A conversation between Dramm and Selgaer as they came back from scouting the Warg camp.
Dramm remained quiet until he and Selgaer were well beyond earshot of the Teeth.
"I saw you search. No captives." Dramm scratches his chin thoughtfully as they walk. "I think I understand why you and Uruuna bonded. She is why you're here, isn't she?"
Dramm's tone is factual and non-judgmental.
She's why I came here in the first place. She's not why I stayed. After I got over my bullheadedness and realized she was going to stay with her husband, I had planned to leave. But events went in a different direction.
"Why do you stay? You share some of Uruuna's ideals, but you seem more pragmatic. You weren't shocked in the cave. Weren't upset when Colson died. You understood. Why does someone like that defend the Crossings?" Dramm speaks to himself as much as Selgaer. The Faun had a habit of getting ahead of him on the path. Despite their shared familiarity with the wilderness, Dramm lacked the experience of truly being a part of it.
I stayed because Rena asked me to. As I was leaving town for good, i ran into one of her patrols. Helped her track down a beast that was killing merchants coming and going. After that, she signed me on as a consultant and we became friends. I really didn't think I'd have to see Uruuna again. Figured it was a big city and we'd just go our separate ways. Never thought practically every mission Rena assigned to me would be directly working with you folks. I've had a few others here and there, but the majority have been with you.
Dramm grunts affirmative at the missions comment. They certainly seemed to see each other a lot. "Less deadly ways to get coin. You almost turned to meat the first time we even met you. I remember patching that one. You keep going out for more."
Sel chuckles at the memory. Yeah. Guess I did. Dunno why I keep at it. I like it. Been doing it all my life. Maybe I'm addicted to the danger. I don't know. But if I don't do it, how many people will die? Who else will take it up and get slaughtered?
Remember that mine we went to a few months back? They sent in four investigaters who were all killed. If they sent in us first, they never would have died.
Dramm shakes his head with a frown.
"Doubt Imedren would see it that way." He starts to puzzle aloud. "That's the part I don't grasp. You understand the stakes, know the implications, you get that the world isn't easy to decipher... You know it isn't so simple to save lives. We can't be everywhere. Yet you still hold onto that ideal, even though it can't be true."
Of course it's simple to save lives! You just save them. Do what you can. Can't save everyone, of course. But that doesn't mean you don't try.
Sel stayed quiet for a bit as they walked. The elves raised me, you know. Stole me from my parents. Trained me how to hunt. How to kill. I'm sure they wanted me to be a killer, a thief of children to make more elves. But it didn't work out that way.
I fled them. Then hunted the elves who kidnapped me. Killed them all. Saved a few dozen children in the process. I would have left them alone if they just left those kids alone. So I took up the hunt.
You save who you can, Dramm. And you end the lives of those who would do harm to the innocent. That's all we can do.
Sel felt it was right. But he wasn't certain if it was right.
"In my experience, people find a way to kill each other whether I'm involved or not." Dramm sounds more tired than disparaging. "You said the Fey trained you to be a killer. What kind of killer? Humans? Or other Fey?"
People can kill each other all they want, so long as they don't go around killing innocent people along the way.
Sel ignores the question on who he was trained to kill and asks a question of his own; What about you? Why do you do all this? Surely, you'd be better off with your studies in magic. Or hunting that one guy who tried to take the cat boy. Why are you out here?
"Saving the innocent sounds like Uruuna it's more suited coming from Uruuna than us." Dramm notes the change of subject but doesn't fight it.
"I'm going to kill a monster for revenge." He say flatly. "I would prefer study, but I needed practical application too. Its proven important inspiration to come to places like this. Provided me with weapons and tools. Knowledge too, if I can convince Craven to teach me about the stones and how to unravel them. It may be a potent weapon against the creature that holds my home captive."
Dramm considers for a while before continuing.
"I guess I could say for love. Ezekia cares for the city, so I help because it brings her happiness to ease the suffering of others. I do not share her fulfillment from it."
Selgaer gets the distinct impression that Dramm has noted his avoidance of the question.
|Uruuna the Halfling|
Champion Path Chosen!
+1 Str, +1 Agi, +1 Will
Profession: Martial (Officer)
Language: Dark Speech (from downtime event)
Battle Stance: You can use an action or a triggered action on your turn to enter a battle stance and remain in that stance until you move or become unconscious. While in the stance, you make attack rolls with 1 boon and creatures attacking you make attack rolls with 1 bane
Attributes. Increase three by 1 (Agility, Intellect, Will).
Characteristics. Health +3, Speed +2
Languages and Professions. You can speak another language or add a profession.
Acrobatics. You gain all of the following benefits:
• You can move through spaces occupied by other creatures.
• You move at full Speed across all forms of difficult terrain, even when climbing or swimming.
• Provided your Speed is greater than 0, you can stand up without using your move.
• When you take damage from landing after a fall, you can use a triggered action to make an Agility challenge roll. On a success, you reduce the damage from the fall by the total of your roll. If you reduce the damage to 0, you land on your feet.
Interesting Thing: A letter of introduction to someone influencial or powerful.
Lifestyle: Rich (2 Gold crowns). Saved: 7 silver shillings.
Level 7 Trickster (Occult Philosophy p183)
Choose three attributes and increase each by 1.
Ag -> 13
Int -> 11
Will -> 13
Health +2, Power +1
Health -> 25
Power -> 4
Languages and Professions
You can speak Elvish or add a profession to your list of professions.
You discover the Fey tradition or you learn one Fey spell.
Fey Tradition + Misdirect (Terrible Beauty p19)
When a creature within short range of you would make an attack roll or a challenge roll, you can use a triggered action to impose 1 bane on that roll. You can use this talent a number of times equal to your Power score. You regain expended uses when you complete a rest.
When a creature within short range of you gets a 0 or lower on an attack roll or a challenge roll, you cause
the creature to fall prone
Interesting Thing: A bag of beans
How about Joy chances upon a bag of beans in a market in Crossings that somehow responds to her presence? Nothing others would notice, but she can feel that there is something there. Nature magic most likely.
Perhaps a misplaced Old Faith work, or a work of the Fey. And maybe tied into trickster somehow?
Dramm Level Up: Level 7 Exorcist
Health +4, Power +1
Learned to speak High Archaic
Learned the "Exorcism" spell.
Gained two this downtime.
1) A small glass cage
2) My shadow does not exactly match my movement.
Lifestyle: Comfortable (1ss)
Two months after the events in Verge, Dramm calls the group together with grim news at the mansion. He waits there for everyone to gather one morning, including Ezekia. Deep rings are under his eyes and he drums the table nervously. Small sounds make him jump, and he keeps looking around as though he hears something he can't quite make out. The more perceptive members of the group notice that Dramm's shadow twists and moves ever so slightly out of sync with his body.
After enough people arrive
"I don't know how to say this, so I just will." He finally says once the others are present. "The Long Mother has found me and is hunting me."
Dramm lifts his shirt to reveal slowly healing claw and fang marks gouged into his sides.
"She's dragging me into nightmares to starve me. She... she is winning. The dreams are killing me."
Joy gasps and puts her hands to her mouth when she sees Dramm's wounds.
"No, no, no! We're not having it! This Long Mother sounded awful but now? Now we're strong enough *and* we have to save Dramm, and his village! How do we find her, Dramm?"
Dramm lowers his shirt and sits down.
"Thank you, Joy, but no one has to save me. I have no right to demand anything." He smiles appreciatively at her and seats himself. "Finding the Long Mother is easy. She is in Brace, my village to the North. About 6 days ride."
The smile slowly dips with regret.
"My village may be too far gone to be saved. They have been serving for generations. They might turn violent if we threaten their beliefs. Worse, the Mother may drive them to violence for her. I do not know how powerful the Long truly is, and she has forced me to act much sooner than I expected. In Brace her influence is strongest."
"If you are willing to come with me, I will welcome it. If you choose not to, I understand. Will you help me?"
The weeks leading up to the meeting with the Elf Prince were hectic. With Belgaer's arrival, Sel didn't spend as much time in the wilderness hunting as he typically did.
Instead, he assisted Bel in getting set up, bringing the entire household over, and introducing his brother to local council members so he could get a feel for the local political scene.
Sel has been spending a lot more time with politicians these days, between Commander Rena and his brother, and he was starting to pick up the lay of the land - even if he didn't want to.
Gaining: Academic (Politics)
Level 7 Watcher: Occult philosophy
Health +4, Power +1
Total power: 4
0th-5, 1st-2, 2nd-2, 3rd-1, 4th 1.
Languages: Dark Speech
Magic: +1 divination spell: Vision. (4th level, utility, divination.)
Spell Change: Vision to Twain Self. (4th level, utility, Time.)
Gift of Foretelling: You can see events before they occur. When a creature makes an attack roll against you, you can use a triggered action to force the creature to the roll a second time. You then choose the result it uses. Once you use this talent, you must wait 1 round before you can use it again.
Interesting thing: A tiny portrait, a lock of hair, or some other favor from someone who loves you.
"Thank you again, Joy. I don't expect everyone to make this decision with your level of enthusiasm." Dramm smiles warmly at Joy's determination. He had not expected quite so touching a response.
"We have other, more pressing matters. You deserved to know that my time is limited. I may have to leave soon, and I am uncertain if I will survive the encounter." Dramm shifts in embarrassment at having to declare his own weakness. "I have seen the affliction before in Weeping Mothers and sacrifices. The curse will starve and madden me until I am easy prey for the Mother's Children, monsters that stalk forests and dreams for her. They will tear at me until I die from wasting or take my own life."
There is a solemn pause.
"I won't die yet, but it is only a matter of time. Everyone has a breaking point. I believe I have a few months left. I am determined to that she will not have me easily. Think carefully. Anyone who helps me will join in whatever fate is decided. If we do not fail, our reward is a slow death. I don't wish that on any of you."
Selgaer's Side Bars
Selgaer requests that Dramm step to the side while everyone else is getting ready. Once they're in private, he asks, Have you ever heard of the Long Mother?
Dramm is surprised to hear Selgaer say her name. Not many outside of the village had heard of the Long.
"Yes. She is the patron of the village Brace and a cruel monster. She is a creature of wasting and hunger." Selfaer can feel Dramm searching his expressions carefully. "How do you know about the Long? I havent met anyone outside of my home that knew the name."
Sel hasn't thought about how he would explain it - but he didn't want to say it was an elf. So instead, he said, I had a vision. A vision of a fae. You were in it. You were on this platform and something - smoke? essence? magic? Something was being fed into you, whispy and dark.
It's difficult to explain. It all made so much sense in the vision.
She was feeding power into you so she could harvest you. She was waiting for your death, but it had to be a death by your own hand. Suicide, perhaps. Or a death caused by something you did. I'm not sure.
But she's feeding unstable power into you in hopes it will drive you to the brink of destruction, and once.youre there she can harvest it all from you. Like you're some sort of incubator.
And then she looked at me. She said my name. She said she could see me.
And then it ended.
Dramm blanches at the description, unnerved by its accuracy. When Selgaer finishes, he can see the gears already turning in Dramm's mind.
"A vision? That sounds more like Imedren than you." Dramm remains unconvinced, but drops it for now. "You said she saw you? Said your name? You've been to the Hidden World, Selgaer. You know that a name has power. If she knows you, she is hunting you. The Children will come for you."
Selgaer looked worried at that. The Children. That sounded ominous.
But his thoughts were interrupted by someone calling to gear up, and he moved to prepare for the upcoming war with the hag.
Imedren returned from the village of Verge and back to Crossings with the others. Over the next few weeks his continued use of both time, chaos, and divination magics were giving him frequent and sometimes strange visions of the future which were causing him some level of anxiety through an extreme sense of déjà vu and a sense of foreboding. At times he felt as though he'd already lived through entire hours of conversation or studying things.
Sometimes he simply knew he was correct about information and other times he continued through conversations or study to determine what he knew was indeed correct. It made his day-to-day work easier in many ways once he started to get used to the strange sense of detachment he felt from certain aspects of reality. But he was unable to truly focus on other things as his mind was preoccupied attempting to suss out what this all meant. Through experimentation he realized the more he attempted to interact with things around him, the more possibilities opened up before him.
His one constant though was Uruuna. She helped anchor him into this reality and it was with a heavy heart that he realized that she was going to leave the city to go on her tour of the different northern provinces, well before she had made the decision official. He was certain he could have interfered if he'd tried hard enough but he also felt a strange sense of unease whenever he considered it fully. So he decided to limit his interaction to what felt natural with her.
It must have shown in his mood however, more so after she had already told him she was leaving, as Uruuna, actually managed to surprise him the day before she set out by taking them to a painter where they had their portraits taken together. The day she left, she gave him a silver locket containing an expertly made portrait of herself. A small inscription simply read Home.
A teary eyed goodbye was had and the two of them embraced.
"No year long excursions this time, okay? I'll blow up anyone who comes looking for you." he said and was only mostly joking.
The weeks after that found Imedren once again buried in his work and experimentation. He had been trying to keep an eye on Katandramus and the Dark brotherhood as his previous questioning had warned him that the cultist was not yet done with Crossings. But his answers were lacking. He needed more power.
His understanding of magic continued to grow with the help of Dramm, Joy, and the wizard Caribdus. It was one morning while in the wizard's study, something peculiar happened. He was practicing his spells, attempting to understand a new divination magic which would have allowed him to see the immediate future but he tried to add chaos to it's effect. As usual, he couldn't control the buildup of chaotic energies and there was a small explosion of magic but instead of seeing what was going to occur, he found himself with a splitting headache. Amid the rustling of several books being ripped apart was some coughing and an older gentleman wearing a cloak with its hood drawn up stood in the room, hand over his face and looking down.
"Well now, it's one thing to see the possibilities occur but it's quite another to live them... especially one so minimal in chance to have actually occurred." the older gentleman was rambling, hand to his head, his eyes squinting as though in pain.
"Damn... look, I'm sorry. You must be an acquaintance of Caribdus. I didn't notice you come in and I certainly didn't mean for you to be caught up in that." Imedren hurriedly spoke. "Are you alright?"
"Mhmm, I'll be fine. Just no more sorcery inside the tower if you would please refrain... although you do seem to be coming along quite nicely. Also, I suppose I could be considered an acquaintance of the wizard, though I personally haven't spoken to him in a very long time and quite frankly, I have no intention of doing so."
"That's... confusing. If you have no intention of speaking with him, then what are you doing here? Also, why do you keep emphasizing yourself? And what do you mean by coming along nicely?"
"Really?" The older man gave a wry smile with a bit of a grimace against the pain. "so many questions... ah to be young. Well to answer your questions in order:
First, I didn't come here for him I came to speak with you.
Second,I'm speaking so as to not confuse you the two of us.
Third, I meant what I said, you are developing faster than I ever did."
It was at this point, even through the headache, that Imedren's sharp eyes noticed something else about this man. He wore a silver locket around his neck, etched on the outside was the word Home. Although it looked older, the silver was a little more tarnished and faded, but the writing was exactly the same as Uruuna's. He instinctively grasped at his own necklace and was relieved it was still there but he asked the burning question anyway.
"Who are you?!"
The older man frowned, clearly annoyed. "Mm, well that's not a natural response at all, and here I thought of myself as calm. But no. You've asked quite a few questions already, it's my turn now.
Did you like my implements? I left them for you to find, you know. Did you let the Devil have her way with you? A risky move that one but power is power. What about friends? Do you have a lot of them? Did you meet that orcish inventor?"
Imedren was shaking his head in confusion and trying to answer the questions as they came at him. He was surprised that this man knew so much, but he was getting frustrated.
"What? You? No, I did not. Some, how did you... inventor orc? No."
The older man opened his hand to stare at Imedren with one eye. "
Did you kill the Faun yourself or did you simply let him die? How many times do you think you've died already? Does Uruuna still love you?"
Imedren shook his head.
"That's it! Enough!" he attacked.
"Too good!" the older man said, seemingly surprised as a strange barrier of raw chaotic energies seemed to rush into existence to defend him. There were six pieces to the barrier and one took the brunt of the attack, but it seemingly shattered under the assault and the old man was blown back. Imedren felt pain in the exact moment that his spell hit the man. He looked down at his chest feeling a searing wound but seeing no sign of attack. When he looked up he found that he was staring at himself, only older.
"Yes, I'm you. I wish you hadn't done that... but now there's a stable time loop between us, our fates intertwined. Good luck." With that, he simply vanished.
Imedren looked about the room, empty now save for the rustling of some loose papers. He couldn't begin to guess what that had all meant but now certain pieces were falling into place. The times he'd found strange implements that had either given him magic or got him to discover new kinds of magic. Very little of it had been of his own doing and he'd occasionally wondered who'd been leaving these things around.
Had it been him all along? He wondered and now he had to know. That version of him knew things... too many things. He had to figure some way to get that old version of himself back so that he could talk to him. With that, Imedren made the decision to learn as much as he could.
Story Development: (3)The talents you gain were always within you. Your struggles have revealed the way to reach your potential.
Quest: (1)Defeat a major enemy (Katty-man-in-duress)
Master Path: Sharpshooter
Characteristics: Perception 14->15, Health 25->32 (User Error)
Attributes: Str:9, Agi: 13->14, Int: 12->13, Will: 9->10
Deadly Aim: You can use an action to aim at a creature you can see within medium range. Make a Perception attack roll against the target’s Agility. On a success, you spot an opening. For 1 round, when you attack the target with a ranged weapon, you make the attack roll with 3 boons and your attack deals 3d6 extra damage.
Spells cast after the Wolf assault at the manor along with using the lasting spell Sorcery:
Vision: 8 hours.
Chaos Boon: 10 minutes.
Entropic Power: 10 minutes.
Boundless Step: 10 minutes.
Will: 4d20 ⇒ (16, 17, 3, 20) = 56
1 sorcerer's strain.
Learning my lesson from before, Imedren takes his own advice and drinks a healing potion. Recovering 6 health.
Dramm takes time outside of Caribdus's tower to recover his wounds. With Ezekia's help, he is soon in fighting condition! He also delivers healing to Imedren and Tabog, curing the minor wounds with small bursts of magic. He vents the excess outside of the tower with a couple of violent explosions.
Tabog: Empowered Minor Heal: 1/2 Healing Rate + 3 HP
Imedren: Empowered Minor Heal: 1/2 Healing Rate + 12 HP
Dramm: Empowered Light Heal and spell recovery: Healing Rate (8) + 10 bonus (sorcery), 8 HP (Spell Recovery)
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Joy's Guidance re-rolls: 2d6 + 2d6 ⇒ (5, 6) + (6, 6) = 23
Alright, that's a clean sweep of the soul shards! Now on to the difficult part.
Level 8 Master Magician (SotDL 55)
Health +2 -> 27
You discover a tradition or learn one spell.
Wrath of Nature (SotDL 134)
Improved Spell Recovery
When you use Spell Recovery, you regain two castings instead of one.
Level 8 Master Magician
Characteristics: Health +2
Magic You discover a tradition or learn one spell.
- TWAIN SELF TIME UTILITY 4
Area A cube, large enough to hold a creature of your Size,
originating from a point within a number of yards equal
to your Speed.
Duration 1 minute; see the effect
You cause your self from the future to appear in the area and it remains in your time for the duration. Until the spell ends, you and your future self can each take a turn every round, though the paradox of your twained existence imposes 1 bane on both of your attack rolls and challenge rolls.
You and your future self have identical attributes and characteristics. Although you can act separately, you and your future self count as one creature for the purpose of sharing resources. Thus, if one takes damage or gains Insanity, it applies to both characters. If one expends the casting of a spell, the casting is expended for both. If one of you suffers an affliction or would benefit from an ongoing effect, the affliction and effect apply to both.
Your future self has identical copies of everything you wear and carry, with a couple exceptions. First, if you or your duplicate consume or expend on item, such as dealing a healing potion, the item is lost to both of you. Furthermore, if you have a relic, you must decide whether you or your future self carries the relic.
If either you or your future self becomes incapacitated, the other does as well. If you die, your future self disappears. When the effect ends, you and your future self disappear. You reappear 1 minute later, in the space your future self occupied or in the nearest open space if it is occupied.
Improved Spell Recovery:
When you use Spell Recovery, you regain two castings instead of one.
|Sel the Small|
Characteristics. Health +4
Swift Recovery. On your turn, you can use a triggered action to use your Nimble Recovery talent. In addition, you can use Nimble Recovery an extra time between rests.
Hunter’s Mastery. When you use an action to attack with a weapon, your attack deals 1d6 extra damage and you make attack rolls against the target of your attack with 1 boon until the end of the next round
|Sel the Small|
Sel the Small, Part 1.
As soon as they got the kids in a safe place, Sel traded equipment with Uruuna. At the very least, he needed to feel like he had his own stuff.
But - it didn't work. The longbow was too big for this body. His armor didn't fit him. The spear was almost too long, but at least he could carry it. He gave Uruuna her shield and sword back, but had to apologise for damaging her armor. Cutting the straps to get it off in a fit of panick meant it would have to be repaired before it could be worn again. Oh well. They'd be better off having new equipment made for them.
They returned the children, but Sel was withdrawn, unable to enjoy the relief in their parents eyes. When it came time for the mayor to speak to them and award them for their heroic deeds, Sel did not want to be there. It would mean that both Bel and Rena would be there, and he'd have to deal with this embarrassment with them as well.
And that's when he noticed something strange - it didn't bother him as much as it would. That constant fear, that constant urge to run and hide wasn't there. Instead, he felt naturally courageous. Not like before, where he was constantly fighting his skittish nature, but a sort of courage uncommon to him.
And so he stepped forward, ready to face any challenge that may come.
After the formal thank you offered by the mayor, Sel watched as Bel approached his old body. He was about to speak, when he got a mischievous idea in his head, and instead decided to watch and see how it would play out.
Level 8 - Master Magician
HP+2, Learn One Spell (Restore Body), Improved Spell Recovery.
Interesting Things Table: 1d6 ⇒ 4
Interesting Thing: 1d20 ⇒ 2
|Sel the Small|
Sel the Small, Part 2.
Sel in Uruuna's body was sitting in the wing chair next to the fireplace in the manor library. Across from him (her?) sat Bel, the faun. Bel's was a lithe faun, but his time in the hidden realm had transformed him more than it did Sel. His face was more animalistic, his horns more pronounced, his body much hairier. Despite that, Bel had a mannerism and a way with words that put people in comfort. It's part of what made him such a good politician; people just seemed to naturally trust him.
Sel looked much more human, with only hints for horns. If it wasn't for his goat-like legs and hooves, it would be likely that people would mistake him for a human more often than not. But not anymore. Now, thanks to yet more fey magic, his body was forcibly changed once again. This time, he was in a halflings body. A woman's body. The body of his old lover, back before he knew she was married.
That happened yesterday. He was still uncomfortable. There was too much weight on his chest. There were parts missing between his legs. The hair kept getting in his face. Exacerbated, he tried to blow the hair out of his eyes once again.
You can't cut it. the faun said.
The hair. I can tell it's bothering you. But you can't cut it.
I wasn't - Sel tried to protest, but Bel cut him off.
You have to keep her body in good shape. And you have to keep is as close to the original as you can. Imedren is actively looking for a way to reverse this. I've contacted his representative - TaBog, I think his name is? The funny looking one - and have made promises. You are to stay within the confines of the city. Best if you stay in the manor. You are to keep Uruuna's body fit and in shape and healthy. TaBog has promised me that he will ensure the same is done for your body.
He what? Sel exclaimed. Look, you can't trust that cat-bastard any further than you can throw him. He'll lie through his teeth and and when you catch him he'll make you think it's your fault.
No he won't, Sel, the faun said. Despite your obvious prejudice against the man, he's not actually a bad person. He even has a reputation for keeping his word, especially when it comes to contracts.
But- Sel started.
Just trust me on this, Sel. I know what I'm doing. I've put contingencies down and have made agreements. If the two bodies are not in good shape, as defined in a contract which includes things like ensuring it's disease free, there's no missing parts, and there's no excessive weight gain or loss, among other things that would bore you if you had to read it, then damages will be awarded. And to ensure the stakes stay high, we wrote in ownership of the two manors. So don't f+!+ it up, Sel.
Uruuna also had some strict requirements for her body. Daily baths. Daily hair washing. Daily, Sel. You hear me? No extended hunting trips. I've hired some professionals to ensure the body stays in good condition. Uruuna also demanded strength training, so we're building a gymnasium.
This time, Sel cut Bel off, I want in on the design of that gymnasium.
Bel smiled. He crafted the words intentionally, knowing Sel would accept all the other stuff if he got a place to play. The gymnasium wasn't even part of the requirements - though the strength training was. It was just Bel's way of keeping Sel under control and giving his brother a reason to stay in the city. Sel would deal with the daily washings, the hairdressers, manicurists and pedicurists, and all the rest of the specialists he hire. Hell, he may even put up with the new seamstress Bel had hired; that would be an interesting moment to witness. But he knew that Sel would deal with it all if it meant he got a new gymnasium to play in.
Of course, Sel. Come on, I'll show you what our designers have drawn up so far.
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The death of Toothsome Maera leaves Dramm in contemplative place. The Hag had delivered the Children to the Crossings, something Dramm was not even aware could be done. He dreaded hearing of families searching for missing sons and daughters in the coming weeks.
Worse, it seemed that Selgaer was correct. The Long Mother's corruption really was bound to Dramm's magic. Every time he expended himself significantly in magic, the Long would find a door to creep into his mind. His body was deteriorating quickly now and he was dangerously thin. He slept so little that even his potent Life magic could not stave off constant fatigue. He began to hear and see things that were not there, and at times he loses his focus.
Dramm busied himself in his work. His body wasted, but his magic continued to become more potent. He experiences a breakthrough in restorative magics. However, his mind pays a heavy cost or the knowledge. One night, Dramm nods off while writing at Ezekia's home. When the witch returns, a tall shadowy creature with the face of a wolf and the body of an emaciated woman stands over the sorcerer. It lowers large jaws to take a hungering bite out of Dramm's sleeping form. Flesh tears away, and Dramm groans in pain but he does not wake. When Ezekia makes herself known, the shadowy beast gives a raspy, sadistic chuckle and then speaks.
"My time of harvest nears, and errant flesh will be returned to me. I have cultivated this feast. There is no denying my hunger now."
The shadow then melts away.
After the visit from the phantom, Dramm focuses on keeping himself busy to keep his mind away from the destruction facing him. When Tabog approaches him with a plan to help Imedren in his search for a scroll to reverse the effects on Uruuna and Selgaer, Dramm quickly agrees.
|Sel the Small|
Sel the Small, part 3
Sel walked into his usual haunt, a local bar that he and Rena regularly frequented when both were in town at the same time.
His - her? - body was covered in bruising. It had been nearly a week since the soul swap between him and Uruuna. It was challenging getting used to the halfling body, so he had set up a training room in the manor full of obstacles and physical challenges. And he had more than once failed.
The body was too short. The feet too long. The balance was off - he still had a habit of walking on his toes, which ended up giving him a few more inches in height, but caused cramps in the legs. However, it simply felt more natural.
"Mulberry wine, please," the halfling woman said at the bar.
The bartender looked at her. "That's now what your kind usually order."
But Sel didn't hear. So the bartender shrugged and poured the wine.
Sel took a sip and immediately spit it out. "Ahg! What's wrong with this!"
"I told you you wouldn't like it. That's a Faun's drink. The palate is too sweet for most people. Hell, I wouldn't even carry it if it wasn't for one particular faun that comes in here often enough, and I even add more sugar to the recipe. Though I haven't seen him in a while.
"Neveryoumimd. Here, try this, instead." The bartender took the wine glass and replaced it with a tulip shaped glass and poured an orange liquid inside.
Sel took a sip and the flavors exploded on his tongue with a peppery finish that was absolutely delicious. There was even a sting in the tongue that felt good. "Wow! That is good! What is it?"
"It's a simple rye, Miss. Most halflings prefer it. For someone waltzing in here with such confidence as you did, I'm surprised you didn't know that. Your walk says that you know what you want, but your choice in drink tells me that your friends put you up to a prank. Tell me true, you ever had a sip of alcohol before?"
But before Sel could answer, Rena interjected. "Oh, don't let her fool you. She's had plenty. Probably already drunk, which is why she thinks she's a faun and not a little halfling lady," Rena says with a grin. The pregnant commander hauls herself into a chair beside Selgaer. "Just a glass of red wine for me."
"Ha. Very funny," Sel sulked. But it wasn't a genuine sulk. "How you holding up since the attack?" The question was placed deliberately to change the topic away from his body.
"Fine. Those monsters banged me up a bit but did no lasting harm to me or the baby." She rests a hand on her rounded belly. "Thanks for the timely intervention, again. That's twice you've showed up in the nick of time."
As the bartender returns with the drinks, Rena eyes Selgaer up and down and smirks. "I know that's Imedren's wife, but I gotta say, I like the new look. Ever thought about being a woman full-time? I'll bet we can find some magic to do that for you once you swap back."
Sel looked aghast at Rena. Surely, the woman couldn't be serious. He looked over at her expecting to see the smirk and that classic twinkle in her eye when she was putting someone up to something. "Wait. You're serious, aren't you?" Sel asked.
Rena shrugs. "You know where my preferences lie. I like you, Sel, but if you were a girl... Maybe there could be more than just friendship between us."
"I…" Sel started. Then he sighed. "Always so direct, aren't you? Look, that's not a decision one can make on the spur of the moment. That kind of thing takes time. This body feels wierd. It doesn't feel natural. But.. I mean, yeah, I'd like for there to be more than just friendship, but... I don't know."
"Just putting it out there for you to think about." Rena raises her glass in salute and sips her wine.
They sat there in silence for a short while, sipping their drinks. He thought about what Rena had proposed. It was certainly possible - the hag proved that well enough. Was his attraction and possible love for the commander worth sacrificing his own body? What would that mean for the children in the manor? What would it mean for his brother? What body would he even want?
After a while, he spoke up. "This feels awkward," Sel said. "Want to go for a walk?"
"Sure, though at this point it's more like a waddle for me," Rena quips. She finishes her wine and follows Selgaer out into the city.
"Waddle? You're barely showing! Don't milk it, woman!" Sel teased.
Rena jostles Selgaer. "Hey, you want to carry this baby instead? Cause you can now!"
"Uruuna would kill me if I put you in her body," Sel quipped.
"Let's see how you feel with a little hoof digging into your ribs every few minutes."
The two of them were back to their old selves, joking and jostling one another and often talking over each other as they made their way out of the bar and onto the streets of Crossings. The evening wasn't quiet, despite the dimming light. People were still in celebration mode after the Fog lifted - the horrors of those few days with the beasts and monsters hunting and killing were contrasted by the joy and zest for life which filled the air in the days following. The Mayors plan to hold a celebration the same night that the Hag was defeated helped set the mood for the city, helped reinforce the idea that they were unbeatable. The Mayor framed it not as a victory for a few select heroes, but as a victory for Crossings and all her inhabitants.
Rena looks around at the happy faces, but hers soon turns into a scowl. "It never lasts, does it? Give it another month or two and some other danger will come to threaten the city. Harvesters, demon cultists, death plagues, faerie invasions. What's next?"
"I don't know." Sel answered. "But we'll be ready. I've even been training. Bel built a gymnasium for me to train. Part of some contract he wrote up with Imedren."
"Good. You're all going to need to be at the top of your game. I'll be out of commission in a few more months, and I don't know how you're going to survive without me."
"And, can you believe it," Sel continued, "he's even hired beauticians! Hair and skin and nail specialists! And they wrote into the contract that I have to bathe daily! Daily! Can you believe it? I don't know what their issue is, but I'm perfectly clean. I take a bath every Sunday, whether I need it or not!"
Rena laughs heartily. "Perish the thought! Well, who knows, Sel? You may start to enjoy getting pampered like that."
The two of them laughed and joked and conversed as they walked, arm in arm, into the lantern-lit night of Crossings.
Sel the Small part 4
Sometime during the month of downtime...
"Gods, I'm bored, Bel," the halfling woman complained.
"I've told you already, Sel, I've got plenty of paperwork to write up. You're more than welcome to join me."
"That's part of the problem. Paperwork is so booorring. I need to go running. I need to chase a buck or take down a duck with an arrow or kill a freaking Drake! Something!"
"No, Sel. You can't leave the city. And you are not risking that body," the faun said, dryly.
"Come on, Bel! Sitting around the house all day long is literally torture!"
"It's figuratively torture. You using a figure of speech," Bel said.
"See? See! That's exactly what I mean! Torture!"
"Fine. Go. I can't bear your complaining anymore."
Sel was immediately up and running towards the door.
Bel called after him, "Wear proper clothing! You can't go hunting in a dress!"
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"Wait up, Se---Uruuna!", calls Joy as she flies on her broomstick, trying to keep up with Selgaer's mad dash into the woods.
Lucky I've had lots of practice on this broom!, she thinks as she ducks a branch in the nick of time.
I need to make sure Sel doesn't wreck Uruuna's body on her!
Some time after the affair with Toothsome Maera, and when everyone is still in town, Joy goes from friend to friend and quietly says:
"We all need to talk. Tonight. In the mansion. Together."
She definitely seems like there's something on her mind.
When the group is gathered, in a room with no windows, and definitely no one else around, she says:
"There are two things I need to tell you all."
She takes a deep breath to steady herself.
"First, my dwarf friend, Igor Ironson? The engineer who just finished with a big project? Well, he let slip just what that project was! Three years back, the Emperor got the Academy of Engineers here in Crossings to plan new soldiers that could replace the orcs, who were going a bit funny even then. They're a new construct, "Iron Titans", and eight were built. The Academy sent Igor and a bunch of others to Foundry to oversee the final armouring of the titans in Foundry, with all their industry. Now, the remaining engineers are getting the titans ready to head out by train through Sixton. Airship from there to the Imperial army trying to retake the capital. It's amazing, this huge project, and not a whisper until now!"
She quiets for a moment, gathering herself.
Now, the tough one.
"Please just watch. This is very important and I will explain."
The observant may notice her glance at Dramm and Ezekia for just a moment.
Joy places a fist-sized black stone, with strange metal bands woven on and through it, onto a table. She hesitates a little bit then, but then removes her thick gloves, and places those on the table. Then, she blinks hard, and gingerly seizes the stone in one hand.
Joy's skinny form shimmers, as if a heat haze has struck her, and the sight of a teenage girl wavers, alternating with a humanoid form, one crafted with well-woven bundles of sticks. These eyes are green and what appears to be a glowing green twig of crystalline wood - or a wood-like crystal - lodged in her chest.
The figure turns to the assembled group, occasionally flickering back to Joy, then places the strange stone back on the table. Her form flickers once more, and Joy is there.
She speaks up.
"I...I am Joy Summers. And I am a changeling. You all needed to know, so that some enemy can't use the surprise against us. We have enough troubles as it is!"
|Sel the Small|
I always suspected, Sel thought. When I bought those iron rings, she was very hesitant.
Despite his thoughts, he gets up to hug her. It doesn't matter what you are, it matters who you are. And you are a good person.
Tabog is more present at this meeting then usual. Someone with something interesting to say was speaking for once. As Joy went on about the the titans and the engineers, Tabog was fascinated and even a bit skeptical about the whole ordeal. He knew a lot of people and never heard a peep about this.
Could this really be true!?
It's when she began her weird ball routine that he was on the edge of his seat.
What could she be doing?
Where could this be going?
Why does it smell liKE GOAT IN HERE... Oh... yeah...
Tabog glares at Sel for a split second, before being witness to Joy's most courageous act yet!
Although surprised, we he quickly realized that he never gave Joy a look. She'd always been a that little girl that ran around with Nutmeg, keeping his head straight. She's turned into a hero since then, a public, figure, a warrior, an exception to the rule.
But it didn't matter. It was still wrong! Tabog stood up and, pointing at the girl and raising his voice quite loudly.
"This is unacceptable, Joy! I will not stand for this disgusting display, and I will stop and nothing to make sure this never happens again!"
He jumps on the table and continues to shout.
"I will not allow you to hug that goatman any longer! You don't know where he's been! He probably has goat flees!!!"
He swiftly rushes to meet them and snatches the girl from Selgaer's grasp, spinning her around, into a warm embrace and letter her down gently, smiling.
|Uruuna the Faun|
Joy looks like she would cry with happiness. Overwhelmed by the support of her friends, she stutters out:
"T--thank you all. We'll save Crossings yet!"
"You've saved the Crossings many times over, Joy." Dramm would rather avoid crowding Joy along with the others. He awkwardly pats her with a bony hand in an attempt to be comforting. "You'll have us there to help, as you always have."
Amusement at Dramm's reluctance gently crosses into his mind. He shoots a glance at Ezekia before sucking it up and giving Joy a proper hug.
"It is good to see you, Joy." He says, squeezing her tight. "We are all proud of you. Even Tabog. You're a good kid."
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"I will take care of this. I promise." the words were the one thing that echoed within his mind, the only thing that let him hold his strength.
A pair of dogs barked and growled nearby, restrained by ropes
"I told you... it's not... wha-... you think!" he managed to rasp out past the numbing effects of the poison.
"You told me enough to confirm what I already knew. Seeking out the powerful and forbidden magic of Sunionious Roo. Consorting with a devil for assistance, heh."
Imedren was already beyond frustrated with the man, cycling back around to near despairing.
"Did you... even READ it?! He was trying to undo what he'd already-"
"Your words are heavy with taint and fall on deaf ears, sorcerer![b] he interrupted. [b]"Though you may seem to be some sort of hero where you come from, my pets and I can sense your true intentions. You would be chaotic and dangerous to others in the best of times, but you are so much worse now. Many would be sorry after striking their wife." he added in a mocking tone. He knew that would set Imedren off and it did.
"So close to getting what you want too, I'm doing this world a favor by removing you from your course early. I have to thank you though, you've given me my next set of potential targets as well. Maybe I'll even have to visit your -" The Witch Hunter's smile faltered as he tried to speak over the dogs who were becoming even more agitated, barking and struggling against the ropes that restrained them. This one liked to hear himself talk.
Imedren's head began to ache, the onset of a migraine he felt.
"Miles, Gallo, both of you shut up! I can't hear myself think." the Witch Hunter said, turning to look at his two dogs.
"Well now, that hardly seems a fitting end, does it?" came a heavy but familiar voice from a cloaked figure. The hunter looked to his right, hand to his blade.
"What the... stay back, old man. This is a dangerous fugitive!"
There was a moment of muttering from the cloaked figure, sparks of red chaotic light lanced about the air. "Son of a b@&&&!" the Hunter cursed, drawing his blade and dropping Imedren's ring to the ground, his free hand carving an arcane rune in the air in front of himself. It was the same one which had managed to destroy a spell he'd been intending to use for escape before being captured. But he was too slow.
Silence took the area as it seemed like the world seemed to stop. The barks and growls went quiet and the Witch Hunter did not move anymore, but his magic rune was still in the air.
"Y-you." Imedren said weakly, looking at his older self who strode up to him. The two of them seemingly the only things that could move within the strange field.
"Yes, me. A fine mess you've landed yourself in. Now that I've had to act of my own volition to save you, our paths are completely intertwined. Hurry, get yourself free and grab your things, these are my last 10 minutes before my mind and memories are effectively shattered into fragments to be rearranged into yours. I'm sure you have questions."
Imedren looked at the man like he was a hallucination but knew better than to disbelieve it. He started working himself free, while his older self reached over to the manacles on Imedren with a key and undid them. Rubbing his wrists, he stood up and walked over to the spot on the ground where his ring had been dropped. He picked it up and put it back on, feeling whole again. His older self meanwhile, manacled the legs of the Hunter. The moment he stopped touching them, they became as still as a painting.
"What are you doing here? How did you find me?" Imedren went over to where the packs of supplies were and began grabbing everything of his together. He noted as he got over there, things were no longer quiet. Looking back to where he'd been, he could almost see a strange outline in the air, a bubble of still time.
"Typical questions. I couldn't let you die. Not after you connected us last time in the library, because if you ceased to exist, causality would have simply found plausible reasons for me to die until I did. I've simply kept an eye on you from a distance. Leaving for my own time was impossible now... not that I wanted to go back anyway. Hurry, we need to be away from this man as soon as we are able, he's a blind spot to your abilities."
"I know, that's how he caught me unaware."
"No, you don't see it because you are too unused to your abilities. This man literally doesn't factor into any sort of divination at all anymore. Future sight, foretelling, predictions, prognostications... he is literally a wild card. Normally they don't tend to make too big of an impact, but he could go anyway. I just hope he doesn't see it.
We're going to teleport now. We'll clear a thousand yards. Take his horse, it'll make it all but impossible for him to find us."
The horse proved to be more difficult to work with than expected. Thankfully the blinders helped and about 2 minutes later it was able to be moved with some persuading. His older self opened a portal, reality between two points seemed to bisect itself and they walked through to the other side before it sealed closed behind them, leaving them all in a completely different area now.
"Why did you not want to return to your own timeline? What happened there?"
The older version of himself was quiet for a short time, then finally he sighed and spoke. "I ran away. I was a coward in my youth, I'd nearly died and I knew we weren't strong enough to deal with the calamity that was coming. I tried to convince the others, my friends and Uruuna to leave the city with me. Let others handle it, I said. TaBog was unsure, Anophth said he couldn't leave his shop and the successful life he'd made for himself. Dramm wouldn't leave because of his budding romance with Ezekia. Uruuna adamantly refused to leave because she was a lieutenant of the Brown Cloaks. We argued about it for hours, but they were adamant. In the end, I decided I was leaving and TaBog seemed like he would. That night I tried to convince Uruuna again, but she'd set her mind to it and refused. She called me a coward and told me she hated me. I... I left the next day. TaBog got me to the edge of town, made sure I took Nutmeg with me, and turned back to say he had to fight for his son's future here... and that was the last I saw of them.
Days later we heard the city had been destroyed. Everyone I knew who had stayed behind died... and I realized I had made a horrible mistake. I wondered if perhaps I had made the other choice, if I had stayed and helped them, would they have survived? Slowly I became obsessed with that. The world continued, of course. Things steadily seemed to get worse for the Northern Reach, without Crossings as a safe trade hub, it became far more difficult for things to continue. Nutmeg became my apprentice, learning magic under my tutelage. We were equally possessed with the idea of changing things, though. We spent years learning what we could of time magics, theories and the like. We even managed to find a small group of like minded individuals. In the end we were able to learn several truths.
There were many points in time where the world could have fallen into jeopardy. Crossings was a crucial location and time, not the first, nor the last, but an important one. "
"You found others, you mean those with time magic? What happened to them?"
His older self shook his head, seeming tired. "Those who could attempted to go back and alter things. Our initial attempts proved successful, but our more ambitious goals failed several times. One of our number, Mehdi, warned we were being hunted by those who refused to let the past be so blatantly changed. We also became fugitives in my time. Some were hunted down. One despaired and fled to the future. The rest scattered to the winds."
"My options were limited then. I knew I couldn't move openly. I had to conceal myself, find a version of me who was... unpredictable. One who could see the future, one who moved through time. One who was largely compatible. In other words, you."
Imedren was quiet now. "I have to get home now, back to Crossings. Everyone must be worried about where I went and-" he was interrupted by his older self shaking his head.
"No, you're too eager, if you return to Crossings now, you'll just be hunted down. You need to lay low and hide. Head north and east to Foundry instead, wait a few weeks and send a letter. Those who know you will be there waiting. Make sure you keep them with you in your life as long as you can." His older self was talking to him and was asking for a sincere wish to be made. Imedren felt the weight of those words, but then the older version seemed to perk up.
"Our time is almost up now. Our realities will collide and my time will become enclosed with yours. Open your mind and grab at as many experiences as you can. This will be a defining moment for us. Goodbye." and with that, both Imedren's vanished from time.
A minute later, only the younger version appeared. He seemed almost dazed but recovered quickly. Then after a minute of looking around he continued on toward Foundry.
Dramm takes the Father to a sitting room with several chairs an a couch situated around a table. Despite the aromas filling the rooms, the table only has two large bottles of strong liquor on it. A section of the room has a curtain hung around it, currently open to reveal a high table and a bed. Dramm sits after the father sets his crutch to the side and begins to pour the liquor.
"I appreciate you coming, Gregory. You mean a lot to the people that live here." Dramm says, pushing a glass over to the priest. "I asked you to come because you mean so much to them. I've had a breakthrough in my research. I may be able to restore you, but there are... risks. Would you like me to try?"
Joy enters, having been out running last minute errands, as cooking supplies had been used.
"Hello Father Gregory!", Joy calls from the kitchen as she hurries to place everything she picked up. "I'll just be a minute!"
"Hello, there!" Gregory calls back cheerfully. He sips his drink and eyes Dramm seriously. "What sort of risks are we talking about?"
"You will be my first attempt." He watches Gregory drink. "The spell will help you to rapidly regrow a limited portion of your body at a time. It can regrow bone, ligaments, nerves... but it must do exactly that: Regrow."
Dramm pushes the second glass towards Gregory.
"The process can only be excruciating. I do not know if the spell will be successful, or if your body can handle the strain. I will do everything I can to help keep you safe, but it is new to me."
Gregory takes a deeper swig of his drink, but he nods. "Very well. I have faith in you and in the New God. He would not have made me suffer the horrors I endured and brought me back only to have me suffer again. This can only be his will and his purpose."
Dramm grimaces at the mention of the New God, but nods in agreement.
"We can start when you are ready then." He motions to the bed and table. "I advise drinking as much as you can. It will help the pain of the exposed regeneration. The alcohol and sedative will not last long with the magic increasing your regeneration."
When Father Gregory is ready and seats himself, Dramm prepares the syringe and secures the priest. He accepts any help offered by the others to help keep the Father restrained. With a final nod from the priest, Dramm begins caring a complicated series of symbols and incanting in High Archaic. The magic gathers around him with a warm green glow. As more and more is pulled into the spell, Dramm's tattoos glow gently. Then a coldness begins to creep from him, and Dramm seems somehow... less. His physical form appears to wither in the presence of the powerful magic. Then another presence enters the room. No, that's not quite right. Rather, another mind worms and wriggles out of Dramm to fill the room along with the magic. It dims the lights and gentle shadowy fingers squeeze longing at his neck. The sorcerer ignores the predatory hunger that hangs in the air.
His power gathered, he presses the knife point into Gregory's stump and sinks the blade to the bone. He then draws the knife slowly out again, pulling downward as if to draw the bone out. Indeed, bone does begin to jut forth and is followed by twisting tendons, veins, nerves, flesh, and skin. They become a knee, then shin, ankle, and foot.
"Argh!" Gregory cries out in agony as his body begins to regrow his missing foot. His knuckles are white as he grips his holy symbol. "Astrid preserve me! Lend me your strength! Arghh!!"
Dramm works as quickly as he dares. It only takes a minute to complete the restoration. Dramm does not give Father Gregory a chance to fully regain his wits. Instead, he pulls upon the magic around him and reconstitutes the spell in his mind. He is quick to insert the knife into the socket of Father Gregory's missing eye. In moments the socket begins to reshape and regenerate painfully, Dramm drawing the flesh forth with the blade. When he pulls away, the eye is reformed and the presence slowly dissipates.
He quickly gets a towel and water for the priest, clearing sweat and gently offering water until the worst of the pain passes before releasing him from the restraints.
"I'm sorry, Father. I thought it might be best to do the eye while your senses were still rattled. It seemed the most painful and invasive."
oy comes in and says:
"You're right to have faith, Father. Things will work out!"
She works with Dramm to keep Father Gregory calm and then restrained. She enchants a handful of berries, just in case Gregory - or Dramm - require them.
She tries not to wince at Gregory's clear agonies, and keeps an eye on the restraints throughout.
Gregory is drenched with sweat, but he nods at Dramm. "You did the right thing, son." He experimentally blinks and rolls the new eye around as if to calibrate it. "By the New God! This is truly a miracle! I am restored!"
Dramm is already taking notes, recording Gregory's reactions.
"I suspect you're going to find yourself dangerously hungry shortly. I have made you food. I would have fed you before the spell, but I was afraid that might be counter-productive."
Satisfied that the Father truly is restored, he offers to help Gregory stand and test his balance.
"It is not done yet, Father. Your arm will be next, but this is all I am capable of for now. I will need to rest tonight and we can truly finish this tomorrow."
Dramm smiles wearily.
"I think Anophth would have been happy to see you stand again, Gregory."
Gregory smiles as well and makes the sign of the ourboros. "May he find peace in oblivion." He claps Dramm's shoulder with his good arm. "Thank you, my friend. I do not know how I can repay you for your kindness."
Oblivion for Anophth, and eternal souls for men like Katandramus.
The thought burns furiously inside Dramm before he banishes it.
"It's not kindness. It's what Anophth would have wanted. Only his works and how we carry them on are what is left of him. I intend to leave something of him behind in this world before it takes me too."
Joy's delight is readily visible.
"Dramm, I knew you could do it! Father, would you like food?"
Gregory nods solemnly to Dramm. Then he favors Joy with a grin. "Yes, please! I am famished!"
"Coming right up!"