Blades at Dawn

Kalleron's Memories Part XI
Seafarer Chronicles

I have been remiss in my chronicling of events as of late because, frankly, there has not been much to write about. We have been sailing towards to the Green Isles for days now, and not much happened until we ran into a vicious storm that drove us off course and is forcing us to resupply on another island, thus extending our journey. The storm and the extra time have allowed me to further enjoy the company of my companions while intermittently hugging the rail of the ship to retch. Traveling and wandering the world as my parents had done had always held an appeal to me, but I think when I get back to the mainland, I will stick to airships and ground travel. The undulating seas and unpredictable storms do not sit well me it would seem. The crew of the ship seems amiable enough, though I have noticed a few sidelong glances at us, and some sailors who will abruptly break off conversations when one of the Blades walks past. I am hoping that this apparent suspicion of us does not turn into outright fear. I know I am being a bit paranoid, but ever since the divine council meeting as well as our first encounter with that d’Aubry woman, something has not felt right. Even after we managed to get a ship she looked on us with a great deal of suspicion and anger…and I must say she has quite a grip for a human woman of some 80 years of age. I admit that I had been a bit more snarky than I should have to her, but I cannot give respect to someone who looks upon my friends and me as lesser beings. We may be “children” in the eyes of our respective races (especially in the cases of myself and Kaela), but we have seen things and accomplished deeds that people more than twice our age could not dream of. Luc almost wasn’t allowed to accompany us until he managed to get himself released from council duty (Syral had left with my parents to find Miria, so he was the next logical choice to sit on the council for house D’Urban), but not without a good deal of encouragement from myself and Kaela. Luc can face certain death in battle with a stoicism and determination that the heroes of old would be proud of, but when it comes to his own people, he becomes as timid as a field mouse. He is capable and strong, but he lost a great deal of confidence in himself. Hopefully, Kaela and I can keep his spirits up so that he does not drown in his own guilt and sorrow. We shall see what becomes of him on this voyage. We shall also get to learn more about our new companion Stormlit.

Stormlit is a little reclusive and often sequesters herself in her and Kaela’s room to meditate instead of interacting with any of us or the crew (though I can understand not wanting to talk with the crew given the stares she gets while amongst them). We did compare arcane notes and we even studied a couple of each other’s rituals, which was nice since it gave me something to occupy myself with. In any case, regardless of Stormlit’s guardedness, she has proved to be a capable fighter and bard. Perhaps she will reveal more about her past later, but given that she is a student of Tex and what we know of her background already, I do not think that very likely. Well, I can only hope that the rest of our voyage to this oracle is uneventful…nothing for us is ever that easy.

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Unnoticed
Not noticed, but an important loss

The room is deserted. Under the strange woman with a lightning strike across her lavender face’s lower bunk is a folded scroll of some kind.

It is a folded paper tied in burgundy colored string. An edge is damaged with water and scribbles are all over the outside of the paper, including a strange marking. A smaller piece of paper is sticking out of the bottom with the initial “E” on it.
The symbol on the exterior is unrecognizable. The smaller paper’s image seems to be a beholder stabbed by four different swords. “E” must have been the artist, the cabin is home to “Stormlit” and “Kaela”.

Pamphlet

The folded paper’s string is undone, the paper unfolded and it is clearly an advertisement for the Meugges, two islands.in the far north.

The names are varied, with some handwritten. LFD. Meugge City. Coral Bevy. Cafe Vast. Bonepowder Cove.

LFD has a handwritten note “I wish I was with you.”

Meugge City: Mayor Jagged, his most highly decorated longtooth is the man of the people of the Meugges. His Excellency Dwallow continues to show the light of Ioun shines over all the Meugges, even the southern island. Our city is growing by leaps and bounds under such leadership!

Coral Bevy: The first step to exploring the islands of the Meugges, so named after the saint that civilized them in the name of Ioun, is to stop into the mainland city of Coral Bevy and to stock up on rations and supplies. Darest I say that you will succumb to the city’s charm and buy a house not to far from the dwarf tower? Enjoy the fine seafood and finer nightlife. Handwritten in are the words “A day here is a day wasted.”

Cafe Vast has a handwritten note “You are monitored Sackage, you overblown Eladrin!”

Bonepowder Cove has a handwritten note “Well at least it keeps Abrams busy.”

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Interlude 9
Avenging old scores.

In a chamber deep in his fortress the devil Agrak leaned over the dying boy, hands dropping blood over the ravaged body, marking trails for the flesh eating worms to follow . “Pity that he is almost spent. I was having so much fun with your brother, my little fishies.” He casually said to the pair girls chained to the torture table. Turning to them with bloodlust in his eyes he continued, licking his lips at the evil thoughts that run inside his mind. “I wonder who will be next in our little breeding experiment?”

The doors to the chamber creaked as they opened, distracting him for a second. “I said that nobody was to dis…” Agrak stood confused for an instant as a young human female entered the foul chamber “How did you manage to pass through my wards? Don´t answer yet we´ll have time for that later while I torture your soul.” He said rising to his full height and spreading his black wings and sharp talons. “Now, behold your doom, maggot!”

The human unfazed continued into the chamber, only then it dawned to Agrak that a simple mortal would not be able to roam the hellish pits unchallenged and started to call all the wards and spells that protected his fell body. He was too late, reaching him the girl, easily backhanded his huge frame and sent him flying across the room, impossibly fast she followed close behind landing blow after blow on the staggering devil. Stunned Agrak tried to rise only to be pinned down by two angels that had followed the girl into the torture chamber. Radiant blades cut the tendons of his legs as powerful hands ripped his wings off, leaving him helpless on the floor.

His black heart froze when the girl finally spoke “Rise your head Agrael, once called the Unblemished, once my servant and then my betrayer. Look at me guardian of my Divine Essence and learn how I reward those that revealed my secrets and profited from my death.”

Realizing at last who he was dealing with, a desperate Agrak tried to bluff his way out of his impending demise. “If you touch me the Lords of the Nine Hells will feed on your carcass…”

With a smirk she held his quivering gaze. “My Agrael, you have not changed always so terrible with those beneath him and obsequious with those above. I killed all your servants while you were feeding your sins. And by the time your so called lords deign to act we´ll be long gone, and their vengeance if any will fall on the wrong place.” Getting closer to the whimpering devil, she delicately touched his eyes with her fingers and then with terrifiying force, drove her thumbs into his skull blinding him. “Don´t you see Agrael, that when the other Gods, including your master Asmodeus killed me, they freed me from the Celestial Covenant?” she said over his screams of pain. “I came for what you stole from me and to purify it I will use you the same way the Gods used me.”

Facing the frightened children, Nightchill gestured their chains away and ordered her angels to carry the girls back to her realm. Then with the dying boy cradled in the arms of an Archangel, she turned back to the blind devil.

Howling started.

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Adventure Journal of Luc Urban, entry 7
unexpected loss

Sir Jaune is dead.

Kalleron doesn’t understand. I know he means well, but it doesn’t matter that it wasn’t really him, or that he was an animated corpse full of hate. He was still my mother’s husband, and I killed him.

I’ve hated him for so long. I can’t even remember the last time we actually spoke—maybe at Amirah and S’Jet’s Coming of Age Ceremony? I think I congratulated him, and commented that my Lady Mother’s present suited him. It wasn’t always like that, though. There was a time when I looked forward to his visits, when I would wait with my sisters on the dock as we’d watch his ship come into port.

I remember sitting in Mother’s room once when I was twelve, after my Lady Mother threw her husband out of the house. Mother was pacing back and forth cursing him, going through every instance he’d ever been unfaithful. They were both so angry. I sat there not knowing what was going on, wanting to defend him, to say he was always nice to me even though I wasn’t his son, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t defend someone who made Mother so angry. And he just kept doing it every time he came home.

And just— I don’t know how to write this. All I see is him lying there with his twisted face, hear his insults and taunts, and yet how can I say bad things about him now? Why do I still think so badly of him? But I know if this hadn’t happened he wouldn’t have changed. He’d still be unfaithful, he’d still hurt my mothers, I would still hate him—

I never wanted this. Kalleron says it wasn’t my fault, that I didn’t kill him, but I wanted him gone. So many times I thought we would be better off if he was out of our lives. If he just sailed away to some other land and stayed there. And now he’s gone, and he can’t ever come back, and it hurts. I watched his body sink into the sea and it hurts more than I want to admit. What can I do? What can I say to our family when I come home? I didn’t even try to find a way to save him.

My father is dead, and I helped kill him. How am I supposed to accept that?

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Unfriendly Undead
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I65ZARucotc&feature=related

I wait in proper fashion taught to me by my master’s 3rd wife, four arm lengths from the main door and three steps back. This is the D’Urban home, and I realize I’m waiting for someone who is not coming.

A razorclaw shifter approaches me, looking haggard but somehow quite at home here rather than an open range.

I won’t speak much on her since she is Luc’s mother.

Kalleron and Kaela’s parents feel no need to speak to me.

They all used to adventurer with Magister Tex.

Off to sea, Kalleron peruses these selfsame pages for spells, as I do his book. There is little else to do on the ship.

The crew is good at obeying the captain.

I am sharing a cabin with Kaela, so I won’t meditate.

A large storm throws the others off balance, but my body welcomes the weather.. A mariner named Bent goes overboard .

A humongous vessel carrying damned sailors comes along the starboard side, and a battle starts. I take aim on the undead captain standing behind the wheel, but he stares at me from afar, and it rattles me.

The battle ends, as Luc destroys what was once his step-father. I can’t console him very well, Kalleron has more success.

The crew stares at us more and more, and sing songs of their fallen comrades.

Bot dd sailing

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Adventure Journal of Luc Urban, entry 6
setting sail

Our journey to the Green Isles is underway. I don’t know that I can withstand two weeks at sea, though, especially now. The need to hurry eats away at me and my temper frays with each passing hour, it seems.

I don’t know what spurred Mother to give me that blanket, but I’ve been uneasy ever since this morning. In my dream I saw my Lady Mother when she looked around my age, and Uncle Sucaeva told me that must have been when she was adventuring with a paladin named Mordred. Who became a vampire and bit both my mothers, apparently? But she was surrounded by undead, and about to die, and then I was standing in green fields near the Manor with her and Kaela. My mother was just a child, perhaps twelve or so, and I don’t know why Kaela was there. Mother didn’t know why we were there, either, though. She said we were in her Dreamscape, and that not even Mother had ever been allowed there. I think that blanket helped me get there, but…why Kaela?

I asked her what was going on, and where she was, but she only said I wasn’t making sense. My mother didn’t remember what happened to her. She said she’d been reliving this same memory over and over, although it was happening different to reality. But she didn’t remember being taken by those creatures, or anything after her battle with the dragon.

And then she said there was pain. I wish I hadn’t asked her anything, because as soon as she remembered the pain in her leg she contorted in agony, crying out. I tried to hold her, to comfort her in some way, but my arms simply went through her body as though she were air. The world around us began to shatter as she continued to cry out, the pain overwhelming, and then she fell into the blackness and Kaela and I were left alone in nothing.

I woke to find the blanket in my hand, and I found Kalleron talking with Uncle Sucaeva downstairs. Uncle Sucaeva said that perhaps my Lady Mother was in pain from the machine Kalleron had seen, and that it was seeping into her dream. But Mother came in and said the Dreamscape was something more than a dream, something she had always been able to go to and that it was an ability that ran in the family. That still doesn’t explain how Kaela got there, or even me. Unless the gods were interfering in some way, but why would they do that?

We broke to prepare for our trip, and I couldn’t bring myself to talk to Mother. I wanted to, but couldn’t do it. Instead I ran off to change, and stopped by Stormlit’s room quickly to make sure she was awake. When she didn’t answer I opened the door, and this is why I asked Kaela to enter last time. I saw her in a state of undress I shouldn’t have, and I even took a second to look before I shut the door. I apologized, but again I’m not sure she entirely accepted it. Has Emthri affected me so much? And then Kalleron joked about Dame Kiri again as I waved to her before we left at the port, and I wish everyone would just focus on what we need to do and not…other things.

We had a bit of a dilemma with Kalleron as we approached the port, but while he tried to buy himself extra time to go to the library I spoke with Mother. I told her the gods told us to go to the Green Isles, and she told me not to trust them. I know she reveres at least two gods, but I hadn’t realized she considered them so fallible. She said they have their own agenda, and it doesn’t always coincide with ours. I know that, I’ve always heard it spoken among Highborn, but… Defeating Nero and saving my mother and the other Highborn is a shared goal. This time, at least, I think we have the same agenda, don’t we?

But I still couldn’t completely confide in her. And I couldn’t bring myself to ask about the trial, or to tell her I won’t disappoint her this time. She looked so tired, and she hugged me as tightly as I did her, and I cannot burden her further. And I cannot disappoint her again.

We’ve only been out to sea a few hours though, and my hopes already dull. My dream and my Lady Mother’s screams keep weighing heavily on my mind. If only I could make this ship go faster.

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Kalleron's Memories Part X
The petrified city

Our return to Lencia was received with little fanfare as, according to that book we found, all of the highborn people in the city had been petrified. Thus, the city was plunged into utter confusion as the lower echelons of the city did not know how to cope with the sudden lack of authority. There were virtually no people of “humble birth” in sensitive positions. Almost every high-ranking official and military officer was a highborn. Lencia might need a few reforms if it survives this crisis. Only the Dwarven highborn escaped petrification, as they were not one of the founding groups of Lencia. In any case, we went to the council building to inquire as to the situation as well as raid the records and map room and find out if there ever was a “tower of midnight” in the city. The paralyzed bureaucracy was indeed maddening, and unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, Luc lost it and all but shouted a poor bureaucrat into a coma before we reined Luc in. I remember when it was all we could do to get Luc to raise his voice, but now he shouts at the drop of a hat. Finally, after a lot of comforting and prodding we got the man to tell us what where we needed to go to find the records room and what we needed to access it. So, Kaela went to the map room while Luc and Stormlit went to find out who was in charge. Kaela did not take to studying as I did, but her ability to skim is unparalleled. We went through many centuries’ worth of material, and she found more things of note in the record room than I could have. Even though I was searching too my task was basically to verify the found object’s usefulness. Just as we found the map we were looking for of the old sewers and waterways, Stormlit came in and said that we needed to go to Luc right away. So, naturally, we put the materials of note in our packs and ran to the council room, opened the door…and then we had a nice little spot of tea with an absolutely charming woman named Dame Adrienne d’Aubry. The tea was delicious…after it was properly sweetened. The tea party did seem to take a long time, and after we left for the D’Urban mansion I felt a strange compulsion to go to the temple of the Raven Queen. Something was not right about that d’Aubry woman, but when I tried to think about it my mind went blank. I guess those thoughts will have to wait.

We got back to the mansion, but before we could turn in, that nagging feeling to go to the temple returned, and I had to insist that we go. I wondered why no one else felt that compulsion. I do not even follow the Raven Queen. In any case, they all agreed and we went to the temple where, upon entry, we saw an angel standing by the altar. Why an angel of Erathis was in this particular temple, who knows. It beckoned us to follow as it walked through the rear wall. The group was a bit apprehensive to say the least; however, we all followed. We walked in darkness before coming to a well surrounded by an eclectic collection of races. There was a succubus, a draconian, yuan-ti, a centaur, and a couple of dryads. Then there was Luc, who had become the star for the evening as all eyes turned towards him. Someone said, “The meeting can now begin,” which was apparently Luc’s cue, but he did not pick up on it. Eventually, Luc started the meeting, after I gave him a little nudge, and, with a little extra prompting, was able to get this council, which was called to address the seal of Nero, to start talking. However, Luc kept snapping and getting irritated that Kaela had to step in and finish the meeting while I calmed him down. Kaela made sure that every race had a task to perform, and our task was to find an oracle on the Green Isles that may be able to help us. The meeting was adjourned and we headed home.

On our way to the mansion, however, we were waylayed by a bunch of Rakshasa who were disguised as a bunch of drunkards, and I embarrassed to say that they got the drop on us. Like the bunderhops they appeared to be mercenaries or bounty hunters. I am inclined to lean towards the latter as they gestured towards one of the two ladies of the group and said, “Get her!! The master will pay well for that slave!” There swords were on us quickly, and arrows began pelting us from down the street. I teleported to the rooftops (a good spot for me, always) and kept the archers busy while my companions handled the fighting on the ground. We pulled through in our usual fashion. After the battle, we asked Stormlit about her being a former slave, but she was reticent to talk about it in the open (understandable I suppose), but while we were talking Luc found some curious items amongst the dead: a magic ring, and a shirt that Stormlit did not recognize…but Kaela did. She seemed nervous about it, and I began to think that it might have been hers, but she had never been a slave before. There are just too many questions. We arrived back at the mansion where Stormlit told us of her being sold into slavery by her own mother, a bleak tale to say the least. I also managed to extract a promise from Kaela that she would not withhold any further information should it pertain to our safety. While I received my mother’s talent for magic, my sister was gifted with her ability to keep secrets, so I knew that her promise was the best we could do. The next morning promises to be a rather difficult one as we have to try and hire a ship (with our relatively meagre supply of gold) to take us to the Green Isles.

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Kalleron's Memories Part IX
Finally out of the rabbit hole.

After taking a breather and regaining our composure (somewhat), we decided that a little more exploration was warranted before we made our exit from this mad house. (I still cannot determine if there is any lasting effect on us by that time displacement. Further study is needed). So, we wound our way through the arboretum and eventually came upon a set of large, ornate doors. We opened them and entered a large cathedral. The architecture was impressive though a bit macabre, which made sense as we discovered that it was dedicated to the lord of the Nine Hells, himself, Asmodeus. Upon entering Organ music began to play, which was more than a bit disconcerting. Emthri, who in addition to becoming happier had also become rasher, found a staircase and went up to investigate without any preamble or discussion. So, we had to chase after him. Thankfully, there was no immediate danger at the organ, but I did detect a network of magical energies throughout the cathedral with several lei-lines converging on the instrument. Apparently it was activated by a command word, but I was at a loss as to who uttered the command. We further explored the upper floor where, once again, Emthri took the lead. He walked past a row of gargoyles that turned out to more than mere statues. A pair of gargoyles came to life after his second pass and attacked him, and before any of us could react, he was smacked with a stone tablet that seemed to enhance his abilities while hurting him at the same time. Emthri attacked with greater effect than before as a result, and after we felled the two beasts, we found him to be much more conceited as well. In any case, we determined that the other “statues” would attack us as well, so we slowly advanced and picked them off before they had a chance to attack us again. Then, when we had a moment of calm, I examined one of the tablets, and attempted to decipher the markings. The writing was part of a curse woven into the stone as a weapon, but before I could come up with a remedy (if one existed) Luc, in a fit of “brilliance,” smacked Emthri upside the head in an attempt to reverse his condition. It did not work. The extra hit only served to make him all the more insufferable and, apparently, more attractive if my sister’s reactions were any indication. Further searching of the gallery produced nothing.

As nothing of note was in the gallery apart from the tablet, we went downstairs and crossed the nave to the altar, upon which were several sacred artifacts of Asmodeus. Two of the relics brimmed with energy, a chalice and a mirror, and I was able to determine that the former could conjure any liquid desired while the mirror could show the viewer any location he/she desired. A good deal of convincing was needed before Luc was turned away from using the mirror. A loud thunk followed quickly by an “OW” echoed through the cathedral. We turned around the see that Emthri had dropped a tablet on his own foot, thus further cursing himself. I think he dropped it on his foot on purpose, but I can’t say for sure. He started babbling and making what seemed to be romantic advances towards Luc. He then ran upstairs to get away from us for some reason. Luc and I gave chase and when we found him in the gallery, he was turned to crystal. Luc probably blames himself for that too. Well, in my own personal moment of idiocy, I asked Kaela to use the chalice to conjure a remove curse potion, which when applied to the crystal statue, promptly shattered him. I could only stand over him and curse myself for not having the spells needed to save him.

At that moment, a Drow teleported into the chamber. He examined us for a few moments before I asked him if he knew the “Make Whole” spell, which I thought was more productive than outright threatening him as Luc was doing with battle ready stance, but I digress. The Drow asked Kaela and me if we were Sucaeva and Shira’s children. He was Tex! What other Drow was connected with our parents? He then proceeded to collect all of the pieces of Emthri, saying that he would take care of our comrade, while advising us to leave this place and abandon our search for Miria as it was too dangerous for us. He wanted to protect us. Well, we took his advice on leaving, but not before raiding some of the store rooms in the cathedral. We found some gold coins as well as a little residium. As we were walking towards the doors something burst through the floor in a loud bang, and for once I did not care to examine what it was. We ran out of that cathedral, and upon exiting Luc collided with an odd figure in the arboretum. I closed the door while the two extricated themselves from one another. The stranger was a female Genasi, called Stormlit, who said that Tex had sent her to look after us until Emthri could rejoin us. We did not have time to argue and we quickly made our way through the arboretum, past the dance hall, and into the corridor from whence we came. We spoke with the two Tiefling sisters, trying to find clues as to what the “clock of midnight” was, and Charlotte had a music box with the same name. It was a twisted little thing that played abyssal music, but it did resemble the old towers that used to be the centerpieces of old cities. I reasoned that perhaps Lencia had such a tower at some point. Another clue, but not much ever came of it, as far as I know. In any case, we had to fight our way through another set of those bug creatures before making our escape. On our way out I noticed a pair of resin-coated boots that looked strangely like the good captain’s.

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On the Pier
denying the obvious

Syral staggered to a halt at the end of her Walk, the air warping ever-so-slightly around her as she took in her surroundings. She looked to be in the middle of nowhere, a pier before her with a small shack about a third of the way down it. A strong wind blew white-caps up along the rocky shores of the lake, and Syral closed her eyes to breathe in the scent of the wild around her. When she opened her eyes again and tried to walk towards the pier her vision swam again, and she stood still for a few long moments, letting her eyes settle. Odd, the Walk never usually did that. No matter. She’d come for a purpose, and any weariness she felt had to be left far behind.

The inside of the hut was sparse, with a hole cut in the floor for fishing. Syral let herself in cautiously, peeking her head around the doorframe, only to pause at the sight of a lone shifter sitting near the fishing hole, a broken fishing rod held loosely in his hands as a fish slipped noisily back into the water below. He was a little bit older, and a lot more alive, but she’d know his face anywhere. She simply stared as she stumbled into the room, the door closing lazily behind her.

He couldn’t be real. He couldn’t be here. And yet…

Stride smiled at her and laughed softly. “You would show up just now. How are you, Syral?”

Somehow she found words. “Stride…? But I thought—“ Tex had all but confirmed his death, so how?

Stride straightened and scratched at the bristles on his chin. “Are you ok, sister?”

His words barely left his lips before she ran and tackled him in a hug, sending them falling back away from the hole to crash on the floor. “You’re alive!”

He patted her head and laughed again. “Wait! Woah, woah. You settle down now, or else I won’t be.” He smiled and her heart fluttered, but she nodded and managed to keep herself in check.

“How are you here?” She released him enough that they could sit up, but her arms remained on his shoulders. “You died. Or at least I was told you died. How long have you been here?”

“I have been here for a long time,” he answered. “I have family here.” He stood slowly and held his hand for her to take. “I hope you know that I think about you.”

Syral blushed and smiled as she let him help her up. “It’s so good to know you’re alright. When I’d heard you died, and then that whole thing with Tex…” She paused and glanced around. “Speaking of, I was told to meet him here.”

“You have kids, don’t you?” he asked instead, and let go of her hand. “I can’t control Abrams and his imagination.”

“Yes. I have a son and two step-daughters. Was that boy your son?”

“Adopted.”

She smiled at that, her own son forefront in her mind. “Mine, too.” She put that thought aside, though. It wouldn’t help to get distracted talking about her children. “So what have you been doing here?”

Stride looked around the small room. “Well, I have been living a life of meditation. You know since those people died in Stormpeak, I have to remain in solitude as a way to…to…” His eyes glistened for a brief second. “I just try to forget and move on.”

Syral touched his hand lightly. “I understand. I didn’t mean to bring up anything bad.” She leaned in to hug him again, her head on his shoulder. “I never thought I’d see you again. I used to have so many things I wanted to say to you, but it’s been so long I can’t remember them anymore.”

“Hey, I hope I didn’t interrupt anything in Lencia. I just wanted a moment to say…” He trailed off. “That we didn’t have to…”

His words trailed off again and Syral lifted her head to look at him, eyebrows drawn close. He shook his head quickly. “Well, listen to me. I wanted to say that if you ever need a shoulder, I’ll be here. When the moon is full, eh?”

Syral tilted her head, confused. “Interrupt anything in Lencia?” She sucked in a breath and unconsciously dug her claws into his shoulders. He’d sent his son, so maybe? “Do you know what’s been happening?!” She couldn’t keep her worry in check and she didn’t care. “Do you know where I can find Tex? I need his help to find Miria.” She paused as his words registered. “…The full moon? What’s that have to do with anything?”

Stride gave her a wry smile. “Well, I can’t fish everyday.” His smile fell and he pulled her arms off his shoulder to hold her hands. “My dear, are you ok?”

Syral’s chest tightened. “So you haven’t heard, then? Lencia was attacked and Miria taken, and no matter what I do I can’t find her. And my son ran off to try to help and I can’t find him and I’m beginning to fear for his safety, and my daughters have been turned to stone and—“ She cut herself off and took a deep, shuddering breath. But her heart still pounded and her body shook with suppressed emotion. “Please, Stride. I’ve been trying, but I can’t do this on my own.”

“That is a lot for my sister,” Stride said softly. “Have you tried Shira? Or Sucaeva?”

She shook her head. “I’m going there next. But I wanted to get Tex to help as well. He’s strong, and I’d feel better having him with us.”

“Really?” He seemed happy at that, but Syral couldn’t place exactly why, and didn’t have the energy to wonder.

“Of course. I’d like you to come too, if you can. But you probably haven’t been out much since you came here.”

“No, I haven’t learned a single divining spell since I saw you last.” He sighed. “As for Tex, he is confusing. Perhaps you know another way to find him?”

Syral shook her head again. “No. I never even knew where he was until your son told me. We haven’t exactly kept in touch.”

Stride nodded. “What is that riddle? ‘Dealing with drow gets you nowhere no how.’ I imagine our druid and bard will be just fine.”

“I’m not so sure. If those things could just grab Miria the way they did…”

He hugged her shoulder, and she happily leaned into the embrace. “I can imagine you here again during the next full moon, telling me how your family life is all back to normal. And your great friend Miria is saved.” He shrugged. “Perhaps your husband will help.”

Syral muttered into his chest, “Why must it be the full moon?” She pulled away slightly and shook her head. “You’re misunderstanding. I don’t have a husband. Miria is my mate.”

He was quiet a moment. “I see.” He pulled her close into a full hug and she wrapped her arms around him tightly.

“You can’t help?”

“I…I have family that I won’t… That will miss me.”

She nodded against his chest. “Yes, of course. I’m sorry.” Her arms relaxed, her exhaustion getting the best of her. “…I should go. I still have to find Tex.”

“I wish you well. You always have someone to talk to in the Muegges.”

“I know, thank you. But I have to find Miria. I miss our talks.” She paused. “I’m scared, Stride. What if I’m too late?”

He smiled. “Miria? Come on. She must be a living sword of destruction by now. Believe in…in her.”

She nodded and swallowed the lump in her throat. “I’m trying. But I’m so tired, and from what Kalleron saw…” She sighed and pulled away. “I should really get going.”

Stride let her go. “Well, Tex has ears everywhere. I bet he will show up in time.” He touched her cheek. “I wish you the best.”

“You, too.” Syral leaned up to kiss his cheek. “I’m glad I got to see you again. I’ll try to stop by again at the full moon.”

Stride smiled. “Next time, the fish will be caught.”

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Interlude 8
At sea.

The Green Scepter was smoothly riding the waves on her way to the small island while her crew enjoyed the view after the horrors of the undead ship. But like the seas around them, under the shallow calm deeper under-currents run wild. Below decks the coming watch was taking their breakfast and as with all sailors, stories of misfortune were being exchanged.

“I tell you mates, it´s that sorry excuse for a Highborn. He is the one that brought the Death Head on us so he could kill his dad after cursing him, I heard too that he got exiled for killing somebody back home and that this sail is to get rid of him at the Green Isles.”

“Surely you are joking Gestler. If that´s true why exile him instead of sending him to gaol and then quietly execute him?”

The sailor called Gestler looked at the other sailor with a know-all look and spoke “You are dumb as a drunken gnoll, Pearl. They can´t.” lowering his voice Gestler made a gesture to the other sailors to come closer and continued. “I heard from the husband of one of the chambermaids of the D´Urban place that he can´t be killed by normal means. He inherited all the bad blood from his cat-mother and the sins of the big scary Lady.” Pausing for a swing of his grog Gestler waited for a second.

“Com´on! Spill the beans, why he can´t be killed.” Another sailor asked desperate for the latest rumors on their passengers.

“Look mates. Stands to reason, his mother killed her own mum on childbirth and…” he lowered his voice to a whisper “… disappeared before he was born and when she came back, some say that from the Nine Hells killed all her bruthers and poppa in the middle of the biggest gale Lencia has ever seen.”

“But, why?.” said Pearl.

“Because they were opposed to her bedding that cat instead of a good´n´proper girl from the families.” another swing “The Council was going to have her killed too but then the Councilors started dropping deader than a knob.”

Another sailor interrupted. “I remember that, was but a pup when Councilor D´Ulrich was mauled by a strange beast that made cuts that looked like a big sword… just like the one she fancies.”

Gestler nodded sagely. “There you are, like a cut of the same wood. He has been suckling this since he was a babe. So I heard that now when his sisters were going to get the business he got angry and tried to have them killed. And when that failed took it on the servants throwing them from the windows”

“Those were the monster attacks?”

“That´s about right mate, like his mum before he likes half-humans*, look at his crew, two soulless fay, can see it in their black eyes and a something from other world that would kill us for a snack if not for the marines watching.” Gestler paused again for a swing only to find his cup of grog empty.

“Here, here, Gestler let me pour you some of my ration.”

“Thanks mate, all this talk makes one thirsty. I was saying that he tried to off his sisters and when that failed made a pact with the cursed drow….”

“No!.”

“Scum, he should be quartered and drawn!”

“Hold on mates, hold for a candle. Do you think we can take him down when the big Dragons have failed?. Just hear what we can do…”

“Gestler. Pearl, Stormy! you scurvy dogs! stop your chatter and start moving or the cat-o will touch your backs!”

With great speed the sailors droped the cups and scrambled to obey “Aye! aye bosun! just coming up.”

*Humans is used for Humans, Dwarves, Elves, Half-Elves, and similar “acceptable” races in Lencia.

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