"I do!" Darvesch boasted proudly. "I stand against evil, wherever it may be!"
Darvesch held up his axe, hesitant to speak at first. "My axe, which once belonged to cousin Grimnon Hellhammer, knows no foe it couldn't vanquish!" He boldy spoke as he gripped the axe tight and lowered it to his side. "Even now I have plans of building a new chapter of the Lightbringers coming to fruition!"
He looked on the visage of the forefather of his bloodline. "If ever there was any doubt of my loyalty and dedication, let me put those doubts to rest right now! My resolve to follow in Kahn's footsteps, fighting the forces of evil and protecting those that need it!"
I know my thoughts have wavered. I'm sorry they did. Let this be a reminder. I cannot ever waver.
There was a rumble deep within Torgrem's armor as he gave a "Hmmm..." at his descendant's oath.
"Son of my sons, listen well. None could doubt your loyalty or dedication. No, you could not even enter this hall were your convictions impure. When I ask you of duty, it is not to question your dedication, but to ensure your direction."
From his belt, Darvesch's Forefather hefted a mighty hammer, The Hellhammer and held it forth, pure glory flowing from its face like golden flames. There, carved into it was a glyph unlike any the young inquisitor had ever seen. It at once seemed to be formed from the languages of dwarves, elves, men, dragons, and angels, but it was more than a mere word it was a power itself, a portion of the Infinite Light, the Sacred Flame...
"Yliaster," Torgrem said with reverence. "Mark it well, young Hellhammer, for you shall have need of it. Remember this: Your duty is not only to strike down evil when it appears before you, nor is it to simply protect those who stand with you — anyone with the ken to react would do the same."
Even as Darvesch listened, he could feel his time in the celestial realm drawing to a close. With time short, his Forefather stooped on one knee, one powerful hand upon Darvesch's shoulder, their faces eye-to-eye. "We are Lightbringers because we bring The Light to bear against the enemy. Your duty is to root out the enemy with your own cunning. Do not allow them to gather strength; do not allow them to do anything beneficial!"
As Kahn's fortress began to fade from view, Torgrem nodded to the face of The Hellhammer, the smile of a grandfather upon his face. "And what you cannot redeem to our cause...?"
Theme: Walking in the Air
"I would like to believe that you will know what to do, Hithraen."
The refreshing breeze that had lulled Arion deeper into his dream-trance had grown more brisk. The smells in the air hand changed as well. No longer was his breath drawn from the thick jungle air, but the thinner, cooler air of a more mountainous area. Although the coolness of the night might have raised goosebumps on the arms of some, it was the smells and quality of the air that did so for Arion. For although it had been many years, the smell of late spring in Mennen Fedleth of home was unmistakable to him.
Even as his heart rejoiced, the scribe opened his eyes to find himself perched atop the crystaline dome of King Aramandil's Palace. Beside him, almost ghostly in her visage was an elven woman of such surpassing beauty and purity that he was torn as to whether he should avert his gaze or revel in her presence. Her long, silver hair was straight yet full, and her emerald eyes were at once wise and compassionate, yet bold and unflinching. The entirety of her being was suffused with an argent glow that seemed to emanate from within her alabaster form.
Standing there beside him, one hand resting lightly upon the mithril spire that capped the Palace dome, was his own princess' elder step-sister — Larathiel — Commander of Ilmarond's Special Forces, and an avowed servant of Miralnas.
"You wish to return here? Then walk with me a while." As she spoke, the Princess of Ilmarond looked up towards the stars above. As his gaze followed, Arion realized he could see not only The Ghaele, the constellation before which the Princess stood and under which she and her twin brother Lareisian were born, but all of the constellations were visible in the sky at once! Looking down, Arion suddenly realized that Elsemar was now a blue-white marble far beneath them, a silvery filament stretching forth from his navel and out of sight towards the Lanscarilma that encircled it.
"Your Queen does not readily reveal herself — only to her husband and thru her works is she known. Yet you, who know where to look, have come to know Cainreleé by her works and the knowledge you glean from your studies."
As the two stood there, poised between Elsemar and Brightpool, Arion might have sworn that he could feel an unseen gaze upon him, yet also there was something else. Far in the distance, thru the silence of The Void, he could feel the spiritual pressure of a great battle. Turning to the moon behind him, his keen elven eyes spotted what looked like tiny specks flitting about the surface of the moon. One was red, another black, and the third violet — all of them buzzing about what seemed a tall ivory tower wreathed in clouds.
"They are in a stalemate, The Queen of Hearts, The Queen of Lies, and The Dark Lillend... They have done battle before, but never so close to home, never for the same prize. Do you know what it might be?"
Arion strained to see the distant conflict, finding that his desire to know determined his focus, rather than the use of physical sight.
Return to Ilmarond? You must focus. Have patience. The most royal, heroic legend of your people bids you concentrate upon other matters. Her wish is to you a command.
Arion distinctly felt that his attempts to direct his attentions were not confined to his own mind, but could be overheard by Larathiel and those observing him. With force of will he considered her question and what information was before him in the distance.
"O Divine Champion of our Vala-King, I have only heard or read of the City of the Valar, in ancient tales. Otherwise I do not know. Are they warring over some fortress under protection of the Valar? You have travelled far in many realms. What is it that we perceive, of that conflict?"
"I see," the Princess said in reply to Arion's answer. Looking out to the distant battle, she explained, "A soul is by nature invisible. It dwells nigh inviolate within the being to whom it grants life, and the two are as one. Rightfully, the souls of most mortals are imperceptible in such a state — the toll of their deeds and intentions hidden. Yet as you should realize, singularly powerful beings leave a wake as they pass thru the world. The more powerful the soul, the stronger the wake, and the greater the chance it shall affect other realms."
"That tower you see is such a ripple, yet rather than dissipating outward in all directions, it converges upon itself, mounting ever higher." As Larathiel spoke those words, Arion could feel the Princess' eagle eyes upon him, her expression unreadable even though he was certain that even now she read him. "It is ironic that you do not recognize the soul we now gaze upon, but given the contrast between this great distance and your more familiar closeness, it is not unsurprising. That tower which pierces the Heavens is the soul of Princess Kirmoon's companion and yours — Lady Ourson."
Arion watched the tower with renewed wonder. His heart leaped to fly towards the battle without delay.
"Divine Ranger, thank You for Your guidance, even in this Astral terrain. If they battle for my Angel's soul, I desire to assist Súmalya at once !"
He caught himself pausing and looking back to Elsemar, thinking of the Palace in Ilmarond.
"Although, I have longed to return home. I sought whatever was good in Dafar, to drive the memories from my heart."
One of his utmost inspirations stood beside him; the shining living archetype of what he had valued most in the world.....until he had met Lureene.
"I would not waste the effort You put forth, to visit me and explain this. I know that You have Your own battles on different fields, or I would ask You to help us. I count this guidance from You as a great boon."
Arion stared towards the tower.
"Yes. It must be my Angel's soul, for I love the tower, even from afar and I cannot abide the idea of the enemies conquering her. If The Divine Muse values her so highly as to wage war on her behalf, I must join that war. Might I be so blessed as to have yet more guidance from You, Princess Larathiel? Do our Monarchs send command as to the part I should play? My wisdom pales in comparison to their supernatural attributes...and to Your own."
There, in the Void, several moments passed in quiet consideration. "Upon first meeting the one you now call an Angel, my concerned was not for her soul, but whether she held in thrall the Princess of Silverwake by either force of spell or emotional compromise. Given that you were able to encounter Lureene, you may safely conclude her intentions were vindicated. To be frank, even if the same cannot be said of others, I deemed Alissariel to have had the more profound influence upon Lureene than the reverse."
"That which was not so readily apparent was the purpose behind your Angel's presence in this world. While surely it was the bond of friendship that united the twain, Lureene is an outsider to Elsemar, there existed no natural chance that their paths should cross. Lest feelings impede deduction, I shall make this plain."
Emerald eyes transfixing jade, she said, "The implication is that theirs was no chance meeting but engineered. Yet The Fates are Vala, and therefore bound to the circles of this world. The being who contrived their convocation could only have been another outsider... in all likelihood, her Mother. What remains ambiguous is to what end? If your Angel is not the prize, then what does that make her?"
Light - more brightly than the spheres and stars combined - revelation, dawned upon the student of Heaven's-Queen. Arion's eyes were opened and, shifting to again watch the distant struggle, the words escaped with his breath, "...a weapon for our enemies."
Returning his gaze upon Larathiel, Arion bowed his head reverently, acknowledging, "You are the chief of our special forces for good reason. I compliment Your logic. I find no fallacious premises. Yet, with an incomplete number of axioms, this inductive set of possible conclusions is our only basis. I shall have to uncover more truths. I see now Your interest in these matters. You were justified in suspecting that our enemies have inserted a secret weapon into the life of Alissariel. This threatens even Ilmarond, on a much grander scale than I had imagined."
Larathiel took one last look at the struggle on Brightpool before nodding for them to return to Elsemar. "Your Angel does not strike me so much as a weapon as a piece in some gambit — a piece over which the enemy may have lost control. When I say that Lureene's intentions were vindicated, I am speaking in a metaphysical sense."
As Princess and spy alighted atop a tall belltower north of the Palace dome, Larathiel gazed out over the pristine lake upon whose shores the capital was built. "In Malatesta I confronted Lureene with the full force of my spiritual power."
At those words, the aura surrounding the Princess flared into a holy light, buffeting him with waves of energy that caused even the great bell behind his ghostly form to resonate. Although he was neither charred nor crushed, the sensation was not unlike being hurled naked beneath an icy waterfall, and the rush made the senses afforded by his spiritual form reel. After several heartbeats, Larathiel damped down the profusion of positive energy and said, "That Lureene lives is no failure of judgment, it is my judgment. Had Lureene harbored evil within her or retained ties to her birthright, only her memory would have escaped annihilation."
"You see, the reason I know that she is not a puppet is because the Princess of Silverwake severed any such strings. Although her existence may be a danger, so too might the same be said of Alissariel or myself should we fall victim to the wrong conspirators. Furthermore, without knowing what purpose she was to play, who can say that killing her would not simply serve as a sacrifice to the Queen of Lies? In any event, killing an innocent girl would make us no more worthy of honor than the villains we oppose."
As the Princess looked upon Arion once more, he could feel the astral projection beginning to fade, disrupted perhaps by the demonstration he had just been witness to. Yet as he began to fade, Larathiel smiled with compassion in her eyes. "Learn what you can, but meditate upon this: if angels can fall, then in a world that believes in hope, can the reverse occur? Perhaps you shall have to–"
Theme: I Will Salve You
"Tell me dis, Amhranai..." The Priestess opened her eyes to find herself lying upon a soft bed off moss in a glade near the edge of a great forest. Thru the trees, she could hear the soft sounds of pan flutes and ocarinas, of someone playing a lyre, and the light laughter of frolicsome women. Yet what baffled her most was the sight of Azubuike — not the decrepit old man with more fingers than teeth, but a hale and youthful stud with a stringer of fish in one hand and a buxom nymph with ebony skin in the other.
Was she dreaming? Had she taken a blow to the head on that last slip in the muck?
As the priestess got her wits about her, the fisherman laughed loudly and asked, "Why'd ya nevah trow me a party like dis when I was livin? Had me tinkin dem elven gods be all grim like you!"
Although the insomniac had neither slept nor dreamt much these long years, there was something peculiar about this dream and about Azubuike. It was only the sound of a high-pitched "Weee!" that drew her eyes down to an unlikely sight. From the center of her chest emerged a pale grey cord which a pair of pixies were now winding gleefully about her knees!
Sense Motive Checks:
M 1d20 + 12 + 5 ⇒ (4) + 12 + 5 = 21 unlikely
K: Planes 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (1) + 1 = 2
What is this? Azubuike?! But you're dea-pixies! Alarm fueling her reactions, Amhranai grasped the cord at her chest in one hand and then promptly sat up. Her legs, however, did not move; the pixies had bound them tightly (but not uncomfortably) together. She swatted at the flitting forms perfunctorily, attention focused on her friend.
"Azubuike," she gasped. "I-well, for years now, I have been preoccupied, busy. And besides, why should I entertain a fantasy such as this? Some indulgence, yes, but this? This is a paradise that belies reality and I cannot bring myself to lie to you."
"Busy?" Azubuike handed the fish to the dark-skinned wood nymph and sent her away with a firm slap on the ass. "Ya've been busy since ya got dere! Bindin' wounds an rootin' out trouble, that's all well an good, but when the truth of your life is grim, that's when a community has the greatest need of respite!"
As the old fisherman continued to speak, his accent became less thick, his enunciation more eloquent. "An existence without pain is a mercy, yet a life without joy is bleak and barren."
M 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (17) + 12 = 29
|Iscandü aka Gaius|
At last, the priestess realized that she heard his words not in the rough dialect of the Dafari tribe, but the graceful tongue of the Faerie Court. With a smile, 'Azubuike' sat down upon a moss-covered stone and took up a pair of intricate wooden goblets into which he poured a golden nectar from a flower that suddenly spouted by his side.
Looking upon the cleric with eyes like shifting clouds, the man said, "We have all the time in the world, o' taciturn daughter of mine. Humor your dear father by sharing a draught, won't you?"
Yet even as he held out the goblet, his features slowly refining into those of a handsome man with tapering ears and distinguished features, Amhranai could hear in the distance beyond her deity's glade what sounded like the clash of titans. Was there a battle taking place?
Azubuike sembling into Iscandu came as no surprise to the elf. Nor the thrust of of his argument. It was a long-standing conversation between god and acolyte. "Iscandu, you know as well as I that an existence without pain is no mercy. How else would we learn? I understand the desire to protect, but we must be allowed to strive and fail and get back up." She sighed then continued in a resigned tone. "But your point about joy and respite is, as always, taken. I think the day you no longer need to shield my dreams is coming soon. We shall see."
Amhranai accepted the goblet from her god, a puzzled look on her face. "All the time in the world for what? And what's that noise? It sounds like a...battle."
|Iscandü aka Gaius|
Iscandü waved a hand dismissively at Amhranai's quibbles, seemingly unfazed by her familiar manner. "No pain, no gain, that is the conventional wisdom to which you prescribe, is it not? Entertaining as that is for those of us lounging about the balcony, have you ever considered reading a good tragedy? I hear learning from the mistakes of others is all the rage amongst gnomes these days..."
"As for 'all the time in the world'?" Iscandü shrugged his shoulders, swirling the ambrosia in his goblet before inhaling its bouquet. "Merely a turn of phrase... an inside joke regarding the condition of longevity-rich races such as elves and fey. Amhranai, you really should spend more time amongst your own kind — if only so you don't lose perspective. I know, I know... you and that masochistic streak of yours, but just have faith for once. Even a millennium is far too long a while to stress oneself over every ill and quarrel you stumble across."
"Trust me," he said before draining his goblet and raising a hand toward the racket that so concerned Amhranai, "trouble will come without you having to look for it. Although I must admit, there's a certain thrill in causing a stir of your own. The trick is not to get yourself wrapped up in it. That shapely young friend of yours could teach you a thing or two I imagine... she's also quite adept and the trouble thing too."
With a wink, Iscandü stopped talking for a few moments and rose from his seat to walk with his priestess to the edge of the woods. There, far across the Elysian Fields, above Oceanus, three winged beings strove against one another in the vicinity of an impossibly tall tower. "Hmm... I suppose even the eyes of an eagle would be hard-pressed from this far. Let's find better seats..."
Before Amhranai could so much as object or assent, a snap of the fingers found the two atop the tower, wispy clouds swirling about them. An odd feeling, like déjà vu, washed over her, but the Vala's prattle kept the priestess from concentrating upon it. "Now the clouds wreathing the summit here were a bit of 'artistic license' on my part — a privacy screen if you will."
Indeed, as the King of the Faeries continued to speak, Amhranai found that she could see thru the clouds well enough to witness a battle between three women of surpassing beauty. Just from the past day's events alone she could identify the giant, red-winged succubus as Avoreen, the flying serpent-woman with the iridescent black wings as Charelle, and the elegant dancer with the blue and violet butterfly wings as Iscandü's own wife, Súmalya.
"Ah, I see the wife has found herself involved in yet another cat-fight. You really should be thankful for your unassuming countenance, you know. It takes very nearly an act of gods for two beautiful women to be friends for any length of time — a testament to your amply-endowed cousin that she coexists with the other two so well. Quite the diplomat really..."
Sighing, The Dreamer sat upon the marble floor and apologized, "I would offer you a seat, but this is your friend's home, not mine, and the little minx is about as well-versed in domestic hospitality as you are in fine couture."
When at last her patron had stopped his incessant monologue, the sensation Amhranai had felt upon first appearing in the tower finally became clear. The place somehow felt like Lureene!
M 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (20) + 15 = 35
A tickling sensation along her scalp drew the elf's attention away from the tower. Her hand was poised to scratch the spot when something sharp jabbed her palm, not painfully, and instead her fingers plucked the offending object, bringing it before her face for inspection. Another pixie! Quietly, below the drone of her god's voice, she said, "A stowaway, hm? I suppose you can stay, as long as you are nice." Her fingers released the creature, who promptly stuck his tongue out at the elf before alighting on her shoulder.
What of Lureene does this tower represent? Or is the tower Lureene herself, besieged by Avoreen and her minion, while Sumalya seeks to drive them away? Amhranai shook her head, setting aside those questions for the moment to answer Iscandu's earlier assertions. "Why would I read a tragedy when I've lived through more than a few of my own? And how does reading about a thing convey the same lessons?" Her nose wrinkled as she blew an errant lock of hair from her the side of her mouth.
"You know why I am not amongst my people-they practically cast me out. I would argue that it is they who have lost perspective; many of them are too full of themselves. I maintain faith in those few who have not succumbed to such attitudes but, after my service ended, after what I've seen and lived through, I can't help but feel an irreparable rift between myself and them.
"Also, I don't think I stress over every ill or quarrel. If anything, I seek to avoid it. And if my 'shapely young friend' is Alis, she's caused me more trouble than not!" As if summoned by just thinking about it, the mithril badge appeared in her hand, which she held up for both to see. "I'm sure you watched this happen and found great amusement in the whole ordeal! I didn't want it and I still don't want it, but it seems I've been left with little choice. How am I now not supposed to become embroiled in whatever schemes she has envisioned? I am tied to her as surely as a docked boat!" Face flush with anger and frustration, Amhranai turned away from Iscandu and the tower. The arm attached to the hand holding the badge cocked backwards as if to throw the object down from their cloud-wreathed perch, quivering in the air as a war raged inside her head.
The arm dropped, limp as a wet noodle, head following suit. Voice barely above a whisper, she said, "But I do not believe you have cast this dream upon me to listen to my complaints. What is this tower and what does it have to do with Lureene? Why is your wife fighting those two demons alone?"
|Iscandü aka Gaius|
Iscandü sat upon the surprisingly warm marble floor, listening to Amhranai's vexation as he watched every feint, parry, and riposte of the beauties outside. It was only once she had turned her attention to others, head hung in resignation, that he set down his empty goblet and approached. With compassion in his grey eyes, The Dreamer put his arms around his disciple in a fatherly hug, softly reciting a poem.
“Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.
Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all,—
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life’s gall.
Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.”
"Always liked that poem," he admitted, "though I cannot lay claim to it myself. Another world, another dream..."
Pulling back from Amhranai, hands on her shoulders, he said, "If I make light of your woes, it is only so you do not dwell on them and become bitter. The Fates can manipulate the threads of a mortals life only so much for their is a great weight set upon them — I believe you know it as Free Will."
"You cannot keep others from laughing at your fate, but if you can learn to laugh at it yourself, you shall never want for mirth." Pausing for a moment, he added, "That's why I look so young for my age, you know."
Iscandü gave her an encouraging squeeze on the shoulder before turning towards the scene outside the tower. "As for the purpose behind your nocturnal abduction, I thought you might like to see first-hand the trouble with which your new acquaintances contend. Not that I would want to be a knight any more than you, mind, but this is the reason your skein became intertwined with those of your Princess."
"As for why my beloved Muse fights alone?" There was a twinkle in Iscandü's eyes as he flashed Amhranai a mischievous grin and produced a spyglass which he held up for her. "Who said that she fights alone?"
When Amhranai gazed thru the glass, she found that far away, observing the very same battle from a pavilion on the shores of Oceanus were Wingilmë, Alissariel, Lureene, and Sasha. As she wondered at the meaning of it, Lureene looked up as if she felt Amhranai's eyes upon her, at which point the god promptly recovered his relic. "My wife touts the virtues of beauty, then scolds me that it's impolite to stare — you can't win. Oh, and this tower is the inner soul of the pouty one with the wings. Well, part of her soul anyway."
|Iscandü aka Gaius|
"Do you know why mortals awake from drunkenness in pain and regret?" He nodded to Charelle. "It's the same reason I make a point not to revel in the same locale over-long. Over-indulgence in elation without contrast skews ones perspective as surely as too much sobriety without laughter. She used to be my Faerie Queen's favorite... so passionate... so very passionate..."
With a sigh, he continued, "Unfortunately, even the best wine fails to thrill after a while and once one has tasted all that exists, most will lust for something new. That's where the one in red came in. Just like a growing adolescent who is no longer content with the warm bed and loving household in which they were reared, the arch lillend began to consort with a bad crowd. Sadly, not every wayward child responds favorably when their mother or their elder sister tries to rein them in. Ultimately, she took after the child of our first queen and got herself disowned."
"Unfortunately for the prodigal daughter, her statuesque new friend had only cultivated their relationship out of the desire to raid her house's liquor cabinet, so-to-speak. What ensued when the ousted lillend wept to her friend was about like this:" he waved a hand to Avoreen as she suddenly broke off a joint attack on Súmalya in an attempt stab Charelle in the back. "Regrettably, one failing of those possessed by great force of personality is that they tend towards pridefulness. Rather than seeking to make amends, the arch lillend ransacked the mansion, made a mess of things, and ran away from home with what friends she still had whereupon, like many a beautiful young girl possessed of more emotion than rationality, she fell under the sway of a new master content to exploit her for all she was worth."
"As for the other one," he nodded to Avoreen, "she disappeared for some time, no doubt testing the locks on someone else's home before it occurred to her to try the old trick of leaving a baby in a basket to see who would pick her up. Thankfully, your trouble-seeking friend had the wherewithal to snip the black thread she found trailing from the blanket."
"Hence, this." He stamped his foot on the floor causing, unbeknownst to Amhranai, Lureene twitch as she felt something akin to a bug-bite on her neck from some unseen source. Looking rather annoyed, Iscandü frowned at Amhranai and said, "Please assure me you shan't recollect enough of our rendezvous to attribute all of these tiresome analogies to me."
The compassion with which her god favored his acolyte stilled the torrent of emotions swirling within the elf and she stood, silent, awed as Iscandu described the tableau beneath them. Vision blurred, shoulders slumped, she looked away once more. It is too much. Few things had stricken Amhranai so in recent memory, and most of those had been of the unpleasant variety.
With a start, she realized the Vala was done speaking. Facing Iscandu, eyes still blurry, she barely saw the frown on his face slowly turning into a bemused smile. Amhranai's dark eyebrows knit in consternation. "I do not understand this reason you speak of-what is it about me that would be of worth to Alis? Surely there are others far better suited than I." A bleak smile pulled the brows apart, a memory of the day she was knighted coming to mind. "You as well, my Lord. More than a few wonder if I would not be better suited as an acolyte of your brother, myself among them. But then I remember a time before..." The smile turned wistful, gaze lost in times long past. "I suppose that does not matter, but you know how it will nag me. So what will it be then? Is it time to pick a fight?"
|Iscandü aka Gaius|
"My elder brother hmm?" Iscandü smiled and brushed a tear from Amhranai's tattooed cheek, slowly shaking his head. "No, I rather doubt the two of you would get along very well. He is far too stoic and legalistic for your liking. Now his wife on the other hand... I can imagine you would find a sympathetic soul in her, albeit your indifference to the arts would suit you to her service about as well as your fashion sense would to a royal ball. That she would be more moved to commemorate someone's life than improving it might also be vexatious to a woman of your inclinations."
"Besides, how many other Valar could trust one of their clergy to be so brass as to be unabashedly frank when conversant? 'Tis the same for your fair Princess you know. As much as a despot hoards their sycophants, an effective suzerain is more selective. To them a guileless advisor possessed of both wisdom and sufficient courage to be frank is invaluable." Eyes bright, the dreaming god mussed Amhranai's black locks and gave her a pat on the back. "Given the high hopes my muse has for her, I can only presume your vivacious tormentress endeavors to be the latter. Although for the love of peace, please don something with suitable sartorial flair for your friend's coronation ceremony or it shall be nag, nag, nag!"
For several moments, an awkward silence, punctuated only by the sound of battle engulfed the tower before Iscandü started. "You... are still here...? Ah yes, you were inquiring as to this brouhaha."
With a long sigh, the god sat down once more patting a spot beside him. "Now personally, I see no compelling reason to fight fairly — neither red nor scaly do either. Unfortunately, there are certain... restrictions imposed upon those who are Vala that impede our involvement in worldly affairs — restrictions that outsiders have their ways around. That's where all of you mortals come in, actually..."
"By now you have no doubt apprehended an new verve within you, hmm? I hesitate to name mastermind behind such an investment," he said, gazing at his fingernails, "but it was rather *ahem* unexpected, wouldn't you agree?"
"Now regrettably, the entities with whom we find ourselves contesting do not dream. Given their propensity for deceiving friend and foe alike, deducing their aims solely from their mortal servants is likewise fraught with questionable results. I can tell you that their ultimate goals stand in opposition and that a quaint little mystery cult has begun to propagate throughout your surrogate homeland in just the past few months, coinciding with the appearance of this." He indicated the tower with a flourish of the wrist.
"Another point of interest is that your former jungle queen had been possessed of unshakable nightmares for several years prior to her... forced retirement. The unifying theme was that of being a helpless marionette on invisible strings — she had also developed a deathly apprehension of wasps..."
|Iscandü aka Gaius|
"Woman, woman!" The sound of Karaka's insistent voice and the feeling of being shaken by the shoulder, brought the Moon Elf swimming back from the skies above Brightpool to the reality that she was still in her bed in the Daifiri Flats. "Dogs and demons! You been weeping and mumbling... City is fired-up about some big fight over in Elf Town yesterday. What did you get mixed up in?"
It was only as the priestess shifted that she felt a knot in her side and pulled forth an ornate goblet, lovingly crafted from living wood, a few tiny flowers now closed up for the day. With one eyebrow raised, the old soldier shook his head, "That rich new 'friend' got you staying out late even for you, huh?"
It was getting late in the morning, but the new bed was so comfy, and the company so very inviting... The leggy huntress stretched, a blissful sigh escaping her as she rolled over atop the perpetually warm angel beside her. With light spilling in from around the thick, velvet curtains, she caressed the soft, smooth skin of Lureene's cheek before allowing her hand to roam down her neck and beneath the satin sheets.
I know how to wake a sleeping beauty...
Fully intent upon teasing her lover's earlobe with her lips, Sasha brought her face closer only to knock her forehead against something hard and wooden. "OW! What the hell Ellie?"
It was then not with a sultry surprise but rather the sensation of Sasha pulling something free of her hair that Lureene was wrenched from a very good night's rest. Squinting in the dark, Sasha griped, "What did you get caught in your hair, a cup?"
Indeed, with her superior night vision, that was exactly what the buxom blonde found her friend holding — a sculpted wooden goblet festooned with tiny flowers and sticky with the residue of a fragrant wine. "Auugh, what is this, honey? It's all caked in your hair now..."
Lureene stretched her lithe body out and extended her wings outward enjoying the sensation of the satin sheets against her nude body. Her hand reached to grasp the wooden goblet from her friend and gingerly sniffed the inside of it. Discovering the fragrance, while quite pleasant to behold, did not conjure memories of the previous evening. Instead she is reminded of the dream...no the VISION of the Tower...her SOUL it seemed.
She ran her hand through her hair and noted how sticky it was. Certainly it was an interesting sensation, one she had found herself in before...but again that was in a past life, one she was no longer part of.
"Sash, do you remember anything from last night, after we had retired here?" She hopped out of the bed and reached for a robe. "I believe a bath is in order...don't you?" She asked with a smile. As she slipped into the robe, folding her wings out of the way she added excitedly, "The VISION I had....EVERYONE was there!"
Sasha practically winced as Lureene extricated the faerie goblet from her voluminous hair, but talk of soap and suds never failed to garner her attention. "Yeah, a bath does sound good!"
At mention of a vision, Sasha paused. "Oh did you have some really real dreams too? In mine it was you and Lissi and me and that pretty faerie lady and we'd all been taking a nap in this big white gazebo by the sea. Your wings were super pretty... like a magic flower and I think Lissi was a purple unicorn. Oh and the faerie lady had big butterfly wings like on that statue of Lyria where we fought your Mom. Only your Mom was there too, just... far away... and she was fighting with the leader of the Wasps and Lyria too and there was a tower built from the sea..."
Taking a breath, the excitable redhead looked around and asked, "Say, where's Ari? I want to tell him too! So what was yours all about Ellie? Who all was there anyway?"
Lureene nodded in remembrance as the details of her VISION returned to her mind. "Well, Sash, I did not see Arion, Darvesch, or Amhranai openly...but it was as if I could FEEL their presence watching me...watching US."
She set the goblet down on one of the tables in their suite and looks around for a moment. "I don't see where the baths are, or how to summon one of the servants for directions. Maybe we can find our way there ourselves?"
Amhranai swatted away the hand that grasped her shoulder. "I'm awake!" Setting down the goblet, the elf paced back and forth, breathing sharp and furious, as if she had been running. What are these wasps he spoke of? And what was he about to say?
The elf came to a halt before Karaka a few moments later. She looked up at him, icy blue eyes as wide as they could go. "I had a dream, Karaka. A dream! We are again besieged by the same forces that corrupted O'beilumanji; in fact, they have not left. That is what happened today! And they are coming back! I must speak with Alis!" Her words came in a rush, tumbling like a waterfall and it wasn't until he heard the scrape of a wooden drawer that he realized the crazed woman had darted over to her dresser and begun pulling out clothes from within.
With no thought for modesty, Amhranai hastily changed where she stood. Once done, she returned to her bed and picked up the wooden goblet. A noise echoed from within the bowl, barely reaching her ears. Inspection revealed the same pixie that had ridden her shoulder earlier, softly snoring within the shadowy depths. What are you still doing here? Are you here to serve as a reminder? Shaking her head, she made for the door, looking at Karaka as she passed him. Something in his face made her stop. "What is it?
Azubuike's body? Her gaze shifted from door to Karaka and back once more. On the return trip, eyes locked on the scrap of paper on the table. How could I have forgotten? The goblet dragged her arm down like a weight, rudely dislodging its denizen. A furious beating of gossamer wings was the only thing that saved him from a painful crash. Crisis averted, the pixie gestured with one hand and began to fade from sight. Amhranai could have sworn that he stuck his tongue out at her right before disappearing completely.
"I-I'm sorry, Karaka, I had forgotten about your note in all the excitement. Alis and the others can wait for now. Where are you taking him?"
Karaka shook his head at Admiambo's commentary, grumbling something under his breath. He raised an eyebrow as the tiny woman began to toss her clothes every which way, hesitating for a moment before turning around to give her some privacy. "The old man was a fisherman. We're gonna take him up on the old Pinnacle. Azu used to tell stories about eagles white as clouds from the time of his father's father. Maybe we see if they still come."
After pausing for a moment, he glanced back at the now clothed elf and asked, "Big House ain't a long walk from the rock. You gonna walk with us... Amhranai?"
Even though Lureene and Sasha had only just begun to rouse and search for the baths, it had already been a few hours since Alis had done so. The prior night's vision and their implications had weighed heavily upon the Princess. Súmalya, Charelle, and Avoreen were at war, battling within the Divine Muse's own realm.
...and that look from Lureene... That had to be the tower from her dreams but what was it doing there?
Rather than fighting to indulge in more than the few hours of sleep she genuinely needed, Alis had instead decided to greet the day of rest head-on. After arising early, she and Tiniel had engaged in stretching and calisthenics in the Palace gymnasium before practicing their katas and sparring both with weapons and hand-to-hand.
Only after they had refreshed themselves in the baths with massage and quiet meditation did they breakfast on the light fare Giles had readied. Although it was only Sindariel and Amelia who had joined Princess and protector, the garden balconies east of the baths had granted an unobstructed view of Monument Green in the early hours following daybreak.
Wingilmë's memorial, Ugorji's interrogation, fittings for my gowns... Shivone, Makatimbe, and the missing scrying equipment... a conflict in the Heavens we still don't fully understand, and problems close at hand we don't yet have under control — unrest, and who knows what the Freebooters may be planning... I'm certain Amh wants to know what Baron Bonati is up to as well and I could hardly blame her. Where to start...?
|Giles von Hearthwick|
"Your Highness," Giles had interrupted as Alis sat gazing at the distant Pantheon, "The Right Honorable Hior Celadrendir, Minister of the Treasury; and the Highly Learned Luca Petronius, Master of the Fraternal Association of Builders await your leisure in the audience chamber. Shall I send for Lady Ourson, Sir Hellhammer, and Master Hithraen?"
"Yes," she had answered, "please inform them we shall hold audience shortly. Lady Lammontari, Ms. Echorn, if the two of you could collaborate in seeking out my lost scrying equipment, I would be ever so grateful. If you would excuse me, please..."
Then, several minutes later, with all now properly attired, Alis had reconnoitered with Arion, Darvesch, Lureene, and Sasha en route to the throne room that lay beneath the great central dome. Innocently enough, she asked, "So, first night in our disheveled new home. Did all of you get enough rest?"
Looking pointedly at Lureene and Sasha, their hair still wet from their interrupted bath, she prodded, "You did get some rest, right?"
Lureene stifled a yawn as the Princess mentioned getting some rest. Still she did realize the vision from earlier presaged the lack of relaxation time for the foreseeable future.
She hook her head as she recalled the frenzy of trying to find an appropriate outfit for her to wear, as most of her clothes were still unpacked. Still she was able to find a pretty dress to wear. While the dress was devoid of any fancy ornamentation, the light blue cotton fabric hugged her body pleasantly. She decided to eschew any jewelry and wear her hair down as it wass till damp.
At least I was able to work the tangles out...
She nodded her head in reply, "Yes, despite what happened earlier I was able to sleep quite well thank you, 'Lis." As she heard who was attending the meeting, the expression on her face grew pitiless. "THIS will prove quite interesting...I certainly hope he apologizes for his actions to me."
Although it was traditionally the day of the week for resting, Arion had never been particularly observant of such rituals. It had pleased him to rise early and put his new office in order while exploring the Palace in the line of duty.
Among the royal entourage, Arion tried to avoid curiosity about the Palace, making quick observations here and there as they walked. Even more appealing was the sight and scent of Lureene nearby, which he tried even more diligently to avoid.
Duty, son of Hithraen, duty.
"More than sumptuous rest, my night was blessed by what I am certain was a visitation involving the Princess Larathiel. I have written a summary of her messages and the event, should Your Highness desire all the details."
Arion then expressed what he deemed was the primary importance of the events in the granted vision, including the battle involving the soul of Lureene and Larathiel's assessment.
Apologize for what?
"Oh so you had a dream about those three fighting too?" Sasha asked absentmindedly, braiding her long, red hair as they walked, her tummy protesting its own indignity at the surprise meeting. "Well that's pretty neat, I dreamed that Lissi was a unicorn girl and we were hanging out with the pretty fairy lady... Anyway, who does all this business stuff on the weekend? Kinda rude if you ask me..."
A dream-sending from Larathiel? I had no idea Laurel knew him...
Alis made a point of ignoring the others' gripes and banter, eyes fixed upon the elegant cursive of Arion's elven script.
So it seems she wishes to remind Arion that he is to root out the enemy by deduction and do what must be done... Looks like she was skeptical of why Lureene was here from the get-go too, and– So it was Avoreen's goal that we became friends?! I wonder what would have happened had she gone with 'Sis and Rath...
Concern evident on her pretty face, Alis continued reading, lips pursed and brow knit.
Alright, well if she says El is okay then that's a big relief – had me worried there. I don't know what I'd have done if Arion assassinated her. Thank Heaven Laurel-flower and I shared the same wisdom on this one...
Handing the note back to Arion, Alis tugged on Lureene's hand, stopping just outside of the throne room. With a quiet, "I love you, El," she put her arms around Lureene, holding her close for a moment before giving her a gentle kiss on the temple. "We'll figure this out somehow, I promise..."
Although it may have escaped Sasha's notice, it wasn't terribly difficult to tell that the gist of Arion's note must have related to the golden-winged enchantress — enough so as to upset Alis.
R 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (1) + 14 = 15
D 1d20 + 20 ⇒ (6) + 20 = 26
L 1d20 + 2 + 5 ⇒ (13) + 2 + 5 = 20 familiarity
S 1d20 + 2 + 2 ⇒ (9) + 2 + 2 = 13 human
|Giles von Hearthwick|
Wrinkling his nose a bit at the ranger's astute observation, Giles clapped his hands twice quickly and nodded to the royal guards positioned outside the throne room. After saluting, they quickly hopped-to, clearing the way into the vast and lofty chamber at the heart of the Palace.
Entering ahead of the rest of you, Giles heralded the ruler's entrance in his deep, booming voice, "Her Royal Highness, Princess Alissariel of Silverwake, Vicereine Appointee of Dafar!"
Lureene was caught off guard by the display of affection shown by Alis, but readily returned the hug. "I love you too, 'Lis. I suppose you will talk with me later about the vision right?"
As Giles announced the arrival of the Royal party, Lureene slid next to Arion and silently mouthed "Morning...my Lord! to him.
The inquisitor woke early and layed in bed staring at the ceiling for what seemed an eternity. His nap on the ship provided enough sleep for the evening, and he found himself thinking about his dream while everyone else was still asleep.
Imagine what the others would think if they knew I spoke to the progenitor of my own clan! His mind couldn't hardly believe what had happened.
Still.. dream or not, he was right. I need to figure out what's going on, and why. I should investigate Bonati, and figure out what their game is. He stood up and dressed himself. After locating his combat equipment and adorning his armour, he set out to have another chat with the prisoner.
The sun still had quite some time before it would rise, and he didn't want to miss this one. Today was going to be a long day.
Sasha is attractive, even during her precious antics
Arion made an effort to conceal his amusement and wrote upon a narrow slip of paper. Looking up again, he took in each position and demeanor of the guests present.
Surely these fixtures of Port Eldarion would not openly make an attempt upon the life of our Princess, IF they are who they appear to be. Given the recent intrigues, we cannot be too certain.
Arion handed the slip of paper to Lureene covertly and folded his hands behind his back as they took their places near the Princess. His right hand held his Quill, ready to transform it at need.
Sense Motive (Luca)1d20 + 14 ⇒ (9) + 14 = 23
You look ravishing !
Lureene pocketed the note and while the others took their positions in the palace hall glanced at the contents.
The only reaction noticed by the others to the note's contents was a reddening of her cheeks and an ardent look returned to the Scribe...which grew more intense and less welcoming as her gaze strayed to the Treasurer.
Innocently enough, she asked, "So, first night in our disheveled new home. Did all of you get enough rest?"
"Yes, though I didn't require much. I had a nap on the ship." The warrior ignored the heavy innuendo.
After the others had mentioned the dream, Darvesch couldn't believe they all were a part of a dream similar to his own. "Sounds like you all had dreams almost as interesting as my own." He smiled.
He reminded himself of the contents of the dream and pressed forward. "Let's get to business then."
"Interesting isn't the half of it," Alis commented. "But we can discuss that later along with what you gleaned from Ugorji."
Nodding to the gaping doors she said, "Shall we?"
As your group entered what struck you first was that the main audience chamber was beyond vast — well over 100-feet across, its walls rose even higher before giving rise to one of the largest domes any of you had ever seen. Painted upon the surface of the dome were scenes of the celestial realm, the gods of civilization aiding mortals in their ascent: Tuonwë, Olarë, Ngolgôn, Stëora, and The Fates... Also there were balconies, graceful structures with tall arches overlooking the rotunda from the adjoining wings.
It was in the center of the floor, basked in a beam of sunlight from the oculus high above, whence sat an ornate throne carved from marble and inlaid with gold upon a raised dais. There, standing before the dais in anticipation of the Princess' arrival were Lord Celadrendir and Master Petronius, each with a number of aides in tow.
As all bowed to the Vicereine-Appointee, Hior, as the eldest and most highly-ranked in attendance, greeted her, "A fair Starsday, your Most Royal Highness. How eagerly we have awaited your leisure. It is not every day one is so privileged as to receive an invitation to spend their day of rest in such illustrious company. Quite the lovely surprise indeed!"
Although it may have gone over Lureene's head, the rest of you suddenly realized that it was neither Hior nor Luca who had requested this weekend meeting but rather Alis herself! Even as Sasha bit her lip and looked imploringly at Arion, chagrin evident, it was not lost upon the more perceptive members of your group (Alis, Arion, Darvesch) that the Lord Minister of the Treasury was less than amused at such an unorthodox meeting time.
A 1d20 + 25 + 4 ⇒ (13) + 25 + 4 = 42 Tear
R 15 + 14 = 29 Scott's roll
D 1d20 + 20 ⇒ (11) + 20 = 31
L 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (11) + 2 = 13
S 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (16) + 2 = 18
Ah, just as charming as Arion and Lureene intimated...
Alis lifted her chin a little, the faintest look of concern evident upon her angelic face as if imploring, "I do hope that you shall find our impromptu council worthwhile, Lord Minister. It would be a terrible shame should I find myself obliged to invite another in your stead when next we convene."
A Innuendo 1d20 + 25 + 4 ⇒ (13) + 25 + 4 = 42 Tear
Sense Motive Checks:
R 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (12) + 14 = 26
D 1d20 + 20 + 5 ⇒ (1) + 20 + 5 = 26 familiarity
L 1d20 + 2 + 5 ⇒ (14) + 2 + 5 = 21 familiarity
S 1d20 + 2 + 2 ⇒ (9) + 2 + 2 = 13 human
Luca 1d20 ⇒ 13
Arion was less than amused by the Treasurer's attitude. To deal with his own feelings, Arion watched the assistants and other guests.
At least this seems to be the real Hior. What sort of people would willingly follow this serpentine 'minister?'
During his survey of the great hall, Arion noticed Lureene's powerful glare upon Celadrendir.
I wish for her honor to be promoted. Now is the hour for the Vicereine's designs to prevail. Be patient, my love; we shall yet see justice upon this person, in due time.
Although Lureene and Sasha might not have noticed it, Hior's perpetual smile waned slightly at the Princess' words. Bowing again, he replied, "It would surely be my loss, your Highness," before straightening.
Glancing at the human beside him, Hior ventured, "Might we presume the purpose of this meeting, so soon after your immigration to the Palace proper, concerns its current state of... repair?"
Perception OR Sense Motive Checks
A 1d20 + 25 + 4 ⇒ (1) + 25 + 4 = 30 Tear SM
R 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (10) + 15 = 25 P
D 1d20 + 20 ⇒ (16) + 20 = 36 SM
L 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (6) + 9 = 15 P
S 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (8) + 12 = 20 P
Luca 1d20 ⇒ 7
H innuendo 1d20 + 16 ⇒ (6) + 16 = 22 Luca
Sense Motive Checks:
A 1d20 + 25 + 4 ⇒ (17) + 25 + 4 = 46 Tear
R 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (11) + 14 = 25
D 1d20 + 20 ⇒ (10) + 20 = 30
L 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (14) + 2 = 16
S 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (11) + 2 = 13 +2 human
"People assume many things yet often presume too much." Gesturing to the archway to the south of the rotunda, she said, "Let us gather in the map chamber, this is not a matter of audience or admonishment but of action."
With that, the Princess led the way, heading south thru a short hall of statuary before turning left down a long hallway onto which opened many doors. Behind one of them was a large, square room upon the walls of which were framed numerous large maps. Yet more impressive was the large scale model of the capital and its nearby environs that was recessed into the floor.
As those of importance and their aides arrayed themselves within the room, Alis stood looking at the model, one hip thrust outward as she leaned upon the brass railing surrounding it. With one hand resting lightly upon the railing, she pivoted to face Darvesch and extended a hand to the master architect. "Sir Hellhammer, would you please regale the Maestro on the Lightbringer's requirements for their new citadel?"