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Old Apr 21st, 2022, 01:46 AM
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Prologue: Seeds in the Sand

Dark Day, Southwestern Khur

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year ago you would never have expected that your steps would have brought you to this distant corner of Khur. Then again, a year ago the world was a different place, firmly in the clutches of the Dragon Overlords, whose reign seemed as absolute as it was cruel. The Great Storm changed Krynn‘s fate. That and the two gaping holes in the sky, two wounds that time will not heal. It is proof that nothing is impossible, that even gods can fall, had to fall for the world to survive and for the Balance to be restored. The pendulum swings freely once more, but it does so over a broken world.

Some would claim that it was fate that brought you to this land of sun and sand. The pious would see the presence of the newly returned gods behind your every word and deed. And yet it was hope that led you, either alone or in small groups, to cross the desert sands of Khur to this place of legend. Whether through yellowed parchment, half-remembered tale or rumor spoken over a tankard of strong ale you came to know about the Standing Stones, as the locals call this place. What it was originally called, time itself has forgotten. You have come to know of a festival of fire and song that is said to ease the passage of the deceased to the Beyond. During on “Dark Day” the victims of the Cataclysm are commemoratedthe darkest day of the year, dark in the presence of sorrow, not the absence of light, the tribes of Khur gather together to honor the spirits of the dead and grant them rest.

This is your wish as well. Not for yourselves, but for those who have bound themselves to you and cannot find peace. You seek an end to the heaviness in your hearts, the nagging presence in the back of your minds, the anxiety you feel every time you close your eyes. Death is the one thing all mortals fear, but death is not the end. Only the High God knows what lies beyond the Gate of Souls, but the gods teach us that the soul‘s journey doesn’t end once it leaves the body. On the contrary, it begins there. There are spirits, however, who lose their way. Spirits that wander the mortal world without purpose or hope, clinging to anything that seems familiar through the veil of death. Clinging to you. Desperately, suffocatingly, yearning for the fate that has been denied them.


*********


The sun has not yet set when you finally reach your destination, though the shadows are already growing thick and long in the southern foothills of the Reorxcrown Mountains. For some time now you have had the feeling that you are traveling uphill, the slope gradually becoming steeper and the air cooler. Contrary to the lushness of the Silvanesti forest to the south, the vegetation in these parts of Ansalon is sparse and stunted. With the land now firmly in winter’s grasp the only plants you see are patches of yellow grass and thorny bushes that grow despite the harshness of the climate. For those used to living in the barren sands of Khur it is a blessing nonetheless. The ground is rocky and each gust of wind creates clouds of red sand, causing the dust to attach itself to each inch of uncovered skin that it can find.

At the foot of the hill you see hundreds of colorful tents and lean-tos, some large enough to easily house a dozen travelers, others so small that you wonder if they can provide the one that will be sleeping within it with any amount of protection from the elements. Next to them are various animals tended by children and servants, including donkeys, mules, horses and even a few camels, glancing at you with what can easily be described as indifference. You have all heard about the famous horses of Khur, strong, fast, resilient and intelligent, and even if you had never encountered another horse in your life, you would have had no trouble distinguishing them from their lesser cousins. Even one thousand steel pieces would be considered a bargain to purchase one of the finer specimens, not that any of you possess that kind of money. Once perhaps, but not anymore.

The path to the festival is marked clearly by dozens of tall wooden poles, planted deeply into the hard ground so that they will not be uprooted by the wind, each painted garishly and You may make an Intelligence (History) check to match them with each tribedecorated with banners bearing the sacred totem animals of the Khurish tribes. Stag, tiger, bear and bull, hawk, desert fox and coiled dragon seem to be watching you approach, some with curiosity, others with undisguised suspicion, if not hostility. It is the same looks you get from the Khurish nomads that have arrived before you and have already begun with the celebration of the festival - though “celebration” might be the wrong word for what is taking place here.


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The Standing Stones


The stony path eventually leads to a plateau somewhat protected from the wind by the large stone outcrops that seem to mark the barrier between the lowlands and the mountains. On top of the hill you see seven bonfires so large that they give you the impression that the whole plateau is on fire. You cannot guess the amount of wood that was needed to build them, nor the distance it would have to be carried over sandy dunes and rocky hills to bring it here. The tribes are known for their infighting, but to accomplish such a feat they would have had to work together for once - or compete against each other in typical Khurish fashion. Behind the bonfires are the Standing Stones themselves, irregular formations of rock of various sizes, some no larger than a kender and some taller than an adult dragon, that seem to glisten mysteriously in the light of the fire, though it may also be a trick of the light or your imagination.

A group of a dozen Khurish warriors, all bearing the totem of the tiger on their clothes and holding the curved swords that the locals favor, stop you from getting any closer.

"Halt, outlanders! These are sacred grounds and no weapons of metal are allowed beyond this point", says one of them in heavily accented common, a middle-aged man holding a large ornate spear that marks him as the leader of the group. His men look at you strangely and it is only then that you realize that all the people you have met this far have belonged to one of the seven Khurish tribes. Other than you there are no outsiders here.

"Leave your weapons here or go back to where you came from."

The warrior points at seven piles of spears, swords, daggers and quivers full of arrows, each neatly placed next to each other. Three of the piles appear to be larger than the rest, while the quality of the weapons you find in all of them varies greatly. Next to the largest pile of weapons is a lone scimitar inside its sheath, You may make a Wisdom (Perception) check to take a closer look at it, if you likecarefully covered in cloth to protect it from the sand.

The man seems to want to say something more, but in the end decides against it, content to squint at you menacingly. It is clear that he will need little provocation to make an example of you, should you choose not to comply with his instructions.


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Khurish Captain




Calendar3rd day of Aelmont (Winter) 422 AC / 38 SC, Dark Day

Solinari: 33/36 (Low Sanction)
Lunitari: 6/28 (Waxing)
Nuitari: 3/8 (Waxing)

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White Robes -1 spell DC, DIS on spell attack rolls | Red Robes - | Black Robes -


 
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  #2  
Old Apr 21st, 2022, 04:19 AM
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"Well of course," Devari said with a reassuring smile, "I wouldn’t dream of breaking your sacred traditions!"

She unbuckled her belt and wrapped it around the sheath of her sword, a reasonably solid rapier with a straight guard and ornate tassel on the pommel, which looked good on first inspection but any competent smith would notice the subtle flaws which indicated that this was a practice piece, most likely made by a talented apprentice. She pulled a decidedly plain dagger from one of her calf-high boots and tucked it carefully into the bundle and then sat it beside the scimitar in its protective covering, Perception belowwhich she looked at quizzically.

"Y’know, that seems like a great idea," she said as though to herself, "wouldn’t want this covered in dust, would I?"

She unbuckled the reinforced cuirass which she habitually wore when travelling, the better to deter would-be thieves, cut-throats and all other stripes of ne’er-do-well, and pulled it up over her head so that she stood only in a thin once-white shift, a wooden flute which hung from a leather thong around her neck, and leather boots.

"Woo, that’s a relief," she said, eyes closed and head tilted back as she allowed the breeze to cool her. She could feel the cloth sticking to her but she didn’t care, not right now. After a moment she smiled as though abashed at the guard. "The best bit of the day, isn’t it? It’s what keeps me going, knowing that at some point I can take this off!"

She crouched and lifted her bundle of weapons and pushed them into the armor, making sure that the soft fabric edges were tucked all around, and then cocked her head at the guard.

"You will take care of this for me, won’t you?" she asked with just the hint of a pout which quickly turned to a warm smile. "’Course you will! You’re a man of honour, I can always tell."

She then rummaged for a few moments in her pack and pulled out her waterskin and, after a quick drink, washed her hands, face and armpits, showing not the least bit of embarrassment. This was neither the time nor the place for the full Veraline blue gown with gold brocade so she then chose a simple green dress with a laced waist which she immediately pulled on over her shift and adjusted so that it would hang just right. She decided to leave the boots on because of the rocky ground, so the last items she pulled from her pack were a small mirror and a little make-up kit which she quickly and expertly applied to her face. She regarded her reflection from several angles and then shook out her hair and grimaced as she was covered in a fine layer of dust. What she wouldn’t do for a proper bath! Still, this was probably the best she would manage under the circumstances.

She lay the pack beside her other gear and then untied the little purse from her belt and tied it around her left wrist instead. She didn’t exactly have much coin but she preferred to keep what she did have with her. She was just about to move on when something occurred to her.

"It’s going to be cold up here tonight, isn’t it?" she asked the man, who she was beginning to think of as her guard. "Yeah, ‘course it will."

She grabbed a blanket and folded it diagonally to make a shawl. Now she was ready for whatever this night could throw at her. She struck a quick ta-da pose for her guard.

"Oh, I’m sorry," she said, eyes wide and one hand over her mouth, "I don’t even know your name! I’m…" her hesitation was almost too brief to notice, "Veralyne. I’ll see you later, okay? Please take care of my things, I’d be eternally grateful."

With that she finally entered the plateau proper, and only then allowed her doubts any attention.

What the hells am I doing here? She bit her lower lip as she looked around. Oh, Amare, this better be worth it!

 
 
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Old Apr 21st, 2022, 06:35 AM
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Isandril Moonsilver, Wizard of High Sorcery
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Raising both hands to the sides of his cloak's hood, the elven mage pulled it back and then down, the shadows having grown large enough by the time he found himself to his destination that he no longer needed it to shield his eyes and face from the Khurish sun. Taking a deep breath, he stopped and looked at this place dreams and whispers and rumors besides had brought him to. The Standing Stones. A fitting enough name, if a somewhat unimaginative one. The brief pause over, he resumed his walking, using his simple wooden staff as additional support against the rocks and dirt beneath his feet. As he got closer and closer to the actual path to the festival, his red-flecked green eyes turned this way and that, taking in the various sights, the truly magnificent horses and the assortment of Khurish banners among them. His gaze lingered a bit longer on the latter, History 21trying to match symbols to tribes both out of curiosity and as a mental exercise, before he finally found himself at what could be described as the entrance, or at least an entrance, guarded by more than a few warriors of Khur.

"Greetings," he hailed the one seemingly in charge with a polite bow of his head. He spoke Khurish fluently, though there was an unmistakeable elven accent there. Well, unmistakeable to someone with an ear for such things. Still, given the relatively short time in which he had learnt the native tongue, a bit of an accent could be forgiven.

"The only weapon of metal I have," he continued as he removed a sheathed dagger and handed it to the other man, "is this." Proceeding to place it on one of the piles, he could not help but Perception 9look at the lone scimitar, his curiosity somewhat piqued. Why was this not with the others? A prized belonging perhaps? An important owner? Turning to once again look at the Khurish man, he decided this was probably not the time for answers to these questions, or for loitering for that matter. With a polite little smile and another bow of his head, he toom his leave and moved past the guards into the festival area.

"Indeed, this is all quite impressive," he mused now that he found himself closer to the bonfires and the Standing Stones themselves, some of them massive enough to rival or even dwarf manors and towers.

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Old Apr 21st, 2022, 11:02 AM
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Another Grain of Sand
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Infathomably deep waters of seemingly endless seas, verdantly thick rainforests of densely abundant life, richly populated plains awash with wind-caressed grains and grasses, barren white-capped stone that reached for the moons along barrier mountains, hell-born molten lakes that bubbled beyond their subterranean homes and belched hot death, mired bogs thick with insects and amphibians, and placid lakes pouring into ribbon-like rivers full of frolicking fish; Xihue had seen them all. The journey had been long and relatively uneventful. There was something different in the afternoon air this day. A promise of significance, possibility, or perhaps, adventure? hung heavily about him in the decaying heat of this arid afternoon. Xi was hopeful for it.

The rising foothills promised to remind Xi of his home mountains. He'd left them a long time ago, in a valley far, far way and still they traveled with him. Every step carried with it the baggage of its predecessors. This was the way of life and Xi believed that the weight of the accumulated experience could help him to build a stairway to ascendance. Enlightenment through revelation and mindfulness was a natural result of attentive awareness in every moment.

Another way to learn was to listen and observe. Participation was crucial to advanced education but a man could not expect competence to arrive without emulation of those who would teach. The Great Master haunted his dreams and often spoke of the need to discover what must be known. The sand people of Khur had their ways. There was much to be learned here. A small cadre of dissimilar people had gathered near a pile of weapons beneath the blazing bonfires as the shadows of the Standing Stones elongated in their retreat away from the setting sun.

Two individuals were ahead of him. An alluring woman of striking beauty began to disrobe. Xi appreciated the display and unashamedly watched as if her actions were a staged performance. The wooden flute around her neck attracted his notice. Her alluring curves and seductive shape pleased him. She would bear strong children. Xi assessed her as a potential mother and wondered how her gravid curves would change through the nine months of gestation. The simple green dress she chose flattered her and she called herself Veralyn. Maybe she would be interested in a duet. The possibility could be explored. Xi resolved himself to ask, if the occasion presented itself.

The other person ahead of him spoke the native tongue. He seemed confident, as most elves do, but his deportment was alien to Xi. He was much more... refined. Tamire Elves were cruel and deliberate but their customs were similar to his own. The same haughtiness seemed to reside in this cousin of theirs. He bore the aspect of "civilization". It was a strange new concept that Xi had only recently become acquainted with.

"I have only these." Xi began to remove the metal tipped darts from their "nests" within his clothing. It took a while as he worked his way down, taking one from each forearm, three from across his chest, two from the sash around his waist, and one from the wrappings around each ankle. With a smile of apology, Xi bowed and removed the last of the ten missiles from the small of his back beneath the backpack in a smoothly graceful contortion that hinted at his martial suppleness. "Ah, there it is. That is all of them." He gathered the ten small items and placed them together near the discarded weapons of other attendees.

As he advanced toward the Standing Stones and the blazing fires, Xihue wondered if others had watched him as he had watched Veralyn and the elf. What did they see beyond the obvious? Xi was human but like no other human he had seen since leaving Hosk. His honey colored skin had darkened as it tanned in the more direct sunlight of the South. The clothing he wore and the manner in which he robed himself was unique as well. One of the local fighters nodded at him in recognition of the tiger tooth that dangled from a leather strap around Xi's neck. Xi had large, heavy hands with long fingers. His face was hairless and a long, braided black pigtail of hair dropped from the apex of his skull to rest over his right shoulder. Due to his youth, it only reached a few inches onto his chest. There was no apparent need for the shepherd's crosier that Xi used now as a walking stick. He had no flock to tend. The thick dowel in his belt was next to a wooden flute and his travel pack rode comfortably behind his shoulders. All seemed innocuous.

Xi bowed to the Khurish warriors and stepped a short distance away from them and their post to watch others that might arrive. That promise of possibility still idled at the periphery of perception.


 
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Old Apr 21st, 2022, 12:11 PM
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A new Journey
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Tegan’s journey had been strenuous, if not exhausting. It had taken several days to reach the crossing into Abanasinia. Following that, Tegan’s energized legs took him to Solace. There he hoped to find further information about recent events regarding the Knights. The trip to Solace was another four days. By the time Tegan reached it, he was tired of walking. Tegan had grown up in Solamnia, the beautiful and honorable, if grief-stricken, nation. Solanthus had been a fortified city, but that didn’t detract from its beauty. Tegan reflected on the change in the people with the return of the gods. The Temple of the Holy Knights was nigh abandoned with the majority of the Knights gone; most who did stay had by now been slain. They were too honorable and held the Measure too dearly to go into true hiding. The Temple of Mishakal on the other hand grew in favor. Tegan wished that he had spent more time investigating at these temples before embarking on his journey, but he knew that the road was long, and his goal was urgent.

Solace was different than anything Tegan had ever seen. Here the city lay in the forest, high in the boughs of the trees. Very few buildings were on the ground. Tegan was able to spend a night at the Inn of the Last Home. It was in Solace that Tegan was able to meet with his master, Knight Clerist Deryk Uth Owyn. Tegan was able to give a full report of what had transpired since their last meeting. Deryk was a patient, honorable, and compassionate master. He listened intently to Tegan. As Tegan’s tale wound to a close, he explained his need to discover what had happened regarding his father’s soul. Tegan was suspicious that something was horribly wrong and wanted to right the situation. Deryk, being a thoughtful man, pondered Tegan’s queries. Finally, he granted Tegan the right to pursue his quest of a personal nature. He explained that many of the Knighthood had scattered, some to Haven, some even to Sanction. Tegan would have to determine where the road would take him next.

The answer was forthcoming. Spending another night in Solace, discussing with Deryk, and replenishing supplies, Tegan went to bed late. He had tortured sleep. When he woke up, he struggled to remember the slightest detail, but he knew that his father, or some imitation thereof, was trying to tell him something. He could not decipher it. He completed his morning sacraments to Kiri-Jolith and prayed for guidance. For some reason, when he attempted to recall the dream, all he could feel was an intense, searing heat and red, clingy sand. As he recounted that to Deryk, his master suggested that it reminded him of Khur. Having no other leads, Tegan decided that would be the best place to start.

Tegan found himself travelling to Crossing and was able to secure passage on a ship to Sanction. There he was able to offer his services and his sword to a caravan travelling east, through the mountains, to Khuri-Khan. He requested no money – he was not looking for personal gain. The protection granted with numbers, company, and a few meals were payment enough.

The climate was drastically different from his own and his chainmail weighed heavily on him; yet his discipline refused to allow himself to lower his guard. Gradually as the days wore on, Tegan did begin to adjust. It was not his preferred climate and he sometimes wondered whether the sun was really necessary, but he learned to manage. He learned to ration his water, sipping throughout the day, and not drinking in large amounts. One of the locals showed him a wadi that they passed – it was a dry riverbed. He explained that in those areas, sometimes one could find water by digging deeply enough. Tegan was not confident that he would be able to complete that task on his own. He was glad to have found a caravan to travel with. It would be a difficult road when they went their separate ways.

Yet that day came. When they reached Khuri-Khan, Tegan was loathe to leave the caravan. He had actually made a few friends there. The travelers and traders seemed to be more open to foreigners and he had found valuable advice. He had used his knowledge of Khas and his personal set to break a bit of a barrier between himself and the locals. He, of course, was classically trained, yet overall, he lacked the depth of thought to be a true master. Still, he was able to play some fair, fun games and it served its purpose. He was able to lower the guard of those around him. He learned of a festival that was designed to aid those who could not reach the Beyond, those who could not find rest. Tegan spent one night in Khuri-Khan. While he had stayed in town, he had found and bought a wrapping that was able to protect his face from the sand. The storms here were not always thunder and lightning. The storms here were a whipping wind, lifting the earth itself to assail travelers. Tegan had spent days in misery, rubbing the red sand out of his eyes and attempting futilely to keep his mail clean. With at least some protection from the sand, he set out for the festival.

Finally, some meaningful progress. Tegan neared the festival site. Here he noticed that there was a distinctive distrust from the locals. Tegan noticed at this point how few foreigners were actually here. As he passed animals on his way up the rocky slope, he angled his path to where there appeared to be several foreigners gathering.

"Halt, outlanders! These are sacred grounds and no weapons of metal are allowed beyond this point, leave your weapons here or go back to where you came from."

Tegan groaned inwardly. A would-be knight, giving up his sword? His livelihood? His ability to protect the less fortunate? Taking a deep inward breath and exhaling a prayer to Kiri-Jolith, Tegan unbuckled his sword from his belt. He lingered a moment, holding it in his hands. Yes, the sword was well maintained, but it was clearly worn. It had been passed down in his family. Not due to its impeccable finish, but due to its inherit balance and strength. Tegan felt confident that, if it came to it, his weapon would generally be passed over for something a bit more… garish. He also removed his handaxes from the bandolier at his waist. He lay all of these, along with his shield in a neatly stacked pile, close to some of the other foreigners’ items.

As he ceased his lament to the temporary loss of his weapons, Tegan turned his gaze upon his fellows. It was a motley crew of foreigners to say the least. Clearly, they had all come from different walks of life. He felt a bit uncomfortable. He had grown accustomed to change over the last few weeks; it was initially pure culture shock to leave Solanthus and be immersed in this expansive world. Yet here, he felt almost awkward. A woman nearby began to change and remove her metal belongings. Tegan about-faced immediately. His cheeks reddened at the uncouth action, and he breathed deeply. Kiri-Jolith aid me. It is favorable that Tegan missed the nearby man, staring as the woman changed. He would have been compelled to act in the honor of the lady, which would have, at best, been rather uncomfortable of a conversation. He instead was studying an elf. The man was talking to a nearby guard and clearly was able to speak the local tongue. An ally who can speak the local language could be a real benefit. Tegan followed the man as he moved into the festival area. At this point, he was effectively in a small group of foreigners. He noticed that the prior lady now walked nearby on a parallel path. She was clothed in green with a shawl. She had an air of confidence. Overall, Tegan was just glad that she was fully clothed.
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Old Apr 21st, 2022, 03:11 PM
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Talia Dawnstar
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Talia grumbled to herself as the rock strewn ground beneath her feet continued to rise, inch by solitary inch, hour by hour, until she felt as if she were struggling up the side of a damned mountain. She giggled at the absurdity of the thought, as reacquainting herself with her surroundings, the Kender realized she was doing exactly that.

The long journey that had led Talia to this moment faded in her mind as she was overtaken by the wonder in the near distance. The dance of the flames against the immensity of the standing stones made her heart leap and she quickly spun about, a well balanced pirouette as she became one with the flames.

“Alright Pop… I got you this far… not much longer you’ll see. Soon enough you’ll be charting out maps of the hereafter and then you’ll find a way to smuggle them to me. Imagine that… Talia… purveyor of maps to the heavens. I bet I could charge an arm and a leg for each map!”

Talia’s conversation with herself rattled on in this vein for a bit before she was rudely interrupted by a brusque voice, "Halt, outlanders! These are sacred grounds and no weapons of metal are allowed beyond this point.”

The kender ceased her conversation and stood, hands on her hips, looking sternly up at the rough looking gentleman in front of her. “That is quite an ethnocentric point of view… don’t ya think?” Talia asked with an alarmingly raised eyebrow as she finally noticed the other travelers around her.

“I mean if we’re all outlanders… that makes you an inlander? How is that even determined? Was this done by use of precise geographical considerations? Is this area the geographical heart of the continent… because if not then you are making a rude generalization and I would think that since you are obviously the sacred site greeter that you would want to be a bit more welcoming.”

Talia stared at the man’s impassive face and shrugged her small shoulders as she dropped, cross legged to the ground and began a running inventory of her backpack and pouches. “Anywho… no metal here. Just some wood… dried guts for the sling… rocks and stuff… a bunch of maps… which by the way would show you that technically speaking… you’re the outlander. I got a crowbar… oh that’s metal… but it’s not a weapon, neither is this hammer. These are tools… yup I’m keeping them. Ahhh! Dagger… dagger… dagger! Okay… you can have these.”

The kender jumped to her feet, beating the dust from her clothes as she made her way closer to the half-naked woman and piles of weapons and carefully wrapped cloth covered parcels. Talia looked at the well endowed woman… at least from a kender perspective and shook her head. They must be a pain to lug around all the time… like carrying a saddleback on each shoulder. You’ll probably end up a hunchback.”

Before the woman could answer, Talia turned away and looked at the discarded weapons. Like a wine enthusiast faced with an expansive cellar to choose from, Talia quickly took in the bounty before her. She had two daggers in her hand and that gave her two opportunities as she crouched down next to a particularly interesting curved sword.

Talia placed one of her daggers on the ground, the fingers on her other hand tracing over the fine blade, ever so close but not touching it. “So… is this a give one get one type of deal? Or even better… I give two daggers and I get to upgrade… to… let’s say… a scimitar?”


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Old Apr 21st, 2022, 03:53 PM
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Kaylen Nightstone
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Kaylen arrived at an auspicious time to the Standing Stones. The journey had been hard and long on foot. There was a time years ago that she tried to adopt the garb of the locals, using the flowing silks to wick sweat and keep airflow in the hot days under the sun. But that never suited her. She felt unclothed and unprotected rather than the other way around. Despite the heat and weight of her armor, she wore it anyway, keeping the rings of her chain from getting burning hot with a sheer cloak adopted by the Company of the Sun. But it was still hot and heavy and punished every step on the long Khurish journey. The horses and camels in among the tents there made her jealous. Maybe the pain of the journey though, she thought, would help honor the ceremony she had come to be a part of.

Visions of Rolis continued long after she had made her first prayers to Mishakal. Though this festival may be more traditional than religious, she felt the holiness of it. She thought that honoring his memory in this sacred place would probably not ease his path through the Gates, but they may help her to commune with his lost spirit and give him some peace with her outpouring of love.There was always hope that it could do more, but that hope hurt.

It was an auspicious time. The sun still flooded the sky with light but was dipping behind the mountains to the west. To her former mercenary company, the setting sun was symbol of those they had lost. I will pray for yours, too, she thought for her old companions. The dwarf spared a glance at the stone peaks. The Reorxcrown held the new home of her kin. Thoradin was there, not many days away, yet its gates were forever closed to her. Kaylen looked on those distant peaks as she had for years, with a mixture of longing and sadness. But twilight was falling, aided by those mountains, and her time for prayer would begin so she tried to focus on where she was.

She passed the banners of the tribes of Khur and glanced at them. Kaylen only recognized the dragon, symbol of those who ran the capital. That all tribes came here felt comforting They did not get along, but here they did. She felt the peace of that. In front of her and behind were outlanders like her. It was strange to see them all here and she wondered why they each had made this journey. After the first few made it through, she was stopped in turn by the tiger guards."Of course," she said in Khurish. Kaylen didn't have a head for languages, but years under Kef's tutelage had taught her the strange words that were at the same time hard like those of the dwarves and soft like those of the elves. In honesty, she was glad to be rid of her hammer and dagger. She placed them, as the dark-skinned woman with curly hair had, next to the large, carefully protected sword. The other seven piles seemed to belong to the tribes themselves and she didn't dare align herself with one over another. Kaylen covered them with her shield, sure that she wasn't going to need to defend herself here. She looked at the other shield, the one set down by the blonde human and wondered where he had come from. "Blessings of Elir-Sana on your tribe, your family, and your heart," she intoned to the sentries. Not many worshiped Mishakal here, Elir-Sana as she was known in Khur, because war and conflict was a theme of life, but even the hardest warrior could benefit from her blessings and peace was something to be honored here in particular.

Kaylen tried to get the Kender who was lingering by the sword to move away with her. Switching to Common, she said, "That is a conversation for the owner of the sword, I think. Let's go find them." She tugged at the girl's arm gently, "My name is Kaylen. What's yours?" She looked at the others that had gone before her. She thought she recognized the elf but it was hard to say. Faces tended to blend together in all the refugees she had encountered flooding from Silvanesti. "Has anyone been here in past years?" she asked them, hoping to break the ore. Maybe she could get some information at the same time. "I am not sure where I am allowed to go or what the customary prayers are here." She smiled and an odd warmth showed on dwarven features.

Last edited by Hayar; Apr 22nd, 2022 at 06:43 AM.
  #8  
Old Apr 21st, 2022, 05:31 PM
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Aric Armitage
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There was sand everywhere.

That was the only thing on Aric's mind, the only thing that had been on his mind for the last few hours. Sand, and heat, and sweat, and sun. The sun. The sun was the worst of it, beating down on Aric's lithe frame, baking his pale skin to a scaly crisp. He had burned before, burned and peeled and burned again, each time adding a layer of darkness where once was light. He had come a long way, had left his home and crossed a sea, and now he was engulfed in this vast red desert, a desert which he wasn't entirely sure he even knew the name of. This continent might as well be the surface of the moon for all he knew it. Home for Aric Armitage had been a quiet little clearing of a village located in a thick forest south of the ruined fortress of Xak Tsaroth, a nothing little place called Oakgrove. He had spent the first fiteen years of his life there, and only an act of the gods would make him go back. There was nothing there besides a dirty little hovel and the rotting remains of his drunken cripple of a father. Even now, weeks later, the echoes of years of derision rattled around in his mind like a suit of ancient armor that held only bones. No matter how far he had come from Oakgrove, those ghosts remained ever by his side.

It was pure chance that he had even ended up here in the first place. After the long, painful death of his father to an infected stab wound to the guts, Aric had taken what few possessions he felt he could carry - his clothes, some food, his father's long bow, as well as some more mundane weapons. True, he didn't feel very threatening brandishing a fire poker in his right hand and a butcher knife in his left, but he was pretty quick when he needed to be. Of course, that wasn't his forte; he preferred the twang of the bowstring to the slice of steel. But he was no killer, no matter how hard the late Robard Armitage had tried to make him into one. He had been fourteen when he killed his first deer, the arrow piercing the animal through the lung, a bad death. He'd wept as he'd skinned the beast, as his father watched and cursed and demanded his son cut the flesh from this animal that had done nothing to deserve this fate yet had died all the same. He had skinned the deer, had made a haphazard set of armor out of the skin which he still bore. He had salted the meat and cracked the bones and removed the marrow while his father watched and drank and glowered. Every part of the animal was used. That was the way it was done, so his father said. At least Aric could appreciate that. He had taken a life; it was the least he could do to make sure that life was not squandered. He'd even carved a set of dice from part of the thicker bone, dice he'd rolled countless times as he sat and thought and reflected on the life he now lived.

Aric Armitage was a thin, effeminate looking boy with long red hair like his mother's. His mother had been killed when Aric was only a boy of about five or six. She'd tended bar at the local hangout - the only hangout - in Oakgrove. Her name had been Myrrah, and she was beautiful and sweet and kind and now she was dead. Aric didn't know all the details. He'd asked his father once and gotten a hand across the face for "his insolence," so that was the end of that avenue of information. She'd been a simple barmaid at Mychael's Place as far at Aric understood, but according to the old Solamnic knight who ran the bar, three strangers in dark green armor had shown up and tried to arrest his mother. She'd tried to put up a fight, and his father (who still had both arms at that moment) stepped in to try to defend his wife. Ser Mychael had spared Aric most of the gritty details, as at that point he was still only about ten or eleven, old enough to fetch ale for his father. All Aric had known was that he had kissed his mother goodbye one morning, and that evening she was dead and his father grievously wounded. As his maimed father slid quickly into alcoholism over the ensuing years, Aric heard snippets of his father's drunken ramblings, slurred references to "that sorcerous bitch," "those green dragon bastards," and most frighteningly, references to scalping Aric because his hair "looked like hers."

After his father eventually went one step too far with Ser Mychael and got a knife in the guts for his trouble and died, Aric had left. He'd traveled aimlessly around Abanasinia with a hand-scrawled map that had promptly blown away, before finding himself at the farmhouse of Della and Harold Baird, a friendly enough couple in their early sixties. Fate decreed that Aric was available to assist when Della Baird had asked for his help over a warm bowl of stew. After remarking on how quiet Aric was and how similar that somehow made him to her own son, she tearfully broached the subject of perhaps bringing a letter to the man, a Solamnic knight in his early thirties named Brandon Baird. Aric hadn't wanted to pry what the letter was about, but as he chewed a hunk of beef from his stew the blunt Harold grunted that their younger son had been drunkenly working up in the hayloft of their barn, and had fallen and broken his neck. Aric said that was horrible and agreed to bring the letter to Brandon, hoping to just make the nice older woman stop crying. She'd grabbed his hand and called him a sweet boy, and the next day she had pressed a pouch of steel and some homemade buttermilk biscuits in a thin cotton cloth into his hand, and told him to follow the road north and east to the port city of Crossing, where he was sure to find a ship which would take him to Sanction.

It was more or less that easy, though the biscuits hadn't lasted very long on the road north. He practiced his archery, taking down a rabbit unlucky enough to cross his path. He had no vegetables nor cooking pot, so stew was out of the question. What he ended up doing was settling down on the side of the road and making a little fire over which he'd spitted the rabbit and cooked it. It was awful. The outside was charred black, the inside still bloody and raw, and he'd cried while vomiting as he saw the bloody inside of the little rabbit. Something about the whole situation just seemed to tear something inside of him, but at that moment alone on the side of the road, he'd never felt so isolated, so empty. He cried for his mother, for the home he'd left behind, for what could have been. And then he stopped crying. He put another piece of wood on the fire. He cooked the rabbit until it was halfway to charcoal. He ate the rabbit down to the bones. He cracked the bones and ate the marrow, because that was how you honored the kill. He finished his meal, smothered the fire, then set up his bedroll between a copse of bushes where he couldn't easily be seen. He slept. There were no more tears.

He strolled into Crossing two days later, booked passage to Sanction (for much more than he'd been expecting), and without a backward glance left Abanasinia in his rear view. For the first time in his life he was looking forward, though to what he had no idea. He had a mission, of a sort, a purpose. Well, two, actually. The first was the letter, and this was the public mission. He needed to find Brandon Baird, but he needed to also take care not to be too brazen. The world was huge he was realizing, much larger than he had imagined from the insular bubble of the village of Oakgrove. It was large, and it was dangerous, and he didn't know enough about it to know just how dangerous it was. Harold Baird had looked him dead in the eyes and said not to talk too loud about looking for a knight of Solamnia. "No telling who's listening. World's gone to hell in a horsecart, and you're as like to end up dead as not if you go around asking for Solamnic knights. I'll tell you what you can do, though. You know the motto, the Solamnic oath?"

"Yes, I- I know it. Um... hold on, it's been a bit. Err... Est Su... what was that word? Sularis? That's right, Est Sularis oth Mithas. I remember Ser Mychael telling me once, he-"

"Right, that's the one," Harold interrupted. "See any armored up folk walking around looking like they've got a stick up their ass-"

"HAROLD!" his wife shouted from the other room.

"-and say that oath. They look at you blank, move on. It's not failproof, I'm sure there's plenty of bastards out there who know the phrase, but it's better than nothing."

He'd written the oath on a scrap of parchment so that he wouldn't forget it, and placed the scrap in his backpack along with the rest of the gear he'd purchased in Crossing. It was a new feeling, buying something for himself. Having steel. For the first time in his life, a new feeling arose, one which began to compete with the feelings of dread and loneliness and sadness that had been such mainstays in his psyche: that feeling was excitement. I'm going away, he bubbled, and who knows where I'll end up.

The letter was the first mission. The second was the journal. No one knew of the journal, of that he was almost certain. He'd found it one day when he'd been scrubbing the floor, removing some bloodstains that had come from his nose after a particularly staunch backhand from his loving father. He'd noticed the board was loose as he scrubbed, and while Robard snored drunkenly in his room, Aric pried the board up with his long, thin fingers. Inside the little hollow had been a canvas bag, inside of which he had found a red book. There was no title. The cover was dark red leather, and he could have swore it had buzzed - or flashed even? - when he'd touched it. Curious, he'd opened the cover and looked at the first two pages. On the left page, directly opposite the front cover, was a short little paragraph written in flowery script. Aric - the paragraph began. His heart had skipped a beat. That was his name! How had his name ended up in this strange red book under the floor? He read on.

Aric -

My darling little boy, I hope that when you read this it is with me by your side. Yet this world is a cruel place at times, and I fear that one day I will have to leave you. If that day ever comes when I am no longer with you, then I want you to know that your mother loved you from the moment she lay eyes on your precious little body. I want so desperately to give you a life of peace, but this world is so dark, and I can only hide in the shadows for so long. If I am gone when you read this, know that what you hold is very special, and very secret. Don't show anyone in town this book, not even your father. He's a strong man, but I don't think he would understand. I'm afraid he would take the book from you and try to destroy it.

If I am gone when you find this book, then know that this is the most valuable thing I could leave to you son - valuable, and dangerous. If you ever leave Oakgrove - and I pray that you do once you are big and strong - you will find answers with those of the red and white robes, but never the black. Keep the book safe and secret from all other eyes, or you will be in danger as well.

I love you, son. Your mother loves you to the moons and back.

~Myrrah~


That was the first page. The second page made no sense whatsoever. He tried looking at it from different angles, but they weren't even letters, not exactly. Only... What? Only he thought he could almost feel something working in the back of his mind. A twitch, a tickle, nothing more. What was it? He didn't know this language. These weren't even words.

A snort had made him turn quickkly around. His father had begun to wake up, and so he stuffed the book and bag back under the board, where they remained for largely the next two or three years - minus the times when Robard was passed out drunk and Aric felt it was safe for him to look at these strange pages. After his father's death, he'd made sure to bring the book and its canvas bag, which seemed to have been treated with some kind of oil or resin to keep out moisture. The canvas bag was now rolled safely up in his bedroll and tucked away with the rest of his possessions. His big mission, as he called it, was to find one of these robed figures his mother had mentioned. Red or white, but never black. Whatever that meant.

When the ship had reached Sanction, there seemed to be a war ending? Aric had no idea what was going on. There were piles of bodies of armed figures that had been piled up, and smoke drifting up from the embers of what must have been some pretty hellacious fires. It was chaos, and Aric groaned. So much for finding one knight among all this, he groused. He didn't even have a place to stay, hadn't even thought that far ahead. It was pretty childish of me to think that Ser Brandon would just be standing on the dock, arm outstretched, waiting for his letter. He'd gathered up his gear and disembarked into the chaos of Sanction and everything that had followed.




The wind was howling, a gale of red sand that lashed against Aric's red face. He turned his back to the wind and took a greedy draught from his waterskin, the liquid spilling down his parched throat. He fought the urge to guzzle the whole thing. He would survive. He would overcome. He would ask the blond knight just what in the hell had brought him out into this godforsaken country, and hopefully he'd get a good answer. Because right now, as near as he could tell, there was nothing out here but sand and sun and wind. And... stones? Aric peered ahead, trying to shield his eyes from the billowing sand while picking out these strange objects in the distance. The knight was moving in their direction, and Aric had no plans on turning around. And so he continued on.




Robard Armitage had been a "follower" of Habakkuk in the same way that Aric was a follower of the color orange; that is to say, he didn't exactly follow it, but it was the color he liked best. Aric couldn't have recited anything about Habakkuk other than that he was the god worshipped by hunters and nature. When he'd asked his father why it was important to use every part of the animal, Robard had replied simply, "it appeases god." Aric understood this as much as he understood any other important facet of religion - which is to say, not at all. But it was the only god he knew, so it was the one he worshipped, in the same way he worshipped the color orange.

Sanction had recently been freed (perhaps was still in the process of being freed, if the fires were any indication) from what Aric kept hearing be called the "One God," Takhisis. He'd heard the name on occasion between Crossing and here, but he didn't know much at all about who that was or how a god could be killed. Aren't gods immortal? Don't they live forever up in the sky? He wasn't sure, and he didn't have anyone he could ask. But it didn't matter; he was where he was meant to be, and he had a job to do. Not knowing how to proceed, Aric looked for the biggest building still standing with the most guards nearby. Logically, if there were a contingent of knights defending a city, this seemed like as good a place as any.

Unfortunately for Mr. and Mrs. Baird, their son Brandon had apparently made the ultimate sacrifice in helping to retake Sanction, as Aric eventually found out when he'd finally found a knight of a high enough rank who could help him. It was a bit of a miracle he'd even found someone who could answer him amidst all this chaos. Aric bowed his head when he heard the news, but that was all. The world was dangerous, he was discovering, and not everyone got a happy ending.

And after all that, Aric found himself in a ruined city with no real purpose beyond that given to him by a strange book his mother had left under a floorboard. He looked around. There were no red robes, no white robes, no black robes. Everyone was wearing armor, and everyone looked miserable.

A blond man in armor stepped from the building that Aric had left only minutes before. He looked vaguely familiar, but also out of place. For starters, he wasn't covered in blood or soot like many of the others who patrolled around the city. Aric realized he'd seen that same blonde haired man on the ship he'd taken from Crossing, though he didn't know his name or anything about him, but it seemed like he was a knight. The fact that he wasn't being attacked by the other Solamnic knights led Aric to infer he must be one of the good ones. I wonder if I could trust him - not to ask about the book, but maybe to ask if he knows where I could find a red robe or a white robe. It seemed like the man was not going to be sticking around Sanction for very long. Aric saw him negotiating with a bearded man standing by a wagon train. This blonde knight intriugued Aric. All this destruction and warfare and chaos, and seemingly this blonde man had a purpose outside of all that. Aric was not suspicious, but curious. And now he had time to satisfy his curiosity. All the time in the world.

Did the blonde knight know he was being shadowed from Sanction all the way to the strange stones in the desert? Aric didn't know. He was very quiet, preferring to watch this man from afar, trying to judge his character. The man was bulky, like Robard had been, but where Robard seemed brash and uncouth, this man seemed... kind? Was that even possible in this strange new world he found himself in? Della Baird had been kind, but she was an old woman who seemed to be from a world long gone. And his mother had been kind - but she was dead. Would this blonde knight prove to be kind in the end? Aric would have to see. His mother had warned him to be cautious about who he trusted, so before he said word one to this man, he was going to watch and wait and follow.




Of course, he didn't expect the damned man to cross a damned desert! He'd finagled his way onto the caravan, making sure to stay as far back as he could. He didn't think the man would remember him from the ship from Crossing, but there was no point in taking chances. When the caravan had passed through the mountains and reached its terminus, he'd then followed on foot - at a distance, only closing the gap in areas where there was cover. As the ground flattened out he dropped back more and relied on the man's tracks, a skill his father had taught him during their many hunts. He'd hated it then, but it was proving valuable now. But now, in the winds of the desert, following at a distance no longer worked. The tracks blew away near as quick as they were made. And so, with no other choice, Aric had to move up closer. He could see now what he'd spotted further back, these strange stones rising up from the sand like islands from the sea. There were tents as well; seemingly, this was some sort of settlement. A settlement based around stones in the desert? Was that any stranger than a god becoming mortal and being killed, or a boy crossing an ocean simply to deliver a letter to a stranger? Perhaps he might find rest there.




"Halt, outlanders! These are sacred grounds and no weapons of metal are allowed beyond this point. Leave your weapons here or go back to where you came from." The bearded man outside the tent seemed insistent on this point, and Aric was in no position to argue. He looked around. There was actually a growing crowd of people outside this tent, an eclectic bunch of men and women of different races and colors. The tents were eclectic too; he saw animals here and there, just like he'd seen other animals on colorful banners. No way he'd know, not bothering to rollHe couldn't even guess what the significance was. Aric looked from banner to banner, then to the tents, then to the faces of those around him. He tried not to look in the blonde knight's direction. It would be most awkward if the knight were to recognize him now, for he'd surely want to know why Aric had crossed half a continent just to follow him. And the worst part was, he couldn't even really say why.

"S-sure, not a problem," Aric replied, unable to keep the trace of a stutter from his lips. He wasn't afraid, but the man was very direct, and old habits died hard. Aric eyed the piles of weapons, choosing not to inspect the scimitarnot paying any particular attention to any one of them. They were all as eclectic as their wielders he thought, kneeling to place his own strange arsenal on the ground. He saw that some of them had laid their possessions out onto clothes or towels, but he had nothing like that save for his bedroll - and there was no way he would open that now and reveal what was inside. So, on the bare sand it would be. He removed his longbow and quiver of arrows. He placed the fire poker next to the quiver, the butcher knife next to that, and finally the pitch-stained lumber axe that had provided Robard Armitage with a source of income right up until the moment his arm was severed from his body. He didn't know why he'd brought it, he could barely swing the thing hard enough to do more than dent the bark of a tree, but he knew he wouldn't always be weak. His father had been weak - not physically, of course. He'd been weak of spirit. Instead of finding a way to adapt to his new life, he'd crawled into a bottle and died. Aric hated that he shared the same blood as that bastard. Were he ever to find a way to remove that part of himself he would do so with hardly a thought.

The old man did teach him how to shoot a bow, however. That had to count for something.

Aric looked down as his assortment of weapons and felt his cheeks burn - not from the sun this time, but from a strange sense of shame. These people looked strong; they had real weapons, they knew how to use them, and they were here - presumably - for an important reason. It had to be important for one to make such a trek. Meanwhile, here he was, wherever here was, standing around a tent with a group of other strangers in the middle of a desert, this hot, hot, hot desert - all because he'd followed a blonde knight halfway across the continent just to find out if he were a good person?! The shock of how far he had come for such a tangential reason struck him then - or perhaps it was the dehydration, or the fact that he'd never spent so long under the blazing sun without shade or shelter. But that was the moment when his strength finally left him.

"I- I think I need to sit down," he mumbled to no one, and with that, he fell to the sand with a dusty plop right next to his father's old ax.



 
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  #9  
Old Apr 22nd, 2022, 12:29 AM
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Pnoah Seheppen
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Pnoah had had a long trip. It had really started before he even left, at least in tone, when he was summoned to the Office of the Assistant to the Chief Executive Vice-Associate Chairman of Management and Strategem Planning. Pnoah had assumed that he was being given his assignment to the Committee to Remove From Storage, De-Catalog, Re-Classify, Redesign, and Rebuild the Three Dimensional Not To Scale Relative Position Map of the Universe et al, possibly with an assistant sub-chairman position in the wings, considering that he'd actually, personally observed the original TDNTSRPMOTU(et al) when it was originally taken down. Unfortunately, his hopes had been dashed when he was informed that he would not only not be getting a titled post, he would not be on the team at all! Terms like 'limited resources', 'personal qualifications', 'strong recommendations from esteemed persons', were thrown around. The matter was not helped by Pnoah's careless rebuttal and personal indictment of the one who had been given his spot. "You put Grobblebum on the team and not me?? He's incompetent! He's lazy! His personal hygiene is seriously neglected! Yes, yes, I realize he's your nephew, Councilman Throbblebum, but I don't really see how that impacts..."

As fortune would have it, that night he'd been visited by the spirit of his Uncle Thosh. Thosh had visited before, which Pnoah rather enjoyed but never found compelling enough to leave. This night, however, the connection seemed stronger. Perhaps it was the return of the moons. Perhaps the urgency of his uncle's fate was increasing. Or perhaps it was the experimentation Pnoah had conducted with distilled spirits combined with various fungal and mineral elements in an attempt to quantify and catalog the precise measurement of his grief over losing his committee berth, resulting in a superdistilled beverage. Pnoah was no longer able to read his own writing beyond 1.2389 Kilodwarfs (Kd) of anguish, but he definitely made a note to try the experiment again to check for a link to the Underworld Veil...once his liver unknotted itself, of course. Whatever the reason, Pnoah had risen very late and very hung over, shooed his mother out of his room, dunked his head in a bucket of water, and immediately began packing.

By the time he reached the coast, his hangover was mostly gone, and after a few days on the choppy Sea of Sancrist...where he'd designed a weapon to pressurize and project his sea sickness to successfully ward off a pirate attack...he was feeling almost gnomish again. He'd made his way to Sanction by hiring on with varying crews as a repairman, though nobody hired him for more than one leg of a journey at a time, fearful of the various "improvements" he tended to make upon the unsuspecting ships.

From Sanction he joined a caravan that eventually brought him to Ak-krin, though the caravan master had nearly slew him for much the same reason he had troubles with the ships. That is, until he was able to construct a device that masked the smell of the pack animals. The money he made from selling such devices was enough to pay for the journey and pacify the caravan master, as well as pay for guide to bring him the rest of the way to...here, wherever "here" was.

He already had pouches stuffed with sample containers holding various strata of rock, samples of sand, the occasional wiry plant, and other items to study at a more leisurely...and comfortable...time. He was already eyeballing several new formations for sampling when the challenging voice rang out, startling him and causing him to pause. "Weapons of metal, you say?" he asked, fumbling around his various belts, searching for weapons. "Oh!" he said, glancing at the quarterstaff he'd propped into the crook of his elbow as he searched. "Well, no, that's no good...that's made of wood! Very hard wood, of course, hickory if I'm not mistaken, though very often such weapons do have metal banding, which of course this does not as hickory has a tensile strength of...." Noticing the impatient glare from the guard, Pnoah trailed off, muttering, "...I suppose it'll be fine."

Withdrawing his crossbow, he hoisted it up to display it to the guard, which caused several to crouch immediately into combat positions, reaching for weapons. "Oh, what about...oh dear! No no...so sorry to alarm you! Just allowing you to inspect my crossbow, which is mostly wood, though this actually is reinforced with metal and contains several metallic parts, including a very clever gear of my own design here on the end that functions to...ah, yes yes, another time, I suppose. No need to get angry, I'll just err on the side of caution and set it aside." Drawing a dagger from a sheath near his back, he wiggled it in the direction of the piles of weapons. "This too, I suppose, as it's primarily metal, just wrapped with a bit of leather...right, then, one moment!"

As he wandered to the piles of weapons, he noticed the wrapped scimitar and inspected it, stroking his chin. "Ah! Crude, but effective in protecting the weapon from the elements. Very clever, very clever! Let's see...I believe I have something here that will function..." Withdrawing a bit of cloth, he also withdrew several vials and an empty container, pouring and mixing the solutions while dipping various glass rods in and sniffing cautiously at the results. "Oh, no, mustn't overuse that, not unless I want my crossbow back in liquid form! Yesssss...I believe this will help..." Stuffing the cloth into the container, he soaked up all the liquid, then wrapped his crossbow and dagger carefully in the damp cloak. Setting the bundle down, he brushed his hands off, gave a cheerful wave to the dour and suspicious guard, and stumped the rest of the way to the camp.

He spied a group of decidedly foreign-looking (to the locals, anyway, though none of them were gnomish) individuals up ahead. Glad to see someone who wasn't a desert-dweller, other than him, he approached the group with a bright smile, while repeating Talk slowly...short names...talk slowly...short names... to himself, recalling how the first humans he'd encountered had reacted to his usual mannerisms and speech patterns. "Greetings, hello!" he said, trying to gauge which level of education he would need to use. The sailors had been angry when he used words like "incomprehensibilities" and "surreptitious", and had grown even angrier when he tried to simplify his language with sentences like "Me hungry. You give food?" That had been a long voyage. "Good to see some fellow westerners here, I daresay? I'm Pnoah, a delight to meet you all!"

 
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Last edited by Andor; Apr 22nd, 2022 at 01:45 PM.
  #10  
Old Apr 22nd, 2022, 04:08 AM
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Isandril Moonsilver, Wizard of High Sorcery
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Interesting, if perhaps a little quaint, though the sights of the festival seemed to him, Isandril found himself drawn to something else. Something he considered rather unusual. For, while he did think of himself as an oddity, a Silvanesti elf attending a gathering usually reserved for members of the tribes of Khur, he now noticed that he was not the only such "outsider" around. There were humans not of Khur present; a beautiful dark-skinned woman (well, beautiful by human standards), a tall well-built man with hair of gold, another of strange looks and garb and... a boy... or perhaps a youth or young man (difficult to say sometimes with those not of his long-lived race). And... oh Gods! A kender! Was there any place on the continent one of them would not be found? The mage shook his head. No, probably not. Soon enough though, his exasperation increased twofold as the races he viewed as... troublesome actually doubled when he saw a gnome. And at that moment he was oh so grateful for the guards making sure no-one entered with weapons of metal. Though, in the hands of a gnome... The elf found himself hoping this would not be the last year this festival took place.

Lost in thoughts of potential kender- and gnome-wrought mayhem, he almost did not notice one other visitor to the festival until she, a dwarven woman, sought to gently remove the kender girl from the vicinity of the stern guards, who seemed to be getting sterner the more time they spent around the small... borrower. The dwarf was familiar. Concentrating for a moment or two, Isandril searched his memory for the reason why and soon enough he found it. She, along with some friends and comrades-in-arms of hers, had helped him and other Silvanesti reach Khur. What was her name? It was oddly pleasant to the tongue for a dwarven one. Ah, yes! Kaylen. Now, propriety more or less demanded that he speak to her. They were old acquaintances, after all. And he did owe her a debt. But... On the other hand, she was presently in the company of the kender. It was a difficult decision, to be sure, yet in the end...

"Kaylen, yes?" He used the Common tongue, though he had considered speaking to her in Dwarven, both as a gesture of respect and as practice. And, he had to admit to himself, maybe in an attempt to leave the kender out of the conversation. But that would have been... improper, especially with other people present. "You remember me, I hope? You helped me and mine relocate. And for that I thank you." He complemented the words with a bow of his head. "I am not interrupting, am I?" He looked down at both of them, the dwarf and the kender. And while no race can look down on others quite like the Silvanesti, in this case the reason was purely due to a matter of difference in height. Well, mostly rather than purely in the case of the kender.

He was about to say something more when he thought he saw something out of the corner of his eye. Turning towards it, he saw that it was the boy, currently lying face down on the sand.

"Hmm?"

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Last edited by FCastor; Apr 22nd, 2022 at 04:39 AM.
  #11  
Old Apr 22nd, 2022, 08:58 AM
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Talia Dawnstar
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Talia, almost hyperventilating at the smorgasbord before her, was just about to impulsively grab something… anything… from the pile of discarded weapons when she felt a firm tug on her arm. The spell broken, the kender sighed sadly realizing that if she had taken any of the weapons… there probably would have been dire consequences. Talia looked up into the face of a female dwarf, who told her as she directed the kender away, "That is a conversation for the owner of the sword, I think. Let's go find them."

Talia narrowed her eyes as she looked back at the piles of weapons and shook her head. “Obviously the idea here is a sort of grab bag situation. It would be best just to throw everything in a pile, have everyone close your eyes and then spin around three times. Then you pick the first thing your hand falls upon!”

Talia smiled at the dwarf, feeling a bit giddy that she could almost look the stout woman in the eyes… kinda.

“My name's Talia… nice to meet ya for sure. I wouldn’t worry about if you belong here all that much. I’m not supposed to be allowed anywhere. But viola! Here I am! I always seem to end up where I’m at… it’s like magic.”

At that moment a fine looking elf introduced himself and for a moment seemed to purposefully ignore Talia. She couldn’t be certain that was what the man was doing but she was winding her leg up to kick him hard in the shin when he gave a rather polite bow that stopped her in her tracks.

Instead of striking the man, she instead turned her attention to the dead man lying amongst the rock and dust. “Look… he died before he even got inside. What a waste. We should definitely go through his stuff and make sure it gets back to his next of kin.” As Talia skipped closer to the inert figure, a gnome tried to introduce himself but only got shushed for his effort.

“Show some respect for the recently departed. C’mon… help me with his stuff.”


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Last edited by Begon Ugo; Apr 22nd, 2022 at 07:33 PM.
  #12  
Old Apr 22nd, 2022, 01:53 PM
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Pnoah Seheppen
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Pnoah trailed off into a mumble as he was shooshed by a kender, rearranging his gear and pouches to be more secure as an afterthought. "Oh, terribly sorry, I didn't realize...departed, you say? As in deceased? Oh my! Yes, yes, of course I'll assist!"

Oblivious to the fact that he was being shanghai'd into looting a corpse, he did a quick inspection of the body to assess the situation. "What a shame, looks to be rather recent, as well. Friend of yours? My deepest condolences! Err..." He side-glanced the kender, abashed at having forgotten to assess the appropriate level of conversation. "What I mean to say is, you have my sympathies. Very sorry for your loss, that is." There, he thought. If I have to go any baser than that, I'll simply resort to drawing pictures in the sand. Examining the scene, he furrowed his brow, puzzled. "How did he die? Not violently, I hope." He couldn't resist flashing his eyes toward the baleful guards nearby, wondering if the young man had tried to sneak a weapon past.

 
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  #13  
Old Apr 22nd, 2022, 04:06 PM
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A soul in need
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As Tegan began progressing into the festival grounds, a minor commotion behind him drew his attention. Along with the other nearby foreigners he became aware of a young man who had just collapsed. Tegan’s natural instincts to help others kicked in and before he knew it, he had strode back to the piles and knelt down. A Kender and a Gnome were poking and prodding the unconscious boy, talking about his belongings. Tegan pushed himself past them, feeling little resistance. He wasn’t harsh, but he was clearly of one sole focus.

Gently lifting the young man’s head without resistance, Tegan paused. For some reason a vague feeling of recognition came to mind. He struggled for half a moment to remember, but as nothing came to mind, he filed those thoughts away for later and focused on the task at hand. The young man had clearly taken the brunt of the harsh desert sun. His skin, fairer even than Tegan’s, was burnt, blistered, and in some places had begun to ooze. Tegan knew he wasn’t a healer. Racking his mind, he did what he had been taught as a squire for basic first aid. He retrieved his quarter-full waterskin from the side of his pack. It would be warm and leathery from the trip, but it was what he had. Tegan used the water to wash some of the dust that had crusted around the lad’s eyes, nose, and mouth. He was gentle and crooned softly to the boy as he stirred slightly. Tegan looked up and saw that the elf had begun talking to a nearby dwarf. Then Tegan saw the holy symbol of The Lightbringer, of Mishakal. Tegan began speaking before he thought through the connotations of what he said. "My fair lady, you appear to be one who is loyal to the goddess of restoration. While my heart aches for this unfortunate soul, I can do no more than washing his face. Can you offer him your aid; your lady’s aid? I would be greatly indebted to you for this service."

Reaching with the back of his right hand, Tegan gently felt the youth’s forehead. It was exceedingly hot to the touch. I don’t even know truly why I am here. What would possess this youth to brave the desert with not even any protection from the sun?

As the dwarf closed, Tegan let her take the boy’s head in her lap. Tegan removed the scarf wrapped across his face. Shaking out the red dust that had accumulated, he did his best to provide shade to the poor boy’s head. Saying a silent prayer, Tegan waited anxiously, his attention solely on the two figures before him.
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  #14  
Old Apr 24th, 2022, 10:26 PM
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Blyne
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There was no easy answer to the question of how one could become part of cosmic events. This was painfully clear to Blyne, as she felt the red sands try to blow into her eyes, settle into her silken clothes, and chafe her wound in any place that the sands could reach. But as difficult as the question of joining cosmic events was, the young Irda had learned that she wasn't the first to ask this question. Or at least not the first who wanted to see the spirit of a beloved find the rest that they deserved. And so it was that when she heard of this particular festival on the Dark Day in Khur, Blyne hadn't received an easy answer of what she was to do next, but she had found an answer of what she could do at the very least. And while this journey had been obvious to be far and arduous, Blyne had finally set out undaunted and ready to seek her hope in a land so different than where she had come from that she could barely fathom why Reorx had ever deemed it fit to create such an inhospitable place as Khur.

It was after great personal effort and commitment that Blyne found herself climbing this hill now, hiding as much of her current elven appearance as she could beneath her silken cowl and keeping her head low against the wind. The festival had gathered many already and the steady stream of people ascending the stony path marked that the young Irda had set foot onto the last step of her journey into Khur. Just as well as the banner poles of the khurish clans which Blyne could barely place to their totems. She had learned of this festival from an aesthetic when she had still been in Palanthas, yet she hadn't researched these lands at large and aside from the dragon of the Khur clan, she couldn't really match these totem animals to their respective factions. And right this moment she also didn't exactly care that she couldn't. Certainly the clans of Khur were important in some matter or aspect, but tired as she was after reaching this plateau in the evening, Blyne couldn't manage to produce much remorse that this particular human culture was missing from her current knowledge. Much more important is whether their customs can actually achieve what they strive for. It's not exactly divine intervention, but if this is the answer... Mother has been restless for long enough...

Being in the fifth decade of her life, by the measure of her own race Blyne was still dreadfully young. Her body had at least matured, but the Irda was also aware of how much she still lacked. Sometimes she thought it was a miracle that she had even come this far, yet she also believed that it was something that she had earned on her own merit and the merit of her race. And so while the possibility of what could follow attending this festival let her heart beat faster, her determination for succeeding in the coming night was burning as brightly as the bonfires which came into Blyne's view when she finally reached the top of this hill. The sight was exhilarating for Blyne, even if she knew that emotionality carried the risk of being a great burden, but to see her hope responded to with a sight so beautiful and majestic as these fires were was just too great of an impression for Blyne to not be affected by it.

Which only made the shock of discovering the presence of that woman all the much greater. Blyne used to pay attention to many things, but against clouds of red sand and her own budding excitement she had overlooked how she had gradually fallen into step with other outlanders who didn't originally hail from the lands of Khur or belonged to the clans. And while Blyne felt like she was an outlander in any spot on the map of Ansalon, the khurish captain suddenly calling out to her and including her in a batch of several foreigners certainly made his own distinctions. But he was not the human that made Blyne's heart skip a beat in fright. Wait! I know her! Irda minds were sharp and as young as she was, Blyne had always been sharp as well. So while her gaze might have drifted over the woman with the dark curls wearing a cuirass with indifference a few times before, now that attention had been called to their group of outlanders Blyne immediately realized her oversight. On several layers. Her name was... Devari??

For several seconds Blyne could feel her blood rush faster, her heart beating madly when she actually felt cold. Taking it all in from the back of this small gathering, the young Irda had to hold on to her facial expression to not give her mental stress away. She felt no fluster at seeing Devari undress or how she started to fraternize with the khurish captain, Blyne was much more concerned that the woman with whom she had journeyed together through the unwelcoming lands of Taman Busuk was here at this festival at all. And while the captain's request and the actions of the other outlanders were registering somewhere in the back of her mind as well, the dominant thought that crept up on the female high ogre was the danger of being exposed. She isn't looking! Hasn't she noticed?! Oh no, this is so bad! It's a different race, different face... but my clothes are entirely the same! And for the first time Blyne realized that these acts of vanity that she had been allowing herself harbored the risk of grave consequences. Because in her case, by her garb alone she was easily identified.

To Blyne it had seemed rather easy. The other races of Krynn hated the Irda. But envious and flawed as they all were in their own rights, their sentiments were no match against the power to change one's shape as all Irda could. Blyne could choose her hair, facial features even body type, race or even gender all in the blink of a moment and at will. Her lessers would look at her and see what she wanted them to see. And she wanted them to see her as something they would remember. When Blyne had braved the ocean and rejoined the world that only wished that the Irda were already forgotten, she had obviously understood the need of keeping her race a secret. She didn't want the envy and persecution that she was sure to receive, but deep inside there was a part of her that felt rebellious too. If what the unpolished races of Krynn wished for happened, then Blyne as the last living Irda that she knew of had to only disappear for them to finally become able to close the book of history on the last of the high ogres. And deep inside, Blyne simply didn't care to give them the satisfaction. So while they wouldn't know what they were looking at, they would at least know that they were looking at someone. Someone better, if it went as Blyne wanted.

And although Blyne had understood her small act of defiance as vain, she had not felt to be stupid or careless to act on it. Under the cover of a silk weaver, an elf of the name of Blainneth, they could see her and remember her and there was nothing linking her to being an Irda. They could hear her and see her, possibly wonder how intriguing she was, but ultimately a few well-placed lies and a bit of deflection made it impossible for them to find Blyne's true nature behind the deception or what her original race was. So in that sense, there had only been a few moments since she left her home that Blyne had felt standing out had been risky. And in the unfortunate case of Devari, the time that they had shared in the caravan fell right into one of those few moments of irregularity.

Blyne had never thought she would see anyone from that caravan again. And certainly not this soon. During their shared track through the domain of the Knights of Neraka, Blyne had not been Blainneth. She had adopted a human shape and had dodged the racial hate that the knights had for all elves. Elves were closer in beauty to the Irda than humans or any of their racial offshoots, yet Blyne had quickly learned that she didn't want to be an elf in any meeting with the Knights of Neraka. So when she joined that caravan in Taman Busuk, she had simply been a human. And that departure from the norm now came back to bite her. All of this... the silk, the jewelry... does she not recognize it? Oh no, I should have bought different clothes! This is almost impossible to overlook! What explanation can I give? The same guild maybe? People of particular factions wear the same things...

While all the other things happened around Blyne, she was thinking as fast as she could to come up with any suitable explanation that wouldn't paint her as a changer of shape. She and Devari had barely talked, if they had at all, yet the young Irda did her best to recall any and everything about the other woman that she had picked up in passing. And to her chagrin, it was still terribly little. Blyne was going over all of it in her head as the other outlanders reacted to the demands of the captain. Aside from Devari, there was an elven man that complied easily enough, an unfamiliar looking human that seemed inane aside from all the throwing weapons that he had hidden on his body, another knightly human that was about as armed as he looked, a rambunctious kender girl that was terribly contrarian towards the khurish captain and his customs, then a dwarven woman that seemed to know more of Khur, one more human that seemed awfully young and insecure, and finally a gnome who at least made the same amount of spectacle as Devari, though for quite less intentional reasons.

The possible ramifications of meeting Devari here gave Blyne a lot to think about already, but together with the actions of these other outlanders and the demand from the khurish captain still hovering over her, the young Irda saw her desire to attend this festival of song and fire seriously threatened. A few of these new arrivals seemed to be entirely unaware that any insult to the khurish customs might as well provoke the khurish warrior and his men to exclude all the outlanders from the festivities unanimously. And as thrown into disarray as Blyne was by meeting Devari in this unexpected and unfortunate manner, the sorcerer didn't forget for a second how important being here was to her. Did they forget to discard any weapons? Why does the kender girl have to provoke the man as such? Wait... Veralyne?!

Blyne's heart was still beating quickly but inside the utterly turbulent situation, this had almost passed her by. Devari introduced herself not by that name. For a moment Blyne failed terribly to keep the look of suspicion from her face as her thoughts jumped into an entirely different lane. That's a lie! Or... either was a lie. She's a liar! And while that circumstance hardly made the young Irda's situation any better, there was a distinct possibility that the other woman being an impostor as well was just the edge that Blyne had needed. But even if not, I can't risk failing here. It just won't do! As much as she felt in a corner despite all the open space of the plateau around her, Blyne readjusted her thoughts and resolved to push on nevertheless. One step at a time. Freezing up was not an option. I will not let this hold me back!

Blyne didn't think of herself as indecisive and she had no desire to allow such a notion into her heart right now. Her and the others were a crowd of outsiders to the clans of Khur, and while some of them were humoring the khurish captain as best they could, there were a few worrisome elements that made Blyne decide that stepping in was her only option. She had a great worry that the captain could feel as if he was played to be a fool, and such disrespect would threaten years of what Blyne had been meaning to achieve. She rightly had to step in and save the day. And that's what she quite literally did, stepping forward between the others and drawing back her silken cowl with both hands. "Apologies, oh warrior. We have all come a long way."

While she knew quite well how beautiful she was right then as Blainneth was made to look close to Blyne's original appearance while still protecting her true race, the young woman didn't smile for the human clan member. Instead her expression was utterly serene and sincere as she spoke out in front of these unrelated people that spelled trouble after they had been related to her by the khurish man who seemed unwilling to discern them from each other. But Blyne decided to embrace that fact. If he saw all outsiders as potential risks that would trample over his sacred grounds, all she had to do was show him that his worries were misplaced. And although the young Irda could only guess why all these foreigners had searched for a festival that honored the dead to put their spirits to rest, she thought it safer to speak up now and to help all of them rather than to leave things to their course.

"I have made my journey into these lands to honor your customs, proud clansmen. These fellow travelers, I can feel that their sentiments must be near mine in that regard." Blyne didn't know these people. But them being here was a good sign that they had meant to be here. And thus they must have come to respect the festival. Even if some of them had their own ways of showing it. "And while we seek to join your varied people on this day of song, we may hope that you would excuse that we still are foreigners at heart. We know not all of your customs, yet with the help of a guiding hand, I see us attending this sacred ceremony without being a disturbance to none."

As Blyne was making her case as calmly and deferential as she knew to, her turquoise eyes meant to capture the captain's gaze in an attempt to confer how genuinely she meant the truth behind her words. Her currently auburn hair was gleaming reddish in the evening sun, yet among all the other outlanders she only stood out to be as foreign as them to these lands. It was another reason why she thought that the captain might listen to her as their representative. "I sincerely hope for your help in this matter, now that we've come to meet like this. I would have wished to be as unobtrusive to your people as is possible, but in the need of learning more of your customs, might we call on you to teach us?" With gentle movements Blyne unshackled a curved dagger that she kept near to her hips; an intentional marker that she was not to be thought of as an easy mark. She didn't desire any conflict, but an unconcealed weapon acted much more promptly as a deterrent compared to the invisible presence of her sublime Irda magic. Which was what she really relied on, underdeveloped as it was.

The young woman held out the dagger in front of her, but not in an aggressive manner. When Blyne had observed Devari discarding her own gear next to a lone scimitar, the intriguing weapon had stimulated her thoughts as to who it might belong to. But before the Irda meant to add her own weapon to that pile, she felt demonstrating her goodwill could benefit from narration. "This is easily discerned as a weapon made of metal. And all of us outlanders showed our will to discard all which doesn't belong on these grounds. But to ensure no mistakes are made, would you elaborate for us, proud warriors?" Blyne bowed slowly to drop the dagger on top of Devari's gear. The other woman was something she better not avoided without making sure where the lines were drawn, but before such a conversation could happen the captain was more important to sway. "In my own bag I have tools that could be swung like weapons if one meant to. Would these follow under the laws of this ceremony? If you might grace us with the time to correct any mistakes we made, would you please point out any objects that we still hold or any wrong gestures that we might make in our unknowingness?"

With gracefully flowing movements the elven-looking high ogre stood back up straight and gently bowed her head to the khurish captain. Although her tenure on the continent of Ansalon had been a small part of her lifetime, she felt like she was finding the right tone for a male human that begrudged them of their outside interference on the day of such an important ceremony. To honor him, his customs, and his time seemed like the sensible thing to do. And although the captain himself was frustrating in how brash and imposing he had appeared in front of Blyne, she could still show herself sympathetic to his concerns. Which only goes to show that an Irda is even more open-minded as well. If only he respected me as I can respect him. But just before Blyne could receive the favourable answer that she was hoping for, while the other outlanders had started making connections already, she was further interrupted by an audible thud as the human youth had suddenly fallen to the ground. Blyne's first impulse was to go and look after him, but she also didn't dare to turn away from the man of Khur before hearing his answer. And in that small window of hesitation, the knight had already reacted quickly and called over a healer of Mishakal, incidentally the dwarven woman who had taken it upon herself to babysit the kender. Knowing that the sick-looking boy was to receive care from those trained in it, Blyne turned back to the captain and awaited his answer. So much seemed to hinge on this.
 
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  #15  
Old Apr 25th, 2022, 01:53 AM
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Kaylen Nightstone
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Kaylen wasn't certain she could argue with Talia's self-completing logic even if she was smarter than she was. So instead she just smiled and agreed, "That makes sense. I am where I am more often than not too." No one seemed to be coming forward as having been to the festival before. In fact, another elf seemed to be making that crystal clear in her fancy conversation with the tiger sentry. She seemed to be grouping them all together and Kaylen wondered why. What had she missed?

It didn't take long for those thoughts to be put aside, however. The male elf, the one who she thought she recognized earlier came up to her. As soon as he spoke, his name came back to her. Isandril would always stand out to her among the hundreds of refugees she had seen because he had spoken to her in dwarven when they first met. Among the many elves who, even in their exodus, reluctantly allowed themselves to be aided by the motley members of the Company of the Sun, he had been one of their most polite and gracious spokespeople. "Of course I remember you, Isandril." She paused, suddenly doubting her memory of his name. He didn't correct her, but his inscrutable face didn't tell her if she had messed it up. "There is no reason to thank. We were paid for our help. Though I do truly hope you have found comfort in a new home here, as much as it is." Kaylen took one of his hands in hers in greeting. They were calloused but warm. Neither of them had a chance to finish the reunion, however. Isandril caught the motion of the red-headed man behind her in line collapsing.

Though it was her first instinct to feel compassion for the unfortunate human, it was not yet her first reaction to spring into action as the blonde knight did. She still did not think of herself as a cleric in times like these. It was a new life recently bestowed and the old life clung to her stubbornly. When the knight had to politely ask her to render aid, her face turned a shade of red not far off from the person he was helping. "Yes, of course." Isandril next to her also probably noticed the medallion hanging around her neck as the knight had. Seemingly made of pure, untarnished silver and inscribed with a symbol of infinity, it was definitely not with her when they first had met.

Kaylen also picked her way through the Kender and the Gnome who called himself Pnoah to where the knight was cradling the fallen man. It wasn't until she took the caretaker's place and brushed the long, red hair aside to feel his neck that she registered how young he was. He is just a boy! At six feet tall he seemed older but even a dwarf could see the young features on his soft face. His pulse was rapid, his skin hot to the touch. "Roll up his pant legs and check for bites!" she practically yelled. Kaylen's own breathing was rapid now, she leaned her chest over his face to block the sun and gently lifted one of his eyelids. "I think he has been poisoned," she said brusquely, her voice for some reason quavering in worry.

When no snakebites could be found, she mumbled to herself, "The desert is full of poisonous plants." Looking around she saw the wood axe that had no place here on the red rocky ground next to him. He was sunburned and even more ill-suited to desert travel than she was. Maybe he had eaten something! Oh, Mishakal, let him be stronger than this! "I don't have the power to cure him." Kaylen was tearing up at this point. Why she would be so afraid for this stranger went way beyond the compassion of a healer and it wasn't clear why. She looked up at the knight, "I could empty his stomach, but there is no telling when he was stricken. And if it is a belly full of water, he would need it."

Kaylen kept his head shaded with her body and spoke gently to him. "Can you hear me? Can you wake up?" A tear hit his face. "Did you eat something strange? Something raw?"
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