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

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise

True Lies that are Told​


“Right now, we need to rest,” Rosa protested. “Adrissa almost lost her head, Myrai almost lost everything else. Everyone needs a night’s rest.”

“The remains of the keep should be sufficient to protect us for an evening,” The Blade said. “But what are the odds of new guardians appearing?”

“Slim,” I said as a shook my head. “But its not like we have much of a choice. Not at night with this cold.”

Doxx frowned and huffed, “No. No, we don’t. Let’s get comfortable.”

Together we moved back to the remains of the keep, leaning on each other. On the way I summoned Gossamer to scout ahead. One look at all of us, and the familiar didn’t even make a quip, and quickly flew to scout ahead. What Goss found was a small room on the second floor that required some rope work to reach, as the connecting hall had collapsed, isolating it from the stairs. It was a bit of work to climb up into, but no one else was going to get to us either.

Doxx, Rosa, and I lay out our bedrolls, while The Blade wrapped themselves in a blanket. Soon Bookshelf erected the dome to protect us from the cold and hide us from prying eyes, while the warforged, and The Blade kept watch. I lay on my bedroll, and peeled off my leggings, so I could better clean the gash through my thigh. I knew the fiend’s blade had torn right through the muscles, but fortunately didn’t sever anything. So with a number of white strands, I was able to heal my wounds, which freed Rosa to do the same for the others.

She had just finished with Adrissa and had turned her attention to The Blade who half heartedly waved her off. While she dealt with the hand slaps of the elf, Adrissa came over to me and sat down on the foot of the bedroll.

“Does it hurt?” she asked looking as muscle rejoined, and skin started to close around the gaping wound. Blood poured out of the wound, and onto a cloth I had set there expecting it. The power to heal was a marvelous one, but it aways seemed that it left extra blood behind as the body was put back to working order. I had now healed myself and others enough to know this as a fact, and I was clueless on why.

“Quite. But once the wound closes it fades quickly enough,” I said as I pulled on a strand to clean away the blood from my skin, leaving no trace of a scar behind.

Adrissa looked at my leg with a thoughtful look before saying, “Does it aways prevent scars?”

“Hmm? No…not always. If the wound is old enough there will be a scar, but fresh ones usually don’t.” I turned to look at her, and realized she was running her fingers around her neckline. “It doesn’t look like it will in your case either.”

Adrissa sighed, and her shoulders slumped a bit. “Good,” she said quietly. She then looked at me and asked, “You’ve fought a lot. Do you have any scars?”

I thought a second, as I cradled my leather leggings and started to use some light strands to mend the rents in the material. “From fighting, I’ve been fortunate, I guess. I only have barest hint of one from a crossbow, knocking me off a roof,” and I pointed to a spot on the lowest part of the ribs on my right. “But its faded away mostly. The worst wound I ever had however didn’t leave on behind, though by all rights it should have.”

“An accident?” Adrissa asked.

I shifted uncomfortably and sighed before answering, “I made a bargain to save someone I loved. And that bargain was to let fiends…hurt me.” I said swallowing around a lump that suddenly appeared in my throat. “Fiends like that marilith. But part of the bargain was that they would heal me and leave me unmarked. And they carried it out to the letter.” I looked down and grimaced. “But make no mistake, you can get hurt plenty, to the brink of death even, and healing magic can cover it up.”

“Can I ask what they did?”

I looked at Adrissa in the eyes in sorrow, “After ten days of pain, only the worst remained in my memories. But having healers there only encouraged them to take me within a heart beat of death with the wounds they caused. But most people in that situation pass out, their minds unable to cope with the pain. They wouldn’t let me do that, and instead let me scream or just stare in horror when I could no longer do so. All for their entertainment.” I spat.

“Why?”

“Well…I have heard a lot of explanations, and truth be told the only one that seemed to make any sense is that they were… ‘born’ to do it.” I was quiet for a moment and I stopped Adrissa short with “I experienced things that should be left to the realms of nightmares. They aren’t bedtime conversations really.”

Adrissa nodded but changed her question, “So if you made a bargain like that, why would bargain with Twisted Mirth?”

And there it was. It was the real question in the back of my mind too. I remembered how the malebranche slid a contract in front of me, ink dry with Markel’s and my name throughout its length. How that contract nearly broke me, because no mortal was ever really meant to survive that many horrors of pain in a brief time. How following two contracts to the letter, ended up with Markel dying slowly with no one lifting a finger to help. How good intentions in spirit was trumped by the letter of a contract. Knowing all this, why would I make a deal with a fiend like a night hag, and one who was great auntie no less, the most dangerous and cunning of their kind.

The night hags were powerful, and they commanded respect because of the knowledge they held in their worm-ridden skulls. Even the rulers of Baator and the Abyss paid them heed, each one searching for knowledge only in their grasp. Rarely could they ever be held to account for the misery they created. The only one that I heard that might have been was one called Ravel Puzzlewell, who was sent to the mazes by The Lady of Pain, in my home Sigil. But even then, some whispered that it was all by her design, and that she could leave anytime she wanted. And while she wasn’t heard from again, it didn’t make anyone feel confident she was gone.

It was that knowledge that made them shrewd bargainers, and the negotiations were always tilted in their favor. They had no reason ever to say yes, and if you insulted them with a poor offering, you might not ever obtain what you wanted from them. It left one with little to work with negotiations, while they could ask for the moon or stars…or more personal things. And any bargain struck, always turned out for the worse for the seeker. So Twisted Mirth wasn’t wrong; when there was something that the hag wanted from a mortal, it was the closest thing to an even bargain you might see. But even then, it was still tilted in their favor.

So why do it? Why take this risk? Is knowing more about this Teiazaam and what Jade wanted with me worth it? Did it help me somehow avoiding them or forcing them somehow to leave things alone. Was it even about me, or more about my absent father instead, and I was just a pawn in some immortal game where the stakes were unclear, and if I even had an interest in the outcome.
All of this assumed that Twisted Mirth knew anything at all. She may be a great auntie, but did that mean she knew what was going on in the Abyss at all? This being the farthest known reach of the multiverse I had ever seen or heard of.

“Because knowledge is worth something,” I said. “And knowing why Jade is willing to send a marilith after me might enough to survive.” I looked at the camp and then at Adrissa, “The only reason I’m not in pieces being delivered to Jade, is because of everyone here. But you all shouldn’t have to be obligated to fight for me, just because you were nearby.”

“Honey, you could say the same about us,” Rosa said, finishing tending to The Blade. “You didn’t know someone was looking for you, so its not like you could have prevented it dear.”

“Knowledge is not worth every price,” The Blade grumbled. “Shortcuts like that never get you what you want or need.”

“Ever the purist,” Doxx snorted, as she lay on her back in her bed roll. “Sometime bargains like that are the only way to get ahead. It’s not like your opponents are following some silly code of honor.”

“That might be a matter of who you are bargaining with,” Bookshelf said quietly. “Buying it from a sometimes ally is better than a sometimes enemy.”

“It is her decision. Question might be does she have anything that is worth a trade.” Sage said. “You still need to sleep; its many hours till dawn. Rest while you can.”

---

“Wait for me!” a young girl with golden hair yelled chasing after the tiefling.

“Come on! If you are going to have a birthday, you need to celebrate it properly!” Elsina shouted back.

I’m…I’m dreaming. I know I am! Why am I here again?

Stopping at stall, the tiefling makes a bargain by pointing at the same candy over and over again, each time getting a different price.

That’s right. A candy vendor run by Chaosmen…but I was surprised she had money.

The tiefling handed the girl a bright red hard candy and popped another into her own mouth.

“Ho..ho..hot,” the golden haired one said.

“And sweet! Spicy cinnamon!” the tiefling giggled.

Nearby a man breaks from a crowd running from a stall, with some prize in his arms. A woman with long and wild black hair turns with interest.

Why am I seeing this?!? I want to forget this memory. Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!

The woman close her eyes and a wicked smile slowly spread across her face. She took a pair of steps and drew a pair of swords as she danced toward the knight of the post running with his goods.

No! Stop her! Stop her! Don’t let Pentar ki—

The little girl dove towards the woman’s legs and managed to trip her. The woman opened her eyes and glared at the little girl. She stumbled on, and managed to with a single slice, cut the head of the knight of the post with a single cut.

The tiefling stood there in shock, as the black-haired woman turned on her heel, and raised her sword high and brought it down on the golden haired girl laying in the dirt of the road. The tiefling, Elsina screamed at the sight of her friend being slaughtered in front of her.

Wait…that’s…that’s…not what happened. She died! I’m alive!

The body of the golden-haired girl lay unmoving in the street, when suddenly a nimbus of light surrounded her. The crowd wasn’t just hushed, but frozen as was the wild haired woman, as a figure stepped out of it. It stood twice the height of the people around it, clad in grey, sporting a set of wings that were white, flecked with grey feathers. It was a beacon of light in the dusty crowd its light blanketing the street as it emerged from the crowd. As it walked it made a gesture, and it turned and lay a hand on the tiefling’s head.

“I’m sorry to grant your wish. But it is necessary. Blessed is your passing. So be the will of my Lord, and my desire in faith, may Death grant you peace Elisna.”

There was a flash, and sound of metal cutting flesh and bone, and Elisna’s head slowly fell to the earth.

This didn’t happen! I didn’t…she didn’t…there was no…what’s going on!

The angel, turned and looked at me as it shrank and drew a cloth hood over its head, its golden prescence now growing to a blinding light, until I could no longer see anything.

---

My eyes fluttered open, and instead of the ground with my companions, I found myself once again floating on my back in a firmament of
lights. The strands held me a loft caressing my bare skin. And once again the patterns of silver in my skin were different; more complex than before. But something was different. The presence of the construct was missing, its voice in my head empty.

I willed myself upright and shook my head, trying to clear it. Why was I here? Why now? How badly did that marilith actually hurt me? I didn’t really have any sense of time or time passing when it spoke.

“Myrai.”

It wasn’t in my head, instead the voice was softly reverberated in my bones and strands around me. I was about to open my mouth when I realized another distinction. No ‘Element Myrai.’ Just my name.

Looking around gave me nothing more to latch onto, and I was about to speak when the voice echoed through me.

“I suppose it…is overdue we talk…my daughter.”

Session notes
And Pentar would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for that meddling angel...or wait. Didn't she? Hard to tell wtih Pentar. :)
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Wilpower784

Smug Bladesinger
YOOOOO father daughter "bonding" time let's gooo.
Always my favorite when we get to look into the more personal, thought-influenced moments of Myrai and other characters. This one was excellent, and the next part has me excited.
 


Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise

Thy will be done - 03/12/2023​


(This section took a lot longer to edit and write than normal. Apologies)​


I hung there in the construct, shocked. The voice I heard was deep and articulate. The type of voice you want to hear when someone is telling a story you want to lose yourself in. It was a voice I longed to hear. Desperate to hear after all these years. But, as I hung there in space, my mouth open, I found myself at a loss. What do I say? What do I ask? Where do I start?

As if he read my mind, came an answer, “You no doubt have questions. Questions that make your bones ache with need. I will disappoint you I fear, as some answers you are not ready for yet.”

I frowned for a moment and after some hesitation, I asked the first thing that popped in my head from the questions that were forming in my head, “The…the vision of Elsina…was…was that what really happened?”

“It is.” He answered.

“Why don’t I remember it that way?” I said to myself before addressing the voice of my father, “Did you…change…how I--?”

“—It would not do, to have two very distinct memories of the same event.”

“But…why?”

“I thought I explained that. Having two—” the voice started patiently before I cut him off.

“No.” I corrected him and pointedly asked, “Why did she have to die at all?” As I spoke, the words kept coming easier now, like a dam was starting to break and they started to fall from my mouth rapidly, “You had power enough to change the event. Why did Elisna need to die at all?”

“Because it was a mortal’s time to go in that place, in that time.” He explained, “It could have been the vendor you purchased your sweet at. The shop keeper who reported the theft. Even the woman who swung her blades in the street, could been killed. All were possibilities, and yet improbably it was you that was fates choice.”

“You said, ‘I’m sorry to grant your wish?’” I said, recalling what was said in the vision I had before coming here. “You…responded to her prayer? You granted it?”

“Serendipity…” The voice flatly said contradicting the word’s usual meaning in my head. There was no remorse in it. Not even a note of regret. “…By her making an offer of trade, it made it possible to let you live.”

“But…but…that doesn’t make sense.” I was recalling my own rebirth at the hands of a priest of Asmodeus over a year ago. “You could have found coin, or just convince a cleric to raise me…wait what am I saying? You’re sodding angel! You could have done it yourself!”

“Your soul was not ready to see the Fugue,” He answered again. ‘Too young, too malleable. It would have been difficult ensure the summons back to your body as your soul wouldn’t want to come back. You were not anchored to life yet, as it did not have a positive meaning for you. Hence another soul was needed in your stead.”

My mind was racing with the contradictions. How events before didn’t mesh with what was being said. “But you forced me back before, didn’t you? What made my throat bring ripped out so different.”

“That was barely possible, you had just begun to truly live.”

“What about Elisna?” I demaned angrily. “Wouldn’t she want to come back and live. Come back to…me?”

“She was content to believe that she saved your life.”

I shook my head defiantly, not wanting to believe the words “That doesn’t explain why she had to die!” I was now shouting at the construct, which seemed small as my voice echoed throughout the empty space.

“Some deaths are not intrinsic to the multiverse; they happen, and the outcome does not alter what is to be. But some events, are…notable. There are lives that have importance and impact. And their deaths too have impact. Yours would have been problematic. Others needed to take your place.”

I started to cry, I felt powerless, but more than that, I felt alone. Here was my kin, my father, explaining fate to me. It felt dismissive. “Why didn’t you pick someone else!? You didn’t have to …kill…her…” my voice faltered, as the lump grew in my throat.

“She had already made the offer, and that alone, made it easy to make the change. Anyone else could have had repercussions.”

“Repercussions? What about to me? Didn’t you think about the pain it was going to cause me?!?” I yelled into the darkness around me. “The anguish of seeing her corpse animated, and running messages around the Hive every day?”

“Is your lack of pain of such import that it worth more than a shopkeeper’s wife?” The voice questioned me, and I realized it was somewhat ignorant of me to assume that if someone else was chosen, that their friends and kin wouldn’t be impacted. But that truth did nothing to quell the churning emotions on my near sister’s fate. Heedless of my turmoil, the voice continued, “But the reverse is not true. In fact, your pain was, and still is necessary.”

I blinked through the tears and panted back in seething frustration “My pain? Like I need more of it. Elisna killed by Pentar. My first kiss of mercy I gave that boy the Faction War in Sigil. Losing Markell on the floor of the Tenth Pit! The burned bones of Beepu’s mother cast aside! Killing Eridan to save my friends and me! Watching Wy die in a cage! To every death I was surrounded and touched by? Hers wasn’t the first or will it be the last, but…I miss her.”

“That pain is needed, much like a hammer on a blade being forged.”

“That’s barmy!” I screamed at the construct, pulling on strands to elevate my voice and letting my fury fill the space. “I don’t need it! I don’t WANT it. I want to forget it! I want a decent night sleep without the nightmares. I don’t want to relive each and every one, over and over. And now you are telling me that you won’t let this madness end? Or me end for that matter? I’m so important that everyone else close to me should perish instead. To the blazes with that! Just let me die and save the rest the suffering!”

“That is not your destiny.”

I crossed my arms and thrashed around helplessly, trying to find a target for my glare, “Destiny? So now I have a destiny? So, what possible destiny requires me to suffer the loss of everything I hold dear! I want to ease other’s perception of death, not be the cause of it!”

“It is precisely your ability to feel it, that is important,” my father continued. “It allows you to find empathy.”

“What? My normal sense of what’s fair and right isn’t enough? A good story from a bard could do the same thing.”

The voice disagreed, “Perhaps, but it is not as powerful as personal investment and experience. And my investment in you is as great if not greater. For the good of all.”

“Investment?” I said my fury rising again. “What possible need is there to have me watch other people suffer. For ME to suffer? I’m not some petitioner paying for their sins. What are you possibly expecting to teach me? What gain is there to suffer all the way you can be hurt, whether by torture or having your heart and hopes crushed? Isn’t it enough?”

“It is not.” The voice disagreed again.

My mouth hung open in shock. The meaning there was plain and simple; I was going to hurt more; to see more, to experience more. Like the greedy inner masochist of a Sensate in me was had to devour every pain I could suffer, just because they wanted to. No, because I supposedly needed to. ‘For your own good,’ was how it felt like my…father…was trying to put it.

I was frustrated so I changed my line of questions then hoping to get answer to something, anything. I grit my teeth and forced my voice to be calmer, “Then why are you investing all of this into me? What are you trying to accomplish? What are you forging me into?”

“That is not for—”

I growled as the anger welled up in me. I wasn’t even thinking about it, but I was starting to pull on strands even here to elevate my voice. All so I could shout this proxy of the powers that seemed to want to twist fate in the worst way for me, “—Enough! If you aren’t going to answer questions, why are you here?!? Why should I even listen to you? Why should I allow you forge me into anything?”

The voice commanded me “You will be strong and endur—”

“—I don’t want to hear you give me another screed! Sodding Baator…” I exhaled and let the anger simmer back down as I glared around me, emotionally drained. I then glared at the darkness, “I am done being the marionette here. I will control my own destiny! Not the fiends who are interested in me! And not you!”

I could only hear my own heart thumping in my ears and my lungs laboring for air. I pulled my legs up and rested my head on my knees and wrapped my arms around my calves. My anger spent; it left me shaking as tears rolled down my cheeks. As the silence continued, I felt that all I had accomplished was nothing. I was simply to be treated how all immortals treated mortals. As tools. As a resource. And now for the first time really understood why Sigilites avoided celestials and their kin even more than fiends.

Celestials did not desire worship; they were instruments of the powers, and they themselves were the epitome of power. They were perfect in action and thought. And so, when flawed mortals called upon them for help, they would find themselves at the celestials’ beck and call. For angels only answered the most desperate prayers, and they did not come to help, but to be obeyed. They would demand everything to be sacrificed to defeat the greatest sins or most foul evils. The myths of them offering mercy were just that, myths.

Or so I had been told. I never had spoke to any of the celestials, and so here it was, the first one just happens to be my father. But as an angel’s daughter, no matter how important, regardless of my ‘destiny,’ I was still a mere mortal. I felt I like a child at the Gatehouse’s orphanage unworthy at sitting at the elder’s table. So, I had no idea what to expect next.

So, I was surprised to hear a quiet, soft and respectful voice now in my head, “Myrai. Please.” He said softly, with a gentled and tender tone that compelled me to listen.

I closed my eyes and sighed. I wanted to ignore him, but I couldn’t, “What?” I whispered.

“You are important. And not just to myself. Your importance to others is even greater. That is why I am talking with you now; because you are no longer hidden.”

I was expecting something else, so I asked, “Hidden? I don’t understand.”

“I arranged for the conditions to let you fall to Toril. But as you fell, I made it challenging for others to follow you. Eyes from afar could not see you. But arriving here has undone my protections. Your existence could not be hidden any longer.”

“Others? Do they know what I am?” I muttered still simmering. “Will they tell me?”

My jibe seemed to miss its mark as he continued, “They only see you as leverage, not as something important. I am their prize. Only one other truly suspects your importance; and she watches and waits for…an error.”

“Only one. Jade.” I said grimly. I could see that green halo and that knowing wicked smile in my mind, and it still twisted my stomachs into knots.

“The one that knows, is not Jade,” he said, taking me aback. “But Jade too wishes to uncover the truth and learn my secrets. This is why I cannot tell you more; you are a prize beyond counting in comparison to I; and that is saying too much. But I can tell you, while she is but a single concern among many.”

“What good does this do me?” I asked completely out of sorts. “Fiends are trying to get to me to get to you. I can’t do anything about it! I can’t run out their reach, even if I had forever and a day! There isn’t anything I can do!”

“Not correct. There are two things that must happen to ensure your safety. The first is the easiest; you must reach the end of this journey. The overlord should not be freed on principle. But at the end, there you will find what you are currently lacking.”

I nodded slowly, “Alright; finish this. Got it. What else?”

“You were found by the Webbing of Cauldrons. You must hide yourself from its sight.”

I rolled my eyes afraid of yet another distraction, “And where is this trinket?”

“It is not a device you can use. It is the name of the network used to communicate across distances and planes. A way of making deals between fiends that barely can tolerate their own kind’s presence. It was through this you were found. It was through this web that Teiazaam made a bargain from afar.”

“Bargain?” I said confused. “Who could Teiazaam made a deal with? I mean this prime is really, really off the beaten path! So, who would know…obscure…arcana…” the words drifted off into silence as I realized what she bargained with.

Another hag.

“Twisted Mirth gave me up to another hag.” I said grimly. “She barked where I was to Teiazaam.”

“And there is your opportunity.” My fathers’ voice sounded nonchalant at my revelation. “All you need to do, is bargain to your advantage.”

My eyes must have just popped out of my sockets as I hung there, my mouth agape. “Outwit a Great Auntie? You’re mad. I don’t have anything of value!”

“Great Aunties are not as simple as the lesser member of their sorority. They look beyond the misery they cause for greater goals. So, she might yet…bargain again.”

“Like Ravel…” I whispered. “She had a question she wanted answered. And got mazed for it.”

“All to her design. And she got what she wanted.”

I thought on that; she wanted to get mazed? She put herself in a prison…to keep herself hidden and safe. She probably could have left anytime. An interesting notion, but not the most important thought though.

I shook my head, trying to clear away the mblix from my father, “But all you are doing is manipulating me. Telling me partial nibblets of the past, all to hide the future. Find another. Ask someone else. Leave me alone,” I said my head hanging and my eyes closed and watering.

“That…is no longer an option. Your brother already has perished before reaching his full potential, and the time left only leaves…you.”

“A last hope. A last stab at…something,” I rued.

“Focus child. Twisted Mirth does not yet have what she wants. The gems you possess are part of it. But she needs a soul to bind it all together. One with strong…planar connections.”

I gulped. She needed my soul to finish the key. This tidy detail was never mentioned, and why would she? I couldn’t imagine the others just simply handing me over the to the hag. It wasn’t like them. But…I could see myself guilting myself into doing it. But before I could pursue this thought much further, he spoke again.

“So…you will give her one; Teiazaam’s.”

I blinked. “What?” I whispered mostly to myself.

“Teiazaam is new to her role, but she herself is an old creature of chaos and seduction. So, summoning her and using her as the binding is only appropriate to the pain she has caused you.”

I hung there in the air confused, my mind racing. I had thought that this mysterious Teiazaam was a faceless antagonist; one of many immortal fiends in the multiverse. But that I somehow knew her…I wracked my mind trying to think where when it dawned on me. “She had to have been in the Tenth Pit with me.”

“In her prior form of a succubus. Now, she is more powerful, a Lilitu. More than enough to create the binding you need, although you may to sweeten the deal for your Great Auntie for it. But the key to this, is something simple, her true name. Yrrthacius.”

My jaw dropped open. A true name? I had of course heard stories of their power, how a fiend couldn’t resist a calling using it. How it could force submission of any fiend. And to a hag, true names had value. But I had my doubts.

“This is…something I can use to trade with but…do I have the right? I mean, Jade and her friends watched me suffer in humiliation. Is that crime enough to use her as a binding?”

There was silence for a moment. “This is a moment of pride for me; that you would care for your opponent’s soul as much as a friend. But in my judgement, she has done enough damage to so many, that some time as a dweomer is suitable punishment. I am certain of this.”

Within the construct I head only hear my breathing as I considered. What choices did I really have? Do I play the fool, to curry favor to get to some real answers, and not this stupid miniature version of the Kriegstanz. “I guess it is a solution,” I muttered.

My father now felt as distant as could be. “Once the matter of the fiends hounding you is resolved, I can talk more openly. But for now, I will expand your abilities further.”

I opened my eyes, suddenly afraid. I saw that there were more strands floating around me, and as I watched, four of them lashed out and struck me in the torso. I threw my head back in pain and screamed as I felt the strands worming their way into me. It felt like they were tearing into my humbles and knotting themselves inside of me, and wrapping and knitting to the strands that already permeated my being. They snaked past each other, creating a crucible of flame within my soul, welding the strands to me. And as sudden as it started, it ceased. I breathed easier as I felt the sensation die down a bit.

I hung there limply in the silence, feeling the strands empowering me. As I regained my strength, I summoned the effort to ask a last question. Something that had always nagged at the back of my mind. Something selfish. “I…understand why we can’t talk about you or I. But…my mother? Can you?...” my voice trailed off into silence as I hoped.

And the silence carried on for a while, before I heard my father’s voice again, “Your mother shares much of your passion, and is a remarkable woman.”

My heart skipped a beat.

‘Is.’

I looked up into the roof of the construct and was about to ask more when he spoke again “I cannot divulge more, for both of your safety. Go!”

----

My eyes opened, and there I was back into the ice world I had left behind. bundled in my bedroll. Beside me Adrissa was still asleep next to me breathing softly. The others were asleep, all but the warforged, and perhaps The Blade, who leaned on a rock underneath our dome of protection. In the distant east of the Iron Root mountains, the barest hint of color put them into a red silhouette against the sky.

I stood up and stretched, and the warforged both turned their heads to look at me, when Bookshelf spoke. “You are up early. Did you…sleep well?” it said awkwardly. “You appear to have shed…tears.”

I rubbed my hand under my eyes, and indeed there were the moisture of tears. I nodded and smiled. “I didn’t sleep. But I had a…meaningful conversation. And I guess that is best outcome I could have hoped for.”

Session Notes:

I believe someone asked if there would be more questions than answers. Well...of course there would. :)
 



Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Raven Says… - 4/15/2023


The journey back to the hag’s lair seemed to crawl. There wasn’t any new snow or ice, and the travel wasn’t really more arduous than before. But my thoughts were racing on what I now had in my possession; power. Immortals always held the cards for everything a mortal wanted. Wealth. Power. Knowledge. It didn’t matter how exotic, or base, or obscure immortals would be there with a hand out and a deal in the offer. And while the baatezu are the ones most think about in bargains, the truth was that the ‘loths, hags, and tanar’ri would all make a deal to get what they wanted. The mortal…not so much.

But the other truth was that it wasn’t just the fiends; celestials had a price too for these things too. It was just harder to make a bargain and the currency was different. They wanted your soul to believe and commit to their cause. Whether that means you lay down your life, sacrifice your wealth to serve the ones that needed it more, all they really wanted was your faithful obedience. The fiends by contrast would let you damn yourself; the celestials would whisper commands to guarantee victory at any cost.

The key of course was a mortal made decisions; choices that would echo in the afterlife. They could choose weal or woe, damnation, or salvation. But the immortals were bound to their ethos as creatures of belief. They would only in the rarest cases violate this truth on their own accord, causing them to rise or fall.

But their name; their true name changed all of that. With it an immortal could be compelled to act. They were guarded treasures, as no immortal really wanted to be subservient to another. But in the hands of a mortal; they could be forced to a mortal’s desires and will; against their own natures.

Of course, that made it sound simple, and the reality was using a true name was tricky business. The more powerful the immortal, the more powerful the magic needed to bind them to your will.

And I had none of that power.

But Twisted Mirth did.

But I was conflicted. Teiazaam was a fiend, one that had apparently hurt me before, and was intent to hurt me again. I was a pawn in a game, to be used, shredded, abused, and discarded. But now I had a name, a cudgel of sorts, that I could wield it and reverse the fiend’s fortunes. But should I? Did I have the right to? I mean, she had ill will for me, so wasn’t it a matter of comeuppance? A well-deserved fate?

I shook my head in disbelief, as I crunched through the snow with the others. Was this just survival? Or a test? I mean I got this name through the grace of my father, an angel. And he expected me to use it. This wasn’t a test of faith; it was a command in a long running battle. And while I was still just a pawn, I now had the potential to be a queen on the board and I wasn’t sure if this was what I wanted. I wasn’t even sure if my opinion mattered here.

--You know this will never end right? I heard in my head. Gossamer was flying near me, mostly occupied with watching the raven Snave. A glance at Gos told me everything; eyes narrowed, ears folded back, tail fur flared and twitching while staring at Twisted Mirth’s familiar. But while Gos watched the ambivalent raven, his caring voice and focus was more on me than his “prey.” Even if you settle the score and use Teiazaam for your father’s needs…your needs, there will be another right behind her. Jade is just one of thirteen that exist in perpetuity.

I gritted my teeth and shouted back in my head, No end in sight then? Just a parade of people after my father? Trapped in a perverted version of the Blood War for eternity.

--Well…perhaps not that long.


I looked at Gos exasperated, So…never ending until I die. And my father is trying to prevent that. So…I have what another century of fun and games until I can rest? It’s not fair.

--Isn’t that the plight of everyone? Everyone here? Immortals toying with mortals for an obscure goal?


I stopped in the snow and looked upwards at the heavens. I felt tired beyond my years; drained of anything resembling motivation and hope a distant dream. Above me snowflakes drifted down lazily, with some landing on my face, the nipping cold barely registering. Fight the good fight, or roll over and let them win the battle. The war is far beyond me at this point. So, does it matter what I do?

--Probably. But if you really feel their fiends aren’t fighting fair, you should remind them on one of the oldest rules of planes.

What? I don’t see how the Rule of Three applies—

---- Not that rule; what comes around, goes around.


“Myrai? We need to keep moving,” Rosa said, shaking me out of my frozen stupor.

“Sorry,” I replied. “My thoughts are…elsewhere debating on what to do when caught between two immortals.”

The halfling nodded, and we started walking again following the warforged, who plowed their way through the snowy banks, unbothered by the frosty conditions, while Adrissa and Doxx trailed behind in silence. It wasn’t long before Rosa offered her thoughts, “Well here in the world, there are so many that cross the borders at times. Elementals, fey, fiends and I guess celestials. And there are even worse things lapping at the borders of reality such as the Dalkyr, and the soulless undead. You just have to do what you can and must. To do anything else, isn’t living.”

‘To do anything else, isn’t living.’ I thought to myself. Perhaps that was all that mattered. Kelemvor would come for me at the end of things as he intended. And he wanted us all to lead full lives. So, preserving that for anyone, including myself, must be the right thing to do. And anyone preventing that…

“That makes a lot of sense,” I said to Rosa with a thin smile. “For druidic faiths, death and life must be intertwined.”

Rosa nodded, but avoided looking at me, “Yes, they are; one cannot exist without the other. When immortals start mucking around with the balance, it makes a mess of things. So, saving our world from one is likely to cause everyone living here to save it. But as to the smaller battles between the spirits, like your fiendish friends and yourself, as long as they are self-contained it will balance out.”

I was nodding listening to her, when I gave a single dismissive guffaw, “Well except I’m not.”

“Yes, you are,” Rosa said.

I looked at her confused, and I swore my heart started to pound. “I’m…mortal. My mother is a mortal. How could I—”

“Honey, you can’t fool a druid. We see the signs of life all around us. And I will admit that when we first met you looked…different. But despite appearances, to my eyes, you were attached to the fabric of life and death. But now…Its clear that you are tearing yourself away from it. It isn’t finished, but it’s started.”

I stopped and dropped to my knees in the warforged packed snow and grabbed her by the shoulders. “No! No! I’m becoming a…”

Rosa looked at me and stroked my cheek, “Honey powerful druids encounter this too, and their lives are extended to serve nature as their champions. But you are less stretching out your life; you are pulling away from it. You probably are still mortal now…but for how long, I don’t know.”

“That…that…unhende…ARGH” I growled. My mind swirled with insults faster than my mouth could spit them. I could feel Rosa’s hand on my shoulder as I said between clenched teeth. “I didn’t ask for this. I don’t want this! This is never going to end! How…how am I ever to rest…how I am going to serve…to serve…”

I looked at Rosa with my eyes wide in shock. By now the others had stopped, gathering around us.

“She seems to be unwell since our last rest,” Bookshelf commented coolly.

“Distressed is more like it,” Doxx countered, “Considering the number of unnaturals, I’m amazed we all haven’t cracked.”

“She hasn’t cracked!” Adrissa exclaimed as she rushed to my side, her face a knot of emotion, mostly confusion. She then turned and wagging her finger at Doxx she yelled back at the old woman. “Leave her alone!”

“Nonetheless, we should be continuing back to Twisted Mirth, should we not?” Sage commented.

“And you feel comfortable with the deal she’s offered us?” Doxx accused.

“I am not discussing anything at this time based on present company,” Sage said, only quickly glancing at the raven who now alighted on a bare conifer branch.

“Not prudent,” Bookshelf agreed.

“Heh heh heh,” the raven chortled menacingly. “Oh, worried about what I might hear. How cute. A bird like me, and you all fear me. That’s a laugh.”

Doxx turned to glare at Snave and then looked to the nearby hills. “The cave is just at the top of those hills right?”

“Smart one!” Snave sneered. “Smarter than the bunch of dolts you travel with.”

“Then I guess we don’t need you at all,” Doxx said, gripping her staff.

Snave’s head turned to glare at the old woman and took to the air. It didn’t get very far as Doxx leapt up and smashed an end of her staff into the raven and flung its body to the ground. Doxx landed and swung her staff overhead and crushed the body into the compacted snow. Within the The sounds of hollow bones snapping on the c, as the bird’s torso collapsed and surround the leather wrapped end. The only sound was a a mocking chuckle before the corpse started to dissolve into a gooey puddle.

Rosa whirled around; her eyes wide in surprise. “Doxx! That was familiar. Twisted Mirths familiar. She isn’t going to be happy about—”

“--It is not important,” Bookshelf said evenly. Doxx was prepared from an outburst, but not the support from the warforged who she regarded suspiciously. “If Snape was, she would have sent a banderhobb or something else. Or a warning. Snape was not any of those things. It was—”

“—A tool.” I finished. “Like we all are to her.”

Doxx looked at Bookshelf and then at me and nodded before turning to Sage, “What was that about the deal?”

“If there was not such a large price for failure,” Sage said somberly, “I would council to reject it. The hag does not mean us harm. It means someone else’s. And while with others that might be a measure of comfort, it gives me pause on the--” Bookshelf finished, as Sage nodded. “We do not have a means to alter the bargain—”

“That’s not true!” Adrissa spoke up. “She hasn’t made one. None of us have! We aren’t bound by a promise at all; she wouldn’t do so unless we were successful.”

“She’s right, “ Rosa admitted. “I guess it means that if there is a bargain to be struck, what terms can we live with?”

We looked at each other in silence for a moment digesting what Rosa said. The wind picked up and blew snow flurries around our feet as we stood there, trying to fathom the cost that might be asked.

“If it means saving the world…quite a lot,” Doxx whispered. “The Last War had thousands upon thousands sacrifice everything for so little gain.”

“My world was until recently a vault holding wealth for a nation that now is a ghost,” Sage replied nodding. “Nameless and forgotten I would have been. A sacrifice for something as great as the world is a small price.”

“The world used me for their own ends,” Bookshelf reflected. “Nothing so grand as the Last War’s lofty ideals, let alone a dusty vault.”

“I don’t care about the world!” Adrissa said angrily “Everything I had in it is…gone. ” she said, her eyes sweeping across her new family. “I have nothing more to lose. But if I were to leave it, I would want it to be a better place.”

I grimaced as I spoke, “This…isn’t my home, or my world. Everything I know, had or cared for before is…far away. Or was. I’m now a hunted piece on a chessboard, and I don’t even understand what the game really is. But I have made friends here,” I said looking at all of them in turn. “And I have lost friends here like Wy and Mobad, so it is as much home as any other place could be. I don’t need my god to tell me that,” as I said that my hand wrapped itself around my symbol of the scales held by a skeletal arm. “And I know what costs I can pay. But…” I smiled and looked at the rest. “It doesn’t mean I need to make a bad bargain in the process.”
 
Last edited:

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Leverage - 5/11/2023

It wasn’t long before we reached the cleft in the hillside, where Twisted Mirth’s cave sat. The greens and purple flames within spilled out from the cave in the hillside, and into shadows that danced on the floor the gorge. Flanking the cave were two bored banderhobbs, both seated with their spindly legs splayed in front of themselves as their beady frog like eyes looked towards us with disinterest. And somehow sitting on the plinth of rock outside, where all the warning signs hung—

“—Oh hah hah. Swing a staff and crack a bird’s back in two. That was rude!”

Doxx looked at Snave, unimpressed, “So, do it again harder?”

Snave hissed, “You have a lot of gelbas to do what you did. Twisted Mirth will show you what happens when—”

“—SNAVE! Quit your whining about your poor manners!” we heard the hag growl from inside her lair at a volume that was almost certainly enhanced…I hoped.

Snave spun on the rock and looked inside the cave and hopped up and down in agitation, “But they can’t just…just…do that to me! I’m more important than—”

“Warple!” we heard an angered hag say, and suddenly from the right banderhobb, a fleshy tongue lashed out and struck the hapless bird. In a blink of an eye, the tongue retracted and pulled the screaming executioner raven back into the banderhobb’s mouth. There was a spray of green and red ichor, as the banderhobb casually, crunched on the screaming raven, who was silenced after a couple of bone snapping crunches.

We stood there in shock for a moment, and Twisted Mirth addressed us, “Oh he told me everything. I’m surprised you waited as long as you did. I guess you have a tolerance for annoying…things…heh heh heh,” the ending chuckle was cold and devoid of warmth as it mocked us from deep within her cave.

“I don’t feel better about this,” Rosa whispered to me, to which I could only shrug as we stepped inside the cavern once again.

-----

The night hag stood hunched over the cauldron, and she turned and grinned with a cold smile, the sickly colored lights highlighting the ridges in her face, while her dark purple skin absorbed the light. Her small eyes twinkled in the fire light as she stopped stirring her cauldron with a long grime covered rod, and ran her tongue along it, sampling whatever substance was found within in. She then spoke in that gravelly voice again, “So…you have them. And you survived. All that I could…ask for,” ending with a growl like purr. “You are worthy of a bargain now.”

“You promised, the greater key, knowledge on how to use the key in exchange for—”

“All true. But while I did promise the key…we still need to…fix it,” the hag said with e viscious smile. “A simple matter…but one that require a small bit of preparation and I suppose…a sacrifice.”

“What sacrifice?” Rosa exclaimed. “You mentioned nothing about this!”

“Did you think recreating durable arcana once done by an Overlord would be a simple matter? Did you think you could just use primitive incantations to achieve such a lofty goal? No, effort must be put into this, and there is always a cost. You should be thankful that most of it was already spent to create the key; the price that needs to be paid is far lower. But it is a sacrifice I suppose.” Twisted Mirth finished and looked at us with a sly grin and waited.

“Two gems were all you mentioned we had to get—” Doxx started.

“—Very true—”

“—So, what else do we need to fetch for you?” Doxx finished.

“Nothing more need to be brought here,” the hag said with a sly grin. “As I said, just a sacrifice…” her gaze slid over everyone present. But from what I knew, she was doing it all for show. She knew that only one person could be used. So, it wasn’t really a choice of who assuming just us. “…a soul to bind and hold the pieces together.”

The warforged looked at each other, while Doxx crossed her arms, “If you said you needed something like that, we could have brough back a prisoner.”

Twisted Mirth grin didn’t falter, “Well, only one of the ones you faced might have worked. But I honestly didn’t expect you to encounter such a being.” As she spoke I realized that she was being honest; she expected the yugoloths, but not the tanar’ri. My mind began to turn on this thought as Rosa’s anger rose and she spoke.

“One of us,” Rosa growled between her teeth. “You knew it had to be one of us the whole time.”

“No,” I said startling her. “Not just any of us. Only one particular person. Me.” I walked forward towards the hag, her gaze now fixed on me with a bemused look. “Strong planar blood perhaps? A key bloodline? Tell me, why I am so special for this purpose.”

“Myrai!—“Adrissa started, but I raised my hand to cut her off, as I looked up at the hag.

Twisted Mirth who had at first a bemused look now had almost thoughtful look on her face as she said in a quiet tone, “And how did you conclude it was you that was…special.”

“We all have our connections,” I said with a wan smile. “After all, someone made you an offer for me, didn’t they?” The twitch on the hag’s face was brief, and I realized what must have happened. “But you, didn’t take them up on it. You didn’t deliver me because you already had a plan for my soul. And you wouldn’t let anything get in the way of your revenge.”

“Good souls are hard to find,” Twisted Mirth said coolly, the wicked grin returning.

“True. So…did Teiazaam take refusal well?”

Twisted Mirth’s grin changed every so briefly to shock, before settling back into that grin as her eyes narrowed to look at me. “An old friend of yours I take it?”

“One that meddled in your affairs I’m afraid. Almost got us killed, and me…your needed component, spirited away.” I said watching the night hag carefully.

“Her mistake,” Twisted Mirth growled. “She will pay in due time—”

“—why wait?” I cut her off causing the fiend to cock her head with sudden interest. “She shouldn’t be allowed to think she can cheat your sorority, and others shouldn’t look to her for inspiration.”

Twisted Mirth chuckled softly, “You show promise, but she is untouchable unless she makes an appearance. Highly unlikely I would say.”

“I guess we’ll just make an invitation she can’t refuse, “ I said now mimicking the hag’s grin.

“A circle to summon her is easy enough. But to hold her would take something more. More power than you possess.”

“Are you sure of that?” I said, taking her aback. “I do have knowledge that can make her dance like a marionette at a festival. I know…her true name.”

Twisted Mirth’s smile melted away as she licked her lips. “Perhaps we should make our bargain then. What do you want?”

“You forge the key…with Teiazaam’s soul. You, give it to us along with the knowledge needed to thwart the Overlord,” I said.

One will get the knowledge,” the hag corrected. “You will give me the gems, that are needed to make the key whole. The key will be yours. But…” the hag licked her lips. “…Your blood, but not your life, will be needed to bind the tanar’ri in a circle here.”

“Meaning I don’t have to bleed to death?”

The night hag gave me a wide grin, “I promise you it might take a bit, but your death is not required. I think you can find help here surviving.”

I turned to look at the rest. No one looked comfortable, but it was The Blade the spoke. “If you think this our best option citizen...”

I turned to face the hag and looked her straight into the eye. “Done.”

“So be it.” Twisted Mirth said, the smile returning. “It will be a full night ahead of us.”


Session Notes:

The next part is a bit ugly. In more ways than one. I'll try to keep it on this side of horrific though.
 



Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top