When the sun rises Lady Anne Mowbry has still not risen. The color to her skin has returned, but her breathing is shallow and ragged. Every hour Father Karl gives her small sips from the Cup Everflowing. He tells Hafwyn, who has stood vigil the night, that her life is in Techiuan’s hands. Aegrin calls them to the Caves of Chaos.
A trusty companion halves the journey and doubles the courage.The Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
Quilate, Keribrar, Hafwyn, and Thorne all recognize each other. Quilate seems distant, almost distract and their bond with him is wavering. For the rest they have seen their reflection on this world change as their understanding of its story unfurl. Hafwyn appears changed the most looking like a very young elven woman wearing a cloak and hood fashioned from a great silver wolf. They know that Lady Anne has passed from this fellowship and there is no pain of loss. They remember that she was a part of it, but that part is in the past and best not remembered. Holding on to the past in this cave would drag them back into the fog.
Kukla a kobold just beginning his transition into the final moment of his life journeyed far from his house. He had hoped to return to his village once more before the change took him, but it was took late when he felt the signs. Now he has recovered from his “death” and find himself in lands he does not recognize. He quenches his thirst at a pool and when he looks up a shimmering woman stands before him, floating just above the water. Without moving she touches him and transports him elsewhere.
The others notice a new spirit has joined them. It appears to be a large monitor lizard with sharp claws and bone spikes along its back. Just as with the passing of Lady Anne, this new spirit has a sense of rightness about it. The new spirit barely mumbles out a name before turning an hissing at something. In the distance everyone can see a group of four spirits have bonded in the same manner. Thorne, who now looks like viscous liquid stuck in a bottle, suggests they go over and see them. They have never seen anything except individual spirits wandering around in this place.
By willing themselves over they can see them more clearly. Like they were in the beginning these spirits are very abstract and unfocused shapes.
- The largest is a silver coin stamped on both sides with a face – one cheerful and the other violent. The violent one has a large curved horn buried in their forehead. It is spinning around showing both faces flashing back and forth.
- The second is a tarnished brass scale with thousands of small people on one side scrambling to reach the top and a single straw-stuffed linen doll on the other side. The face of the doll is a blank.
- The third is a column of water that jets up before falling as rain. At the base the water droplets gather together into a small pool before it jets up again starting the process over.
- The fourth is a beautiful idyllic woman carved from white marble with black veins. She is laying in a garden surrounded by flowers of every imaginable color. Far above her is a brass lamp with sharp wires combing down and forming a cage around her. Oil drips down these wires and disappears into the garden.
The beast in the cave, who they now know is Aegrin’s spirit, approaches both groups. He drives the first from the caves with only the slightest effort. They can see that Aegrin’s right arm is flesh and is wearing the silver bracer. His chest is now mostly muscle and bone protected by his tabard. Carried at his hip is his silver sword. He still does not have a head and he does not talk.
He turns his attention on their group and with effort pushes all but Kukla and Keribrar away. Both of them hold against his will, feeling their own spirit being torn apart. They gain some valuable insight into the tortured life Aegrin and his last few moments alive. The strong his will in the more less focused he becomes until they are just assaulted with random thoughts and emotions. The last thing Keribrar remembers is Aegrin mentioning a damn/dam – unsure if a physical dam over a river or damning the city.
The last thing Keribrar sees as he fades away is Seirian behind Aegrin. She appeared as a large statue, nearly as tall as Aegrin, with her arm outstretched (palm up) facing towards Aegrin. She is holding a shield by her legs shielding a tow children.
At the encampment of the Followers of Techiuan Thorne questions the goblin assassin – harshly. Thorne asks if he could hire to goblin, which the goblin agrees to if the trade is good. Just his life is not an acceptable trade. He asks about killing King Merridan or Etrin, his court magician. The goblin is willing to negotiate for the king, but he turns down any offer for Etrin. He does not like the magician as he seems to know far more that he should – things that nobody of which else should have knowledge. He once told him that the magician sent him on a task to steal a small bag from a mark. The magician told him exactly where and when he would pass by an ally in the crowded market. Anything could have thrown off the time, but he was exactly there on time.
The assassin does not live through the ordeal.
Kukla wakes up on his back beside an abandoned ancient stone shrine of brown stone outside a large city on a stone shelf. He feels antagonistic toward the shrine but is unsure why. He knows it is not uncommon for kobold going through the change to feel instinctual about holy objects, but this is the first time for him. He covers the shrine so it remains abandoned and goes to the city.
He knows only the name Hafwyn and so he begins asking around for an elf of that name. A day laborer overheard him and offered to help. Eventually another laborer stops by and tells him about Hafwyn and where to find her. He lets Kukla know that she is with friends and they should hurry before it is too late. Kukla must be a good friend of Hafwyn to be looking for her in the city. The laborer is glad he ran into him today.
Meanwhile Keribrar and Hafwyn had set out for the Shady Tree and got lost. They wander around the edges of the market eventually crossing into Crofteron without realizing it. Their first sign is when they turn down a street where everybody is gone. In front of them are three guildsmen and three more moved in behind them cutting off their escape. The men draw their concealed weapons and being threatening them. They don’t want to kill them, just make sure they remember that Crofterton is for humans-only.
Beyond the group in front they can see two men with a large kobold, quite possibly the largest kobold they have seen – almost dwarf-like in appearance. The two of them feel the bond of Aegrin with the kobold and Kukla feels the bond with the two elves. Kukla is also knowledge enough about ambushes to see recognize it when he sees one. Unfortunately for the humans they seem to underestimate him and they have already lost.
The minute the man near him gives the order to capture Hafwyn, Kukla springs into action. He tears into the group nearest him leaving none of them standing – but none of them dead either. Keribrar wraps benches, chairs, tables, and anything else he can find inot a redoubt around him and Hafwyn, giving Hafwyn a sheltered position to shoot. She responds by dropping all but one of the thugs behind her.
A hidden archer on a roof driving Hafwyn further under cover, but not getting a clean hit. Kukla sinks his claws into the building and climbs to the archer’s perch. Abas, the leader of this work gang, retreats rather and met the fate of his Kukla finishes the archer and Keribar the last workman. Keribrar/Hafwyn and Kukla greet each other and then beat directions to the Shady Tree from one of the laborers. With a direction they set off again to find this tavern.
On his way to the Shady Tree Throne stops in the market to spread rumors about the king. The king’s failed assassins, that he is responsible for the hailstorm, and that his wizard really runs the court. He tries a few other rumors, but none of them stick as well as these three. Eventually he reaches the Shady Tree and makes his way through the crowd. They are seeking companionship and possibly even entertainment. Thorne decides to regal them with tales of his pirating days.
Hafwyn, Kukla, and Keribrar arrive at the Shady Tree to find Thorne on the top of the bar mocking out a famous sword fight between Ember the Scarlet Storm and Captain Garshasp of the Stardancer. Several of the elves have also climbed on the bar or tables to help mock up the scene. There are “dead” bodies and overturned lunches scattered across the bar. They are so enraptured by his performance they fail to fully take in the beauty of this tavern.
Hafwyn, for possibly a very long time, feels an immediate sense of community. She is overcome by emotions she buried as dangerous for the first time in centuries, maybe even millennia. She wanders around the room speaking with anybody not even noticing when someone stands up from a table on the second floor balcony and addresses her. She does on the woman’s second attempt after the two guards she has with her also rise and slam their staves into the floor with three large booms.
Handmaiden of Ellowyn
Alavara raises her voice and all conversation, laughing, and pantomiming stops. She is a hunter of the dark, a Handmaiden of Ellowyn and declares Hafwyn a Dark Elf before all not fit for the community. Her and her guards come down and face Hafwyn. In the name of Ettrian she casts the darkness from this land – and nothing happens. Into the silence Thorne interjects that clear she is wrong and Hafwyn is no Dark Elf. Hafwyn’s laughter fills the room as she tells everyone that she has been cleansed by the Great Tree in the tunnels beneath the city.
Hafwyn raises Keribrar’s arm to show off the favor of the Celestial Court. Even on different people the bracers clash, but this time Hafwyn and Keribrar are ready for it and drive it back. Hafwyn hides her burnished bracer, but Keribrar’s flashes a brilliant orange before becoming a deep green that is almost too bright to look upon. The tree in the center of the tavern, bathed in the light, grows over a foot in height and sprouts new buds.
Alavara tries once more to push the will of her patron and Hafwyn feels the darkness with her rise to the challenge. Hafwyn is able to drive it back, but she knows that she has not been cured, she can never be cured, but she will take the gentle respite for her millennia of service. With Thorne’s biting words in her ears she retreats with her guards. Keribrar tucks his arm inside his tunic and leaves quickly, not liking the attention it has drawn.
The tavern clears out after Keribrar leaves and Thorne stops his story-telling. Throne and Hafwyn are left alone with Kukla, the tavern keeper and his serving girl. While Hafwyn and Thorne discuss the who might have sent the assassin, Kukla puts his nose into trouble. In the kitchen he finds a space that does not exist. Using his claws he pulls back a few cut boards and reveals a hidden space behind. There are small brass cups, candle stubs, two magical triangles, and a smell of wrongness. He wonders who is at play here and surprising enough a clear answer answers in his head, Ellowyn, Mardac, and X’toltn. He leans the boards back so the owner can find it and deal with any repercussions.
Kukla returns to Hafwyn and Thorne when there is a sudden explosion from the kitchen. The wall between the kitch blows out showering them with wooden splinters. Inside, black fire is quickly spreading and the serving girl is laying face-down by the small magic circle Kukla found. Thorne goes inside and pushes a small barrel of water over sending water through the kitchen. The blackfire has no problems burning on the water and spreads with it.
Hafwyn and Kukla notice a barely visible shape darting along the walls. Hafwyn tries shooting it with her bow, but it quickly runs away, spreading the black fire with it. While Kukla chases down the salamander, Hafwyn then tries throwing dirt on the fire with Thorne’s help, this works better than the fire, but just barely. Finally Kukla gets the creature, which now becomes visible. It is a large salamander, about three times normal size, and completely black. When they finally kill it the black flows off like thick liquid and turns to an oily smoke.
The black flames turn back to normal and extinguished by the staff. They ask Hafwyn if she would bring back Keribrar in the morning to examine what happened.
Thorne steps outside the tavern and spies one of the King’s Guard dressed in laborer clothes. He runs when he knows he’s been spotted. With Kukla and Hafwyn cutting off his escapes Thorne brings him to ground. He drags him into an ally and questions him – more gently than the assassin. Thorne sends Twinkleberry back towards his companions, who seem to have gotten lost during the chase, to lead them to him.
When the others arrive Thorne puts the squeeze on him again. The guard admits he was sent by Etrin and has been looking for Lady Anne or failing that to find Hafwyn or Keribrar. During the interrogation he unknowingly insults Kukla who takes a strong dislike to the man and grabs his throat his claws. He squeezes a bit too tightly and poisons the guard. Several people heard the commotion and look into the ally to see if someone needs help. With this many witnesses Hafwyn, Thorne, and Kukla leave before they have to answer questions.
They pass two other guards, summoned by the onlookers, at the mouth of the ally. Thorne convinces them he is just drunk and they were stopping him from choking on his own vomit. While they were “helping” the guard Thorne lifted his coin pouch for good measure.
Keribrar returns to the encampment and tries to use the strange phenomenon created by Quilate at the base of the shelf. It helps a little, but he still feels undone. He then returns to tending to his small tree. It is not thriving as he expected, but is not sure why exactly – he is not one of the Arborists of Ethiald. An elven woman approaches him and asks him about his stick in a pot. After talking for some time he believes that she is lying to him, but she means no harm.
Her name is Saeya and she is the one that made the bracer he now wears. She made it for her lover Aegrin before he left the arborists and became a legend. She now serves in Ellowyn’s court and advises on those mortals who could be following a similarly destructive path. She looks Keribrar square in the eye and he knows she speaks about him. He begs her for a boon to help him and she relents.
Saeya puts her hand in the dirt and pulls out a thick millipede. It crawls up her arm and she whispers something to it. When she returns the creature to the dirt it circles the branch and buries itself in the soil. She will ask for a boon from him in the future and wishes him the best on bringing honor to the badge he wears on his arm. Aegrin as an honorable man who failed in this task because he saw only a single path to victory. Thousands of bugs rise from the earth and cover her body, when they fall from her she is gone.
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