1. Fie Vemaru
3. Elias Echo
7. Merat Tex
8. Interloper Emthri
9. Adasunu Abrams
12. Myinn Sidesilver
August 05, 2012 23:13
A one-shot done in Osaka (Thanks Guys!)
July 01, 2012 14:40
Hello Adoe, hope this letter finds you well, I mean as well as can be for someone stuck on the top of a mountain surrounded by hordes of revenant souls yearning to tear out your organs through conveniently made necrotic holes in your neck and armpit.
You know apart from that.
Was it not just last week I first met you? Was it? I have taken a moment and decided it was merely six days and not a full week. Yes I met you and Lea and Berethea six days ago. From what I gather you three met at a Tiefling Fair near Lake Dragongem and were invited by a stout woman warrior to find a lost member of her party. A Changeling is a hard thing to find, you know, with all the changing and whatnot, but you accepted the difficult task to come up to Needlebox.
Oh Needlebox, I kind of miss it: the serene pines, the crisp snow, the Raven Queen cultists that bellow and moan instead of talking until it drives you mad. Plus the raven eggs are fantastic.
You and your bear spirit were shopping for clothes at the fair, and bought something bright red. I was going to send a Tiefling up to deliver it, but then I remembered that all non-humans can’t pass the snow line without meeting and untimely death with the aforementioned necrotic trouble. No sooner had you bought the matching hat had you started to follow three women into a tent. You came out with the mission to find a Changeling, with a few magic items as payment.
You still didn’t answer me Deva why your past lives don’t set aside money for your future lives. You wouldn’t have to always buy new items!
You the scout Lea and the seeker Berethea stopped along the way to research a sign that said “Fribir” or Free Beer. Didn’t you know it was a trap? The ale was strewn on the path for you to follow into a great pit dug by goblins. Well you three killed the goblins and found my former master’s biggest (and overweight) fan who had died when my master disciplined me in front of the goblins to let us pass safely. They sure did laugh when he removed my eye. I really didn’t like my master one bit.
You came to the site of the last adventuring party that had died at the hands of the Revenant angels. I heard Lea brag that she stabbed a woman before she could ambush you all. Isn’t she heroic? I mean that as a real question, is she or isn’t she heroic for stabbing a woman in the arms of a cleric? Let me know. Oh right you can’t deliver a letter or else you die like that party did.
You met me as I was busy researching eggs and peanuts, and you met my ex-master Wes Wilcx the great actor from Van Henson. Then later you killed him. Thank you again for that! I guess when you found out the history of Needlebox place you had no other choice.
Needlebox used to be much less racist and xenophobic but then the humans banned revenant making and started speaking in that cultish tongue that can be heard only if you stand very still. They didn’t know that by destroying the altar, the souls would survive as angels on the edge of the Raven Queen’s domain, did they? Why Wes Wilcox wanted to make a play about those people is still beyond me. Nope they were crazy town leaders that forced out or killed all non-humans, and Wes kept Ontisun to reenact those bad days.
Onitsun, the Tiefling that brought the Changeling to Needlebox was held captive for Wes to practice killing. I was really surprised to find out that Kozen, the Changeling replaced his captive to save him from the foul fate. He would have died at Wes’s hand for sure if not for you three!
I just wanted to let you know that Lea, Berethea and I have turned in the old Townleader for the death of the other party members. We hope you three are well and may visit – because we can because we are human and we can walk in and out and you can’t – come next Spring.
Remuud the lady bard with an eyepatch (remember?)
What occurred before 25
September 11, 2011 01:03
In a far eastern land, Myinn Sidesilver was bored of his father’s fighter way of thinking. He would speak to a shaman in the mountains, and find a path as a Shaman himself. However much he thought he could escape his black haired father, it was no use to escape the book in which he was named after: Tame in His Name.
Strangers sometimes would ask if he was ready to accept his role. Strangers he could never find again would tell him to watch out for Merat and laugh. One day a tall black haired eladrin made no such humor of his name, and told him he should accept the rise of an eladrin kingdom here in these lands. He did accept it, for he had not found happiness among the other races. In the days that followed, his spirit companion abandoned him, for the kingdom would erase forests with towers of brick and metals.
Tickle the Ivories Epilogue
August 29, 2011 14:11
“I still don’t understand a lot of it” A mature woman with few wrinkles brings a hot beverage and biscuits for her newly arrived guest. “It seems you told no one the whole truth, had something as leverage on most everyone, and relied on chance to achieve your goals. You have always found rogue’s confusing, but surely your actions are the definition of a rogue.”
The guest, exhausted is slumped on a couch, feet up over one arm of it. “I never met a rogue that does what I think a rogue will do. They did come in handy in the end though.”
The woman stares at the feet, and the “drow” takes them off the arm as an immediate interrupt. “Well explain things to me. What of that woman Winsim’l who seems quite at home here?” At the mention of her name, a distant thunder is heard which leads to the woman standing up and shutting windows.
“Winsim’l is a true believer in Eladrin superiority. Although she didn’t start the belief about Erathis being an Eladrin, she took to it earnestly. She thought Corellon was too close to the elves and elves are not true fey. She wrote a book with magical properties – to be discovered by a future arcanist – telling the tale of the her prophet of Erathis, Myinn Sidesilver. Myinn was an isolated Shaman, who’s father actually came from this realm. Seeing his name in a copy of the book, then making contact with Winsim’l, he accepted his role as martyr to the people.”
The drow takes a moment to put the memories together, then continues. “Myinn’s spirit companion left him when the final choice was made. Shortly after that I met this spirit but I paid it little attention. I was intrigued by Winsim’l and wanted to talk to her. So when Myinn came, I gave him the choice to abandon his alliance with Winsim’l – not out of concern for the shifters – but for the man to cheat fate and to cause chaos. He made the wrong decision and although he nearly killed me, without his snow leopard spirit he was defeated.”
The drow leaves the hot drink alone for a moment and is tempted to open the shutters, the storms being a symphony for his ears. “Winsim’l scryed through time with me, as I introduced myself as the character in her book Merat, the slayer of Myinn. She was happy to have a martyr to rally her people around. She asked what it was I wanted in return for finding a way to bring in her people permanently, but I had not thought about it. I held my request until I could think of one.”
The woman sits to enjoy the story, but shakes her head “I tried to give you a simple life away from all this magic by escaping to the Questless Forest. What request did you finally make?”
“Well in the years that followed, I tried to make reparations for killing a shifter from the Meugge islands: Stride. Winsim’l’s people still had many years to arrive and I had almost forgotten about their arrival. I had a scheme where heroes would seek me out, spending money in the town, thus putting gold in the man’s family and friend’s wallets. I never actually got to donate the gold, because the costs of running the LFD and the purchase of portals for rescuing you. I always reasoned with the shipwrecked survivors, asking for gold and sparring their lives, but sometimes they still wanted a fight. The items they carried were sold for more coin. This is related because some of those heroes who listened to me joined the LFD, the ‘Left For Dead’. Emthri, a half-elf ardent was one of them.”
“You became their teacher?”
“No, I started the myth that I was a Maagister because of a magic school on the northern island had potential for some of my plots. I was actually a Storm Sovereign, changing me to non-fey, to elemental. The school’s staff trusted me more, and the LFD got a kick out of having a Magister as their brother.” He gives a smug look, that slowly fades as this is not the audience to brag about lies to. “Ahem, my LFD took in two of Winsim’l’s agents who were supposed to push me harder in finding a permanence for their cities. We had not gotten any closer. More agents were there on the islands now: A genasi named Bamroot was the enforcer for the Mayor of the town, Jagged – both in her pocket. A fifth agent of hers was Advan, an “obedient” longtooth who actually did not think highly of her. Advan and I became friends, for I loved his practical jokes. He always got me, but then I realized that we could pull a joke on Winsim’l, and benefit from it.”
“This is the thick of the story.” He leans forward and becomes more animated. “Emthri was the key. Win’s two LFD agents discovered they could pull the city now using his body, and with all of their people here, they could work on the problem of solid footing on our world. The people would have to be pulled by the agents themselves. I made my request to Win – a safe place under Eladrin rule for eighty-eight changelings. The number was arbitrary, to confuse her about the meaning of the number. In fact, I was going to bring you as well, to save you from…a life of boredom at Oaks Inn. I sent agents through time to get you.”
“That happened dear, I remember I found your note and it said wait until the drow come and make my way to Westshore on Myinn Island.” Lal makes a sour face “I thought you went to Stormpeak mountain, then I was relieved you were on the Myinns. Then I was upset you were not.”
“Advan was supposed to meet you, a lot of things were supposed to happen. Advan either was discovered and murdered by Winsim’l, or maybe killed by a devil.” Lal puts her drink down at the odd inclusion of the word devil. “I might have killed Advan accidentally, you see to mess with Win’s perfect society, I never told them Emthri was cursed with a devil, who fell to the same curses Emthri did. It made for greater mass to the shard remains of Emtrhi, so when about a forearm of Emthri was kept, it wasn’t missed. Some of my LFD are geniuses. Don’t worry, the devil was discovered and all occurrences of devils popping up ended with the discovery. I feel a little guilty for introducing the devil Isalie to Emthri.”
Looking overwhelmed and yet sleepy, Lal asks one more question “What of Katryol and Syral? If they weren’t together, she could have made a proper man out of you.” A glass shatters on the floor and hot tea jettisons from the sorcerer’s lips.
“I will clean that, and no the opposite happened, I made an improper woman out of her. She actually ended up tied to a fighter in a far away kingdom, with everything she could ever want. I had travelled with her as a friend, and was saddened to see this woman of the plains, this rogue, end up in such a dull state were everything is handed to you. Her pink-haired guardian died, and she sulked and whined for Miria’s return, even asking me to go find her. Now I do believe in cheating death, but Miria was a fighter for storm’s sake! Death is nothing to escape for her kind.
No I sent her on a mission to find the fighter’s sword – a small lie – and she was reborn young and able to find her tribe again. I think she is happy frolicking in the dandelions somewhere. Katryol is another rogue who wanted my adopted daughter Stormlit for his lustful needs. Actually, she is Bamroot’s daughter, and I had her on my side to coerce him, but that never unfolded. I hope to visit her in twenty five years and ask her more about this elemental life; it is energizing! If Katryol lives, I left him a message that if he was a good rat in Win’s hair, he might get my blessing to court her properly.”
“You should write apology letters to all of these people.” The woman kisses Tex on the forehead and tells him not to stay up all night.
As he hears her footsteps fade, he thinks on how He failed to mention his other successes, or his failures, but none on them mattered. His main goal was to see Lal again. All other tasks or schemes would never compare to this moment. The storm outside calms down and brings a gentle breeze on this warm night.
August 28, 2011 14:07
After a while Kama D began to close up his shop. The sun was setting low in the sky, setting it aflame with yellows and oranges and reds. The waves lapping against the pier created a rhythmic beat, allowing the sun to drift to sleep. I turn to Syral, who seems contemplating O and Emthri’s words.
“Well, what do we do now? Do we go after Winsim’l? Try to find Entwinette or Emthri? Are we saving the people or the city, or are we going to foolishly try to save both?” I lay the sarcasm on thick so she understands that I’m not keen on the latter.
“I think we should find Emthri. He seems like he’s important to everyone. And if we can stop him, we can send the Eladrins back and let the Shifters have their land.”
I slap myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. “Syral,” my voice uncharacteristically rises in frustration, “didn’t you hear what Emthri said?! His body is in the Southern Meugges. We’re in the North! We have no way to get there, let alone know where in the Southern Meugees he is! Any ideas?”
Syral pauses, her brow furrowing in deep thought. Suddenly she looks up, with hope and determination in her face. “Ok, let’s find Entwinette,” as she turns sharply on her heel and tromps off from the docks toward the middle of the city.
“Wai – where are you going?”
“To the town pillar.”
O and Thirianna go with Syral as I take to the back alleys. After my run in with Bamroot, I fear he may be lurking anywhere in this infernal city. The pillar is ten housing sections away, and, as I scurry through the streets, I notice patrols of three scattered around the city grounds and perched atop the city’s battlements. By the looks of it, they’re preparing for war. A sense of unease permeates through my body, setting my hair on edge. Nothing good can come of this.
As I traverse the back streets, quickly making my way to the pillar, I spy ahead a fissure in the ground. The light of the setting sun plays with the shadows and makes the crevice look smaller than it is. Luckily, I can determine its true width and leap over it without an issue. As I pass over it, a sharp light erupts below me. Bamroot! My heart starts beating as I reach for my crossbow. Landing nimbly on the other side, I wheel around hoping to catch Bamroot off–guard. Instead, I see O tailing me. He nods, seeming to say, “Your welcome.” Yeah, thanks for scaring the stuffing out of me. Damn Mage.
We all arrive at the entrance to the town pillar amidst festive decorations for the celebration of the new face of Shifterhood. Mages atop the walls begin working on a large tent, lowering it over the surrounding neighborhood and the pillar. It seems we find ourselves in the middle of the festivities. Looking at the doors to the pillar, three guards stand before it, one facing the building while the other two survey the gathering Eladrins. I take a seat at a long wooden table closest to the pillar and the others join.
“Well, Syral, now what. Surely we can’t just walk up and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to foil this little city here and need to get inside to pull it off. So, can you let me in?’ I didn’t see another entrance when I circled around.” I grab a drink and start to down it. “Well?”
The look I get from Syral amuses me. She shoves herself away from the table, pulling Thirianna with her. Standing up, she stomps over to the guards. I grab another drink. This should be amusing.
After some denial by the guards, and some insistence from Syral, a curl moves up my face. Then one of the guards steps aside and usher them in. I nearly choke on my drink and look, stupefied, at Adder. He shrugs. Chuckling to myself and sit back down and take another swig. I guess we’ll wait and see.
After twenty minutes or so I start do worry about the two women. I take another swig and smash down the mug. I stand up, feigning drunkenness and stagger over to the guards. Throwing myself at the nearest one, I wrap my arm around his shoulder.
“Ah, ‘shewsh me ma…good sir. I shaw my friensh go…in thar and da…littal one had me gold. I jush nee’ a few peashesh ta pay fer da drink…”
“Uh, the food and drink is free of charge, sir. Please return to your table and enjoy the festivities. The celebration is almost underway, so feel free to enjoy.”
“Datsh a good…point, but ya shee…itsh sho good dat…I wantsh ta pay ya fer…da wonderful drink. I’ll be…real quick…Won’ even know I wash inshide…” I breath heavily into his face and burp.
With a roll of the eyes, the guard ushers me in, cringing as he pretends to cough to cover his mouth and nose. I’m in.
Once inside, I am struck by the play of colors from the inside of the pillar. I can see outside, which tells me that magic is at work here. Passing along the interior of the wall, I can hear muffled conversations coming from the grounds. Sensing something not quite right about the wall, I place my hand against the wall. There is a ripple in the wall, the colors scattering as my hand sinks into the wall. Pulling back, startled, I peer closer and realize the wall is an illusion. Looking at the pillar as a whole now, the ripple from my hand flows throughout the image, billowing to a stop near the pillar’s spire. The whole damn thing is an illusion! A stumble back, nearly tripping as my eyes travel to the apex of the pillar’s interior.
“Kat? Katryol! C’mere, quick! Look what we found.”
With a surprised yelp, I spin and see no one. Swearing I heard Syral, I look around the ground once more, and I spot a head and hand waving at me from the ground. I’ll be damned, a secret passage.
“You know this tower is a fake, Syral?”
“Yeah, we got that. Now get down here before someone notices.”
I head down and am immediately thrust into darkness. A little light trickles into the room from the shimmering illusion above, but does not penetrate very far in front of us. Exploring the room reveals only miner’s clothing in a nearby chest. Syral tries to venture deeper into the tunnel, but the thickness of the darkness prohibits her from going very far. Thirianna reaches into her massive backpack, for who knows what reason she is carrying, and cracks a sunrod. Immediately I am blinded by light, and realizing that the guards might see the stream of light beaming out of the middle of their pillar, quickly pull the hatch shut. The tunnel is now as bright as day, and Syral bounds off venturing further into the passages. I follow after her, though carefully peering around corners. Not long after we start do I hear a sharp hiss from Sryal, who has now turned out of my sight. I hurry after her, but am met with darkness. I turn back and see Thirianna, backpack and all, lumbering through the passage. Why doesn’t she take off the ridiculous backpack? Hearing another whimper, I turn back to Syral and see a bolt lodged in her shoulder. Able to see now, I notice a lookout point above and two Eladrin men with crossbows. I catch one in the jugular as the other jumps down and heads further into the passage. Racing after him, I narrowly dodge a bolt as I turn the corner. Slumping against the wall, another bolt whizzes past. They must be in an alcove ahead. I take aim in the general direction and say a quick prayer. Firing, I hear a low groan. Thank you, Sehanine.
Thirianna turns the corner, illuminating the passage with her sunrod, and I spy holes in the opposing walls. There are Eladrins firing bolts, though the uneven surface of the slits makes steadying their crossbows difficult. That or they’re blind – I prefer to give them credit though since they aren’t running into walls. As far as I know.
We eliminate the threat in the passage, with one more fleeing down the passage behind a moderately large hole in the crumbling stone wall. Syral squeezes through, and I follow. Thirianna, in her infinite wisdom, throws her pack through before coming herself. We continue until we come across a rickety elevator, big enough for one person. I jump down into it and lower myself down. The others quickly join me, and we proceed through the second level beneath the imaginary tower.
Some more turns and corners, a few more narrow misses with bolts, and a lot more dead Eladrin at our feet and we find ourselves at another elevator. I jump down first again and find myself in a large cavern of a room. Five Eladrin are scattered about, all training their crossbows in my direction. I fire at the men in the corner facing the lift, catching one through the chest and the other solidly in the skull. Both bodies drop to the ground as three bolts strike the wall, a good foot above my head, and fall harmlessly to the ground. Maybe they are blind.
Syral joins and throws her dagger into one, slicing his neck in half. Behind her, I can hear Thirianna struggling with the lift, her backpack obviously preventing her descent to go smoothly. I move in on another Eladrin, my bolt ripping through his gut, as Syral take out one cowering in the shadows of the lift. Thirianna finally makes it down and starts yelling at an Eladrin man, demanding answers. He fires and misses by a click. Seriously? You couldn’t even hit her backpack?
He jumps behind a heavy curtain and I follow. As is the theme, another bolt flies by, though this one almost made me flinch. I turn and fire into the chest of a young male Eladrin. He groans, clutches at the bolt, and falls to the floor. Syral pounces into the small passage and slays the last Eladrin guard. Thirianna, judging by the clamoring outside, is still struggling with her pack.
“Who’s there! You better leave or they’ll kill you! Don’t come in here!”
The voice is female and sounds Eladrin. I move to the door, cracking it open just a notch. Fire rushes by, slamming into the earthen wall behind me. Great, another Mage. Luckily, it missed the highly flammable wooden door that I was holding. This Eladrin must be blind too.
I hear another door close in the room ahead. Opening the door further, I see a finely crafter table with a couple chairs, but nothing else. I enter the room and begin to the door on the opposing wall.
“Don’t come in here! The others will kill you!”
Her voice seems unsure and scared. I creep near the door, though making sure not to open it this time. A Mage rarely misses twice. Unless your name is Kalleron…
“Entwinette?” Silence. “Entwinette, Oaks sent us. We’re here to rescue you.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about! Leave, get out of here and they might spare your life! I don’t want anything to do with you uncivilized curr!”
“Uncivilized curr?! Why I never!” Thiriana storms in and starts speaking to woman in Elven. “Now, look, I know they are a tad bit uncooth…”
I motion to Syral to take a seat at the table and take out some cards. Shuffling the deck, I smile at the young Shifter, “We got a while. Care for a game of Dragon Hunt?”
If Syral was half-way decent at cards, those thirty minutes might now have been so tortuous. But, eventually, Thirianna emerges with a beleaguered Eladrin woman. I spread out Emthri’s ritual and summon the Half-Elf. Emthri, understandably, doesn’t recognize the Emthri, but, much to my disappointment, he knows little about the Eladrin woman. He is able to tell us about her conduit however, and confirm Oaks suspicions. It seems he has been honest with us. Despite the circumstances, Entwinette demands Emthri, because he’s obviously “Eladrin property and I have no right to him.” She’s more upity about her people than Syral is about hers. God this will be painful.
We hurry up out of the tunnels and reach the doors leading into the town pillar. Opening the hatches, the smell of wine, breads, and sweets fill my nostrils. It appears the festival is in full swing now. Emerging from the passage, I spy a young guard in the drunken embrace of a young woman. Just don’t lean against the walls.
I help the others out, with the exception of Entwinette, who refuses. Reaching the tower entrance, my façade already in full-swing, I am greeted by a short-hair Eladrin woman.
“Hello, Katryol Emardin. We have much to discuss. Please follow me.”
“I’m shorry shweet…ums. But I don’ know yas…”
“I think Winsim’l would differ. As would Oaks, Stride or Bamroot.” The woman looks long and hard into my eyes, as I blur them in and out of focus. “Nor would Stormlit.”
I snap to attention. How does she know about her? Is she here? Is she alive. I discard my charade. “You were saying?”
“We have much to discuss.” She gestures to the nearest table, “If you would please sit down. Ah, Syral!” A hesitant Syral, just emerging from the pillar doors, comes down the pillar steps and is motioned to the table. I nod to her and take a seat. Syral takea a seat to my right and the Eladrin sits across from us. “My name is Do’thiel. And you have some things we want, and I am sure we could find some things of interest that would satisfy you.”
Do’thiel, on the wishes of Winsim’l, is looking to conduct an amicable negotiation, though I fail to see where the benefit to us comes in. Do’thiel knows much about our activity in the Meugges, and our persons in general, while we know nothing besides a name. She desires Entwinette, Emthri’s remains. the book, the feather, and the tiara. They offer Syral the dagger, which is Bamroot’s, and O’s freedom from trial, though she admits he has done nothing wrong. O happens to be in a joke of a cage in the middle of the festival, along with Stride. As I see it, the benefit to us is minimal at best. Then, something catches my ear; a low roar in the distance, just above the sound of the festival’s music. That’s right! Thirianna’s monster! There might be something to that after all.
Getting nowhere with Syral and Do’thiel, I ask to speak to “Oaks” before we continue, but the Eladrin insists on joining the festivities for a dance. I oblige, hoping to quicken the painful negotiations. As we dance, the Eladrin turns on the charm, but I deny her. Stormlit is the only woman I can think about lately, and besides, more urgent matters exist. I try to keep an eye on Entwinette and Thirianna at the table.
“Katryol? Do you miss me?”
Turning to Do’thiel, I nearly trip over my own feet. Before me, in my arms, is Stormlit. A smile spreads across her face, a glint, sparkling in her eye, as she rests her head on my chest. I push her away and look closer. Yes, she looks like Stormlit, but her markings are off and her crystalline scalp is actually hair.
“So, you’re a Changeling? Why did you seek me out?”
“What, don’t you like this?” She thrusts her hips closer. Eliciting no reaction, she backs off, “Fine. Still, we need to continue to negotiate. Are you sure I couldn’t interest you in some more appealing goods?”
“I need to speak with Oaks first.” The music dies down and the others dancers begin to return to their seats, laughing merrily. “May I now?” Do’thiel nods and I head over to O’s cage. On the way, a gust of wind rushes through the tent, billowing flaps left and right. Beneath one in the distance I make out the same translucent colors I saw inside the town pillar. More illusionary buildings?
Stepping in, I greet O, and Stride comes over, trying to reminisce about old times. I excuse myself and O from Stride and tell him about the negotiations. He is insistent that Entwinette does not leave our side along with the tiara. It seems the tiara is a key. The feather and book we can part with, and maybe turn them to our advantage. Emthri’s remains, though unimportant at this point, I will not part with. Anway, I have another bargaining chip on my table.
I return to Do’thiel and sit down. “Ready?”
“Delightful. About time. Now, for Entwinette, what can we offer?”
“Let’s not start at the top and work our way down. Let’s work our way up. How about for Oaks’ freedom. Unconditional freedom. Immediately.”
“And for that, what would you offer?”
“Seeing as how you’ve already admitted he’s guilty of nothing, I see no need for it being a major piece. How about –,” I reach into my pack and withdraw the feather, slamming it down on the table in front of the Changeling, “– this!”
“Put that away! What are you doing?! You know what that is! Surely, be more subtle for a Rogue!”
Picking up a napkin, I slip the feather inside. “Release Oaks and it’s yours.” Do’thiel motions to a guard who moves near the cage. I slide the feather across the table and she nods. The guard opens the cage, and calls for O, who joins us at the table. In the distance, another low rumble is carried on the wind. I look over to Syral, who seems to have heard it too. “One amicable trade. Let’s continue, shall we? Syral had a dagger. That dagger for –,” I push away and walk back to the town pillar. Spinning to face the Changeling, I run my hand through the wall of the structure, “– this knowledge!”
“Stop it! Sit down! You made your point! Go, get him the dagger.” A short while later a guard tosses down a dagger in front of Syral. “There, now, no more theatrics. Let’s be more…civilized.”
“Before we get to the big item, I think you owe me an explanation. You say you can send us back, but we’ve been searching for the last four weeks, and have found nothing. What can you do to assure me that you actually have a way to send us back?”
“Then you misunderstood. I cannot offer to send you back, but I can give you the knowledge with which to find a suitable way back.”
“That seems, sketchy…” I turn to look at O, but he’s engrossed with Entwinette, fiddling over the tiara. As I’m thinking of my next move, Syral scratches at my arm. I look at her and follow her eyes down. There is a small layer of water flowing underneath the table, my boots creating a sloshing sound in the saturated ground. Damnit! The monster!
“What will you do about the monster coming to destroy your city? How will you protect yourself against that? Does Winsim’l have a plan for that?”
“There is no such thing.”
“I beg to differ.” Pointing to the ground, “I suggest you look beneath you…”
Do’thiel cast a quick glance at the ground, and jumps up in surprise. Almost immediately, she lunges for Emthri’s pouch on my belt. I try to twist out of the way, but catch my hip on the table. She swipes it, and I grab O, but he pays no attention. Suddenly, a loud, monstrously godly echo rings throughout the tent. The party-goers scatter and chaos ensues. I run to the tent flap and see an entity only a God could construct. A lurching sensation rifles my gut, and I feel my knees wobble. I rush back to the table, but Do’thiel is already gone. I try to find Thirianna, but she is nowhere to be seen. Syral is looking around trying to make sense of the situation. O and Entwinette are still enraptured by the tiara. Great, a more useless Mage.
A massive clawed leg breaks down through the tent’s opening, splintering the wooden poles holding it erect. Torn canvas flutters down around us, and Eladrins run for the exits. The guards on the battlements above turn and start firing, but not at the leg; instead they fire into other Eladrin guards, who return fire. Stride bounds out of the cage and looses a few arrows, felling two archers atop a wall. Images of the ambush flood to my mind. Another set up?
A sharp, high-pitched scream from behind me catches my attention. Syral is ripped from the table and hovers above the crowd of people fleeing the scene. Unable to reach her, I can’t pull her down, and that’s when I see the archers loose their arrows at Syral. Her legs and arms are punctured and one arrow cuts through her shoulder. I find O, hand outstretched, focusing intently on Syral. Is he doing this? No, couldn’t be. If he were to betray us, why now?
Stride, seeing Syral pierced by Eladrin arrows, notches an arrow and takes aim at O, but then turns to a covered awning and fires. Satisfied, he runs off, leaving felled Eladrin in his wake. Another scream whips me back to Entwinette and I see an arrow jutting out of her side. Eladrin are firing on her too. I leap over the table, unlatching my crossbow and killing the nearest Eladrin. Grabbing O and wounded Entwinette, I rush for the exit. We have to get out of here. We’re easy targets and they have the advantage. The portal is the only way out that I can see. I need to get to the docks.
Another skull-splitting scream echoes in my head. Syral! She’s flying through the air now, her body limp as a rucksack. I can’t leave her. Being tossed through the air toward me, I make a desperate lunge for her, hoping to grab her wrist and pull her down. As soon as my fingers wrap around her wrist, I feel a pull from inside of my chest. Air is being forced out of my lungs, and I feel my grip on O slipping. My head whips back and my stomach churns. Flashes blind me, though I can’t shut them out, no matter how hard I try. A firm hand grabs my forearm, encouraging, and I feel my fingers tighten around Syral’s wrist. I will not let go.
My knees sink into the small, soft gravel of a river bed. The sun warms my back, as I retch on the bank. The sounds of a river’s current echoes in my ears and the smells of earth fill my nose. Slowly I regain my senses and open my eyes. Little dots litter my vision and I shake them away. Taking a few deep, measured, breathes, filling my lungs with air that stings, I take in my surroundings.
Before me I see someone hunched over a body. I can hear soft, solemn weeping and their back rises and falls spastically in rhythm with the sobs. To my right lies another body. I crawl across the gravel bar and heaving, gasping intakes of breathe interrupted by choking resonate from the bloodied body.
“Katryol…I have…done a great wrong. I can –,” a fit of wheezing interrupts her, “– make this right. I have done many…terrible things.” I stroke the black hair out of her face and hold her eyes with mine. Her eyes smile warmly, gingerly, but her tears betray her. “Please…you must kill me…”
“No! Entwinette, we just saved you! Why would I…!”
“You must return…where you left…as we did. They…they are here.” Her hand reaches out, resting on my arm. Her eyes plead with mine. “They should not be…You must…please…kill me…”
I cannot bear to look at her anymore; the pain in her eyes would destroy me. Cupping my hand beneath her head, I lean close to her ear.
“You are truly beautiful.”
I retreat, looking into her eyes once more. I know. Tilting forward, I gently kiss her forehead, tears starting to well in my eyes.
“Sehanine be with you.”
A sharp intake of breath breaks the serene moment. I lock eyes with her as her last breaths rock her body. Her hand, clutching the tiara, tightens, refusing to let it go, as her neck relaxes in the cusp of my hand. I gently lay her down on the gravel, removing my dagger from her kidney. As I stand I can feel the tears streaming down my cheeks. Walking over to the other body a sickening feeling overtakes me. The golden fur tells me all I need to know. Resting a hand on O’s shoulder causes the young Mage to look up. His face is full of tears and his body shakes with each sob. His eyes trail from me to that of Entwinette, and I feel him pull on my cloak.
“It was her wish. Her…choice.” Fighting back my tears, I return back to the body of the young Eladrin woman. Lowering to one knee, I scoop her up in my arms. A heavy sigh escapes my lips and suddenly I’m overcome with the burden of burying an innocent.
I walk to the river, hoping its current is strong enough to carry Entwinette far away from the painful memories that linger in this place. Striding into the river until the surface overtakes my waist, I offer a quick prayer to Sehanine.
“Before the earth’s might and the tree’s eternal shade, I offer this body back from whence it was brought. May the river’s judgment be swift and the sky to see her soul across the plains. May your brethren welcome you with the love of a waking sun and allow you to walk among them as equal. Stars to the moon may guide your path.”
My prayer finished, I gradually lower the body of Entwinette into the coursing river. Pulling her beneath the surface, letting nature flow into her body once more, I release the body. And with that, she returns.
I emerge out of the river, spent from the ordeal, not sure if I can manage another one.
“Katryol?” I look up and a middle-aged Shifter stats running toward me. He is a fisherman, obviously testing the rivers. “Katryol! It is you! Do you remember me? It’s me, Current – from the Downs.” I hardly notice him, my eyes focused on the body. Following my gaze, he exclaims, “No! Is that? What happened? You need to get her to Westshore!”
“You must return…as we did…”
Westshore! Sa Kage’s office. “Cuurent, does Sa Kage’s office still exist?”
“Um, well, yeah, but he’s no longer there.” His face is full of confusion. “What…what happned?”
I reach down and remove the bolts from her body. Glancing at O, I pick up Syral, and follow the path back to Westshore.
I arrive with O in the small village of Westshore. It has changed slightly, but not much. There are no Eladrins present, and the fishing docks have been expanded, but nothing too drastic. Shifters appear in droves, recognizing me and Syral. I push past and make my way to the Mayor’s Office. Once there, I ask to go to the basement, and am taken down. O and I are left alone with Sryal, who I place on a table in the room. O drops off a collection of equipment he must have picked up from the river. I see my old armor and Syral’s. Among the items he lays on the table is an intricate braid. An image of Syral flashes through my mind; of her riding a white steed; of Stormlit playing with her hair; weaving an intricate braid into her hair.
I brush back the right side of Syral’s hair and see a clump of unbound hair. Picking up the braid, I move around to the head of the table. Lifting Syral’s chest up, propping her against my chest, I manage to begin working the braid into the hair behind her right ear. Feverishly, I weave the auburn-toned mane; in and out, over and under, through and around; I entwine Syral’s hair with the braid. Not knowing what to expect, I gently lower her body back onto the table and step away and look at Adder. All he does is nod and turn to Syral.
With a sudden gasp, Syral’s body arches, rising a foot off the table’s surface. I rush to her as she stirs, and help her sit up.
“Wha–what happened? Where am I?” Her eyes meet mine and I am overcome with emotion.
I stop O, who is about to leave. “Thank you.” Swallowing my pride, I continue. “I’m sorry I doubted you. If I only trusted you more completely sooner, many more might have been saved.” O smiles and shakes his head. “May I…is it alright if I thank you properly? It won’t get you in trouble?” Adder shakes his head again. I bow as low and formally as my muscles will allow. “Then, O, I am indebted to you. Thank you for your assistance in…for all of your assistance.”
With a nod and a slight bow, O turns and bows to Syral before leaving. I turn back to Syral, knowing the questions are about to begin.
Syral seems to recall nothing of our adventure in the Myinns. Deciding it is best to inform her of the journey, I tell her about Emthri and the devils of Westshore brought about by Isalie. I let her know of how they sought her out to be the face of Shifterhood, but she did not forgo her pride for it. I also told her about the young boy, Current, whom she saved from the Arcane Downs and how he is outside and can confirm the story. Also, Hauslo and the treatment of the Shifters in general by the Eladrins made her angry and she sought to right this wrong in the land of the Myinns. Which were the Meugges. The battle for power between Winsim’l and Tex over the land and its use as a Changeling homeland. Groo’s demise by her hand, and the appearance of a young, thirteen–year old Tex also are regaled to her, as is her mysterious death.
Syral is obviously, and understandably confused. It is a lot to take in, again. But the most confusing thing for me didn’t happen until I started packing up my equipment. Syral isn’t the same as before we left. She is how I remember her in the Myinns – seventeen. I whimper, too loud for my own good. Poor Luc.
I return to my equipment. Inspecting my crossbow, I notice the weight is slightly off to the left. Turning it over in my hands, I see a small engraving on the handle.
Hello, Rogue. She is special. My blessing through O. Earn it.
August 26, 2011 14:04
How funny, Here I am deep within this mess, and countless lives hang on my every word. How many will follow me to the walls of the enemy, to whatever awaits beyond the known world…
I am called crazy, mad, and more than a few words that would make me blush…
but I see you there in your blood coated leather, your lip curled in aggression, your hair standing on end, desperately looking for the easy out.
Why didn’t you escape to the plains yet?
Our bond is something I can’t fathom, but you bring out the cockiness in me rogue.
I will have one dance with you before we part, because indeed we must part.
Do your allies have someone as well they are destined never to share this life with?
August 22, 2011 14:01
I awake in a cold sweat. My body shivers slightly with the memories still dancing vividly in my mind. Why was she there? Quickly surveying the carriage, I notice I am not in the main section, but rather in the darkened room. Surprisingly, next to me lies Syral, sound asleep, softly purring. My body, in its own way, tells me its morning. Or I have two brains choosing different portions of the dream to focus on.
I turn over to fall back asleep, hopefully a more peaceful endeavor this time around. As my eyes start to close, I feel Syral brush up against me. I can hear her heart beating steadily in her chest. The drumming starts to lull me to sleep, a smile spreading across my face…
“What…is…THIS?!!!” By Sehanine, Harpies! The screech is deafening, and I feel my ears starting to bleed. “How can the future of Shifterhood be found in such, in such, in such a scandalous state?!” I turn over and see a fuming Eladrin woman glaring at me. With a sharp, biting tone, she thrust a finger in my face. “YOU!!!! How dare you taint the future star of Shifterhood!!!” Ugh. This is the last thing I need, an Eladrin woman. I turn over, clapping my hands over my ears, hoping to drown out the crazy Eladrin’s voice.
The women fusses over Syral, trying to get her out, and, realizing I won’t be getting back to sleep, I dismiss myself from the room. Exiting into the main carriage, I notice that neither O or Ello are around. Looking through the window to the east, I see tall spires catching and reflecting the morning sun. Beautiful arches dance across the land, and the newly fallen snow adds to the allure of the scenery. In the distance I catch a faint glimpse of Bamroot walking toward, what I presume to be, Myinn City.
I head to the door to greet the morning air and am equally surprised by what I see. We have stopped in a cast off of a town. Six buildings, hastily constructed with inferior wood and craftsmanship, are sporadically placed around us. Looking around, I see two sets of footprints heading into one of the larger buildings, and a slew of footprints around the front of the carriage. Bamroot must have unhitched the Clawfoot himself. Arguing coming from the back room draws my attention away from the town and I figure the Eladrin must have succeeded in rousing Syral. Sighing, I head back to check on them. Not surprisingly, Syral is trying to kill the poor woman, who, amazingly, looks calm – almost understanding. I try to grab Syral away and calm her down, and with some finagling, am finally able to do so.
The Eladrin’s name is Thirianna, and she is in charge of ‘the new face of Shifterhood’, that being Syral. I was right in my assessment that the city with the spires and arches is Myinn City, and we currently find ourselves where “the-not-so-fortunate” live. This term obviously doesn’t sit well with Syral. Running damage control, I smooth things over with Thiriana and Syral and the Eladrin heads back to Myinn City to prepare for our entrance. Syral and I set out exploring the shanty town.
I come to a large tavern-esque building and see smoke seeping out of a window. Curious, I look inside and see a smoldering torch along the wall. It would not be so unusual if any other torch was lit, but in the early morning, none are. Moving closer, I notice a chunk of smoldering remnants in the top of the torch, and plucking it from the low embers, discover its neatly layered…like the pages of a book! I check my bag and groan. This is my copy of ‘Tame in His Name’. Heading out of the building I run into Ello who admits that O did indeed burn the book, but kept one page for himself. I ask him where he is, and he points down the street. I see Syral walking after O, heading in the direction of the hills. I hurry after them and when they reach a bridge, O vanishes. A howl in the distance echoes from the hills, and scanning the horizon, I see a snow-white hyena descend down. In front of me Syral draws her daggers, preparing to fight. The beast is large, and I have a less than fortunate feeling about the circumstances we find ourselves in. Where did O go?
I stay back and load a bolt, hoping I won’t have to assist Syral because she’ll realize the futility in taking on such a beast. I chuckle at the thought. Nope, she is like Luc – to the death. Syral engages the hyena and gets in some nice jabs, sinking her daggers into its thick coat. But the beast doesn’t seem fazed, or even like it noticed. It swipes at Syral, but she manages to nimbly dodge away. A whistle sounds in the distance and the hyena stops. Raising its head as if to listen and wait, I am reminded of a dog reacting to its master’s commands. Syral ignores this delay and strikes again, though it has no effect on the hyena. Instead, the hyena retreats, scampering back into the hills. I call Syral off the bridge, hoping she won’t pursue. She doesn’t. Thank Sehanine for the little favors. As we start to head back into town, contemplating what happened to O, a voice is carried on the wind, “Smart choice.”
We head back to the shanty town and await Thirianna. Soon, her carriage arrives, though it is magic that seems to drive it. She fusses over Syral, hiding her beneath a cloak. Fortunately, I have convinced Syral to promise to put up with the shenanigans for the time being, and we head to Myinn City.
Once in the city, we are taken immediately taken to our lodgings. The city is beautiful, though the people are look eerily related. There is no variation between them, save for height, which makes me think of purebred hunting hounds. The thought draws a snicker, which is quickly replaced. Outside, I catch a quick glimpse of a group of men who most definitely don’t fit in – Hauslo and the ranchers. As we pass by I calculate the odds of actually running into the man as rather small.
Arriving at an intricately built, fabulously tall structure, Thirianna ushers us out and into the lobby. She talks to the keeper, a rather flamboyant fellow, and makes arrangements for our rooms. While she is talking, a ruckus breaks out near the entrance and I decide that Sehanine really does not like me. Hauslo and his friends have paraded into the foyer, demanding rooms and I grab Syral and our keys and look for the stairs. Hoping to avoid confrontation we feverishly search, but to no avail. Then, to throw salt in my wounds, Thirianna starts berating Hauslo, drawing his attention to the three of us. Sehanine truly hates me.
The rancher seems excited, almost elated, to have found us. He sends his two buddies to distract the guards and stares the three of us down, demanding to seek retribution. Out of nowhere, he starts throwing accusations at Syral and I, about the burning of the Downs, the slaying of Sidesilver, the ambush, the killing of folk in both Westshore and Crooked Claw. He seems to know about more than I imagined, though his defamations are quite false. Not necessarily unfounded, but definitely false.
Thirianna seems to want nothing to do with anyone who will defame the future face of Shifterhood and acts first. She strikes Hauslo with a spell as Syral and I move into position to commence our attacks. If the lady in charge is doing it, why not join in the fun? After a couple of blows, Hauslo staggers on his feet before he is apprehended by the guards. As he is being drug out, I move to put a bolt through his face, but Thirianna stops me – he has learned his lesson. The flamboyant clerk approaches, informing Thirianna that they no longer can accommodate us. The Harpy has been released once more.
After a thorough berating at the hands of the Eladrin woman, the hotel staff not only allows us to stay, but upgrade us to the penthouse. Talk about influential! We head up and Syral, figuring since we’re in the city, unleashes her pent up frustrations and starts bounding around like a child, purposely making Thirianna’s job exponentially difficult. Secretly, I cheer her on.
With all the disorder going on, I hardly notice the penthouse doors swing open. Bamroot, wishing to know if his duties are concluded, asks if we may need any further assistance. Syral, parading around half-clothed, lets out a hearty, “Yes!” and asks to be taken to the docks. She apparently has decided to meet O. I cannot say I am surprised, but I am a little disappointed. We gather our things and set out.
Getting a more detailed look around the city, I notice a similar tower to that in Westshore. Apparently Winsim’l has her residence inside, though she won’t often be found there. Rather, she is likely at the City Hall, governing over city matters. Thirianna rambles on about the history of Myinn City and the importance of Eladrins, and how they are trying to incorporate the Shifters into a new, and better, life. I don’t pay her much attention though; she is quite the blabbermouth.
Instead, I watch Bamroot. His demeanor is the same – stiff, rigid, unwavering. However, there seems to be age to his eyes. The creases running across his face run deeper and wider. But his look isn’t focused. He seems to be mulling something over, trying to figure something out. I want to tell him about everything, more than just Stormlit. I want to let him know about O and his other companions and the deception going on in the Myinns. Revealing too much though may do more harm than good. Even Syral hasn’t quite grasped the concept yet.
We arrive at the docks and Bamroot heads to the end of the pier at once. It looks as though he is checking for something, but appears lost doing so. Syral sits down on the edge and dangles her feet over the side, playing with the water. Thirianna, reading a warning sign, informs us not to whistle because it will attract serpents. Check. No whistling.
I head over to Bamroot and join in. Man, meeting her parents is awkward. “What are ya lookin’ for?” Nothing. “Need any help?” Still nothing. I look out across the vast ocean. It sparkles in the midday sun, the small undulations in the surface deflecting light in all directions. The waves lap up against the pier, creating a sloshing sound. Looking at the surface of the water in the shadow of the pier, I notice the subtle difference the light makes. Here, the waves seem bigger, like they grow out of the culmination of energy twisted around the anchors of the pier. The deep, sapphire blue calms and relaxes me. An image of Stormlit flitters through my mind. Yes, I should tell him. Maybe he will understand.
To my right I hear a sudden crash from the water followed by a low gnarl. An equally surprised Bamroot now has a serpent wrapped around his torso and it is dragging the driver back into the water. Who the hell whistled?! Behind me, I hear a loud hissing from Syral, as another serpent tries to catch her as well. Luckily, she was quick enough to move out of its way. From the head of the pier, running towards Syral, comes a screaming Thirianna. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Don’t take the future of Shifterhood! Oh, so I’m sorry! The whistles keep them away!” Check. Thirianna can’t read.
I start whistling, hoping to cause the serpent to let Bamroot go. No use. I load a bolt and fire at the serpent, but it seems only to agitate it, hastening its retreat into the ocean. I hear another splash as the serpent slithers off the edge of the pier. Peeking over the edge, I can see froth from where the serpent descended. Glancing over my shoulder, Syral and Thirianna seem to be holding their own. A sharp gasp brings my attention back and I see Bamroot’s head pierce the surface. He quickly climbs up the ladder, followed by the serpent, desperately seeking to reclaim its meal. As the serpent rights itself on the wooden pier I fire again, this time the bolt lodging deep into its side. The serpent wails and thrashes its tail. Spinning to face me, it strikes with its jaws, faster than I anticipated for it being out of water. With nowhere to go, I raise my arms to shield my face and feel the teeth sink into my bicep. Instantly I begin to feel woozy. Bamroot casts a spell at the creature, hitting it in the eye. It lets out another wail and strikes at Bamroot. I fall to me knee, trying to shake off the wooziness. Rolling down the pier towards the others, I load another bolt and fire blindly behind me, hoping to coax the serpent further out of the water. Bamroot unleashes another spell into its eyes, and with a dissatisfied gnarl and gnashing jaws, it plunges back into the ocean water. Looking up, I see that its mate follows suit, leaving behind a very wet cat and an apologetic Eladrin. Bamroot helps me up, and we hurry to the dock office. The first sign I see is, ‘Whistles: 50 GP’. I hate you, Sehanine.
“I don’t understand.” Syral is talking out loud to herself now. “He held up four fingers to signal four hours. At least I think that’s what he meant…”
Frustrated, I glare at the sopping cat, “What? You mean, this thing with the, the, the other things was planned?!”
“No, no, no, no, no! At least, I don’t think it was. Oaks – I mean O, back in that little town…” Thirianna looks about to say something, but a look from Syral prohibits her. “…he held up four fingers. I thought he meant to met him here in four hours, or with four people. Or on the fourth…I don’t know…”
Thirianna, wishing to comfort the now deflated Shifter suggests, “Maybe he meant four o’clock?” Syral’s eyes brighten at this obviusly new prospect. “Now then, let’s get you back to the penthouse and get you some, umm, proper attention that is more becoming of the new face of Shifterhood!” With that, the two hurry off leaving Bamroot and myself alone on the docks.
I turn playfully to Bamroot, “Enjoy the swim?” Nothing. “Man, you should learn to smile. I’d hate to see your kids like that.”
With the same stoic demeanor I’m now convinced runs in all Genasi, Bamroot addresses me, “Anywhere you’d like to go before I take my leave?”
“Yeah, I’d like to go see Winsim’l. Thirianna said to try the City Hall building. You know it?” Bamroot nods and we depart.
Knowing full well the warnings O gave, I decide to see if Bamroot knows anything about anyone. With no easy way to breach the subject, I simply lay it out there. “Hey, Bamroot, how did you get here? And, no, I don’t mean you drove. I mean, how did you get to the Myinns?”
He turns to face me. “How did you?”
Cringing at the question, I tell him about the past, or rather, the future. How we got here, who we met. I make no mention of the devils or Emthri or O, but I do tell him that I believe we aren’t the only ones who have been thrust back in time. “I believe, Bamroot, that you, too, have been sent back, though I don’t quite know why. I don’t even know why we were really.” I let out a long exhale, happy to have gone through with what I was advised against. “Does the name Tex mean anything to you?” Bamroot shakes his head. “No, huh? How about Merat or Abrams? Theaf? Entwinette? Oaks?” I flinch at the last name, forgetting my promise. Bamroot shakes his head as I mention each name. Resigned to my decision, I ask about one last person. “Do you know a Stormlit?”
“Why do you ask me all these names? Who are these people?”
“Most, I know little to nothing about. However, Stormlit –”, my gulp is audible, “– I believe she is your daughter.” I search his face for a reaction, a sliver of emotion. Still, nothing.
We arrive at the City Hall, a simple two-story building. The streets surrounding are decorated for the introduction of Syral, the new face of Shifterhood. I chuckle at the idea of her being courted around as royalty. It doesn’t suit her.
“So, you are the rat.” It is softly whispered and resonates inside my head.
I spin around, but no one is near me. Bamroot is off to the side speaking to a few people, and no passerby is close enough to whisper in my ear. Confused, I focus hard on the voice, making sure to remember the sound. Winsim’l didn’t know who we were after all. Well, she knows me now. I recall O’s warnings and Tex’s apparent wishes. I may have just gotten in over my head. Well, with Bamroot as a witness, she wouldn’t try anything, would she?
Bamroot comes back and we are escorted upstairs. It is surprising that we were granted an audience so easily and on such short notice. Before us lie two massive double doors. Before we head inside, Bamroot turns to me and asks a pointed question, “What are you to my daughter?”
This catches me off guard. Does he believe me? Does he know? Not wishing to lie, I dejectedly respond, “To her – I am probably nothing.” But to me, though, she is much, much more. She is an island in my sea; an oasis in my desert. I feel she can save me.
Bamroot opens them and we proceed inside. The room is simple, but finely decorated. A large glass window looks out over the city, sunlight streaming in. Before me is a finely carved wooden desk. Behind that, stacks of books and papers. Sitting at the desk is an elegant female Eladrin.
“Winsim’l, I presume?” No response. Damn, I need to hear her voice! “Thank you for seeing us on such short notice. I know you are busy, getting ready for the celebration of the new face of Shifterhood. So, how are you on this fine afternoon?” Still nothing. Bamroot nudges me, apparently wanting me to get to the point. I concede. “Are you aware of a man named Tex? Or maybe Merat?” The silence in the room is deafening. I think Winsim’l and Bamroot both attended the same school of difficult conversationalist. “Does the name Theaf mean anything to you? How about Emthri or Entwinette?” The silence reverberates off the walls. Bamroot nudges me again and starts to turn to the door. But I can’t leave, not yet. Not when I am so close to the answers! In a moment of desperation, I blurt out, “There is a plot to bring you down! Did you know that? An uprising among your own people! They are unhappy and dissatisfied! There, what do you have to say to that?!” I look from Bamroot to Winsim’l, trying to find anything to go on. She just sits there, behind her desk, watching me.
“You have to die now.”
My eyes flash to Bamroot, as he unsheathes a blade. Syral’s blade! How did he? When did he? If he can…Then, he killed Sidesilver!?
“You…!” I turn back to Winsim’l, “It’s time to get rid of the rats, huh?” I cannot fight both of them, not here, not alone. And I won’t kill her father! If I did, then she would never be. But, me, I can die. My death will mean nothing here. I will still be born. I will still meet her. I will still have a chance. I hope.
I dodge around Bamroot and make toward Winsim’l, hoping to gather some indication of her intentions. She continues to look at me, follow my moves, but never moving herself. Useless. I veer right and head for the window. Yes, there are banners below. I should be able to grab onto them from this height. Bamroot closes quickly, and I feel my insides squirm. He’s watching me closely, gauging my moves, like he’s inside my head. As he steps closer, the hair on my arm begins to rise. The air crackles around me and I can see little bolts of light jumping whimsically in front of my face. As Bamroot readies his blade, I flash mine in the light from the window, catching the sun and redirecting it in his eyes. He brings his blade down distractedly, and I twist out of the way. Luckily too, since the blade sliced clean through the wood compartment and the books within. Rising to my feet, I look out the window – now or never. With one look at Bamroot, the male Genasi, the father of Stormlit, I gear up for the crash through the window. Propelling myself toward the banners outside, I let the past know the future.
“I love your daughter!”
Bam! A disheartening thud resonates throughout the room and I realize I probably should have aimed for the glass and not directly into the sturdy wooden frame supporting it. So anticlimactic. I glance quickly at Bamroot – still nothing.
“Uh, let me try that again.” Recovering quickly before he can raise the dagger again, I aim for the window glass and propel myself successfully through this time. Grabbing a nearby banner, I swing to a nearby scaffold and grab on. Nimbly lowering myself to the ground, I shout back over my shoulder, “You’re a tough egg to crack!” and am promptly greeted by a spell in the square of my back. Pain courses through every fiber of my body, and I look back to see Bamroot heading toward the entrance.
Bruised, battered, and bloodied, I race back to our quarters to find Syral. I find her in the penthouse, being thrust into an array of clothes, and she immediately comes to my aid. Washing my wounds, I tell her about Bamroot, and that we should head, as quickly as we can, out of here. She seems anxious to leave as well. Checking the time, we have only a few minutes before the four o’clock meeting time. Lying to the workers, we head out to the docks, making sure not to attract any more attention that a crispy Half-Elf and the new face of Shifterhood can. I do, however, make sure to grab the wonderfully fancy set of undergarments that Syral was just about to try on. Just in case.
Arriving at the docks, we see O standing at the end of the pier. Buying two whistles this time, we head out to meet him, informing him of our decision to join him on his mission. He seems surprised at the arrival of both of us, but indicates that the portal is just past the edge of the dock. I look over my shoulder, half-expecting to see Bamroot running down the pier, wanting to finish what he started. I was a fool to think I was ready to die. I’ve already done that once, and it didn’t sit well with me that time. Why would this time be any different? Instead, I see a much worse sight than Bamroot – a raving mad Thirianna. I do a quick assessment of the situation, thank Adder for the portal, and toss Syral through. Then, before the Harpy’s screech can puncture my ears, I leap in after her.
I tense up, expecting an impact from the water. Instead of feeling a sensation of sinking though, I feel weightless. Opening my eyes, I see a swirl of colors surrounding me; dull blues, vibrant purples, and deep greens are entwined with husky reds and yellows. White streams in and out of my vision like wisps of smoke from a pipe. My vision is impeded in all directions, seeing nothing more than the colors, and I can only hope Syral is somewhere around. This sensation disturbs me, as my feel dangle helplessly, causing my stomach starts to lurch a bit.
With a resounding thud, I feel solid ground beneath my feet. I fall to my knees and take hold of the lush grass beneath my hands. The smell of earth calms me, and the lurching feeling in my gut recedes. Faint chirping from the nearby woods bounces off the trees, whose full limbs blot out the sun. Or maybe it’s night – I have no idea where we are. I get up and move around the stack of logs I find myself behind. Before me sits a lodge, no more than a hundred yards away, with faint candlelight illuminating the windows. Brushing myself off, I begin to move to the entrance when I hear a rustling in the nearby brush. My hand moves to crossbow as a soft voice squeaks out.
“Katryol? Katryol, is that you?”
“Syral?” Not fully surprised to find her cowering in a bush, I suppress a laugh. “What are you doin –”
The front door to the inn opens and a middle-aged Half-Elf steps into the cool air, lantern in hand. I usher Syral out of the bush to dispel any ill-notions he might have before he spots us. “Who’s there?” Turning in our direction, a welcoming smile sweeps across his face. “Are you here for the Questless Forest? Maybe you need some lodgings? You won’t find much else if you are.” We both nod politely as I make out two more thuds in the distance. I say a quick curse to myself before refocusing on the old man; I wasn’t expecting two more. “Please come in, come in.” I turn over my shoulder as both O and Thirianna emerge into the lantern’s light. “Friends of yours? Please, everyone, come inside. I don’t want to be known as a rude Innkeeper.” With that, we follow the Half-Elf inside.
Six tables with two benches apiece make up the modest furnishings in the inn. Against the back wall is a staircase I presume to lead upstairs to the sleeping quarters. A half–door opposite the stairs sits on battered hinges and I can see into the kitchen. Underneath the stairs sit two bookshelves, littered with more than just books – a wooden carving, a few bowls, and a slew of scroll cases accompany the tattered books. The innkeeper sets down his lantern before he returns to us. “Would you like something to eat or drink? We have nothing extravagant, but it’s fresh.” We shake our heads, probably still dealing with the aftereffects of the portal.
I look at the others, trying to assess how they’re taking this. Syral is calm – not too strange. She seems to be taking the events in stride now. Thirianna on the other hand is starting to lose it. Her eyes dart nervously from one end of the room to the other, then back to the door. She might snap and make a run for it. That would be interesting. But, more interesting is O. He drifts over to a far side of the room and starts examining spaces in the bookshelves. He must be looking for clues about his mission. Peculiar that he makes his actions so indiscrete. Peculiar too, is the look the innkeeper gives him. A long curious stare, but not about his actions, more like – looking into him. The stare does not last long however, and he brings his hands together in quick succession, letting a clap ring out.
“Tex! Please, come down here and help me. We have guests!” O looks up briefly before returning to his search, while Syral and I exchange inquisitive looks. Could this be the Tex? Are we about to see the mastermind behind it all? Lightly treading footsteps can be heard coming to the staircase from above. My heart skips a beat in anticipation. My fingers twitch as a thought to kill the fool here and now would save the lot of us a boatload of trouble. It might even get us back home! Small feet begin to descend and I will the little manipulator to hurry up. Soon, Tex’s face comes into view and I stand, befuddled, looking at a thirteen–year old girl. A girl? But Tex is a… I look at Syral and she does little better to hide her expression of confusion. I nudge her in the ribs and her face returns to normal. Then it occurs to me. Tex, the man responsible for all of this, is fighting for a Changeling home. I suspect that he even may be a Changeling himself. It would make sense. And how many female humans have I run across named Tex? None! It’s a boy’s name, but it sounds even more fitting for a dog! I shake the thoughts from my head and let rationality take over. I can’t attack here, not now, not with the possibility being so high that I could be mistaken. Besides, ‘Tex’ could be a name her Half-Elf father gave her. Too many possibilities.
“On second thought,” I mutter, “a drink would be welcomed.”
I sit at a table, resting my head in my hands. My temples throb trying to comprehend what I’ve witnessed. The little rat that spins the wheel in my head is obviously dead. Seeing my exhaustion, the innkeeper comes over and offers a friendly game of checkers. Tex returns with some ale and places it in front of me before wandering over to Syral. Thirianna is busy fussing over some papers, while O moves about the room, inspecting every nook and cranny.
After a while, O joins us, watching our game. The friendly demeanor of the innkeeper has relaxed me, along with the ale, and I start making conversation. His name is Adasunu, and he has been running this inn for over 10 years. Tex, apparently, isn’t his child, but an orphan he took in. The Questless Forest that surrounds the inn is home to a particularly picky group of folk who choose who to let in. According to Adasunu, he isn’t one of them; a main reason he put up here and took over the inn. We carry on, enjoying each other’s company, when I suddenly realize I’m two moves away from winning. With a quick move to lure out Adasunu’s piece, I have him trapped and relish in my victory. That’s when, out of nowhere, O starts applauding and grabs my arm in a congratulatory shake. Strange wouldn’t begin to describe the interaction.
I collect myself quickly and challenge Adasunu to another game. The pace is much quicker in the second match, and I figure that he was being kind in the first round. I don’t manage very well in the second match and quickly find myself out of options. There is a glint of smugness in Adasunu’s eyes, and it is rightly deserved. He led me into the trap and I fell for it. Upon his victory, O, again, acts unusual, clapping for the victor and grasps Adasunu’s arm in congratulations. Almost immediately, he pulls away, a look of pain in his eyes. Rubbing his forearm where Adder grabbed him, he excuses himself and heads back into the kitchen. I shoot O a ‘What the hell?’ look, but he quickly motions to the door. Frantically indicating that we should leave, I turn and grab Syral and Thirianna, telling them of O’s urgency to leave. Syral seems a little disappointed; Thirianna couldn’t be happier. I turn back to O who is at the bookshelves by the stairs. I see him rolling a piece of paper up and slip it in between two books. The page from my book!
As we begin to slip out of the inn, both Adasunu and little Tex return. Judging by the look on O’s face, we must be leaving, so I concoct an excuse about heading into the forest post haste. Thirianna, though, blabs the truth about entering a portal. Sehanine, either kill the morons or kill me. But please, don’t kill me with the morons.
We hastily depart, thanking the two for the brief comforts of their abode. Glancing up, I catch the name of the lodging – The Oak Inn. The rat in my head gives a slight cough as we make our way back to the portal. O seems pleased to have made it out of the inn, and motions to the portal, suggesting we should make haste. Apparently he is done here, though that thought strikes me as awkward. Wasn’t he supposed to come and do a mission for Tex? Wasn’t it supposed to be trying and difficult? Then the rat wheezes and I get one last turn of the wheel. Was this O’s mission? If so, wasn’t he supposed to find a woman named Lal? Wasn’t he supposed to deliver a message to Tex’s mom?
As Thirianna enters the portal, followed closely by Syral, I stumble forward, wracking my mind to make one final connection. As I step into the portal, helped along by an insistent O, it comes to me.
Tex’s mom could be a Changeling too.
My head breaches the surface of the water. Gasping, air rushes into my lungs, as I take in my surroundings. In front of me, water sloshes up against the wooden docks. Looking to the land, I recognize the intricately built spires and towers – Myinn City. I swim over to the ladder and hoist myself up to the pier. My leather armor is saturated and weighs me down. Remembering the serpents, I search for my whistle and start blowing. Not now, please, Sehanine, not now.
Thirianna and Syral are already on the pier, wringing out their garments. O clambers up behind me, and with a wave of his hand, a gust swooshes past us, drying our clothes. Ok, maybe Mages are useful.
I search the docks to see if anyone had spotted us. Surely four folk getting out of the ocean would be a cause for concern. Luckily, no one is around. Taking a few moments to collect our thoughts, we start discussing our options. Thirianna seems worried that a major catastrophe in about to hit Myinn City. She’s nuts. Syral is unsure, deferring to my decision on the next action. I’m not really sure what to do. If I seek out Winsim’l again, Bamroot is likely there waiting for me. But she’s obviously key. I could summon Emthri again and try to get some more information out of him, but I don’t have any more questions for the deceased Half-Elf. Contemplating our next move, I remember the last notion I had before being ‘helped’ through the portal – O’s mission! I start to address the young Mage, but he’s already heading toward the dock house. I catch up to him just as he’s about to hand over a whistle back to the dock master. As I watch, Syral bursts in, demanding his whistle. Apparently, she gave her whistle to O. I smile at the thought that she almost lost fifty gold. Good thing she paid me for it.
“Ad…I mean, O, did you do what you were supposed to?” The boy turns, a look of humor in his eyes as he begins gesturing. I slap my head in understanding; Ello is no longer around to help. Great, this is a dead end now, too. Frustrated, a sturdy cough gets me to look up; the dock master coughs again. “Yeah? What do ya want?”
“Well, if ya need some, um, help,” he shakes his head in O’s direction, “I can, uh, help ya.” The simultaneous sound of my jaw hitting the floor and my eyebrows raising off my head must have betrayed my usual poker face. “Jes’ a little coin…” He coughs again and holds out a massively callused and leathered hand. “A hundred gold is all.” With the instantaneous explosion of my eyes, the rupture of my heart, and wheezing of my lungs, I performed my own magic trick.
A barely audible, pathetically forced, “What?” escaped my lips.
As O continues to gesture, the dock master smiles, “Well, well. With that I think I’ll have ta up da price. Two-hundred gold, an’ it might continue ta climb if ya act slow…”
I look over to Syral who shakes her head. “We don’t ha–.” At that moment O plops down two-hundred gold in front of the dock master. It seems what he has to say is important enough to take the burden upon himself. “Th– thanks…”
O, now with an interpreter, seems relieved and begins gesturing at a feverish pace. As always with new information, more questions are raised than answered. We had just seen Tex and his mother, and they are both Changelings. O just finished his mission, leaving a note from future Tex to his mother. Also, the threat Thirianna worried about is legitimate, the instigator being the Razorclaw, Stride. Apparently he didn’t die in the mutiny. I have my own questions about that, sensing what I do regarding O.
O then brings up Emthri, saying he is part of the key to ending the political maneuvering being manipulated by Winsim’l. He asks me to bring out the Half–Elf and I do.
“Greetings. I am Emthri Adasunu, of the LFD.” Suddenly the whole world ceases to exist. No sound enters my ears to disturb this thought. I don’t hear anything else the apparition says. Adasunu – the name of the innkeeper. Adasunu – the surname of Emthri. A new rat jumps into the wheel.
I snap back into the conversation. Kama D seems to hang on every word that transgresses before us. I see him hand over ten gold pieces to O. What happened while I zoned out? Role–reversal!
Continuing with the conversation, we learn that the shards that allow us to conjure up Emthri are actually part of his forearm. He evidently suffered a gruesome, unsavory death. I mull over our option involving Myinn City. We are facing an impending catastrophe that could destroy the city. We could disrupt Winsim’l’s plot, thus sending Myinn City and it’s Eladrins out of the Myinns. We also could let her succeed. Another strange fact that O mentions is that Emthri’s body, in its crystalline form, is actually powering the transference of Myinn City into this time. But, seeing as how we possess his forearm, he must not be complete. It seems, as part of Tex’s failsafe to disrupt Winsim’l’s design, he grafted a new forearm out of the devil, Isalie, who resides within the Half–Elf. This corruption is responsible for the appearance of the devils we came across around Westshore. It falls to reason that if we return Emthri to his complete self, the devils will disappear; save the Half–Elf, save the city. Asking where his body resides, Emthri informs us that it is in the Southern Muegges; which is the Myinns. And we happen to find ourselves in the North. How would we get there in time?
The issue is now finding everyone and everything. And there is still the matter of Entwinette…
August 22, 2011 13:57
A sense of peacefulness envelopes my senses. All around me is an endless white horizon. I know not where I am, or what I may be projecting here. But I do know that this is peace. The worries that troubled me, the threats of the world, are gone. Confusion, doubt, anger, hate, jealousy – they are all gone; vanished as the stars at daybreak. My mind is tranquil, my body is at ease, and my soul relaxed. I look around for a familiar sight, and though I do not find one, I am confident that this is where I am supposed to be.
Time passes, and nothing seems to change. I am content though, borderline blissful. I can feel the creases in my face ease, and youth returns to my muscles. Off in the distance, I finally see someone. They approach, slowly coming into view. The woman, Eladrin, has long flowing black hair that falls gracefully behind her as she makes her way to me. Her face seems familiar, but I cannot place it. She smiles at me, and, as she brushes by me, she wraps a single finger into the palm of my hand. The touch is enticing. She playfully pulls my hand with her, as if beckoning me to follow, before releasing me. Our eyes meet briefly before she turns and continues on past me.
A smile forms on my face, happiness courses through my body. The sensation of being touched, however briefly, fills my heart with warmth. The need for being wanted is intoxicating. The attention is a drug. No more than a moment passes than another woman, not unlike the last, passes by. This time, her hand reaches up and softly grazes my cheek. The feel of her hand on my face sets my heart racing. Her eyes are captivating and hold me still. Her smile comforts me and burns itself deep into the recesses of my mind. She, too, passes by, turning away, leaving me fulfilled.
Soon another woman approaches, and then another. Both are Eladrin and their almond-shaped eyes greet me with a kindness I have never known before. As they pass, their hands move across my chest. One grabs my arm, gently stroking her fingers up my muscles, cupping her hand underneath my shoulder, and holding tight. She takes comfort in the security I am able to provide, and I am beaming with a sense of pride. The other woman advances from the opposite side and runs her fingers gingerly through my hair. Clasping the back of my neck, she moves in closer. Her warm breath sends a tingling sensation across my neck and I involuntarily convulse. She laughs slightly as she leans closer and kisses me, her moist lips softly touching the nape of my neck. I stretch to allow her greater access, but she and her companion pull away and move on pass.
Eladrin woman appear, one after another, each getting more adventurous than the last, seamlessly picking up where the previous left. My blood boils and my excitement rises at this unexplainable interest, though my body is relishing each moment. I submit and forgo my thoughts, letting my instincts take over. I fully embrace and allow myself to enjoy the comfort of their sensual affection. I close my eyes and sink deeper into the darkness I give myself, embracing the mystery of the unknown.
An unusually long break in the consistency causes me to open my eyes. The Eladrin women are gone now, though I can feel their touch lingering over my body. My body trembles at this memory, each fiber of my being unwilling to forget the sensation. As my eyes flutter, trying to retain the vivid imagery my mind has concocted, a single, solitary silhouette appears and moves toward me. Her hair trails behind, billowing in a wind I cannot feel. Her hips sway side to side, as her hand reaches up and shifts her hair over her shoulder. As she nears, the features on her face become clearer. Her dark, maple eyes glimmer with satisfaction, and her crimson lips curl into a smile that would bring the most stalwart of men to their knees. But, before I my knees give way to her beauty, Elavee puts both her hands to my chest. My heartbeat syncs with hers, feeling her pulse course through her fingertips, steadying my rhythm. I look down at her, about to whisper, but before I can utter a sound, a finger finds my lips. She traces the contour of my face, but does not bring hers to mine. Instead, her arms move down my sides as she lowers herself. I can feel her measuring my body, familiarizing herself with every undulation in my muscles. Slowly, stealthily, she finds what she is seeking, and with a gentle stroke, envelopes me with her mouth. My knees shake at the sensation, as I become acutely aware that everything I had ever experience dwarfs in comparison. Euphoria overtakes my body and, my eyes can see into the heavens. I am taken to the pinnacle of mortal sensuality, bordering on divinity.
As I stand there, in a state of pure nirvana, another figure approaches. However, this is not like the others. This woman rides upon a white steed, brilliant in its purity. Her golden eyes reflect an eagerness as she gazes at me. Drawing the steed up, she perches on its withers, her exposed leg playfully dancing along the haunch of the mare. Her fur is smooth and her skin is golden and soft where it is exposed. She smiles at me, raising an eyebrow, as if awaiting her turn. She moves a little closer, perhaps unwilling to wait, and leans in.
And that’s when I see her.
Behind Syral, she waits, fiddling with the Shifter’s hair. Her hands weave the auburn-toned mane, gracefully, delicately. In and out, over and under, through and around, she entwines into the fine strands a mesmerizing braid. I look up to her eyes, ashamed, her grey pupils betraying no emotion. In that moment I become terrifyingly aware of where I am, of what I am doing. I usher Elavee away and she vanishes the second I release myself from her grasp. The paradise I am in begins to crumble away as my heart rips in twain. I grab at my chest, though my movements are feeble. The white steed throws its head in protest, fading into a soot grey which quickly transcends into midnight black, before finally becoming coal. Syral merges with the mare, drawing no more distinction between the two with her golden eyes or skin. Her hair sets down on her skin, shifting into obsidian crystal. Those enticingly earthy colors no longer reflect light, even if light could pierce this emptiness. Darkness overtakes my sight, impairing my vision, with only a glint of grey sparkling shards set elegantly on a purple-hued canvas in front of me remaining; reminding me of who stands before me in the unwelcoming shadows – my shadows. Her crystalline hair produces its own light from somewhere within its origin. A feeling of devastation overwhelms me, and I wish to cry out, to seek mercy, to request forgiveness, to find refuge from this horror before me. I peer helplessly ahead, unsure how quickly things went awry. I desire her touch, long to hear her voice, yearn for her softly sung melody. The subtle looks of comfort in finding someone who knows what it is like to be alone, unwanted, used; never truly loved.
Don’t leave me! Don’t leave me here! Please…don’t go! I fall, a sense of helplessness washing over me. Sobbing, tears stream relentlessly down my face as uncontrollable convulsions shake my body. Tremors rip the muscles from my bones, but I feel none of that pain. The overwhelming sensation that I cannot suppress radiates from my chest and I claw at it pathetically.
August 21, 2011 04:55
Given the new turn of events, and now having the pouch in my possession, I hand Thellago’s ritual over to O. She looks it over and nods, asking for the pouch. She then indicates that I should twirl the substance, much like I did in Thellago’s room, to finish the ritual. I do, and soon, before us, stands the same person from before, Emthri.
Emthri Adasunu knows of our journey, of our reason for being here, and has connections to both Syral and Merat, who is also Tex – confusing fellow. Stormlit is a pawn in this game, and we are now caught up in it. Evidently, Tex wishes for Syral to get a new lease on life, to change her choices, and seek greater happiness than she has now. He confirms that we are indeed in the past – 25 years to be exact – and informs Syral of her future. Miria, Luc, Lencia, her connections to the LFD and the Blades, Tex, and others. It also seems that Tex wishes to establish a home for Changelings, and, from what I can gather, he is one. He wishes this home to be the Myinns, or what will become the Meugges. Lastly, there is a large political struggle happening between Tex and Winsim’l, the leader in Myinn City. It is Emthri’s idea that we are merely rats in Winsim’l’s plans – sent by Tex to disrupt the order of things.
This idea of being used worries me. It’s one of the main reasons I never joined the Guild. Being manipulated, having my free will stripped from me, does not suit me. Let me live and die by my own hand, do not guide me to my fate! Thinking back to the day I met Abrams, or Tex, it strikes me. Emthri, the being before me now, is the one that handed me the letter from Stormlit in Lencia! But, that same day, I was given this pouch from a Deva which contains these shards, which are, by all accounts, part of his body. The one who delievered the letter – fleshy and whole. What is going on?
Resigned to my confusion, I focus on the present. Emthri has given us a lot of information, and many more questions. What will happen when we finally reach Myinn City? What will Syral choose to do? How will we find Stormlit? How can we get home, to our time? What exactly does he expect us to do against Winsim’l? And who handed me the letter and this pouch in Lencia?
I dismiss the image of the Half-Elf and mull over my options. Needing clues, and knowing little of what to do, I take out my copy of ‘Tame in His Name’ and start skimming the pages for clues. Abrams must have given me this book for some reason! Glancing through the pages, I notice writing on the sides of the pages, though I can not make sense of it. I ask Syral if she can read, which he hesitantly says she can. I’d call her on her bluff, but I’m out of options, so I toss her the book, exasperated to my wit’s end.
“There is something to this blasted book! I swear I heard whispering coming from it, but I don’t know how to make it work…”
A snide reply escapes Syral’s lips, “Open it?”
“Ahh….Words!” I shoot Syral an exaggerated roll of the eyes. Two can play the sarcasm game. Still not understanding the book, I toss it to Syral who looks even more lost looking at the strange writing than I was. It’s the little victories in life.
The old man joins us after escorting O to the back room. “O is a little frightened. If you would give the little Shifter space, O is trying to put together thoughts.” He is carrying O’s large coat.
I tell Syral to go comfort the woman, which earns me a puzzling look from the old man. Apparently she is frightened by one of us, and I assume it’s me, seeing as how I am not a Shifter. The old man agrees. Thank Sehanine for logic prevailing.
Picking up the book, I ask the old man to give it a look, opening to a page with some of the scribbles on the sides.
The old man shakes me off with a wave of his hand. “No thanks, I don’t believe that malarkey.”
Pointing to some of the scribbled text, I implore the man to look again, asking, “Can you read this?”
“No, you should ask a magic-user, I think.” He pauses with a deep look of concentration on his face. “Maybe O or Bamroot?”
Flustered, I toss the book to Syral. “Good luck!”
Haphazardly, the old man thinks out loud, “That’s right. O has some reservations around Fey.” He smiles warmly at Syral before turning to me. The smile subsides as he realizes I am Fey, and he drifts off in thought. I roll my eyes, thanking my mother for making me have such a wonderful impression on people who know nothing of me.
Seemingly lost in his own little world, he follows that wonderful tidbit with, “I think we should reach the last Shifter camp before Myinn City soon.” Terrific. I wonder if it’s like the others.
Syral, cautious given our last two encounters with the Shifter camps, asks what we can expect – if we will encounter similar folk.
“Yes, I am afraid so. They are workers for jobs in the city, but they don’t stay inside. Too foreign for us.” The man stops, as if a weight bears down on him. “There are rumors that other people will start doing the Shifter jobs. Don’t know who. Maybe the Changeling things that glowing fey talked about in your magic crystals?”
So there is a civil war about to take place. Political backstabbing after all! I follow up on the man’s theories. “So, the Shifter folk know they are rumored to be replaced?”
O comes out to talk to the old man just as Syral approached the door to the back room. She looks different with her cloak removed. Thinner through the hips than I expected, but she is young and maybe will peak late. Immediately, the gestures begin with the old man translating for the young lady.
“I am not from here, and I am getting a little nervous about all this. But, briefly, four of us came here at the same time you did. Me, Theaf, Bamroot and Entwinette.”
“Theaf? I recognize that name from the book!” My eyes widen with excitement and I start pointing to the book in Syral’s hands. “She was talking to Merat and Abrams!”
O nods, and with a heavy sigh, begins gesturing to the old man again. “When we got here, I was the only one to retain my memories.” O looks at the book, almost through it, with a sense of discontentment. “Theaf was an LFD, but didn’t like the games Tex and Winsim’l were playing with everyone.”
“Yes, she didn’t seem happy with Merat. He’s Tex, right?” O nods to my question and continues gesturing.
“Entwinette and Theaf fought as soon as their memories were lost. Entwinette killed Theaf. Bamroot disappeared in the river, and I headed to the spot where you were supposed to appear. But, I missed you.”
At this surprising bit of information, Syral asks the question on my mind. “Wait, you knew we were going to come here?”
O nods and the old man continues, “I was told about others coming here. When the others went crazy, I wanted to find an ally.”
“So, you’re part of whoever brought us here?”
O shakes her head and the old man comforts her. “It’s complicated.”
“If you know how we got here, then send me back!” Oh, Syral, you are ever so diplomatic. I’m here too, you know.
“Like Emthri said, you are rats in Winsim’l’s plans. Whatever sent us here took away age and power. I never had power like that.”
Our options are limited, and our next course of action seems obvious to me now. “So, we need this Winsim’l?”
O casts me a long glance, but I am unable to read the expression on her face before she turns away. “You are free to muddle however you wish. Tex, I think, wanted Syral to be free. He is either mad or a genius. I doubt he had a logical outcome to his maneuvers.”
“So this is all about her, huh?” I shake my thumb at Syral.
“No, it is about Winsim’l, the Changelings, me, Syral, and, perhaps, Raven’s Tooth, though I’m not sure what that is.”
“Raven’s Tooth? Who’s tha– ?“ It dawns on me a second later. Sa Kage in Lencia utter those words and set Syral into a maddening frenzy. A soft, barely audible, “Nooooo……”, escapes my lips as I shake my head and groan in dismay. “What does that sword have to do with this?”
The old man voice rattles me back. “Oh, so it’s a sword? You have it? Can I see it?”
“No, I don’t. But, Sa Kage said he knew about it before we came here. Syral-”, I look quickly in her direction, “-went raving mad when she heard someone took it.”
“Hmmm….The Raven Queen. She doesn’t like Tex very much.”
Syral, curious about why she’s suddenly relevant, asks, “Why would I care about a sword?”
“I don’t know. Apparently, it’s important and Sa Kage said it was in the Meugges…or Myinns…or wherever the hell we are. It has something to do with Miria. I really don’t know more than that. Ask yourself in twenty years.”
O seems intent on correcting, or rather setting straight, our current situation. “Twenty-five. And the Meugges are no more. The history was wiped out. Once, Sir Percival Meugge came here to educate the Shifters, but history changed. No Ioun or Melora.”
Syral, in her frustrated, everything doesn’t make any sense, manners, lets her doubt show. “Yeah. I still don’t believe that. How can we be from the future?”
Suddenly, the look on O’s face turns rather serious as she faces Syral. “You can go into Myinn City to disrupt Winsim’l and maybe go to the future, or I can give you another option, Syral. In the next town, I am getting off. I only needed Sandtooth to get this close. You can assume the next image of Shifterhood because they expect a female Shifter, or, come with…us.”
“I don’t care about the next image of Shifterhood! I want to go back to my family!”
“Did you understand what I am offering? Follow Katryol into Myinn City, or return to your Shifter family.”
“You know where they are?!”
“No, but I am leaving the islands, so I can get you closer.”
With an exasperated sigh, I chime in, hoping to not be made an afterthought. “Wait, then what happens to me?”
O turns, the serious look making her face seem rigid and stern. “They are Fey. Maybe they will accept you. Or, you fight them.” A slight pause, as O chooses her next words carefully for the old man. “Look, it is dangerous here. We don’t know who killed Lord Sidesilver,” – O glances at both Syral and I – “and Entwinette is probably already in the city. But it may be the easiest way for you to get back to our time. Bamroot is going into town either way.”
“That is an intriguing option.”
Syral, now with concern and hope mixed in her voice, “So, if I go with you, I’ll find my family?”
O turns back to her. “Your family of this time is out there somewhere. They wouldn’t have been affected by the Myinn-Meugge change.”
“Of this time? My family is my family!”
“You have a family in the future also.” There is a slight pause. “Well, your mate is dead.” At this, the old man hits O on the head, apparently disagreeing with the bluntness of the statement. It’s true though. In the future, Miria, Syral’s mate, is dead. In a sense.
“I still can’t believe I would take a human as a mate.”
With a slight, muffled reminder, I follow up, “And a kid…”
“That, too.” Sryal looks at me, confusion in her eyes, searching for something that I can’t give her – reassurance. “And he’s your friend?”
“That he is. And, I should inform you, you are highly respected for your fighting prowess.” This compliment causes Syral to blush uncharacteristically.
With a wild gesture and nearing the verge of a mental breakdown, Syral lets loose with her frustration. “But, I don’t know any of this! I know my family here!”
At this, O suggests staying on course and thinking about everything we’ve been told. A lot of information has fallen into our laps, and to try to quickly digest it would make our heads explode. I’m not sure Syral’s hasn’t. She wants us to follow through with the rouse with me masquerading as Lord Sidesilver, if for no other reason than establishing a base from which to work in the city. Getting inside seems to be the priority, though passing me off as an Eladrin Lord might be a bit of a stretch. Syral, of course, seems reluctant to comply given Sandtooth’s choice of career. And at the mention of the late Lord, Syral goes back into questioning mode, drawing a tired sigh from the old man; the poor guy. O tells us to sleep on our decision and that she’ll meet us tomorrow at the docks, awaiting our decision. I chuckle at the irony of this proposition. It was only a few months ago that I made a similar offer to Luc and the Dreaded Dawn in Coral Beach. Oh Sehanine – you cruel, cruel mistress. O continues, warning us about Entwinette and cautioning us in regards to Bamroot.
As the old man takes a break, looking for some water for his parched throat, bi-polar Syral, strikes once more, asking O why she wears such a heavy cloak. O, noticing that the old man cannot speak for her, grabs the top of her robes at the base of the neck, and pulls her robes down, open to the navel.
“Nice!” I muffle a laugh. O certainly is full of surprises.
A pathetic “…Oh.” escapes from Syral; she seems taken back by the current situation. “Wait, why would Sandtooth have chosen you?” O points to Syral and shakes her head. “”Yeah, but he needed a female, didn’t he?”
“Hell, fooled us.”
O, the young boy, shakes the old man awake, urging him to continue translating. “I don’t know if he knew I was a boy, or if he was going to magic me. He just asked me to pretend to be a girl and told me I could go to Myinn City.” Syral seems about to correct his intentions, but O reads her thoughts and continues. “I need to get to the docks in the city. I don’t need to go to the city.”
With this unusual twist, I start questioning the true intentions of O. Why the charade for so long? And with all the talk about Changelings, could he actually be one? Maybe he fooled Sandtooth to get here? Maybe we’re being fooled now? And then there are the archers that seemed to know him back at Stride’s hideout. Something about this young mage doesn’t sit well with me. I express my hesitancy with Syral.
“I think we’re being played.”
“Like we are pawns still.” At hearing this, O shakes his head adamantly. “We are getting mixed messages here, Syral. ‘Be free.’ ‘Live a new life.’ ‘Bring down the corrupt government.’ ‘Save the Myinns.’ None of this makes sense! Why bring us here, supposedly to do something that you could have sent others, who know more, to do? And if they knew about the memory loss, why send you? Why not your son, Luc, or even Stormlit? Doesn’t make sense.”
“So, what can we do then? Why bring strangers to save some place we don’t even know?” Syral turns to O, who now looks terrified that we’ve begun questioning his motives. “Why can’t you? You got us through those crazed Shifters! Couldn’t you fix what’s going on?”
O, a look of relinquishment and frustration spinning chaotically across his face, signs to the old man. “I can’t! I can only do my job!” Burdens set deep into his eyes. “Tex always said, ‘Don’t trust Rogues. I have done nothing wrong to you.”
If Syral was calm, poor O lit the fire again. “Don’t trust Rogues?! Don’t trust Tex! He’s the one behind all this! And yes, you can do more than your job! You changed my wrist!” At this, Syral thrusts her right wrist in front for all of us to see. Just below the joint, two fingers in width and encircling around her forearm, is a chalk-white marking. I hadn’t noticed it before, which is no surprise. There are other things to look at that are much more appealing. Though, at the moment, not as intriguing.
“Because they would have killed you if I didn’t!” The old man, sensing obvious hostility from Syral, moves closer to O, but the young boy calms him.
“Why?! Why would they have killed me? What did I do to them? Nothing! And how, did you do this anyway?!” The fur on Syral is standing on end. Her anger is continuing to rise.
With a sigh that exudes defeat and relief, he calmly answers Syral. “I am a spell caster. It was a simple prestidigitation on your hair.” O seems grateful for finally giving in to Syral.
At the mention of ‘spell caster’, I remember Thellego and the ritual. Reaching into my bag and pulling out the pouch, I do my best attempt at magic. With as grand gestures that I can command, I pour some of the crystalline powder over the ritual parchment, drawing a scoff from O. “I summon the great, Emthri!” Heh, magic can be fun. O makes the gesture, that I should swirl the powder with my fingers. With a quick, “Oh, yeah!”, I continue on with the ritual. Soon, an image of Emthri Adasunu is standing before me. Pointing quickly to O, I ask Emthri, “Do you this boy?”
Emthri, in as stoic a manner as one can have, responds, “That is Ahdi, but his codename for this mission is Oaks.”
“So, you know him? And his mission!? What is his mission?” O, or Ahdi, or Oaks, whatever, just raised every red flag I have inside my head. Syral mutters something about ‘being untrustworthy’ under her breath, drawing a smile from me. This should be interesting.
Ahdi looks completely flabbergasted now; his face is ashen and pale at this sudden turn of events. With a heavy exhale that belies his small frame, he begins his story. “I fear a man who still lives in this time. I wanted a new name, so I changed it.” His eyes begin to look into the past as he pulls upon memories from which to speak. “Tex called me Oaks so it would help me in my mission and let me relax about the Fey I fear.” His eyes fall down to the floor as his shoulders slump. “I think I’m going to be sick…” Syral and I exchange glances. Who could he be so afraid of? Ahdi continues, “He isn’t here, the man I fear. But, I am leaving the island and what if I see him?” His eyes shift and his hands fidget, causing the old man to calm down the poor boy. After a bit of consoling, Ahdi carries on with his story. “I am a spell caster, not of Corellon, but of Ioun. And although I’m not the best follower, I try not to live in lies. Believe me. I answer everything now at my own risk. If Katryol spreads my true name in the city, it might get back to him.” His eyes are pleading with me, searching for a hint of what I might do. And which true name doesn’t he want spread? Oaks? O? Ahdi? So many choices!
“Meh, your name is of little use to me. You shall be O as far as I am concerned.” I turn back to Emthri. “And his mission?”
Emthri, not seeming to care about Ahdi well-being, proceeds. “He is to send a message to Lal, Tex’s mother.” Wonderful – more people.
Syral wishes to know more about this nameless threat to Ahdi, though he seems to dismiss it for the time being. He is more concerned with the potential jeopardy of his mission, now obstinately refusing to take Syral to the mainland in search of her family. Instead, he reiterates that Myinn City is the wisest course of action for us. Syral, in a dramatic turn of events, protests while simultaneously feigning confusion. Damn, she’s good.
“Wait, what? I have no reason to give you away to anyone! I want to see my family. You promised!”
“I offered, I never promised. And if you two attack me, promise you will spare the old man.” The old man seems surprised by this sudden direction in conversation and turns to speak directly to Ahdi. “Oh, me? My life? Thanks, Oaks!” This elicits a drawn out groan from the young boy as he shakes his head and the simplicity of the old man. Ahdi begins to sign again, and the old man returns to his duties. “I don’t use leverage on people.”
Syral loses it. “Leverage?! What leverage? I just wanted to know someone’s name!”
Ahdi, dismissing what she says, continues to rapidly sign to the old man. “No, I am not dangling the offer over your head. I want nothing from you two. Just leave me alone. Emthri is all the help you need. Bamroot shouldn’t be told about his daughter until he has his memory back. Entwinette was a big piece to the time slip, but I don’t know how. I am going to the back room until the end of the ride.” An aura of loneliness seems to overtake Ahdi, as he turns and walks to the back room.
Syral starts after him, yelling, “You are too dangling it over my head! You said you could take me to my tribe and now you refuse!”
I sit, watching the bemusing scene as Syral destroys another young soul. Once she sinks her claws in you, watch out! I turn back to Emthri. “Who is Entwinette?”
Emthri, with unwavering emotion even given what he has witnessed, answers, “Entwinette is one of two Master of Moments, sent by Winsim’l, to work with the LFD and Tex. Her teeth are replaced with elemental receptacles of the Myinn.”
I point my thumb toward the old man. “And this guy? You know him?”
Emthri shrugs before saying, “That is one of your kin.”
To this, the old man, or, more specifically, Half-Elf, extends a hand. “ ’ello, I’m Ello!”
A small pfft can be heard at this, though whether it is me holding back laughter, me dismissing Emthri, or my brain giving out, I cannot tell.
August 16, 2011 13:49
The sun creeps through the curtains, reflecting off the wash basin and shining into my eyes, waking me from my sleep. The stir next to me reminds me of my evening – a stunning Eladrin woman, with dark, wavy hair and large deep, brown eyes. She was flirtatious, but not overly exceedingly so, and her smile was intoxicating. As she nudges closer to me, I move her hair off of her face, a grin seeping across my face. I have no idea what her name is. Chuckling to myself, one image flutters into my mind, shoving the Eladrin’s face to the wayside. Heaving a sigh, I toss my legs over the side of the bed and shake myself awake. Finding my clothes, I dress, kiss the lady on the forehead, and head out of the room.
It’s been three weeks since the incident at the Arcane Downs. I’ve been enjoying my run as Crumbstealer in Crooked Claw, and have my fair share of fans. The season is ending though, and I’m starting to get anxious about getting to Myinn City. The Clawfoots are about ready for the journey and I would look into acquiring a ride, but I still have yet to hear from Thellago. The mage has been avoiding me lately, and my patience is getting thin. He has had the powder for quite some time, and yet, claims to need more to ascertain its properties. Hopefully today will be different.
Walking through Westshore, I am reminded of my distaste for this place. Yes, the people are good and kind, and the women are plentiful, but knowing the political deception that goes on, I feel filthy walking around. I hurry to Thellago’s and seek entrance. I maintain my pleasantries for the time being, and work my way up to his office on the sixth floor. The mage seems nervous, as he should, and informs me that he has “misplaced” the pouch. My eyes flare and my hand twitches to the dagger in my belt before Thellago speaks up.
“There is something I have discovered. Perhaps, it will have something you can use.” He looks hopeful, and gestures to a bowl on his table. “Please, take a look.”
I hesitate, being wary of magic, especially the unknown kind. Carefully, I touch the liquid inside and swirl it around. Suddenly an image of a Half-Elf arises in front of me. He looks vaguely familiar. I watch and it seems he is answering questions. A lot of shrugging happens, and then he mentions Syral’s name. I shoot a look at Thellago and he nods in return. This Half-Elf has ventured with Syral, and that’s when it strikes me – the courier from Stormlit! The image vanishes and I turn to the mage. “Who was that!? What was going on?”
“He said his name was Emthri. I tried to ask him what he knew about you and your friends. It seems he knows of Syral, but not of you or the Minotaur. Aside from that, I could not gather much more.”
“Then what good does this do me?” Anger begins to rise in my voice, and I see Thellago’s brow furrow. “Where is my pouch?!”
“I – I – I can, uh, give you the capabilities to cast this ritual again. That way, if the pouch is found, you will not need me to cast the spell.” There is a slight cringe in his body. “Would that suffice for now?”
“How long will that take to prepare?” I cross my arms to show my displeasure.
“A day…” I stand and start towards the mage; he hurries himself. “…would be too much. No more than an hour, Master Katryol.”
“I can wait.”
Leaving Thellago’s, with the ritual in hand, I swing by Elavee’s. I have not seen Groo in quite some time, though I know he had been around the helpful Eladrin. Hoping to catch him, I am informed by Ramhorn that neither he nor the lady are around. I leave a message with the Longtooth to tell Groo, should he see him, that we are planning to leave for Myinn City in the near future and if he wishes to join, to meet us in Crooked Claw. With that errand done, I drop by Sa Kage’s office to see if he can help with the transportation to Myinn City. He informs me that he has no leverage in Crooked Claws dealings, but he did tell me who to seek passage with – Lord Sidesilver, Sandtooth, or the Eladrin rancher, Hauslo. Great. As I head back to Crooked Claw, Sa’s parting words are to ask if I see Syral to send her to his office. Apparently, she hasn’t addressed that little fire issue…
Back in Crooked Claw, I am greeted by the younger fans and I play around with them. While acting out a fight scene with them, a young Eladrin woman struts by when her handkerchief falls to the ground. As I parry an incoming blow from a young Razortooth, she bends over, slowly pulling back the crease in her dress, revealing a deliciously seductive thigh. I misstep and end up skewered on an imaginary sword, and move into my death scene. Excusing myself quickly, I follow the young lady between two buildings for an afternoon delight.
Emerging from my excursion, I see Syral bounding toward me. She seems genuinely happy to see me and pulls me quickly to the north of the village, near the Clawfoot pens. On the way, her little admirer, Current, approaches us and informs us that the Clawfoots are looking ready to ride. Syral and I share the same thought and hurry toward the pens – let’s hope they happen to have seats available. We arrive too late to garner a seat, but find out that they are looking for security detail – we sign up immediately, despite the obvious tensions we will encounter.
We are told to wait, and we see the drivers talking among themselves. Rabbit Ear is there, speaking with a lanky Eladrin man, who looks like he just rolled out of a mud bath. The third driver, a tall, well-built man, stands behind the two, forgoing engagement. His purple skin and crystalline hair reminds me of…No, it can’t be, can it?
I’m not able to dwell on the thought long before I am approached by another Shifter and hurried into the carriage of one of the Clawfoot. He seems rushed and informs me they have to leave ahead of schedule. One of the carriages has left already. As he ushers me away to one of the carriages, I glance over my shoulder trying to find Syral. She too, is being hurried along. Apparently, we were chosen. Inside the carriage I’m greeted by my old ‘friend’ the Eladrin rancher.
“You look…well.” I tried hard to hide my contempt, but my voice betrays me. We should have left him to sink in the river. Blasted fools!
Hauslo inches closer, a look of satisfaction crossing his gangly face. “Well, we wanted us that women o’er thar, but your pretty ‘lil hide will work jus’ fine!” His fellow ranchers creep closer to me, all chuckling. The carriage jolts, jostling the others. I side step away, making it look as if I’ve lost my balance, and notch a bolt as a precaution. This will be a long ride. Not long after we start, does the tension begin to rise again. The Eladrins continue to press me, seemingly intent on exacting some sort of revenge – and none of it seems particularly pleasant.
Just then, the Clawfoot lets out a screech and we quickly stop, all of us lurching forward against the front wall. Hauslo turns and begins banging on the wall, yelling at the driver when suddenly the door opens and wind and snow flurry in. We all turn to see the purple – skinned man standing before us. Hauslo, infuriated, rushes to him and exits outside. I pull my cloak over my head and stay within a quick step of the door. I can here arguing outside and it seems Hauslo is not too happy. Soon, the purple man steps inside and motions to me.
“Come with me.” His voice is direct and even-toned. Just like someone else I know…
“What’s happening? Why did we stop? And what do you want with me?”
“I am your driver now.” He pauses briefly. “You would rather stay with them?” He indicates the ranchers who seem quite taken aback by the recent events.
“Nope, I’m all yours!”
Over the next few hours I find out that Bamroot is more fright than friendly; and more silent than that. He is even-keeled and stoic – eerily similar to her. His markings are quite familiar and I learn that he, too, is from the City of Brass. With no wife or sister, and judging by the age shifts and closeness in resemblance, I surmise that this man, this Bamroot, could be her father. It is a wild guess, but the similarities seem to correlate – as do the personalities.
Nearing midday, we pull into the first of our planned rest stops. Bamroot pulls the Clawfoot in behind Sandtooth’s carriage. I hope that Syral didn’t do anything rash. She doesn’t like that Shifter any more than I these Eladrin, but this calls for being diplomatic. We need these men, as pathetic as that is, to get us to Myinn. So, until then, we must swallow our pride – or whatever is left of it.
Upon exiting the driver’s compartment, I notice everyone has begun to break themselves into groups. The rancher’s are huddled in one end of the cave, muttering to themselves, while Syral and the other Shifters – Sandtooth, a young, heavily cloaked woman, and a feeble old man, sit near the fire, enjoying a light snack. I ask Bamroot what we’re supposed to do and he tells me that we’re “security, so secure”. He heads off by himself, leaving the others to their own devices; makes sense. I grab some cooked meat and stale bread and head off on my patrolling duties.
I head out of the cave entrance and circle around the Clawfoot carriages. The beasts are calm, which belies their massive stature. The snowfall gently coats their scales, providing a glossy emerald hue that reflects the sunlight in a captivating brilliance. They truly are beautiful creatures.
As I turn around the backend of a carriage, something on the wind catches my ear. Feral in nature and judging by the strength of the wind, the origin is close. I start surveying the landscape, paying particular attention to the trees above the mouth of the cave. Lying at the base of a large cedar, I notice a pair of eyes moving steadily across the rim. Another pair of eyes join them, and then another. A soft howl greets me and the three sets of eyes leap down to greet me – winter wolves.
Cut off from the entrance and with little room to maneuver around them, I have little choice but to engage the pack. They seem hungry and in search of a meal. I load a bolt into my crossbow beneath my cloak. If they’re hungry, I’ll give them something to eat! Before the first one can even make a move toward me, I fire into the pack. As I step back, I stumble over a pile of rocks covered in snow, and misfire. Cursing my luck, I notch another bolt and call for Syral. The wind picks up and carries my voice away from the cave. Really? Seriously, who did I piss of?
The pack closes in on me, gnawing and gnashing at limbs. A few grazing bites land on my hand, forcing me to drop my meal. Almost immediately one of the wolves leaps on the meat and bread. Under pressure, I try to get around one of the carriages and fire – this time my bolt sinks deeply into one of the wolves and it lets out a fierce growl. I try to call Syral again, hoping she can hear me. Two of the wolves still advance on me and they seem like they are intent to kill. A few more exchanges occur between the wolves and myself before Syral emerges from between the carriages. Spotting the wolves, she joins the fray, striking with her dagger. With the presence of two fighters now, the wolves retreat back into their wooded den.
I thank Syral for her assistance – without her I would surely be a meal. We head back to the cave and find Bamroot arguing with the Eladrin racnhers. Things don’t seem to be going well for Bamroot case though, since he is clearly outnumbered. Catching some of the argument I can make out that the Eladrins want their driver back and their security to ride in the carriage. Bamroot clearly disagrees, and I would too. Syral and I exchange ideas on how to get myself out of this dire situation when a loud crack and a booming echo reverberates off the walls of the cave. Bamroot sits at the center of the commotion, towering over the ranchers who have been knocked to the ground. Seizing the opportunity, I make a break for Sandtooth’s carriage, clamber in and hide in the darkened room in the rear. Much to my dismay, it is occupied by the young Shifter woman and the old man. Much to my happiness, the old man is asleep and the young woman can’t talk. Pretty soon I hear other climb into the carriage and we pull away from the stop.
I emerge from the room to a sputtering Sandtooth and a stressing Syral. Apparently she didn’t trust me with the young Shifter woman. I don’t know why, there’s nothing remotely alluring about the woman. Syral goes into the room and I try to get some rest, while Sandtooth breaks down into a bubbling idiot. Passing by the poor soul, I pat him on the shoulder. He flinches like a whimpering mutt and busts into more tears. I chuckle slightly to myself and slump down against a wall. Hopefully I’ll get some actual rest before the next rest stop.
A few hours later we pull up to another cave. The other carriage is nowhere in sight, Bamroot saying that they took off down another path. I won’t miss their company. Syral tells me that the young woman’s name is O, though I’m pretty sure there is more to it than that. That, or she’s part of a guild, as the Master’s name for me is K. Bamroot tells Syral and I that we need to explore this cave, for he senses there is something amiss about the area. Yeah, because we can summon a power that knocks people to the ground…
There is little light inside the cave, so we stay on guard. Syral enters first and we hear some laughter echoing off the walls. Suddenly, the floor give way beneath her and an axe flies across her face. Syral jumps back and more laughter echoes around us. This definitely has the feel of a trap. I make my way into the cavern, being careful to dodge the swinging axe and am greeted by more laughter and a thump in the back of the head. The smell is fetid, and reminds me of rotten eggs. Another object strikes me over the head, and I decide to head back to the entrance. Laughter erupts again before Syral cracks a light, illuminating the room. Shadows dance across the walls and boos and hisses rain down on us. On the upper precipices, scores of Shifters appear. This was definitely a bad situation. I hope they’re friendly.
Commotion behind us reveals that O, the old man, Bamroot, and Sandtooth have been taken prisoner by the Shifter group. Sandtooth cowers before everyone, drawing cheers and laughs. I’m pretty sure he’s soiled himself. The old man leans heavily on his walking staff, fending off sleep, as Bamroot and O are stand idly taking in the scene. A Shifter appears and starts issuing orders, and Bamroot is taken away. He asks us to play some games, and Syral ‘volunteers’ with my encouragement. I know this type of band – just like home.
Syral is taken away, and I hear a loud twang followed by some more cheers from the Shifter gang. Sandtooth seems to be drawing their attention, which only makes him quiver more. I feel a twinge of sympathy for the man, but am glad for his distraction. Watching the scene, I figure that the more I divulge these ruffians in their games, the easier my stay here will be. Pretty soon Syral returns and she looks quite disheveled. Quickly behind her appears the Shifter leader, asking for another volunteer. Seeing a chance to earn their favor, I eagerly volunteer myself and am cheered immediately. Whisked away through a side tunnel, I am asked to give up my weapon and, as I emerge into a large cavern, I suddenly understand what that twang was – a massive catapult. The smell permeating through the cavern reeks of waste and rotten food. Litter fills the bowl of the catapult and I am taken up a ramp to see the mess. Laughing, a young Razorclaw tosses my crossbow into the bowl and tells me to jump in. He senses my hesitation, moves towards me, and asks if I need help. Tossing a smile right back at him, I tell him no and leap in. I sink down to my upper torso and immediately am greeted by a retching sensation.
No more than a few seconds pass before I hear the familiar twang and am lofted into the air. I sail out of the cave and am hit by the sting of the winter wind. Looking down, mixed emotions overtake me. Before me lies a lake, wonderfully liquid and not the ground. However, being drenched in this weather may be worse than crashing into a tree and impaling myself on a branch. I adjust to enter feet first and catch a glint of metal to my right. Turning, I see my crossbow, mockingly close. I reach to grab it, but a flying apple core sends it spinning away. Cursing, I check the distance to the lake; I only have a few more seconds. I reach for the crossbow again and grab the wing of the bow. Elation runs through my body just as some foul-smelling liquid splashes my face. My convulsion reaction to hurl retracts my hand as my weapon falls further away. Descending now toward the lake’s crystalline surface, I see Bamroot emerging from the water, shaking his head. As my innards make love to my throat, I make one last, feeble attempt to grab my crossbow before impact. I stretch out, spreading my body as much as I can, erring in false hope. Cracking the surface of the water sends a sting through my body, causing me to grimace. This feeling will remain with me for the rest of my life. Lashing out, I propel myself to the surface, and swim to shore. Bamroot is already gone, and I follow his trail, alone and cold. I wish I could have enjoyed that flight a bit more, but the loss of my weapon sours my mood. I’ll definitely have to inform the Guild of this game.
I get back to the cave, shivering but clean, and find that everyone is in a meeting. I change my cloak and clothes quickly and join them. Much to my surprise, Lord Sidesilver is there, speaking with the Shifter leader. Politics are the topic of interest and it seems Sidesilver is trying to convince Stride, the man in charge, of joining his cause. The political parties of the Eladrins, the turquoise and the pearls, are doing some maneuvering in Myinn City, with Winsim’l, the one in charge, is pushing for reform. Sidesilver wishes to oppose her. Terrific, political unrest and we’re being used to further the desires of a man we dislike.
Sidesilver continues to make his case, though Stride seems reluctant to help any Eladrin. Seeing no progress, Sidesilver leaves the room and heads off to the carriage. O and the old man follow, looking distressed. Syral motions for me to hurry up, and, as I leave the cave, a fight breaks out. It seems the Shifters have turned on one another and a mutiny is in the works. Did Sidesilver buy off these men in case things did not work out? Does he fear that they will alert Winsim’l? Did the others know this was going to happen?
We get to the carriage and it seems Bamroot is eager to leave as well. The Clawfoot begins to pull the carriage as Shifter archers lie up at the cave entrance. They seem to cast glances to the carriage as it heads toward them and then wait to fire on the melee within the cave. Just as I am about to close the carriage door, I see a familiar sight. Groo, dragging something beside him, appears at the head of the road, and he looks…excited?! Sick and strange are these Minotaur. He seems intently focused on the battle raging within the cave and I notice that he is still sporting his trophy from Stomp, dangling, invitingly, loosely from his belt. And here I am, in need of a new crossbow. The archers ready their bows and I see Groo grin and his ‘excitement’ ebb. It is truly a disturbing sight. Seeing this as my most opportune moment to snatch the crossbow, I await for the carriage and Groo pass each other. As Groo turns to face the archers I nimbly relieve him of the weapon, hoping his focus remains on the fighting behind us. I was wrong.
The damn Minotaur somehow noticed the crossbow being lifted off his belt; perhaps it nicked is throbbing excitement. Just my luck. Fortunately, the carriage is starting to speed up and as we pass the archers, they begin firing into the fighting. There is no way Groo can catch the carriage as long as we maintain our speed. Apparently, I need to learn more about Minotaurs. Groo spins and charges the carriage before I realize what happened, jumping into the doorway and promptly knocking me to the floor. To say he seems angry would be an understatement. To say he seems happy would be too. Averting my eyes, I thrust out my legs, hoping to throw Groo back outside the carriage. A jar to the carriage though disrupts my force and leaves me helplessly sprawled before him. I load the crossbow and toss it to Syral, hoping she recognizes the state Groo is in and takes action. She does, but to no avail. Groo then readies his axe and brings it straight down on my chest. I parry the blow, deflecting the blade into my side. The wound is deep and blood soaks my clothes. I feel myself losing consciousness already. Groo, content with my condition, moves on to Syral. She is able to push him to the door, but he grabs a hold of the side and rights himself, much to the chagrin of Syral. I’m able to staunch my wound, but another blow from Groo would be the end of me, so I let Syral draw his attention. She does so quite effectively.
Groo is starting to slow, but his strikes are still quite lethal, and soon Syral is in trouble. However, she manages to knock Groo down, but as he falls he swings his axe, slicing into Syral’s leg. She falls in a heap, blood gushing forth. I see Groo begin to stir, and resign myself to my fate. I’ll have only one chance to attack him with my dagger and I better make it count. As I begin to rise, flashes of light blind me, and a sense of Kalleron rushes to my mind. Magic missiles? Who here uses magic? And why did they wait so long? As I rub sight back into my eyes, I see O standing over Groo’s scorched fur and flesh. I’ll be damned! My luck must be turning; a mute mage!
I get up, and thank Groo for his things, before tossing his unpleasant carcass out of the carriage. Syral asks what happened, and I praise her for her defeat of Groo. Better she not know of O’s talents. After calming ourselves, I head to the back room to check on Lord Sidesilver. What I see surprises me. Sidesilver, propped against a wall, arms flailed out to his side, has Syral’s dagger lodged straight through his throat and into the wall, holding up his lifeless body. Today is definitely full of mixed emotions.
I call Syral in, and she seems equally taken aback. Neither of us know who did this, or why her dagger was even here. She said she had lost it before, during her game in the caves. I don’t have any reason to doubt her, and even if she were lying, she hasn’t been alone seeing as how we all entered the carriage together. Leaving the puzzlement of Sidesilvers death for later, I remove the dagger and the body, I toss him onto the floor of the main room of the carriage, much to everyone’s surprise. Asking Syral what she wants to do with the late Lord, I kick his body and notice a soft, cushioned sound. Cutting away his robes, I see my pouch – the same one Thellago claims to have lost. The bastard probably ‘influenced’ it away from the old man. Pilfering the rest of Sidesilver’s belongings, I happily pick up the body and chuck it out of the carriage. With a great sigh of relief by the sudden lack of dead bodies, and free of useless weight, I close the door, as the carriage hurries along to Myinn City.