Telandia Edasseril

Rylassa Kaelfara's page

7 posts. Alias of DeathQuaker (RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8).


Session 6
Hellish Homecoming

The people of Srenn’shien mobilized quickly to prepare for the expedition to Myth Drannor. Serving girls and stable boys geared themselves for battle--and I realized, they were more than capable. Everyone here was trained to fight to a degree. The whole town was its militia. A considerable unit of cavalry and infantry were being assembled to travel with us and the prince’s sons. The four of us were to be the only mages; we also were to have with us one priest of Lathander, Brother Gemell, whom we were going to escort to the Lathandrians’ camp.

We also were to be joined by a halfling, Leland Smits. He was a slippery fellow who seemed to be atoning for one if not several crimes, and was performing this duty as part of the services. At first Rill was pleased to see another of her own kind, but Leland soon proved himself to be craven and selfish. He went on through much of the planning -- and later in the trip -- loudly proclaiming that Myth Drannor could not possibly be the threat others believed it was, and then whenever danger struck, he hid behind the nearest backside wide enough to shield him. I assumed he was with us to offer, essentially, thieving skills, but I doubt there was little he could do that Rill or one of us could not contrive to in some manner. I try very hard to remain goodwilled toward all souls, but were we to accidentally lose him somewhere in Myth Drannor, I think my mourning period would be short-lived.

We planned with Prince Telemus and his sons (Galelen the eldest and Dionen the youngest), mapping the fastest route. Telemus would travel with us as far as Ashabenford, the nearest civilized town to Myth Drannor. We spent some time in the library performing some last research on Myth Drannor and the mythal and on lower planar beings.

One thing even the Prince did not realize was the nature of where we were going. Having earlier described the place as “some kind of tax or inventory office,” the map we looked at had it labeled as the Office of Imports and Tariffs. This, I realized, was not a simple office for government bureaucracy. The Office of Imports and Tariffs is, on Evermeet, the front for our foreign intelligence--particularly the unit which deals with trading information and arranging assassinations. I told them as such. None had realized we might be walking into a far more fortified building than expected.

We set out, camping in the woods when no town was near. Little trouble beset us, since we were a large and well-armed force. I spent evenings in camp carving and playing my flute, though in retrospect, I realized I ought to have asked to train with the others. For dinner, I joined those preparing and helped with the peeling--a mundane skill I’d mastered at the Academy. They seemed a bit surprised. I might have enjoyed that fact.

Stopping in Ashabenford, Telemus disappeared quickly with the proprietress of the inn where we stayed, the Greasy Gopher. I gather they were old acquaintances and were off “rekindling their friendship.” Ashabenford had public baths which I enjoyed. I wish I had more of a chance to talk with both the elves and the locals, but no one particularly stood out to me as having much to say.

Shortly after leaving, we were waylaid by a horde of boars. They did manage to separate our units a bit, but at the end of the fight, the worst casualties were three horses killed. I noticed the young dauphins were quite able at spearing the beasts from horseback, and as I struggled to stay steady ahorse while firing my bow, I hoped to ask them some riding tips once we are assured of not dying horribly in Myth Drannor and all that. They were wildlings, the dauphins, very unlike the lordly heirs you would encounter on Evermeet--very much enjoying the sport of the hunt and the chase.

When we neared the border of Myth Drannor, my heart sank steadily into my belly, and beating twice its normal speed. It was frightening and exciting and... well, mostly frightening. The others reminded us that we should refrain from using magic as much as possible, lest we disturb the dampening force that would help keep the fiends from summoning allies. This did not dissuade Haukk and Brother ___ from activating arcane sight as we approached the border drawn at the edge of the mythal. Trying to keep alert for other things--I did not need to use mystic vision to be aware Myth Drannor was full of magic--I did not join them. So I was a bit puzzled when both Haukk and the priest gasped a bit when Haukk and I rode through the Mythal.

Apparently the mystic field ripples as beings pass through. When I passed through, it surged very brightly. My best guess is it was noting I was a “resident” or rather kin thereof.

As we rode in and turned around the bend, the valley opened before us, revealing the ruins of the ancient city. My sinking, trembling heart seemed to stop in its palpitations for a moment--hovering, just a bit, before plummeting into my feet. I held back tears.

I could tell from what we saw, that it had been a beautiful city once. The epitome of elven architecture, the absolute height of what we could achieve as artisans. The structures, at the peak of their glory, could have moved Hanali Celanil herself to spasms of joy over their exquisiteness.

But all this beauty, this potential, was shattered and darkened. What-once-was was smothered by a smog of darkness and ruin. I cannot adequately describe the sense of loss that wracked through my body.

I swallowed, and focused on the mission. I made myself think of nothing but the mission. Go in, go out. Do not remain in this place of death, less you succumb to fatal despair. Don’t look at the ruins, don’t wonder what something was or what lies within. Just go, do your duty, and keep your friends safe.

My comrades were like minded. Telemus and the Seneschal repeatedly made it very clear to us we were not to deviate from our path, for very good reasons. Furthermore, the warning not to use magic had been etched upon our minds we had been told it so insistently--and since we were mages, we were not going to stay long where we could not rely on our greatest skill.
Fortunately, the Office of Imports and Tariffs was close by. The scouts that were with us spread out to warn us of danger, and Leland performed the one useful thing he ever did on the journey: he unlocked the front door. He and the others also spotted a trap door before the front desk--and were able to disable the hinges. At one point, the trap door was set to be able to unleash an alchemical whirlwind of fire and acid to unwanted entrants.

There was nothing else there. Gelalen made his presentation on behalf of the father, then tossed the ceremonial dagger so that it would stick firmly in the ceiling (so that it could not easily be removed).

As we left, we discovered some of the scouts wandered too far ahead of us. The silhouette of an imp carrying a scout impaled upon a spear shot past us. Several of the other scouts foolishly chased it and in turn were also grabbed and impaled by imps. We thought them dead, but we pooled our knowledge of fiends and realized they could be rendered unconscious by poison.

We were so close to being done--all we had to do was escort Brother Gemell to the Lathandrians and then retreat, but we couldn’t abide the thought of leaving those scouts to die. Risking some expenditure of magic to put protective spells on ourselves, we followed the imps around, where we were met with the sight of a much larger devil, with a long, thin, dark beard. He was preparing to attempt to summon something, obvious from his gestures and the energy gathering around him. I tried to shoot him, but missed (I was trying to avoid magic, knowing I might be forced to use it soon enough). Haukk charged forward and struck him. The first missed, but since the bearded devil was mid-casting, he was able to get another strike and disrupt him. The curious part of me wanted to see what would happen if it had completed its summons, since this was supposed to be a time the summons would not work well, but I am not sure it would be worth risking finding out.

Our scouts were slumped against a near wall, imps hovering nearby, and the devil grinned at us, its new targets.

Welcome to Myth Drannor.

Session 5
To heir is elven, to dream divine

Some panic ensued among us at the thought of going to Myth Drannor. Rill wanted to go about all manner of divination to try and figure out when would be good to go. Alavian began to research Myth Drannor’s history.

I reminded everyone we needed to go see the Prince first (though I appreciated my friends’ willingness to prepare). All timing would likely be determined by him, and we needed to understand what exactly was expected of us or the School, more than the messengers were able to tell us.

We headed out on horse to the elven city, Srennshien -- called Moonrise on the Hill by the humans. The trip was uneventful and we arrived unscathed. The people there eyed Haukk suspiciously, and were aloof toward Rill and Alavian. They were wary of me in another way, keeping a respectful distance and calling me “Mistress,” which I didn’t quite expect. Given the Dale elves’ desire to remain independent of the High King’s court, I wasn’t sure what they’d make of an Evermeeter.

I wore what I felt was a dressed down version of courtly dress to see the prince, but based on the others’ attire, I was still a bit overdressed. Still, I felt it was important to show respect to the prince, especially as we were acting as representatives of the school. My comrades wore clean, well kept garb, and all but Alavian in polished mithral shirts. Throughout the day, Haukk grumbled about the unnecessary pomp and circumstance of the nobles, even as subdued as it was amongst the moon elves, and I envy his simple outlook on life and social interrelations sometimes. At the same time I dread a world where all arguments are resolved at the edge of a blade, which is what he seems to prefer--and yet I think in his heart, he dreads such a thing too, or he would be mastering his battle axe on the field, not studying wizardry in a quiet forest school. If I told him that, though, he would simply say he finds it more efficient to blast the battlefield all at once.

But I do understand his impatience with politics, regardless. I play the game, and sometimes I’m not even that bad at it, but I can’t say I enjoy it.

We were not introduced when we entered the throne room. The prince sat quietly speaking to his counselors, when he looked up and asked us to join them. He was with Chancellor Valeth, an elderly gentleman who represented the theoretical owner of this land (likely, I thought at the time, a sun elven family long dead or dispersed). While the prince governed the people, ownership of the land was technically in the hands of another noble, for whom Chancellor Valeth acted as proxy. He seemed a cautious and sensitive elder, and did not strike me as the kind of person to abuse his position.

Prince Telemus and the Chancellor explained the situation. The crux of it was that Telemus had incurred the... wrath is too strong a word, but Telemus had agitated the other regional Princes, and in kind they elected him to be representative to Myth Drannor’s court this year. If he failed to show, he would lose face in front of the other princes, beyond the much larger issues at hand. Telemus was, clearly by his build and bearing, a warrior, likely scout-trained in his youth. He seemed wise, but unusually straightforward, and while I sensed he was a good leader, I can see how he might rub other members of the nobility the wrong way.

The Prince’s initial plan was to go on a time augured by the court’s sages, with the assistance of Quintus and Sylvia, who had enough magical might between them to see the Prince’s entourage to the place they needed to go in Myth Drannor safely. The problem was that since Quintus and Sylvia were off looking for their friend performing the positive energy research, and might have even left the prime material, we had no idea when they would be back. If we waited for their return, it could be too late for the Prince to make his journey safely--and that would be bad for all who resided in the region, including not only the elves, but also those at the school and the village.

They had an alternate plan, which required, in fact, less powerful spellcasters, conveniently enough. Myth Drannor goes through energy fluxes, and the Weave in that area would resonate such that in a few days, most fiends would have difficulty summoning aid from the Outer Planes. However, if those deeply bound to the Weave---or those entrusted with powerful artifacts or exposed to powerful energies--tried to infiltrate at that time, their presence would put those dampening energies in flux, destroying their usefulness. Those of, say, journeyman spellcaster status, however, could enter the area without disturbing the useful anti-summoning energies.

They had located a site in Myth Drannor--a customs and taxation bureau, more or less--that would be suitable as an official “inquiry” point for the mission. It was near the edge of the city and far from the most concentrated areas of danger. It was also close to a camp of Lathandrians who were working on their own efforts to quell the tide of fiends in the area, and while we were told not to bother them if at all possible, we could call upon them in dire circumstances. The mission would be to enter the area, head straight for the bureau, leave the Prince’s calling card, as it were (a holy dagger, actually), and leave as fast as we could.

We were perfect for the job, of course, given our degree of ability. And if we agreed to it, it would of course lift any burden of responsibility that the School would have to perform for Telemus for a good while. Telemus promised us that if we agreed to do it, we would of course be supported by scouts and guards.

I was certain, based on both Telemus and the Chancellor’s demeanor, that they were not leaving anything out. I also recognized that if his reputation and position was on the line, he wouldn’t ask us to do this unless he was confident in our ability to succeed. I said as much, and he agreed.

Plus, if we failed, there was still time for any survivors to look for Quintus and Sylvia so he could still travel later with more powerful support.

So we agreed to it. I was still oddly excited to see Myth Drannor even though I knew how nearly suicidal this mission was. The others also agreed, feeling they had little choice in the matter as it was the right thing to do to help the School, if not help the elves. I know they have less personal ties to the mission, and I hope they were okay with it. For awhile we discussed Myth Drannor, and the Prince summarized which areas were most dangerous. Which was basically all of them.

“Now, of course,” the Prince said, “Before we announce the expedition, we do need to be sure there aren’t any unexpected political upsets from your presence on the journey. You don’t,” he turned to me, obviously referring to me singularly, “Have a title, do you?”

On Evermeet, even the people who empty the bedpans have titles, I thought, but I knew that would be an impolite rejoinder. “On my father’s side, I’m 1st daughter of the Arl Sulmegil of Astaldalda. I think I’m technically about 12th in line to to the throne, at least to those who think my birth’s legitimate, but that’s all Evermeet politics, it wouldn’t affect anything directly here.”

“What of your mother’s side?” The Prince asked.

I shrugged. “It was not something my father spoke much of. Her titles go back to the mainland but whatever it was of, I doubt it exists anymore. But I guess I did inherit the title, whatever it may be.” I pulled the signet from the hilt of my sword, which was inscribed with the Kaelfara family seal.

The chancellor took it, and pressed it into his hand to read the seal more easily. His eyes grew very wide, and he handed the seal back to me with great care. “She is the Marqessa of Srenshien’arda.”

The full meaning of this trickled into my mind as all of the Prince’s court gaped at me. “But that’s here,” I said.

They nodded. “Yes, Marqessa.”

“Oh.” Not my finest speech.

This made the Chancellor my direct representative, and the prince the governor of my lands. I’d never really expected to actually hold title over anything, so this was all a bit much to take in, to say the least. I had a notion to find a way to go back to Evermeet just to cuff my father about the head for not telling me about this, but it would be just like him. If even he knew he was sending me to what was essentially my own ancestral homeland. But then that, come to think of it, likely may have been more the hand of Aunt Serena. Why SHE didn’t tell me, I didn’t know, but it was probably to protect me from my father. I also wondered at Quintus and Sylvia’s knowledge of the situation. I rather hoped they didn’t know, as I would like to have fewer things to be angry with them about. On the other hand, this makes me their landlord, so...

There was some talk of centuries’ worth of tithes owed me and other things. As the tithes were invested by Nan Su and not immediately available, we could deal with that later. Investments aren’t useful until you have time to turn them into more valuable assets and time was something we did not have. I tried not to be too overcome by the thought of sudden nearly unlimited wealth and a demesne of my own. I was certain it was going to be much more complicated than simply walking in, gathering all my riches and ruling a quarter of the Dales with nary a care in the world.

“Well,” I said, as I recovered my thoughts, “We can be certain my interests are not counter to yours since we’re all responsible for the same place. So that we can lay to rest, and as for announcing my homecoming, I suggest we resolve that after we deal with the presentation at Myth Drannor. The Prince has made it very clear he’s in a delicate political situation right now and there is no reason to make things any more strained.”

Telemus looked notably relieved.

The Chancellor noted, “Then we must announce the expedition.”

“One moment,” I said. “We also came to talk to you about the rising activity of the Eldreth Veluuthara.”

Telemus and his courtiers gave a collective groan. They had been actively causing trouble in the city--mostly raising political hell, though, not forcing bulettes to charge through the fields.

“Do you know they might be allied with the Cult of the Dragon?” This, the Prince did not know, and we discussed the past weeks’ events with them. We showed them the pouch, key, and map. They agreed to help us find out what they went to after we dealt with the mission to Myth Drannor--there was little we could do at the moment with them anyway.

The Prince ushered us out and not long after, the entire court of nobles were gathered for the announcement of the expedition.

One “gentleman” protested our presence and demanded our abilities be tested. They suggested we fight the Princes’ sons to prove our worth.

“My sons are going on the expedition as well,” Telemus said quickly, but he was a bit perturbed. We learned later that one son was meant to go, but he had to commit both of them to avoid us having to duel his children. “So you shall have to choose your own champions.”

The champions were chosen and we went to the contest field, on the hill around which the settlement was built. The terms were a fight to the death, as proposed by the “gentleman,” although the Prince could call the fight to end when he wished. As we prepared for the combat, we learned the “gentleman” and his supporters were all members of the Glorious Blade. None of us looked forward to a fight to the death--when we were already willing to put our lives on the line to go to Myth Drannor, let alone fight other people--but the thought of putting down more of these madmen made it a little more reassuring. But only barely.

We were evenly matched, and we opposed two wizards and two scouts, the latter a burly male and a very lithe female. The Prince sounded the start of battle; one of the wizards early on laid a patch of magical grease beneath our feet. Haukk tried to lower his defenses with magic missiles. Alavian countered with grease spells of his own---very effective especially later in the fight when he aimed them at our opponents’ weapons and magic wands.

I moved out of the greased area, made easy by my boots of traditional make, designed to deal with slippery ground and foliage. I protected myself with a shield spell--useful, because even as it was, I was grazed by a few arrows. I was ready to help Haukk with concentrating fire on the first wizard, but then the burlier of the two scouts had rushed up to charge Rill.

In the meantime, Haukk fell in agony as he was struck by the smaller scout’s pain arrow--proof our opponents were likely allied with the Glorious Blade. He was temporarily out of the fight as he howled in pain.

Rill was eager to engage the others up close, but I’ve noticed she does better with a flanking partner who can distract a mutual opponent, leaving himself vulnerable to her precise attacks. The way others were positioned, unfortunately, I could not move easily to help her, and Alavian could not move to help her either, not willing to risk falling in the grease. So I tried to push away the big scout with a hydraulic push until we could position ourselves better where all could fight according to our strengths. The spell worked--amazingly well, in fact. I felt power surge within me, and I felt closer to the Weave than I ever had before. The scout was soaked, and he was knocked back farther than I’d anticipated. I wondered at the magical empowerment. The hill was obviously an important location in the city, and I wondered if perhaps its sacred energy bolstered all of us. No one else seemed, at least, surprised by their own spell power. Later the others told me they felt nothing. If it was to do with me, perhaps that it was my ancestral homeland? I hope no one decides I was cheating once they learn of my heritage. I certainly had no idea at the time. We were told we could use any advantages we carried with us when we entered the city, and so I don’t think any rules were broken.

Both enemy wizards had protected themselves with mirror image illusions, and struck at us with acid arrows and scorching rays--all more powerful magic than we had at our disposal, even if some came from wands. Haukk was down, Alavian couldn’t leave the spot he stood on, Rill and I were separated. Even with the unexpected boost to my magic, we seemed unable to strike at a weak point.

The lithe, female scout went toward me this time--and Alavian greased the weapon right out of her hand. As she reached for it, I took the opportunity to swipe at her exposed side with a prepared shocking grasp I’d cast earlier. Again, the empowered magic moved through me, crackling and burning my opponent. Still burning and her hair sticking on end, she weakly swung at me with her kukri but missed.

Rill had re-engaged the larger scout on her own, without help, but I trusted she knew what she was doing, this time, as I had to focus on concentrating fire elsewhere. She was not able to deal much damage, but he was barely able to swing at her either, so I guess I should not have worried. Haukk had managed to shake off the pain and began focusing his attacks on the wizards, who were still slinging spellfire at us. Alavian continued to deftly use spellwork to hinder and harm our foes.

As the tables turned, I stepped away from the little scout, nocked an arrow, and fired straight into her belly. I did not kill her, but she fell to the ground in pain from the arrow’s magic. The locals cheering for us gasped surprised--but pleased--that we could use the Glorious Blades’ weapons against them. Those supporting the Blades were also surprised, confused, and very displeased. While Haukk, Rill, and Alavian engaged the larger scout, I drew my sword and advanced on the woman. Our opponents’ supporters called for the prince to end the fight. I looked to him, to see if he would call for mercy upon our opponents. If I had to fight to the death, I would not do it rashly or bloodthirstily. He pointedly looked away.

I remembered the glee on the woman’s face as she had fired upon Haukk--and moreover, when she had grinned and laughed when she’d fired at us and missed, instead nearly hitting those cheering on us. I focused on the fact this was a woman who delighted in others’ pain.

And then I ended hers, with a swift strike to her neck.

I took no joy in it. Death and war are not something to cheer for. But if the Glorious Blades were going to wage their quiet war upon the good folk of this land--of my land--then I would answer in kind.

The larger scout soon fell after, felled by spellfire and Rill’s determined strikes. Then all of us closed in with concentrated fire on one wizard, then the other, eliminating their illusory copies and bringing them down as well. Haukk hefted his axe and charged the last standing wizard with a great war cry. His orcish temperament coming to the fore, he was a terrifying, impressive sight to be seen. Just after the moment Haukk’s battleaxe sliced deeply into the wizard’s fragile throat, Prince Telemus called, “Halt!”

I guess Prince Telemus had his own message for the Glorious Blade.

The Prince ordered us to take whatever spoils of the fight we wished, so with his blessing, we relieved the corpses of their weapons, gear, and magic wands. One of the Blades’ supporters approached us, as we took the wand of acid arrow, “I was with him when he slew the human mage who owned that, it belongs to his family.”

“If you tell us who the human mage was, we’d be happy to return it to the human’s family,” I said, which I think was not what he was going for. Haukk growled a further response that was far more intimidating, though it was the Prince who shooed the vulture off the field.

The Prince and the others asked us where we’d gotten the pain arrow, explaining we’d taken them when the Blade attacked the Academy. I gave them a pain arrow and a healing arrow so they could replicate the enchantment, so the Blades would no longer be sole possessors of these arrows.

After healing, cleaning up, and rest, we celebrated long into the evening. Much wine, including feywine, was passed around, as well as a brew of dwarven make which I only sipped a little of, already quite lightheaded. My memories of the evening are a little fuzzy, but I know I rambled on as I am wont to do when I have a lot of questions. I regret that much I may have learned about the moon elven culture is obscured in a haze of celebration. I know I spoke quite a bit with the Prince’s sons. Rill enjoyed herself and engaged in a lengthy dancing contest (I played the flute awhile but lost my breath early on--Rill’s staying power was much better). Alavian quietly observed as he is wont. Haukk wandered off with a pretty serving girl.

Before I found myself wandering off with a pretty playmate myself, and waking to regret whatever ridiculous political implications they would likely have in the morning, I decided to retire alone.

I had a most extraordinary dream--the effects of feywine often come in full after you fall asleep.

I was aboard a sailing ship, garbed as a human privateer. Rill was up in the rigging, Alavian at watch at the front, and Haukk at the wheel. All were in similar mariner gear. Rather than sail over the water, we flew high over the land, which I guessed was Faerun, though I could not be certain. Clouds passed below us instead of waves. All was too-bright and sparkling.

Suddenly, Aunt Serena stood beside me. She was dressed as she usually was, not as a mariner, though she looked vibrant, with a near halo about her. She looked at me with sadness. “I’m sorry I could not tell you, but the truth of your heritage... it made your father furious, and I needed to protect you.”

Everything made father furious, but I appreciated the sentiment. I was also a bit distracted by the fact that we were flying on a sailing ship.

Serena continued, “Everything you have had to go through... please understand, it was to shape you.”

The wording was ominous. I bristle at the idea of being “shaped.” Shaping people, molding people into things other people wanted to be, that’s something father tries to do. Serena herself always seemed to be one for grasping one’s own destiny.

She continued. “To shape you into the person you needed to become---to rescue your mother.”

I frowned. “From what?” My mother died in childbirth, of this I was certain. This was never hidden from me.”

“She is dead,” Serena agreed, “But I cannot find her.” This made little sense to me. Unless Serena has the ability to contact the Fugue Plane or Arborea. But then, this may well have been the feywine talking.

“Your position makes you able to find her, rescue her.” She waved to the flying ship we stood on. “You have the means to seek her out.”

As I protested that I was fairly certain the flying sailing ship was not mine, she faded away into a cloud we passed by.

I woke in the middle of our guest suite, curled into an awkward position. Rill and Alavian had awakened and come out to find me.

I wasn’t sure what to make of the dream. Pure feywine hallucination was a more than adequate explanation. On the other hand, I knew Aunt Serena could probably pull off a dream sending if she really needed to, but it seemed so distant and odd. I felt full of mixed emotion--fear that my mother was not at rest, dread of having to deal with the sudden titles and responsibilities laid upon me, wonder at what could have trapped or harmed my mother so, and why Serena or father, if they’d known about it, had done nothing except apparently wait for me to grow up (father loved my mother, I have no doubt of this, even as sure as I am that he had no love for me). But then, even were it all true, obviously I had no means at this time to either fly through the sky on a ship or contact the planes beyond to find a lost Petitioner, even if it was the soul of my mother.

It’s also possible, that as we are headed to a dark realm utterly infested by fiends, that this was a temptation offered by a clever demon or devil anticipating our arrival.

I had no opportunity to speak to my friends about the dream, as we were summoned to breakfast. The person who brought the message was Haukk’s ladyfriend, and Haukk--barely remembering his own actions--gave her a ring as a token to stave off bad feelings. I think he felt badly he didn’t remember what happened. After she left I pointed out that most elves would take that as an interest in long term courtship. He did not take the news well. We tried to reassure him. It was a lovely gesture, not something he should feel ashamed of.

We have a day to prepare for the journey--and I must tell my friends about the dream. Even if it means nothing, I’d prefer my friends’ reassurance of that.

I was sure of one thing---anything I’d do from here on out, it was because of my expectations of myself, and not anyone else’s of me. The news of my title had come to steel my resolve--I had a great deal to be responsible for, and I will do everything I can not to fail anyone relying on me. But I will do it because it is right, not because someone wants me to or “shapes” me into doing it. I was out of the thumb of father and Evermeet, and I had no interest in being under the thumb of anyone else in return.

Session 3 and 4
Sorcerers and the City

Things were getting quiet at the Academy, not in that nothing was happening, but the staff were working on their own to prepare for any future difficulties. We decided to go exploring in town, and found that at long last, the elder adventurers had pulled themselves out of the Norton to work on training the townsfolk to become an effective militia. Should they be charged again by mad cult members or giant animals, they should be much better prepared. We stayed and chatted and helped train a bit, during which we caught wind that one of the local farmers had been having some trouble. Some believed they’d seen yet another bulette on his property.

We decided to go see what had happened. Farmer Ned explained that the Glorious Blade elves had tried to herd another bulette toward town around the same time we’d dealt with the first. This one, however, had broken loose and killed its tormentors. But it had been drawn far from its usual hunting grounds, and was now close enough to Ned’s farm that the sheep he raised were too enticing to try and go home.

Ned was insistent we drive the bulette away—but to do our best to avoid killing it. He insisted it was a “noble beast”—for reasons I think had to do with it frightening his nag of a wife speechless. In exchange, he’d give us the items he’d found off the dead elves’ bodies. I think he would have done so, regardless, mind, but it wouldn’t have been right to have left him with his farm continually raided by the beast.

Remembering our success with the sheep trick before, Rill, Alavian, and Haukk devised a plan involving Haukk riding a horse with a sheep tied to the back—which at some point turned into Rill being tied to the back with various glamers making it appear there was a sheep there instead, and trying to goad the bulette across a rocky field where once it would get to a certain point, it would likely lose its way back to the farm. Alavian guarded the real sheep in the barn while I sat in a tree (if the large shrubs they have on the mainland qualify as trees) and used arrowfire to help goad it or harm it should the plan fail. Soon enough Haukk was zig-zagging across the farm, Rill bouncing along the back, the bulette lumbering behind them. A few times I thought they’d lose him, but fortunately, eventually they did get him far enough away that they could dispel the glamers and return back safely.

Ned was very grateful, and gave us the treasure he had collected. He said he hadn’t dared do anything with it, and indeed, it was a grisly package—a pouch made of tanned orc skin. It was sealed shut magically, though it seemed by its shape and weight to have some kind of key within. Haukk recognized the tattoos on the skin as that of a class of orc “witch hunters.” We could all tell there was very strong necromantic magic attached to the pouch’s seal and didn’t want to try and open it ourselves. I think Rill of all of us is best at getting into things not meant to be opened, but this was something very much not worth the risk.

Returning to the school, Quintus examined our “treasure.” He confirmed that the pouch belonged to the elven cult, most likely, whom they'd determined to be members of a group of extremists known as the Glorious Blade of the People; those who believed in elven superiority in a way that would make my pureblood-obsessed father look liberal-minded. The Glorious Blades had likely slain the orc whose hide was tanned to create the grisly pouch.

Quintus felt neither he nor Sylvia could open the pouch safely either, but he had a colleague who specialized in such things, one Master Flinders, a gnome from Waterdeep. When we wondered how much time we had to travel all the way to Waterdeep, Quintus gave us access to a rather marvelous secret of the school:

A doorway. Rather, a local portal. When going through it, we arrived in moments to another residence—in Waterdeep. I wondered why if they had such resources that they didn’t just send me to the Dales by this to begin with, but then, I did enjoy the journey and the things I learned. Perhaps they didn’t want such secrets revealed to my chaperones, either.

At any road, we were quite suddenly in the City of Splendors, with all it had to offer. I was actually the only one who had been to the city before, and it felt odd to feel like the one who was a guide to a place on the mainland. The house we arrived in was quite marvelous, fully equipped with anything we needed. There was some kind of combination divination-transmutation magic at work within, because as we entered our rooms, they shaped themselves to suit our personal aesthetic. Mine was a combination of what my room was like at the school and my room in Evermeet, with a great deal of plants and natural wood shaped into the walls. We were allowed full run of the house—but of course we had the pouch to see to first.

Flinders’ shop was located in a somewhat hardscrabble area, and it often felt as we walked through there that day and in the days to come that eyes were often upon us, and not innocent curiosity at that. The interior was far more friendly, however, and Flinders quite happy to do business with us. He owed Quintus and Sylvia a favor so we did not have to pay for the service—but he said the traps and mystic wards laid into the pouch would take about a week for him to properly and safely unravel them. Until then, our time was our own.

We spent some time exploring Waterdeep. Since we’d had two bulette hides preserved from the fights a few weeks ago, Haukk was wanting to learn how to prepare and tan unusual hides for armorcraft. I wanted to talk to some other elves about the Glorious Blade of the People. I went down to the Temple of Sehanine Moonbow—for the City of Splendors indeed had shrines to all the gods I could think of, including many of the Seldarine. It concerned me that the Glorious Blade seemed comprised largely of Moon Elves, who are beloved of Lady Sehanine, but the goddess does not teach anything akin to the hideous doctrines the Glorious Blade held to. When I first arrived, I simply prayed after offering tribute, asking the goddess to guide me. I know the source of my own abilities are pure magic, something otherworldly binding my blood more tightly to the Weave than most others, and are not a divine gift—and yet, because I knew the ritual that ultimately sparked my abilities was in the name of Sehanine Moonbow, I have always felt drawn to her.

My prayers were not answered in any form of miracle, but a priestess noticed me and asked me why I was there. I explained the situation, the Glorious Blade building power in the Dales, and possibly even allying themselves with the Cult of the Dragon. She had little distinct guidance to provide, but reassured me that the Temple of Sehanine certainly did not approve of the Glorious Blades’ actions. She pointed out to me that many Moon Elves felt abandoned by my ancestors who made the exodus to Evermeet, something I never really realized—it was my sense they’d wanted to stay behind and wanted nothing to do with us. After all, they staunchly rejected the high king’s authority, using the loophole of Myth Drannor’s destruction to remain relatively independent. But I guess I could understand a sense of betrayal on their part. They stayed in their homeland. We are, in fairness, the ones who moved away. Anyway, such bitterness could be a seed for the dangerous ambitions the Glorious Blades now possess. The priestess helped me see a little of how such a thing to come to pass—and also understand the confusion and the fear that underpins their organization. I hope it is a weakness we can learn to exploit. It is one thing, to lose a home or a people to demonic invasion. It is another to see the elves destroyed by divisiveness and stubbornness, and I do not understand why we seem so often—historically speaking—bent on that path. The Glorious Blades exemplify the worst of our tendency to fraction and factionalize, and there had to be a way to disable them.

Little else eventful happened that day, and we went to the house in Waterdeep to rest. But the rest was disrupted by the oddest of events. Halfway through the night, all of us save Haukk found ourselves waking up in the middle of the laboratory upstairs rather than in the beds we know we all had retired to. Alavian in particular had clearly gotten up, walked in, and curled up on the fur rug in the middle of the floor and seemed little concerned and reluctant to move away from the purportedly cozy and warm rug. We learned—Haukk did awaken and join us, by the way, upon hearing the commotion—that there was some kind of compulsion that drew people to the room, an effect of old magic residue. Haukk and Alavian briefly went to sleep on purpose in the room, and were able to enter a dream-state which allowed them to scry upon any area outdoors in Faerun. They could see more or less where the Glorious Blades were, what was happening at the school, amongst other things. A useful tool, undoubtedly. Determining that the compulsion was largely harmless (a fact later confirmed by Quintus), we all went back to bed, save Alavian, who preferred the rug that evening.

The next few days, we explored more of the City, simply purchasing some supplies for item crafting, as well as exotic foodstuffs. We all got very intrigued by a drink called coffee from Maztica, and Alavian and Haukk soon set about building their own percolator. The vendor was so impressed with their design he ordered more from them, so we—or they, rather, had some source of income in Waterdeep should we need it--especially if we ended up cut off from the residence for any reason. Coffee is quite nice, though we learned it was best drunk in moderation—it can make the heart and head pound so. Although the house did provide us everything we needed, who knows if we were to get cut off from it somehow. Rillka and I found a place to busk in the street, she dancing while I played the flute. It was more for fun than anything, but we earned a little as well. We made some lovely dinners in the house using its well stocked (my guess, perhaps even magically stocked) larder, which Rill seemed to especially enjoy. Things were otherwise uneventful, though we noticed more watchful eyes around Flinders’. There was talk of a rivalry going on in the shadier parts of town, between “Blackie” and “Eomund,” who vied for which territory was under their “protection,” which the others helped me understand involved who got to extort which innocents where. Very unpleasant business. Flinders’ territory was in Eomund’s area, but bordered Blackie’s, and Blackie had been trying to find a way to gain ground.

On the day we came to pick up our package, men in service of Blackie charged the establishment. The fight ended quickly—even we barely did much to help, Flinders and his own colleagues were well equipped to handle the issue. I largely focused on watching the package that we’d just gotten back from Flinders.

Unfortunately, while our own pouch had remained safe, a lackey of Blackie’s known as Trevor the Weasel had stolen another parcel from Flinders while we were distracted by the fight. Agreeing that Flinders had been more than helpful to us, we sought out Trevor and Flinders’ sealed sack---well, for our gratitude and for a far more urgent reason: the sack was rigged to explode with the strength akin to that of a meteor swarm should it be incorrectly opened. The destruction potential in the middle of such a heavily populated area was enormous.

We used the equipment in the house to scry upon Trevor’s location. Seeing him disappear into a tavern known as the Black Unicorn, we quickly made our way there to try to confront him.

What followed was a trail of tavern workers and rogues who all replied to our inquiries with evasiveness and what seemed to be secrecy for the sake of being frustratingly secret rather than any useful slyness, but then, my temper might have been growing a little short. At last, we tracked Trevor to a nearby warehouse. While Alavian and Rillka tried to see how they might stealthily enter the warehouse’s more secure areas, Haukk and I took the direct route to speak to those working there. We spoke to a thick-set, thick witted fellow called Dane who at first seemed both very belligerent and very much trying to get rid of us. He accused us of trying to kill Trevor, and that Trevor told him to expect people claiming he’d stolen a package from Flinders which would do horrible things.

“Are you familiar with Mr. Flinders’ work?” I asked him.

“A little…”

“So,” I said, “Let’s assume Trevor really does have a package worked on by Mr. Flinders, just for the sake of argument. Knowing what Flinders is capable of, what is the likelihood Flinders did put an enchantment on the pouch will explode if it’s tampered with? And is it really worth finding out the hard way if it’s not as harmless as Trevor says?”

Dane’s scowl melted, slowly, as he considered this. “Excuse me,” he said. We heard him stomp into the back room, heard the distinct sound of a large, meaty fist colliding with a weasel’s face, and he returned to us, with the package we sought. We thanked him, and as we promised him, we left as soon as we got what we came for. I was very grateful, for Dane and Trevor were not the only people in the warehouse, and I imagine they were all more likely to take Trevor’s side than ours.

We returned the package to Flinders, and then at last reviewed the contents of our own pouch, which contained an unmarked map of someplace in the Dales, and an intricate key to a lock unlikely passable by anything else but the item we now possessed. We were all ready to return to the Dales when we received an urgent message from the dwarves to return home anyway.

Fortunately, there was no danger, but the elves who own the land on which the school is built had come to ask Quintus and Sylvia a boon. We found ourselves in the awkward position of next in charge, as the students had all been dismissed, and Quintus and Sylvia had left to follow the leads on the Cult of the Dragon part of the mystery behind the attack on the school a few weeks ago.

The “boon” the Moon Elves asked was more like a mortal debt owed (though given the revelations offered about Quintus and Sylvia’s lives, this was not coming as a surprise to me): the time had come for the annual King’s Court in the Dales. All low kings are to meet with the elves and then report to the High King on Evermeet; the king of the Dales region was to hold court in Myth Drannor. Of course, Myth Drannor was a fiend-infested ruin and there was no king, but the regional princes were still obligated to show up once a year and just “make sure” no king had turned up there. Such excursions were heavily dangerous, and they wanted the mages’ assistance to escort them.

I also marveled at the princes' determination to remain independent. Was it that important to them?

We made it clear to them we weren’t even half the mages that Quintus and Sylvia were, but we’d be happy to assist however we could. We needed to head to the Prince’s demesne anyway, to discuss the growing threat of the Glorious Blade, and we could determine what the other elves needed of us more clearly once we were there.

I admit, though I knew it was intensely dangerous, that I very much wanted to see Myth Drannor myself. I felt like I could understand my people’s history much better if I were to experience it, even if such learning came at tremendous risk... and possibly great cost. I still wanted very much to go. Perhaps more strongly than I’ve wanted anything in a long time.

Session 2
Let’s Play Caravan

We spent the next several days helping fix up the academy and restoring order. Quintus and Sylvia decided it was best to hold graduation early this year, not wanting to endanger their students any further. There was much feasting and enjoyment to be had, but an air of anxiety overshadowed everything.

Our cadre expressed our concern to Quintus and Sylvia about the strange elven cult and their desire for their dragon artifacts. We knew we had no resources close to what our benefactors were capable of, but we wanted to be of help in some way. I’ve not really noted before, but there isn’t much by way of tuition required to pay. While certainly they receive donations from wealthy families (and I’m sure they got one from mine, to pay me to keep me away from Evermeet as long as possible), they don’t demand much of students materially. It’s why we do chores of course (beyond the educational value they try to tie into it). But anyway, I felt grateful to them for having us and giving us so much for so little and wanted to help—we all felt the same way, I’m certain.

We decided to go to the Norton and talk to Aldon about his shield, which was made from a portion of the dragon’s wing. He decided to give it to us and so we could take it back to Quintus and Sylvia, for them to do as they saw fit, and we did so without incident. Through discussions with Aldon and Sylvia, we were beginning to fear the elven cult were being used as pawns by the Cult of the Dragon, to find the parts of the red dragon they killed and not only resurrect him, but as a terrible undead beast.

There was another artifact out there—a dragonbone kukri in the possession of Sheldon and Arruthers. We volunteered to see if we could find them—we knew they circuited the Dales on their merchant route, to warn them of the danger and get the knife from them. Quintus and Sylvia supplied us well, placing a number of necessary items in my comrades’ handy haversacks (I do not own such an item myself, although I see their popularity).

We were also provided mounts to travel on. Rillka got a particularly fine pony, trained even for combat, as a gift since she had gone to protect the stables during the cult’s assault.

We were told, repeatedly, to lie low and not provoke anyone. We planned to pose as merchants looking to catch up to their caravan to complete a transaction.

The problem, we quickly discovered as we set out on our journey, was that Sheldon and Arruthers had no discernible route. Indeed, some reports from villagers we spoke to suggested their caravan wagon actually teleported or flew or something like that.

I enjoyed the travel—it was peaceful, and homey in the forest, even if the trees are so small. We only suffered one event—a difficult and tragic one. Bandits posing as “toll collectors” waylaid us—when we began to question them too much, they decided attacking us was easier than convincing us of their profession. Haukk also discerned their true nature early on in the conversation and grew irritable; this also invoked their response, I think. And it was a foolish response. While I took an arrow in me early on—not to dismiss the incredible pain of such a thing—but it was non-fatal, and we quickly were able to return fire and subdue them. I called forth a magic shield to further protect me from attacks and attempted to mire one of the bandits with a tanglefoot bag. My aim was not true, but it did force him to come out into the open. Haukk and Rillka fiercely dispatched at least two of the bandits with both spell and blade; Haukk with his great strength and Rillka with her petiteness and agility could not be matched. Rillka’s pony Kari also performed admirably. Alavian’s spellfire disabled and wounded the bandits to great effect, and I should remember to ask him tactical advice sometime. In the end, one was captured and one fled. I fired my bow at the one fleeing—I was loath to kill him, but if he told tale of purported merchants all equipped with magic abilities to other unpleasant residents of the forest, someone might discern we were from the Academy and our cover would be blown--a mistake that could cost more lives down the line.

We delivered the captured bandit to the appointed constable (a blacksmith by normal trade) in the next village they came to. To our delight they reported they expected Sheldon and Arruthers to pay a visit relatively soon, so we decided to wait rather than continue to wander blind. In the meantime, since we were indeed posing as merchants, we did put out some wares and worked on new pieces. I set myself up in the village square and did some bartering with the locals. Some had harvested some lovely local woods and traded me for finished pieces; which I in turn carved the new woods into useful objects like buttons that others found worth buying..

Eventually Sheldon and Arruthers did come, to our relief. They invited us into their wagon—a typical merchant caravan on the outside, we went in to discover ourselves transported to an extradimensional hideaway—a fine keep located on its own demiplane overlooking the ocean. Again, I wonder at times why people of such resources should need our help at all, but then, we were the ones who insisted we be involved.

And perhaps that insistence came with a price. As we discussed the situation with Sheldon and Arruthers, Sheldon pointed out that Quintus would likely had stored the other draconic artifacts in the most unexpected place possible. Haukk and Rillka soon realized they had the orb and the shield in their haversacks, masked until they had been told about it by powerful abjurations.

I was frightened by this idea. Thinking of the recent wound in my leg from the bandits: that fight could have gone far differently. Even if the bandits could have not found the artifacts in the haversacks, they still would have been lost, however temporarily, or traded to someone with the means to surpass the abjuration.And we would have had no idea, if any of us had survived that scenario.

Indeed, as I said to Quintus upon our return with the dragonbone kukri, “Every spell has a counterspell”; this was a lesson frequently taught us on Evermeet. Quintus and Sylvia were obviously remarkable spellcasters, but they are not the only powerful mages on Toril, and their enemies were likely led by someone who matched them. Maybe I misspeak for all of us, but even though we knew Quintus’ deception had the very best of intentions behind it, it was hard for us not to feel a bit betrayed. Or at least, a bit used. As Aunt Serena says, the gate to the Infernum is summoned by good intentions.

And in the end, this was still a small worry in the eyes of a greater challenge. We learned Quintus, Sylvia, and their colleagues had an ally, also one of the dragon slayers, who had been researching a powerful positive energy spell that could destroy all undead. A valuable but dangerous research--something like that gone wrong could have horrifying results. The people who might want the draconic artifacts might also want to stop or misuse this research. I’ll be honest, how this all linked together started to make my head hurt.

In the end, we find ourselves aware of some tremendous goings on. We are graduated from the Academy, and what do we do next? And with what we know, can we do anything but try to further help determine the goals of the elven cult and possibly the Cult of the Dragon behind them, so that they can be stopped?

Session 1
Bulette Points

The day began rather typically. Our cadre was assigned to train with the Brothers in the morning. We were supposed to focus on using weapons only (wooden training weapons), although sometimes to spice things up, they’d let us use attack spells. We were also allowed to use abjurations.

Poor Haukk, I know in reality he is the best trained of all of us in combat, but the Brothers are very talented warriors and he had a little trouble landing a blow. I think he’s been focusing on his spellbook of late. I fared better but I feel that was as much luck as skill. The Brothers also let me cast a spell, so I knocked Otto backwards with a hydraulic push into a wall. Of course dwarves are very sturdy so it didn’t do him much harm, but it did get him very wet. The Brothers are well aware of what we’re capable of spell-wise so I wonder if I managed to be a tool they used in their own frequent bickering. Rillka did the best of all of us, I think, but she is very good at using her size at an advantage and hitting... well, from the underside.

After we cleaned up after practice (the weapons leave big nasty grease marks on us when we get hit), we were sent into town for some supplies and to have some free time—but we noticed something peculiar.

Two moon elves, armed with bows, were running toward the Norton (the local public house), pausing to fire at a huge, grey creature trundling after them. Alavian identified the creature as a bulette, or land shark—a creature known for terrorizing sheep farms. At first it looked like the bulette was after a moon elf snack—but we realized on closer inspection, the moon elves were goading the creature to follow it—and straight toward the inn. I felt myself grow hot with anger—who would provoke a poor creature of nature (no matter how hungry) like that? And let alone elves, let alone the favored children of Sehanine Moonbow, a mysterious but certainly gentle goddess—something was terribly, terribly off.

The Norton is owned by Aldon, a retired adventurer and old friend of Sylvia and Quintus. In turn, many of the residents in and near the Norton are also retired adventurers—they’re “old” in that for humans and the like their bodies are growing frail, even if only a mere 70 years old or so. They’re still retired adventurers though, and I imagine many are more capable with spell and sword than I am. Charging the Norton seemed to be suicide for the approaching archers—but they could still sow a lot of chaos and hurt a lot of people by succeeding in their task.

They were coming from the far end of the field, so while Quintus was going on about something to do with practicing danger assessment, I pulled out my flute and blew on it, hard, to make a high pitched enough sound to alert the town militia. Alavian threw up a flare to accentuate the alert.

We agreed to slow the moon elves and the charging bulette down, running toward them as fast as we could. Tapping into the Realm-of-Moon-and-Stars that was the source of my magic, I summoned a small falling star to slow and injure one of the hunters. The others rounded around to slow the other elf. Knowing the bulette would not have someone to “lead” it, I distracted it a moment with a dancing lights spell, forming the globes into a person-like shape which gave it a harmless target to charge. One of the others cast a grease spell to trip up one of the moon elves.

I shouted at the other hunter in our native tongue, demanding to know what he was doing.

He asked me in turn, what was I doing to assist "filthy" humans. He proceeded with something about the superiority of the elves and the human settlements in the Dales polluting their sacred territory. He sounded less like what I expected of a moon elf, and more like my father, if even my father were more extremist.

I can sound like my father too. I drew my family sword, to drive down the point that I was not only born of high rank, but that I was ready to put him in his place one way or the other. "Do not question your obvious superior, fool, and kneel before me if you know how to behave like a true elf!" I don’t believe this, but if the "elven superiority” paradigm was what he believed in, I could only hope to use it to sway off the attack. It seemed easier to play along with him than convince him of the error of his ways, backed up by the strength of a creature the size of two horses, with a head of a shark.

I clearly had caught him off guard, but he was unswervable in the course of action he and his partner had chosen to take. He drew his sword and we engaged.

Behind me wafted a strange scent, the snuffling of a confused bulette, and the sound of sheep I knew were nowhere near to be found. I wasn’t in a position to note what was happening at the time, however.

The hunter and I each drew blood. After dealing with the first archer, the others came to my assistance with spellfire—and they also directed our opponent to look behind them. The bulette was devouring his partner. The strange scent and baaing was still going on around them. Later my colleagues explained to me what they did: after he had been tripped up by the grease, they used prestidigitation and ghost sound to make the hapless man smell and sound like a sheep, the bulette’s favorite meal. Haukk was sure to disarm him so he was easy prey; his ability as a mercenary certainly came into line when a real fight came along. An unpleasant and yet just ending, given the circumstances. And I can’t help but giggle a little at the thought of a member of some kind of superiority cult being devoured by the victim of his own cruelty as he baaed like a sheep.

The other hunter was quick to surrender after this realization. We tied him up securely and left him with the militia and the folks at the Norton, who were sure to keep him out of trouble. The bulette, fed and otherwise, like most animals, to be uninclined to remain near civilization, ran off of its own accord.

We gathered the moon elves’ supplies. The worst was realizing how they had goaded the bulette—they had two sets of magical arrows. One inflicted incredible agony upon any struck by it. The other kind of arrow actually healed its target. By alternating arrows, they could irk the bulette into following them, but not keep it so injured that it would be useless to them..

We split the arrows between me and Haukk; with my elven weapon training and his past as a soldier, we were the best candidates. I also helped myself to the hunter’s bow, as it was better made than my own, with fine horn reinforcement.

Just as we thought the danger was over, a scout who had assisted us from afar with friendly fire informed us he’d seen a larger group of elves also "escorting" another bulette—toward our academy.

Quintus, who had been securing the Norton and the town, teleported back immediately. The retirees helped us get back nearly as quickly.

The academy was besieged by a full legion of moon elven scouts, backed by mages. Many were on the walls, driving back the bulk of the onslaught. Rillka went to be sure the largely undefended stables were safe. Haukk and Alavian moved to fill in a secondary defense position which had fewer helping. I had the healing arrows with me, so I went to the largest fight, to see if I could help heal any injured, as I reasoned the largest number of casualties would be there.

I had never seen such carnage—and I know it could even have been worse. Everyone on both sides seemed to have arrows stuck in them somewhere. The bulette was a mess of blood and hide outside the walls—dead, fortunately, but not a good sight to see. Sylvia was on the walls with experienced students and staff flinging spells at the distant mages and archers. Down below me, I saw our three brave Brothers fighting with a speed and fury I had never seen. I never realized till that point just how very much they pulled their punches when training us. They were also quite bloody, with gashes all over them from swords and arrows. I nocked healing arrows and fired at each of them, and they all looked a bit better.. I also got shot at, and slammed one of the arrow tips in my thigh to heal myself. It hurts at first, because you do have to break the skin with the arrow, but then everything heals.

A unit of warriors surged toward the brothers, and I backed them up this time with one of the pain arrows, sending their lieutenant into the agony they had tried to inflict on innocent people and creatures.

The rest of the fight passed in a quick blur. The elves, their numbers severely diminished, retreated. I always knew Quintus and Sylvia had been good adventurers in their day—but the reality of their power fully struck me. They were immensely powerful—and likely, they had made powerful enemies. It made me wonder a bit at their decision to create the academy, despite how very grateful I am for their giving me a home. Was this the first time truly they had been hunted down?

As far as Quintus and Sylvia knew, the elves were in search of an artifact Sylvia had made (with her "own two hands"), the "Head of Barashakk." It was a globe containing the shrunken, preserved head of a red dragon their party had slain many years ago. Aldon, the owner of the Norton also had an artifact, a shield, made from a piece of the same dragon, which they seemed to desire.

We could discern no true connection between the moon elven cult and the dragon, but we did know that if they had the parts, certainly they could attempt to raise the beast if they had the resources.

I felt like I was neck high in water. Suddenly we novice mages found ourselves in the middle of something involving great spellcasters, cults, and a dragon. I was frightened—I spent the night sleepless, wondering how someone as insignificant as I could help.

We all had a brief solo session with the GM, detailing a specific encounter involving a secret learned by one of the party members. Below is Rylassa’s story. I have no idea what the others’ stories are and if they are related to mine. Spoilered so as not to spoil it for the rest of the party--don't read now, guys! :)

Interlude: The One Secret Thing

I had mentioned the Brothers, who were our arms instructors. Otto, Oscar, and Oliver were very strapping men—although I understand all dwarves are very powerfully built—whose mastery with weapons I have yet seen surpassed. They liked to bicker a lot, and they often smelled a little funny, but I assume that comes with being dwarves.

What was really odd about them is that they changed sometimes. Sometimes they seemed a little shorter one day than the next. Or their hair would be different or something. Most people brushed it off as an off-day, but to me it looked like they were really not quite... well, themselves, some days.

Something else had always struck me as odd: I had studied in books, some examples of dwarven carving. Of course they carve stone while I carve wood, but I was still interested to learn of their methods, as dwarven craftsmanship is so universally admired. I was surprised to learn that some carving methods are more commonly shared by male dwarves, while others, more exclusively by females. It struck me after reading one treatise on dwarven craftsmanship, that the Brothers’ reliefs they had made on the walls of the courtyard were quite, in dwarven terms, feminine. I didn’t want to bring it up with them without embarrassing them, so one day when most of the class was going to town, I decided to stay behind and see if I could observe the dwarves at work. I’d told the others I’d simply wanted to practice my carving.

Heading toward the Brothers’ cottage, I heard laughing and splashing coming from the enclosure of shrubbery around their home. The laughing was distinctly female—husky, like dwarves, but definitely female. I thought perhaps the brothers had visitors—and certainly did not want to disturb them, in that case, but was puzzled that the women sounded like they were in the baths by themselves. Just two voices. Where could the Brothers be?

So I went around to the front and peeked through the window. Otto was there—I think it was him, he has a bit of a facial tic—looking for something, so he didn’t see me nearby. I looked across the way to where the forges are—but there wasn’t enough smoke coming from it to show the forge was active. The combat training grounds were empty. But I was certain all three brothers said they were staying to look after the facility, and where were the other two and why did they have two female guests?

I thought back to the carvings, but thought the conclusion that came from that seemed utterly bizarre. But desperately wanting the mystery to be solved, I climbed the perimeter wall to see, just a moment, what was going on in the backyard.

There were two beautiful dwarven women bathing. They looked like drawings of women adorning dwarven holy books, with golden hair and smooth skin.

Otto came out, complaining of being unable to find his lucky spoon, and the two women urged him to come in to bathe—not coquettishly, but mocking him, just as Oliver and Oscar tend to do. He began to disrobe—and when his belt was removed, his form warped and twisted into another shapely dwarven female, identical to the others. (As an aside, I carved him a spoon later.)

I climbed back down, figuring I had seen enough. Elves are not shy about looking at bodies but dwarves are far more private and I had no interest in violating their privacy any more than I had. But it did occur to me that they were obviously hiding their femininity for some reason—but it was still apparent in their crafting that they used a feminine style, and if an elf from Evermeet noticed that, surely someone else could?

So I knocked at the door, after retrieving the book where I’d first noticed the difference in dwarven artisanship based on gender. Rather than tell them I’d spied on them bathing, I told Otto—he had answered the door, reclothed and re-maled—that I wanted to know why his and his Brothers’ work resembled, say, the work of the Sisters of Serenity on the Shrine of Sharindlar rather than the Brothers of Stone’s craftsmanship on the Temple of Moradin. The others came in and heard the conversation, and after some gentle inquiry, the three “Brothers” told me their story—in brief, that after the era of the Thunder Twins was to pass, a prophecy told of a trio of dwarf daughters. The dwarfs of the Rift feared this prophecy coming true, so when Alice, Annabelle, and Amelia were able to run off, they sought shelter and disguise from Quintus and Sylvia.

I pointed out the issue with the craftsmanship, and suggested they teach students stone carving, and have them add to the reliefs on the walls. That way if anyone came, it would be hard for a visitor to discern whose work was what. I promised to keep quiet about their secret—though I do think it is a shame. I know what it’s like to be persecuted for simply being born, and I don’t think it’s fair for such beautiful ladies to have to hide themselves from the world.

Character Background and Campaign Info

From the Journal of Rylassa Kaelfara: Prologue
This is the way Aunt Serena explained it:
124 years ago, my mother participated in an elaborate ritual to open an Astral portal in the name of Sehanine Moonbow. During the process, she was enveloped in magical energies straight from the paths where the moon and stars reside. She was unharmed, but she did not know yet that she had conceived me.

When I was born, I had—still have—blue eyes. I’m sure that sounds like such a small thing. Most sun elves have green eyes. All the members of my family have green eyes.

My mother died giving birth to me. Father accused her, posthumously, of adultery. Considered a bastard, let us say for the sake of delicacy I was not treated well. Oh, he never hurt me, physically, but there are things words can cut that swords could never mar.

Father insisted all members of the family, even me, receive some training in the magical arts. To this day, magical algorithms give me headaches. But I learned to copy the gestures the other students were making, to make the right noises—and, well—I didn’t mean to blind the tutor, the first time I cast the spell. I still cast the spell right, even though I barely understood the formulae written in the book before me. Something came from inside, and I just found the right words and gestures to make it happen. I learned to fake it—that I was understanding what I was being taught. But they realized the spells I had learned, I had no need to prepare the initial ritual beforehand before casting. That I could go on casting after they had exhausted their ritual preparation. They realized, I wasn’t using the paper part of the spellwork at all.

That’s when Aunt Serena figured it out. My unexpected eye color had only been a hint to the power that had touched me—just a spark of a being in my mother’s womb—during the opening of the portal. Serena never believed my mother had cuckolded my father ("Although he would have deserved it," she said, time and again). Magic had been woven straight into my blood and my soul. My father refused to listen.

Instead, eventually, father used the revelation of my gift of sorcery to finally find a way to get rid of "the embarrassment" (that’s me). He declared the tutors were incapable of teaching me magic any further, and that, having foreign magical abilities, I must go to a foreign place to learn. Words were exchanged, messages were sent, and I was put on a boat to the mainland, ultimately to travel to the Dales to Quintus and Sylvia’s Magic Academy.

For the first century of my life, I only knew Evermeet. And it is beautiful, a paradise. My first sight of Faerun was frightening—the City of Waterdeep, rising over me with its claustrophobic piles of stone and wood just kind of plopped on top of the earth, and the stink of the docks and wharf inhabitants. But I forced myself to keep my eyes open, and see this world I was in. To see all the people—all these people, all these different races I had never seen before. They were all so different from each other—large and small and pale and dark and happy and angry—and they were beautiful. And I came to see more beauty in the world around me—the rising columns of the Temple of Firehair, the clank of a dwarf’s hammer on the forge, the music of a thousand languages drifting out of a smoky tavern. There was passion and art—maybe not the way elves experienced it, but it made it all the more intriguing.

I discerned my education at home was rather lacking in what the peoples and cultures of the world had to offer. Most of the books ended at, more or less, "But elves are better than everyone else"—but those were father’s books and father’s beliefs, so I figured that had to be... misguided, at least. I asked a lot of questions (don’t ask a halfling how they got so short. It’s apparently embarrassing). I still ask a lot of questions, and I am sure many find it tiresome, but I am so very fascinated by this enormous world I am in now, where adventurers thrive and blue eyes are completely meaningless. There is so very much to learn, and time and lives seem to pass far more quickly on the mainland.

Traveling from Waterdeep to the Dales meant seeing the city fade back into countryside, and nature—although it still puzzles me to this day why trees on the mainland are so small.

I transferred over to another caravan owned by the Coffinmaker family, a large clan of halflings. They don’t actually make coffins anymore, but some were joiners and wood-carvers and I got to exchange some ideas—my favorite pastime is carving wood, and I am trying to perfect the art of making a flute. My flutes are still a little out of tune, but I have gotten very good at hairsticks and toothpicks.

They brought me to Quintus and Sylvia’s Academy, where they were greeted by an exuberant young halfling lady who was soon to become a dear friend and colleague, Rillka Coffinmaker—obviously, related to those in the caravan—while I was met by our headmasters. Both had a commanding presence, but were dressed simply in work clothes. Quintus normally deferred to Sylvia on decision making; she seemed a bit dour, while Quintus was a little more talkative. I gave them my letters of introduction from father and Aunt Serena, and they got straight away to seeing me housed and supplied for study.

I was assigned to a cadre of students, with whom I studied and worked most often. Rillka was in the group; she is very talkative and energetic, although she liked to shirk chores a lot. But to her, I think, shirking was more of a game to her—about feeling out the boundaries of what she could get away with than wanting not to help. I was then introduced a broad shouldered human from Cormyr named Alavian. He is very bright and knows all nature of things, but he does not notice much. He is quiet but has a dry sense of humor. The final member of our cadre was a very, very broad shouldered and green-grey skinned young man named Haukk. Haukk is half-human, half-orc, and has great tusks coming out of his mouth. I’ve not yet actually seen a full blooded orc in person, but they must be fearsome. He looks like he might be a bit of a brute, to be honest, but Haukk is very intelligent and understands wizardly algorithms more than I ever will, amongst many other things. He used to be a soldier of some kind and I imagine he could make a great tactician some day. Rillka, Alavian, and I are all sorcerers but all come by it a bit differently, I think.

In addition to studying magic, Quintus and Sylvia insisted on teaching us more mundane vocational skills as well as the basics of physical combat and survival—knowing most spellcasters attempt to become adventurers at some point to boost their abilities or gather components, they want us to be prepared. I’d already gained some training in combat from our family’s drills in the bow and sword, and am still most comfortable with those weapons. Our arms instructors were "the Brothers"—three dwarves, Otto, Oliver, and Oscar—all very difficult to tell apart except by their particular tics (Oliver is always scratching his nose, for example). Duran ran the stables, and I’ve always been impressed by his knowledge of the forest and its inhabitants. Quintus and Sylvia also had an accountant, Nan Su, who did not live here. She was a gnome and I asked her lots of questions about what gnomes did, and most of what I recall from that conversation is feeling very confused. We were also visited by Sheldon and Arruthers, who traveled with Quintus and Sylvia before they settled here. Arruthers has a very squeaky shoe, but I think if he wasn’t wearing it, you wouldn’t even know if he was standing right beside you. Sheldon talks a lot. Suffice to say, there were very interesting people always to learn from and ask questions, and they only glared at me for asking too many questions very very rarely. Certainly everyone had their tense moments and people fought, but everyone no matter what has always been willing to help. It is odd, to live 123 years and travel hundreds of miles, to only now get a true sense of the meaning of the word, "family."