iron Council, you would wonder about that,” Gavin said, taking the stout from Igneve.

Moravan set down the last of the steaming vessels, “I still can’t wrap my head around that. House Mroranon, letting Soldorak run internal security for Krona Peak?”

“You didn’t hear the howls when the council heard Kundarak’s price for doing the same.” Gavin replied. “The house has enough riches. But Mroranon is in a bind; needing to play nice with other clan, keeping coin in the bank, and being a little thin with the Realm Below being expanded.”

“But Soldorak? Why put your Clan’s worst foe in charge of security of your home?” Moravan said still confused.

“Some of the merchants I spoke to think it’s a ploy,” Igneve said. “It keeps Soldorak from expanding deeper into Solangap. One of them was expecting Soldorak to make some blunder and be replaced.”

“That’s a bit farfetched,” Moravan said dubiously.

“Not if you want Kundarak to assume the contract at the lowball prices that Soldorak offered,” Gavin said then taking a large swallow from his mug. “It’s a game at its finest, and all on Soldorak not to lose. And one that Kundarak may not want to win.”

“All I know is that it puts the Mroranons on edge now as they pass Soldorak security sites.” Moravan said bitterly. “A mistake is bound to happen, and someone is going to get hu—” he said when he was cut off by a shriek.

The three dwarves looked around in panic looking for the source of the noise, when it suddenly stopped with the thunderous crash on one of the ancient tables, cracking it in half. The table collapsed onto the floor of the ‘Patternweld’ into a pile of splintered wood and shattered crockery.

"By Onatar’s Beard what in the---

“No, who is a better question,” Igneve said rushing to the crushed table, where a figure lay.

The first thing that stood out to the trio was, it wasn’t a dwarf. In fact, the body that lay on the remains of the table appeared to be a young human female, her body was splayed at an uncomfortable angle. She wore patchwork leggings, which seemed to be assembled from random colored scraps of leather. Around her waist were a number of belts, one of which held a thin blade to her side, and the other a shorter dagger, and assorted pouches. In her hand she clutched an iron rod, topped with a purple gem. Her breastplate was of a strange design, but that was barely noticeable as it was covered in blood. She was wearing a pair of necklaces, but one stood out for having a large unfamiliar symbol, of a balance held aloft by a bony arm and hand. Her hair long and despite being spattered with blood was the color of not silk yellow or blonde, but radiant metallic gold. She lay there unaware of her surroundings, as a small river of blood poured out of her mouth.

Igneve knelt by the woman and tried to revive her to no avail, turning to her partner, “Moravan, she’s bleeding badly, we need to get her to House Jorasco quickly!”




Vernan Galandrak walked calmly in the busy streets of Krona Peak; the bell had just tolled the start of the 3rd quarter, and the cool spring breeze blew between the buildings, alleys, and streets on the surface. Yet the skies were still the greys of winter, with the sun hidden behind dark skies. Vernan was a recent immigrant, being the scion of a small clan that called Sharn home. But in his youth, he became curious what the Mror’s were really like, and with his father’s support left the City of Towers and set up shop in Krona Peak.

He considered himself a decent inquisitive, but he found that his unique situation and experience in Krona were in high demand. A clansman with no formal ties to the main clans of the Mror enabled him to cultivate a certain mystique of being unbiased. Having grown up around Sharn, he was more familiar with the rest of the Khorvaire’s peoples and had better insight into their motivations. In short, as an outsider to the Mror, he was trusted to have no strong clan allegiances and he was Mror enough to be considered one of their own.

Smiling to himself it didn’t hurt that the Peak never closed; the hours the Mror kept were basically ‘any,’ so getting a drink, taking a nap, getting your gear worked on can be done any time you needed; shops rarely were closed, even the most prized artisans had apprentices present at all hours who could greet and make arrangements for a client to meet the master.

He continued his trek through the streets, until he found the building he was looking for. The large rectangular structure was probably a great storehouse, or perhaps a barracks in the distant past, when the Peak was smaller. But since the Lightning Rail’s arrival, storehouses were now closer to the rail in the valley, and the barracks moved closer to them. But the low building was an ideal place for its current clientele; one who needed few stairs and wide-open passages. The wounded.

House Jorasco leased the building from Clan Mroranon and spent coin on herbs and medicinal shipped from Frosthaven. And while the Last War did have its share of Mror wounded who needed care, it saw far more business from healing Mror fighting the in the Realm Below. But the conflict there had been quiet for almost a year, and the enclave was not usually a busy place.

Today was different, a crowd of dwarves and a scattering of non-dwarven onlookers hovered around the entrance, trying to peek inside. All the while talking among themselves:

“A strange human came up from the Realm’s Below!”

“I heard she smashed apart the ‘Patternweld’ in a bloody rage.”

“That’s ridiculous! Igneve went inside the Enclave with her.”

“Is it true, she has hair made of gold?”

“How did a human get past the security patrols?”

Finally, a relevant question. Vernan thought to himself, as he pushed his way through the crowd. Finally, he made his way to the main entrance, where a pair of Iron Blademarks from House Deneith blocked the way inside.

“You don’t look wounded. What’s your business?”

“My business is Kundarak’s,” Vernan said gruffly, presenting his identification papers, with the endorsement of the House of Banking’s seal. “I must speak with Mylle.”

The Blademark nodded and stood aside, and Vernan stepped into the House of Healing.

He never liked the large Jorasco Enclaves. Not because of the healers or their business, just the larger ones had larger population of the old and sick; the ones near the end of their days. All Jorasco could offer the folk was comfort for a fee. You can’t cure old age, but many of the aliments could be eased. That and the sharp pungent smell of herbs and unguents used gave a strange ‘artificially clean’ smell.

He continued walking towards the section used for new patients, and the most likely place where he could get his bearings on the mystery at hand. There was a desk of dwarven height, and perched on a chair sat a halfling, busy pouring through papers behind a wall of glass. He didn’t even look up as the dwarf’s shadow crossed his face.

“Take a seat and we will be with you as soon as we are able,”

“I’m not hur—” started Vernan.

“I can tell; you aren’t bleeding everywhere. Take a seat,” the halfling stated dispassionately.

Vernan frowned, “I am here to see---”

We will tell you who you will see, when you see them, and you will pay the fees up front.”

Vernan frowned and banged a large meaty hand on the desk and held up his papers to the glass to the surprised halfling’s face.

“Stuff it. I am here on Clan business. You will comply with House Kundarak’s investigation as per arrangement with Clan Mroranon. Failure to do so would be…problematic for you and a waste of time for me. Where is Mylle?”

“Observing that your manners are still gruff, but not unwarranted,” said a voice to his left. Turning Vernan gave the slight blonde-haired halfling woman a satisfied grunt. She was wearing a simple dress, with the embroidery of House Jorasco on the left breast, and she returned the smile with a curt nod.

“Mylle nice to see you again; the bed side manners of the staff need some work,” he remarked.

“That’s why he is at the desk, and not your bedside. And if it were anyone else making a stink, I would have the Blademarks pummel you into needing long-term care here.”

“That bad of business recently? I thought you kept the books current.”

“It isn’t about the books, but about…onlookers and curiosity seekers today. And you aren’t one to chase the injured that arrive here like an out of work barrister.”

“No…I am not. I will explain. Please escort me to your new patient.”

“Of course,” Mylle d’Jorasco said and led the inquisitive beyond a set of double doors separating the lobby area from the healing one. “I’ll get the basics out of the way for you. Woman, perhaps the age of a twenty-year-old human. She was covered in blood and was suffering from numerous internal injuries.”

“She alive?”

“Yes, but she is under sedation right now.” Mylle looked at Vernan confused. “Now usually when you come here, you’re looking for a corpse, not a live one. I take it this isn’t some insurance matter.”

“I was hired to investigate a security question,” Vernan said. “Being alive might make this easier. What did you mean by ‘perhaps the age of a twenty-year-old human?’ Why do you think they aren’t?”

Mylle, gestured towards a door, and ushered Vernan inside. There in the room lit with driftglobes, lay a woman, attended by another Jorasco staffer. As described by the throng outside her hair was like spun gold, and not just a simple blonde. She lay there sleeping, her chest rising and falling gently.

“Most of the injuries were internal; some broken bones that were set and healed, but the organs suffered a bit of trauma. Our original concern was she was bleeding heavily inside but…”

“But what?”

“While, she was covered by a large amount of blood, but as far as I can tell it wasn’t hers. She had no external wounds at all, which tells me—”

“—Its someone else’s.”

“Precisely. As we examined her, I found something…odd.” The healer moved to the woman’s head and slowly peeled open one of the unconscious woman’s eyes.

Vernan squinted at the woman, and then he furrowed his brow in confusion. The woman’s eye was like a mirror, reflecting back his own visage and had no pupil or sclera.

“’Odd.’ That is an understatement.”

“That’s why I am not sure she is human. I have read that the elves that live in the Feyspires have eyes similar to this; Eladrin I believe they are called. But they are supposedly solid colors. Another race known as Tieflings are said to have similar eyes, but with metallic colors. But, after I looked it up in our journals here, that isn’t right either. They tend to have colored skin, that isn’t human like, and usually dark hair, horns and tails. She,” pointing at the sleeping woman, “Has none of those traits.”

“Clear the room!” a booming voice said. “We will need to move this criminal to…Vernan! What are you doing here?” Vernan turned, to see a middle-aged dwarf with four bodyguards. The Mror’s flaming red hair matched his temperament as he glared at Vernan with contempt. “This is a matter for Krona Peak’s security forces to address, not body wagon chasing inquisitives.”

“Rior Soldorak, how nice to see you again. It’s been…too soon,” Vernan replied coldly. “Unfortunately, House Kundarak by right and by contract has a stake in this…mystery.”

“Kundarak is not a party to this—”

“By the terms of the agreement, in an instance where security is breached, Kundarak has a right to all investigation and proceedings involving the breach. In addition, I am also to turn over to you any independent findings I uncover.”

“What crap is this? This is Clan’s Soldorak’s concern, not Kundarak’s,” Rior spat. “Why would Kundarak even care?”

“They care, because if someone can breach security, they could breach the vaults or other places where Kundarak keeps things safe. That is why I am here, and I can certainly take it to Clan Mroranon if you don’t believe me; I have better ways to waste my time than argue with you about it.”

Rior glared at the Inquisitive, “Fine, but this is our investigation.”

Vernan nodded, “Of course. You have the lead here.”

Rior smiled smugly, “Wonderful; Is she in danger of injury if we move her?”

Mylle stood up stiffly and replied, “No. I do not recommend it, but she can be moved. She is still sedated of cou—”

“Keep her that way for now. Where are her things?” Rior demanded.

“We have secured her belongings in the next room. If you follow me,” Mylle led Rior and Vernan to a room across the hallway. The four bodyguards took position by the sleeping woman, with two inside and two standing outside the room. Mylle produced a set of keys and unlocked the heavy metal lock and pushed open the iron bound door. Escorting the dwarves inside, they came to a table, where various items lay; a rod, a sword and dagger, a shield, pouches, belts, jewelry, pack and some items covered in blood; namely a breastplate, breeches and a cloak.

“Did you already rifle through her things?” Rior demanded.

Mylle glared at the dwarf. “Jorasco policy is to inventory all items carried by patients suspected of crimes, or inability to pay. A copy,” and Mylle reached over to a nearby workbook and pulled out a loose sheet and handed it to Rior, “Is provided to security, especially if you are planning on incarcerating her.”

Vernan ignored the exchange and started to examine the gear. Looking at one of the pouches, he found a strange assortment of objects. Items like a copper wire, chipped stone, a mirror, and vials of liquid. In another leather case, he found a metal cylinder with no obvious use. He then moved on and examined another pouch, which jingled with the sound of coin. He opened it and started to look at the tender. But as he looked, he became more and more confused.

“What in the?” Vernan wondered aloud.

Rior turned to look at what Vernan was handling, when Mylle spoke again. “You noticed that too. I have never seen coinage like that in the Five Nations. I wondered if it is older somehow.”

“Not likely, I’ve seen coins used by the Inspired of Sarlona, Dhakanni coins, and others. These don’t resemble them.”

“A foreign power? A spy?” Rior said in a huff. “I wouldn’t doubt a sea prince; they mint their own coinage too. Whose blood is this?”

“We don’t know…but it isn’t hers,” Mylle said.

“So, there’s a body around too is my guess,” Rior said grimly. “She’s a spy and a murderer most likely. Keep her under sedation and prepare her to be moved.”

“Ahem, there is a matter of— “Mylle started.

“Soldorak will guarantee the bill; If she cannot pay, it will be added to her crimes,” Rior said.

Vernan raised an eyebrow at that and said nothing. Continuing to examine the other objects, the next thing he looked at was the blood covered breastplate. It had a fine golden sheen and had a motif and style he wasn’t familiar with. He opened up a notebook and pulled out a stick of charcoal and started to sketch the design down. He also sketched out the necklace designs that lay there, none of which were familiar to the dwarf.

In the meantime, one of Rior’s guards stepped in the room, and the Mror barked orders.

“Take her to the interrogation block, and hold her there,” Rior said. “We’ll work her over tomorrow.”

Vernan continued to sketch barely paying attention. “She’s proficient with magic…might want to prepare for that,” he muttered.

“What’s that?” Rior said glaring at the inquisitive.

“She has components for spells in one of the pouches,”

“I don’t need you to tell me how to secure a prisoner of unknown capability,” Rior growled. “We assume they are, until proven otherwise.” He turned to look at the guard and Vernan saw out of the corner of his eye, that Rior jerked his head towards the inquisitive and nodded, which put a small grin on Vernan’s face. “You can come by an hour after first quarter bell and we’ll see what kind of spy she is, who’s paying her, and how she got there. In the meantime, I don’t want to see you by the garrison at all; you are not to talk to her, without me being present.”

“As you like Rior,” Vernan said mildly, and watched as the guard gathered up the pile of gear and things into a box and followed Rior out of the room.

“I do not like handing over a patient to the jailor without—” Mylle started.

“—Getting paid?” Vernan finished the sentence.

Mylle d’Jorasco elbowed the dwarf. “It is not about the money. The House cares: but I do wish for patients to be taken care of. That was a long fall, and she’ll awake to a lot of pain.”

Vernan frowned, “Fall?”

“You didn’t hear? She landed and smashed into a table at ‘Patternweld’ probably from the upper rooms.

Vernan thought a moment, “It’s been a while since I stopped in for a drink. Time to pay Igneve a social call.”


Notes:
Well...you didn't think I would drop Myrai down a well and leave her there did you?

That almost happened, but a rare event occurred where I moved her to a different campaign altogether, because the other one ended abruptly. I have been itching to get to this part of the story, for a while so I hope you enjoy it. Feedback (private / public ) is greatly appreciated!
 
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Richards

Legend
Well, this is very interesting. I don't think I've ever seen a "campaign transplant" like this happen before. And while I'm glad I'll get to continue reading about Myrai's exploits, it's a shame we won't be seeing any more of the others from the Journal of the Souls of Legend campaign.

Oh well, I'll just pull up a front row seat and enjoy this new show; I'm sure I'll come to enjoy the new main characters as much as I did the previous bunch....

Johnathan
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Well, this is very interesting. I don't think I've ever seen a "campaign transplant" like this happen before. And while I'm glad I'll get to continue reading about Myrai's exploits, it's a shame we won't be seeing any more of the others from the Journal of the Souls of Legend campaign.

Oh well, I'll just pull up a front row seat and enjoy this new show; I'm sure I'll come to enjoy the new main characters as much as I did the previous bunch....

Johnathan

For me, they were a constant thing as we rotated DM hats. And For Myrai 'Big Plot line' it makes sense. And now with planewalking between Faerun and Eberron a canon thing...why not?

Personally, I wanted to continue the original plot line; but can't help what happened. I mean I could make it up like any other form of fiction. But honestly, the amount of clean up of inconsistencies (which are normal for a campaign really) left me at a point that I had a very little idea what happened next, other than Paradros was involved.

But as for 'Thorns' it was a homebrew originally targeted for Faerun as well. But the players wanted to do an Eberron, and it actually WORKS better there IMHO.

But we need to get some preludes out of the way first; as I like telling a story, and this is a bit more than backdrop. And unlike the other campaign, I will be including the writing of other persons involved, who is incredible in developing character concepts with good writability. In fact, THIS campaign will have writings from my son, daughter, and this other person. It's been something I have been eager to get to for a while now.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise


Falling awake - 10/19/2020​


Igneve glared at the smashed table in the center of the room. Not because of the mess it left, but because of the small fence of chain and two guards that stood around it, like some attraction at a Ghallanda festival. But the Soldorak’s also demanded room around the fence the setup. That was nearly a dozen tables and seats that had to be shoved up against the walls, and almost a third of the floor space, all while someone from Solangap could arrive and review the wreckage.

“It’s a broken table,” she said as she slammed metal plates into a tub. “Smashed by a woman from a fall. That I would think is obvious. But why do they need to hold my bar hostage?”

“It's not the whole bar,” Moravan pointed out.

“It's going to be a loss, even if we are full. And to top it off all the patrons, are too busy looking up to drink!” Igneve snapped back, pilling more plates into the tub, “Can’t make enough in food, and not enough want to stay an evening. Everyone is going topside!”

“It could be worse!” Moravan exclaimed, as he filled a pitcher with a strong earthy Mror stout.

“Well, Igneve it’s been a while hasn’t it,” Vernan said as he stepped up to the bar with a smile on his face.

“You’re right,” Igneve sighed and looked upwards. “Now it’s worse.” She turned and glared at the inquisitive. “And you have some gall showing up in here now.”

“I pay my bills!” Vernan said sounding wounded.

“Only for the drinks. I seem to remember you owing me for two chairs, a chest and a bed!”

“The fire was not my fault!”

“I don’t seem to remember the fire having coin either!”

“I’m sorry about that,” Vernan said trying to mollify the woman. “And I am sorry to say I am here on business. Tell you what, an ale and double the price because I need some answers on your recent…table crasher?”

“The table is,” and she with a flourish pointed out the wreckage on the floor, “Right there. Don’t think you need me for that.”

“I passed it on the way in. Something about the Soldorak pair standing over it like flies on horse crap. No, that isn’t what I need you for.”

Igneve looked at the inquisitive puzzled.

“I need you to show me, what’s right above it.”

Igneve led Vernan up the spiral rampway that led up the inside of the circular room, every ten steps there was a door set into the rock, with an everbright lantern giving off a soft warm light from a sconce in the wall. Opposite each door was an opening overlooking the festhall below.

“So, this was a foundry of some type?” Vernan remarked as they walked up the sloping ramp together.

Igneve nodded, “Down at the bottom, the kitchen area was once the bellows for the smelter, but there were workshops all along this rampway. Used to be a pair of rails for carts with ore, metals and whatever before we ripped them out. The coalbin is now where we distill and brew.”

“Sharn isn’t much different. Mror though has less concerns about history,” Vernan remarked. “But in Sharn, half the time in the lower towers you had no idea what the original builder intended, and so much of it built up over stuff long forgotten. Almost no memory of what the stone once did.”

“Well, this was all my work; this place was cobwebs and dust before,” Igneve said with pride. “Now the workshops are rooms, and the rails were reused below. Rented out the bottom for construction space as they built up the garrison below, and it paid for the reworking of the place. A lot of that crew still come here for drinks. Ok, we’re here; the top.”

In front of Vernan was a large arched opening with a small railing at knee height that prevented folks from getting too close to the edge. Vernan put his hands on the side wall and peered over the ledge, and sure enough, about four floors down he could see the remains of the table, the improvised fence and the guards.

Nodding to himself, he started to look around at the ground and at the railing, looking for signs of someone passing by. Running a finger across the stone, he looked at it, and saw the fine layer of dust that lay upon it. Frowning he kept looking over the archway and the wall.

“They were up here too. Had me search the rooms; though they wouldn’t say why.”

“Woman was covered in blood, right? Left a mess of it on the table I saw.”

Igneve nodded, “Yep, got her to House Jorasco in short order too.”

Vernan nodded, “Well, the blood wasn’t hers, so it came from somewhere.”

“Well that would explain the search…wait, you knew they wouldn’t find any, didn’t you?”

Vernan nodded, “When she landed, you didn’t get hit with any did you?”

Igneve frowned a moment, “A couple of drops…not much compared to what was on her.”

“Right. That means it was mostly dry when she hit the table, but not completely. But here on the railing, the edge of the sill, and the floor on the hall, there’s no sign of any, and the Soldorak’s didn’t find any either.

“How did you know that?”

“Because if they had, there would be another chain fence and a guard here.”

“So, she breaks my table in mostly dried blood?” Igneve said, her brow furrowed thinking this over.

"All of her injuries were internal, so that blood is someone else’s. Rior thinks he has a murderer and spy. But I don’t think he’s going to find a body anywhere near here.”

“Why is that?”

“Something magical is involved. A woman falls from here, yet no one notices her enter the bar at all? She isn’t dressed for stealth either, with a shiny breastplate and a shield? If she is in disguise, it’s a terrible choice of one. And if she did kill someone, where is the body? I checked before coming here; no one is reported missing. The whole thing doesn’t make sense yet. The only thing I am certain of, is that Mylle is right.”

“About what?”

“With a fall like that, she’s is going to be in a lot pain when she wakes up.”





Flashes and images passed in front of my eyes; a dwarf laughing at me, a gnome screaming at me, a pair of men diving away from me. The bloody sacrifice I left behind on the floor. I felt stone crack and give way and I tumbled, falling towards the sound of water. Water whose surface I never breeched. I prayed during the fall, and was ready to give my life as I promised

And was rejected.

I felt the cool air rushing past me, and I tasted the moisture with my lips, when suddenly everything changed. Bright light flooded my eyes, and warm, dry air caressed my skin as I fell. Then I felt snapping, and cracking and heard the sounds of splintering wood. Suddenly I couldn’t breathe, and I glimpsed the face of a dwarf before my head hit a solid surface, causing a flash of white to pass in front of my eyes.

Now I am awake again…my head buzzed and pounded in pain. I was laying on my side and every breath hurt. I slowly opened my eyes, to walls of gray stone with flecks of red and blue shot throughout the rock, while I was laying on platform of the same stone. Ahead of me is an iron door, with a closed slot in the bottom, and a small window with bars at the top. Looking off the platform I saw a hole in the stone.

A prison? Maybe I didn’t escape the Duergar after all. But, Eridan was fettered, and the cell we found him in stank of sweat, rot and human offal. It didn’t smell that clean here, but it was nothing like his prison.

I pushed myself up with my right arm slowly, trying not to aggravate my headache, and I realized that my sides hurt equally. I blinked as I looked around, trying to get my bearings. I sat up and swung my legs over the edge of the stone, and my bare feet touched the cold floor. I looked down and saw that I was dressed in a rough spun tunic, that covers me down to mid-thigh, and was wide in the shoulders, hanging on me awkwardly. I looked down inside my tunic and saw that I had bandages wrapped all around me, constricting my breathing. Reaching up I touched my temple, and realized I had a wrapping around my head as well.

And that was it, nothing and no one else was in the room. My things were gone; my holy symbol, my rod, everything. I sat there and decided that the first thing I should do is perhaps heal myself. It would be harder without my symbol, but I could manage.

“Kelemvor, heal your wounded servant,” and I started to pull on a white strand. As I did, the buzzing in the background grew in strength, and in sudden pain. My hands flew to my temples and I fell forward onto my knees, gasping for air.

I gritted my teeth and tried again, slowly. As I touched the strand, I could feel the buzzing in my head increase sharply. I wondered if I could steel through it, and I tried continuing pulling on it. The buzzing and the pain kept increasing as I pulled. Finally, I released my hold on the strand and the buzzing returned to the back of my mind. I then decided on something even simpler; the incantation I used to clean myself. I reached within and started to braid a light and dark strand together. I started pulling it out, drawing the power even slower than before. But the pain ramped just as quickly, and it was still more than could endure. I let go again and panted for air as if I had to physically tried to manipulate the strands. I leaned forward and pounded the ground with my fist in anger.

I couldn’t even get a quarter of the strand in a state where I could use it; not enough for even the simplest of the magic I could work. The pain was beyond my ability to withstand. I wasn’t even sure that if I did manage to cast it, if I would even survive. I felt like it might actually kill me.

I leaned back against the stone platform, pulling up my knees to my chin, and I confronted the reality. I was alone in a cell somewhere. I didn’t know where in the multiverse I was. I hoped, prayed that my friends were safe.…but I wasn’t sure they could help me now.

Could anyone?

Would anyone?

No. It didn’t matter. I can’t assume there will be any help. I thought a moment and tried to remember anything I knew of the Prison in Sigil. I had as a young girl done a couple of rounds, cleaning the ducts and other places that only a scrawny kid could get to. But that wasn’t the same thing as a stay. Thinking back, I remembered that there were a couple of folks in the Sensates who managed to serve a short sentence there and they talked about it as a class, about what the experience was like.

I remembered they said something around the lines of ‘keep busy, keep thinking, keep going,’ because it wasn’t the Mercykillers that was the real enemy. It was boredom. So, what could I do?

I could move; I wasn’t fettered, and while I hurt, keeping moving and ready to do…something might be best. Nodding to myself, and I stood up and made a discovery.

I was taller than the cell, as I bumped my head against the roof. Puzzled for a moment, I realized that it made sense; if I were a dwarf, I would have a head’s clearance. But the cells the Duergar had were taller, probably to support the slaves they had. So that meant I was somewhere very different, but likely run by dwarves.

Stooping slightly, I walked around the cell. I didn’t realize it when I came to, but it was now clear that it must be pitch black. There wasn’t any light source, and if there was one from the outside, the bars didn’t cast any shadows inside the room. I considered that I might want to conceal that fact; most people assumed I was a strange human and didn’t realize I could see in the dark. And even if they did know that they didn’t know I could actually read in it, unlike others who could see in the dark.

I started with the hole in the stone, its purpose was quickly evident, as the distant odor of a sewer lingered there. It was a basin with an open drain to elsewhere, curving out of sight. I supposed that it was better than the pots they had in Sigil’s prison though.

The next thing to look at was the door. I noticed that the buzzing in my head increased as I approached it. It didn’t hurt more, but its presence was stronger. I looked at the slot at the bottom. It was barely a hand width in height. And was closed with a metal shield, leaving only the gap at the bottom the width of my smallest finger. It had to be for food, which just the thought of it made my stomach growl. I then bent down and looked through the bars. I could see a corridor, and another door directly across from mine. On it, I saw there was a lever that would raise the door to the slot below, and there was a keyhole that led to the mechanism that held it fast. There was also a hook protruding from the wall, on the side with the lock, whose purpose eluded me. I see a little of the hallway in both directions and could spot more doors, and the hint of light from the left side. But I quickly something else that drew my curiosity.

In a cage in the ceiling, positioned between my door and the door across from me I saw a crystal shard, the size of both my fists put together. It didn’t give off light or anything like that. But it was different from any crystal I had seen before with a smoky appearance with rivulets of black running through it. If that wasn’t interesting enough, the cage itself wasn’t just a bracket, but it was a full cage with a padlock, keeping the shard securely inside.

It meant it was important, not just a decoration. I stared at it for a moment, and started to pull on a light strand again, in hopes of healing myself. As I did so, and the pain appeared I saw the veins in the crystal pulse. As I pulled harder, the veins pulsed faster, matching the rhythm of pain I felt. Certain that was the source of pain, I let the strand go and stared at it wondering.

I moved to the far corners of the cell and tried again. And while the buzzing was less in the corners, the pain still was present when I tried to manipulate the strands. I sat down on the stone platform both annoyed and curious. I had never seen a crystal like that, and certainly had never heard of one that suppressed magic. It was interesting though; I would have loved to learn more about it.

I started to stretch my limbs, gritting through the discomfort I felt in my sides. I remembered in the Prison, I saw that some prisoners doing exercises and stretching. It was probably the only thing I could do, until I met my captors, and perhaps get fed. I tried to be inventive on what I could do, sitting up, pushing myself up with my arms, all the while watching the door.

I didn’t know how long it was, when suddenly my vision started to fade into grey. Looking at the barred window and listening I realized that several people wearing heavy armor were approaching, and they were carrying a light. I moved and sat on the platform and waited to see.

Suddenly, someone held a bright lantern up to the bars, and I had to raise up my arm to prevent myself from being blinded. After a moment, I heard a key turn in the lock, and the sound of the bolt being retracted, and then the door was pulled open. Three figures stepped in.

Dwarves. They were armored in chain mail, two them wore axes on their belts, and had crossbows pointed at me at the ready. The third one hung the lantern on a hook outside my door, the light flooding my cell. In his hands he held a set of manacles. Before they said anything, I realized that these weren’t Duergar. They lacked the gray skin and white hair they had. In fact, these looked like ‘normal’ dwarves. Their expression was all business, not showing disdain or hatred towards me, but the crossbow men were wary.

“Haaken sin herde ans!” the one with the manacles grumbled at me.

I shook my head, and said “Dvarkaan non,” which I remembered as ‘dwarven no.’ Or at least I hoped, I was pretty sure I didn’t insult them.

The dwarf nodded and pointed at me and thrust out an arm with the wrists upwards while saying something in a different language, “Widhab hands.” I swallowed, and held out my wrists helpfully, while saying “Non,”

The dwarf wasted no time clapping the manacles on one of my wrists, while giving me a peculiar look. He jerked the manacle upwards saying “Beweri upwird.”

I stood, and he roughly turned me around, and pulled the manacle behind my back. I quickly figured out that he was going to secure both my hands that way and didn’t resist when he grabbed my other wrist and secured it. Then he turned me around and held a firm grip on the chain the connected the manacles together, and turned me around forcibly, and pushed me into the corridor.





Rior was unamused, as he turned over in his hand a couple of objects frowning. He sat in an elevated chair at the back of the wall of the square room. In front of him was a small T-post with an open lock, and beyond that the door leaving the chamber. As he examined the pair in his hand, the door opened, and a gnome with a large tome entered. The gnome was older, with a white beard and curled moustache and a balding pate. On the right side of his face, an abstract tattoo of purples and magentas pulsated. He gave Rior a perfunctory nod and headed to a desk in one corner, taking a seat. As he set down the tome, he carried he spoke:

“Rior. Another one in a week. I hope this one won’t be boring.”

Rior glanced at the scribe, “I should hope not Paron. A spy and murderer should have a lot to say.”

The gnome arched an eyebrow, “As opposed to that heist on the Lightning rail? I should hope so. Any luck finding the others?”

Rior frowned, “No. That damned Boromar has told me all he knows, which wasn’t much. His kin had already fled town, with the goods, leaving our guest to rot.”

“Pity,” Paron said opening his book, and pulled out some quills and an ink pot from a small pouch fastened to his thigh. “Strange they left him behind,”

“It doesn’t matter, but I am going to send him to the Dreadhold for it,” grimaced Rior.

The gnome looked up, “That…sounds a bit overkill. Are you—”

“It is not your concern. Let’s focus on the sp—” and then the door opened again, this time with three dwarves, and a woman in tow.
Rior watched as they moved the woman and forced her to kneel in front of the t-post and locking her manacled behind it. She moved as if still in pain, which wasn’t surprising. Her golden hair was disheveled, and still spattered with blood. When the guards moved away and stood at ease by the exit, he finally could see what Mylle meant about her eyes.

Her eyes were like mirrors he was told, and the striking feature was not lost on him. And while he was not close enough to see his own reflection, it did give Rior a feeling of unease. She stared at him, not in fear, but in wariness. She probably was striking to Humans, an Khorvare, but her looks were not of interest to Rior. But Rior would get what he wanted from her soon enough.

“What is your name, girl?” He asked in common, assuming that she wasn’t bright enough for dwarvish. Her reaction was of puzzlement.

“Non,” she said simply, using the Dwarvish word for no.

“Playing dumb is only going to make this longer. What is your name?” Rior said letting his anger simmer to the surface.

She frowned and replied, “Yfa lufen not undergataan you.”

Rior leaned back frowning, “What crap is this? Paron?” he hissed at the gnome.

“I understood only half of that myself,” the gnome replied resting his chin in his left hand. “But if I didn’t know better, she doesn’t speak the common trade language.”

“Can’t you do something about that?”

“My mark will allow me to understand her, but she still would be unable to understand us.”

The woman pivoted her head back and forth, and spoke again, “Not…understand?”

“She’s playing us,” Rior said in a huff.

“Maybe not, If you allow me a moment,” and Paron stood up and walked in front of the woman. On her knees, she was at eyelevel with the gnome, and while Rior was aware of her visual distinctiveness, Paron was looking deeply into her eyes.

“Remarkable…I have never—”

“—Paron!” Rior shouted.

“Sorry, hmm…Non Dvaarkan, ye?” to which she shook her head. “Alright…Ydit k’in syea Gomit?”

She shook her head, and spoke again, “Gomit, nid wyf en.”

“She’s been around gnomes at least. That was proper conjugation. But not a speaker.”

The woman took the initiative, “Tel’quessir parra pisan?”

“Well that I recognize, but I don’t speak elvish,” Paron commented on.

“At least we can find a speaker for that,” Rior said rolling his eyes, “But how does she not know common?”

“Well, I can try a couple of others I do know. ‘Irragh Dar?’ ‘Atg’chan Ork?’”

The woman shook her head, and pursed her lips together, before speaking again., “A’ilo wau e cele?”

“That’s…familiar…but I don’t know it…where have I hear—”

“Nemtk bezsaalk Baatezu?” she said, but this time it sounded like it was being scraped out of her throat.

“My word. That’s not one I would have expected,” he shook his head.

“What?” Rior demanded.

“One of the languages of the fiends, It’s an odd one to—”

The gnome was interrupted by the door opening, and Vernan stepping inside.

“How tedious,” the inquisitive said, “How much paperwork is really necessary to attend an interrogation?”

“As much as needed,” Rior said with a glare.

The inquisitive frowned as he looked gnome in front of the woman, and Rior’s frustrated face, “I feel like I’m missing something here.”
“Communication barrier; she doesn’t speak common.” Paron started. “We were trying to find something in comm—oh sorry, that is a terrible pun…anyway that we can speak. The only one we think might work is Elvish. “

“Really? Your lucky day, I can speak that,”

“Of course you would.” Rior groaned.

Notes:
So...how common is common? Right now it is about how much english is to old english...generously speaking.

And if you haven't noticed; most of the languages are actually touched up Google Translate of real languages. Except old english; apparently you need to go elsewhere for that :)
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise

Questions of Fact - 10/26/2020​


My knees ached and my arms were tired from being bent in the odd position. But the worst part was the circular nature of the questions over and over and over, in Elvish. And while I was good with the language, it wasn’t my native tongue, so I struggled a bit trying to communicate effectively. And I suspected the dwarf might have been in the same position. Not that it mattered much; nothing I said helped. The only thing they took as a ‘correct’ answer was my name. Practically everything else was ‘wrong’ by comparison.

“Who do you work for?”

“What nation are you from?”

“What is your mission?”

“Who did you murder here?”

Over and over I answered to their dissatisfaction. They wouldn’t let me ask any either, as every time I tried, I was slapped on the back of my head by a dwarf behind me.

The one that questioned me wasn’t so much of a problem, and nor was the gnome who was intent on writing everything down. It was clear that the one on the tall chair was in charge and he wasn’t happy with my answers. His tone carried as he demanded his peer to ask me the same questions over and over. The dwarf asking the questions, seemed more even tempered and seemed to listen, but that didn’t stop the repeated questioning. As for the gnome, he seemed to make observations, and didn’t ask anything. Something else I picked up on was there was strong tension between the two dwarves. But it seemed that it was the seated dwarf that was much more visible about it, the dwarf interrogating me was more fuming about the other dwarf, but otherwise didn’t argue. Finally, the stalemate changed.

“Someone sent you on a mission here! Who is it? Why hide it?” The even tempered one asked.

“I am not hiding anything; I wasn’t sent here on a mission. Just let me ask—OUCH” I said as I was slapped on the back of my head once again.

The dwarf on the chair, slammed down his hand, and stood up suddenly, his hatred for me clearly written on his face. He walked by to leave the room, when he was asked a question by the other dwarf. He barked something back and then left the room, slamming the door behind him. I hung my aching head in exhaustion; I had no idea how long I had been there, and I hadn’t had anything to eat.

“So…Myrai. What are you? You aren’t a human, correct?” the remaining dwarf asked, a question that had not been brought up before.

I lifted my head to look at the dwarf. His tone was more of curiosity and less a demand.

“The term is ha’celas. A descendant of a celas,” I said trying to be helpful, but lost on how I could do so.
The dwarf frowned and looked at the gnome, who fiddled with a yellow crystal from his pouch. The gnome looked up and frowned and shook his head. Sighing, the dwarf turned back to me.

“Alright, where were you born?”

“Sigil,” I said and the blank look on his face told me everything. “You might know it as a different name; the ‘City of Doors’. Sometimes it’s referred to as ‘The Birdcage’ or the just ’The Cage’. Looking at him, I could tell that my answers didn’t mean anything, but he persisted.

“Alright, why is it called…the City of Doors?” he asked looking at me.

“Because there, it is said you can find a portal to anywhere. To Mount Celestia, to Baator, a Prime like this one. Once you find a door, you just need the right key to open it.”

“And…where is this city?”

“The Outlands…floating on top of the Spire,” I said not thinking much about it.

“A Spire…a feyspire?” he asked.

I looked up in confusion, “I…don’t know what that is. I’ve never heard it called that. It's a giant needle in the landscape, miles high.”

“Ok…what about those other places…like Baator. What’s Baator?”

I thought to myself he was truly clueless as I lowered my head shaking it, “Most primes call it the Nine Hells,”

“And what are they?”

What?

My head snapped up in confusion, “You don’t know what the…can I ask some questions without being hit?” even as I started asking, he raised his hand to stop the head slap I was going to receive. The dwarf nodded looking at me intently.

“The Nine hells...or Baator, are where souls go to be punished for evil they committed. Where do your souls go?”

The dwarf looked confused, “All souls, all the dead go to Dolurr. I have never heard of any other place.”

“Do you know anything about the planes at all?”

The dwarf was about to answer, when the Gnome spoke up. The dwarf nodded and turned to me. “I am not familiar with the Orrey, but he is, “and he nodded his head at the gnome. “He can understand what you are saying.”

I nodded, “Have you heard of any of these things? Caceri? Ysgard? Automata? Limbo?” and in response I saw from both of them was the same; neither had.

“What about…” I gulped afraid to mention names, but I gave in, “Asmodeus? Demogorgon? Lloth?
Kelemvor? Corellon Latherion? Moradin? Any of those names?” And to my surprise, none of the names had any meaning. I could understand the demons and devils, maybe not the elven gods. But a dwarf not knowing Moradin?

How far am I?

“What planes do you know of?”

After a moment conferring with the gnome, he started reciting some names; “Irian, Mabar, Syrania, Risia, Fernia, Shavarath, to name a few and of course the Astral which binds us around the world.”

I gulped, “What’s the name of the world?”

The dwarf and the gnome looked at each other and looked back at me confused.

“I take it, this place…is not Faerûn or Toril.”

“No…the name of the world is Eberron.”

I would not have called myself an expert on all the primes, but this was one I didn’t know.

“I guess I fell a lot farther than I imagined,” I said, again receiving expressions of confusion. “I was on an island in Faerûn. There I was working with my friends to escape and they created a portal to the mainland. But I was pushed into a well, and fell into a portal…here.”

“A different world?”

I nodded, “In Sigil we know of many worlds, Ortho, Athas, Krynn, Oerth, Abier, Toril…and there are many more I don’t know the names to. All with people and cities that have barely heard of one another. But some places are hard to reach, or seldom travelled. Krynn is one such place…I wonder if Eberron is one too.”

The dwarf knelt next to me and looked me in the eyes, “Let’s pretend I needed to prove that…how could I do so?”

I thought a moment, “Well, you need to find a planeswalker who could confirm what I am telling you. But how would you find…” I said, and the door behind me opened with the sound of several people entering behind me.

The dwarf looked down sadly at me, “Look, I will see what I can do. But understand…for what’s about to happen…I’m sorry.”

I was confused, but not for long. I felt a large hand pull on my hair, forcing my head back. Staring upwards I started to panic as a dwarf started to force the end of a funnel into my mouth. I instinctively clamped my jaw shut and tried to twist and turn to get away. In response another dwarf, pinched my nose shut, and I felt the butt of a weapon slam into my exposed abdomen, forcing me to open my mouth and gasp for air. Once open, it was over. Someone shoved the funnel in, and I was forced to swallow a sharp bitter liquid. I swallowed several mouthfuls all in a desperate effort to clear my throat and breathe. Finally, they removed the funnel and their grip on me.

I slumped forward, coughing, feeling ill and woozy. I slowly looked up at the dwarf in charge, who was already reseated on his chair. When he finally spoke, I had a good guess on what he said:

“Leafa us start aganwe,”

Vernan watched as they carried out the unconscious woman…no Myrai…back to her cell. Vernan knew he was a good inquisitive for a simple reason; his gut was rarely wrong. And right now, his gut told him two things, that Rior was missing the entire picture on this woman, and the whole treatment of her seemed over the top. Something was amiss, but it wasn’t clear yet what.

“This has been a useless day,” Rior grumbled. “She is either the most proficient liar, or she is an idiot. A couple more rounds and she’ll break.”

Vernan looked at Rior and calmly stated, “I don’t think she’s lying.”

“Why?” Rior looked at Vernan with contempt. “Because she told you a fanciful story of a city floating on a needle? That she fell out of a portal? She probably doesn’t even have the skills of an apprentice mage wright.”

“Then why make something that ludicrous up?” Vernan retorted. “It clearly isn’t distracting you, and she
clearly isn’t changing her answers.”

Rior stood up and walked to the door, “This is why I am the head of security and you are just an inquisitive. We’ll let her stew tonight and start again at second bell. Then we’ll break her.” He barely regarded Vernan, and barely nodded at Paron as he opened the door to exit the room, when Vernan asked; “And if her answers don’t change?”

“I can afford to send her to Dreadhold with that Boromar. Out of sight, out of mind,” and Rior walked out the door and slammed it behind him.

The pair looked at each other and both sighed when Paron spoke up first, “I agree with your assessment. And I am very curious on what I heard. The implications are fascinating. But I fear it will not make much of a difference in Rior’s mind. It’s just an interesting story right now.”

“Throwing around threats of the Dreadhold is a bit much. What’s this about a Boromar?”

“Oh, about a week ago, there was a heist on the Lightning rail—”

“—What running on the conductor line?”

“Hmm…no, in station. And because of that, it is Soldorak’s problem.”

“I hadn’t heard of this.”

“That’s not surprising, he’s tried very hard to keep it quiet. So, sending a prisoner there, keeps it that way.”

“Very pricey way to solve it.”

Paron shrugged, “Well, I have to file copies of the interrogation…might have a friend look at some of the notes. What about you?”

“I’m going to meet a friend for tea,” Vernan said.

“Tea? That doesn’t sound like your style.”

“It isn’t, but I go where the drinker is. Nice to see you again Paron,” and Vernan left the room leaving the puzzled Sivis scribe behind.

Paron frowned, and picked up his book, and exited the room, turning over the events in his head as he wandered through the corridors. Finally, he exited the front gate of the garrison, and into the afternoon air of Krona Peak. He quickly hurried along the thoroughfare, passing the storekeepers and carts being pushed and pulled to far off destinations in the city. As he walked, he kept thinking:

New planes? New cities? Entire worlds? This cannot be new information.

But while Paron loved a good mystery, the resources for personal research were somewhat limited in the Peak. But he did know someone that might be able to do some legwork for him. Smiling to himself, he made his way on the busy street, until he came to a large square building, with a silver globe perched on top. He quickly ducked into an alley and circled to the back of the building, until he came to a blank section.

He then took out a yellow crystal and holding it tightly, he touched the stone with it. The crystal flared to life with a green glow, and Paron d’Sivis walked into the hidden back entrance of the House of Scribing messaging station. The room that he entered was known as the ‘Low Room’ and was a haphazard collection of files and bins. A storage area for unimportant messages, that would be disposed of when convenient. The area was dimly lit; just enough to read by without tiring the eyes.

Walking out of the Low Room, Paron entered the heart of House Sivis’ business, the ‘Message Room’, which held four Speaking Stones. Also, dimly it, it was isolate away from the counters where the exchange of coin and script occurred. It all allowed the marked heirs quiet as they performed their duties for the House of Scribing. During the height of the Last War, all four would be occupied by a Sivis heir to communicate across Khorvaire. But today only a single heir was present, dutifully transmitting a stack of messages.

Paron sat down at a stone, and pulled out a yellow shard from a pouch, and slotted it into to a receptacle in the station. It began hum as it drew power from the shard.

“You ARE going to help with the queue, Paron?” the hard working Sivis heir asked as he pulled another message from the stack next to him.

“Of course, Benfiq. I just need to send a quick message to Korranberg.” Paron said as he stone began to pulse.




Siting at a table, a raven haired, blue eyed half elf poured a cup of tea from a boiling pot. The table was one of a number sitting on a veranda overlooking the streets of Krona Peak. The sun was setting and the warm orange glow in the east, made her smile as she thought of home, far from the bustle of industry. But here in the “Krona Sky and Stone,” a small teahouse, at the top of an old guard tower overlooking the city, the bustle was far away. Below in the valley she saw the hoop of lightning flare to light, as the engine of the Lightning Rail roared to life, and the evening train started to depart. Perhaps she was being silly, but seeing the ring of lightning like that, gave her pleasant chills every time she saw it. And she made a point of seeing it every morning before she started work, and every evening when she started her own projects. She sipped her tea, as she looked over notes in a binder.

“Six found, and only…Vernan?” She greeted the dwarf coming up the steps of the teahouse. “My this is a surprise…I thought only true expats came here.” She said smiling, closing her notes, and smoothing out her velvet blue dress.

“There are some teas that rival the best stouts for complexity in taste, Melisandre. But they don’t have the same…charm,” the dwarf smiled, and pulled up a seat next to the half-elf. “You’ve been busy trying to keep Taryn’s dream alive eh?”

“You know better than that; it is his uncle’s dream. Otherwise Kundarak couldn’t pursue it. But I am proud to have found almost all the specialists I need for a small war,” and she took a sip of tea.

“Somehow, I don’t think you are the type to march and beat off a horde of Jhorash'tar, and I don’t recall you needing a job…yet. So, what brings you to my aerie?” as she gestured at the open teahouse, as the sun slipped beneath the horizon, scattering red and orange light across the clouds. “Something odd, and I needed an expert…consultation.” Vernan said.

Melisandre arched an eyebrow, “Depending on the consultation, that might cost a bit.”

Vernan smiled, “This isn’t about House Medani business…really.” He said trying to assuage Melisandre’s suspicions, as he leaned over to the steaming pot, and poured out some tea into a mug. “And I’ll even pay for the pot as I warm, me bones.”

“At the very least,” the half-elf said coolly. “So…out with it.”

“I ran into a word I hadn’t heard before in Elvish…and you are the most…devious person with letters, so I thought I would ask you.”

Melisandre looked at the dwarf intrigued, “Elvish is an old language…the Aereni know it from birth, we Khoravar have to learn it. But it doesn’t change much. So…what’s the word.”

Vernan took a sip of the tea, savoring the warmth and spice, and sighed. “That is a nice one…anyway the word is ‘Ha-Celas.’ What does it mean exactly?”

Melisandre cocked her head in surprise. “That’s an old word. It’s still in use, but little need for it. Where did you hear that….oh. The recent bar crasher said it, didn’t she?” She said catching Vernan’s smirk. “Well the meaning is literally translated as ‘Blooded of the Celestial host,’ but the term refers to a very rare people; Aasimar.”

“A what?”

“Very rare beings; ones that have all that is holy suffused into a mortal soul. Another word for them is Angelkin…but again, rarely used.”

“How rare?”

“I have only heard of one by name,” Melisandre said thinking a moment. “One named Lorrister, a Prince of Lhazaar. Commands the ‘Heavenly Fleet’ and is the smallest of the fleets in Lhazaar. It’s said that a pair of them may live a long lifetime and never meet another, if that helps.”

Vernan frowned, “Well, she may the second you have heard of, or at least she claims to be one. But you are right she probably doesn’t know him.”

“Why do you say that my dear friend?”

“Because she claims to have come from…somewhere else,”
Melisandre looked across her cup at the dwarf, her eyes narrowed her lips pursed. “I know I may be asking a bit much and treading into…business here. But where exactly?”

Vernan noted the sudden interest and was concerned. Melisandre was in the business of protection and safeguarding. And while her recent job was a recruiter for a scion of House Kundarak, she was still a member of the House of Warning. But Vernan trusted her, ever since they met in Sharn ten years ago. All because any information was kept safe with her, and she traded back what could. But most importantly, his gut trusted her.

“A city she describes as having doors to anywhere. She called it ‘Sigil.’”
Melisandre put down her cup, and placed her hand beneath her chin, staring at the Dwarf intently. “Do you believe her?” she asked cautiously.

“I do…but I can’t prove what she claims. I have only one thing that makes me believe it, and it isn’t enough.”

“What is that?”

“I have spoken Elvish with captains of Lyrandar, Aereni, and country Khoravar. But I have never heard an Elven accent like hers. Even the phrasing is off here and there. And she doesn’t speak it badly at all, but it’s notable.”

Melisandre said nothing as she stared at Vernan. The stars now started to reveal themselves within the holes in the cloud cover, and a pair of moons started to light up the sky. She took a deep breath and leaned forward towards the dwarf.

“Vernan, I need to ask you a favor,” she said quietly, almost conspiratorially.

Vernan reciprocated and leaned forward and lowered his voice, “This is a first from you.”
Melisandre nodded, “Stay close to her…and if she asks in your presence for anything, no matter how small, make sure she gets it. And I mean anything.

“I want to help her but—”

“Just do as I ask…please. I believe it will help her. And you must help her.”
Vernan nodded and kept his eyes locked on Melisandre, “You know something…who is she?”

Melisandre leaned back, “Honestly I don’t know who she is. But I do know you need to do this for me.” And the half-elf stood, stretching her limbs and then straightening her velvet blue dress. “I have some letters to write tonight…thank you for visiting me Vernan.” And she turned to walk back inside the tea house, but not before turning and saying, “Remember the pots on you!” leaving behind the dwarf, wondering if he was out of his depth.

Melisandre headed down the stairs of the tower in thought. And as she pulled up her hood to cover her long dark tresses, she muttered to herself, as her boot heels clicked on the stone in the night air.

“In a city of the bones of the earth, one of the heavens may ask for succor of a stoneman from afar. If granted before a passage to an island distant, the path forward is certain.’ The board is almost set…soon very soon…”
 



Great to see you starting a new story Nthal - and even better to see it's a continuation of Myr's story.

A highly entertaining and very intriguing opening.

And I know next to nothing about Eberron - so I'm hoping that Myr will receive a full education about it, so that I can too. :)

Looking forward to more.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Great to see you starting a new story Nthal - and even better to see it's a continuation of Myr's story.

A highly entertaining and very intriguing opening.

And I know next to nothing about Eberron - so I'm hoping that Myr will receive a full education about it, so that I can too. :)

Looking forward to more.

Eberron is easily one of my favorite published settings. But with Myr being a newcomer does allow for some education on the nature of the world, its nations, power groups, and its peoples.

Enjoy the ride!
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise

Dark Places of Salvation - 11/1/2020​



I awoke in my cell feeling ill. Sitting up hastened that feeling past queasy and straight to nauseous. I scrambled over to the hole that was my latrine, and heedless of the odor, I stuck my head inside and vomited. It wasn’t like I had much to give out, beyond remnants of the potion and whatever bile was deep within me. So, the dry heaving accomplished little. But in between breaths, I heard a voice behind me.

“Are êow myne alright?” said the voice followed by the sound of sporadic coughing.

Still on my knees, I glanced backwards at the door and didn’t see anyone beyond the bars in the door. Staggering to my feet, and taking care not to hit my head, I staggered over to the door, avoiding kicking a small tray on the ground that had some bread and a mug of liquid. I looked outside and saw nothing beyond the passage; just the door of a cell opposite of mine.

“I’m feeling ill,” I said in Elvish and waited.

“Ah, if you are speaking Tel’Quessir to cover up what you say from the Mror, don’t bother,” said the voice from the other cell stifling another cough. “They don’t listen or care, and I am pretty sure they have someone that speaks it anyway. Didn’t realize I had a neighbor till I heard you spill your insides. You’re new.”

“I guess so,” I said panting a little from my exertion. “They gave me something that disagreed with me.”

“Ah the serum,” the voice said sympathetically. “Swear it was meant for Mror only, I was sick for days after they fed it to me. And they learned nothing new for the stomach ache it caused. Anyway, my name is Iryn.” And the voice again was interrupted by fit of hacking, “Iryn Boromar.”

I nodded in agreement, and still looked for his face at the other door. “Iryn…mine is Myrai…just Myrai. I can’t see you at your door.”

“See? Hah!” and another single cough sound came from the cell, “That’s a joke. It’s all dark to me, and I am a bit short to stare out a window into more darkness. Stupid joke that is.”

“Too short?” I said feeling relieved to have a real conversation with anyone else. “You aren’t a dwarf I take it.”

The voice was silent a moment, “You can’t be serious.”

“About what?” I said puzzled.

“I’m a Boromar…Boromar,” and Iryn’s voice trailed off in another fit of coughing.

“Sorry…I suppose it might mean something to a lot of people. Let’s say I’m not up on who‘s who,” I said.

Iryn seemed to recover,“We are a clan of Halflings! One of the sixty great families of Sharn…and you haven’t heard of us?”

I smiled bitterly, “No…I’ve never heard of Sharn or—”

“—Not heard of the City of Towers? What rock in the Mournland have you been hiding under?”

“Ah…well, I’m from a long way from here…from another plane, if you know what that is.”

“Well…sort of. Sometimes someone shows up in Sharn from Syrania. Makes sense since its Syrania that makes Sharn possible.”

“I don’t understand.’

“Nor I; better off asking someone from Morgrave University if you want an explanation."

I nodded, and then I smelled something. Sniffing the air, I smelled something like smoked grape leaves. I Looked across the passage, and could barely make out the smoke leaving the cell.

“You have pipeweed?”

“Yeah, some kin made sure I got some and some matches. No idea on how much that cost them, but it’s the only thing in the darkness that keeps me sane, beyond the matchlight itself.”

“Is that why you are coughing so much?”

There was silence for a moment and Iryn spoke with a wry tone, “Yeah…Jorasco healers says the smoke is killing me. But the only thing that soothes it is more smoke,”

I nodded to myself and turned around, landing against the door. “How long have you been here?”

“I can’t say now. Think maybe a week or so. I tried to keep count, but…I don’t know. But I don’t think I will be here much longer.”

“Why?”

“The Soldorak in charge of questioning me, has already made up his mind to send me to Dreadhold. There is no way that’s going to happen though.”

“Dreadhold?”

“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised…it’s a prison. A prison that even the dwarves hate to guard. But it’s a place that only the worst of the worst should be sent. But truth be told, its whoever can pay for it.” I heard a guffaw and then he continued. “I should be flattered I guess, to warrant such accommodations.”

“I’d ask why…but that—”

“Robbed payroll on the outbound Lightning Rail. Its no secret, they know it, I know it, and I said it. But I can’t tell them where it is, because I don’t know. What about you?”

I chuckle, “A spy and murderer…and I owe someone for healing me.”

“Jorasco healer shake down. They certainly want to be paid, but your voice sounds too pretty to be a murderer.”

Smiling I replied, “Well, I have killed a lot…but not here. They don’t like my answers either.”

“Well, best of luck with that. I honestly don’t think that Soldorak cares. I’d give his boss a piece of my mind, but that’s not going to happen.”

“Boss?”

“Yeah, the clan in charge of security here is working for their bitter rivals, the Mroranons. And Urkiel Mroranon is the one in charge; but he’s busy doing something. Like he would believe me.”

“Why wouldn’t he?”

“Ah…well…the Boromar’s are well known…and some folks would say our reputation colors their opinion. Not sure why I am telling you that…but I guess you might need to know how to get around and know who’s who. But leave it at this; you don’t mess with the Boromars, or our business. It’s a quick way to the grave.”

I nodded to myself, “I get your meaning,” I was silent a moment when he spoke up again.

“I’m not going to bite…don’t mean to scare you. Frankly talking to anyone that isn’t a Mror is a nice change.”

“Can…can you help me with something?” I asked as an idea came to mind.

“From here I can do very little.”

“You can though. I seem to understand only a portion of the trade language here. Can you help me with the words? Elvish is fine and all, but I’d like to understand what’s going on.”

“Why not…where do you want to start?”

““Myne?’”

“Feeling.”

“Leafa?’”

“Let us.”

“’Aganwe?’”

“Again.”




Third bell had just rung and Taryn d’Kundarak leaned back on his chair in the Enclave receiving office, and glared at the large pile of contracts, and the smaller pile of receiving documents. He fervently wished he could delegate this to someone, anyone else. But he did author the deals, and he needed to make sure they were honored. Otherwise, there were going to be a number of very upset soldiers and worse a furious uncle. He rubbed his short cut beard thoughtfully as he thought about the implication.

“Not even a quarter of the herds have made it here. Debrika this is all there was from this morning’s rail?” he turned and glanced at his companion, another brown-haired dwarf with streaks of silver shot through it’s lengths. She was standing by one of many files in the receiving room and was occupied filing various bits of paperwork. She turned, and gave Taryn a cold stare at the question, saying nothing.

Meeting her gaze, he sighed. “Of course, it is. Late, late, late” he said glumly, and he turned to scowl at the uneven paper work, when a knock at the door sounded.

“About time Melisandre showed up…come in!” and the door to the receiving office opened. And in entered not the half-elf in a blue dress that Taryn was expecting, but instead a familiar dwarf, dressed in a long duster.

“Vernan? I thought you were busy on a contract with us…or are you looking to switch occupations?”

Vernan said nothing and set a small keg on the table. Taryn rubbed his hands together as he looked over the seal on the keg, nodding approvingly.

“Official business then. Is this to loosen my tongue or celebrate a fine deal?”

“Technically…it’s for Debrika. But I’m sure she’ll share,” Vernan said, causing Debrika to look up from her files frowning in disapproval. “How’s your gold mine going?” Vernan asked pleasantly.

Taryn glared at the inquisitive, “That’s my uncle Kaelin’s mine, not Kundarak’s. You know that.”

“Convenient. His sister marries in, and he gets the House resources, while he keeps ownership of his claims.” Vernan said mildly.

“The rules have been followed,” Taryn said pointedly. “And what does that have to do with your assignment?”

“Nothing at all. However, it seems that there is more going on that I originally guessed. But rather than bore you with the details, I just need to ask you about your prior position. I have some general questions for you both on how the contracts for the Dreadhold work.”.

Taryn was taken aback a moment. He then shrugged and said, “That was an unpleasant business I was happy to leave behind. The short answer, five-year contracts with provisions for renewals. They’re payable annually, with the pay somewhat front loaded on the first contract’s term.”

Vernan nodded and thought a moment before asking, “What about cancellations?”

“Depends on the contract actually,”

“What about the Soldorak one for Krona Peak?”

Taryn narrowed his eyes thoughtfully and again shrugged, “I understand that one is a bit complicated, because while it is with Soldorak, the coin for it comes from Mroranon’s coffers.”

“So Soldorak doesn’t pay it?”

“No, they do, after they get funding. It was a compromise as it was originally written as if Kundarak had won the business. In that case it would have just been handled by us entirely.”

“So, if there was a cancellation on a contract, it would have come through this room, right?” Vernan pressed.

“Of course it would, once we get the notarized document from Sivis…wait…what are you thinking?”

“I think Mroranon is being taken advantage of, which is a breech of trust and a threat to Kundarak security,” Vernan said with a grimace.

Wordlessly, Debrika stepped up to the pair of dwarves talking, and dropped a binder of papers on the table, and with a strong right hand palmed the keg on the table, taking it down the hall out of sight.

“So much for sharing,” Taryn said mournfully, and he opened the binder and started to review the papers. His disinterest changed to puzzlement as he flipped more papers over. “What in the? In a single month, four contracts for Dreadhold were executed? And what is even stranger there are a cancellation notices for the first two; both one year in the future.”

“I take it that’s not normal?” Vernan said frowning.

“The cancellations are unusual, but not unheard of, although a year stay on a frontloaded contract is expensive.” Taryn said. “But usually a contract a year is high traffic. Four in less than a month? Unheard of.”

“Wouldn’t someone question it?” Vernan asked, rubbing his chin through his beard.

Taryn shook his head, “Unless Dreadhold complains about space, no one cares really. And there is plenty of space last I heard.”

“So, what happens when a contract is cancelled?”

“Well if cancelled, the prisoners are set free of course.”

“Where?”

“A port in Lhazaar unless arrangements are made otherwise. But that is beside the point, Kundarak is being paid here.”

“I bet. Are these the originals?”

Taryn shook his head, “No, these are copies; Sivis handles the papers in the middle and they have the originals.”

“Thanks Taryn. And good fortune with the mine; you’re going to need it,” Vernan stood up and headed to the door. Reaching it he paused and turned to ask Taryn a final question.

“By the way, when would be the next time someone would be sent there?”

Taryn thought a moment, “Well a supply run, and guard rotation occurs every month. Sometimes prisoners are part of it. In fact if I am not wrong,…the next run is three days from now.”

“Well then, I guess I know where I am going next.” Vernan said. “It looks like someone is running out of time.”




“Mona

“Moon. You are all over the place on the words. You going to remember this all?

I shrugged to myself. “I don’t know. But have to start somewhere.” I leaned against the door, and took a bite of the bread that was on a plate and swallowed some of the sour ale they had left on the tray. I grimaced at the ale’s taste.

“You know, I probably shouldn’t be complaining, but the food leaves a lot to be desired.,” I said still chewing the stale bread.

“I can tell you there are worse—wait. You did sip it right, not gulp it down?”

I had a sinking feeling, “No…why?”

“The Mror usually water down their stuff from the taps for guests; they don’t do that here…so you need to take it slo—”

My stomach suddenly heaved, “—Too late.” And I crawled over to the hole and started to empty the contents of my insides for the second time, although having something to come up made it liveable.

“Sorry about that, I’m going to get some sleep.”

I nodded my head in the hole, waiting for another round, panting with exhaustion laying there, barely conscious of the smells coming from below. As the nausea passed, I found myself laughing at the absurdity of everything happening. Escaping from evil slaving dwarves, to being jailed by what I guessed were respectable ones, all because I broke a table in the wrong bar. How could I not laugh at this?

I pushed myself up onto all fours, and I noticed something; the buzzing in my head suddenly appeared.

“Wait…” I whispered to myself. I then lowered my body again so lay next to the hole. And as I did so, I felt the buzzing in my head ebb. Then, I lowered my head into it and as I did so, I felt the buzzing completely dissipate. Pulling myself up, I felt the tunic I had been wearing, and found an errant thread. I easily pulled it away from the cloth, and with it in hand, I lay once again, with my head and hand in the sewer hole, and focused. I pulled on that part of myself that was me; not the strands, and I felt the familiar rush along my spine.

And there in the hole, the thread began to glow with a dim red light; the pain I remembered from earlier, no where to be felt. I flexed again and dispelled it. Now I was smiling, and chuckling. I lay there and started to focus on the strands within me. But this time I didn’t pull on them.

Instead I followed them slowly with my mind, feeling them as they spread out in the metaphorical distance. The strands seemed to twist and turn and then I found what I was looking for.

The strands were always connected to me, and they always seemed to stretch out in the distance forever. But I wasn’t the only thing connected to them. In my mind’s eye, I found where the strands, light and dark braided together on a shape; a cylindrical object. I reached out with my mind’s eye and grasped it and pulled.

My vision and nose returned to the sewer hole, with my arm extended down into the depths. I pulled myself back and rolled over and looked at my right hand. Clutched in it was a silver cylinder. Smiling in victory, I reached with my left hand and pulled a tab, revealing the metal sheets and the etched Celestial lettering within.

The Apochrypha. The lessons of my lord Kelemvor, and all the ritual magic that I possessed.

I rolled over and pushed the cylinder back into the hole, and wedged it so it wouldn’t roll down, although if it came to it, I could just resummon it. Before pulling myself out, I pulled on a bit of the strand to clean off the filth from the sewer, but not so much that someone would notice I was clean.

I crawled over to the platform and stretched out on it, smiling at my discovery. And more than that my mind considered the possibilities, and a plan began to form. It wouldn’t be easy, but everything I needed was nearby. All I needed was a little luck.

And a lot of faith.

Session Notes

So...there are a lot of skill checks being reflected here in long prose. We are really half way in a single day.

It's amazing how abstract the game can be, even when you role play a large bit.
 

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