As Mina turns away from Korius and Nurianna, she releases a soft sigh: she can certainly imagine what the druid wishes to speak about without her there. It is well enough, though, for she withheld many of her own thoughts from that meeting. Too much for one evening.
It felt as if they were a spiral of chaos - how could the three of them possibly describe everything that had happened, all the tiny threads that may have been worked into the weave. Even now as she turned to walk through the halls with Liminaltor, Mina remembered that they did not tell him of the fact that the Black Dragonflight could be already working in Mamban,that they have a presence on the Isla de Mille Voces, that they are firmly entrenched in Katapesh as well. Perhaps he knows these things, perhaps not. With the war just outside his walls, perhaps these details matter less.
Better to assume that the Black Dragonflight has infiltrated everywhere. Certainly if Veriala can send an illusion as far as the Empire.
The hem of her blue dress swishes along the stone floors--to walk without the weight of armor on her shoulders feels decadent in the face of a seige just outside the walls.
Mina casts a smiling glance to the side to Liminaltor; she's been too quiet. I cannot believe my luck in finding you here. Swati told me I should seek your color, but Iomedae brought me here - I am not certain She meant it for this purpose. Therefore, I thank Dame Fortune for this meeting, because I have many questions if you are willing to spare me some of your time.
The towering humanoid inclines its head but does not look at you. With its mouth shielded as it is, you cannot tell if it is smiling or frowning or what. Liminaltor stands at least seven feet tall, probably a bit more, and is extremely slender. His own vestments are a shimmering elegance of jade, celadon, and emerald, like a large piece of the deep woods of Hallas come to life. When he speaks his voice is a comfort, like rustling leaves on a sunny summer day. Despite your current 'sundered' state, you can't help but feel a twinge of homesickness.
"We have all the time there is, Minaethiel. Now and always. I have duties during the Ritual tomorrow morning, it is true, but you can always find me in Hallas if you wish to speak more. Find the town of Old Bone Orchard, where I stay."
The Telestari stops on the steps of the West Cathedral and sits down, motioning for you to do the same. "Now. What is it you would ask of me?"
In the face of that achingly distant but familiar feeling of home, Minaethiel sighs, a longing sensation building in her chest. Liminaltor seated is still not that much shorter than her standing.
"I never used to live my life as a mortal, but in the face of so many threats...I never feel as if there is time enough. With Peace-Through-Vigilance and Sarenrae pressing me to continue to Izmir, I am uncertain what to expect. I don't wholly know why I am here..." she does not finish with ...instead of in Tuatha, saving my people. Or hunting these demons, hunting down Veriala...or any number of other tasks before me.
She moves towards the steps and also takes a seat, finally resting herself. Minaethiel gathers the hem of her skirts around her feet and then looks up at the towering Telestari."I need to know what I am, how to control it, how to understand it. I have hurt too many people with this mark, drawn the attention of too many gods, become embroiled in prophecies I do not understand. Some tales...some visions... seem connected to each other, whereas others wholly unconnected. I tried to learn more...at the Painted Flutes, but the gods intervened."
Her head tilts, platinum tresses slipping off her shoulder, as if considering how to approach an intricate puzzle or maze.
I suppose all of this begins, for me, in the northlands when Ketephys appeared to me with Luaera, in the place of doors. I now know from Swati that she was a gate, yes? Red - deception. Ketephys spoke of a mistake, long ago. The mark revealed itself not long after that. I read folktales of betrayal, of Kutaisi, of Rasynyankh. I have since learned the Ley of Luaera.
Not long after that, Firliadeth, who I now know to be the West Gate, and the red mark of this era, informed me that I should undertake a quest involving the Seven Sacred Cities. That she wishes to ascend to a position above gods, and she wishes me to aid her by entering the Seven Sacred Cities through the East Gate. In Mamban, I did so, and felt horrid.
Minaethiel stops, gesturing softly towards Liminaltor. "I suppose I would stop there before continuing with more, because there are so many questions with just this. Are the tales of betrayal from millenia ago true? Am I Luaera, as she said to me in the dream? What is the quest Firla has set me upon, and what happened in Mamban when I entered? Is is possible for me to control this mark, to control the East Gate - if not to my benefit, then at least so that I do not cause more damage by summoning megafauna? Can I understand it, so that when it aches or pulls, I know the source, the purpose?"
Liminaltor chuckles softly. It is a bizarre and alien sound, though not an unfriendly one. It sounds a bit like tree bark on a rock. "Minathiel, I am sorry, but it was only just 10 days ago that I was awakened by those who came out from the Snowglobe of Winter's Fury. Before that, I had been asleep for some thousands of years. I am still...catching up. In the old times I would simply have visited the city to access all knowledge of all Telestari from a White. This could be done in one of our cities, but our cities, I am told, are dead, along with nearly all of my people."
It rotates its head towards you. "This is all by way of saying, I do not know who Firla is, I am afraid. I have heard the name, but am yet to acquaint myself with her deeds. I know nothing of betrayal and I do not know Swati, or Luaera. These things and names echo in my spirit, they ring with meaning, but until I can speak with a White, I will not know exactly what those meanings are. Again, I am sorry if this disappoints you, but it is the way of things. Arialanar Maren and Iassurrallus have both been awake much, much longer than I; perhaps they could tell you more."
"Of the mark, though, this I can tell you; there are ways to control it by binding it through arcane power, and there are ways to control it through bending the will of nature. You appear to be unique in that you could control it in whichever way you choose. I do not know which would be more difficult for you to learn, but I can direct you to certain...resources, if you wish, once you have chosen. And yes, first you must choose."
"The megafauna come to protect you, to protect those around you. When they appear they seek instruction, and if they do not get it then the summoning makes them mad and they seek their own purpose. This is the first lesson. And...an ache? The Mark should...not ache. That is passing strange. May I see it?"
As Liminaltor chuckles, she feels an almost inexplicable urge to curl up around him, as if she were in the copse back in Tuatha where she would retreat to study or just soak in the beauty of nature surrounding her. As he speaks, this urge causes her to lean towards him more than she might realize, as if trying to somehow reach across that broken connection through him.
So many other questions arise from his responses: of the truth of the Telestari, the language, the moving paintings, the seeking of a wild magic source - and why? - the true history that will allow her to refute the ridiculous theories. Hope too, when he indicates that she can control it, although the idea of making such a choice between arcana and nature only reminds her of the severing of her bond - and the words of the Enhathladi: all Lands are one Land.
When Liminaltor requests to see the Mark, she straightens, nodding. Saying as she rolls up her sleeve, proffering her arm to him. “It aches at different times. Once, when I was very near a ley line – which is when the mark first appeared to my eye, although my mother indicates that she knew it was there long ago. Other times, I find it tugs at me, to go to certain cities, to do certain things. Once I played an ancient song and it summoned a Megafauna of the deep; the pain was excruciating. Usually the megafauna only come when…when I fall unconscious. When I entered the East Gate of Mamban, just as Firliadeth instructed, I recall pain – but perhaps that was different.” She narrows her eyes in thought. “I recall that Starspurn said something about my mark being very different from Swati’s – The South Gate, in Saventh Yhi.”
Minaethiel decides to stop here rather than utter another barrage of inquisition, although one last question slips out. "So you were trapped before the Cataclysm."
"Cataclysm? Of what do you speak?" The alien creature bends down to examine your arm and suddenly reels back as if struck. And it seems like it was struck -- a shadowy tendril lunges out from your arm but suddenly vanishes. If it weren't for all the strange occurrences surrounding you and your companions lately you'd think you had imagined it. But things being what they are...something must have happened.
"Minaethiel." Liminaltor's voice is grave. "You have been touched by the Shadow. The same force that animates and empowers the abominations, that binds the souls of living hosts to it and its will, that sends dreams of devouring to the poor outsiders stuck here, like the living metal, like my own people until we overcame it, it...is...it is trying to go through you, but it is trying to go out! I have never seen anything like this."
There is a sudden fierce wind and the beating of giant wings, wings as wide as hills, and Na-Calanon descends into the courtyard, probably the only such one in the entire city large enough to contain his mammoth, 800-foot long bulk. His voice is a giant rumble even at low volume, vibrating the marble steps you sit on like an earthquake. His eyes, each one far larger than you and the Telestari at your side combined, regard you.
"I sense it, too; the power swirling around her. Something is wrong. Exposure to the abominations should not do this. Something else is at work." The great dragon murmurs. "Forgive me, both of you, but I was flying to my eyrie and could not help but overhear. Even ears so ancient as mine are still quite sharp when they are dragon ears." He gives what you assume (hope?) is a toothy and teasing grin.
Confirming your hope, Liminaltor lets out a short bark that must be a laugh. "Old friend," he says, "I am so thankful that you are still here after all my time in sleep, I would have missed you terribly, had I been conscious to do so. Always you make me laugh. But what has happened to the Princess is not a laughing matter." Liminaltor again regards you with his strangely comforting yet utterly alien gaze; his multi-faceted eyes glimmering in the dark like sunlight through young leaves, dazzling and relaxing at the same time. "Your highness, you must undergo the ritual tomorrow, at the same time as Brother Balsamon. We must unchain you. You cannot be allowed to continue like this; who knows what evil is able to track you while you are thus shadowed. Will you assent to participate? We have completed it successfully multiple times now, but it is still dangerous."
Minaethiel rears back as the shadow swirls out from her arm towards Liminaltor. The gravity and astonishment in his voice causes her mind to race, to try and think of when she might have touched the box, or the other abominations. That swirl of darkness – the same she saw in Mamban…
The interruption of a gigantic gold dragon settling nearby blows her hair into her face as if a cyclone hit in a single burst, her hands reaching out as if to shield herself from it. Immediately, however, the booming voice transforms her visage with awe, feeling the ancient power in her bones as Na-Calanon speaks to Liminaltor. Minaethiel listens like a child at the foot of the revered storyteller, absorbing between these two beings she is so immensely fortunate to have met.
Liminaltor speaks to her again, and the light in his eyes seems to spark something – a memory of Tuatha from so long ago. ”When I entered the East Gate of Mamban, a curling blackness reached out of me and I was sickened, blacking out. Just now, that swirling black smoke seemed similar to that – and the white being at the fountain severed my connection …and there is a black…beast…chewing on the place of doors…” She realizes those situations might mean nothing, and may not be connected…so she hastens to her point. ”But within Tuatha, there is something called The Blight – where a great deranged demon fell, leading a war against our lands centuries ago, slain by my ancestors. It cursed the land, and no one goes near it…twisted forest and blackened earth. And there, the smoke never seems to stop, as if it smoulders still from the war. When I was coming of age…I fell into it…” she pauses, chagrinned, “I’m told I leapt into it, and the smoke seemed to meet me, and that I was spared only by my connection to Tuatha, the LeyLament – the will of the people and land combined. I’m told I lay like the dead, and when I awoke, my mother pressed to break ancient tradition and allow me to leave Tuatha. It is …unprecedented. ” She wonders briefly if the shadow might be at all connected with devils…but shakes her head, sighing.
”If this is connected, then I have been tracked since the moment I left the forest. I will undergo this ritual tomorrow if you say I must. But I would wish to know more of the Shadow first. What it is. What it is connected with. What it could do to me. If it could lend me some capability to fight what attacks my homeland now…” Why hide what her intentions are – they must know if she is to fully understand this curse.
Na-Calanon rumbles, but it's not clear to you whether it is a sound of worry or amusement or something else.
"It is just the gummy mumblings of an old dragon, your highness, fear not." The Great Wyrm says, clearly catching some of your surface thoughts. "It occurs to me the blackness reaching out from you is probably the same. A being in white, you say? The sunderer, then. He lives. Phenomenal. I had given up hope long ago, but by now he must be well-nigh impossible to find unless you are under a geas like Minathiel here."
Liminaltor nods and picks up the thread, heading in a different direction with it, though. "I do not know if the smoke you experience in your homeland is the same as this, though it is something I would like very much to investigate. The Shadow itself is...it is a creature of pure mind and oneness. Like a hive mind, only so much worse. It is the stuff of the plane of shadow itself. Imagine if every thing in the land. Everything were all one thing. Rocks, trees, grasses, people, lava, rain, everything. That is the Shadow in its plane. Pure dimensional matter. And that is what powers the Abominations, and certain other things in this world." He pauses.
"I am troubled by something you said. What is the "place of doors"...?"
Na-Calanon lifts his head, sniffing, then makes the expression you now recognize as a smile. "Captain Coyne is returning with the First Cavalry. We will have company soon." The Telestari nods but is clearly distracted, more interested in an answer to his question than anything else.
Minaethiel considers a moment before responding to Liminaltor. "The place of doors was shown to me by Ketephys – there were five doors, to which he claimed I had the keys.” She closes her eyes, trying to recreate the place from the combination of memory and intuition, reaching to tap into that source inside her. “One door was open – the door made of ancient wood with bands of steel. Another door of pure energy swirled with blue and gold and green, as if the essence of nature danced there – this door, Ketephys pushed open, awakening the sorcery within me, when he called me daughter. Three other doors remained closed: a door of iron and rivets, adamantine coursing through, a door of sound and torchlight, and a door that was creation, the universe, the stars, both the blood of all existence and the absence of breath, the nothingness between existences.”
Her green eyes click open then, refusing to allow her imagination to go further as she adds, [b]“When last I saw the place of doors – in Katapesh – there was a great black beast gnawing at one of the doors. I do not remember which door. I have not been able to connect with Ketephys – or the place of doors - for some time…as if there is an interference.”
What other things in this word does the Shadow power? Is it at all connected with the Weavers? With the Underfolk, who believe I am their Queen of Light, the eleventh daughter of an eleventh daughter? Is the Shadow necessarily evil? Would it be connected with the three demons I must destroy, as described in the Tome of the East Gate and prophesied by the Sphinx?"
Minaethiel directs her next words to the massive Na-Calanon, her tone softer,"The Sunderer does still live at the fountain, or did several months back. I was led there by signs of the Gods - a spider, a wasp. And a small, broken flying demon - the same creature I saw with the Enhathladi, the same creature that gave me the Anything Page, leading me through the twisted alleys of Mamban to the Fountain. There the Sunderer cut my connection, sparing me the LeyLament," those words hold an unfathomable tone of loneliness and loss conflicting with a sense of dutiful gratitude (as if she /should/ feel thankful for such freedom),"and two gods appeared while I was still conscious - Ketephys and Erastil. They argued with the Sunderer - saying it was too soon. The Sunderer replied that if it were too soon, then how could I find him? Then all went black."
Then, more concerned,"Under a geas? Are you...of what geas do you speak?” She thinks of the request of Firliadeth, that she enter the seven sacred cities, and wonders if that is what the dragon speaks of.
Liminaltor speaks first. "Remarkable. The doors of your Life's Way. These are the same doors that we Telestari learned to open, Minathiel, doors of power, ways of focus; the possible paths you could take over the course of your years! Right now Ketephys himself, it appears, is tending them, but if you can see them, well, then you could open them yourself, and that same knowledge could lead you to the ability to control your Mark. But the presence of a shadow-thing in that place, Minathiel that is not good. That simply reinforces my thinking that you must undergo the ritual. It would appear that both you and Brother Balsamon are in danger of being devoured from within by the shadow. The source of his Curse is obvious; it is the Abomination bound to him. But yours...yours could be trickier. You will have to be strong tomorrow, princess. Stronger than ever you have been in your short life."
Na-Calanon speaks as the sound of giant wings approaches. "I know not the exact source of the Geas under which you labor, but it is powerful. It will drive you farther and farther from your home in the woods of Tuatha unless you dispel or reverse it. Master Starspurn might be able to do this for you, but it may even be beyond him."
The sound of wings becomes deafening, and the sky is suddenly a riot of metallic scales, gleaming coolly under the starlight and moonlight. An entire Wing of dragons -- silver, copper, brass, and gold -- lands in the courtyard. There are fifteen of them in all, and while none are so ancient and majestic as the Great Wyrm Na-Calanon all are quite old and extremely large. All have riders decked in gleaming silver plate mail.
So much power, so much might and majesty in one group. To fight with such warriors must be an inspiration beyond imagining.
"Are the Geas and the Shadow un...." her voice rises against the din before it is entirely swept away. She turns her gaze from Na-Calanon to the sky, which has become an amazing dance of eldritch wonders – dragons, filling the night firmament. In this peaceful moment, even the whoosh of their wings seems a magical softness against the din of war, as if a vision from a dream, a secret only visible by moonlight – the powerful, silent protectors while the city sleeps.
In the face of this spectacle, Minaethiel swallows against a tightness in her throat, the wave of longing incited by Liminaltor rising again, this time to prick her eyes with tears.
It is the closest she’s felt to the ancient pull of Tuatha in months, and she yearns to just stand among their awesome presence.
“…connected?” Minaethiel finishes, her breath leaving her in a soft exhale at the wonder standing before her.
The next morning, upon wakening, Nurianna awaits the sunrise. She does not feel wholly abandoned here--anywhere there is sun, there is also Sarenrae, after all--but the slight disconnect with her diety is curious to her. She trusts in Iomedae as an ally with Sarenrae and is grateful for the guidance along the long, road-less journey to Izmir, but Nurianna is still compelled to seek the connection to Sarenrae (whose city this is not), even if it is currently a one-way connection.
To her page she says, "Can you tell me, would it be possible to meet with Starspurn at some point today? I have a few questions for him. Right now, I would like to know where in Izmir I should go to find rings and other magical items."
She telepathically asks Cas if he would like to accompany her, as she might benefit from his superior perception in locating some key items for the journey beyond the city.
@Nurianna: Samuel, your page, nods his sandy-blonde head earnestly at your queries. "Yes mistress! I can take you to where the Archmage is dining right now, if you wish! We have been told he will be staying in the city for some time, to help with the war, and is making magical preparations to strike back at the enemy!" The young boy is dutifully scribbling a little to-do note for himself in a chapbook hung 'round his neck. "After that, I can take you to the Avenue of the Gods. There are altars there to all the gods and goddesses of light, all those that ally themselves with the Silver Lady, the Inheritor, and there are magic shops and libraries and all manner of thing there. You may also search the city, but I will have to get you a squire if you wish to do that. We pages are not allowed off Cathedral grounds."
Cas answers your telepathic query; "I will stay, for the time being; I am taking counsel with the dragons in Captain Coyne's squad. There is much they know that we should know. I will catch up with you later in the morning, perhaps, and tell you what I find. But do give my regards to Starspurn."
To Samuel, Nurianna smiles. "I would not want to bother Starspurn over breakfast. It can wait until later. The Avenue of the Gods sounds excellent; please, let's go there at once."
To Cas, telepathically: "Ah, I see. It will be fascinating to hear about what they've seen." She pauses. "The Dragonsingers themselves are fascinating... I wonder if they know what has transpired across the woods of Rassnynyankh since we were there so many months ago."
Nurianna prepares to leave as follows: desert cloak (open) over regular clothing, no dragon armor, no shield, no weapon except her flaming scimitar in its scabbard. She carries her bag of holding comfortably over one shoulder, under the cloak. Most everything else she carries (potions, various stones/gems, other magic items, money, etc) is in the bag of holding, except the rod, which she also leaves in her quarters with the other things she is not wearing. She wears the Ring of Shielding; the Ring of Telekinesis she has the bag.
Samuel nods and starts out. En route, he regales you with tales of the thrilling life of a Cathedral Page, which seems mostly to consist of cleaning things; armor, floors, dishes, curtains, horses, anything that can be cleaned in this city seems like it gets cleaned by a page.
The walk to the Avenue of the Gods is surprisingly short. The two of you cross the square, take the main street north, and then after a diagonal turn you come out in a very broad avenue, lined on each side with mighty statues of all the gods Iomedae considers allies; Erastil, Abadar, Shelyn, and of course the Dawnflower, Sarenrae. Each statue stands in front of a glorious temple erected in accordance with that god's strictures.
The only shops along this avenue are ones that carry magical items of divine power, or mundane items to be used in rituals to the gods here worshipped. None of the stores seems particularly focused on this god or that, but rather all seem to carry a variety of things.
"I never really go in these places, my Lady, so I am afraid I cannot recommend one to you, but I know that all businessmen in Izmir are honest and straightforward, so you have no fear of a bad haggle or ill transaction." Samuel pipes up.
Nurianna thinks to herself that trained focus can certainly lead to great things, whether that be used to take from the unwilling or remove all evidence of dirt and decay. She smiles, remembering that at his age, she might have been as zealous about her given tasks as Samuel is about his. And then she remembers something they may not have in common...
As they continue to walk into the Avenue of the Gods, she says to him: "Samuel, how long have you been a page of Iomedae's Cathedral? Do you have a family here in the city? A mother and father? Siblings, perhaps?" Nurianna pauses as she thinks of her own family, doing the only thing they knew how to get by: "When I was your age, I lived near Katapesh, which keeps Abadar holy" -- she stops and points to what is presumably the statue of the Keeper of the First Vault -- "and also near Solku, where Sarenrae's Lambent Citadel is located" -- she then points to the statue of the Dawnflower. Then she turns fully to Samuel. "It isn't a safe area, never has been, really. There's a lot of trade, and with it, a lot of lawlessness. The paladins of Iomedae helped secure Solku for Sarenrae's faithful many many years ago in the Battle of Red Hail. You must know about that, don't you?" Smiling, she continues: "I had no idea back then how intertwined the gods were, and if you would have asked me, I might have told you it didn't matter. But I know better now. You are probably a hundred times more in tune with the world than I could ever have presumed I was, back then." Then she laughs, to impress upon him that this is a compliment, at her own expense.
Nurianna then looks up and down the Avenue of the Gods, noting Erastil and Shelyn. She mutters to herself as she strains to see: "Where is the Drunken Hero...?"
Samuel looks up and nods. "Thank you, my lady, you are most kind. But you are also a great warrior, and I can only hope one day to be as highly-esteemed as you and your companions." At your question, he points up to the end of the block. "The temple of Caiden Caylean is there, my lady. Taverns are rare in Izmir, but an exception is made for the Fortunate One, last of the Chosen of the Starstone." Looking at where he points, you see that one of the temples has an incongruous sign hanging out front like any tavern or inn, the common "shingle" enormously out of place against the grandeur of polished marble, granite, glass and gold.
After dinner, and with the promise of libraries, Mina follows the page to her room to gather her book, pen and ink for taking notes. But … she should seek Starspurn first—not only out of consideration for the fact that she might well be up all night in the libraries, but also because she has not thanked him for his part in the ritual…nor prodded him to share what the others would not, or could not, tell her. About the Geas. About Korius' green eyes. And what Starspurn might tell her may provoke a different avenue of study…
“What are the questions before me, truly?” She turns, flipping open the book and scribbling several points there:
--Telestari language, history, magic, gates, mega fauna
--Weavers and the Shadow Plane
--Prophecy – anything about a Queen of Night, or Queen of Light, perhaps songs? Folk tales? Could this be at all connected with the Songs?
--Ley lines – a map
-- …everything else… realizing that there are more questions than there are answers, Mina puts down her pen. Some of the same questions from the beginning seemed still so pertinent. Others seemed from a time more innocent.
Studies tonight would need to be a web - from a center, cirling outward towards more answers.
Liminaltor said I must choose if he is to teach me. Arcana or Nature. But if I can teach myself through the doors – must I choose?
She tucks several sheaves of paper into the book – notes from traveling, from their experiences. The Mina freshens up – dashing water on her face, tying back her hair as best as possible – and then looks for her page to ask to be led to Starspurn, as well as given directions for the libraries dealing with ancient history, Telestari, arcane magics, prophecy, religion and music. She will want to visit them next. If only I could immerse myself in this place...a week? A week might be enough for now...if the Inheritor would allow it.
At the last minute, and with the page waiting patiently in the hallway, she returns to her room and gathers the satchel with the Tome of the East Gate, slinging it over her shoulder. Heaving a deep sigh, she might normally reach towards Ketephys with a wish for strength, but tonight- with a tome of malicious power in hand- Arthion comes to mind, her silent prayer extending towards him for guidance and insight as she murmurs to herself, What do I find here?
Mina hopes he is well; to wish for safety in these troubled times would be futile.
@Mina: Your page, Lukas, happily leads you to Starspurn's quarters. Upon arriving he knocks and goes in. After a moment's conversation he comes back out and gestures you in. "I will wait out here, my lady, if you have need of me for anything." He stands with his back ramrod-straight, his posture a near-perfect imitation of the disciplined soldiers of Izmir.
Starspurn's quarters are essentially identical to yours, Bardas', Nurianna's, and all the other guest quarters in any of the cathedrals. The archmage himself is seated, lotus-style, in the center of the floor, runes cast about him written in salt, metallic powder, thyme, and other powders and tinctures you do not immediately recognize. His eyes are open, his posture perfect. He smiles as you enter and gestures toward a seat against the wall. "Mina, please, come in. Your page says you wished to speak with me. What is on your mind?" He makes no move to get up or change position, but he does make eye contact and acknowledge you when speaking.
The corner of her mouth quirks at Lukas, remembering what it was like as a youth with a life filled with ceremony and tradition, being surrounded by attendants. Her attendants were always older...not children. Thank you, Lukas.
1d20 + 10 ⇒ (19) + 10 = 29 Knowledge arcana check to know what is going on here. Would love to add the scent aspect too. :)
Her gaze sweeps across the symbols written around him in the arcane materials as she moves towards the chair he suggests, but does not yet sit. She slings the satchel from her shoulder, noting a strange awareness of the book's weight as it lowers to the ground at her feet."I do not wish to interrupt you; I can come later, after I visit the libraries...although that may be some time later. I wished to speak about the ritual in the cathedral...and the geas Na-Calanon senses on me." Then a flight of whimsy strikes her, and Mina's mouth lifts into a smile, "And why you chose the name Starspurn."
@Mina: The archmage gives a short laugh. "Goodness! My name! Hahahahaa, I haven't been asked that in centuries."
"Well, if you don't mind, I'll answer your last question first, since it's easiest." As he speaks, you extend your senses in an effort to ascertain exactly what magic is or was afoot here, but try as you might you can make no sense of the seemingly random assortment of physical spell components, cooking ingredients, metal, stone, and other items. Curiously, there is not even a hint of a scent to whatever the man is doing, either.
"When I was young, it was foretold I would be a god. These were in the days when the starstone was still in existence, and the test of the starstone still used to determine divinity among certain folk."
"All the signs were there. I was born with a constellation mark on my back, the alignment of the stars was right, and there were other signs besides. It's not really important now. What's important is I was taken from my village by clerics of Nethys, to be raised 'in the manner most appropriate for a god-child'." He snorts. "Idiots, the lot of them. But I suppose how were they to know. They raised me as one holy and predestined, and for this, at least, I am thankful to them, despite how misguided they may have been in other regards. For under their tutelage my magical talents flowered and grew at a prodigal rate, astonishing them at every turn. I grew arrogant, then, for as my power grew so did their obeisance and obsequiousness. Heh. Then..." He pauses, a wistful smile on his face and a faraway look in his eyes. "...then I met Nelemuth."
"Nelemuth is a White Telestari, you see, and my patron. He is the one who found Swathi and led him to safety in Saventh-Yhi. He is the one who currently travels with your young friend Cassandra through the wilds of the unclaimed lands and the frosty north, in the guise of an owl. He is impossibly old and wise, and he saw in me all the potential the clerics of Nethys saw, but he also saw my capacity for pride, and arrogance, and how easily I would one day be corrupted if I stayed on my current path. So he took it upon himself, as a self-appointed guardian of wild magic, to humble me. We met in the woods, I on a walk to contemplate the power of nature, as a druid might understand it, and he in the guise of a child younger than I. He challenged me to a duel, I lost...quite badly."
"What happened next is of no concern to anyone but myself and Nelemuth, and anyway I could while away a thousand thousand nights regaling you with the things he taught me, but I have not the time on this Land that you do, your highness, and as such must demur. Suffice it say he taught me the real power of the Land, of the sky and the sea and the sun, and what wild magic really was, and what it could do, and why it was...why it was and is the only magic worth pursuing."
He smiles at you. "So! This is the long way of answering your question, I recognize, but here at last is the punch line; Nelemuth told me that, when each of the Telestari were deciding whether to split and stay engaged with the land or remain as stars, observing but never taking part in things, he took a path unique to him, rejecting both of the other options and becoming, in the Telestari tongue, 'Naravansala-teyth, Lanra-elet; He Who Spurned the Deathless Stars'. After studying with him for a sufficient period of time, he told me exactly what his name meant, and how it came about, and so impressed was I that I took it for myself, though I translated it into the coarse conglomeration of syllables we call "common" such that more would understand, and I became Starspurn, for I went to the clerics of Nethys and rejected them, and their teachings, and their wishes. I did not endeavor to take the test of the Starstone, and turned instead to the Way taught me by Nelemuth, the way I study still, for though that road is far longer, therein lies greater power than is available even to the gods, and more glory and good besides."
The wizard gives a sad little sideways smile, then, and takes a couple sprigs of mint, placing them into a tiny little pestle with a couple juniper berries and evergreen needles. Producing a mortar he starts to lightly grind at them. "So...what is it about the ritual you wished to know, exactly? And what is this about a geas? Someone has placed one on you? Do you know who, or why? If the Prefect detects one on you then I do not doubt its presence, but do you have any idea how such a thing might have come about? Did he say anything more about it?"
The archmage rises and goes to the dresser, where a number of beakers and clay pots and odd pieces of metal and implements lay scattered about. He lights a fire and places a beaker over it, sprinkling the dried and bruised components into a couple of small containers.
Appraise1d20 + 9 ⇒ (11) + 9 = 20
K (History)1d20 + 9 ⇒ (1) + 9 = 10
She unconsciously takes her seat as Starspurn weaves his tale, noting his references to time and history, but unwilling to interrupt his telling. By the time he addresses her initial questions, Minaethiel's mind is whirling with new questions: How is it that you are mortal, but living so long? So, you defied prophecy, defied the gods, defied portents and carved your own path-- what is the Way taught to you by Nelemuth? Can I bridge both Nature and Arcana, follow the path of the Wild magic? My people depend on me, both elves and now the underfolk. And who else could I spare from the tyrrany of the Black Dragonflight? I cannot forsake them--I cannot not be what they need me to be. This Mark...how can I be separate from the forces whirling around me? Should I be?
Mina closes her eyes and takes a deep, stilling breath.
Opening her eyes, "Liminaltor would not tell me anything of the ritual, save that the Shadow still lives inside me. I know what I remember of the experience: the three demons and the raven haired lady." She gestures briefly to the bag, wondering if Starspurn could read it...if it was even safe to remove... and continues, "As for the Geas, it seems to be separate from the Shadow? I know next to nothing, although I could venture several guesses as to who might wish to put one upon me, or circumstances where it could have happened."
"Na-Calanon mentioned the geas almost in passing while we were discussing the shadows. He stated that it may be the geas that led me to the Sunderer in Mamban, and that it will drive me from my home unless I dispel or reverse it." She considers a moment, musing softly "Which means that it had been placed before the Painted Flutes, before the sundering..." Minaethiel's gaze sharpens, and she redirects her focus to Starspurn. "The ancient dragon also indicated that the geas was very powerful, and that you might know more, but that even you might not be able to affect it." She pauses, and then adds, "I am not terrible familiar with the spell or much other than it as a compulsion to a certain action - what one might learn from reading prophecy or history, myths and legends. I was...not trained to an arcane path, or really, to any path." It is humbling to think of the possible centuries that Starspurn has studied, whereas she has only undergone the rudimentary training as a druid, and stumbled her way through sorcery.
"But knowing that I'm being driven from there explains several odd occurences - perhaps. Interventions by the gods, direct and possibly indirect. Sarenrae directed Nurianna to keep me from returning to Tuatha. And twice Korius has spoken to me with eyes of green, his mien gaining an unfathomable presence. His most recent words - tonight- were that I should not return home." Was it Ketephys? Was it...Luaera, her own eyes looking out at her?
Nurianna smiles at Samuel but wonders at the process for gathering a city full of males, males who grow up with a connection to the celestial more out of proportion to their connection to the earth which they come from. That they serve Iomedae fills her with a stillness, but something in the back of her mind reminds her there are places in the world where abduction and slavery still run rampant. She is also pondering the idea of god-as-mother, which is not a concept to which she consciously subscribes. She catalogs the difference and moves on with ease.
She walks ahead to stand in front of the temple to Caiden Caylean, smiling at its incongruity. She looks up to note what is on the shingle before moving ahead to enter.
Note to GM: Nurianna is looking for an item which may be of some use to Bardas. No particular item, but she hopes to get information from someone within this non-church which may help direct her. She'll-know-it-when-she-sees-it kind of thing. She does not wish to be sneaky; it's a shopping trip.
@Mina: Starspurn listens attentively, though his attention is split between your musings and whatever alchemy he is working over at his small table. You notice the most amazingly accurate smell of pine trees is beginning to permeate the room. "Well, I can certainly attempt to have a look at the Geas for you, though as Na-Calanon said, it is indeed unlikely I will be able to tell you anything with a very high degree of precision, but I can at least look. Perhaps I will learn other things, yes? In the meantime, here; drink this. It'll help." He has doused the flame and handed you a stout clay mug filled with a thin, dark liquid. The smell is so strong it makes you quite dizzy, scent being the strongest of the associative senses. When you breathe in the odor of the strange, heated liquid, you are instantly filled with the feeling of being deep, deep in an old, dark, wild woods. The smell is damp, musky, humic, old, and yet simultaneously redolent of pine needles, leaves, and the high tang of the wild places of the Land. Seeing you looking curiously at it, Starspurn smiles. "It is tea." he says.
"It is a tea they make in the Great Trackless Woods, and while its true name is unpronouncable by our meager tongues -- though you could come closer than I, I'd wager -- it translates from Old High Fey into the Common tongue roughly as 'Drink of the Forest', where the name is both descriptive and literal. This beverage allows you to take the essence of the woods into your spirit, or to bolster it if it is already there. To bring you all of its comforts, its dangers, its beauty." He sniffs deeply and takes a deep sip. "It is also, " he says, a twinkle in his eye, "just tea."
He begins flipping through his ancient and battered spellbook. "While I prepare for this spell, was there anything else you wished to discuss? I may not be too talkative after this finishes. I am going to take an...exotic route to get whatever information we can, and it is a tiring route to take."
@Nurianna: I may need a bit more info than that in order to properly RP this out. Let's see how it goes...
Walking into the church, you are struck by a faint yeasty smell, but also the smell of good leather and good food. The building is noisy; no doors are shut anywhere and many men and women(!) are going from room to room, laughing and talking, many in their cups. You are standing in a long, wide, high-ceilinged hallway. There are a half-dozen doors on each side of the hall and stairs at the end, going both up and down. From where you're standing, right inside the doorway, you can see that the first four doors (two on each side) all lead in to large tavern/dining hall-type areas. Walking forward, you spot rooms that are like dormitories; long rows of beds with sleeping fighters and clerics, all dozing or sleeping off their hangovers, probably. There is an infirmary, and then the last two doors on the right both lead in to what look like general stores; one seems to specialize in weapons, the other has a large assortment of who-knows-what; clothes, bottles, sticks, wands, you name it, it's in there.
Nurianna points to the door that appears to be stocked with the who-knows-what and says to Samuel "Let's head that way."
As a silent prayer to Sarenrae, Nurianna thinks If Caiden Caylean stands alongside you, then let your guidance show your faithful servant what may be helpful to Bardas on our journeys.
Faith check: 1d20 + 4(WIS)=6
Luck check: 1d20 + 0(CHA)=natural 20
Note to GM: Nurianna is essentially looking for something that would be helpful to Bardas but she isn't sure what that might be. Hopefully you would at least allow that in the travels thus far she would have realized how important brewing is to Bardas' functionality... she has helped him repair his brewing kit and has observed him collecting materials for new brews. So she kind of gets the brewing part. But there are many aspects relative to the patronage to Caiden Caylean that she isn't aware of; enhancing these may assist Bardas. Maybe these are also brewing related, maybe they are something else entirely. This is where a helpful resident of the CC non-church could assist her. She has no ranks in K-Religion.
Nurianna instinctively looks for something resembling the Scales of Abadar in or around this store. She is not dubious of what Samuel has told her of the temple shops, but more that it's a reflex.
Perception check: 1d20 + 14=24
@Nurianna: Samuel is silent and wide-eyed at your hip, looking goggle-eyed around at all the trinkets and strange things in the shop. It occurs to you that it is quite likely he has never set foot in this place or anything even remotely like it.
It doesn't surprise you that you don't see the Scales anywhere on display, but the jovial woman behind the counter, deep in conversation with a rakish-looking fellow in leather armor, looks about as trustworthy as anyone you've probably ever laid eyes on. Her partner in conversation, however, looks a bit more classically rogue-ish in a tomcatty kind of way. As you are gazing at the hundreds and hundreds of things, you accidentally smack into a large gourd. The clay vessel is as big as a small shoulder bag at full capacity ('bout the size of a basketball) and somehow survives its crash to the ground. It has a weird, straw-looking protuberance at its narrow top, and said top pops off, revealing a huge amount of dust and a battered and ancient-looking book inside the container. The book is covered in the same dust as the rest of the interior of the gourd, and by your guess has probably been in there for a very long time. The title of the book is written in a strange dialect, but even through the dust you can make out three words: "EIGHT DRUNKEN GODS"
From the counter, the man talking to the counter-lade smiles and says, not unkindly, "Looks like someone's been hittin' the tavern." The lady punches him in the shoulder. "Now don't be a sniggering bully." she admonishes him. The man looks aggrieved and holds up his hands. "Who's bullying?" he asks. The counter lady flaps a hand at him and looks over at you, her face open and a helpful expression on her face. "Can I help y', deary? Anything in partic'lar you need?"
Mina takes the mug after Starspurn agrees to look at the geas. “Thank you – I know you do not have to help me. I appreciate that you do. If I can return the favor, I will gladly. I already owe you a great debt for consenting to take part in the ritual to rid me of the shadow. As for what else you might learn...” Mina gives a soft shrug with a wry smile, "...every day is a whole new chapter of understanding, it seems."
She turns that wry smile to the mug, looking into the drink contained there. Taking a drink, her eyes close at the onslaught of the sensation of the forest, of the story he tells of it. Even if it is just a romantic ideal, there’s power in the beliefs of a people, in the tasting of centuries of tradition and intention.
The tattered pages of his spellbook catch her eye, and Mina relaxes back cradling the drink in her hands. She takes another large drink before answering Starspurn’s question. ”Talking to you, I feel as if I could sit a century and just listen—and it seems you may still appear as young as you do now. I thought to stop and speak with you before heading to the libraries, but now I’m not certain the libraries are where I should be focused.” She takes another drink, a hand fidgeting with a lock of hair. “A thousand questions come to mind – about this tea, about your path, about Nelemuth, about the Telestari. I’ve learned so much in the past months traveling this way – paintings with dancers that move, slowly cobbling together my understanding of the Telestari language, and what all of this means –for me, for others.”
Then Mina sighs, ”But we don’t have that time, do we? I suppose I would still know about the ritual, then. How does it work, and what happened? What did you see or experience? I swear I saw someone…dancing.” She trails off a moment…and then snaps back to awareness. “The book in this satchel has drawings in it, and I want to know if you saw any of these beings during the ritual, as I did. The book is in a language I do not know, and it tends to be…aggressive.”
Perception check (keeping an eye on the rogue): 1d20 + 14=27
Diplomacy check (if I need it to barter): 1d20 + 11=21
Nurianna replaces the top of this vessel, picks it up off the floor, and turns to Samuel. She clicks her tongue and sighs, holding it out to him and saying kindly: "Here. Would you mind holding this, please? I don't think I can be trusted." She puts a hand on his shoulder, smiles, and then turns to the shop keeper.
"I *am* sorry for the disturbance! You could actually help me, as I come here not for myself, but on behalf of one of my travel companions, who has become a brewer of unique ales and - without his aid - our party could not have come far. I would like to repay him for his service... a gift, really... with something that would be useful to him, but... not being entirely familiar with his craft, or his predilection for drinking - " at this Nurianna looks askance at the rogue and smirks, not unkindly " - I seek the knowledge and guidance of those who work here - " at this she gestures towards the room, the building, the non-church of Caiden Caylean " - in finding special items that may complete his kit, or special tokens of the... church - " she pauses, smiles " - for lack of a better word."
From within the bag of holding, she produces one small silk bag containing one use of Dust of Disappearance, and one vial of Blue Whinnis poison. She places these on the counter for the shopkeepers view and tells her what each contains. "I have several of each of these, and thought perhaps the brewers here would have use of them, and could harness the power of each substance to be used to the advantage of the drinker. No doubt they would be valuable in battle." She smiles at the shopkeeper. "If you would be willing to barter."
Hey'all, just found this 'connected thread' to our game and spent a most enjoyable time reading it. You are phenomenal RPers (I leave out DRA because we all already know that his RP skills are in a whole other realm entirely) and it would be a pleasure to play with you some day.
I'm writing now just cuz I have to express a desire which you are of course in no way obligated to fulfill. What I'm referring to is, both Mina and Nurianna (and Bardus) are very interesting characters and, well, if you ever found the time or had the desire, I'd love to be able to have a gander at the sheets, if you were to post them in their profiles here online. That's all, and I am just asking.
Other that that, please do keep up with the awesome writing. And I can't wait to meet ya'all in our PbP some day! : D
|Sir Damian Lamorak|
@Kai: You awake.
The last thing you remember is flying over the battlefield outside H'arun, you were struck with powerful magic...multiple times. Now you are...
...where the hell are you?
You hear things; clanks and groans, water and fire, metallic scrapes and the tearing of flesh. Growls, grunts, cries, and crying. You smell rot and disease and death and a strange, humic, forest-y smell. You feel oddly disconnected from both your physical self and your astral self. Your head is muzzy and dull and cottony, as if packed in cushions.
No. You are blindfolded. You go to remove it but your hands and feet alike are bound. More information; you are seated. There is cold, wet earth under your backside and legs. You are in...extreme pain. Why. You cannot recall. Dully you perceive magic around you but it is opaque to your Inner Eye. Your arcane abilities are locked away somehow. The warrior in you knuckles down and attempts to plan while the arcanist in you is fascinated by the puzzle with which he has been presented.
Heavy footsteps, awkward and stumbling but strong; a very large Thing of some sort. A movement of air, fetid breath and a high, rank smell. Low growls. A hissing and lisping voice. Snake-like.
"Yyyyyou're awake. B$$@%. Little b@%*~. Little puny demon. It ith time to begin, little b#%~+." There is clinking above you, the insertion of key in lock, then you are lifted bodily up from the floor. It is rather painful. Giant, three-fingered hand. Rubbery skin oozing with...something.
A walk. You try to count paces but the odd gait of your captor defeats your dulled mind. You will try again next time. If there is a next time.
Hallways, then a room. The sound of screams and tearing flesh is all you hear all around you, drowning out closing and opening doors and odd hissing noises. Rough hands by your head, and you can see. Sort of.
The light is dim and a sickly green color. Your vision is blurry and one eye doesn't seem to work. You are still bound. Something is past the edge of your peripheral vision, something silent and huge and awful. It casts a pall over your mind. A new figure appears; human, average height, very skin-no. Not human. Stretched maggot-colored skin, skeletal face. Eyes replaced by glowing green orbs...a lich.
"So. Traveling with the so-called 'Liberators', eh? Hmph. Looks like they left another one to die. Useless bastards. Well I'll get more use out of you than they ever could, those careless sons of b%%$#es." The lich leans in close, reaching up to your forehead. There is a pulling, then a tearing. You don't scream too much, but only because you are exhausted beyond all measure.
The lich steps back, showing you a disgusting and grubby centipedal thing; another one of the symptoms of your disease, you remember being shown one earlier. The creature is pulsing with a yellow light the color of jaundice. Disgustingly, the lich smiles. "Let's begin with the easy questions, shall we little Tiefling? Where did you come across people infected with this disease?"
Kai squints deleriously at the foul thing before him, and winces when he sees the centipede shaped thing. Clearly, his sickness was progressing, and he doubted he would get very good medical attention here.
With as much defiance as he can muster, Kai says, "Your name wouldn't happen to be Pike, would it? Only, I thought you were a bit of a b~+~@."
Days like this, Kai sometimes wished he was on better terms with his parents.
The lich sneers, but does not move. "Told you about me, did they? Well we'll see who ends up being the b%$~~. Right now my zombies are marching on H'arun. They'll be there within hours. What's more, I have empowered a cadre of Rune Giants. Hahahahaa, I wish I could be there to see the look on Calitox's face when his arrows are useless, and on Dantoor's face when he realizes that the symbols of Gorum are all corrupted and useless...that the Iron Lord's eye is fixed to the west, where we aid the elementals in their war on the Red Dragonflight." Again the sickly smile. "It's almost embarrassing how easy you all were to manipulate. And now you yourself will aid us!" There is a sudden massive pain in your back, as if the muscle is being scooped out with a spoon. You wince in tremendous pain.
"I ask you again; Where did you get this disease? Where are the people who infected you? Where did you see it?"
Give me a DC18 Fort save. If you make it, you resist the torture. If you fail, you are induced to tell him something. You can lie if you want, but you know that if they find out you're lying, the pain is only going to get worse.
....Kai's not where I think he is....is he? I know you can't/won't tell me...but still.... I mean I can't help but put black dragonflight and a hidden base together with out thinking of one place....home
The lich sneers. "MY MOTHER WAS A SAINT YOU DEMON-SCUM!" he yells. He takes a couple steps back, then, and nods at someone over your shoulder. There is a sudden, fierce, hot pain in your shoulder. It is not at all like fire, it is as if someone were replacing your blood with boiling acid and bile. You feel serrated edges chewing and gnawing at the flesh. They dig so deeply that they hit bone.
This time you scream a little longer.
Give me a DC22 Fort save. Same rules as before.
Fort Save: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (10) + 11 = 21 Aww, one off
Struggling to stay conscious through the pain, Kai mutters his thoughts out loud without thinking, "The white robes... Order of the Ivory... they know..." Too late, Kai realizes he spoke. Succumbing to this so quickly Kai? He thought. What would they say in Abaddon? Shameful. Pull yourself together and be clever about this. The right truths can be as dangerous as lies.
Sneering at the lich, he says, "They know more than I do. In fact, I had assumed they were working for you. Must be for the Red's instead."
Again, the lich looks at whoever it is that is standing outside of your vision. He gives another nod. "Really. Well. How very informative. Unfortunately that's not the answer we were looking for. You see, we're not at all interested in what the Order of the Ivory Circle knows, those debauched scum can burn in sunlight for all I care. What I am interested in, however, is what you know. But I guess I need to be more direct."
The lich beckons off to the side with his left hand and a brutish construct steps clumsily forward into your field of vision. One of its hands is a ripsaw blade, the teeth of which are very dull and rusty and covered in old, dried gore. Flies are buzzing around it.
"Cut off his arm." Orders the lich. The construct stumps forward and jams the saw into your shoulder, shredding the exposed muscle. It begins sawing away methodically.
The pain is a white-hot spike in your mind.
No Fort save, but I want to give you a chance to try to stop it before it hacks your right arm off. You have no magic and cannot move. Words/negotiations are your only weapon right now.
...hmmm...ssssuurrrre, I can work with that. You'll still lose the arm, though, and since this would technically be cheating death, I'll need you to spend two. The Horsemen don't just come when called, you know. Nor do Purrodaemons. ;-) Post what kind of miracle Kai is hoping for and I'll figure it out from there.
Well, I doubt Szuriel would be too willing to help me since I went renegade, so I don't think I'd actually want her to show up. At best, she'd force me to rejoin the legions... Was thinking along the lines of either pulling some kinda monstrous hulking out or miraculously pulling one of their powers outta my ass.