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Old May 11th, 2024, 02:19 AM
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Interlude 5: The Dreampath

Darkness
Zendra woke with an audible gasp. She instantly opened her eyes, expecting to see either Aric’s face, his kind eyes full of concern, or that of Asmara, ancient, reserved and often unreadable. All she saw, however, was darkness.


Taking a deep breath, she tried to focus on what had happened to her. The last thing she remembered was Asmara’s thumb on her forehead, the words the wise woman had been chanting, asking for Rakaris’ guidance, and the acrid scent of smoke mixed with various aromatic herbs. How much time had passed since the ritual? She couldn’t tell, but she supposed that it was all over by now. Not that she felt any different. For once, she had put her faith in the gods and they had disappointed her. Big surprise.


Leaning on her elbows so that her upper body was almost upright, she tried to get a feeling of her surroundings. The place smelled of old leather and smoke, probably from a now extinguished brazier. The sensation was very familiar, but for the time being, she was unable to recall exactly where she had last encountered it.


Beneath her was something furry and warm, an animal pelt of some kind. She slowly passed her hand over it, being surprised by the feeling of comfort and security it exuded, this is the place the Bear Spirit manifestsas if this was the safest place in the world for her.


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The bear pelt

From outside the place Zendra found herself in, muffled by wooden walls or thick fabric, the sounds of a celebration could be heard. It seemed that the Mikku were unconcerned about the losses she and Devari had suffered and couldn’t picture an evening around the bonfire without drink and song and dance. The archaeologist shook her head. Should she have expected better from a tribe that honored the passing of their chieftain’s adolescent daughter with a feast of epic proportions?


Strangely enough, this evening the Mikku weren’t playing their traditional Khurish music, but had decided to dance to the rhythm of songs that were widely spread all over Ansalon. One could barely visit an inn or a tavern from Gwynned to Saifhum and Palanthas to Tarsis and fail to hear them being sung at least once. Zendra smiled. This one was one of her favorites. Three sheets to the wind!


Suddenly, Zendra’s smile froze and she became as rigid as stone, unable to move even the tiniest of her muscles, unable to blink or breathe. Three sheets to the wind. This was the song she had sung before… before…


Pegrin’s camp!


No, it was impossible. The man was dead, Derg was dead, all the other bandits were dead too! This had to be a misunderstanding. She had to know more. She had to take a better look at her surroundings.


She had to bring light to the darkness!




 


 
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Last edited by Elanir; May 14th, 2024 at 06:01 PM. Reason: Added bold to ‘current objective’.
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Old May 11th, 2024, 04:02 PM
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Zendra Zantir
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Zendra


Zendra had to bite the inside of her own cheek to keep from instinctively crying out. She didn't even know whether the sound she made would be the whimper of fear or a roar of rage that the bear on the ground might have envied had it drawn breath still. She knew only that she could not afford to alert Pegrin and the others.

Pegrin. Again.

Not for the first time she found herself wondering had she ever left the camp? Maybe all her journey's since had been a dream - ha! - and she had never met draconians, minotaurs and centaurs, had never dug at the grave of her aunt, had never told a (mostly) true story to a circle of watching Mikku, their eyes wide with awe as she wove her exploits into tale and song...

Get a grip Zendra. Think of a way out. Think.

A light was easy to arrange. By the gods half the enchanted items she war shone or glowed! She could ignite the blue lightning in the Bracers of the Winternorn, or fire a shimmering bolt from Dragonbite, or... or...

Her trinkets, the result of a lifetime of adventure were nowhere to be seen. It was as if an entire family of Kender had marched through the tent while she slept.

I should I should be grateful I still have my clothes. Fine then.

For a few moments more Zendra ran through a list of alchemical compounds she knew how to brew. There were any number of ways to make light. Hell some of the ingredients were downright common. It was just that none seemed to be available in this shabby tent.

The tent.

Zendra looked over the tent again. She'd stayed in a number over the years ranging from goblin sized fleapits to cushion and perfume filled mobile palaces of princelings. This particular lean too was neither the best nor the worst but it shared the basic design. If she clamber up one of the tent poles and cut through a place where the stitching was weakest - say there - she could make a hole. Not enough to clamber out of but enough to let two guests in: Solinari and Lunitari.

Who needs to mess around with alchemy when there are two perfectly good moons in the night sky to provide light in a newly ventilated tent?

Of course to achieve that she'd need to climb and unstitch. Shame she didn't have any of theused in Mending cantrips enchanted tools with her but she wasn't completely without resources.

Taking off her hat Zendra carefully removed a small steel hatpin that kept the feathers in place. Truth be told it made a pisspoor needle but it was better than nothing. Hatpin firmly clamped in her lips she hauled her way up the pole to start unpicking a section of stitching in the tent roof.

If this turns out to be a cloudy night I will be very upset...




 




 



 


 
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Old May 13th, 2024, 09:50 AM
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In the wagon…

It was a good thing that Aric had a duty to perform – serving as Zendra’s caretaker on her dreampath. It was a good thing, because he would have felt damned guilty riding high and dry in the relative comfort of the wagon while the rest of his companions and the Mikku tribe either walked or rode their way across the desert. The ritual had begun, and… well? So far, nothing had really happened. He sat beside the comatose Zendra and watched her face, hoping that things were going well. To him, it just looked like sleeping, but for her…

”I wonder what it is you’re going through right now,” he said quietly as he brushed one of the pesky flies that usually surrounded the tribe’s horses off of her arm. ”I wonder…”

The bear down there

”Hey, would you mind moving, please? I can bearly breathe down here.”

A slow, low rumbling voice emanated from beneath where Zendra was seated. The rug-shaped bear (or was that a bear-shaped rug?) seemed to be stirring in a way that did not make sense. She could hear a voice and she could sense movement from the space the pelt occupied, but when she touched the still fur, it remained an inert pelt.

"That tickles," the voice said again. She looked where her hand was and noticed it was a good two feet above the pelt on the floor. She waved her hand about, trying to feel whatever seemed to be speaking to her.

A tickling warmth seemed to tingle along her phand suddenly, and she had the strangest feeling that something had licked her palm. She jerked her hand back, expecting to find it covered in slobber, but it appeared to look like her normal, soft skin. A bit moist from sweat due to the heat of the desert, maybe, but no drool.

"Oh, were you not waving hello? My apologies." The voice was a low rumble, a deep baritone that oozed into her ears like molasses. She recalled having heard drunken men who spoke slowly, mainly because their brains were taking longer to find the words, but she didn't think that was the case here. It just seemed like the speaker was a slow talker.

"Guess I should have waited before licking your hand. Ah, well. Consider this my official greeting"

Zendra gasped as something brushed against her hand, something which seemed to envelop her whole palm and fingers. It was warm and soft, but there were parts that also seemed hard and sharp, and the overall feeling on her hand she could only describe as... furry?

"Why the long paws? You've never shaken hands with a bear before? ...That is what you humans do, yes?"

Zendra looked at her hand, at the top and bottom and from both sides. There was nothing on her hand, but she could still feel it. Aside from the pelt on the floor, nothing resembling a bear's paw was even close to her hand. She splayed her fingers and moved her hand forward a few inches, and it felt like she was running her hand through something's hair. She looked at her hand, looked at the floor, looked at her hand again...

"Oh. You can't actually see me, can you? Great, now I've embearassed myself. Well, I guess you can look at that big dried up carpet and pretend it's me talking to you. My name is Mathúin, but given my current occupation, I suppose you can just call me Mat."

There was a low, rumbling chortle that could have been the sound of boulders rolling down a mountain slope, but she recognized it as Mathúin laughing.

"Don't mind me, I just enjoy making jokes. It helps pass the time. Hmm..." She senses slow movement and though she didn't actually see anything change, the voice now sounded closer, as though it was little more than a foot from her face.

"You seem... familiar. Have you been here before?" The silence stretched on for a few long seconds, and she got the distinct impression she was being analyzed. She was just about to start getting nervous at the invisible scrutiny, but the voice pulled away.

"My mistake. I think it must have been some other blond-haired human. Well, I don't know your name yet, but that is alright, most humans I encounter do not typically introduce themselves to rugs." Another low, rumbling chortle came and went, and then the voice took on what she could only describe as a curious tone.

"You seem... like you are out of place. And you smell..." The voice moved closer, and she suddenly heard a sniffing sound from very close by. "Interesting. I cannot tell if you are afraid or angry. It seems like you might be both. Well, I hope that is not because of me." Having completed its olfactory assessment of her, the voice pulled back.

"When I was alive, I was out hunting one day. A sandstorm kicked up out of nowhere and I lost track of where I was or where I was going. I wandered quite some time, trying to get a sense of where I was and where I needed to be. But all I kept finding were my own tracks. I wasn't thinking. I was reacting, and because I wasn't thinking, I didn't go anywhere, and I was hungry and exhausted as well. If I had taken the time to stop and think instead of simply acting, I would have realized that my path was just over a couple small dunes. Once I calmed, I could smell where I had marked my scent. I made sure to always keep where I was in my mind, because then finding it later was that much easier "

The voice moved closer to her, and despite not being able to see it, despite it seeming to be the invisible ghost of a massive bear which lay dead on the floor, she sensed no malice from it.

"You cannot find where you are going until you know where you are. I was alone that day. Fortunately for you, you are not. I will help you, blond-haired human, because you appear lost. I cannot influence things physically, but I can be the calming voice you need when all other voices seem frightened."

There is another pause. "I hope you like jokes and puns. I've had... a lot of time on my hands, and it's nice to finally have a captive audience"


 
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Old May 14th, 2024, 05:58 PM
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A Strange Companion
A talking bear pelt named Mat. One with a sense of humor.


This, more than anything else, proved to Zendra that she was dreaming. Once she took a moment to think about it, everything became more clear. It explained how she had come to find herself inside the tent of the man who had treated her as if she had been a thing in his possession. It explained how people who had been dead for days, killed by Zendra’s companions, were apparently very much alive and celebrating, their dissonant voices barely blocked by the tent’s fabric. It explained the fact that the far too thin and fragile pin she used to keep the feathers of her hat in place could be fashioned into a tool capable of cutting through the tough thread used to stitch together the different pieces of fabric.


All of it should have been impossible. Only, it wasn’t.


Oddly comforted by the bear’s friendly chatter that kept her mind from focusing on what would happen if the tent’s flap suddenly parted and Pegrin appeared, Zendra kept on working with great determination. The needle she used should have bent out of any recognizable shape the moment the archaeologist pushed its pointy end through the seam, but nothing of the sort happened. On the contrary, within moments a tear formed, one that grew wider each time Zendra repeated her efforts. Before long, a sizable hole offered her an uninhibited view of the night sky, without even a single cloud in sight.


She had expected the two moons to welcome her, Solinari waxing, almost a full disc of shiny metal, and Lunitari waning, a slim cresent the color of fresh blood, but the light that flooded the tent was neither silver nor crimson. It was pale white and more comforting to Zendra than anything she had expected. The single moon, her old friend, had returned.


Just for her.


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The return of the pale moon

With a smile on her lips, Zendra looked around the tent. Everything was exactly as she remembered it. The bear’s pelt, as warm and welcoming as the arms of the man she had fallen for, though their passion had been genuine only for a single night. The carpet with the singed spot that had made Cole panic. The brazier the young pyromancer was supposed to have kept burning, its coals now as black and cold as the night. The ‘captain’s’ desk and upon it an object, though its outline appeared hazy for some reason. Zendra realized that this must be one of the elven heirlooms the bandits had stolen. Everything else had probably either been claimed by Pegrin’s men or already sold for steel, food and drink in Pashin. She only had to take one or two steps towards it and she was certain that she would be able to immediately recognize it. Perhaps even claim it for herself.


Next to the desk was Pegrin’s large, iron bound chest. He had kept it open and unlocked for her during the last time she was here, but she doubted this would still be the case. As she had come to learn all too painfully, the bandit leader trusted no one, with the possible exception of Derg. If something could be locked, it was almost certain that it was and that Pegrin had the key on his person.


The song outside had been replaced by slurred speech and raucous bursts of laughter. It seemed that most of the bandits were too drunk to sing or play music. Now, was the time for jokes, jibes and embarrassing tales, most of them about Cole no doubt. Soon, Pegrin would retire to his tent.


When that happened, Zendra had to be ready. She would never be able to overpower the large man without assistance. She still remembered how weak and hopeless she had felt when he had grabbed her by the arms and was shouting to her that she had betrayed him. She needed help. An ally. An ally with a bear’s strength.


Zendra looked carefully at the bear pelt. At one time, its owner must have been magnificent and able to tear Pegrin in two with its claws, but she could barely accomplish that with a rug. No, if the bear was to act as her guardian and defender, she would have to fashion a body for it.




 


 
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Old May 16th, 2024, 07:26 PM
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Zendra Zantir
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Zendra


Even by the standards of a dream the talking bear ghost and the reappearance of the pale moon were strange. It took a few moments for Zendra to really recover.

"It is good to meet you Mathúin," she said, addressing the general area of the pelt. She smiled ruefully. "Though 'meet' might be a strong word given your current incorporeal nature. You have a very fine pelt, albeit you are not inside it."

It was naturally surreal to be talking to a bear ghost but she could do with an ally here. "I could maybe make you a body... if I had access to a workshop and several weeks of intense work with magical tools. Unless of course..."

As soon as she'd said the word 'magical' a memory flitted into her brain. It was a very old memory, one that smelled of ale and beer and the Flotsam tavern she'd grown up in. Zendra - not that she'd been Zendra then - had been a small child sneaking a fascinated peak at one of her uncles old parchment journals. Arcana check = 24(!)She'd read that certain rare magical statuettes could be infused with the spirits of
animals. Such 'Figurines of Wondorous Power' could turn from small sculptures of animals into the living breathing things... at least for a time.

Her hazel eyes shifted towards the desk. Her heart beat a little faster. Was that three jade figurines she saw there? Was one of them a bear? She only had to move a little closer to find out.

What are the chances that it is a magical figurine and that it is a bear? a gloomy voice asked deep within Zendra's mind. In fact are there even figurines of bears? I can't recall reading about them?

She took a step towards the desk, throat tight.

Maybe it is unlikely but such magic does exist in the world. I know it. Pegrin and his men have been looting the Silvanesti, the most magical people in the world. Such magic could have ended up here, unrecognized until I came along. It could have.

Zendra took a deep breath.

'The unlikely is not the impossible. It must happen somewhere, sometime. Why not here?'

She stepped forward to look at the jade figurines.




 




 



 


 
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Old May 18th, 2024, 01:36 AM
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”Such politeness I have not heard in a very long time, if ever! Your words are like honey dripping into my ears. …You don’t happen to have any honey, do you? Oh, never mind, I probably could not eat it like I am anyway.” If it was possible for an ethereal bear spirit to slump in disappointment, Mathúin certainly seemed to now, though only for a moment. ”I wonder how it is that I am still here, still occupying this dusty little space. I am sure that you would like to know how it is that you came to be here as well.”

Zendra completed cutting a hole in the tent with just a hatpin, something that should not have been possible given the frail nature of her tool. As moonlight spilled into the tent, Mathúin shared his approval by rearing up on hind legs to peer through the unanticipated aperture – or at least, that what the slight motion out of the corner of Zendra’s eye seemed to indicate. Looking in that direction revealed yet again how empty the tent was. ”Oh, well done, my blond human friend, very well done indeed. It feels… like an age has passed since the light of the moon has touched my fur, has lit my eyes with its pale glow. You are a clever one. But do not worry about me. You are still alive, though… incomplete, it seems. I am just a whisper of life now, nothing more, and one cannot capture a whisper. …Though, I suppose if anyone could find a way, it would be a clever girl like yourself.”

The sound of the voices outside changed. Soon enough, the denizens of the tent would return and discover Zendra, unless she were able to think on her feet and remain calm.

”The one who calls this tent home shall be done with his revelry soon enough. It is the same thing every night. When he comes, you will need to be gone… or you will need a way to stop him. How you will do this, I cannot say, though it seems like your mind is keen enough to solve the problem. I do not know what has brought you here, blond human friend, and I would not have you waste what remaining time you have to plan your escape on a whisper like me. But, if you are able to find a way to do this thing, I shall not complain. It would be a welcome change seeing more of this world. Spending all existence as nothing more than some vagabond’s rug… really ruffles the fur, if you know what I mean.”

Can bears wink? Zendra didn’t know for sure, but Mathúin, the ghostly bear who was quick with a quip, certainly seemed like he had.

 
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Old May 19th, 2024, 11:43 AM
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The Man
Zendra slowly approached Pegrin’s desk, allowing memory and intuition to guide her actions. She well remembered having studied the three figurines, all of them depicting different kinds of animals: a snake, a raven and a c…


No, not a cat, though it somewhat looks like one. It is a bear. Yes, clearly a bear.


Sure enough, the trio of jade statuettes were exactly as she remembered. The snake was depicted coiled and alert, but not malicious, raising its head as if to observe the world around it. The raven, on the other hand, was ready to take flight, its wings half-opened, its legs ready to allow it to jump off the ground.


As for the bear, of the three, it seemed, this one had been carved with the greatest love. Its furry hide had been depicted with incredible detail and its expression was friendly, large eyes and a mouth that almost gave the impression that the animal was grinning at some joke it had just heard - or told.


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The jade bear figurine

Among the intricate pattern of wild curls and errant tufts of hair, strange mystical symbols had been carved. Zendra smiled as she realized that she had been right all along. Hidden between the two ordinary statuettes was indeed a figurine of wondrous power, though one of a kind she had never encountered in a book before. The magic that had once powered it was spent, possibly dissipating after the disappearance of the moons of magic in the aftermath of the Chaos War, but the statuette could still serve as an excellent home to Mathúin, the friendly bear spirit, one that would allow it to ‘expand’ in size as if it still occupied its original body.


The archaeologist, a wide grin on her face, was about to suggest that the bear settled down inside the jade figurine, when the flap of the tent was forcibly opened. The light and heat of the bonfire, along with the smell of roasted meat and spilled beer flooded the tent, making the shadow of the one standing at the entrance appear huge.


Zendra audibly gasped.


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Pegrin, a memory that cannot be erased
The man looked exactly as she remembered - young, tall and athletic, cheeks slightly flushed from the drink and the nearness to the bonfire, lips that were quick to form a smile or kiss, intense eyes betraying a will that could not be sated, not for long. The man took a step towards Zendra and the familiar scent of sweat and leather threatened to sweep her off her feet. Handsome, charming and extremely dangerous, this was the Pegrin of her memories, the Pegrin of her nightmares, perfectly alive and well as if nothing had happened.


"Zendra, you are awake!", Pegrin exclaimed in surprise, his eyes narrowing when he saw that the woman had one of the jade figurines in her hands. His eyes immediately went to the large chest next, but he could detect no sign that it had been opened without his knowledge and permission.


The man smiled, revealing two rows of white teeth, like a boy being presented with his favorite dessert, one he was very eager to devour.


"Are you feeling better, my lady? Has the headache passed?", Pegrin asked as he took a few more steps towards her, his tone one of excitement. He opened his arms, no doubt for some gesture of affection and Zendra wished that the tent had been ten times larger than it was. A hundred times!


"If it has and you are indeed feeling better, I wouldn’t say no to a relaxing massage. Prove your talent and zeal and I might show you a few tricks as well."


He looked at her, grinning, and memories of their first and only night together made Zendra freeze. What if things were different in the dream? What if this Pegrin was kind, loving and devoted to her? What if he truly was a man she could allow herself to fall for? Would it be so wrong to find someone to love and be loved back?


What if her story could be written anew?




 


 
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Old May 21st, 2024, 05:08 AM
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”Curious. I see you have found some of this ‘Pegrin’s’ treasure. They are very nice; the bear is the most tastefully rendered I must say, though I might be just a smidge biased. My question is what do you plan to do with them?” The bear spirit’s rumbling low voice was measured in tone, but there was an undercurrent of hopefulness that he couldn’t quite suppress. Zendra continued to look at the figurines on the bench and then turned her gaze back toward the pelt on the floor. Mathúin, watching from a few feet away, appeared to incline his head inquisitively up at her – or he would have appeared to, if he were anything more than an invisible specter.

”You’ve got that thoughtful look in your eye like you had earlier, blond human girl. Before you cut that hole in the roof, you stared at your pin the same way you’re staring at the figurine – like how I used to stare at fish in a stream, waiting for the right time to strike. I knew they were there, but I had to focus very hard, or else I would go hungry. Not a concern now, of course. You don’t realize how good you had it being alive, until you’re a disembodied spirit staring at your lifeless, flat body and realizing that your eternal afterlife is serving as a rug.” That same measured tone, though it was laced with regret. ”I would give anything for a bite of raw salmon right now.”

The tent flap parted at that moment, and the master of the house appeared – Pegrin, in all his drunken, debauched glory. ”Zendra, you are awake! Are you feeling better, my lady? Has the headache passed?”

Another county heard from,” Mathúin grumbled. His spiritual form seemed to slump a little bit. ”This guy, all he does is wipe his feet on my backside and belch and curse.” The bear sighs. ”I was hoping you would be able to get out before he arrived, but…” There is a slight pause. ”Now I’m sure I must have seen you before, but for the unlife of me I can’t remember when.” Mathúin fetches another deep sigh and seems to settle down on the floor, slipping back into his normal role as a humble rug occupied by a disembodied spirit. ”Sorry, blond human girl… oh, excuse me, I suppose your name is Zendra? Sorry, Zendra, I don’t mean to become dispirited– “ There is a brief pause, and then Mathúin is chortling again. ”Hah, see, I did it to myself again. I wasn’t even trying to make a pun that time, and I made one anyway. Hah, ‘dispirited.’ You see, it’s funny, because I’m a spirit, so even if I wanted to, I couldn’t be dispirited. Hah hah. Oh, Mathúin, you’ve still got it.”

Pegrin appears to not hear Mathúin, which is good, because it means that Pegrin isn’t aware his living quarters are haunted by his rug. Mathúin, unfortunately, can hear Pegrin, and when the scoundrel suggests that Zendra stay and give him a massage for “a few of his tricks,” there is a low growl from the bear spirit’s direction. Zendra catches the sight of invisible movement as Mathúin advances toward Pegrin, and in the pale glow of the moon, she could swear he was baring his teeth at the bandit..

”Don’t do it Zendra, this guy is meaner than a sow protecting her cubs. His words are honey now, but when you don’t give him what he wants when he wants it, all that sweetness turns to vinegar. In my younger days, one swipe of my claw would have put an end to his rabble rousing, but now, even if I were in that dirty rug of a body now, I’ve got no bones, so whatever you do, it’s all on you. And I don’t think you’ll be able to trick him, either. He may reek of liquor, but he saw you looking at his stolen goods. He's on alert for tricks. No, I think the only way you’re going to get out of this is if he thinks you’re giving him what he wants – as distasteful as that may seem. You used that hatpin to great effect on the tent. Maybe, if he relaxes into thinking he’s getting a nice massage, you could ‘let some moonlight into him,’ if you catch my meaning.” From the direction of the voice, Zendra could almost swear she saw Mathúin making a stabbing motion with his claw in Pegrin’s general direction.

 
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Old May 21st, 2024, 06:42 AM
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Zendra Zantir
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Zendra


As unexpected and awful as the reappearance of Pegrin was right at this moment Zendra felt a surge of relief that the bear spirit was here. True at the moment Mathúin couldn't do much except offer advice and humour (and she felt her cheeks warm as she repressed laughing at the latter) but even that was enough to keep her going.

Fighting back an instinctive shudder Zendra conjured up a smile and moved to embrace Pegrin. "Ah my handsome hero! Of course I shall give you a massage!" Zendra purred in her best mindless blonde sex kitten voice as she winked at her 'rescuer' (Mathúin was not the only one who could do it!)

Dancing her finger tips gently along his armour she said: "But my lord to make it even more preferable shall I fetch you a drink? The desert is so hot and I think we could both do with a little wine to-" she looked up at his face and raised her eyebrows seductively, "unwind after such a long, hard, tiring day."

Pegrin was clearly a few flagons down already. Zendra knew it was a dangerous game but if she could keep getting him drunker and drunker then he'd pass out before she had to go too far with her massaging. Of course she'd have to drink too but from a sober start and she hoped she could feign how much ale and wine she had.

Zendra wasn't quite sure she could just stab Pegrin - at least not this Pegrin - in cold blood but if he was out cold she wouldn't need too. Right?




 




 



 


 
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Old May 21st, 2024, 05:51 PM
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Elven Wine
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Pegrin, a scoundrel
Pegrin’s face darkened at Zendra’s words and his eyes grew narrow with suspicion. Once more he looked at the chest, then at the jade figurines, counting them. One, two, three. All of them there, the chest’s lock untouched. Satisfied, a bright smile dawned between his lips and the bandit leader was instantly transformed into a mischievous youth.


"You know me so well, my lady." He laughed as innocently as if he didn’t have a single care in the world, throwing back his head and passing his fingers through his unruly hair in a futile attempt at taming them. "There is nothing better than a bottle of elven wine to make this night even more memorable." He licked his lips and then passed his thumb over them, savoring the richness of the beverage before even tasting it. "Then go, but do not tarry. I am so eager to taste the wine from your rosy lips."


With only a few practiced moves, Pegrin quickly removed his weapons, armor and clothes, leaving only his breeches on. Lazily, he lay down on the bear pelt and looked at Zendra with eyes that were dull from lust and the spirits he had already imbibed. He smiled. Sweetly, silently making Zendra a hundred promises he wouldn’t keep beyond this night.


"Go", he mouthed and Zendra had no choice but to obey. She glanced at the bear statuette, close enough that she could have simply reached out and taken hold of it, so far away that it might as well have been on her desk back in Flotsam. Pegrin yawned, rubbing away the sleep from his eyes. If she were to get her hands on the figurine of wondrous power, there could be no better time than this.


Having made her choice between courage and prudence, Zendra slipped out of the tent as silently as she could. Most of the bandits had retired, she was happy to see, and a few were patrolling the outskirts of the camp according to their captain’s wishes. She would have liked to see Cole again, but she realized that the young pyromancer must have been the first to seek the privacy of his tent.


And yet, not all had left the still blazing bonfire to slowly die without a witness. A pair of hateful eyes looked at her with such intensity that she felt her cheeks burn. A ferocious growling made any doubts about the figure’s identity instantly disperse: Derg and Malys.


"Going for a walk?", Derg asked, using the tip of his dagger to clean the filth from beneath his nails. "Bad idea", he continued, not waiting for Zendra’s reply. "The desert is full of dangers and you could easily get lost in the darkness." He didn’t smile, not even maliciously. Zendra believed that he was simply incapable of smiling.


Close to the log that served as the half-elf’s seat, the archaeologist could spy several bottles of wine, most of them opened. One or two, however, appeared to remain intact. Now all she had to do was muster her confidence to persuade Derg to relinquish them to her.


Or, if she was brave enough, she could simply run away. It was risky, but infinitely preferable to feeling Pegrin’s hands upon her body ever again.




 


 
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Old May 22nd, 2024, 03:42 PM
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Zendra Zantir
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Zendra


Zendra caught her breath as Pegrin rubbed at his eyes and reached out to grab the bear statuette. Another second or two and she'd have managed it but she saw Pegrin start to turn her way and want had been a move with her left hand for the jade bear became an immediate shift to playing on Pegrin's arm with her fingertips, playing at the leather straps on his armour as she smiled at him. "I'll be back in moments my gallant Captain," Zendra promised.

Stepping out of the tent she could have screamed or kicked something or both. She'd been so close to taking the bear. If Pegrin had been distracted for even another breath...

She wanted to cry at the sheer frustration of it all, especially since it meant she'd have to come back to the tent to get Mathúin's new body. No running off into the night now, even under the welcome light of the pale moon.

It was a surreal experience moving through a camp full of men who'd soon be dead, or where already dead in the real world or perhaps might live yet if this dream was something more than figment and gossamer. She tried to make out which tent might be Cole's but she couldn't find it or she had forgotten it or perhaps she had never even noticed it the first time around.

Derg. I hope the real you is finding the Abyss to his comfort.

Zendra didn't say those words aloud but she did rise to her full height and say, in imperious tones: "The Captain wants me to bring him wine. You," She snapped her fingers at the half-elf like an empress, "hand me a bottle, a good one. Oh and Derg, I know you don't like me. Fine, I don't like you either. But do not get on my bad side. There are things worse than the darkness in this desert. I know I have walked among them."

She paused and leaned in closer, her hazel eyes meeting Derg's. After the draconians and the dream eater and the army of centaurs why had she ever been afraid of this petty thug and his dog?

"Take a good long look into my eyes Derg. I've seen things that would turn your hair the colour of the moon, send you screaming and sobbing for your mother with you pantaloons soaked in piddle. You cannot frighten me and you cannot bully me, so do not even try. Give me the wine now."



 




 



 


 
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Old May 27th, 2024, 01:56 AM
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There was a quiet knock on the side of the wagon. Startled from his If I recall correctly, now at level four, she should be a real flying bird now? I know I already marked down as having Animal Handling proficiencyinspection of Kay and her red and bluehot and cold plumage, Aric cautiously peeled back the flap of canvas. He was expecting the old woman, perhaps, or Alakar – but no, it was Blyne, and she looked terrible.

His heart ached. He had never been able to connect with the strange, shapeshifting woman. There had been moments of respect, but the two of them had been just like Kay’s feathers: hot and cold. Aric was the fire - young and impetuous, while Blyne had been ice – cold and measured. He’d disliked her arrogance, and she’d disliked… everything about him, seemingly. Every effort to talk to her since their initial divide outside Pashin had been a cursory thing. And now, as he listened to her speak, he realized that there would be no other chances to mend things between them. Blyne – and Besimeh too – were leaving.

”I… see. That’s… well, I understand your reasons. It’s very decent of you to support Besimeh like this, and I hope Mindsiege! We love you and miss you! We hope you’re feeling better soon… when your current situation is resolved, you might return to us soon. For what it’s worth… I never disliked you. I just couldn’t ever seem to get on the same page with you. I know that’s a problem with me, and I’m trying hard to be a better person… Anyway, I wish you the best of luck.” He reaches out a hand to shake, then watches as her and her merchant companion fade away into the distance. He stood like that for a few minutes, thinking. Things could have been different between them. But they weren’t. They were the way they were, and now it seemed, the way they always would be.



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Mathúin watched as Pegrin’s dark, beady eyes swept over Zendra and the bear figurine in her hand, and his heart sank. A spirit no longer has blood that can run cold, but he felt it all the same. No, put it back, put it back, Zendra, it’s not worth it. I’m not worth your life. He “breathed” a sigh of relief when she did, then listened as she laid on the charm like butter on bread. ”Like I said – more flies with honey,” he said appreciably to her, his respect for this smart, charismatic human growing by the moment. He was glad that she was getting away, that she was able to con Pegrin into believing that she was just “going for a bottle of wine,” and not fleeing into the desert. Still, the idea that she wasn’t coming back was a bit deflating. He slumped back down on the floor and watched her leave, his spirit low. Which made sense – he was on the floor, after all.

”Goodbye, Zendra,” he said quietly to her disappearing backside. ”I hope you find what you seek.” He stared up through the hole in the roof she had cut, watching the pale moonglow as it filtered down toward his shaggy rug body. He was surprised Pegrin hadn’t noticed it yet. As much of a bloodthirsty, evil son of a bitch as the bandit leader was, he wasn’t stupid.

Still, if anyone could outfox the man, he had a hunch that Zendra could do it. He believed in her, strongly, and wanted nothing but the best for her. His eyes turned back to where Pegrin stood, examining the figurines.

”You had better pray she doesn’t find a way to put my bones back in my body, you… you… Oh, I’m so mad, I can’t even come up with a decent insult! Butt… Man! *sigh* No, certainly not my best work. Well, I’ve got the rest of my unlife to come up with something better. Ooh! ‘Pegrin the blandit’! Because, uh, because, your face is so bland, it… no, no that’s nothing.”

 
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Old May 27th, 2024, 01:14 PM
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Derg the craven
Malys, a hound so ferocious and unfriendly with everyone but her master, lowered her body and started whimpering before Zendra’s fiery determination. A few moments later, Derg did pretty much the same. The lines of hatred, anger and suspicion that were a permanent feature of his complexion relaxed and in his eyes, which held little to no trace of his elven heritage, concern gave way to fear. The archaeologist didn’t have to make use of the Kingpriest’s mind reading spells to know the pathetic thoughts that formed inside the half-elf’s head. They were clearly written on the blank canvas of his face with large, trembling letters that reeked of desperation.


This ***** has Pegrin wrapped around her little finger. All she has to do is frown and the whole camp will rise up against me. I will be beaten and spat upon, driven away and left to wander the desert alone, until the wild beasts take pity on me and end my loneliness with their fangs and claws. I cannot afford to make myself an enemy of this woman. Not as long as she has Pegrin’s favor.


With haste, while humbly keeping his eyes glued to the ground, Derg presented Zendra with one of the bottles the bandits had stolen from the Silvanesti refugees. The archaeologist saw that his hands trembled. They were the same hands that had plunged sharp blades in her back without the slightest hesitation.


"Forgive me, I didn’t mean to sound unfriendly", he murmured. "What is mine is also yours." The half-elf raised his head, daring to have a last look into Zendra’s hazel eyes. Derg endured her gaze only for a single moment and then bowed his head in submission. "Mistress", he added.


Mistress.


There was no honesty in the word. Not even the slightest trace of loyalty. But it felt good all the same.


Zendra smiled, mercifully, triumphantly, and she accepted the bottle of wine from the hands of her almost-murderer. The half-elf was broken. She had done this without raising a single hand. Only with words. Only with the truth. She could crush him beneath her heels, if she so chose. She could ask anything of him, a weapon, a treasure, a service, and he would not find the courage to decline. Or she could forgive the man who had transformed into a worm before her eyes and turn her back to him, erasing him from her memory forever.


With silent steps, Zendra returned to Pegrin’s tent. It was not hesitation that slowed her pace. It was confidence.


She found the bandit leader where she had left him, sprawled on top of Mathúin’s pelt, half-naked and staring at the moon through the hole she had ripped through the roof of his tent. Instantly, her confidence vanished. He would grow angry, she knew. He would grab her by the throat and squeeze until she could no longer breathe.


But he didn’t. He just smiled. And cold sweat ran down Zendra’s back.


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Pegrin the cruel
"Ah, you are back, my precious", he said tenderly and beckoned her to join him on the warm and comfortable bear’s pelt. A little less comfortable now than before, Mathúin is very well aware of it, Zendra is not!for he had hidden his greatsword beneath it.


"I hope that Derg hasn’t put up too much of a fight before giving you the wine. He sees the goods of the refugees as part of his bloodright, I think, but also knows that it is I who decide who is awarded what."


The bandit gently caressed Zendra’s cheek before taking hold of the wine bottle and with a sudden, forceful move opened it. Bringing it close to his nose, he inhaled deeply.


"Exquisite. Just like you."


He placed the bottle on his lips and started drinking with large gulps until the bottle was half-empty. Only then did he stop, his smile now even wider than before.


"Your turn, Zendra. Drink up. You can’t let such good wine go to waste. It is the last of its batch. Like you. Just. Like. You."


The words were spoken sluggishly. The elven wine was having its intended effect. But slowly, far too slowly for Zendra’s purpose.


And now she would have to subject herself to the same test. She refused to even think about the alternative. She knew very well what Pegrin was capable of when angry.




 


 
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Old May 27th, 2024, 11:14 PM
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The roaring began almost as soon as Mathúin realized what Pegrin was doing with his greatsword.

Having resigned himself to his fate as a disembodied spirit read as: he’s never actually tried to move beyond his body and the world outside the tentloosely bound to his inanimate pelt, Mathúin was planning to do what he did most every night and try to make Pegrin feel cold by brushing him with his ghostly, incorporeal claws. It would have been the same tonight except for the arrival of Zendra, something which had given him both a pleasant conversation, and the faint stirrings of hope. Pegrin’s return had muddied the waters like a bear’s paw stirring up a brook, and when Zendra left to go get a bottle of wine, the bandit quickly scrambled for his sword. Mathúin, watching the tent flap dully while hoping that Zendra would somehow both flee and return to him, only realized that something was amiss when he saw the man trying to tuck the blade underneath him atop the dusty fur rug.

”What are -? You - ? Zendra He roared suddenly as he heard voices approaching. ”Zendra, don’t come back in, he’s playing a trick, Zendra, he’s got his damned sword underneath him! Oh you rotten bastard, you had better thank the gods I don’t still have bones, or I would rend the flesh from your rotten body! RRRAUUUUUGHHH! he bellowed out, savaging the man with his claws again and again until the bandit lay torn and bleeding – at least, that's how Mathúin pictured the bandit in his mind. The bandit continued to lie there, smiling his stupid smug smile and preparing to kill Mathúin’s one friend. He swiped, over and over, wishing that the gods would intervene, that he might be given even one real claw on his ghostly hand, just one, just enough to rend open the scoundrel’s throat.

Finally giving up, he moved as far as he had ever gone in this form – right up to the tent flap. ”Zendra, forget about me! Just go! Forget the wine, he’s going to kill you with his sword!” The joking bear was gone. All that was left was a worried friend.

 
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Old May 30th, 2024, 06:04 AM
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Zendra Zantir
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Zendra


Zendra instinctively took a step back as Derg fawned, suddenly exposed as more Pegrin's creature than a man of his own. She found him repulsive in any manner but somehow the sycophant was almost worse than the snarl. Even the air around him felt greasy and unpleasant.

Use him, a part of her mind, the part that in another life wore Black Robes urged. He's more dog than the beast he holds. Kick him, command him! Anything! We need revenge!

She hesitated, looking at the half elf. At least get information from him!

It made sense Zendra knew. Derg and Malys were assets to be used in this awful camp surrounded by enemies with only a disembodied bear as an ally. She'd never trust Derg of course, keep him on a short leash - ha! - but she could use him and by the gods he deserved it after he'd put through in real life and dream life.

"Go away Derg," Zendra said, voice brittle and tired. "I don't need you groveling. You and the dog can go elsewhere." So saying she turned from the half-elf dismissing him from her life forever.

The victory that pushed her forward to Pegrin's tent did not last long. Warned by Mathúin - and she glanced at the pelt and shot it a grateful smile when she thought Pegrin wasn't looking - she was further warned by Pegrin's attitude. As he he forced her Jaws open Zendra felt her gorge rising and fought to control it.

Gods how was I ever so blind about you? she thought. Forcing back that thought and the swell rising in her stomach Zendra smiled and took the bottle.

"As you wish my gallant Captain," and putting the wine to her lips she drank deep.

Zendra had shared a bottle of cheap grog with a half-goblin sailor on a sinking Blood Sea ship, she'd drunk stagnant water dripping from moss covered rocks in ruined Qualinost, she'd even once come fourth in a Flotsam Ale Week Drinking contest and lived to regret it. None of that was close to the nausea she felt from this exquisite Silvanesti vintage. It was her drinking companion not the drink that delivered the taste.

Still she drank. She was a Flotsam girl after all and she'd wager all the steel she owned that Constitution save = 19!she could drink this oaf under the table any day of the week.

Then she'd take that sword Mat had warned her about and...



 




 



 


 
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