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  #91  
Old Jun 18th, 2022, 01:24 AM
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Aric Armitage
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Relief at finding acceptance and understanding from the kind knight of Solamnia butted against a sort of furious guilt at making the blond man tear up over Aric’s sad state of affairs, and the boy nearly had to grit his teeth. Another victim of my weakness, of my family drama. Would that I were strong. Would that I could just will these feelings away, instead of unloading my burdens onto innocent bystanders. The two emotions of relief and guilt were strong and yet divergent, a magma flow meeting the sea, creating a swirling mass of steam which mirrored the confusion Aric now felt at this new milestone of his relationship with Tegan. I have told him - but what now? Aric was unaware of Tegan’s thoughts of following the boy where he went, and had he been he would have raised his hands in a warding off gesture as though to say ”No, don’t follow me, for I know not where I am going.”

"Th- ahem." Aric cleared his throat. He was sick of stuttering, sick of his cowardice ruling even his very speech. He took a deep breath and forced himself to talk in a slow, even manner. It may not have sounded natural, but damn it if he wasn't in control of it.
"Thank you sir for your understanding." So far, so good. "I think I will accept your offer and talk more about myself tomorrow. It has been a long day, and that fire looks welcoming." He gestured vaguely toward the others, wondering if he sounded as wooden as he felt. The truth was that he was barely hanging on. Tegan had shown a great measure of acceptance
Pity, you mean
and would surely understand Aric needing a bit more time.
It might have been better if he'd just hit you - after all, wasn't that what you were gearing up for that whole time?
Shut up. Just shut up.

”Thank you again, ser- Tegan... I- I didn’t mean to make you cry too. he said softly, before quickly turning away and running off toward the bonfire.




Aric didn’t especially want to be around more people right now. His emotional state felt like a piece of meat that a butcher had been working over with a hammer for the last two hours, and his leg muscles had reached the consistency of jelly. He found a spot around the dwindling fire and plopped down into the sand with a dusty thud. The trip had been so long, so physically demanding, yet he had pushed on with aplomb, his young body undeterred by late nights and long miles. But today, he had reached his limit, pummeled by the suns rays and stricken with exhaustion for his lack of obeisance toward the desert heat. He had seen others wearing loose, light fitting garments and pale wraps of cloth arranged just so around their heads. They were sweating, yes, but they were not overwhelmed as he had been. I did this all wrong. I did all of it wrong. Mostly because I was clueless about where Tegan was leading me, but more than that, because I just never comprehended the world could be as vast and as different as it is. Oakgrove was just a clearing in the forest that I called home, but there is so much more to the world. I- I think I’d like to see some of it. Or, I guess, the parts that are left now that the war seems to have ended? Aric did not have much of a grasp of politics at large, but it seemed if he wanted to get on in the world he’d have to be a quick study.

The physical toll had been great, but today the emotional toll had been nearly as exhausting. Aric proceeded to unwrap his bedroll and spread it out atop the sand, making a point to keep the journal hidden from view. Like the rest of his planning, he’d not made prior arrangements for sleeping, not even a blanket, so proximity to the fire was going to have to be enough. The cold of the desert night was such a shocking contrast to the immense heat of the day. Aric went through his pack and pulled out a second set of clothes, which he proceeded to dress in. The furs he had brought from home, that he had collected himself from one of his earlier hunting kills, kept him warm enough – just. The boy looked across the hazy smoke of the fire, even as his breath steamed in the cold desert night.

There was the kender, Talia, whose size was disproportionate to the amount of trouble she had caused today. The gnome, Pnoah, he of the pleasant watery mists and studies of stone, was speaking with the motherly dwarf Kaylen. Aric smiled at the two of them from atop his bedroll. They had both helped him out earlier in the day, and though he didn’t know everything about their stories, strife and circumstance had brought them together today, albeit tangentially. He was sure tomorrow they would depart and he would never see them again, but he knew he would not forget them easily either. And who knows? The world was bigger than he thought, but it wasn’t that big. Perhaps he would see them again.

Nearby he saw the elven mage Isandril speaking with the sage young man Xihue. Aric sighed. He had tried hard to get the mage’s attention today, but circumstances always seemed to be against him. He wasn’t sure if he would have another chance, depending on when the elf left the festival, but the weight of exhaustion was such that he didn’t know if he was even ready to start that conversation tonight. Do I have to – I mean, honestly, do I think that I’m going to awake at first light and there will be nothing but smoldering embers and a few fading footprints to signify that he was ever here? I’m sure I’ll have occasion on the morrow. Besides, I was always taught not to interrupt my elders, and I would not want to interfere with their conversation. The two of them, Xihue and Isandril, were so mysterious and intriguing in their own unique ways, Isandril for his capabilities with magic – of which Aric actually had no real grasp of the scope of, and Xihue for his strange manner of speech and philosophy about the world. Aric found himself calmer every time the strange man talked. I bet he would have plenty of interesting stories and fables to tell around the fire. I’d love to hear all of them. Of course, that was just wishful thinking. Just like the gnome and the dwarf and the elf, Xihue would probably be gone in the morning as the festival wrapped up, off to whatever far-off foreign land he was from. I’d like to see where he’s from, he thought suddenly. I wish they didn’t all have to leave. It’s been – well, I don’t know if it has exactly been fun, but it’s been a unique experience getting to know all these interesting people, even if only for a day.

Sitting in the glow of the fire, Aric began to trance out as fatigue washed over his tired body. He yawned into the night, the mist rising from his mouth. The Khurish prince Jabbal was seemingly doing his best to be a gracious host, trying to engage with each of them and discover what circumstances had brought them here. Aric had no wish to share his tale, such as it was, with the man who had only a short time ago tried to rile a mob up against the nine of them. As Aric
Dice * Deception:
1d20 3
feigned sleep to avoid questioning, his slitted open eyes realized that they were an outsider short. He had just left Tegan, and there was Veralyne, Pnoah, Isandril, Xihue, Kaylen, and Talia, as well as himself. Where was the other elf? Blainneth*, he thought her name was, although he was struggling to recall seeing her since they had first entered the festival grounds. Aric subtly looked about the fire, but saw no trace of the verbose elven woman who had made such a great impression on the captain of the guard. He almost said something, then remembered that he was trying to sleep. Whatever she was up to, it was her business.



*Let's see how long my brain retains the right name...
 
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Last edited by Noquarter19; Jun 18th, 2022 at 09:12 PM. Reason: fixed broken url tag. Corrected Blyne to Blainneth.
  #92  
Old Jun 18th, 2022, 01:42 PM
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Talia Dawnstar
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Talia was angry. It was not an emotion she indulged in frequently… or ever for that matter. Life was much too short and interesting to spend it in misery and sorrow’s touch. But… she was angry and those with an ounce of self-preservation knew that it was not wise to anger a kender… not wise at all.

The small thief sat on her pillow, her eyes narrowed as she looked about furtively. When she saw that everyone’s attention was elsewhere, Talia looked into the pouch she had borrowed from Jabbal… a quick glance. What she saw made her giggle with happiness and more than just a touch of vindictiveness.

A pair of golden earrings stared up at her from the depths of the pouch… curled dragons with shining eyes. Talia quickly closed the pouch and sequestered it somewhere on her person. She continued to sit, suffering through her punitive purgatory as she pondered just where those precious earrings could do the most damage.

Talia surveyed the camp, her mood suddenly lightened. It was not wise to anger a kender.


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  #93  
Old Jun 19th, 2022, 08:05 AM
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Isandril Moonsilver, Wizard of High Sorcery
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"My magic showed me what gnomish science showed you and Pnoah," Isandril replied, nodding his head as he tried to digest what the human was telling him. "Caling them trapped seems accurate enough. There is much rage and hate coming from within the Stones. From humans and elves and more." He sighed. "But if one of those souls shared the song, a Silvanesti lullaby, with you, could that mean that the ones imprisoned within come from all over Ansalon? Krynn even? Could these artifacts, this monument here, be simply a doorway of sorts or the actual reason, or at least part of the reason, that..." The mage stopped then suddenly. "Perhaps we should discuss this further at a later time? Away from prying ears. And maybe... maybe not just between us two." He turned to look at the other outlanders before smiling. "For now, I think we should play the parts of courteous guests," he suggested before turning his attention, at least for a time, towards Jabbal.

"Originally I come from the forest of my people, the Silvanesti," he replied, acknowledging the prince's questions. "But currently? I assume you know well enough, given how my people have been driven from our ancient home." He took a deep breath. The thought was painful one. "As for why I am here, I can give two reasons. One having to do with whom I have lost; my sister, my twin, half of my heart and soul." He briefly glanced at Xihue before continuing, his eyes on Jabbal again. "And the other having to do with what I am; a mage, a seeker of knowledge and all that it brings with it." He took a sip of the tea, speaking no longer. He had shared what he had and wanted to share for now. Instead, he remained for a little time longer, listening to the others, before excusing himself once again and walking about the festival area and the bonfires looking for the strange human boy who had made such an impression on him.

There must be more to his story, he pondered as he searched, having already decided to show Hashem a bit of magical fire. But not before he had gotten something in return, the entire reason behind the young man's obsession. Could it perhaps be that the boy had the gift of magic? He had discerned that Isandril had been speaking not in Elven but in Magius, even if he had not known the actual name of the language. Still, he had remembered it from some past encounter. Either way, the boy had piqued his curiosity and that had always been both a great strength and weakness of his.

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  #94  
Old Jun 21st, 2022, 07:43 AM
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After her song had finished Devari had settled into sombre meditation, so much so that she only gradually became aware of the situation which had overtaken the festival. She found herself sitting back on the velvet cushion and watching from afar as Pnoah and then Talia became the targets of the wrath of the tribespeople. She watched also as the other outlanders came to their aid and defused the situation. None of it moved her. Instead she sat in wonder, reflecting on what had just happened to her.

The song which she had sung had seemed to fill her, to take over her entire body in its compulsion to be born. For a timeless moment she had been something else, something more than this poor little girl pretending to be a noble. She had been a conduit for something pure, and although she thought that being merely a vessel for something else should have diminished her, in actual fact it had made her feel whole.

Had this been how her mother had felt in the spotlight? Had everything else just fallen away? The watching crowd, her own fears and preoccupations, her very self, so that what was left had stood outside of the world, a complete and self-contained reality all of its own? If so, Devari could understand now why she had sometimes seemed so distant, and why she had always refused to give up on the stage, even were times were getting hard. It had felt like a taste of the divine.

Slowly her mind came back to the here-and-now and she looked around dazedly. The girl who had attended Jabbal, Neilah, was standing beside her, watching her with… wonder? Had she said something? Devari could vaguely recall neilah having hugged her after the song ended. She smiled at the girl before her attention was pulled back to the confrontation nearby, where Lord Jabbal suddenly seemed to be welcoming the outlanders back to his fire. Devari squirmed uncomfortably despite the luxury of the pillow she sat upon.

"Your Lord is truly magnanimous," she said to Neilah, only the twinkle in her eye betraying the sarcasm in her words. "It is little wonder that he is so beloved of his people. Let us hope that never changes, because without their support what power would he have?"

She only had time to plant that one seed because Talia had then plonked herself back on the pillow beside her, her face a mask of fury. Devari kept her mouth shut, unwilling to be the one on whom the small woman's anger was unleashed. Instead she stayed silent as several of the others joined them and Jabbal refused to stand up for the kender. Of course he wouldn't she thought, there is nothing noble about this man. He is as venal and self-serving as anyone. The thought was oddly comforting, even in this foreign land she knew precisely where she stood.

She had settled back into her customary role and was smiling and nodding as others spoke, even bowing her head in approval as both the gnome and the swarf stood up for the kender. The little people truly did stand up for each other! It was only long after the moment had passed, while the elf was telling his own abbreviated tale, that she realised that she could have stood with Talia too. She looked at the kender, who was currently pushing a pouch into a fold of her clothing, and for a moment it was Amare sitting there beside her.

Why didn't you help me? she said, those big brown eyes full of pain and confusion. Devari shook her head and put her arms around the girl's shoulder.

"I'm so sorry," she said, her voice choking, "I was just waiting for the right moment…"

She trailed off as she realised that she was cuddling the kender rather than her dead sister. As usual she hid her discomfort behind a big smile, and turned back to the company to avoid any awkward questions. She wanted to get Jabbal talking, and if she was any judge he would probably be happy to talk about one thing; his own greatness.

"My Lord," she said, acknowledging Isandril's contribution with an inclined head but directing her words towards the tribesman. "I am sure we have all heard the tales of your own exploits already, but surely they are exaggerated! Would you honour your guests with your own story?"

 
 
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  #95  
Old Jun 24th, 2022, 12:14 AM
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Blyne
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All of Blyne's senses were focused on Besimeh in the moment of her revelation. It had been a difficult step for her to take. One that she dreaded yet was also thrilled by. She had begun to mentally prepare herself for both cruelty and rejection despite all the signals that the khurish woman had sent before, yet when her true shape was revealed after discarding the appearance of Blainneth, Blyne was relieved to find no actual fear and not the derision and jealousy that she once believed all humans necessarily felt for the Irda. And yet Besimeh's reaction wasn't positive either. Blyne's nerves were raw by how far she was stepping out of her comfort zone. The distance that she gained from not being herself while walking across Ansalon had given her the illusion of being untouchable many times. There had been moments when she had been harshly reminded that this wasn't the case and that especially an elven appearance drew hatred from those with lesser minds, but at large the young Irda thought herself superior both because of her sorcery and of course due to her heritage. Blyne had hoped that instead of evoking jealousy from Besimeh the Todoon woman might come to admire her instead. With her silver eyes peering into the heart of this human, the blue-skinned woman saw some of that once she was revealed. Yet it wasn't truly what she had hoped for. A pang of unwanted emotions shot through the young Irda's chest as she saw Besimeh reach out, falter, and then give up, all in the same breath. A part of her hope was crushed right then. That was not what the khurish woman had promised.

It was all bared before the discerning eyes of Blyne. Once more her intuition was heightened to extremes and she observed Besimeh finding herself shaken by being confronted with the perfection that was a high-ogre. It was what Blyne should have expected would happen. Only seconds ago she had told herself that Besimeh's lack of understanding disqualified her from fully meaning the oath which she had uttered so passionately. She swore to not let me down. Yet I see her wilting before me! Besimeh had wanted to touch Blainneth before, possessively even. It hadn't been the most welcome kind of attention when the merchant had eagerly dragged Blyne in the direction of her tent before they had been confronted by Omeir. Yet seeing the human woman falter when faced with Blyne's truest appearance robbed the exposed Irda of some of the thin confidence which she had been developing with every pretty encouragement that Besimeh had offered to her before. I knew that I couldn't trust her in that... It doesn't matter. Look. She is not... casting me out yet... Doubts were flooding Blyne's thoughts even more than before, but she maintained part of the discipline which she had lacked earlier. After all she had made the decision to reveal herself entirely consciously. Besimeh's extended hand was faltering, yet she hadn't pulled it away yet. Literally she had, but Blyne could see on the khurish woman's face that her mind was yet open to possibilities. I need her to see me clearly! I need to tell her my story! And so although Besimeh's human nature had betrayed what she had promised before, Blyne stayed the course that she had meant to take. It wasn't that she had many other choices and there was still hope. And the young Irda clung to it as she had in the past.

Blyne could see clearly that Besimeh had not been prepared to meet a high-ogre in the slightest. Much less an Irda. Opening with the history of her race which was also the history of the world, Blyne spoke with patience but of course Besimeh's surface was still dusted with a lack of understanding. The young Irda was confident in her ability to talk though, and she trusted herself that she was able to explain anything that Besimeh failed to comprehend, small has her view of the world was compared to how large she had thought it to be before. The young human was a merchant of her desert people, and while the young Irda kneeling in front of her had nothing exceptional to her name compared to her own kind, even the most fledgling of high-ogres was living a life at the edge of mortality by merely existing. It had always been an unfair comparison to make, yet part of what Besimeh was lacking distinguished itself through a visible lack of knowledge. This Blyne felt motivated to help her with. "The ogres are villainous and not at all comparable to what they once were. There is good reason that we who have kept ourselves are duly named high-ogres." Blyne made sure that there was no chiding in her voice. It wasn't Besimeh's fault to have been born as she had. Only if she were to turn away from Blyne's words would she be responsible for her own ignorance. "And the matter of the Graygem is an easy falsehood that has been spread about my kind. Of course, how could we refute it when chaos destroyed the sole center of our civilization first. The Irda would have been too great a force if they had decided to oppose what was unleashed from the Graygem. My parents were fortunately away from their homelands at the time of catastrophe, yet how could a mere two Irda have contested what jealous minds would like to pin on the dead who can't defend themselves?" Blyne couldn't entirely hide her sorrow as she told this part of Irda history just how it had been told to her by her mother. The lesser races of Krynn truly needed to cover up the strife that they brought to the world and ogrekind had always been easy to blame. They all lacked the knowledge that the Irda were not the same as their evil progenitors. Right now in Besimeh's tent, it was important to Blyne to clear up as many misunderstandings as she could.

Although Besimeh's initial reaction had been mixed and the awe which she felt was less comfortable than the vision of the encouraging merchant which Blyne had wanted to see in her before, she did after all keep most of her word and visibly aspire to hear those truths that the tall Irda woman had to share with her. Blyne had never told her own story before. There hadn't been anybody to entrust it to. The aesthetic in Palanthas hadn't required a tale to be forthcoming with his own knowledge. Yet Besimeh needed to be purer for Blyne to receive the help that she craved, and so her tale poured out of the lonely Irda in a firm, yet at times melancholic voice. Only a few times did Blyne's flaws of emotionality rear their head as she raised her voice and proved herself to be vulnerable in front of Besimeh. By the end of it she had managed to get everything across that she had meant to tell Besimeh, and it all ended on the one question of how much Blyne was lost. And this lifted a seal within the khurish merchant. When Blyne had been unable to hold her gaze any further, Besimeh finally overcame the barrier that Blyne's perfection had put between the two of them. And although the human's eyes welled up with tears and her hand was still shaking, this time she did allow herself to touch the taller woman as her fingers merely grazed Blyne's cheek and bade her to open her silver eyes again. Besimeh's touch had lost all of its possessiveness, and this time it was much more comforting to find the merchant still willing to extend her hand as Blyne looked at her again and truly listened. This was what she had exposed herself for. This was the hope that she had begun clinging to unwittingly. Despite Besimeh appearing visibly clouded by her wealth of emotions, Blyne made sure to capture everything that this outlier of a woman was able to impart to her. To judge what she could take from it and to commit it to memory.

Besimeh's revelations to Blyne came with the exposure of her own heavy heart. And as Blyne had begun to think of her as a mirror of sorts, it showed through how despite their unfathomably great differences there was a true likeness between this human and Irda, who were both still young for their respective races yet both old enough to have gathered enough experiences to know that they still hadn't learned to live well enough. It touched Blyne deeply to find that she hadn't fully misjudged Besimeh in the end. And while the khurish woman demonstrated a few things that Blyne didn't want to accept about herself, right then there was such a connection between the two women in this tent that Blyne couldn't turn her eyes away to the similarities between their fates. In this moment Besimeh had forgotten about her previous notions of a possible romance, and she gave all that Blyne truly needed from her. A different perspective, yet so eerily similar that it helped the young Irda to reevaluate certain aspects of her own story. Blyne had confided in the first person that wasn't her mother and as Besimeh returned the gesture, both of these struggling women each learned about themselves that night, possibly as much as they learned who the other was. When Besimeh wept, Blyne found herself confronted with more emotions than she ever allowed herself to feel. And although she kept true to her mother's teachings, by the end of the merchant's story she had felt many things, and thus she was left feeling just as exhausted as if she had wept herself. So it's us who can't let go... Is that the lesson here...?

When Besimeh had finished her own tale as well, right then Blyne had no immediate words to return to the other woman. The human woman needed time and the same was true for her tall, blue-skinned counterpart. Ultimately, Blyne's insight into Besimeh had been so keen the entire evening that right then she hadn't even needed any further confirmation that the khurish woman planned to do her utmost to honor her trust. The entirety of exposing herself to Besimeh hadn't at all been what Blyne had expected, even though she had been able to predict a lot of it. Yet truly experiencing it and feeling another being affect her thoughts as nothing had in such a long time was nothing that the young Irda could have ever truly foreseen or even understood beforehand. And this process of sharing had taken a lot of energy out of her, even though she had only kneeled in the middle of this luxurious tent throughout all of this inner turmoil. Somehow Blyne was feeling less shaken now, even though it seemed as if there was no actual certainty to be had here. Whatever had happened here today had been foreign to Blyne although she had already lived half of a human's lifespan. And when Besimeh announced that they should sleep now, it was an idea that appeared much more welcoming to the tall high-ogre than she had ever believed possible when Besimeh had made mention of inviting her to her tent at the very first step of their fated meeting. Just that now everything had happened entirely differently than either of the two women had intended when their eyes had met the very first time across the festival grounds. They both needed time to develop new understanding from the things that they had heard today, and even the mention of Ilhem and Rishan wasn't able to get much of a rise out of Blyne anymore. As she felt her decison to stay the night in this tent become concrete, there was only one more misconception to rectify as the shapeshifter began to shrink and turn back into the elven appearance of Blainneth. "You have my trust, Besimeh. We will talk. And as you, I need more time to reach clarity." Only subconsciouly did Blyne remember how much more time to reach clarity she had compared to a human. "Now I've entrusted you with my identity. And there is one more thing that I want you to know about me. As an Irda, I do not carry an elven name. I want you to think of me how my mother has named me. Even though I don't think it will be reasonable for you to call me so either publicly or privately. My name is Blyne. Please add it among the secrets that even those who are closest to you may not know about me." There was a small pause as Blyne spoke to draw the lines of their small inner circle. "You are the only one that I've ever told my tale to." Now returned as Blainneth, she regarded Besimeh with all of her sincerity. "I... thank you..." And although the false appearance of the elf didn't smile and Blyne's heart was the opposite of light, her thanks couldn't have been more genuine had she talked to another Irda instead.
 
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  #96  
Old Jun 24th, 2022, 05:26 AM
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The Long Night


Peace returned to the sacred grounds of the Festival of Fire and Song or so one watching the great bonfire of the Khur tribe would have thought. In truth the calmness was superficial, unable to penetrate the minds and hearts of the outlanders. There was still much inner turmoil, unrealized hopes, unanswered questions. What had the foreigners expected? That the souls of their loved ones would be free to travel to the Beyond, just like the sparks escaping from the bonfire in order to ascend all the way to the starry sky? Was such a thing even possible?


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Fire and Song


The people of Khur did not seem to possess an answer to this question. In fact they did not appear to understand their own rituals any better than those foreign to their customs. If there was any deep knowledge among those gathered at the feet of the Standing Stones, mourning the ones they had lost, it remained hidden and out of reach.


Having experienced much, though not necessarily what they had expected, or been looking for, the strangers turned to each other in hopes that when the shards of the broken mirror were put together the image it presented would become more clear.


The children of Reorx, both born from the earth’s womb, sought to better understand the mystery of the Stones. The insight they had gained was profound, the gnome having possibly discovered more in a single night than whole generations of pilgrims visiting the monoliths had been able to learn in the centuries after the Cataclysm, and yet it did not present Pnoah with a solution to the problem he was determined to solve. As for Kaylen, if it was indeed Mishakal who had led her to this place, it slowly became clear to her that the goddess had not done so so that the dead would find rest, but in order to have her priestess’ gentle hand right the wrongs of the living. It was through the dwarven woman’s touch that peace had prevailed and a young man’s fate had been changed, though if such a thing was for the better only Zivilyn could have foreseen. Still, how could acting out of compassion ever be wrong?


Xihue of the Alan-atu and Isandril of the Silvanesti sought to find an answer to another riddle, that of the melody that had come out of the reed the human’s hands had so lovingly carved. It was a melody the man of Taladas had never before encountered and yet it was one that was familiar to many of those who had spent their first years underneath the canopy of the sculpted trees of the Silvanesti forest. Many elven mothers had put their children to sleep with this tune on their lips and many would continue doing so in the years to come. Was one of them imprisoned inside the Standing Stones, singing for eternity in hopes that her children would one day come to free her? Or was it the children who had been doomed to spend their days and nights as living statues and sang this song to forget the agony of their tortured existence? There was no way of knowing with certainty. As the human once more brought the flute to his lips, hoping that a new bond could be established, the music that came lacked inspiration, it lacked a soul and a spirit. It was the music of a man who had walked for many, many miles through the desert and weariness was finally catching up with him.


The elven mage was more successful in his pursuits, finally able to locate the strange boy that had managed to draw his attention in such a unique way. Hashem was standing next to one of the monoliths, staring at it intensely, his small hands wrapped around something that could not be readily identified. The boy, ever curious about the world around him, appeared to be aware of the faces inside the Stones. But stone was not his primary concern. It was fire, the element that had ended the lives of his family as a blaze destroyed much of the nearby town of Pashin. Hashem claimed not to be afraid of fire. On the contrary he sought to master it so that such a tragedy would never occur again.


To this Isandril had no answer. What aid could an elf, only recently reacquainted with the magic of the moons, be able to offer an orphan from Khur? Even in the days when the members of House Mystic commanded power and respect both among the Silvanesti and the Orders of High Sorcery, no elven mage would have considered teaching a human boy the Art. How could such a short-lived race be able to follow along the secret paths to knowledge the elven mages walked? It was impossible. Isandril suggested a letter of recommendation, the first step for Hashem to be accepted as a wizard’s apprentice and though the boy nodded, there was no fire inside his eyes. When the Silvanesti returned to hand over the letter he had written, Hashem was nowhere to be found. In his place lay a small mass of metal, possibly bronze, so badly corroded that its shape was indistinguishable. It seemed to be the only legacy the strange boy had left before vanishing in the night.


A different boy, a different orphan, did not disappear like Hashem did. Instead he chose to open himself to another, a kind soul that had been brought up in love and taught to live with honor above all else. Aric and Tegan sat next to each other, two young souls feeling a connection that had not been there before. Or maybe it had and they just now realized it. Much was left unsaid, but it did not matter. Time was needed for such things, for trust to be gained, for friendship to flourish, and the first step had been made. Would Tegan’s faith grant Aric the peace he longed for? Would Aric’s experiences show Tegan a world that was very different from the one the tales of the Knights of Solamnia presented? Perhaps. For now one young man sought shelter in silence and feigned sleep and the other in the certainty that as long as he strove to protect the innocent his life had both meaning and value.


The last two of the foreigners that had accepted, or been forced to accept, the Khurish lord’s hospitality, appeared to be trapped in their own worlds. Talia’s world was one of anger, filled with bright reds, oranges and yellows that covered all other colors. One would not normally expect such emotions from a kender, rumored to ever be cheerful and without a care in the world. Despite being free of Malystryx’s curse, Talia was not free of the pain the loss of her father had inflicted upon her. He had been her all and everything and to lose him, or rather to know him lost, him the best navigator Krynn had ever known, had completely thrown her off course. The girl had hoped that this festival would have been a compass to help guide her father to his final destination, but all she had encountered here was prejudice, intolerance and lies - lies everywhere she looked! Taking a glance at the pair of earrings she had “found”, the kender grinned, though there was no joy in her visage. Talia had not yet had her final word. Kender had been around for thousands of years and still the tall races had not learned that they were not to be underestimated. Well, they would learn this lesson eventually. By Gilean they would!


Devari’s world in comparison was dour, filled with dark blues and deep purples, much resembling the night that surrounded her, a night unlit by the great bonfire the woman sat next to. She had thought that she was beyond such things, untouched by events like her mother abandoning her or her sister passing away miserable and alone. Her chosen persona, Veralyne, had never had to come to terms with such misfortune. She was a strong woman, the mistress of her own fate, a lady to be worshipped by her lessers. But that did not mean that Devari shared those characteristics as well. A mask, no matter how elaborate, merely served to cover the truth, not change it. It was at this moment that the young woman realized that it wasn’t poverty or the lack of relatives and friends that was weighing her down. It was guilt. For a moment the mask cracked and Devari was horrified to see what lay beneath. Thankfully, the tears went away as quickly as they had come and the woman’s ever present smile returned, more brilliant than ever, more hollow than ever.


As the outlanders talked or remained silent, formed bonds between them or refused to trust each other, Jabbal listened and observed, a great spider at the center of an intricately woven web. He learned of the trapped souls within the Stones and started thinking of ways to exploit them. He saw the kender fuming and realized that even the slightest push would result in getting her and all those foolish enough to vouch for her banished from the lands of the Mayakhur - or worse. He spoke about himself, his favorite subject, and the trust the Khan of Khans had placed upon him, choosing him, his nephew, to attend the festival in his stead. Finally, he asked his cousin to sing and she complied, her song now even more beautiful than before, the pain in her voice touching even the hardest of hearts.


The long night went on and on, songs alternating with periods of silence, the light of fire struggling to keep away the darkness, while the Standing Stones and their mysterious inhabitants watched silently what transpired around them. Only as the last star vanished in the sky, the gloom of the night slowly giving way to the soft pink hues of dawn, did the Bearer of the Sacred Spear bring the Festival of Fire and Song to its conclusion. Though the foreigners had for the most part remained untouched by its magic, they saw that tranquility filled most of the faces of the nomads as they hugged one another before heading off to their tents at the base of the hill. Had they done something wrong or did only the people of Khur benefit from the blessings of the Standing Stones?


Whatever the case, the eight were too tired to think about such things now. Jabbal, ever gracious, offered them fresh goat's milk and delicious biscuits that smelled of cinnamon, caraway, aniseed and mace, before inviting them to rest in one of the tents normally reserved for his entourage. He would like to speak with them later, he added, after they had rested. When he called his cousin to follow him to his own tent, the largest and most luxurious of all, claiming that he still had not grown tired of her singing, Neilah silently complied, her body wooden, her eyes dead. She knew well what it was that Jabbal desired and it was not the sound of her voice. The next moments would cost her a good marriage and possibly her happiness as well, and for this she blamed fate and the callousness of strangers.


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An unfair Trade: A few Moments for a Lifetime


Some distance away from the tent of the Khan’s nephew two women slumbered, or pretended to do so, their hearts and minds so full of turmoil that the calmness of sleep appeared as distant as the moons in the sky. Blyne had presented her real self, undisguised and vulnerable, to a human woman and now both of them were unsure about what to do after this revelation. They were so different in everything that mattered, in their perceptions, in their dreams and desires, in the lives they were expected to live. What common future could the two of them have? It was up to them to decide.



Calendar4th Day of Aelmont (Winter) 422 AC / 38 SC

Solinari: 34/36 (Low Sanction)
Lunitari: 7/28 (Waxing)
Nuitari: 4/8 (High Sanction)

Boons/Penalties:
White Robes -1 spell DC, DIS on spell attack rolls | Red Robes - | Black Robes +1 spell DC, ADV on spell attack rolls


 
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  #97  
Old Jun 26th, 2022, 03:28 AM
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Aric Armitage
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With a gentle flutter of lashes, Aric Armitage slowly began to awaken. At some point in the night (morning?) he had stripped down to his britches, the rest of his clothing lying on the floor of the tent next to his bed.

Wait. Bed? Tent? I was outside last night, by the fire. What am I doing in here?

He sat up, more confused than worried. It was quite bright, the canvas of the tent unable to fully blot out the rays of the looming sun. He looked around, seeing his worn leather boots strewn beside the messy clump of clothes he'd been wearing last night to ward off the chill. There was no chill at all now, far from it. The mattress and pillow were damp with sweat, and Aric was stricken with an immense thirst. He looked around and was suddenly thrown into an immense panic. My pack! Where is my pack!

It wasn't the pack he cared about, but the journal within. A few frantic moments search revealed the wayward knapsack tucked under the wooden frame of the cot he'd just fallen asleep on; apparently, he - or someone who had brought him here - had stowed the bag there for safekeeping. That was the next question – how had he come to be here in the tent? The last thing he’d fully remembered had been sitting by the bonfire last night and looking around at the other “outsiders” who had been seated there. He vaguely remembered looking for the ninth of them, the elf woman Blainneth. Maybe it wasn’t her cup of tea, he thought idly, his fingers absently turning pages in the old red book. Maybe she took her weapons and left. Panic suddenly gripped the young man. Isandril! He had to find the elf magician before he left the festival. Otherwise this whole trip will have been squandered, he thought – though in fact, that wasn’t entirely true. Aric had made an acquaintance? Maybe that was too impersonal. He had made a connection at the very least with the young knight Tegan. He’ll always be a knight to me, even if he says he is still just a squire. Flickering images fluttered back to his memory of the muscular knight half-assisting, half-carrying Aric off to bed, but by that point he’d been semi-conscious at best. Got to thank him too, him and Pnoah and Kaylen and Isandril. Veralyne too for covering for me when I ran into her. I should thank Blainneth too if I can find her – I think in her own way she was trying to help us all by talking to the guard, even if it didn’t work out very well. Oh, and I need to find where Xihue is from. Wherever it is, it must be beautiful. And Talia… ermm… I don’t know if I need to really say anything to her. Knowing my luck, she’d accuse me of trying to blow up the stones. Aside from these last few interactions with the other outsiders, Aric’s future was still undecided enough that he had no set plans for the days and weeks and months to come. He had a fledgling dream from the prior evening, the dream of wanderlust and exploration that comes from realizing how big the world is. And there was a beautiful freedom in that, more beautiful than frightening. He had no home, but he had the world, and years and years and years to go explore it.

But first, breakfast.

After dressing somewhat (he had fashioned one of the light cotton sheets from the bed as a sort of apparently called a thawb, according to Googlerobe draped loosely around his head), Aric gathered the rest of his gear and departed from the tent. There were a few things to do this morning. The first was the easiest, as Aric tracked down a tray which held some leftover biscuits. Even after a few hours they tasted delicious, although by this point the milk that had been set out earlier had turned quite warm, so Aric contented himself with some cool water from his waterskin. He couldn’t cook, but if he was going to be an explorer someday, he’d have to start gathering some recipes which he could take on the road with him - and these biscuits would be at the top. His lips parted in a wide grin. Everything seemed so open to him suddenly. The world, once frightening and distant, now seemed intriguing. And the distance? What was distance to one who has all the time in the world? Besides, the journey was nearly as exciting as the destination. He found himself giddy, his fingers spidering together in anticipation. He couldn’t wait to begin.

No one else seemed to be awake right then, and Aric had no earthly idea what the time was. If he’d had a sundial and the relevant knowledge on how to interpret one, that would have been a boon. All he knew was that the sun was high in the sky, though whether it was getting on towards noon or had just passed it, he couldn’t say. It didn’t really matter. It was hot, it was bright, and it was time to get some answers.

An older and wiser fellow might have simply waited until the others awoke, rather than poking his head into every single tent until he found who he was looking for, but Aric had too much to do and there had already been too many distractions. Everyone seemingly wanted to talk to the elven mage, and everyone but him had seemingly been able to. Well, come hell or high water he would be the first to do so this morning. So he set off, one hand stuffed with leftover biscuits, his head and body draped in a sweaty sheet he’d taken from the tent he’d slept in, and began to search amongst the tents until he found the man he was looking for.

 
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  #98  
Old Jun 26th, 2022, 11:49 AM
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Pnoah Seheppen
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Pnoah woke with his nose, quite literally, in a book. He'd been up late, behind a hastily-constructed shield to block the candlelight from the others who slumbered as he pored over notes, adding addendums, corrections, footnotes, and notations. Eventually sleep claimed him, much against his will, for there had been so much to do and he felt as though he'd barely scratched the surface. Blinking and wincing, he rubbed the back of his neck and carefully checked his notes for smudges. Aside from a bit of drool in the corner, the work remained legible.

The candle had burned itself out, so Pnoah pressed the soft wax together and stored it away. Later, he would press it around a spare wick to avoid waste, even more important now that he was out in the uncivilized lands of the humans, where a candle might not be readily available, or might be prohibitively expensive. Among humans, it seemed only the wealthy, with leisure time away from physical toil, could afford to read. Thus, candles were rarely needed and proportionally more expensive. The concept of physical and mental exertion being completely separated was mind-boggling to Pnoah. It just seemed...unhealthy.

He had become somewhat accustomed to waking up in locations other than his home by this point, and developed a bit of a routine for effectively 'breaking camp'. He shook his head at the memory of an early misunderstanding during his travels, when he'd heard the term first used and naturally immediately began constructing items to help repair the broken camp. He, and his gizmos, had wound up pitched into a ditch and left behind. That was months ago, he realized a bit wistfully. Hmm...no, still can't laugh about it.

He was packed and ready to go in short order. There was only the matter of their 'invitation' by Jabbal. There was, apparently, no end to the man's posturing, but it was a small price to pay for research. A few polite nods, some nigh-indigestible food and drinks from orifices that were never meant to secrete anything palatable, and they would be on their way. Pnoah had a good, solid lead with his breakthrough the previous night, and though he would have preferred to stay and continue the field work for more data, he had a distinct impression that such a thing would cause a significant amount of trouble. Still, it was one step closer to completing his quest, and once he got back to a proper lab, it would be practically assured! "What I wouldn't give for a geological sample," he sighed, then quickly glanced around to see if guards would crash into the tent to arrest and/or murder him. Fortunately, no such invasion occurred, most likely because he'd wisely said 'geological' instead of 'rock'. Science saves the day again! he thought proudly. Everything was just about neatly wrapped up, and Pnoah could reasonably expect to be back home soon, possibly before year's end! No lingering tasks or loose ends...

Wait, he thought, his blood running cold as he froze in fear. Wait. Where's the kender?!?

He suddenly recalled his impetuous, almost automatic acceptance of responsibility for Talia's behavior the night before. What a foolish thing to agree to, vouchsafing the behavior of a kender! Still, the tent was still above them, he didn't hear any screams of panic...just normal hustle and bustle of morning in a tent community. Those were all good signs, but he still scanned the tent for the erstwhile kender, getting ready to head outside to look for her. The irony of his previous statement about the chances of finding a kender who didn't want to be found was not lost upon him, but he had to try. As he was preparing to go in search of the kender, the boy he'd rescued earlier with the MistyFanner™ poked his head in, looking like he'd slept under a camel, in search of the elf. "Not here, I'm afraid," said Pnoah. "I'm currently in search of Talia, myself. Perhaps we could search together! I could draw a quick map of the campsite and we'll each take various sections of a grid..." Excitedly, he headed over to the table, producing a blank parchment and quill. "Now, without a proper survey, I'm afraid I can't guarantee the precise scale of this map, but for our purposes..." Glancing up, he noticed that the boy was gone. With a sigh and shake of his head at the impatience of youth (despite the fact that he himself was considered quite young for a gnome), he rolled up the parchment. There was really no need to utilize a grid search pattern to find a kender. He would simply walk toward whichever commotion seemed the largest and most troubling.

 
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Last edited by Andor; Jun 26th, 2022 at 12:26 PM.
  #99  
Old Jun 26th, 2022, 11:55 AM
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It had been the usual dream, with Devari paralysed, watching as Amare was slowly consumed by some hazy monster, starting with her feet, then legs. She was pulled away from Devari, seemingly unaware of what was happening at first, just chatting incessantly about whatever was on her mind the way she always had.

This time, however, she had started singing the song, but not in the soft, melancholy way which Devari had sung it the night before, Amare’s version was full of accusation. She could do nothing as Amare was drawn away, engulfed by the floor, and she knew it had all been her fault.

"And a rest I’ll never know," Amare’s voice lingered and Devari had to wake up just to get free of it.

It was hot and Amare was sweaty against her chest. She hugged her closer anyway, hoping to protect her sister from the nightmares.

Just then there was a disturbance, a man’s voice, and Devari cracked open an eye to see a brown-haired boy dressed in filthy sheets poking his head through the tent flap. Aric?

Everything came back to her in a flash and she looked down to see that it hadn’t been Amare she had been cuddling, it was the kender, Talia. She looked back at Aric and shrugged.

"I guess you want to get in on this?" She smiled as he reddened and made some excuse about the ‘wrong tent’ and disappeared again. There was just something about the boy which made it irresistible to tease him. Grinning, she turned to Talia but the kender was either still asleep or was pretending to be. Devari found that she didn’t care, she needed to chat to keep herself from thinking.

"Some night last night, huh?" she said, standing and pulling at her sheer shift to loosen it from her skin. "One to remember. You know, these tribespeople are okay. I mean they could use some decent alcohol, but…" she trailed off remembering how Jabbal had tried to drug them. That hadn’t been a highlight.

She picked up her green dress but didn’t put it on, it was too hot now for something like this. Suddenly the sheet which Aric had been wearing didn’t seem like such a bad idea, but Devari was sure that she could make it look a little less makeshift. She sorted through the various silks which bedecked the tent until she found a nice deep red one hanging from a rope, presumably to be used as a curtain for some privacy. She ran the fabric between her fingers, marvelling at how smooth it felt. Surely Jabbal wouldn’t miss it, would he?

She pulled it down and spent a few minutes fastening the corners over her shoulders, and then took a thick green lace from her dress to cinch it around her waste. She loved the way that the fabric swished against her legs when she moved, but the best part was that she had left a voluminous pouch at the back of her neck, which she now pulled up to make a hood. This should keep the sun off of her and she would look good too!

"How do I look?" she asked Talia, giving a little twirl.

Now that she was decent her next priority was water, and maybe some breakfast. Then she would need to figure out how to find a caravan heading back north. The festival had been a disappointment, she had failed to exorcise the dreams, but on reflection it had been a bit of a long shot anyway.

She turned to pull the tent flap open and then stopped with her hand on the tassle. She suddenly felt reluctant to go out there because she didn’t want to meet Neilah. That was weird, Neilah had seemed nice, why would she want to avoid her? Then the dream came back to her and she realised that Amare had looked different. The girl in her dream had Neilah’s face.

"I know," she said loudly, turning back to Talia, "Let’s make a dress for you too!"

 
 
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Last edited by Lazer; Jun 26th, 2022 at 12:36 PM.
  #100  
Old Jun 26th, 2022, 02:23 PM
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Talia Dawnstar
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Talia had fallen asleep… not that she really wanted to… but she figured sleep was better than mayhem. She did not like to be angry, it felt like an alien sensation to her and she was upset with herself for allowing the poisonous feeling to remain after its first spark.

Now she lay in the tent, breathing in the heated air and she let out a long tortured sigh as she slid off of her pillow mattress to lay on the floor.

She lay there, her arm draped dramatically across her face as Veralyn jabbered away, only moving it to snort a half-hearted approval when the beautiful woman asked how she looked.

“You look like a spider web with legs. Beautiful yet dangerous.”

While Veralyn worked on her appearance, Talia merely stumbled to her feet and dunked her head in a nearby tub of water. Shaking the water from her head like a dog, Talia looked at Veralyn with an impish grin.

“Ta da! I’m all set!”

Talia was ready to leave the tent when Veralyn mentioned making a dress for her. The kender did not know how to react to the request. Her initial response was to cry and her eyes began to water. “I’m not much of the dress type actually,” she sniffled as she looked down towards her purely utilitarian garb. “There would be no place for my pouches... plus a dress would get caught when I'm trying to squeeze into tight places.”

Having mentioned her pouches, Talia’s face brightened as she remembered the golden earrings she had found the day before. Such luck that they had fallen from Jabal’s pouch just as she had walked by. She took the earrings in her hand and looked at Veralyn and smiled as she pictured the beautiful woman wearing such fine jewelry.

“Let’s go see what’s for breakfast around here… probably rotten gully dwarf from the smells of it,”Talia said as she slipped the earrings back in her pouch.



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  #101  
Old Jun 30th, 2022, 11:55 AM
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Black Jim Black Jim is online now
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Sleeping Arrangements
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Where were the answers? Xihue was rather certain that none of the people present had travelled nearly as far as he had though everyone present seemed to share a commonality of purpose. Some deceased and significant person had left a significant void, an emptiness substantial enough to exceed the satisfaction of typical mourning, one that needed supernatural closure, arcane reconciliation, or extraordinary grief to resolve the loss. His own search for enlightenment, his dreams of the elevated Master, had driven him around the world to this alien land to the anticlimax of Jabbar's fire and seemingly meaningless festival that was oblivious to hidden truths. Had it not been for the gnome's experiment, it was doubtful that Xi would have obtained anything from this place.

The effect was disruptive to the centered stability that ruled the monk's personal perspective. Why was everything here so strange? Elves didn't act like elves. Dwarves were religious here, and even the things that were most familiar were warped nearly beyond recognition. There was no common sense, only common chaos. The polished, handcrafted wood of his simple flute reminded Xi of the essence of natural balance. The purity of structured tone from each note that flowed through the finely grained, dense bole-fragment to emerge clear and clean with musical meaning but there was no more memory in the melody.

Xihue contented himself to accompany the voice of Jabbar's attractive consort until the darkness of fruitless night began to fade with the twilight of a new day's arrival. As the revelers descended from the plateau and left the magically malignant chill of the Standing Stones behind them, the breath of dawn hinted that coming hours would swelter in a hostile heat. Each of his knives was retrieved and replaced meticulously among the carefully wrapped vestments that clothed him. Jabbal reclaimed his ornate weapon and possessively guided his ward past the sheltered stable and foothills as all attendees dispersed, headed in every available direction, toward exhaustion's release and an anticipatedly welcome morning's slumber.

Blainneth had never returned. She was nowhere to be seen among the outlanders or the Khurrish mourners. It saddened Xihue who had sensed a powerful significance, a palpable potential within her from their brief association. She had been possessed of a diplomatic wisdom that was as attractive to the monk as her comely physical appearance and it would have been an honor to speak with her. She would undoubtedly breed fine progeny even though she was exotically elvish. Unlike many of the Alan-Atu, Xihue held no prejudice against females of other races. From his perspective, a more homogeneous interaction between the sentient races might lead to less strife and more tranquility among the diverse cultures. He was aware that such beliefs were exceedingly uncommon, yet, the true gift of life was realized in one's legacy. The personal goal was always to advance toward ascension but the ultimate immortality was realized through procreation where one's children would witness all the possibilities and rewards of their gifted futures.

Xihue followed Jabbal to his tent, expectant that the most generous offer of shared accommodation would be fulfilled but found himself prohibited from joining the prince in the finely appointed pavilion. He was confused to see the prince escort his "cousin" through the tasseled entry. Something upon her face did not seem to convey happiness. It was an expression of resignation rather than one of lethargy induced by prolonged wakefulness. "I wish to sleep in the company of this young woman. Is that not permitted?"

The statement was innocent, yet the reaction that it elicited was one of shock which quickly turned to laughter. Whatever the answer might be, Xi intended to postpone his reproductive proclivities for the sake of restorative slumber. he would unwrap his garments and place them around himself as was his custom, the weighted sash carefully draped upon a nearby table, chair or shelf, the arm and foot wraps nestled the weaponry and cradled his staff, and his small-cloths would be set aside to be replaced by their duplicate spare in the morning. Today's sweat and musk soiled garment could washed and cleansed. He missed the convenience of home where such garments were collected by the womenfolk each morning in exchange for a new loincloths.

Wherever sleep finally found him, heedless of other occupants of the space, Xihue expected this morning's dreams to be deep and filled with images reflected from the previous day. By the time Xihue finally lay down to sleep, everyone else was already breathing heavily as they entered their short daily hibernation. Resplendently naked, Xi found a cot near the tent wall and pulled silks and pillows over himself as covers before descending immediately into his temporary, peace-filled, personal oblivion.

 
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Last edited by Black Jim; Jun 30th, 2022 at 12:08 PM.
  #102  
Old Jun 30th, 2022, 09:56 PM
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Blyne
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The night of the Dark Day had been emotionally exhausting for Blyne. There was really no way around acknowledging how plagued by emotionality she had been. And yet when the young Irda received a bed in this foreign tent, somehow she felt as if something had been lifted off of her during the time when Besimeh had cried hopeless tears of sorrow. The khurish woman had taken something away from Blyne at the moment when their stories had melded, layered over each other as weaves of different colors with a similar design in mind. And that something was showing itself to be quite different than just the hope of a motherless high-ogre who had come to Ansalon with ambitions beyond retrieval. It's been so long since she died... Why can't I let go? I don't want to. What if my father died too, what if no other Irda roam the world? I want to be a beacon of the legacy that we leave behind. But I am struggling to rid myself of memories of my mother, whatever shape they take of following me around. Besimeh can't shake her's either. She doesn't want to, in her heart. Their tale is one of conflict and not understanding the other, but I always understood my mother. And she knew me. Nobody else knows me. Besimeh makes her legacy because she wants to defy her culture. I make mine because I want to perfect mine. But I haven't even begun to work on that...

Blyne's mind was in the state of twilight between sleep and serenity. She had tried something new today and she found herself surprised that it had widened her horizon so much. Besimeh barely understood the lessons that were written into her own story, yet Blyne had the mind and the heritage of a true Irda. There was nothing crestfallen about her thoughts as she defied sleep with contemplation. She should have fallen asleep, but there was understanding to be gathered that was waiting in the bed of her subconscious. This was the moment to dig for it peacefully, without strife. But I also don't need to start having a legacy this soon. It's always just survival. Survive. How can I complete the tears that mother's passing left me with if I'm struggling to find the time to work between all the surviving that I have to do? If these stones had freed me of mother's... no, of my restlessness. Would I have been free of my mother's memories? Of course not. Besimeh wasn't free of her past, and Blyne wouldn't be either. If anything, the history of her race was proof that obliterating or failing to heed your past would leave you more flawed than not. Blyne could stomach having flaws because she was young and hadn't learned all which she yet needed to know. But she feared losing her brightness and growing dim because the spark of the Irda had been lost to corruption taking hold within her. Mother's memories following me around isn't that. And this can't be all that there is to this. Rationality exists to prevent us from the faults of emotions. Guilt, pain, sorrow. If I'm not invulnerable to them, what do I do?

It was on wishes of being better, that Blyne finally found her sleep. The riddle of how to pocket the relationship that she had had with her mother during her lifetime was not one to be solved after she had already carved herself open in search of finding the flaws that had evidently driven her into this desert of grieving people. Curiously, during the minutes before her eyes closed, Blyne barely thought about the fact that she had created a new entity within her life. A sentient being that knew who she was at her root. Besimeh wasn't perfect. Not even close. The Todoon woman wasn't her kin, she was a human. And although the merchant had reached out just at the right time and shown herself to have a measure of integrity in which Blyne could see herself, and a past of loss that matched her own, the young Irda knew well that Besimeh would not be spotless. Too much time had she been given wrong teachings, and too narrow was the world in which she had been born. Besimeh had shaken at the sight of her high-ogre semblance and asked for more time to sort her feelings. She wasn't able to provide the guidance that Blyne had asked for in her moment of desperation, but somehow the khurish woman had taken the shape of a living effigy that Blyne might be able to guide herself better than anyone else left on Krynn. The moment which the two women had shared together had been so real and substantial that exposing herself to Besimeh wasn't anything Blyne questioned any longer. It had been a necessary step to take, and all that would follow would find the young Irda acquiescent to her choice. Whatever the outcome, it was on Blyne to make the most out of this perspective-changing experience. And that was the last thought before the absence of thought took her.

When Blyne finally awoke, still in the shape of Blainneth in which she had fallen asleep in, she came alive with the distinct realization that she was different than during the last time when she had risen from a dreamless rest. Her conscious thoughts didn't admit it to herself entirely, but after this rest in Besimeh's tent, she was feeling less desperate. All the answers hadn't come, but somehow Blyne had regained some confidence. She had spent one half of her life escaping her home isle and chasing the mirage of her mother's memories into the desert. Somehow, now she could accept that. Others have far greater flaws. I understand now. In her elven appearance her eyes were turquoise instead of silver, and as Blyne sat up on her bedstead her gaze fell on the body of Besimeh, who was still sleeping although it appeared that the sun outside must have already risen high. We both had our bonds taken away from us. Irreplaceable, because nothing else comes close. She craves affection, the kind that only one person ever gave her. I crave... things that are even less obtainable from others. Blyne gave an indignant sniff as she annoyed herself with such a thought straight after waking. She recalled clearly how Besimeh had been overwhelmed with meeting a living Irda and how she now struggled to sort out her feelings. Is that something I can affect? What do I even want from her after this? Let's say that I am not lost. Then coming here was either purposeful or accidentally the right choice. Blyne blinked while looking at Besimeh. Somehow that thought felt right. It wasn't a conclusion, but it was something to expand on.

Yesterday's rush had fallen captive to a night of surprisingly restful sleep and now the young Irda was ready to slow down. There were still quite a few nagging uncertainties on her mind, but right now Blyne didn't feel like breaking a leg over any of them. Devari, Xihue, Omeir, Yusef, and now Besimeh's feelings for the splendid cousins of ogrekind. And maybe even her mother's memories, if they would manifest themselves to her as clearly as she still felt like they had in the past. Yesterday a lot happened that I didn't expect. Luckily, this tent is peaceful right now. I should probably attempt to maintain that. Besimeh had mentioned other humans as part of her company, but none of them could be seen. So if Blyne wanted to prolong this small oasis to give herself more time to figure out what to do with herself after all these half-baked realizations, the primary person to appease remained Besimeh. The merchant woman would never again merely see Blainneth once she awoke, and something about that put Blyne into a better mood, even though Besimeh's reaction had been so mixed. If she is still sleeping, then she was even more exhausted than I. Maybe I should give her some credit. I think she really managed to do something for me here, even though I can't grasp it clearly. The shapeshifter felt a lingering feeling of gratitude that she wasn't able to embrace until she would hear Besimeh's final answer about what her own change in perspective meant. The Todoon woman had been forced to broaden her horizons and to openly weep over her dead mother at the same time. It was expected that she would have been fatigued after that. All those trailing thoughts finally combined in a single course of action. I should make some kind of gesture. Blyne's gaze fell on the empty cups that had stored exquisite tea which had been meant to welcome and value Besimeh's elven guest when that had still been the identity under which the merchant had known her. "I should be able to figure this out." And so Blyne arose carefully and silently, trying to buy herself some time as she searched the tent for everything required to welcome an awaking Besimeh back into the company of a being which she could barely fathom. Maybe the scent of khurish tea would make her feel safe enough to keep her mind open. And so Blyne began to move about, just to create a scenario exactly like that.
 
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  #103  
Old Jul 1st, 2022, 11:40 AM
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Khurish Hospitality
The people of Khur usually woke up long before dawn. In the years succeeding the Drowning they had invariably learnt that doing any kind of work under the fiery glare of the sun was incredibly taxing and to be avoided whenever such a thing was possible. The day after the Festival of Fire and Song was an exception, however. This one special day all those who had visited the Standing Stones to sit next to the fires and listen to the mourners sing about the short lives of people like them, were allowed to sleep as long as they desired, a luxury only the wealthy and the very old were normally able to enjoy. After the lamentation and tears of the night the people of Khur, ever practical, sought to feast, drink, laugh and dance, reminding themselves that being alive was something to be celebrated. Such fickleness was hard to understand by other races and civilizations, but it was exactly this trait of the Khurish psyche that made the people of the desert so resilient and able to survive in the hostile land that they loved above all else.


As the foreigners slowly left their tents, some looking for knowledge and guidance, others hiding their dark moods and the dreams of agony that had visited them in their sleep under colorful fabrics and cheerful smiles, they all became aware that the city of tents had changed in the hours they had spent resting. What had previously been an encampment of pack animals and retainers mostly, silent and shrouded in darkness, had turned into a true riot of colors, sounds and smells, as if a true city had sprouted out of the sands to spite the brooding Standing Stones on top of the hill. For once ignoring the merciless sun, the people of Khur came together, exchanged news and stories, while drinking tea and beverages much stronger than tea, bartered and haggled, exchanging silver and steel for a variety of goods and services, amicably clapped friends and people they had only just met in the back and warmly hugged relatives they hadn’t seen in years. Whatever they did, they did with passion. They were loud, cheerful and full of life.




Most of them at least. Some did not seem to be eager to celebrate anything. Some did not even appear to be living.


Prince Jabbal was seated atop a small mound of colorful cushions beneath a large tent that was open to three sides, surrounded by a multitude of nomads of all kinds: petitioners and sycophants, traders and merchants, singers, musicians and acrobats, and all others, rich and poor, young and old, who desired something from the Khan’s nephew. It was clear that Jabbal greatly enjoyed the attention he was receiving. For a single day he got a taste of what it meant to be Khan and he found that it was very much to his liking. Gracious and polite in all he did, his attention was everywhere, assuring the petitioners, smiling at the sycophants’ jokes, being exceedingly generous with the steel in order to buy a variety of things he was unlikely to ever need, among them a small monkey from the jungles of Nordmaar, rhythmically clapping at the music and cheering for the acrobats.


Next to the radiant prince was Neilah, his dark and silent shadow, though she might as well have been sitting on Lunitari or the bottom of the Blood Sea for all that it mattered. Still wearing the clothes from the previous night, including a heavy cloak that did not seem to make her sweat despite the afternoon heat, her entire attention was you may make a Perception check to get a better look at the objectfocused on something she was holding in her delicate hands. She never spoke to one of Jabbal’s “friends”, not even replying when her voice, her beauty or her performance of last night was praised, choosing to surround herself with silence as if that could create a barrier between herself and the world. She didn’t appear to be sad or in pain, merely not present, at least in spirit. Perhaps she was already back at her house in Ak-Khurman, surrounded by her loved ones, or perhaps she found herself at the very heart of the Abyss. Who knew? Who cared? Jabbal certainly didn’t, nor did anyone of the men and women surrounding him.


Realizing that his guests had woken up, Jabbal beckoned them to join him and immediately sent his men to invite them to take part in the great feast that had only just begun and would surely last well after sundown. Aric, a secret lover of cake, would not be disappointed this time, nor would anyone of his new companions, for the variety of dishes was breathtaking.


There were bowls filled with mashed chickpeas and sesame paste, mixed with olive oil, garlic and lemon juice and served with flatbread, still hot from the fire, large platters filled to the brim with a variety of fresh vegetables, sliced and grilled and accompanied by joghurt, and plates of goat cheese cut in small cubes and refined by adding olive oil, crushed garlic, fresh herbs, finely chopped chili and lemon zest. There were also several platters of chicken, lamb and goat meat, cooked in a variety of ways, including roasted whole, chopped into small pieces and grilled on a skewer or even as meatballs, mixing the minced meat with old bread. Next to the meats were various salads with cucumbers, red onions, shredded cabbage and carrots, decorated by pomegranate seeds and other fruits, large quantities of mint and aromatic herbs. The rice and the spices appeared to be as abundant as the grains of sand in the desert, thus making sure that no one would be leaving the celebration still hungry. Finally there were several cakes, filled with nuts and soaked in syrup, along with biscuits of all flavors that were sweetened with honey. All in all, it was a feast worthy of a king - or in this case, a Khan’s nephew.


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Jabbal’s Feast


"Welcome, friends, welcome!", cried out Jabbal, rising to his feet and welcoming the outlanders as if they had been his closest childhood friends. "Sit down and have something to eat. You must be famished after the long, stressful night. Drink some wine, or kyamish, if you prefer. Today we celebrate life and all it has to offer. Whatever dark thoughts and memories weigh you down, put them out of your mind for now. Life is too short and unpredictable to be bothered by the past. We must look to the future instead. Perhaps a future that will be good to us all? But I forget myself. Rude is the host who talks business with hungry guests. Please, feast, drink! We shall talk later."


For once Jabbal was true to his word. If the eight foreigners were to have met him today, they would surely have been impressed by his openness, generosity and princely manners. Before them was another Jabbal, a Khurish lord who lived only to please his guests and friends, singing and laughing alongside them, sharing exciting tales and funny anecdotes, and even occasionally filling their plates and cups himself. Only as the sun set and things finally started to calm down, did Jabbal speak of things that weren’t trivial, though he attempted to make them seem so.


"I hope that the festival has granted you peace, my friends. You will surely be wanting to return to your homes now, though if you were to stay in this land of light and sand for a little longer, I may have a request for you. Don’t feel obliged to accept just because I have offered you food, drink and shelter from the elements. It was my privilege to have entertained such fine individuals as you. No, this is more of a business proposal. You see, the Khan has asked me to deliver a letter to a merchant in the nearby town of Pashin, a mere two days’ travel on foot from here. He and old Ferhan go a long way back, otherwise he wouldn’t have appointed this task to me. Unfortunately, I have to return my cousin to her parents in Ak-Khurman and I have given my word to do so as soon as possible. The desert is dangerous and there are those who are lurking among the dunes, seeking to harm the Khan’s loyal servants, thus I cannot spare any of my men for this task. If, however, you could be persuaded to do this small favor for me, I would see that you are richly rewarded. I am willing to give you one hundred pieces of steel now and two hundred more if you were to find me in Ak-Khurman after the letter has been delivered. Please, think about it. It’s a simple task and it pays well. Besides, I doubt I will find people better suited to this task than you."



*********



There were few better ways to wake someone, who has just had a night full of uncertainty and doubts, than with the smell of aromatic tea in the air. A passionate kiss might have been even better, but Besimeh was unlikely to get that right now, at least not from a member of an almost mythical race, infamous for possessing no emotions whatsoever. Though she appeared to have slept the whole night and the better part of the day, the truth was that she had barely had any rest at all, having been twisting and turning in her bed, desperately trying to find a solution to the problem that was Blyne.


A problem?


Blainneth had been an elf. An individual who was no doubt scarred by war and the loss of her family and homeland. A woman who would not have been welcomed in Khur, especially at the side of her human friend and possibly lover. Someone who would have remained young while Besimeh turned into an old woman almost in the blink of an eye, or at least that is how it would have appeared to the elven maiden. Living with her would have been difficult, but if both of them tried hard -and Besimeh was more than willing to do so- they would have succeeded.


Blyne on the other hand…


Blyne was a mystery, a legend. She was a figure out of a book of fairytales. How does one love someone like that - or rather, how does one love someone like that knowing that they will not be loved back? Besimeh didn’t believe she was strong enough to try. She didn’t think it was worth the effort or the pain. She wouldn’t betray Blyne’s trust -by Shinzar, that she would never do!- but she saw no common future with the majestic high ogre woman. After hours and hours of tormenting herself, that was Besimeh’s final decision, though she dreaded having to share it with the woman she herself had invited inside her tent.


As the sweet smell of jasmine blossoms reached Besimeh’s nose, however, and her still blurry eyes opened up to regard the beautiful face of Blainneth smiling at her, the decision she had reached was immediately forgotten. It was worth the effort! As long as even a sliver of hope existed, she would try to make it work - for both of them!


"Thank you", she whispered and received the cup from Blainneth, inhaling deeply to feel the aroma fill her inside. Sipping slowly, she savored the warmth as the liquid went down her throat, granting her an indescribable feeling of calmness. "I could certainly be getting used to that", she replied with a sweet smile of her own. "Join me, Blainneth - ahm, Blyne", she quickly corrected herself.


The elf barely had time to do as requested, because suddenly the head of a blonde girl with long braids appeared at the tent’s entrance.


"She is finally up, Rishan. And she has company - just like you said!"


Without further warning, the tent’s flap was opened with a flourish as Ilhem and Rishan entered the tent as casually as if they owned the place. The two of them were as dissimilar as one could expect. Rishan was a man in his forties, dressed in traditional Khurish garb and having brown hair, eyes and beard. His most striking feature was the fluidity of his movements, usually seen only in dancers and thieves, and the unmistakable spark of intelligence in his eyes. Ilhem on the other hand was a girl of twelve winters at most, her fair skin and strawberry-gold hair betraying the fact that she wasn’t a native of Khur. Her limbs were slender, allowing her to move with the energetic enthusiasm of a kender at the great bazaar of Khuri-Khan, and she was dressed in a practical way that was favored mostly by boys of her age. She looked at the surprised Blainneth, giggled and attempted a curtsy, though she failed at it miserably.


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Ilhem and Rishan


"No wonder you haven’t shown yourself any sooner", exclaimed the man, looking around the tent for a small bag full of almonds, eventually finding it and popping one of them in his mouth. "It must have been an exhausting night - what with visiting the festival and all. It seems that another moth was attracted to your… flame."


The comment was clearly meant as a joke, but seeing Besimeh’s angry look, Rishan decided to quickly change the subject.


"Business was good, you’ll be happy to know, both yesterday and today. We are both as tired as Minotaurs working the oars without pause for a day and a night, but it was worth it."


"Guess who bought the necklace with the dragon!", cried out Ilhem, obviously excited about the sale she had made. "No other than…" Quickly reacting to an almost imperceptible sign from Rishan, the girl immediately changed what she was about to say mid-sentence. "that desert fox, Jabbal. It must be for another “cousin” of his. By the gods, his family must be larger than that of a kender!"


Rishan approached Ilhem and gently placed his hands upon her shoulders.


"Come, little one. Let’s give Besimeh and her friend some time to prepare. How about we cook something for the…" His eyes met those of his employer and Besimeh gave him a slight nod."four of us? I could eat a whole camel right now."


Ilhem looked at Besimeh, who nodded a second time, but remained silent.


"All right, though you haven’t introduced us to your cousin, Besimeh." Feeling Rishan’s hands trying to guide her towards the tent’s exit, the girl shook herself free of them. "I am coming already! And I am no little one. I am almost as tall as you and much better looking!"


Rishan had the good sense not to reply and thus not to provoke the girl further.


"Thank you", called out Besimeh as her friends turned their backs to her before exiting the tent. "I won’t need long."


Taking another sip of the tea, which had grown somewhat cold, the Khurish woman looked at Blyne, her face deadly serious.


"Both of them love me and I love them in return. What about you, Blyne? What am I to you? What could I become? Do you see a future for the two of us?"



Calendar4th Day of Aelmont (Winter) 422 AC / 38 SC

Solinari: 34/36 (Low Sanction)
Lunitari: 7/28 (Waxing)
Nuitari: 4/8 (High Sanction)

Boons/Penalties:
White Robes -1 spell DC, DIS on spell attack rolls | Red Robes - | Black Robes +1 spell DC, ADV on spell attack rolls


 
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  #104  
Old Jul 2nd, 2022, 04:06 PM
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Talia Dawnstar
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Talia’s eyes were like a hawk’s… scanning the colorful scene unfolding in front of her as if reading from a book. Imperceptibly, her eyes marked every item of interest she passed and the possibilities for future exploration seemed endless. As was usually the case, Talia was able to slip past everyone without even an acknowledgment of her existence… a veritable ghost.

Of course her eyes found Jabbal, the Khan in waiting, and her cheerful face quickly became a scowl. Immediately she shifted from childlike exuberance at the Khurish hospitality and instead the heat of mischief overtook her.

Jabbal was a bad man… there was no denying that. Here surrounded by his people, he was untouchable but that did not mean that Talia was powerless. The kender noticed Neilah… her sadness… but it didn’t occur to ask why. It was obvious… again… Jabbal.

Talia veered towards the smorgasbord and struck back as only a kender could.

Waiting until her companions had made their way through the buffet, Talia took the earrings she had found the night before. One at a time… the thief sequestered a dragon earring deep within one of the sweet cakes.

She then took the sweet cakes over to the long suffering donkeys and horses. With any luck the earrings would be recovered after the festival was over by a poor peasant using the manure for fertilizer or fuel for a fire. Either way, they would be covered in excrement and Jabbal wouldn’t have them.

When Jabbal later raised the possibility of earning money compounded with the opportunity to get further revenge on the Khan’s nephew in the future… Talia was quite excited. She kept her face carefully neutral as she tried to see her friend’s reactions. Obviously they were all trusted traveling companions and would stay together for years to come.

Talai stood next to Kaylen and leaned in close to the dwarf while tugging on her sleeve. “I think we should drive a hard bargain… horses for everyone… well maybe donkeys for some of us."




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  #105  
Old Jul 3rd, 2022, 06:35 AM
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Aric Armitage
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As exhausted and weather-beaten as Aric Armitage had been upon his arrival at the festival the previous day, his awakening the next day in a strange tent at end of a long journey was like being reborn. Despite his tall stature, Aric had guess it depends on your source. Just finished Fire and Blood by GRRM, and those Targaryen cats couldn’t take over fully as king until they hit 16not yet even come of age, and as such he was still possessed of a young man’s vitality. There was certainly much to be said about this newfound levity, especially with the emotional burden which had been lifted from his shoulders earlier that evening. He had taken a big step in becoming his own man by casting off the shroud of his dead father when he'd confided in the Solamnic knight Tegan. I did promise to talk with him more today – I think. I actually cannot recall what I said, last night was such a blur - but it had to have been important enough for me to wake up feeling as light as a feather. Still, that was a secondary conversation. Right now, he had to find Isandril.



Hours later…

By midday most everyone had risen from sleep. Aric had been one of the earliest risers and had used this opportunity to pilfer the remaining biscuits from earlier that morning. He’d stuffed his face full of the delightful treats while pulling open tents and looking about for his quarry. There was no indication who was in which, so he just started from one place and went to the other. One of the first people he’d found was the gnome tinkerer Pnoah. ”Have you seen Isandril? There’s something I really really need to talk to him about?” Pnoah had yawned drowsily and replied, "Not here, I'm afraid. I'm currently in search of Talia, myself. Perhaps we could search together! I could draw a quick map of the campsite and we'll each take various sections of a grid..." Aric’s face flickered through several emotions – disappointment at Isandril not being there, then a twinge of panic at the thought of what Talia might be up to, before finally ending up on excitement. ”A map! That’s- that’s a GREAT idea! Aw, Pnoah, you just gave me the idea of the day. You know, I was thinking to myself that, now that I’m sort of by myself, it would be a good idea to sort of record what I see and who I meet, good foods I eat and how to make them. But a map – yeah, I could totally have pictures of places I’ve been to as well. Yes yes YES! I’m going to keep looking, but I owe you one. More than one!” And he rushed off, just as Pnoah was coming back to talk more about their grid-by-grid search pattern.

After finding a few tents occupied by some sleeping locals who Aric did not recognize and had no intention of waking, Aric happened upon a tent occupied by a couple more of yesterday evening’s “outlanders.” His pale blue eyes peered in and saw the curled up clump of kender wrapped in the arms of the dark skinned, exotic beauty not gonna lie, I had to go back and confirm again that this was the name. Might need to get a tattoo or something…Veralyne. The beautiful woman yawned sleepily and looked up at the sound of his voice before sitting halfway up, exposing just enough of her filmy sleepwear to cause Aric’s mind to go blank. "I guess you want to get in on this?" she said in a voice that was both casual and seductive. Aric could only open and close his mouth like a fish. He felt hot; his skin must surely have gone right past red and beyond the visible color spectrum. ”I…uh…I…uh…T-Talia, Pnoah’slookingforyou!” he was finally able to gasp out before turning tail and closing the tent flap. His heart was pounding. I think that might have awakened something in me, he thought, though getting in touch with his body was still… well, he was still a novice to a great many things. He left the tent behind. Both of them are trouble in their own way, he mused.

The sound of several voices drew Aric to another tent with several people occupying them, one of whom, Aric was surprised to see, was the elf woman Blainneth. She had disappeared seemingly almost as soon as the festival had begun, and Aric couldn’t even recall if he’d exchanged a single word with her. He didn’t want to interrupt their conversation, and it definitely didn’t look like Isandril had stayed here. He simply offered a quiet wave of greeting when she noticed his presence. ”Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt, I was just looking for Isandril. I, uh, I missed seeing you for most of the festival last night, I thought you might have left. Anyway, uh, glad to see you’re still here. Um, enjoy the rest of your morning,” he said, suddenly feeling like an intruder. He gave another awkward wave and departed from the tent, resuming his search for the wayward mage. Many and more tents held their own sleepy guests and their own unique surprises. Aric did his best not to wake the occupants, especially the locals who had been so near to seizing Pnoah and Xi the previous evening. He found Tegan's tent and asked if the knight needed assistance with his armor. "I know I owe you more explanation about why I was following you, maybe after you've had a chance to break your fast and wake up a little bit more. It's- it's so good to finally have someone to talk to about what's been going on in my life, I'm truly happier than words can say to meet such a good man. We'll talk more later, I promise, I don't want to interfere further with your morning rituals. Have you seen Isandril at all?" And still more tents, endless structures of cloth and wood stretching for acres. Aric came across a tent filled with loud snores and saw the kind dwarven lady Kaylen sprawled out asleep. The sound of such loud snores from such a short person made him giggle quietly, but he did his best to close the flap without a sound. He liked Kaylen; she had been so kind and motherly to him when he had fallen yesterday. A small part of his imagination envisioned the sweet dwarf lady as his adoptive mother and Tegan as his adoptive father, and he felt the prickle of tears at his eyes. We may not look anything alike, but I could imagine no more loving set of parents to replace the ones who have passed. And then he blinked and the thought was gone. Today’s a happy day, an exciting day, a day full of promise. I’m not going to be sad today, I won’t. It’s the start of a new life.

Aric found Xi in a tent and very nearly woke the young man when he saw him. As the morning had grown warmer with the rising sun, Xi must have grown quite hot and sweaty in the night and cast off his blankets. He must have cast off his clothes as well, Aric thought with a blush. His face reddened near as much as it had in the presence of the luscious Veralyne, and he scurried out of the tent as fast as he could, hoping the peaceful man from a faraway land had not noticed Aric’s presence in his tent or seen the bulge of the young man’s eyes when he’d seen- [cough cough]. Aric quickly turned his mind away from what he’d seen. I think that might have awakened something else in me, he pondered in confusion. So much had happened to him in such a few short hours since he’d arrived, and so much more seemed yet to come, and he didn’t feel like he’d be able to process much of any of it any time soon. I’m just going to file that away for now for a time when I can work through it, I think.

By the time Aric found Isandril’s tent, he’d begun to grow discouraged. His negative thoughts from earlier that morning about the elf mage leaving in the dead of night or before Aric could find him and speak to him. His heart soared to see the familiar shape of the elf he’d first set eyes upon the previous evening at the gate. Isandril was sitting stock still and breathing slowly, his eyes open. A grin split Aric’s lips and he piped up enthusiastically, ”Isandril! By the gods, I thought you’d left the festival already. I was about to curse my luck to the abyss for not having a chance to speak to you before, but I see… I see… hmm.” Isandril didn’t seem to be responding or even noticing Aric’s presence. Unaware of the elven reverie, or trance, Aric had mistaken Isandril’s body position for that of a man sitting calmly with his eyes open, when Isandril was at best semi-conscious of the world around him. The human moved a bit closer, a growing feeling of concern and worry in the pit of his stomach. He waved a hand slowly in front of Isandril’s eyes but didn’t notice any sort of change. He put a hand in front of the elf’s nostrils and felt just the faint movement of warm humid air. Okay good, he’s not dead. I don’t think I can talk to him right now. I should wait here. Of course, that had its own drawback. Yes, waiting might ensure that the elf could not leave without Aric speaking to him first, but there was no denying that being in the same room with the elf while he sat there with his eyes open was downright creepy. Maybe… hmm. Maybe I’ll just focus on mother’s journal for now, that way I can still do something productive, and I don’t have to look at him looking at nothing. Plus, when he… wakes? … when he comes to, then I can just show him mother’s journal and he can hopefully offer some sort of insight into what it says. And so, with eyes directed away from the expressionless elf, Aric did his best to read his late mother’s strange book while waiting for the elf to come back to full consciousness.



Later…

By the time Aric left the growing warmth of the interior of Isandril’s tent, the day was in full swing for the dozens – if not hundreds – of festival attendees. Much like what he had accidentally witnessed with the slip of Xihue’s blankets, Aric was still processing what had been said by the elf magus. It would take some time, of that he was sure, but he was still a young man. He may have only had a few coins to fill his small leather pouch, but if time could be considered a form of currency, then he was a very wealthy man indeed. And speaking of those few coins…

A market had sprung up from the desert sands like plant shoots after a rain shower, much to the young man’s delight. The thought of the many journeys he would take over the course of the rest of his life had captivated Aric’s imagination, and he desired to capture those experiences in a more tangible form. His mother’s journal
(No, libram, remember? That’s why you couldn’t read it. You can’t read magic)
had put the idea into his head. I want to get a notebook, a big, thick one, one that I can fill over many years. I want to make maps like Pnoah, and I want to write recipes of tasty foods, and I want to draw the faces of the people I meet and write about their stories. I don’t know anything about this world; how could I have?? Father never cared to tell me, and no one else in the village ever seemed to have the time. Well now it’s just me, and I’m going to find out the secrets of Krynn for myself.

Step one was finding that notebook, and after wandering the throng of goods spread out over blankets and shawls or displayed on wooden tables, Aric began to smile as he walked, hearing the colorful multitude of languages and voices. Whatever sales were happening were like none he’d ever seen before. Back home, at Mychael’s Place, a little wooden hut that served as the town’s only tavern and social gathering place, patrons gave Mychael their steel and got their mugs of ale and slices of meat pie. You paid the asking price and you got what you paid for. That made sense to Aric because it was all he’d ever known. But this? This was some chaotic form of goods exchange he could not comprehend. People seemed to be almost arguing as they discussed what they wanted to buy. From where he stood, the market seemed less an exchange of goods than a verbal jousting match. The hot sun beat down on the boy in the bedsheet, and he might have stood there all day if a voice hadn’t piped up at his side.

”Have you never seen market before?”

Aric turned and saw the beautiful dancer from the night before. A blush filled his cheeks at the sight of her, standing oh so close to him. He almost couldn’t find his tongue. His mind, filled with so much from the last two days, suddenly seemed to go void and he realized he only knew her by sight; her name was as much a mystery to him as bottom of the ocean.

”I - hi – I – no, I’ve never seen market before. Erm, I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a market like this. Um… why are they arguing over the prices?”

The girl smirked at him. ”Have you never heard of haggling?”

He scratched his temple, the universal sign for puzzlement. ”I… haven’t? Is that what it’s called? What a strange word.”

That made her grin. ”It is easy. Just pretend you do not like price. Say you will get from another merchant. They will lower price and you ask for even lower. Eventually, arrive in middle.” Aric nodded. It would be strange, getting into a disagreement with a vendor, but stranger still was the fact that these disagreements seemed expected. Am I the strange one for not getting it? It was not the first time since departing Oakgrove he’d come up against different cultural norms, but it was certainly the loudest and most colorful difference he’d seen and heard. It was strange and chaotic, and he loved every moment of it. He looked around and tried to take in the whole scene, the camera eye of his mind embracing the pageantry of this vibrant yet nomadic burst of life. At some point he realized for the second time in two days he had let his attention wander from the pretty girl who had caught his eye with her dance moves. He just caught sight of her back as she began to disappear into the crowd. In a panic he called out ”Uh, th-THANK YOU! SORRY! I never got your name! M-my name’s Aric! You’re a b-BEAUTIFUL DANCER! Uh – th-THANKS FOR TEACHING ME TO HAGGLE!...aaaand she’s gone. Aric, you dunce. How are you this bad talking to the ladies… he grumbled to himself. That was another theme he’d come to experience during his time here: missed opportunities. He sighed. Why can’t I just be normal? I wish I could talk as smooth as Xihue. That guy could talk the pants off of- Of course, that immediately brought to mind what Aric had seen in Xihue’s tent, and he clapped his hands over his ears and went ”LA-LA-LA-LA-LALALA!” until his mind went to something else.

Aric found a merchant who had what he needed, and after
Dice * Persuasion (notebook):
1d20sch10 19
Dice * Persuasion:
1d20 12
1d20 14
utilizing his very newly acquired haggling skills, the young man came away with an empty coin purse but with a brand new quill, a full bottle of ink, and a giant notebook that looked handmade, bound in leather and perfect for recording many memories. He may as well have been floating on air, the excitement was so palpable. He couldn’t stop grinning. I am going to fill this thing, and then I will get another one and fill that too. It was strange. He had left his home behind and gone out walking through the woods, had gotten lost and scared and yet somehow survived to this point. He was free, the world was a carpet laid before him, and his old life in Oakgrove seemed like it had happened a hundred years ago.

By this point it was early afternoon and the scavenged biscuits had worn off. That was alright; the festival was about to reveal its party piece – FOOD. Aric was positively dragged by the nose in the direction of the delicious foods he was smelling. Skinny as a rail though he might be, he was a 6’ 0” boy who had not even reached full adulthood, and he had an appetite to match. ”What’s this?” he would ask, and more often than not there was a colorful name which he had no idea how to spell for each colorful food. He tried anything and everything. For those things that his palate took a shine to, Aric made a point of having seconds. He also used this opportunity to bring out his new notebook, which he’d already begun to fill with recollections of the previous day, funny jokes he’d heard, the vague recollections of Pnoah’s water spritzer, and a fairly read: not skillfully drawn, as opposed to sexualcrude sketch of the pretty dancer whose name he’d still not gotten, with question marks beside it. There was no real flow to his journal; in fact, it was truly more of a scrapbook, a collection of events and memories which he hoped to fill with the sights and scenes of the world. But right now, he was studiously copying the recipe for a delicious honey-nut pastry he’d
Dice * Persuasion (recipes):
1d20 18
sweet-talked the baker into divulging.

”Bakk-lava? Oh, ok just the one ‘k.’ And this – what is this? This isn’t regular bread, I know that. Feeloh? What’s that? Oh never mind, it’s delicious is what it is.” *munch munch* ”Ah shoot, I got honey on the page. Wait, it’s spelled p-h-y-l-l-o? For real? Huh, that’s pretty weird.” *munch munch* "Okay, so you mix the honey and the – what are these nuts? Wall nuts? Ok, now I know you’re making things up. Not that kind of wall… alright, I’ll take your word for it…” And so on and so forth, until Aric had filled a half dozen pages with recipes, drawings and names of the dishes and the people who had made them, not to mention a list of cookware he would need to buy when he had the money. The people were generous, sharing what they had and not minding that Aric had no money. Some asked for him to do a simple chore. A couple wanted to see him do a little dance, and one older lady said she’d give him a whole batch of delicious biscuits for a kiss on the cheek, which the crafty old woman quickly turned into a smack on the lips before Aric could get away. For the third time that morning – or maybe fourth? (he had truly lost count) – he felt his face burn red with a blush. Still, free biscuits were free biscuits.

All too quickly the sun began to sink low on the horizon, and there seemed to be a general procession funneling toward a raised section further back in the camp. With his height, Aric could see the procession was leading toward the man Jabbal and an expressionless looking woman. It occurred to Aric that perhaps he hadn’t given the man a fair shake. He’d certainly seemed personable enough, eventually. It definitely wasn’t cool that he’d tried to turn the people against Pnoah and Xi, but maybe it was just borne out of suspicion of those from afar. Aric could certainly understand that. Oakgrove had not exactly been a picture of welcoming inclusivity. As evidenced by my father when he discovered his wife was a magic-user, right before they killed her and cut his arm off, he thought bitterly. Still, this was a new day, and he was determined to end the festival on a high note – and there was no trace of the hostility and suspicion that Jabbal had shown the previous evening. In fact, he’d even welcomed them to feast on food and enjoy the festival with exuberant alacrity. No, Aric would talk to Jabbal and thank him for his courtesy. I’ll be the picture of politeness. Maybe he’ll even learn something about us “outlanders,” that we’re not all bad, untrustworthy people.

When Aric came face to face with the man, he did what he had seen several other people do upon greeting the man and knelt in respect. ”Uh, th-thank you for your time, sir. Um, it-it’s a wonderful festival. I’ve been trying to learn what I can, just like I said last night. See? I even learned to haggle!” And he held up the thick, leatherbound notebook and his new quill and inkwell. ”I’ve been making a... collection? I guess you’d call it, of sights and faces and new things. I’m trying to learn the different banners here and which tribe goes with which animal. Oh! What is that?! A monkey?! Haha! He’s- he’s so funny. I’ve never seen one before – may I draw him?” Even at fifteen, Aric emotionally was at times still much a child, and no child can long resist the antics of a monkey. He stepped out of the way of the line which stretched on behind him and sat down on the sand, doing his best to capture the likeness of the silly simian. It was during this time that he also became aware of the woman seated beside Jabbal. She looked… she looked gone. She looked like the world around her was on some other plane of existence which she neither felt nor saw. Aric was uncomfortably reminded of Isandril’s trance. This was sort of like that, but where Isandril grew stronger from his vacant reverie, this woman…
(dead she’s dead she’s a hollowed out husk a shell her heart beats but there is no life)
-well, clearly something had happened to make her feel this way, but
Dice * Insight (Neilah):
1d20+1 (7)+1 Total = 8
Aric had no idea what. It was too bad. Jabbal seemed happy, and the people around him sure seemed like they were having a great time, but whoever this lady was, clearly the festival just wasn’t her cup of tea. Having finished drawing the monkey, Aric decided to do his best to capture her beauty on the page. She looks so off. Maybe she’s just tired? I don’t know if a picture would make her feel better, but… well I don’t know as it would make her feel any worse. I mean, I’m not a terrible artist after all. His eyes looked down at the pictures he’d made thus far. Okay, I’m not the most terrible artist. And who knows, maybe it’ll be just the thing. And so he set to work trying to capture Neilah’s likeness on the page, his quill scratching back and forth, ink seeping out and becoming… something.

By the time Aric had finished, it had begun to grow dark yet again. The festival had come and gone like a cloud passing before the sun. Aric had eaten well, stuffing countless delectable dishes down his throat, and now at the end of the day he had grown sluggish with calories and lethargic after the joyful buzz of the festival wound down to a peaceful lull. Aric looked around and saw a few other faces he recognized, outlanders like himself. Jabbal still seemed as full of life as he’d been at the start. He cleared his throat and seemed like he had something important to say to the outlanders who had stayed behind at his request.

"I hope that the festival has granted you peace, my friends. You will surely be wanting to return to your homes now, though if you were to stay in this land of light and sand for a little longer, I may have a request for you. Don’t feel obliged to accept just because I have offered you food, drink and shelter from the elements. It was my privilege to have entertained such fine individuals as you. No, this is more of a business proposal. You see, the Khan has asked me to deliver a letter to a merchant in the nearby town of Pashin…”

”OH! OH OH OH! I’ll go I’ll go!” Aric realized he’d raised his arm as though he were a schoolchild answering an arithmetic problem. ”Erm, I mean, that is, if you will have me, I will help bring the letter to- uh – to Pashhh… I don’t know where I’m going. Um, but, I bet my friend Pnoah might have a map? Maybe? Or you have a map! Well, I’ll find a map, it’s not a problem. I mean, I’ll probably have to use some of that steel to, uh, to buy a map. I sorta… spent what coin I had on this new notebook and ink. But hey! Check this out! I already wrote down a whole bunch of different recipes from stuff I tried today that might be good to make again later. Oh – uh, ignore those. I was, uh, trying to draw people I’ve met today. Yes, no, that squiggle is supposed to be a monkey. Well, I mean, to be honest, he wouldn’t stop moving. Oh, and that’s, um, your lady friend there. She looked, um, like she needed to be cheered up… He suddenly grew self-conscious of how fully he had stomped all over Jabbal when the man had been mid0request, and with a quiet cough he sat back down. ”S-sorry for interrupting. I just wanted to say that I would help. Sorry. Oh, and sorry for pretending to sleep yesterday. Then, as if on cue, he was wracked with a jaw-splitting yawn that immediately evoked another slew of hurried apologies before he finally, wisely, mercifully, bit his lip and stopped talking.

 
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A watched game never updates...

Posting status: Delayed by life/brain stuff. Will post when I can. Skip/NPC as needed.

Last edited by Noquarter19; Jul 4th, 2022 at 05:49 AM.
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