An Uncommon Want

Game Master Mowque


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As Awenasa turns to her friends, the Pool seems to sizzle behind her, taunting her with spirals of steam. The Shoanti is no coward but the idea of melting half her skin to satisfy some crazy old Ulfen's idea of a 'noble challenge' more then a little aggravating. Then again, she did say she'd do anything in her quest. She should have disallowed stupid things.

Thak looks at Stjórna and says, quietly, "Well, I have to admit, it is an interesting challenge to set. Iori would approve, I think. Although it is a bit artificial.." While the cleric debates the theological implications, she turns to Perey a bit desperate.

"I don't have anything to protect your eyes,"The bard says worried. His cold or whatever seems to have pushed aside, and the small man pushes his cape back. "This could be dangerous Awenasa. What if you get stuck down there?" He glances over her shoulder at the shimmering pool of blue water. Seeing her face he adds, "Well, I can help with one thing." He touches her shoulder and mutters a snippet of some childhood song.

A tingle and then....a strange 'pulling' sensation toward the Pool. Not overpowering or painful, but just a vague sense of direction. Like how she always knew which way was North. Looking at Perey he smiles, "You'll be drawn toward the stone. That should help, even if you have your eyes closed."

And with that minimal help, Awenasa is on her own.

She strides into the water wearing as little possible, so sodden clothing doesn't hinder her movements or weigh her down. Her bare feet slides over the rough stones in the shallows. At first the hot water isn't bad, and is even a little pleasant around her ankles but once she leaves the edge, it rapidly grows quite hot. Not boiling, but even as the blue water swirls to her waist, she feels a little light-headed from the heat.

This will not be a very fun trip.

Soon she is standing on a water-covered rock, chest deep in blue water. Ahead of her is the heart of the Pool, where Stjórna threw the rock. The Pool seems quite deep and despite the water being very clear, the bottom is nowhere to be seen. Also, to her surprise the water is seawater, not fresh. Was there an outlet to the ocean somewhere down there?

Yeah, so Swim checks, Perception and Fort saves please


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa's face relaxed a bit when she spoke with Perey. "I believe my training will keep me from being trapped under the water. If I can get to the stone, I think I'll be okay."

Her eyes open slightly in surprise as she feels the pulling sensation. She claps Perey on the shoulder, "Thank you, brother. You have just made this possible."

Once in the water, Awenasa fights against the mental and physical affects of the heat. Only her determination, or stubbornness if you were to believe her teachers, moves her forward. Keeping her face out of the water as long as possible, the Shoanti moves onto her back and begins to pull herself through the water while kicking her feet. It had been so long since she had swum that she is understandably rusty. She doesn't make much headway but at least she doesn't immediately drown.

swim: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (2) + 8 = 10
fort: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (9) + 7 = 16
perception: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (6) + 13 = 19


Awenasa is helped by the fact the water is pre-naturally still, with no currents or drift that she can tell. Even he own swimming seems to hardly stir the steaming water, her ripples dying out quicker then they ought to. Maybe because it is seawater? Awenasa can taste the salt on her tongue and feel it gritty in her half-closed eyes. It isn't very pleasant, quite apart from the painfully hot water.

The only good thing is, she can sense Perey's magic without effort or concentration. In fact it is slightly difficult to actually ignore it, but Awenasa swims on the surface until she can feel that gentle sensation leading her directly down. She pauses there, in the center of the Blue Pool and glances back at the shore.

Perey and Thak are at the water's edge watching her. Perey gives her a Shoanti salute and then, red-faced, withdraws it. Thak merely bows slightly, robe ruffling in the steam coming off the pool. Stjórna is sitting on his rock, face turned up to the sky, with his elf guide standing near by.

Then, taking a deep breath, she plunges downward.

Awenasa quickly realizes two things, as she heads downward. The first is that the pool grows hotter as she descends, closer to whatever the source of the raw heat is. Second, the Pool is breathtakingly beautiful below the surface.

The walls of the Pool are rounded and smoothed, rocks worn to graceful curves. Streams and currents of color fill them, swirling in bewildering patterns of red, blue and green. They twist and intertwine in intricate patterns, all somehow polished to a mirror shine by the clear water. It reminds Awenasa of the wind-blown rocks mesas in her homeland, except these colors are even brighter. It is almost enough to take her mind off the water that is slowly scalding her.

Almost.

Down, down. Deeper, and hotter. The shimmering walls dim somewhat as more water above blocks the sunlight but it doesn't really get dark, thankfully. On the other hand, the Pool gets narrower toward the bottom, like an upside-down bell. Awenasa has the nasty feeling she is being funneled toward something. Lastly the water seems more salty and is harder to swim through.

Awenasa Perception: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (16) + 13 = 29
Nice

Taking a moment to pause and open her eyes, despite the heat and salt, Awenasa notices several things.

First is the bottom of the Pool. A sandy patch still some twenty feet below, a tangle of rocks, sand and...bones?

Two dark holes on either side of the base yawn like open mouths. From one issues boiling streams of water, presumably the source of the searing heat. Getting close to that would be very painful (and probably deadly). The other is dark and quiet, an inlet from the sea perhaps?

Oh, and the dragon.

Well, it looks like a dragon. On a broad stony shelf is a long scaly creature, seeming to rest. The reptilian beast has a pair of fearsome long tusks jutting from its oversized jaws. Its long, draconic tail ends in a razor-sharp blade, which twitches in the current.


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Between the heat and the salt, Awenasa begins to feel discouraged until she glances back to shore and sees Perey's salute and Thak's bow. It is enough to lighten her spirit knowing that her companions supported her in this.

As she dives, the heat tests her physical limits along with not being able to breathe under water. However, it is beautiful and this memory - good and bad - would remain with her for her lifetime.

Then she sees it. She immediately stops and waits a few seconds to figure out if she's been noticed. The bones littering the sand did not bode well for her should she rouse this creature. It in itself was quite magnificent but she didn't want to take the time to try to make friends. She needed to get her red stone and get out of its lair. She had no doubt that Stjórna knew about this creature and had tried to send her to her death. Years of being stuck on this island and becoming blind must have twisted him into a cruel man who disguised his cruelty in supposed noble tests.

Stealth: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (2) + 13 = 15
Swim: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (6) + 8 = 14
Fort: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (16) + 7 = 23

Awenasa had never had to swim quietly before but she does her best to make the smallest amount of current as she allows Perey's spell to pull her in the direction of the stone.


Awenasa wasn't exactly sure how to sneak while swimming, but she figured careful, deliberate movements would be the best approach. Slowly, she sunk down through the layers of hot blue waters, trying to silently drift past the elongated dragon-like beast.

? Perception, Alseep: 1d20 + 12 - 5 ⇒ (13) + 12 - 5 = 20

It doesn't work.

She is just level with the creature's makeshift sleeping ledge when it suddenly rolls over, and a gleaming eye appears. Bright green and focused directly on her. For a second it seems startled, as if surprised food has drifted directly into its lair. Then, like a cat, the long barbed tail starts to twitch.

? Initative: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (6) + 7 = 13
Awenasa Iniative: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (7) + 3 = 10

Can't catch a break

The reptile launches itself from its bed toward Awenasa, slicing through the water like a thrown spear. Jaws agape, revealing rows of sharp teeth, Awenasa is amazed at how fast it moves through the water, like a fish. At the last moment the Shoanti realizes it is not comign right at here but just very, very close. Did it miss?

Just as it grazed past her, close enough to toss her in the wake, the tai lashes out toward her!

Tail Attack: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (6) + 10 = 16

Somehow, by luck or skill, Awenasa manages to spin out of the way of the razor-sharp barb.

Ten feet away, hovering in the water, the creature pauses and gathers itself up. It looks at Awenasa through narrow eyes, clearly surprised she isn't bleeding or injured.

It is your turn, the beast is ten feet away from you. The bed of the pool is also teen feet below. You can't see the stone but you can feel the draw toward it


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa can understand the creature's response to her presence. She feels badly for invading its territory, even if she didn't have a choice. She would react the same way on the Plateau if someone invaded, after all no one ever just wandered into the Plateau.

Fighting is secondary in mind for the Shoanti. If she wasn't underwater and in danger of drowning, she may have tested her abilities against this water dragon. But she was and so she doesn't have the time for any wasted energy. She needs to get the stone and then leave the creature to its home. Focusing on the draw of the stone, Awenasa dives and hopes to snatch the stone before the beast rips her apart with its teeth.

swim: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (18) + 8 = 26


Awenasa gives herself a mental moment to curse Ulfen trickery and cruelty. This poor beast was simply doing its best to survive and thrive, and Stjórna was using it as a prop in some cruel 'quest'. Truly, the lowlands were an unhappy place.

The Shoanti was not here to wrestle sea dragons. Fast as she can, the woman turns and dives deeper, churning the hot water with her hands. Around her, the temperature rises dramatically over the last few feet. Her vision blurs a bit as her body temperature spikes. Awenasa is not cooked but it isn't fun.

Here and deeper, you will take non lethal damage per round. I'll handle the rolling

Non Lethal: 2d6 ⇒ (5, 2) = 7

She lets Perey's spell guide her down, among the stones and bones. Happily, she can generally keep her eyes closed, letting the magic pull her this way and that, unerringly sinking toward....there! Opening her eyes, she spots the red stone sitting on a patch of sand. The Shoanti reaches out, snatches it in a clenched fist. Awenasa just has time to start rising when the beast, clearly unbothered by the hot water, attacks again.

Beast Attack: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (4) + 10 = 14
Beast Attack 2: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (3) + 10 = 13

Lucky!

But again, blessed by luck or skill, Awenasa dodges the flurry of draconic attacks. The creature darts past her and then hangs in the water below, staring up at her. It is hard to tell on a face of scales and teeth but it looks very....annoyed? Awenasa gets the feeling the next attack might be more serious.


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

With her stone tightly clutched in her hand, Awenasa's only thought is getting to the surface and back to land. However, she knows that the dragon-like creature has other plans. It would take all her talents to get herself out of this unscathed.

She kicks for the surface while making powerful strokes through the water to draw herself upwards.

swim: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (11) + 8 = 19

As she pulls herself through the water, she tries her best to keep an eye on her would-be attacker.

perception: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (19) + 13 = 32


Rock in hand, Awenasa heads topside. Not only because she has no desire to wrestle a lizard in its own home, but her lungs are starting to ache. Worse, the hot water is starting to scald her skin, turning the tanned brown to an angry, welted red.

Non lethal: 2d6 ⇒ (2, 4) = 6

Still, she doesn't lose track of her opponent. A lifetime of training means she notices when the creature opens the huge, hinged jaws. She expects another swimming attack but instead the creature gives a blood-curdling roar, quite audible under the water. In fact it churns the water up, creating a cone of swirling sonic shock aimed right at Awenasa.

Sonic Damage: 6d6 ⇒ (4, 3, 6, 4, 3, 4) = 24
Awenasa Reflex for half, DC 15: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (16) + 8 = 24
Half of 24, so 12 points sonic damage

The shockwave slams into her and while Awenasa has enough time to turn her back to it, it still shakes her enough to rattle her teeth and daze her eardrums. The Shoanti remains focused however and doesn't drop the rock, keeping it clutched tightly in one fist.

Worse it swims quickly above her, blocking the way. If she goes around, she'd be inviting an attack from those shearing jaws and tail.

You provoke if you keep swimming upward


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa begins to understand how outsiders to the Plateau must feel when encountering Shoanti warriors. She is out of her element and her regular fighting tactics prove insufficient. Whereas the dragon-like beast is proficient in using the environment to its advantage, leaving her very few options.

With her only escape blocked, she really only has one option. Nagging doubts creep into her mind as recent failure is still fresh. If changing her form and emptying herself of all substance fails like it did at the Spire then this pool would become her grave. Even though she longed to join her sister's spirit, she didn't like the idea of her bones littering the sand so far from home.

The burning of her skin and in her lungs spur her to action. Yes she has her doubts about whether it will work but she is running out of options as the creature blocks the surface.

Awenasa stills her thoughts and centers her spirit. She focuses on making her physical form insubstantial and soon disappears as she becomes ethereal.

Using up most of her ki pool to use Empty Body to move through the creature to the surface. She moves half speed but she should be able to get out of the water provided it doesn't have some special ability to attack her


Becoming ethereal was usually a strange experience for the Shoanti and not always a pleasant one. Disconnecting your self from your normal plane was not a casual activity and Awenasa always felt a bit of vertigo at the process.

But today, it was a welcome relief.

For one thing, she was no longer being slowly cooked by the over-heated tidal pool. Her body is no longer residing on the Material Plane so instead of melting she merely feels a cool tingle. Transparent but visible the Shoanti starts to glide upward at a stately but measured pace toward the surface. Also, happily, she can breathe again although breathing while ethereal is always very strange.

The reptile above her watches in confusion as Awenasa simply floats toward it. Puzzled, the creature opens its mouth and lets loose another churning vortex of sound and water directly toward Awenasa. She winces, closing her eyes out of habit and instinct.

But nothing happens.

The spell passes right through the ethereal warrior with less impact then a summer breeze. Outraged the swimming creature dives on Awenasa, slashing the water with tooth and tail, thrashing so hard foam forms. All to no avail.

Safely disconnected, Awenasa rises to the surface of the water. She emerges into the air, even as the creature chases after her. It breaks the surface like a jumping trout, jaws snapping ineffectively on Awenas'a shimmering form.

She had made it out of the water, with the stone tight in her fist. She had done it!

From the shore Perey and Thak are watching with a mixture of delight she is alive and horror at the monster still trying to eat her.

So...now what?


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awesome visual. Very cool scene

Awenasa's doubt melts away as she successfully leaves the physical plane for the ethereal one. The cool tingle is a soothing balm to her body and spirit after being slowly boiled alive. And then there was air, glorious air. A very mind-bending phenomena being underwater.

A small part of her feels a bit smug as she witnesses the beast's confusion and frustration as it tries to attack her but fails. The Shoanti continues her steady climb upwards until she escapes the water that was almost her grave.

As quickly as she can in her present form, Awenasa makes a beeline towards shore. The whole way back she is at war within herself. Part of her wants to make Stjórna pay for attempting to kill her with his so-called test but part of her needs the information that he has about Eivind and dead men tell no tales.

Does she know whether this water reptile can be on land as well as in the water? Just wondering if it'll follow her onto land

Once she is back on land, Awenasa materializes again and holds up the red stone before the elf's eyes so that they can testify to Stjórna that she had indeed retrieved the correct stone. "I passed your test. You and your pet failed to kill me. Keep your word and tell me what I need know."


Feeling like a spirit in one of her quah's more outlandish stories, Awenasa floats over the surface of the Blue Pool. Below the dragon-like reptile thrashes and jumps, sending up sheets of glittering water. For the first time the Shoanti wonders if it'll follow her onshore and attack her friends (she doesn't much care about Stjórna). She knows some beasts will pursue prey for many miles for vengeance.

She is relieved then that when she floats over the shore, the guardian of the pool vanishes into the boiling depths instead of emerging. She has pity for the creature, whose home had been invaded. Animals should leave in peace and be respected, when possible. Still, she had only taken a single stone, that wasn't even from the pool.

Back on the ground, the Shoanti renters the Material Plane which is strange as always. She 'remembers' she is wet, chilly and her lungs still sting from holding her breath so long. Shaking slightly from the effort she holds out the red stone and says her, somewhat sarcastic remark.

Stjórna's reaction is lighting quick, for the blind man reaches out a hand. He is so fast that even though his first grab misses Awenasa's wrist, he has time to try a second time. Which isn't easy since Awenasa is used to being the quickest person.

The Ulfen holds her in an iron grip for a spilt second, just long enough for her to realize that while the man may be a blind shadow of his former self, he was probably stronger? A terrifying thought.

He takes the red stone, rolling in his hand.

"My pet?" The old Ulfen warrior says lightly, apparently not offended by Awenasa's tone. In fact he seems distant and thoughtful. "I have no pets. No living thing should be trammeled so." A long meditative silence. Awenasa usually so calm and patient is ready to snap when the Ulfen speaks again,

"My test..." Then he shrugs and tosses the stone casually on the beach, where it vanishes among the countless others. A drop in an endless sea. "You still have much to learn Awenasa Windkeeper but perhaps you are on a worthy path."

"Boy!" he says and the young elf at his side straightens. "Take the Shoanti warrior and her friends back to the Spire. Tell the warden Stjórna gives them passage to whatever door they choose." The youthful elf looks surprised but then shrugs.

Thak comes up then, bows and says, "It was an honor to meet you, Master of the Open Palm. May your own journey be fulfilled." He bows again, a rare sign of reverence from the usually rather aloof foreigner. Stjórna says nothing but Thak seems even more impressed byt he silence, withdrawing.

Perey speaks for Awenasa when she whispers, "He gives me the creeps." And yet....was that a ghost of a smile on the old man's lips? Had he somehow heard? Surely not....


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

If Awenasa hadn't still been slightly annoyed by the whole test, she may have been more intimidated by Stjórna's display of speed and strength. However, in her current mood, part of her wants him to cross some invisible line in her head that breaks her constraint. But then she takes a breath and is reminded of her most recent test and how her body is weakened because of it.

Even though it risks angering the Ulfen, Awenasa needs to know. "Did you know creature down there when you send me? I invaded it's home unnecessarily."

As Stjórna begins to dismiss them, Awenasa holds up her hand, "Wait. You said if I fetch stone that you will tell how to find Eivind the Heavy Hand. Access to the Spire is part of that but by your word more information needs to be given."


As always Stjórna's face is a wooden mask of stern discipline, with emotions buried deep. Yet the Shoanti were also a reversed people (mostly) so Awenasa had long experience reading such people and her gut reaction was....unhappiness. The Ulfen did not like being questioned such.

"Is it not obvious? Entering the Spire is how to find Eivind. Would you also want me to tell you how to walk there?" The blind man's mouth twitches mirthlessly, " You are eager Awenasa Windkeepr and this is good. Passion is what drives us, but do not let it control you. Do not let your eagerness becomes grasping. I have shown you the path forward and given you a key to the door. Is that not enough?"

Perey at least seems unconvinced and mutters, "Maybe a clue what is on the other side..."

Stjórna must have sharp ears because he replies, voice hard as iron, "I am not beholden to you, or your servant. Do not judge me, as you would a cart or a horse. It is not your place."

An icy silence fills the otherwise warm mist air. Then the man breaks it to say, "As for the creature, I do regret it. It is an unwilling part of the test but it is also a hunting creature. It is its nature to struggle and fight. No evil was done."


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa can tell that Stjórna didn't like all her questions but she is not a lowlander who blindly follows orders. And she had more questions. Obviously the information he had given so far is not enough.

"Why did Eivind enter Spire? If know why he entered it may help know the path forward." Her brow furrows a bit as she processes the Ulfen's previous words. "You mention door to be chosen suggesting more than one. Do you know which one Eivind went through?"

When Stjórna shows no remorse for causing her to invade that creature's home, she bites back a retort about suffering and struggle. Had they really helped it become a better hunter or had they just tormented it?

Unmoving, she waits for Stjórna's response.


Her question seems to surprise the stern Ulfen, who frowns not in anger but confusion. 'Why...." The blind man's eyebrow rasies. "Do you not know...The Spire is a gateway. To other places."

Thak looks interested and interjects, "Planar, perhaps?"

Stjórna shrugs, "Other planes, other planets, other times. Doors to many places reside in the Spire. At least that is what is said. I never went in. I elected to remain here, to watch the way for others who would follow. You are not the first Awenasa Windkeeper, and not the last." A sea breeze tugs at his beard. "But you are the first I have passed on. Do not let it inflate your ego."

"As for where Eivind went, I do not know. My path ends here, on this beach, on this island. But those inside will know. The Keepers let nothing be forgotten. They do not lie." The young elf at his side made a face at this and waggled his hand, indicating some doubt.

"If you go inside and ask, they will guide you honestly. Perhaps truer then you would wish, Shoanti warrior." The old man sags a bit and says, "Go with the boy. I grow weary. I am old....." Yet for all his talk the man's stride is still strong, his back straight when he starts away, heading down the path alone. He pauses then and says, without turning, "if you do find Eivind...tell him Stjórna The Stalwart watches the way and....." A very long pause, with the only sound the distant crash of waves on rock and a screech of the gulls.

"Tell him many miss him." He hobbles down the path, feet unsteady on the sliding stones.

The young elf watches and then turns to Awenasa, "Come, I'll take you to the door. They will open it now."


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

The Spire is a gateway...to other places...what did that even mean? How did She-Who-Upsets-the-Water learn so much about where Eivind went and yet not know that?

Shoanti are no stranger to the spiritual realm but these kind of magics were beyond anything Awenasa is familiar with. She tries to follow Thak's conversation with Stjórna and hopes she gleans the important parts. Except she still didn't know why. Stjórna had spoken like telling her it is a gateway should explain why Eivind had entered. To her it did not but she fears he would not give her a more direct answer if she questions again.

Her shoulders relax a bit in relief as the Ulfen shares that those inside would know how to guide her. She had began to worry about how she would choose the right door.

The Shoanti nods deeply in response to the Ulfen's words before remembering that his eyes could not see her. She adds, "By blood it is sworn, Stjórna the Stalwart, that if I find Eivind that he know your steadfast watch. And he know you wait and he is missed."

"I may not agree with all your ways but you have my respect and thanks. May your spirit guide you."

Awenasa waits along with the elf and her friends as Stjórna makes his exit. Her pulse begins to quicken in excitement when the elf speaks and confirms that the door would be opened to them. She is one step closer to saving her people.


It is hard for Awenasa to let the young elf set the pace as they head back through the tangle of storm-washed rocks. The Shoanti wants to run, to sprint, to fly forward! After all this time, so much uncertainty, she has a way forward. A path, a door.

Still the young elf makes a quick pace, his feet sure footed over the stones. Indeed, he has an almost pre-natural nimbleness over even the rough terrain. His purple eyes catch Awenasa frequently, a mixture of interest and amusement. It seems likely few travelers come this far and Awenasa, and her friends, are probably curiosities. Still, even through her excitement, she feels a strange prickle at the elf's attention.

Soon they stand in front of the solid door, made of a single tooth. It seems just as impassable and immovable as before, encrusted by time and rain. Above the giant Spire looms over them dark and imposing. The bright midday sun seems to have no hold over it, not to warm it or brighten the sharp crags. The remote windows seem just as black and pit-like as ever.

The elf walks up to the door, knocks on it once and says something in a musical, unknown language.

Thak tilts his head and says, "Some form of Elvish? I don't recognize it." Their guide just shrugs with a smile.

A grinding noise fills the air as the tooth doors starts to rise up, sliding up toward the ceiling. Magic? Or just clever machines? Both seemed just as exotic to Awenasa, whose people still often considered the wheel to be an unnecessary luxury. Soon the door is gone, revealing a black door.

Very, very black. So dark she can see nothing inside even though the bright sun should be revealing it at least a little. Out of that stygian abyss a figure walks. A tall, slender humanoid figure, with the same pale skin and purple eyes. Those strange eyes survey Awenasa for a long moment, and she can sense much from them.

Contempt. Disdain. Even perhaps revulsion.

Silence builds.


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

After Awenasa catches the young elf looking at her multiple times, she stops. "You have questions? Or more information to share?" Maybe this young elf would be more willing to speak than Stjórna was.

"Is this your home? Have you been inside the Spire?"

She begins to walk again, eager to get to the door that had denied her entry not that long ago.

When the tooth doors rise, Awenasa takes an involuntary step backwards. She thinks that she will never get used to the strangeness of the lowlands.

The Shoanti swallows hard as the humanoid figure approaches, not knowing what to expect, but she keeps her head held high. She meets the surveying gaze of those strange purple eyes and isn't surprised by what she sees. In the lowlands she is used to seeing such disgust; however, part of her wonders if what she is seeing is because she is Shoanti or because she is human.

She glances at the young elf to see if they will relay Stjórna's words to this keeper of the door. Or was that what was said in the language she hadn't understood that opened the door? Not wanting to wait longer than necessary, she decides to speak.

"Keeper of the Spire, I am Awenasa Windkeeper of Tamiir-Quah and I seek Eivind the Heavy Hand. Stjórna the Stalwart has allowed me to pass. He said you would guide me true."


*Before*

The young elf guide does not reply to Awenasa's word right away but does finally say, "Yes, this is my home. Well, this part of it." A pause and then, "I can't say much, I am just an apprentice and not allowed to reveal any of the Secrets. All I'll say is....be careful. It might not be as easy as you think."

Easy? That was the last thing Awenasa was expecting at this point. But the Shoanti didn't care if things were easy, she just wanted them to be clear. She just needed a way forward.

*Later*

The elven figure surveyed her with narrowed eyes when she spoke, a flash of surprise flitting across the smooth pale face. The purple eyes then shifted to the young elf who nodded slightly.

The door warden accepted this ungraciously and Awenasa thought she might have heard a small snort of derision. For a long moment they just stood there, simple (but elegant) white robes fluttering slightly in the sea breeze. Clouds above rolled past, the sun shimmering. Then, in perfectly accented, cultured Common they said, "Very well. You may enter and I will guide." Then they held up a long-fingered smooth hand. "You must be blinded however, for none must see the defenses of the Mordant Spire, save the guardians."

Perey yelps at this and actually takes a step back, face turning pale. The door ward looks impatient and adds, "Temporarily blinded, of course. We are not barbarians. Your sight will be returned when you reach the Gathering of the Ways." The pale eyes sought out Awenasa again, "Do you agree, seeker of Eivind the Heavy Hand?"


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Before

Now that Awenasa had survived the test and moving forward, her annoyance at the whole need to prove herself begins to lessen and she found herself wondering about the young elf's experience with Stjórna. "How long you been with Stjórna? You must have heard many tales of his adventures. Did you also meet Eivind?" She can barely keep the excited interest from her voice as she asks.

Later

Awenasa's heart hammers in her chest as she waits for the door warden to make a decision. She bristles slightly at their supposed assessment of her but there is too much at stake to react to their disrespect.

Finally she hears what she needs to hear. She could enter! She is one step closer to Eivind. But the next sentence causes her stomach to clench. She had been blindfolded during some of her training to teach her how to still fight when her vision was limited against a foe but this sounded more serious than a blindfold.

Then she has a horrific thought, Is this what happened to Stjórna? Did he try to follow Eivind and somehow get blinded permanently and not just temporarily?

Awenasa knows she will agree because she had not come this far to turn back now; however, she had to ask, "Is there any chance blindness not temporary?" She has a feeling that this Keeper will dislike being questioned even more than Stjórna but if there was any chance the blindness is permanent would cause her to make the others stay behind.

Awenasa squares her shoulders and lifts her chin, "I agree, for me. My companions need agree for them."


The Warden looks at Awenasa with very little interest. "Stranger things have happened. If your fear concerns you, turn back and risk nothing, mortal." A smug look flickers across the pale, smooth face.

When Awenasa agrees anyway, it turns to a curdled smile. The elf shifts his gaze to Perey and Thak. "And for you?"

Thak considers for a long moment, hand on his chin. Awenasa has the feeling the little curious man would like to ask many question but doesn't dare. Finally he shrugs, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I agree as well."

It takes Perey longer, far longer. The bard obviously wrestles with his desire to follow Awenasa into danger and his own mortal fear. Which is not unfounded, these elves hardly seem trustworthy and becoming blind....Finally though he nods. "I can still play without seeing. I will go." The elf looks intrigued by this but then nods.

"Very well." Without delay the door warden steps forward and rasies a plan in front of Awenasa's face. They say something in that strange liquid elvish language. A spark and then-

Blackness. Utter blackness engulfs Awenasa's sight. It is not just dark, but nothing. She feels less blind and more that she had been swept out of the world. cast into an endless abyss. It is so profound she nearly falls over, her balance thrown askew by the raw lack of sensation.

A strong yet gentle hand grabs her upper arm, firmly holding her upright.

"They guide you to the Gathering of Ways. Trust them, they will not lead you astray and the way can be...dangerous to the un-initiated." The Warden says, voice coming out of the blackness.

With that Awenasa is led, presumably inside. Like a lamb to the slaughter or so she feels, helpless and blind.

Yet her guides seem well practiced at least. Escort her with skill and care, easing her way forward. Slowly Awenasa adjusts and the sheer horror of the blindness fades, her other sense coping somewhat. With nothing else to do she focuses on them. The feel of smooth, organic stone under her boots. The breath and flow of air on her face, sometimes tanged with the sea, other times heavy with incense. The sound of dripping water, of creaking stone.

Keeping track of direction is, of course, impossible. They walk down long straight passageways, echoing slightly with their footfalls. How big was this place? Mostly though they climb up stairs. Many, many stairs, enough that even Awenasa's well-toned muscles start to burn.

Wide stairs, smooth and easy. Narrow curving stairs that spiral endlessly and some that are cracked and unstable, wobbling underfoot. Still, they are guided well and Awenasa never feels in danger. She can hear Thaka and Perey breathe but none of them dare speak. While not instructed it feels...forbidden somehow. A great hush lies over everything. A sense of watching and waiting, of protection. Even without seeing it, Awenasa knows one thing.

This is a holy place, even if not to her gods.

Finally, after so long a trek she is considering complaining they stop. The air is heavy here, musty like a disused room or basement. The floor is smooth under her feet, well kept. All is quiet, just their breathing until-

Thunk.

Wood on stone.

Thunk

Closer, closer.

Thunk

What was it? Suddenly a cackling laugh fills the space, and Awenasa's hair raises on end. It was a strange, chaotic sound, conjuring up visions of sharp edges and madness.

"No need for this." A cracked voice says in Common. A pause and then Awenasa's sight returns, flickering into view as easily as if she opened her eyelids.

She is standing in a long, fairly narrow room of stone. Thak and Perey are at her sides, standing slightly behind her, both obviously able to see as well. Anxiety lifts off her shoulders as she realize all survived without disability. Behind all of them are three younger looking elves, silent and impassive,. Their guides, presumably. They are unarmed but looked quite capable somehow, a sense of energy under humble cloaks.

Awenasa glances ahead and notices the passageway is lined with doors. Very interesting doors because each seems entirely different. Even from this distance some are made of wood, others stone and yet others from stranger things. Yet they don't seem set into the walls-

"Aren't you a curious one?" Says the cracked, slightly wheezing voice.

Startled she turns her attention to a figure right in front of her. An elf but very different from those Awenasa has seen so far. A hunched, crabbed figure bending over a heavy wooden staff, wearing little more then a loincloth. The exposed skin is dark and cracked, reminding Awenasa of a drying mudflat, flaky and pained looking. Th figure looks up revealing a wizened, monkey-like face with shining purple eyes. He grins, revealing a wide empty gums.

"Ah, not what you expected?" The figure laughs again, "Never is, never is!" The grin vanishes and he barks, "Leave us!"

The guides silently withdraw with what seems obvious relief. Awenasa, and her friends, are left along with this strange, somewhat unwholesome figure. Silence grows painfully until the old man says impatiently, "Speak, speak! Why have you come to see Old Ruvvm? Hmm?"

Yet Awenasa has an awful yet unshakable sense this man already knows everything about her, her past, present and future. Eyes that have seen far too much.


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa didn't realize how nervous she was about the others not coming with her until Thak then Perey agreed to being blinded. She felt a small measure of relief and relaxed slightly.

But then the Keeper steps in front of her a speaks. Nothing could have prepared the warrior for what the warden had called 'blindness'. She had been in darkness before but this feels like a void sucking everything into it. It is extremely disorienting and she feels herself spiralling before a hand grasps her arm to steady her.

The Shoanti has never experienced such a profound feeling of vulnerability as she does as she is led through the Spire. Any attempt she makes to determine her path as she walks is thwarted by her lack of sight. Even though her others senses strain to fill the gaps, it isn't enough to put her completely at ease. And then there's the constant nagging worry that this blindness wouldn't be temporary. She may not feel like her life is in danger but the journey is unpleasant.

Finally, with tired muscles and a weary spirit but also with a small spark of hope, their march is halted in a place that feels special. Some place to be respected.

Tension builds as she can hear someone or something approaching. Her muscles contract in anticipation of reacting. Was this another test? The sudden cackle does nothing to put her spirit at ease. She remains taut until her sight is restored.

Awenasa experiences a barrage of feelings as she takes in her surroundings. Relief, anticipation, wonder, and finally surprise.

She looks down as the voice commands her attention and her mind tries to process what she is seeing. They didn't look like much of a holy man but there is no denying that this place has a feeling of reverence. Her eyebrows raise in surprise when he addresses her as curious. Never before had anyone used that word first to describe her upon meeting her.

The Shoanti's mind whirls as she does nothing but stare at her surroundings and the one before her, unsure of what to do. Finally, the man commands her to speak.

Taking a knee, out of respect and to bring her down to his eye level, Awenasa obeys. Even though she feels he already knows why she has come, she says plainly, "I am Awenasa Windkeeper of the Tamiir-Quah. I have come to you, Ruvvm, because I need to find Eivind the Heavy Hand to save my people."


"Ah, yes, Shoanti." Old Ruvvm says, nodding his big, oddly shaped head. Then he adds, "Strong people, very brave. Fighters in the desert!" This floors Awenasa because it is delivered in fluent unaccented Shoanti, and not just any Shoanti but the exact accent her own quah uses. How-

Thak frowns and says in Common, "That is quite a trick, my friend. How did you do it?"

The strange man rolls his misshapen shoulders with liquid fluidity, grins and says something in a strange exotic language Awenasa has never heard before. Whatever it is makes Thak's face pale, and the blue-robed man steps back. "But how, that is not..no one knows.."

The ancient elf gives a gap-tooth smile, showing brown rotten gums, "Secrets are not safe with Old Ruvvm. He knows things he shouldn't!" This last is said in that same uncanny Shoanti.

He waves a long-fingered hand, joints swollen and painful looking. "Eivind...Eivind. Come, come. Far away, that one went far away. We must walk!" And with that, the little man turns and, using his stick, leads the way past the double file of doors. His staff echoes loudly off the warm stone floor.

Perey shares a glance with Awenasa at this, his face a mixture of confusion and concern. Reveal of secrets is never good...but they all hurry to catch up to the surprisingly spritely elf. Where else would they go?

The doors march past on both sides, strange and varied. Here is one made out of crumbling gray stone, inlaid with strange runes. Another seems to be constructed of shimmering stained glass, glowing with color. Another of rusted steel, another of cracked mudbrick, another of green-tinged copper. Everyone is different, totally out of place. Some carved with elaborate artwork, others crude as a child's sandcastle.

Most of the spaces under the doors are dark, shadowy spaces. Awenasa only catches hints of shapes inside. Rolling hills, billowing clouds, swirling water and other, stranger things. But several times the image is perfectly clear, and it is as if Awenasa is peering through an open window.

One shows a bright green field of grass, blowing under a stiff breeze, flowers bobbing in the wind. Another shows a strange dark cityscape under a sickly, green moon. A third is opens on endless curtains of chains, rippling with a clanging noise. Perey recoils from this one and Awenasa can't blame him. Perhaps it is better not to look...

"You sure," Old Ruvvm suddenly says, breaking the silence. "That you want to follow Eivind? Old Ruvvm knows many doors, holds many keys."

And indeed, the elf produces a heavy ring of keys from somewhere, jangling loudly. The keys seem as varied as the door, every size, color and material. Even stranger the exact number seems to shift and slide, as if new keys are appearing while old ones are vanishing every moment. Then again, in this place, maybe they are. Old Ruvvm shakes the ring with a cackle, then hide sit again.

"I could take you many places, you know. Hidden places, secrets ways. Places you could not even imagine."

"I know a door that leads to a city made of music," the elf says, waving a hand through the air. Somewhere, on the edge of hearing, a trill of horns, of drums, of harps? "Where the angels sing songs that would melt a winter's frost and bring life to the dead. Where beauty mingles with life as easy as rain." At her side Perey stops, looking shocked and confused.

Old Ruvvm ignores this going on, 'And I know another door that leads to libraries of endless knowledge. Books upon books, filled with all that has ever been written...and unwritten. Where time is yet another page to be turned, and where the mind is free from the shackles of flesh." Thak stops mid-stride as frozen, robes billowing.

Then old Ruvvm turns suddenly, fixing bright sharp eyes on Awenasa, "Or a place where glory follows every step? Where heros go to prove themselves? A land of journey and discovery, of pride and power?" Then he cackles and rubs his chin, while staring at Awenasa.

"No, no...not right." he mumbles to himself and then gives a slow, soft smile. "I know a door, Awenasa Windkeeper, that leads to the dead. But not cold graves, oh no. Where the dead live, where they truly go. The place beyond places, where the souls dwell in peace and yearn for others to join them in comfort. I could take you there, as easily as I breathe. Open a door and return to those that are gone."

As if stabbed, memories flood Awenasa's mind.

One will become two, two halves of a whole;
The bear will become undone by the one, blown away by the wind

Clearer then in years, Awenasa can see her sister. Makayda racing ahead of her, feet churning up desert dust. Makayda telling a story over a low campefire, trying to scare her twin. Makayda grinning while staring up at an endless sea of stars.

But not just Makayda. Other shapes, some vague, some clear. Her mother, her father, a long forgotten grandmother. Others, back into the past. An endless quah, a clan beyond the clan, a bridge to the past. Awenasa gets the feeling Old Ruvvm is not lying and these memories are also a promise, a possible path.

This could be real. A door to Makayda?


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa experiences surprise after surprise as Ruvvm addresses first herself in fluent Shoanti then Thak in what she figures must be his language. Her eyebrows raise in concern at Thak's response to whatever their guide said but she doesn't press the issue. She had to find Eivind after all.

There's something about the way that he speaks of secrets and of knowing things he shouldn't that makes Awenasa feel vulnerable and exposed. She crosses her arms as if to protect herself somehow. She nods slightly at Perey's look to share her agreement before hustling after Ruvvm. She has no desire to lose her guide and is anxious to follow Eivind.

Awenasa's attention is pulled away from studying all of various doors when Ruvvm asks her if she's sure she wants to follow Eivind. She falls back into speaking Shoanti since she knows her host understands, forgetting that Thak wouldn't, "Of course I am sure. I left my home and traveled halfway around the world in order to find the one person who can help save my people. I have sacrificed much to find Eivind and I will not stop until I find him."

As he begins to try to lure her away from her destination, she shakes her head, "Hidden places and secret ways won't save my people."

She takes a few more steps and then realizes that Perey and Thak have both slowed to a stop at the mention of music and books...things she knows they are passionate about. She begins to wonder why Ruvvm is trying to tempt her friends in such a way. She smugly thinks to herself that there is nothing that he can offer to her that will sway her focus and almost laughs out loud when he mentions glory, pride, and power.

Then he mentions the dead and she feels like someone punched her in the stomach. She stops as if hitting an invisible wall. Her heart aches as vivid memories of Makayda flood her mind and Ruvvm gives her hope that Awenasa could have more than just those memories again. He gives her hope that she could actually be at peace with Makayda rather than in the lowlands alone.

Awenasa's insides erupt in turmoil as her thoughts and feelings war within her. Naturally she is driven by her duty to her quah as her life has never been her own but that of the quah. However as far as her quah knows, she is an exile that deserted her quah because of her failure. If her quah already thinks of her this way then why shouldn't she be happy again? They would be none the wiser should she choose her own desires over the quah. But if she chooses herself over the quah then there is a good chance that her quah won't survive. Could she really allow her quah to be destroyed by the Ulfen? She needs to know more.

"How can the living be with the dead? Would that mean that I die should I go through the door?"

For all she knows, this could be a trick. It definitely wouldn't be the first time that a lowlander tried to take advantage of a Shoanti. She needs to know if the door is even real. "Can I see the door you speak of?"


Old Ruvvm shakes his misshapen head, "Not dead, no. Where they go, others can follow. Many do, many do. They are lands, like anywhere else. Real. Solid." The ancient seeming elf shrugs, rolling narrow shoulders, "Just hard to get to. But not for Old Ruvvm. He has the keys and knows the ways."

When Awenasa asks to see the door, he gives her a vicious, sharp grin. Not one of mirth but of greed. "Yes! Old Ruvvm will show you the door. He is no liar, no liar. Come, follow me, Awenasa Windkeeper. See that I hold my truths." With that the lumpen figure leads them off, cane raining off the strange stone floor. His pace is quicker then you'd guess, judging by his painful arthritic gait.

As they walk, Thak seems to gather up some courage and asks in Common, "Sir, if I may. This place is so wondrous... so these doors go to the Outer Planes?"

Another cackle, "Ah, Thakarmal Kameshmukhere." The elf says perfectly smoothly, "I like you. Questions, questions! Old Iro-Shu would be proud!"

Thak actually blushes, visible even under his dark tanned skin. Ruvvm goes on, still walking briskly, like an old man through a park."Yes, Outer and Inner, dark and light. Hot and cold. All the ways, to many places. Some well known, some forgotten. Only old Ruvvm remembers them. Only he has the keys."

They walk for a long time down the passage, the doors so numerous Awenasa loses track. Finally though their decrepit guide stops in front of one. A large door, more like an archway, wide enough for all three of them to pass through shoulder to shoulder. It is made of carved wood, two pillars reaching up and touching the points. But it is not polished and oiled wood, planed down by a caring hand. No, it is natural and wild, as if someone had grown these archway, right out of the ground. Awenasa even looks for roots but sees none.

The archway is dark and shadowy but Old Ruvvm chuckles, "Old Ruvvm is honest. No lies." He pulls out the jangling ring of keys again. The elf hums to himself as he flicks through them, each one ringing like a musical instrument. Gold keys, bronze keys, bone keys and glass keys. One after another, like a magician's shuffling trick. Then he stops on a heavy wooden key, not carved but grown, organic.

Without a word the elf takes the key and inserts it in some hidden slot on the archway, some niche or shadow. In an instant the archway shadows clear, the dim outlines becoming bright and visible.

A green mountain meadow under a bright blue sky, dotted with clouds. In the distant gray mountains rear up, stony and sharp. Imposing yet approachable, as if daring someone to climb them. A dark forest rings the meadow, thick with pines trees. At the edge of sight, nestled under the trees, are a small cluster of tents around a smoky fire. People, barely detectable blobs, move about. It seemed quiet and peaceful, yet not dull. Birds flew through the trees, and flowers danced in an unfelt breeze.

Old Ruvvm waved a gnarled, broken hand, "Your dead lies through that door. It is open. Simply step..." He claps his hand together, cackling, "But only once! These are special doors, only one way. You go, you cannot come back. At least, not the same way. This place...very hard to leave. Others, not so bad."

Through the archway, Awenasa watches the pastoral scene play out. She has no sense the strange little elf is lying to her, although she doesn't think he has her best interests in mind. But as far as the door, it seems very real. Is this where the spirits sent those who died? Would those in that village be the spirits? Was Makayda there right now? Almost in sight?


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Others can follow Ruvvm’s words echo in Awenasa’s mind and stab at her heart. She is so tired and every ache of her body makes her want to follow even more. To be at rest, to be at peace…did she dare to hope?

She eagerly follows her guide as he agrees to show her the door. His conversation with Thak as they walk is foreign to the Shoanti. Maybe she could ask Makayda about it when she saw her because her sister had always known more about mystical things than Awenasa.

She begins to wonder about whether Ruvvm remembers where he’s going as it takes so long to get to their destination, he does seem very old after all. She has no idea what to expect and wonders if they are there yet with every door they come to. Finally he stops and Awenasa gets a good look at her door, the door.

She takes it all in with a kind of reverence that she often didn’t emote. The organic nature of the door spoke to her Shoanti spirit. If she had seen a crafted door, it would have seemed more like a lowlander place than one for her people.

When Ruvvm unlocks the door and the shadows clear, Awenasa gasps. It is so serene, so welcoming. It makes her think of how things would be if her people weren’t constantly being attacked and oppressed by the lowlanders. She spots the grouping of tents and soon realizes that there are people there. She takes an involuntary step forward as she tries to get a better view. She cranes her neck and stares hard. Was Makayda actually there?

Ruvvm’s voice brings her back to the present and thinking about the finality of it all gives her pause. If she stepped through the doorway then everything was over. No Eivind, no quah, no struggle. For the first time in her life, could she actually choose herself over her responsibilities?

She allows herself a moment to think about what she would say to Makayda and about her sister’s welcome. She only gets so far as envisioning the long hug and tears of joy when it feels like Dawnlight smacks her in the head again with her stick. Awenasa knows that as soon as Makayda learns of how Awenasa came to join her and the decision she had made would fill her sister with disappointment.

A conversation from their youth comes to Awenasa’s mind.
”Makayda, let’s go! You promised that we would go for a hike and finally spend some time together! You can meet with the shaman tomorrow when I go for my training.”

Makayda looks at her patiently and says with a hint of admonishment in her voice, ”You know that we can’t go and have fun while the safety of our quah is in question. We have a responsibility to do what we can to keep others safe. I would much rather spend time with you but you know this is important. The prophecy…”

Awenasa rolls her eyes and interrupts her sister with an exasperated sigh, ”That prophecy ruins everything! I barely see you anymore between your lessons and my training.”

Makayda steps forward and places her hands on her sister’s shoulders. ”You’re right and I don’t like it either but I’d never be able to live with myself if anyone else got hurt when I could help. You feel the same way, I know you do.” She pulls Awenasa into a hug making her stiff sister relax into her embrace. ”When you and I have done everything we can to help our quah defeat our enemies, we will go for that hike.”

Awenasa subconsciously reaches up and rubs her temple, tears silently streaming down her cheeks. She knows she hasn’t done everything she could do to help her quah. She knows if she makes the selfish choice that she so desperately wants to make that she would let Makayda down and cheapen her death somehow.

With her eyes downcast, she slowly turns her back to the door for fear that she may see something that causes her to act rashly. Quietly she says, ”This was a mistake. It’s not what Makayda would want.” Awenasa wipes the wetness from her cheeks, ”Ruvvm, I need to find Eivind.” She straightens her shoulders but keeps her back to her door, ”Please take me to where Eivind the Heavy Hand went.”


"Ah," says Old Ruvvm and for the first time, the elf doesn't sound triumphant or harsh. Indeed, the old worn voice is quiet, almost solemn. "It happens sometimes, yes. The door that they want is not the door they need. Old Ruvvm knows all the doors, yes he does." He pauses, stooped over his stick, then leans out and touches the rough, grown wood. Instantly the door dims and the path to Makayda fades, dims and vanishes. Replaced with shadows.

The door keeper turns to Thak and Perey, keys jangling at his belt. His voice returns to normal, a cracked cackle. "And you two? Offers still open for you. Great things lie beyond other doors. "

Perey glances at Awenasa's face, catches sight of that wiped tear. With obvious effort he says, "I will go with Awenasa."

Thak sighs heavily, rolls his eyes and says, "Are you sure we can't do both? Come on Awenasa, an endless library! Can't we go and save your people later?" But his voice, a humorous, fake whine already says he has made his choice. Letting out his breath the robed man says, "No, Ruvvm. I'll go with them, but I don't like it!"

Old Ruvvm grins, eyes gleaming, "Then we shall go! Come, follow, follow. Not far now!"

The elf leads them off again, winding through the passageways filled with doors. Awenasa walks automatically, mind still busy with what she had seen. With what she had decided. What had Perey said when they left the Wanderers? The real risk of such as journey was what you left behind, not what lie ahead. Indeed.

It does not take long for Old Ruvvm to stop again, wheezing loudly. "Ah, yes. This door. Not used much." he waves a callused, claw-like hand at the door.

And what a door.

It was smaller then Makayda's door had been, normal size. It was hewn out of some reddish sandstone, dusty and crumbling. It was worn with age, as if left out in the deserts of her homeland since the dawn of time, attacked by wind and sun. Cracks covered it...or was that strange, spidery writing? Runes? It smelled faintly of old iron.

Old Ruvvm again fiddled with his keys until he found a small one, sharped-edged with rust. "Let us see..." Again he finds some hidden hole and inserts the key.

The blackness is replaced by...red. A rough red stone wall fills the space, worn and aged beyond measure. The same stuff the door was made from?

"This door," Old Ruvvm says, nodding, "Blocked from view, but you can fit. Just a bit of a squeeze. All Old Ruvvm's doors work, all the time! Safe, just a little tight. You go through? Eivind went this way. Old Ruvvm himself took him, yes. Yes, through this door." He jabs at it with his stick.


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa is srill reeling from her own decision when she hears Ruvvm asking Perey and Thak about their offered doors. She wants to say that if she doesn't get what she wants that they can't either, but she remains quiet. She holds her breath while she waits for their answers.

A small measure of relief as they both decline and say they'll go with her. She looks at Thak with sadness in her eyes, "None of us happy, Thak."

Awenasa is lost in her own thoughts as she quietly follows Ruvvm. When this was all over, would she be able to come back to the Spire and find her sister once again? Would she be able to give Perey his city of music and Thak his library? It was true that the journey would always take more than it would give. But now was not the time to dwell on what could have been. She had a responsibility to her quah to succeed in finding Eivind.

The Shoanti stops in front of Eivind's door when Ruvvm stops their procession. The state of the door and its appearance raises many questions, the main one being why this door? Her nose wrinkles as the smell of iron, definitely a lowlander door.

She looks to Ruvvm and says, "The keeper at the door said that I would be guided true. Can you tell me why Eivind chose this door? Was it one he wanted or one that he needed?"

Awenasa suspiciously peers at the red wall blocking her view of what lies beyond, "Where does this door lead? And why is it so tight?"


Old Ruvvm narrows his eyes, "Old Ruvvm keeps many secrets, oh yes. He knows many things he cannot say. Why and where? Old secrets, kept deep." But then the painfully hunched elf shrugs a bit, a gesture that makes Awenasa wince.

"But Eivind...strong. Very strong. This is door he wanted. " He gestured again at the old, weathered door. "Old Ruvvm will tell you this, Awenasa Windkeeper. Eivind wished to go far away and this is the door. Very far, hard to come back. One step but a long way."

Thak gazes at the door, leaning towards it slightly, "Some other Plane? The Plane of Earth judging by the rocks?" Old Ruvvm cackles, "No cheating, no cheating. That would be telling."

At Awenasa's question the elf seems unconcerned, "Lands change, rocks move. Doors opens at narrow place in mountains. Old Ruvvm does not lie, door leads on. Eivind went this way, oh yes."


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

So Eivind had chosen this door. Awenasa couldn't help but wonder if it was something the Ruvvm had tempted him with or if it was a door that he needed to go through.

Even though it sounds daunting, Awenasa knows that she is going to follow Eivind's path. She didn't give up being with Makayda to stop now. But she couldn't help but wonder how she would get back when Ruvvm speaks of it being very far and hard to come back.

The Plane of Earth? What exactly did that mean?

She looks Ruvvm in the eyes and bows her head slightly. "Thank you, Ruvvm. Thank you for guiding me true and not lying. Thank you for keeping the secrets you do and for keeping the doors safe. It appears that we will be parting company shortly. I doubt I will be seeing you again so I wanted to thank you before I left."

She pauses before the door and centers herself for the enormous step of faith she is about to take. "Before I go, is there anything I should know or anything that you'd like to tell me?"


The aged elf seems surprised at both her thanks and her questions. For the first time the Mordant Spire Keeper of the Ways seems at a loss, eyes narrowing at her not in threat but in startlement.

In takes a moment before he seems to find his voice, "Not many thank Old Ruvvm for his work. No, not many. Even his fellow elves avoid him. Exiled to the doors." He looks around at the endless marching lines of passageways, opening to worlds beyond Awenasa's comprehension.

"Most do not like it," Ruvvm admits, "being shown a thing they desire most. Few have the strength to refuse it and very, very few have the wisdom to appreciate it." He rubs his chin, "Advice....much you know. Stick to your path and do not stray. Much may happen, face forward."

Then he snaps his fingers, "Yes, Old Ruvvm knows. Eivind, the Heavy Hand. They did not go alone, no. Four others went too. Maybe you find them as well?" A pause and then, "Good Luck, Awenasa Windkeeper, good luck."


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

I'll get the roll over first...
Ulfen lore: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (10) + 7 = 17
Meh

Without pity or feeling sorry for Ruvvm she simply says, "It must be lonely bearing the weight of so much responsibility, especially when others avoid you because of their own fears." Awenasa knows about bearing the weight of responsibility but she also knows that her weight is nothing compared to that of the odd elf before her.

She actually smiles at his advice because most who knew her know that she doesn't easily stray from her path. However, she nods in agreement to assure him that she would do so.

Mention of four others accompanying Eivind immediately jump starts Awenasa's mind into thinking who they may be. She starts mentally flipping through all of the stories and cataloguing those mentioned along with the main hero, Eivind. She wonders again about Stjórna outside of the Spire. Had he drawn the short straw and was forced to stay behind? Did he volunteer? Had his blindness prevented him from going or did it happen after the others left?

"I have another question if you'd allow. Has anyone gotten this far and not chosen a door? Or has a door ever not allowed someone through?"

She looks to Perey and then to Thak, "I guess it time to go."

Awenasa glances at Ruvvm questioningly, "Do we have to hold hands or something? Or will we all end up there regardless?" Before stepping through the daunting door she solemnly addresses Ruvvm, "May your spirit guide you."


The strange old elf considers Awenasa's question for a long, long time. His eyes grow distant, as if surveying endless years and endless doors. How many times had he guided the brave, the foolish, the lost? How many had he seen walk through to unknown places?

"The doors do not judge." The elf finally said, voice soft. "It is not their place. Rarely, so rarely does one not choose a door, after seeing. To resist? Very hard..." A pause and then, "Old Ruvvm was one...long ago. Very long ago...."

He nods to Awenasa's farewells, to Thaks bow and Perey's awkward nod, but says nothing.

So finally Awenasa is confronted with the door and the wall of cracked red stone. Glancing at her friends, they give her small nods as they also visibly braced themselves. Then, with more then usual reservations, Awenasa Windkeeper of the Tamiir-Quah stepped through the door.

It was faster then seemed possible. One moment she was in the dim, strangely organic passageway of the Mordant Spire and then next...she wasn't. In fact the world changed so quickly her vision blurred and her balance shifted. Eyes closed she staggered forward, hand automatically catching the stone wall.

It felt rough and old under her fingers, crumbling slightly. It took her a long moment to catch her breath...too long. Eyes still closed, grip tightening on her support, she was reminded of her youth.

Once, during her training, she and Makayda had climbed a high peak on the Plateau, a rearing giant of ice and snow even in summertime. The path was well marked however, used for generations by Shoanti. They had scrambled over the boulders and slopes with ease but they discovered a problem they had never encountered before. It was hard to breathe. Their lungs had wheezed and their hearts raced at even the slightest exertion. It had passed after a few days but it had scared the twins.

Only later had the elders explained that the high places had less air, that it was thin and cold at the roof of the world. They said that at the highest peaks, it could kill. Kill without a mark.

Right now Awenasa's lung's labored in her chest, squeezed like someone trying to wring a dry rag. Had Old Ruvvm's door dumped them on a high peak? Was this above the air? Would she die? No...not that bad. Shortly she got more air and her heart calmed.

Beside her, she heard the scrunch of boots as Perey and Thak arrived. Both of them gasp as well, staggering a bit with disorientation. Awenasa opened her eyes.

Directly in front of her was a crumbling stone wall, obviously a natural cleft in a cliff or rock. Deep blood red, mixed with grainy sand. It smelled of iron and rust, ancient beyond years. Most of all, it was dry, dry as any desert Awenasa had ever seen. She turned her head....and gasped.

To her left stretched a vast horizon. A huge panorama of red dunes and jagged rocky outcroppings. The sky above was a dim dusty thing, a haze blocking a fuzzy sun. In the distant she saw a slowly swirling dust devil, red on red. A world of blood....dry as bone. Yet she was surprised, it seemed flat or at least normal level. Why were her lungs troubled? Was this some vast, giant mountain peak that went from horizon to horizon? Or....

"I don't think this is Golarion anymore." Thak said coming to her side, shading his eyes from the dim sky. Her surveyed the desert-liked landscape with interest. Awenasa did not see a single growing thing, not a tree, not a plant, not a bush. Nothing moved, all seemed dead and dust.


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa doesn't like how this new place makes her feel. It seems to accentuate weakness and amplifies her pre-existing injuries. However, she knows that she needs to find a way to adapt and learn how to master her body within this new environment if they are going to survive long enough to find Eivind.

The dryness and sand reminds her of home but the smell of iron and rust is foreign to her and again is something that makes her uneasy. Her first glimpse of this new place leaves the Shoanti feeling overwhelmed. Desolation as far as the eye could see and completely unfamiliar surroundings.

She turns to Thak, shocked at his comment, "What mean, not Golarion? Where else is not Golarion?" Were they in some sort of spirit realm? Did the door kill them and she was sent to somewhere darker than Makayda had been? Her chest tightens but not because of the lack of oxygen.

She knows herself well enough that if she doesn't stop the spiralling thoughts that she would soon be paralyzed by despair and so she begins to focus on the tangible. She studies her surroundings in more detail. First, she slowly moves in a circle to see a 360 degree view of her environment. Then she looks for tracks even though she knows that Eivind came through that door years and years ago.

perception: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (12) + 13 = 25
survival: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (9) + 9 = 18


"Lots of places." Thak says absently, peering at the red landscape and glancing up at the hazy, yellowish sky that reminded Awenasa of a dust storm. The Vudran man then looks at Awenasa, "Golarion is a planet, a ball." A ball? It had always looked flat to her, but who knew?

"Do the Shoanti know the night sky?" Thak said, "Stars and all that?"

Perey breaks in, "Of course. We aren't savages, Thak. How else do you think we find our way?"

Indeed. The Shoanti had great lore and knowledge of the heavens, both for practical uses and spiritual. Awenasa could tell with a single glance upwards, assuming a clear night, the time of year down to the week, her direction and even a rough guess of her location (within reason).

Thak reddens slightly, "I didn't mean to insult you. Anyway, the planets. Do you know those?" It takes a bit more back and forth between Common and Shoanti for Awenasa to understand her friend means the 'wanderers' those bright lights that are not stars, that move through the sky with their own patterns and rhythms.

"I think this is one." Thak says bluntly.

Awenasa's mind reels. On a planet? On a bright point of light? How...but how?

"They are balls of rock, just like Golarion," Thak went on, shrugging, "There are ways to prove it, I have seen them, read many books. They are just....very far away. So they look like pinpricks of light. I would guess this is Akiton, judging by the red color."

Again, some back and forth but Awenasa knows the planet. An angry red speck of light, visible in mornings and dusks are certain times of the year. She was...standing in that spot of light?

Thak seems convinced but Awenasa was not so sure. Well, one thing seemed clear. The place was red.

She focused on the landscape ahead of her, automatically surveying the rocks and stones. Looking for patterns, trails, paths, streams. She saw little in this first direction, although there may have been something of a path among the tumbled, windswept rocks. Too straight for a game trail, but not right for water.

She turned toward the door, which stood right next to her. It was a simple arch of crumbling red stone, as if it had been hastily built from the local area. But it was an empty arch, with merely empty air under it. No sign of magic or portals. No way back to Old Ruvvm and all his keys. She tapped the arch, but it was just cold stone.

Then she turned more and nearly gasped again.

In the distance, rearing against the dusty sky was a red pyramid, a vast pile of stone. It looked cracked and worn, not just from weather but from battle. Huge chunks were torn out of it, stones the size of house cast aside like child's playthings. Tumbled ruins stood around it, blasted into gravel and scorch marks. It was hard to tell at this distance but something white glittering amongst the ruined pyramid slopes. Veins of some other rock? No...bones.

But what shocked her was not this mute testimony to savage war and fury, but something much closer.

Only a dozen feet away stood a large rock, three times Awenasa's height. It seemed to have been cut in half, revealing a flat smooth surface to the world. Veins of thick red lines ran through it, with drops of rust oozing. Words were carved into it, deep and black, shadows on the stone. They were heavy and rune-like, stylized into harsh shapes. To her shock Awenasa realized she could recognize it as Ulfen, even if she couldn't read it.

Beside her Thak breathed, "Eivind the Heavy Hand wrought these runes."

"Yes, he did!" another voice croaked, dry beyond belief. Awenasa noticed another, small stone near at hand. A figure was shackled to it, red-iron steel driven directly into the very rock. A mere skeleton hung there, clothes and flesh long rotted away, but the manacles still held its arm, pinned to the rock. The only thing, other then bones, that remained was a tarnished and cracked crown on the head.

The skeletal head, eye sockets blank, turned toward her. Cracked jewels caught the dim light, gleaming under dust. "I was king here, once." A bony chin vaguely indicated the ruined pyramid. "Until Eivind came."


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

To say that Awenasa is out of her depth is an understatement. She attempts to wrap her mind around the fact that she is standing on something that appears as a light in the sky she looks up at. She is still processing this fact as she takes in her surroundings and is confronted with more shocks; an empty doorframe, an ancient pyramid riddled with death, and a message from Eivind.

Why did Eivind come to this place? Ruvvm said that he had wanted to come here. If this was indeed a planet and the door no longer a portal, how was she supposed to get home?

In the midst of all the questions swirling in her head, there is one thought that anchors her...Eivind had indeed come this way.

The sound of an unfamiliar voice causes Awenasa to drop into a defensive stance, ready to fight. Her jaw drops as she realizes that it is a skeleton. How did such a thing happen? Between the thin air and talking bones, she quickly decides that she doesn't like this place. But she can't go home until she finds Eivind. She isn't even sure that she can go home even then.

Swallowing her uneasiness, she addresses the skeleton, "Where are we that you were king of? Where Eivind now?"


The skeleton looks at her, empty eye sockets little more then black holes. Rusted chains rattle as the undead thing moves about, rather pathetically.

"Do you really want to talk to this thing?" Perey says, averting his eyes from then unnatural sight. true, it was creepy but then again, not as bad as it could have been. The bones were old and clean, just bare pitted ivory tinted red from the dust. Awenasa had seen worse.

"The King of the Red Wastes!" The skeletons says loudly, voice echoing slightly off the empty rocks. 'All that you see! I had a city, a whole city that worshipped me! Armies at my command, servants by the hundred! Whole villages of slaves that loved me! Entire harems! Gold and jewels, art and wise men. All was mine! A vast pyramid, made to honor my body when I died."

"Then he and his....allies came. It was like a natural disaster! All ruined...there was so much destruction! So many killed but worse, I was humiliated! The shame! Pulled right off my throne! Cut down like a common street beggar. Then chained here to act as a warning. It's intolerable."

A moment passed as the skeleton shivered, bones clattering loudly. " Why do you ask where he went?" Then, sound as weary as the mountains, bitter as winter "Are you trying to find Eivind? Because if you are, I am obligated to share a message."


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa looks at Perey as if to say, What else am I supposed to do? before she continues to engage it in conversation.

The way the skeleton speaks of what he had lost, the Shoanti can't help but wonder if he had truly been revered or if he had enslaved a people and deluded himself into thinking he was adored. True leaders often didn't refer to their people as slaves, harems, and people to command and worship them. Did Eivind come to free an oppressed people or did he come to rule as Ulfen often thought they were entitled to do? How different were these people from her own?

Awenasa has no sympathy for the skeleton as he complains about his humiliation. He only had himself to blame for losing in battle and being chained. Although she still has no idea how the skeleton is speaking to her after being dead for so long. But she does need to know his message.

Not sure how much she really wants to share with this unnatural being, Awenasa simply says, "I would hear your message."


Can a skeleton sigh? If so the chained and shackled former king seems to do so, settling down against the rock, with an air of rote memory. Perhaps this is how it spent the empty years? Practicing a forced speech?

A slight cough and then,

"A warning for all who come, friend or foe."
"If for profit or pleasure, for vengeance or violence."
"Do not follow."
"Nothing good lies ahead of you, unknown pursuer."
"No glory or wealth, or favor or duty."
"No revenge or peace or acquittal. "
"Only death lies ahead, failure among the dust and blade."
"Turn aside from this path or suffer the consequences."

The skeleton shudders slightly, bones clacking like rocks on a hillside.

"I, Eivind the Heavy Hand, left this message."

Perey's eyes widen and he says, "Doesn't sound like he wants guests, Awenasa."

"A bit late for that now," Thak said, gazing at the shattered and ruin pyramid beyond.


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa nods grimly, "You both right."

She looks at the skeleton and then back at her friends, "Me not here for any of reasons in message. Threat of death not stopped me yet and won't now. As Thak say, it too late to turn back. We have no choice but to follow."

She stares into the skeleton's empty eye sockets, "Is pyramid where Eivind is?"

Part of her wants to also ask if there was a way home if one decided to turn back but Ruvvm's empty doorway suggests no. The threat of certain death seems more desirable than sitting beside a talking skeleton and waiting to die of old age.


The skeleton stares at Awenasa for a long time with empty, dusty sockets. Across the red desert plains a thin wind races, carrying small clouds of dust and grit around Awenasa's feet, remains of the pyramid? It smells of iron and dust, the scent thin and weak, not to mention cold. An empty, seeping cold that is already starting to soak into her bones and muscle.

Finally the undead speaks, "No. He is long gone. Eivind only stayed long enough to destroy my world and then moved on. Nothing remains." Then, in a voice as dry as dust, "I have given my message and fulfilled my duty," They say formally, as if speaking to someone else before adding, "So I can now speak freely." The bony head lolls, rolling on the visible vertebrae.

"If I thought you could challenge him, I'd wish you luck. But I doubt it, so I hope you can cause him a moment's annoyance. All I can wish for. Now, go away and leave me in peace. He went that way." The skeleton gestures south, some red rocky hills rising in the distance.


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

As usual, Awenasa struggles with the nuances of words in other languages. Her brow furrows as the skeleton says he destroyed the world and moved on. Did that mean that Eivind was no longer on this world? If he was gone then was she stuck here? But then again, if he was gone by some other way than Ruvvm's door then she would just follow the new way. Seems easy enough.

But her concerns do cause her to ask, "Is Eivind gone from this place or this world?"

Awenasa bristles at the assumption that she is no match for Eivind but if she is honest, she thought the same. Thankfully she has no plans to challenge Eivind. But is appealing to his concern for other cultures really any easier when he obviously had no qualms about exterminating another people group? This thought leads her to another question which she blurts, "Why Eivind destroy you?"

Her gaze follows the skeleton's pointing finger to the south. "What that way? Why did he go that way?"


When Awenasa questions 'world', Thak steps forward. "I think he is being metaphorical, Awenasa." The Shoanti has no idea what this means and apparently does does the skeleton because the chained undead says, with obvious confusion, "Are you calling me a liar? It's the truth! Eivind showed up, destoryed my city and then stomped off that way. I saw it with my own eyes!" The empty sockets were dark and dusty.

Awenasa realizes the skeleton meant 'world' as she could mean the Plateau. The world 'to her', the valuable known part of it. Eivind was probably still here on this planet...somewhere.

"Why?" the once-king replies to Awenasa's question. "Who knows why a dust storm goes this way or that? They just do, spreading disaster."

They grumble, rattle the chains but add, "All I wanted was a toll. He made all those that came through the portal pay a tax. A fair exchange for using our land. The guards tried to tax, Eivind, he didn't agree and things.....got out of hand." A dry wind crested the crumbling, ruined pyramid, driving tiny flakes of dust and bone shards. If this was the result of a mild disagreement over custom taxes, she'd hate to see what happened if the Ulfen warrior got really angry.


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Satisfied that Eivind is still on this planet, Awenasa sets her sights on following his path yet again. Not that this is an easy task considering there is still a lot of ground to cover. Narrowing it down to a planet is not narrowing it down enough.

sense motive: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (16) + 13 = 29

Awenasa stares at the skeleton for a few heartbeats. It seems slightly odd that Eivind would go to such extremes to destroy someone over a toll. Was there something more behind it? The manner in which it was requested or for what the toll funds were used for?

Whatever the reason for such devastation, Awenasa hoped that her request would not make the Ulfen angry.

She turns her attention in the direction the skeleton had pointed. Not really expecting to see anything after such a long time had passed, she still studies the foreign land to learn what she can about this new wilderness.

survival: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (6) + 9 = 15
perception: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (5) + 13 = 18


Awenasa turns south, blinking at the westerly breeze scatters some fine dust in her eyes. The land before her is red and dry, crumbling stony hills undulating into the distance, that same smell of rust. To the untrained eye it looked like an empty desert, bereft of life or interest, just red rocks tumbled about.

But Awenasa Windkepper is not untrained, and has spent in her life in dry regions, places where harshness was the rule. She knew how to look, how to see.

And she was not disappointed.

The way south was not as empty as the pure desert she had looked at when first leaving the portal. Peering ahead, she looked to the shadows and leeward sides of rocks and hills, the protected region. If anything lived here, it would be in those sheltered spots against the wind and sun. And indeed, she saw life there. Scraggly bushes clung to boulders, along with dry moss. Thick beds of lichen also dotted many of the boulders, dull patches of color in an otherwise washed out, dusty landscape.

Her keen eyes picked out game trails as well, faintly tracing the hill sides. So clearly some animals lived here and passed through often enough to make trails. She saw no water but that didn't surprise her. There might never be standing water here, that was common enough on the Plateau or perhaps she was here during the dry season? Did this place have seasons?

The Shoanti also saw the remains of a road, running below the hills. It was laid with some skill, avoiding the crests and sticking to the gullies between hilltops. It was covered with sand and grit, but still quite visible.


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa spends a few quiet moments surveying the new world and oddly finds comfort in the similarities that she could see. She was grateful for having grown up on the Plateau otherwise her not seeing any signs of water may have caused mild panic. As it was, she knows that there are ways to find water as long as their were signs of life.

With nothing more to learn with where they currently are, it becomes clear to Awenasa that it is time to follow Eivind's path. She points out the road to Perey and Thak. "It seems like that is way to go. We track Eivind and hopefully find him and companions." And hopefully they listen to me before killing me like they did the previous ruler of this place


"Track?" Thak says with obvious confusion. "It has been more then a decade since he passed here, at best. How are you going to track him?"

Perey just gave a small smile. Tracking wasn't just following tracks, like lowlanders thought. Tracking was a worldview, of putting yourself in the animal's place, seeing with their eyes, feeling what they felt. of never giving up, no matter what. And Awenasa was very, very good at it. If Eivind was here to find, she'd find him. Eventually.

As they make their way, the skeleton starts raving behind them, both begging them to stay and cursing them for leaving. It isn't a very pleasant sight, the dusty bones rattling against rusty chains, banging against the rock. There is more then a touch of madness there and as Awenasa's starts down the road, she can hear it summoning soldiers and armies, ready to wreck vengeance on all and sundry.

But soon the three of them are alone on the open road, winding through low rocking hills. Awenasa doesn't like traveling below so many exposed hilltops and cliffs but there is little choice. Avoiding the road would be foolish and paranoid, at least at this stage. Still, the Shoanti wanders how far they have to go to find...well, anything.

Awenasa can survive in the wild, if she has to, but it isn't easy. Besides, she has Perey and Thak to consider. Worst of all, she doesn't know this land, how it works, how it breathes. She is the stranger here, an outsider. A dangerous place to be.

The road was well-built and is still mostly in tact. Here and there cracks are starting to form, fissures in the dark sandstone. Dust covers everything, a fine reddish dust that puffs with every step. To her surprise the road isn't made of slabs but some sort of single, long sheet. How had it been done? Curious.

Every mile or so, there are markers alongside the road. Some are pointed triangles, some squares, others weird pillars. All are worn and old-looking, far more battered then the road. Each is covered in carved letters but they can't read them.

Thak is particularly interested, running his hands over the carved shapes. "I...I can't read this. At all!" The small man says with obvious excitement, "No cognates or doublets or etymons. Fascinating." They basically have to tear him away to keep moving.

Thak does add yet another worry to Awenasa's growing list. "If we run across people out here, we probably won't be able to talk to them. At least, not normally. I have a spell or two that will help, but it might be a touchy process."

Just what they needed. Not only to be dangerous looking strangers but unable to even speak or ask questions.

The day passes and slowly, the sun starts to dig toward the west. Awenasa notes, almost without thinking, the sun moves are nearly the same pace at home. Good, at least some things stayed the same.

They round a hill and are confronted with...a welcome sight.

A slender pillar of stone, pitted by surely centuries of wind-blown grit. It is covered with writing and symbols but Awenasa only has eyes for the item at the base of the stone. A large basin or trough, and that can only be used for one thing. Water.


Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa wonders at Thak's response to not being able to read the markers along the road. Instead of being frustrated or angry like she had been when she was younger and didn't understand Common, he is excited. She had just gotten to the point where she is slightly comfortable with Common and now she is in a place where once again she can't understand anything. She hopes that what she has learned in communicating with lowlanders will help her now if they come across someone. It is somewhat comforting to know that Thak has magic to help but she also still doesn't completely understand how magic works.

The Shoanti is beginning to contemplate having to find somewhere to camp for the night when they come upon a stone pillar. It takes her a moment to process the trough and the promise it held. When she realizes that water may be found here in the middle of nowhere, she is immediately on guard. Such a precious commodity in this kind of environment would never be free, unguarded, or without some sort of trap.

She halts the others and whispers, "Wait. I check for danger."

perception: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (9) + 13 = 22
stealth: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (8) + 13 = 21

I still haven't had a chunk of time to sit down and work on her level up. It probably doesn't matter but those skills would probably be 1 point higher each with the level up. I used her old level's stats

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