|Name: Sir Illia Smith-Wesson, Knight Captain of the Steel Falcons|
|Class: Gunslinger (Pistolero) / Fighter (Weapon Master)||Level: 6 / 4|
|Race: Human||Alignment: Chaotic Good||Deity: Cayden Cailean|
|Sex: Female||Age: 23||Homeland: Andoran|
|Height: 6ft 4in||Weight: 110 lbs.||Eyes: Blue|
|Hair: Red||Skin: Pale, freckled||Hit Points: 84|
|1st Level Hit Points: 12||Hit Points per level: 8||Skill points per level: 5|
|Strength (STR)||13 (+1)||Dexterity (DEX)||22 (+6)||Constitution (CON)||12 (+1)|
|Intelligence (INT)||12 (+1)||Wisdom (WIS)||16 (+3)||Charisma (CHA)||10 (+0)|
|Stat increases:||4th level: WIS +1||8th Level: WIS +1|
Saving Throws ❧
|Fortitude (FORT)||Total Save: +14||Base Save: +9||CON Mod. +1||Magic Mod. +2||Misc. Mod. +2|
|Reflex (REF)||Total Save: +15||Base Save: +7||DEX Mod. +6||Misc. Mod. +2|
|Willpower (WILL)||Total Save: +9||Base Save: +4||WIS Mod. +3||Misc. Mod. +2|
|Combat Maneuver Bonus (CMB): 11||BAB: +10||STR Mod: +1|
|Combat Maneuver Defense (CMD): 27||BAB: +10||STR Mod.: +1||DEX Mod.: +6||Base: +10|
Note: +1 CMD vs. Disarm and Sunder attempts (double pistol).
|Total: +10||Ability Mod. (DEX): +6||Elven Reflexes: +2||Gunslinger’s Initiative: +2|
Armour Class ❧
|Armour Class: 25||Flat Footed: 17||Touch AC: 17||Flat Footed Touch: 10|
|+1 Mithral shirt:||AC: +5||Max DEX Bonus: +6||Check Penalty: 0||Spell Fail: 10%||Speed: 30|
|Darkwood Buckler:||AC: +1||Max DEX Bonus: —||Check Penalty: 0||Spell Fail: 6%||Speed: —|
|DEX Bonus: AC +6||Nimble: AC +2||Ring of Protection: +1|
|Total Bonus: +11 / +6||Base Attack Bonus: +10 / +5||STR Mod: +1|
|Finesse Weapons: +16 / +11||Base Attack Bonus: +10 / +5||DEX Mod: +6|
|Masterwork Cold Iron Rapier||To Hit: +12 / +7||Damage: 1d6+1||Critical: 18-20/x2||Type/Size: S|
|Dagger||To Hit: +11 / +6||Damage: 1d4+1||Critical: 19-20||Type/Size: P or S|
|Total Bonus: +16 / +11||Base Attack Bonus: +10 / +5||DEX Mod: +6|
|+1 Reliable Thundering Double Pistol||To Hit: +19 / +14||Damage: 1d8+9||Critical: 19-20/x4||Type: P/B||Range: 20’|
|Masterwork Double Pistol||To Hit: +19 / +14||Damage: 1d8+8||Critical: 19-20/x4||Type: P/B||Range: 20’|
|■ Acrobatics||Total: +25||DEX||Ranks: 10||Ability Mod: +6||Trained: +3||Skill Focus: +6|
|■ Acrobatics (Jump)||Total: +30||DEX||Magic: +5|
|□ Appraise||Total: +1||INT||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: +1|
|■ Bluff||Total: +0||CHA||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: 0|
|■ Climb||Total: +10||STR||Ranks: 6||Ability Mod: +1||Trained: +3|
|■ Craft: Alchemy||Total: +10||INT||Ranks: 6||Ability Mod: +1||Trained: +3|
|■ Craft: Any||Total: +1||INT||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: +1|
|❖ Diplomacy||Total: +7||CHA||Ranks: 4||Ability Mod: 0||Trained: +3||Andoran: (+2)|
|□ Disable Device||Total: —||INT||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: 0|
|□ Disguise||Total: 0||CHA||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: 0|
|□ Escape Artist||Total: +6||DEX||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: +6|
|□ Fly||Total: +6||DEX||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: +6|
|■ Handle Animal||Total: —||CHA||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: 0|
|■ Heal||Total: +3||WIS||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: +3|
|■ Intimidate||Total: +4||CHA||Ranks: 1||Ability Mod: 0||Trained: +3|
|□ Knowledge: Arcana||Total: —||INT||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: 1|
|■ Knowledge: Dungeoneering||Total: +5||INT||Ranks: 1||Ability Mod: 1||Trained: +3|
|■ Knowledge: Engineering||Total: 5||INT||Ranks: 1||Ability Mod: 1||Trained: +3|
|□ Knowledge: Geography||Total: —||INT||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: 1|
|□ Knowledge: History||Total: —||INT||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: 1|
|■ Knowledge: Local||Total: 5||INT||Ranks: +1||Ability Mod: 1||Trained: +3|
|□ Knowledge: Nature||Total: —||INT||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: 1|
|□ Knowledge: Nobility||Total: —||INT||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: 1||Andoran: (+2)|
|□ Knowledge: Planes||Total: —||INT||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: 1|
|□ Knowledge: Religion||Total: —||INT||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: 1|
|□ Linguistics||Total: —||INT||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: 1|
|■ Perception||Total: +15||WIS||Ranks: 7||Ability Mod: +3||Trained: +3||Race: +2|
|❖ Perform: Oratory||Total: 4||CHA||Ranks: 1||Ability Mod: 0||Trained: +3|
|■ Profession:||Total: —||WIS||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: 0|
|■ Ride||Total: +10||DEX||Ranks: 1||Ability Mod: +6||Trained: +3|
|□ Sense Motive||Total: +3||WIS||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: +3|
|□ Sleight of Hand||Total: —||DEX||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: +6|
|□ Spellcraft:||Total: —||INT||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: +1|
|□ Stealth||Total: +6||DEX||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: +6|
|■ Survival||Total: +7||WIS||Ranks: 1||Ability Mod: +3||Trained: +3|
|■ Swim||Total: +1||STR||Ranks: 1||Ability Mod: +1||Trained: +3|
|□ Use Magic Device||Total: —||CHA||Ranks: —||Ability Mod: 0|
Skills marked ■ are class skills.
Skills marked ❖ are specialized.
■ Elven (elves, half-elves)
■ Sylvan (centaurs, fey creatures, plant creatures, unicorns)
Racial Abilities ❧
+2 to One Ability Score: Half-elf characters get a +2 bonus to one ability score of their choice at creation to represent their varied nature. (Chosen: DEX)
Medium: Half-elves are Medium creatures and have no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
Normal Speed: Half-elves have a base speed of 30 feet.
Low-Light Vision: Half-elves can see twice as far as humans in conditions of dim light. See Additional Rules.
Adaptability: Half-elves receive Skill Focus as a bonus feat at 1st level.
Elf Blood: Half-elves count as both elves and humans for any effect related to race.
Elven Immunities: Half-elves are immune to magic sleep effects and get a +2 racial saving throw bonus against enchantment spells and effects.
Keen Senses: Half-elves receive a +2 racial bonus on Perception skill checks.
Multi-talented: Half-elves choose two favored classes at first level and gain +1 hit point or +1 skill point whenever they take a level in either one of those classes. (Chosen: Gunslinger & Fighter)
Languages: Half-elves begin play speaking Common and Elven. Half-elves with high Intelligence scores can choose any languages they want (except secret languages, such as Druidic).
Gunslinger Class Abilities ❧
- Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Gunslingers are proficient with all simple and martial weapons, and with all firearms. They are proficient with all light armor.
- Gunsmith: At 1st level, a gunslinger gains one of the following firearms of her choice: blunderbuss, musket, or pistol. Her starting weapon is battered, and only she knows how to use it properly. All other creatures treat her gun as if it had the broken condition. If the weapon already has the broken condition, it does not work at all for anyone else trying to use it. This starting weapon can only be sold for scrap (it’s worth 4d10 gp when sold). The gunslinger also gains Gunsmithing as a bonus feat.
- Grit (Ex):* A gunslinger makes her mark upon the world with daring deeds. Some gunslingers claim they belong to a mystical way of the gun, but it’s more likely that the volatile nature of firearms simply prunes the unlucky and careless from their ranks. Whatever the reason, all gunslingers have grit. In game terms, grit is a fluctuating measure of a gunslinger’s ability to perform amazing actions in combat. At the start of each day, a gunslinger gains a number of grit points equal to her Wisdom modifier (minimum 1). Her grit goes up or down throughout the day, but usually cannot go higher than her Wisdom modifier (minimum 1), though some feats and magic items may affect this maximum. A gunslinger spends grit to accomplish deeds (see below), and regains grit in the following ways:
- Critical Hit with a Firearm: Each time the gunslinger confirms a critical hit with a firearm attack while in the heat of combat, she regains 1 grit point. Confirming a critical hit on a helpless or unaware creature or on a creature that has fewer Hit Dice than half the gunslinger’s character level does not restore grit.
- Killing Blow with a Firearm: When the gunslinger reduces a creature to 0 or fewer hit points with a firearm attack while in the heat of combat, she regains 1 grit point. Destroying an unattended object, reducing a helpless or unaware creature to 0 or fewer hit points, or reducing a creature that has fewer Hit Dice than half the gunslinger’s character level to 0 or fewer hit points does not restore any grit.
- Deeds: Gunslingers spend grit points to accomplish deeds. Most deeds grant the gunslinger some momentary bonus or effect, but there are some that provide longer-lasting effects. Some deeds stay in effect as long as the gunslinger has at least 1 grit point. The following is the list of base gunslinger deeds. A gunslinger can only perform deeds of her level or lower. Unless otherwise noted, a deed can be performed multiple successive times, as long as the appropriate amount of grit is spent to perform the deed.
- Gunslinger’s Dodge (Ex): At 1st level, the gunslinger gains an uncanny knack for getting out of the way of ranged attacks. When a ranged attack is made against the gunslinger, she can spend 1 grit point to move 5 feet as an immediate action; doing so grants the gunslinger a +2 bonus to AC against the triggering attack. This movement is not a 5-foot step, and provokes attacks of opportunity. Alternatively, the gunslinger can drop prone to gain a +4 bonus to AC against the triggering attack. The gunslinger can only perform this deed while wearing medium or light armor, and while carrying no more than a light load.
- Quick Clear (Ex): At 1st level, as a standard action, the gunslinger can remove the broken condition from a single firearm she is currently wielding, as long as that condition was gained by a firearm misfire. The gunslinger must have at least 1 grit point to perform this deed. Alternatively, if the gunslinger spends 1 grit point to perform this deed, she can perform quick clear as a move-equivalent action instead of a standard action.
- Gunslinger Initiative (Ex): At 3rd level, as long as the gunslinger has at least 1 grit point, she gains the following benefits. First, she gains a +2 bonus on initiative checks. Furthermore, if she has the Quick Draw feat, her hands are free and unrestrained, and the firearm is not hidden, she can draw a single firearm as part of the initiative check.
- Pistol-Whip (Ex): At 3rd level, the gunslinger can make a surprise melee attack with the butt or handle of her firearm as a standard action. When she does, she is considered to be proficient with the firearm as a melee weapon and gains a bonus on the attack and damage rolls equal to the enhancement bonus of the firearm. The damage dealt by the pistol-whip is of the bludgeoning type, and is determined by the size of the firearm. One-handed firearms deal 1d6 points of damage (1d4 if wielded by Small creatures) and two-handed firearms deal 1d10 points of damage (1d8 if wielded by Small creatures). Regardless of the gunslinger’s size, the critical multiplier of this attack is 20/×2. If the attack hits, the gunslinger can make a combat maneuver check to knock the target prone as a free action. Performing this deed costs 1 grit point.
- Utility Shot (Ex): At 3rd level, if the gunslinger has at least 1 grit point, she can perform all of the following utility shots. Each utility shot can be applied to any single attack with a firearm, but the gunslinger must declare the utility shot she is using before firing the shot:
- Blast Lock: The gunslinger makes an attack roll against a lock within the first range increment of her firearm. A Diminutive lock usually has AC 7, and larger locks have a lower AC. The lock gains a bonus to its AC against this attack based on its quality. A simple lock has a +10 bonus to AC, an average lock has a +15 bonus to AC, a good lock has a +20 bonus to AC, and a superior lock has a +30 bonus to AC. Arcane lock grants a +10 bonus to the AC of a lock against this attack. On a hit, the lock is destroyed, and the object can be opened as if it were unlocked. On a miss, the lock is destroyed, but the object is jammed and still considered locked. It can still be unlocked by successfully performing this deed, by using the Disable Device skill, or with the break DC, though the DC for either break or Disable Device or the AC increases by 10. A key, combination, or similar mechanical method of unlocking the lock no longer works, though knock can still be employed to bypass the lock, and the creator of an arcane lock can still bypass the wards of that spell.
- Scoot Unattended Object: The gunslinger makes an attack roll against a Tiny or smaller unattended object within the first range increment of her firearm. A Tiny unattended object has an AC of 5, a Diminutive unattended object has an AC of 7, and a Fine unattended object has an AC of 11. On a hit, the gunslinger does not damage the object with the shot, but can move it up to 15 feet farther away from the shot’s origin. On a miss, she damages the object normally.
- Stop Bleeding: The gunslinger makes a firearm attack and then presses the hot barrel against herself or an adjacent creature to staunch a bleeding wound. Instead of dealing damage, the shot ends a single bleed condition affecting the creature. The gunslinger does not have to make an attack roll when performing the deed in this way; she can instead shoot the firearm into the air, but that shot still uses up ammunition normally.
- Nimble (Ex): Starting at 2nd level, a gunslinger gains a +1 dodge bonus to AC while wearing light or no armor. Anything that causes the gunslinger to lose her Dexterity bonus to AC also causes the gunslinger to lose this dodge bonus. This bonus increases by +1 for every four levels beyond 2nd level (to a maximum of +5 at 20th level).
- Bonus Feats: At 4th level, and every four levels thereafter, a gunslinger gains a bonus feat in addition to those gained by normal advancement. These bonus feats must be combat or grit feats.
- Gun Training (Ex): Starting at 5th level, a gunslinger can select one specific type of firearm (such as an axe musket, blunderbuss, musket, or pistol). She gains a bonus equal to her Dexterity modifier on damage rolls when firing that type of firearm. Furthermore, when she misfires with that type of firearm, the misfire value of that firearm increases by 2 instead of 4.
Pistolero Archetype Abilities ❧
- Weapon Proficiency: A pistolero only gains proficiency with one-handed firearms. She must take Exotic Weapon Proficiency (firearm) to gain proficiency with two-handed firearms and firearm siege engines.
- Gunsmith: A pistolero must take a pistol when she chooses a battered firearm at 1st level.
- Deeds: A pistolero swaps a trio of deeds for the following.
- Up Close and Deadly (Ex): At 1st level, when the pistolero hits a target with a one-handed firearm that is not making a scatter shot, she can spend 1 grit point to deal 1d6 points of extra damage on a hit. If she misses with the attack, she grazes the target, dealing half the extra damage anyway. She must choose to spend the grit point before she makes the attack roll. This is precision damage and is not multiplied if the attack is a critical hit. This precision damage increases to 2d6 at 5th level, to 3d6 at 10th level, to 4d6 at 15th level, and to 5d6 at 20th level. This precision damage stacks with sneak attack and other forms of precision damage. This deed replaces the deadeye deed.
- Deadeye (Ex): At 7th level, the pistolero gains the deadeye deed, which is normally a 1st-level gunslinger deed. This deed replaces the startling shot deed.
- Twin Shot Knockdown (Ex): At 11th level, when the pistolero hits a single target with two or more one-handed firearm attacks during her turn, she can spend 1 grit point to knock the target prone. She can choose to spend the grit point after the attacks are made. This deed replaces the menacing shot deed.
- Pistol Training (Ex): Starting at 5th level, a pistolero increases her skill with one-handed firearms. She gains a bonus on damage rolls equal to her Dexterity modifier, and when she misfires with a one-handed firearm, the misfire value increases by 2 instead of 4. Every four levels thereafter (9th, 13th, and 17th), the bonus on damage rolls increases by +1. At 13th level, a pistolero never misfires with a one-handed firearm. This ability probably replaces Gun Training.
Weapon Master (Double Pistol) Archetype Abilities ❧
- Weapon Guard (Ex): At 2nd level, a weapon master gains a +1 bonus to CMD against disarm and sunder attempts while wielding his chosen weapon. This bonus also applies on saves against any effect that targets his chosen weapon (for example, grease, heat metal, shatter, warp wood). The bonus increases by +1 for every four levels beyond 2nd. This ability replaces bravery.
- Weapon Training (Ex): At 3rd level, a weapon master gains a +1 bonus on attack and damage rolls with his chosen weapon. The bonus improves by +1 for every four levels beyond 3rd. This ability replaces armor training 1, 2, 3, and 4.
- Killer: You made your first kill at a very young age and found the task of war or murder to your liking. You either take particular pride in a well-placed blow, or find vile pleasure in such a strike as you twist the blade to maximize the pain. You deal additional damage equal to your weapon’s critical hit modifier when you score a successful critical hit with a weapon; this additional damage is added to the final total, and is not multiplied by the critical hit multiple itself. This extra damage is a trait bonus.
- Elven Reflexes: One of your parents was a member of a wild elven tribe, and you’ve inherited a portion of your elven parent’s quick reflexes. You gain a +2 trait bonus on Initiative checks.
- Skill Focus (Acrobatics): You get a +3 bonus on all checks involving the chosen skill. If you have 10 or more ranks in that skill, this bonus increases to +6.
- Gunsmithing: You know the secrets of repairing and restoring firearms. If you are a gunslinger, this feat grants the following additional benefit. You can use this feat to repair and restore your initial, battered weapon. It costs 300 gp and 1 day of work to upgrade it to a masterwork firearm of its type.
- Extra Grit: Gain 2 extra grit points at the start of each day, and your maximum grit increases by 2.
- Weapon Focus (Double Pistol): +1 bonus on all attack rolls you make using the selected weapon.
- Clustered Shots: When you use a full-attack action to make multiple ranged weapon attacks against the same opponent, total the damage from all hits before applying that opponent’s damage reduction.
- Improved Critical (Double Barreled Pistol): When using the weapon you selected, your threat range is doubled.
- Point Blank Shot: +1 bonus on attack and damage rolls with ranged weapons at ranges of up to 30 feet.
- Rapid Shot: When making a full-attack action with a ranged weapon, you can fire one additional time this round. All of your attack rolls take a –2 penalty when using Rapid Shot.
- Precise Shot: Shoot or throw ranged weapons at an opponent engaged in melee without taking the standard –4 penalty on your attack roll.
- Far Shot: Suffer a –1 penalty per full range increment between you and your target when using a ranged weapon.
- Rapid Reload (Double Pistol): The time required for you to reload your double pistol is reduced to a free action (when using alchemical cartridges) or a move action (when using regular bullets). Reloading a firearm still provokes an attack of opportunity.
- Critical Focus: You receive a +4 circumstance bonus on attack rolls made to confirm critical hits.
Lifting and Carrying Capacity ❧
|Light Load: 50 lbs||Medium Load: 100 lbs||Heavy Load: 150 lbs|
|Lift over head: 150 lbs||Lift off ground: 300 lbs||Push or Drag: 750 lbs|
|Faction: Andoran||Experience: 28||Fame: 53||Prestige Points: 39|
|Remove Curse||Generic||1 pp|
|Eagle Knight||Faction, Andoran||1 pp|
|Captain||Faction, Andoran||1 pp|
|Knighthood||Faction, Andoran||4 pp|
|Tavern in Andoran||Vanity||5 pp|
|Seneschal, to run tavern||Vanity||2 pp|
“Baba, what’s a king star?” the little girl asked, not looking up from where she sat in her father’s lap. He chuckled in response. “What’s so funny,” she asked, pulling her gaze from his hands as they worked on the bench in front of her and staring seriously into his golden eyes.
“Where did you hear this name?” he asked, smoothing a piece of intricate ironwork with a tiny metal file.
“Mother said that’s where’s you’re from; a king star,” she said. She turned back as she spoke, fascinated as always with watching him work. The light in the workshop was dim, the only illumination coming from the forge in the corner, but she had no trouble seeing by its ruddy light.
“Alkenstar,” he replied, smiling down at her. “The place is named Alkenstar.” He handed the little piece of iron to the girl and helped guide her hand to the object lying on the workbench. “Place it here, habibati.” She did as he directed and heard a click.
“How come we don’t live in Al-ken-star, baba?” she asked, sounding the name out carefully. She took the tool he offered and turned the screw, affixing the new piece in place.
“My work is rare,” he said, “even in Alkenstar. Not many people make guns. But Alkenstar is not a free land, not the way Andoran is, so I came here.” He guided he hands to another screw and she began to tighten it. “Our caravan was attacked. Many died but some of us did not. We were rescued by the elves of this forest.”
“Like mother?” she asked.
“Yes, your mother was one of them. Some of the survivors carried on, some went back from where they came, but most of us stayed and, together with the elves, we built a community.”
“Is that why there’s so many half-elves here,” she asked. “Like me and Yara?”
“Yes,” he replied. “Just like you and Yara.”
She was silent for a moment, watching as he worked on the half-finished weapon. “I wish I was human,” she said finally. “I don’t want to be like mother.” His hands stopped moving.
“Why do you say this, habibati?” he asked. “Your mother loves you very much.”
Illia held up her tiny hand to his, so pale as to be almost white against his rich golden skin. “I want to be like you.”
“You are as much my daughter as hers, habibati,” he said, running a finger along the freckles sprinkled across her nose and cheeks. “No elf has these. They are my gift to you,” he laughed. She giggled in response, squirming playfully in his arms.
“Was Yara’s daddy with you when you came here?” she asked as he went back to work.
“Yes, habibati,” he said, handing her another tool. “We met each other on the ship coming across from Garund. He is a good man.”
“Ga-rund,” she said solemnly, etching this new name into her memory. “Is that a city?”
“A continent,” he replied. “A huge land with many countries and many peoples: Qadria, Osirion, Alkenstar and a dozen more.”
“I will go there someday,” she stated firmly.
“We will go there together, habibati.” He brushed aside her fiery red hair and kissed her gently on the forehead. “Now, you must…”
“I know, papa,” she said, fitting the barrel into the stock. Her hands moved quickly and deftly, a gift of her elven heritage. A twist of a screw, the tightening a nut, and the final pieces of the pistol were attached. She couldn’t help but smile. She’d helped her father dozens of times in the past but this was the first pistol she’d ever built herself.
“Let me see, daughter” he said, reaching across the workbench to take it from her. He smiled as he turned it over in his hands, examining it from every angle. The light of the forge glinted off the polished steel and brass. “This is very good work, daughter.”
“Thank you papa,” she replied. “It’s not as good as the ones you make, though.”
“I have been doing this for many years,” he said solemnly. “My first was nothing like as good as this. Take pride in your work, daughter, you deserve it.” He hefted it again, testing the weight and balance then spun it on finger and handed it back to her stock first. “What will you do with it?”
“I don’t know, papa. First we need to make sure it works,” she said, grinning slyly.
He looked at her across the workbench and sighed in exaggerated exasperation. “I don’t know why you like all the noise and smoke, daughter. The artistry is in making the weapon, not using it.” He stroked his small pointed beard thoughtfully. “Go then,” he shouted playfully, motioning to the door. “Go make your unholy noise.” She leapt to her feet and strode across the workshop, ducking under the low beams. She stopped only momentarily to take the ammunition pouch from its peg by the door before pushing open the heavy door, flooding the room with sunlight and birdsong.
“Illia,” her father called softly. “Be careful, habibati.” She stopped suddenly, taken aback by his use of the pet name. He’d not called her that since she was little. She turned back and looked, really looked at her fatehr, and felt a pang of sadness stab her chest. How could she not have seen it? His black hair was streaked with silver now. His back bowed with working at the bench.
She strode back across the workshop to take him in her arms, to hug him and assure him everything would be alright, but with every step the distance between them increased. She jogged, then ran as fast as her legs could carry her, till pain and exhaustion threatened to overwhelm her, but with every footfall the space between them grew. She ran for hours, years, but at the same time it was an instant. Desperate to grab him before he was gone forever she threw herself forward but it was too late. Her arms flailed through empty air. He was gone and she was all alone…
- * *
Illia’s eyes snapped open. She could practically smell the forge, feel the tickle of her father’s beard on her neck. For a moment she pondered going back to sleep, if only to see her father’s face again for a few moments, but she knew it wouldn’t work. Even as she tried to hold on to it the dream fled from her memory leaving behind little but a vague and unfocused uneasiness.
It was still dark but the rosy pre-dawn blush was beginning to show on the eastern horizon. Even the birds had yet to rouse themselves. Illia sat up and looked around. She could just make out Yara on the other side of the camp, her back illuminated by the ruddy coals of the dying fire. The young priestess was kneeling, facing the east to greet the sun and her goddess Saranrae, the Dawnflower.
Illia began gathering up their gear and breaking camp. By Yara’s reckoning they weren’t more than a day from Almas, a day and a half at the most. Illia had no idea how many hundreds of miles lay behind them and home and she didn’t much care. The future lay before them and she was keen to get on with it.
A few minutes later Illia had their packs ready. All that remained were Yara’s clerical vestments and a few of her personal items. Illia plonked herself down on her pack and waited. Most days she finished breaking the camp just around the time her friend finished her meditation but the combination of rising early and the intense anxiousness of being so close to the end of their voyage – or this leg of it anyway, they still had to find passage to Absalom once they reached Almas – left her with time spare and little to do with it beyond staring at her friend’s back and await the sunrise.
She tried to recall her dream, to hold on to it, but it was like trying to hold on to water. The tighter she grasped the quicker it slipped away. She recall he father, the forge, the red-gold light of the fire itself and…
“Illia,” Yara said, her soft voice as sharp and clear as a gunshot in the pre-dawn silence, “Why are you coming with me to Absalom?”
The question startled Illia as normally Yara prayed in silence. She’d asked before of course, and Illia was about to give the same pat “fame and riches” excuse she’d given her friend a hundred times before, but something felt different this time. Maybe Yara had picked up in Illia’s unease, or perhaps it was to do with her prayers and meditation, but whatever the reason there was something in Yara’s voice that said this was more than idle curiosity. This moment, her answer right now, this was important.
Illia took a deep breath, held it, and let it out slowly. She loved Yara like a sister, and maybe this might cost her that bond forever, but now was the time. “I killed my dad.” She said simply.
She waited for her Yara’s reaction but none came. The young priest simply remained kneeling, face towards the lightening eastern sky. Surely she’d heard, how could she not? The grey pre-dawn world around them was still as a grave. Illia felt herself compelled to continue, to fill that yawning silence.
“Not truly, of course, I didn’t wield the weapon or anything but it was still my fault.” She paused, gathering her thoughts before continuing. After you went away to the temple to train, I fell in with my mother called a “bad crowd”. You remember Vors?” she asked, then continued without waiting for a reply. “We started seeing each other and I started hanging out with his gang. I knew my dad was disappointed I wasn’t spending my time working on the craft but I was too fidgety, too full of energy to sit at that workbench all day and night.”
“They – we – were no good. We stole, drank, fought. I got brought home by the watch more times than I can count. My mother screamed and yelled but I didn’t care. You know my mother and I never really got along. I loved her I guess, and dad always said she loved me, but I don’t think we ever really liked each other much.” She looked to Yara again, seeking some sign she was listening. “My dad never got mad, not so’s you’d know anyway. He just seemed…sad. He spent more and more time in his workshop.”
“He used to make a few guns each year, remember? People used to come all the way from Taldor and Absalom and Kyonin to buy his guns. They were masterpieces. Now he was churning out a few each week. Before long he had hundreds of them and was going to take them to Almas, try to sell them to the Andoran army” She turned the pistol over in her hands absentmindedly as she spoke. She didn’t even remember drawing it. “Really I think he just wanted and excuse to get away from us for a while,” she said quietly.
“I was with Vors and his boys one night, drinking, and I told him about my dad taking the shipment to sell.” She could feel tears welling up in her eyes. “A couple days later we found out dad was dead, killed by ‘bandits’ on the road to Almas.” She stared at the weapon in her hand, its normally lustrous metallic sheen seeming cold and dead in the crepuscular light. “I knew it was Vors. I don’t know if he just took advantage of me being a stupid blabbermouth or he’d been using me all along, but I knew it was him.”
“A couple days later we put dad in the ground. My mother was all cried out. I remember it was so bright that day and it made me so mad. Birds were singing, the breeze was blowing, and the sun was shining like nothing was wrong. I kept thinking ‘how dare you? Don’t you know what’s going on here?’ But the birds didn’t care, the breeze didn’t know, and the sun kept right on shining.”
Everyone went back to my house and it was kind of like a weird party. Everyone talked quietly but they talked about everyday things. They drank, and sometimes they laughed, and they already started forgetting about my dad. My mother sat on the old red chair in the kitchen and there was this weird empty space around her, like no one wanted to get too close in case misery was contagious. They orbited around, every once in a while stopping to say how sorry there were and everything would be okay before spinning back out into the crowd again. I just kept looking out the window at dad’s workshop – no smoke in the chimney, the door half-open with nothing but darkness inside – and I knew it would never be okay again.”
“I don’t remember leaving the house, but I found myself at the old shack Vor sand his gang hung out at. I shouted at him, told him I knew what he did, and he just started laughing. They all laughed. He didn’t deny it, he couldn’t. The madder I got, the more he laughed. He told me to leave but I couldn’t, not till I heard him admit it. I told him I’d tell the watch, that I’d see him hang. Then he pulled out a gun, this gun, and pointed it at me.” Her dream came back to her in a rush, like a punch to the gut, and she almost doubled over with the force of it. Tears welled up in her eyes again and this time she made no effort to hold them back. She’d never cried about it all, not like this, and the release was overwhelming. For minutes she was wracked with deep sobbing, unable to speak.
“This is the one gun I made, with my father,” Illia choked when she was able to talk again, the tears finally tapering off. “I’d know it anywhere. I thought he’d sold it or scrapped it, but he never did. He kept it all those years and Vors killed it and took it from him.” She wiped a gloved hand across her eyes. “I don’t know if he thought I’d run away or beg for mercy, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. Not to this,” she gestured with the gun “Not to him.”
“I think I punched him, or maybe kicked him, I don’t know. Whatever it was he doubled over, I grabbed the gun, and I shot him. No hesitation, no remorse, just a single bullet. Simple and quick. I took the gun, killed him, and left.” She wiped her eyes again and sniffed.
“So that’s why I’m going with you, Yara. The Pathfinders will give me training and skills and a chance to travel, to find each and every one of those guns.”
The sun broke the horizon then, bathing the world suddenly in the bright light of a new day and turning Yara’s thick, blonde mane into a fiery halo. She breathed deeply, drinking in the dawn that flooded over her, letting the glory of her goddess suffuse every pore and fibre of her body. She unfolded herself, graceful and beautiful as rose blooming in the dawn’s light, and strode lightly over to where Illia sat, head bowed. Yara placed her hands on her Illia’s cheeks and kissed her friend gently on the forehead. Illia raised her head and looked deep into Yara’s violet eyes. What passed between them needed no words.
Yara began donning her vestments and gathering up the rest of her gear. Soon they would head out, hoping to reach Almas but nightfall and from there on to Absalom and the Pathfinder society. Illia stood on the edge of the bluff and cast her gaze across the world spread out below them. Far to the south across the fields and grasslands spread was the limitless indigo expanse of the Inner Sea shimmering in the early morning light. To the west a ribbon of silver, the Andoshen River with Almas at its mouth, wound toward the sea.
Illia clutched the pistol to her chest and thought of her father. She let her gaze wander across the fields and the water below. On the horizon, far out in the deep in the heart of the great blue expanse, a flash as the first fingers of dawn glinted off the great towers of distant Absalom and the Pathfinder Society, a lighthouse guiding her path and calling her towards her destiny.
“I love you, baba,” she whispered.