Gazing past his easel at the bustling Commerce District of Niswan, Thaleon’s thoughts wandered once again. They rarely stayed put, but life would hardly be any fun if they did. There were so many delicious new sensations to take in, from the kites dancing overhead to the tempting sizzle of vegetable wraps from a nearby food stall. He observed the colors of the market, his eye lingering on a small shrine where a priest was drawing the rose of Shelyn in colored powders. The Rahadoumi elf didn’t worship to any gods himself, of course, but he had nothing but respect for the old priest’s lifelong devotion and mastery as his fingers effortlessly scattered a vibrant green around the rose’s exterior. Thaleon turned back to his own easel to paint with his mind’s eye, the emotions of the market his palette. He blended the vibrant gold of a cunning merchant’s intellect with the frustrated red of the customer she had just outwitted in a battle of bargains. Now for some green as well, the color of growth, flexibility, potential...
Thaleon frowned. He sensed a green, but it was of an altogether unpleasant, oily variety, coming from a woman in pristine robes, her ravenous eyes scouring the market. Wanting to get closer, Thaleon steadied his mind and searched his feelings until he found the one he needed. Calmness, boredom… no, listlessness. The drabbest of grays, utterly unremarkable. Without so much as an incantation, Thaleon cloaked himself in the emotion and vanished from sight. Quick and quiet as a shadow, he slipped through the marketplace. Most would struggle to navigate a crowd, even invisibly, without bumping into a customer or jostling a cart, but Thaleon had decades of practice slipping by unnoticed and had long ago learned the consequences of getting caught.
The woman’s eyes found their target, and a predatory grin spread across her face. The crowd before her instinctively parted, and within moments, she held her prey in her grasp, her nails digging deep into the priest’s shoulders. As blood pooled in their wake, the woman whispered a single word, “Watch.” Her eyes flashed that oily green, the unmistakable swirl of magic about them. Thaleon saw nothing, but he felt the man’s terror, pure white and primal as the priest gazed with horror at a nightmare no one else could see. He fell to his knees and pushed the nearby offering basket, filled with flowers and a few coins. “Please, not them. Take what you want from me, just don’t….” His words were cut short as he vomited onto the cobblestones. The woman scowled with disgust. “This is your final warning.” With a regal nod, she strode away, splitting the crowd in her wake.
Thaleon’s hands trembled. He wanted to soothe the priest’s terror and pain, but he knew the man couldn’t find peace while the monster’s threat loomed over him. He reached for compassion—blue, tranquil as a cloudless sky—and sent it flowing into the priest, calming the man and closing his wounds. The priest glanced about, seeking the source of the swirling colors.
“Don’t worry, Father,” Thaleon whispered from the empty air, “you’re not alone.”
He quickened his pace and strode after the woman. From that display, it was clear what manner of monster she was. All Thaleon needed was a chance, away from the market stalls where so many innocents walked, to show the fiend exactly what he felt about her threats. As fortune would have it, it didn’t take long before she chose to turn down a secluded alleyway.
Thaleon didn’t need to search for his fury, it was right at his fingertips, and he used it to paint a simple blade in the air, the shape of the blade he’d been given when he left home. As the blade shot towards the woman, red fury burned away the tranquil gray that had kept Thaleon invisible, but he wasn’t afraid to let the monster see his face. With a feline growl, she rolled out of the blade’s path, scuffing her robes, before spinning toward Thaleon. Her hands spun too, twisting backward, and weaving shadowy threads of magic.
An agonizing scream echoed within Thaleon’s mind, reverberating and tearing. He steeled his will against the oncoming tide, instinctively countering each wave of psychic sound until silence prevailed once again. Definitely a rakshasa, then. And one who underestimated him too, having chosen to attack him on the battlefield of the mind. Thaleon felt a surge of pride; if she wished to play with occult magic, she’d picked the wrong opponent.
As the rakshasa leapt forward, Thaleon transmuted his pride into certainty and fortitude, summoning a disc of force in the air. Claws met the barrier and cracked it like glass, but Thaleon’s brow furrowed as he poured more will, more certainty, into the spell. More translucent shields sprung into being, and though the rakshasa’s claws shattered two of the discs, they could do no more than carve a groove into the third. She rebounded back, and Thaleon released a stream of chaotic emotion that collected around the rakshasa’s feet, dragging her to the ground, but not before she wove shadows into a bolt of flame that clipped Thaleon’s side.
Arm throbbing, Thaleon’s fury blotted out all thought, bursting forth as the air shook with color. While the rakshasa was getting to her feet, he painted again, pouring out his heart to form not just one rage-blade, but an entire storm of them hovering above the alleyway.
With an oily green flash of the rakshasa’s eyes, a sickening vision filled Thaleon’s mind—a group of rakshasas savoring a platter of roast meat unmistakably elven in origin. For an instant, the artist’s stomach churned before he recognized the intrusion and broke the enchantment. This twisted scene was the rakshasa’s dream, not his. Still, if she expected him to be sick... he retched loudly, hoping the monster’s pride would dull her suspicions. Right on cue, she charged, claws extended, running at full speed until she was just below the hanging blades. Thaleon rose from the ground, and with a last exertion, let the blades fall, each sharper and more jagged than the last.
The rain lasted for only a moment, but when it was finished, Thaleon’s fury subsided, replaced by relief and sorrow for the fiend’s past victims. No more rakshasas threatened Niswan that day.
About the Author
Linda Zayas-Palmer is the Development Manager for the Digital Adventures team, which produces Organized Play scenarios and other digital-only adventure content. Her largest projects as an author are Paizo's Fires of the Haunted City and the final third of the Roll for Combat's Jewel of the Indigo Isles Adventure Path. You can see her on Arcane Mark with Mark Seifter on Tuesdays at 7 PM Pacific and Saturdays at 10 AM Pacific at https://www.twitch.tv/arcanemark.
About Iconic Encounters
Iconic Encounters is a series of web-based flash fiction set in the worlds of Pathfinder and Starfinder. Each short story provides a glimpse into the life and personality of one of the games’ iconic characters, showing the myriad stories of adventure and excitement players can tell with the Pathfinder and Starfinder roleplaying games.