Category Archives: Misc. History

Miscellaneous character history and stories for the Jade Regent campaign

Character: NPC

The Dalmuvian Brothers

Starday, Abadius 31 4713
Creduvian House, Magnimar

The hearth was still warm, but the embers were dying. Dinner had been welcome, but not very filling. Often, it wasn’t, these days.

Money was no longer flush in their home, but Roxanda and her parents had managed to finally get a place of their own again for the family. True, there had been better times in the past, but out of respect for her father, they didn’t bring up the past.

As it was, the family already found they had to remind him frequently he was now “retired” and any obligation to support his children had long since been met. It was his turn to be taken care of. With a muttered grunt and silent acknowledgement, he made it clear that while it may be true, it chafed him greatly. It had been a while since the day when Tobar was the patriarch of Creduvian Couriers, a successful and respected courier and shipping service. At times, some very wealthy merchants would trust nobody but him to get their shipments of goods to and from Sandpoint, Roderic’s Cove, or even Korvosa.

But then there’d been a dishonest driver, missing goods, and a soiled reputation. Competition for deliveries was fierce, margins were thin, and his competitors could sense blood in the water. All it took was a few anonymous innuendos and a few discounted offers from his competition, and his wealthy customers were gone. Too often loyalty is measured by the gold piece, and under the shadow of accusation, the business struggled and for all intents and purposes, succumbed.

Effectively, it was gone now. The business that Tobar had hoped to pass to his sons Vankor and Bevelek was nothing but a weight around their neck. The family name, a symbol of prestige for so long, was now a hurdle to overcome. “Creduvian, you say? Sorry, we have all the drivers we need.” Tobar and his wife of over 35 years, Ioanela, were, officially, among the poor.

Retirement. It may be a thinly veiled euphemism for her father, but it was not an option for her younger brothers.

These days, it was Roxanda who was the main source of income with her job as an assistant at The Old Fang. Vankor and Bevelek had been working hard at their father’s business when the bottom fell out and they found themselves unemployed, and unemployable because of their name. Thank the gods for Sandru, who never did follow the mainstream. While he couldn’t restore their good name, he helped them create a new one (Dalmuvian) and offered them a place on his team. Eventually, the plan was to establish new credentials, escape their old, and perhaps still become successful businessmen. In the best case, they might take up some of Sandru’s business when he retired.

They rarely accompanied the caravan to Magnimar for obvious reasons, so the road was their home these days. But business with Sandru was good, and they both sent a healthy percentage of their earnings back home to support their parents. Being associated with a delivery service still had one important benefit: letters home were delivered quickly. Those ‘in the business’ knew how important they could be, and personal messages from drivers and employees were delivered by whomever was going in the right direction, free of charge, as a professional courtesy.

Although it was barely twilight, Roxanda was willing to let the fire die and go to bed. But her gaze turned to a box overflowing with different kinds of parchment and paper. Bed often came early these hard days, but reading her brothers’ letters comforted her. She was closest with Bevelek, which was good because he was a much more frequent writer. On second thought, she threw a bit more fuel on the fire, lit a lamp, and started sorting through the letters.

Character: Qatana

Arts and Crafts and Friendships

Wealday, Abadius 2, 4713 morning
Dead Man’s Dome

The darkness ruled supreme along with its close ally the cold. Both would continue their undisputed dominion over the frozen northern lands for months to come, after which day would creep back and once again challenge the night for supremacy. The cold did not care. It was capricious by nature and lightness or darkness served its bitter purpose equally well.

But there was a blemish on the long face of the night: a bubble of light that had inched its way across the black frozen wastes for months. From closer in small figures could be seen moving about preparing for the day’s labors.

Kali bit on her lower lip as she spoke. “I am sorry this took so long. I wanted to start right after we left the Tower, but…” She shifted uncomfortably as her voice trailed off. “I hope you like how it came out. I am still new to jewelry.”

Kali held up a bronze headband with graceful green filigree looping around several tiny green gems.

“You used the tourmalines,” Qatana said with excitement. “And you’ve made it beautiful!”

Qatana took the headband, turning it over in her hands and tracing the patterns with her fingers.

“I’ve seen headbands like these in the shops,” Qatana continued, “but they’ve always been plain simple things. Not like this.”

“It turns out I did not need the gems for the enchantment,” Kali replied, “but it seemed a shame to leave them out. And, I wanted this to tell a story.”

Qatana looked over at her friend. “She’s always like this,” she thought, “Always doing more than what would simply suffice. Always thinking of others. Always reaching for perfection. And always downplaying her own accomplishments.” She opened her mouth to express her gratitude, not just for the headband but for Kali’s friendship as well, but as usual, the words seemed to stick and her throat, and the best she could do was croak out a woefully inadequate, “Thanks.”

Frustrated that her voice had betrayed her when she needed it the most she reached over and hugged Kali.

The sudden display of physical affection took Kali by surprise. Qatana disliked being touched and did not willingly touch other people. “You’re welcome,” she said in reply.

Character: Ivan

Ivan’s Iqaliat adventure Part II (family is everything)

Day 5 evening

Sesi quickly led me through the streets up to the door of her home. Inside an old woman started to dish up what looks like stew.

Sasi said “Ivan this is my Grandma”

I replied “Nice to meet you”

Grandma said “Oh Ivan we met on the night of the party. There were a lot of people there so I am not surprised that you don’t remember.”

Grandma said “come eat while it’s hot and tell me about your family”

For a couple of hours this woman grilled me for every detail about my family. I tried to change the subject a couple of times but she just kept politely bring me back to talking about my family. At one point I looked over at Sesi who was washing the dishes.

Sesi just smiled and said “Grandma won’t stop until you tell her everything”

Grandma in a convincing voice somehow persuaded me to keep talking about my family. Unfortunately she played on the fact I have a close bond with my family so it is too easy for me to ramble on about my family. I haven’t even shared this information with the group of people I am traveling with yet I spilled everything to these two.

Grandma said “Well Ivan I am glad to meet a young man with such deep a connect to his family. Now help an old lady up. I want to move over to my chair.”

Grandma limped over to the chair and sat down.

I said “Are you ok”

Sesi said “she hurt her leg but won’t go see the healer”

Grandma said “I will be alright in a few days”

Before Grandma could refuse I said while casting healing “Here I can help with that”

Grandma said “That does heal better. You hunt and you can heal. That’s interesting”

I said “Well I should be going”

I felt a tug as Sesi pulls on my arm as she said “Nope, Grandma is going to tell a story now”

Sesi guided me over to an oversized chair and sat me down. She went into the kitchen area and returned with a drink for Grandma before climbing into the chair with me. I kept waiting for Grandma to tell me to watch were I put my hands but she just started telling stories about Sesi’s family.

Hours later Grandma finally finished. She got up and proclaimed “I’m off to bed, Ivan you can stay in the first room at the top of the stairs.”

Sesi said “Good night Grandma”

Grandma replied “Good night”

Sesi yawned and said “I’m really tired”

I replied “I should go then”

Sesi cuddled in closer and just said “nope”.

A few minutes later Sesi was asleep. There was nothing for me to but to lay there and enjoy the moment.

 

Day 6

The morning started with the door opening and Atana walking into the house.

Sesi just turns her head towards Atana and said “Good morning Atana”

Atana said “I was going to ask you about Ivan but”

Atana continued to speak “I was hoping to get use of Ivan to help carry fire wood out to the other hunting site. His bag holds a lot of fire wood so we won’t have to make several trips.”

Sesi replied “That will be a lot more fun than helping Anuun move barrels.”

Atana said “meet me at the gate in 30 minutes”

I gathered up my stuff and met Atana and Eska at the gate. The trip to the hut was an easy walk even at the fast pace being set by Atana. Even the weather was nicer than the first trip. We quickly stacked the wood and then sat for a quick break before returning.

Atana said “Ivan the weather is really good maybe we should stay and hunt for a day or two. What do you think?”

Eska interrupted with “I have to get back. We should start heading back”

Atana replied “what if we hunt for the rest of the day and then head back first thing in the morning?”

Eska replied “I guess that would be ok”

Atana replied “Fine then it is settled”

Atana and I spent several hours hunting before returning to the hut. Again I had to wait around while Atana and Eska get enough sleep.

Day 7

Eska has been complaining about having to sleep in the hut since last night. We started to pack up when all of a sudden he yelled “Keep your hands off Atana” while attempting to hit me. I didn’t know what to say.

Eska continued “You can’t take her away from me.” While again trying to hit me.

Atana grabbed Eska and pulled him outside. They were out there for about 5 minutes when Atana return.

Atana said “Eska is worried that once I experience you” while hand signaling the double quote sign for experience.

I replied “That’s crazy. Didn’t you tell him that we don’t have a connection like that?”

Atana replied “yes, but..”

I replied ”but what?”

Atana continued with “I don’t really find you attractive. Basically I think of you as just a friend.”

I replied ”but what?”

Atana replied “just a minute” as she heads outside.

A few minutes later Atana opened the door and walked back into the hut.

Atana in a monotone voice said “I don’t find you attractive but I have this compelling urge to be with you. So let just get this over with so I can get on with my life with Eska”

I was still trying to figure out what she had said when I noticed that Atana was halfway undressed.

I replied “wait no. we are not going to do this”

I picked up my pack and headed out the door. I glanced over at Eska and said “Go take care of your woman”

After a few minutes Atana and Eska emerged from the hut ready to head back to town. For the first several hours none of us said anything. About 45 minutes from town I saw Eska trip and fall breaking the silence with “shit I hurt my ankle”

Without saying a word to either of them I walked over and cast cure wounds on Eska.

I said “Can you walk now””

Eska replied “Yes, that feels better”

We made our way back to town without any further words between us. Eska quickly headed off towards his work and Atana just stopped.

Atana in that same monotone voice said “It’s not too late you can still have me“ as I walked past her.

I headed over and checked on Sparna and he was working on the armor. I started to walk to the defacto meeting place “The tavern” but I decided to try Sesi’s house first. I knocked on the door and a few minutes later her Grandma opened the door.

Gandma said “Ivan you don’t have to knock, just come in side. Sesi is over helping Anuun move some barrels. You should go over and help them”

Following Grandma’s instructions I found my way to Anuun.

I said “hey Anuun how can I help”

Anuun replied “Atana, Eska, Sesi, and Ulva are working over their so let just have you go with Sedna on the wagon to help her unload.”

I said “Hi I’m Ivan”

In a gruff voice Sedna replied “Yes. You are the outsider”

After about 15 minute riding with the quiet Sedna we arrived at the destination.

The man gruffly said “Why is he with you”

Sedna replied “Anuun sent him to help unload. I guess Anuun couldn’t find something useful for him to do so I got stuck with him”

The man replied “Oh. Just make sure he doesn’t drop any of the barrels”

I quietly worked to unload the barrels and then waited on the wagon as the woman finished up talking with the man. Once we finally made it back I tracked down Anuun.

I said “Anuun I don’t think it is a good idea for me to work with Sedna”

Anuun replied “Oh gosh I forgot about her dislike for outsiders. I don’t suppose her husband was any friendlier. Wait here a minute”

Anuun headed off out of site and a few minutes later I see Sesi round the corner.

Sesi in a sassy voice said “I here you have woman troubles”

I said “So does that mean I am in trouble with you?”

Sesi again in the sassy voice said “It depends”

I replied “Depends on what?”

Sesi again in the sassy voice replied “It depends on if I have to sleep in the chair by myself again tonight”

I replied “Is that an offer”

Sesi replied “Of course”

We continued working together for the rest of the day. Once the work was done Sesi and I agreed that this might not be a good day for me to visit the tavern. We headed over to her house and spent a pleasant evening that included stories of grandma’s father. I was surprised to learn that grandma’s father was an outsider before marrying her mother. Once again we fell asleep together in the chair.

Day 8

The door opened and Ulva stepped in out of the cold. Ulva looked over at us still cuddling in the chair and said “Is she awake yet”

Sesi replied “Yes”

Ulva replied “Good we need to talk”

Ulva continued with “My sister is still obsessed so I was thinking that we could take Ivan out for a couple of days of hunting”

Sesi replied “That’s a great idea. I have missed out on the last few hunts so it would be great to get away. I can be ready in an hour so get your stuff and me us back here”

Ulva replied “Ok, be back in just a little while”

A little while later Ulva and Anunn arrive all packed for the hunting trip.

Ulva said “Ivan I stopped by and told Sparna that you will be out hunting for a few days”

I replied “thanks”

We made our way through the streets towards the gate. As we passed by the general store Ulva said “Wait I want to get something”

Sesi replied “I’ll go with you”

From behind us we heard “We don’t like outsiders that treat our women poorly”

I turned around and said “Just relax. We don’t want any trouble”

I figured they were like the others in town that openly don’t like outsiders but I was wrong. The first hit from the clubs they were carrying felt like this guy was channeling Sparna or Redella. I attempted to dodge out of the way but the other two landed solid hits on me as well.

I heard Ulva yell “Hay stopped that. He is not hurting anyone”

Sesi replied “Ivan please don’t hurt them”

I heard footsteps behind me that I was really hoping it was Sesi and Ulva.

The fourth thug was holding a club up to Anuun’s face and said “Stay out of this Anuun. I don’t want to hurt you”

I simply stepped back without any weapons in hand and healed myself. Why did the gods decide at this moment to give me the least amount of healing as possible, there must be a lesson?

I felt the contact of some more maces. Everything started to get fuzzy. Everything was fuzzy but I am pretty sure that at least one of the two Ulva’s must be real. I heard talking but I just could not make out what they were saying or who was talking. There was something just in front of me but I could not clearly make out who it was. Oh it’s the ground and then the world goes completely black.

A strange voice said “Ivan”

I replied “where am I”

The strange voice said “That’s not important right now”

The voice continued “The real question is not where you are but why you are here”

I replied “I don’t understand”

The strange voice replied “Of course you don’t and that is exactly why you find yourself here right now”

I replied “Who are you?

The voice replied “That is the right question. Now don’t make me do this again.”

Day 9

The darkness began to fade being replaced by a view of a blurry room. At first I could hear talking but I wasn’t sure if it was real.  Soon everything becomes clear.

Sesi said “Oh finally you are awake. Grandma wasn’t sure how long it would take for the healing herbs to take affect”

I replied “how long have I been out”

Sesi replied “Since yesterday”

I said “help me up”

Sesi sternly said “No Grandma told me you needed to stay here and rest”

I replied “can you at least let me sit up. It is easier to cast healing while sitting”

With a bit of effort and pain I was able to sit up. The first cast of healing felt so good and after the second healing spell I felt like normal again.

I said “ok I have healed myself can I get up now”

Sesi replied “No. You have to rest until Grandma says that it is ok”

Looking over at Sesi I noticed she was not wearing her normal boots and said “Nice boots”

Sesi replied “I’ll give them back once grandma says you’re ok:”

Sesi said “So just a few minutes ago before you woke up you were talking like someone else was here. At the same time this symbol started to glow”

On que Grandma entered the room and gave me a quick look over. Grandma said “What’s this about glowing symbols”

Sesi replied “That one was glowing and then this area started to glow and as you can see he now has the symbol of the wind spirit”

Grandma replied “That is the symbol of Cayden Cailean. Very interesting. So does this happen often”

I replied “No, as far as I know it has never happened before”

Grandma replied “We should keep this to ourselves for now.”

I said “Can I get out of bed now?”

Grandma replied “I’m not stopping you” as she walked out of the room.

Sesi stood up and said “Today you are going to rest. But I see no reason that we can’t have you rest in the chair downstairs”

We spent the rest of the day and night cuddling in the chair.

Day 10

The door opened and Anuun walked in with Eska in tow. An obvious look of nerviness shown on his fact and be spoke “Ivan I am sorry for going crazy, I just was so jealous.  I didn’t even think they were listening when I was complaining in the tavern”

I replied “I don’t blame you for the actions of those that were just looking for any reason to go after any outsider”

Eska said “I can you guys talk to Ulva for me?”

Sesi jumped in and said “Let’s me later at the tavern. All of us”

Eska responded in a shaky voice “ok but you’re going to talk to Ulva first right?”

Anuun responded with “I’ll talk to Ulva”

On the way to the tavern we stopped in to talk with Sparna.

I said “Sparna I need a special shortsword. Something like this can only be created by someone that I would consider like family. The sword has to have these 4 symbols on the blade and the symbol of Torag on the hilt.”

Down at the tavern everyone seemed happy. I didn’t even hear any stray comments about outsiders. Everyone was friendly and I heard stories and legends about creatures that live on the high ice. It was nice to have all 7 us once again showing each other that we are still friends.

Sesi suddenly stood up and said “It’s time to go dance to the wind spirits. What do you say Ivan are you ready to try it again?“

I replied “You’re very brave while wearing those boots aren’t you”

Sesi replied “Yep”

I casted endure elements on the rest of us and we ran off to the cliffs once more, this time with clothes on. At the cliffs we laughed and danced for hours before everyone headed off home.

Day 11

The door opens and two figures of Anuun and Ulva enter. Sesi just lifts her head slightly to greet the two “Good morning Ulva, Anuun”

Ulva replied “You two are always in that chair. “

Sesi replied “It’s our spot”

Ulva said “So we never got that hunting trip in. How about we head out today. Anuun and I are ready to go.”

Sesi replied “Ivan is always packed. He is always hopeful that we are going hunting. Come on you can help me pack.”

After a few minutes they returned and we headed out. This time we made it past the gate and onto the trail.

I said “Oh wait I didn’t tell Sparna”

Ulva replied “Anuun and I stopped by the forge on the way to the house and told Sparna”

After several uneventful hours we made it back to the ice hut. We split into two group Sesi and me in one group and Aunuun and Ulva in the other. After several hours Sesi and I had all of our traps in place. It took Ulva and Anuun quite a bit longer to get all of their traps set so they return to the hut about an hour after us.

Anuun said “sorry I am not really good at trapping”

Ulva said “I actually asked him along so we could spend some time together”

Sesi said “oh Ivan likely doesn’t know that you guys are now engaged”

I must have had some kind of strange look on my face because all three of them just started laughing.

Anuun said “Ivan relax. Sesi and I both know about your fling with Ulva”

Ulva said “It was fun but my heart as always belong to Anuun. You were my last fling”

I replied “That’s ok. It has always been the story of my life”

Sesi said “What do you say are you ready for her to be your last fling as well?”

I said something like “ah ah ah ah. But grandma said it was important for me to finish helping Ameiko!”

Sesi replied “Yes my husband will have to go off and save the world. But then you will return home to me”

I replied with “ok then I will just stay here and let the others continue on with Ameiko”

Sesi replied “The wind spirit symbol that showed up while you were hurt was a clear sign. The wind spirit was telling me that I have to let my husband go off and save the world unless you really don’t want to be my husband”

I replied “ok but I think it would be better if my companions don’t know about it just yet.”

Ulva said “So just keep your friends out of the tavern and we should be ok. I will let the chief and heartmistress not to say anything. Although there is usually a party when we have weddings so that might be hard to hide.”

Sesi replied “If we hurry back to town so the party is done before his friends return then it might be possible. Most of the people don’t like to talk with outsiders anyway.”

Anuun said “What about Sparna?”

I said “I’ll just ask Sparna to not share this. There is no way we can have a party without Sparna showing up to talk with the people.”

Ulva replied “true. Besides even some of the people who don’t talk with outsiders have been talking with Sparna?

We hurried back to town to arrange the details. We stopped by the house to tell grandma.

Sesi said “Grandma were going to get married right away.”

Grandma replied “Ok, let me go tell everyone that the party is a go for tomorrow”

Sesi and I just stood there looking at each other as we watch grandma head out the door. I clasped Sesi’s hand and gently pulled her over to the chair.

Sesi said “Well we might as well get comfortable”

Day 12

We awoke to grandma handing us each a drink. Grandma excitedly said “drink up its going to be an exciting day”.

As grandma scurried off Sesi said “Maybe we can just run off and get married”

I replied “Nope. Grandma would kill both of us”

We made it through the rest of the day. Luckily Ulva and Anuun decided to get married at the same time so at least we were not the complete focus of everyone.

Day 13

The door open and Ulva entered the room. Looking at the two of us she said “You know that you are married now so you don’t have to sleep in the chair”

Sessi whispered “I think we decided that we were too drunk to make it up the stairs. It’s all kind of fuzzy.”

I began to cast delay poison to help myself but my own loud voice hurt so much that I couldn’t complete the spell.

In a low voice Ulva said “So I think we should skip hunting for today”

Sesi whispered “If either of you make me move I will kill you”

I imagined that Ulva was likely finding this funny but I couldn’t focus my eyes enough to actually see her.

Day 14 Return of the Caravan (Neth 8th)

The others returned today and over a pint at the tavern my new friends were properly introduced to my traveling companions. One of the thugs from a few nights ago walks up and said “here Ivan I didn’t get a chance to buy you a drink Ah the other night.”

Ulva smiled and said “He was stubborn but with the help of Sparna he now has a new respect for outsiders”

 

 

Neth 10 evening

Sesi and I have spent the last couple of days at the ice hut hunting and spending time together. I told the others that she was teaching me how to better hunt on the ice, which is truthful.

Our first argument was over equipment and money.

I said “So I will feel better if you keep the boots so I know that you are protected from the cold”

Sesi replied “Absolutely Not. These boots are going to make sure you get back home to me safely. You can give them to me when you get back home”

I replied “I’m not going to win on this one am I”

Sesi sassily responded “No my love”

I replied “Ok then here is one of my extra bows, and I will get another masterwork shortsword. Since you are not going to take the boots then I insist that you take one of the campfire beads.”

I pulled 50 gold out the small bag and put the rest in the pile of stuff for Sesi.

Anger shown on Sesi face as she said “I am not some helpless woman that needs to be taken care of. I am not asking for your money”

I replied “I just decided to leave most of our money here at home. Is it ok for me leave stuff at home?”

Sesi replied “Oh, I miss you already.”

Sesi handed me a brand new shirt and said “Here I bought you a new shirt”

I replied “But this shirt is fine”

Sesi picks up my perfectly good shirt off the bed puts the shirt on. I guess that shirt is staying here.

Neth 11

I said my goodbyes to Sesi and we headed down the road towards fate.

 

Character: Qatana

Neth 9, 4712

Fireday, Neth 9, 4712 midnight
Iqaliat

“Wake her up already! I don’t want to miss it.” Beorn squeaked angrily.

Startled by the cry Qatana sat bolt upright from her sleeping roll and looked around. Seeing the eight little ghostly figures before her she cocked an eyebrow expectantly.

“They’ve begun,” said Badger, “and we need to go now or we’ll be too late.” The other seven chirped excitedly and pirouetted around one another in anticipation.

With a sigh Qatana quietly rose and dressed before stepping out from the wagon into the bitter cold. The mice raced before her and over the small hill to the south of the caravan. Qatana was still half asleep and followed slowly, but as she crested the top she gasped and a cloud of frozen mist settled on the tiny figures at her feet.

The northern crown was high overhead, glittering like diamonds in the black velvet sky. Red Algol shown brightly from the center like a ruby, but it was not the brilliant constellation that made her gasp.

Streaks of palest white whisked about atop the snow below, making it look dull by comparison. There were perhaps a dozen, and they appeared to be dancing in the starlight. Qatana sat down beside her friends and watched.

For perhaps an hour the small figures whisked about the snow and ice, twirling around one another, darting to and fro. Presently they ran off into the darkness, one by one until a solitary dancer remained. It too prepared to make its exit, but then glanced up to where Qatana and her friends sat.

As quick as the wind the long tailed weasel flew up the hillside and stopped motionless for a moment, whiskers twitching. Qatana reached down and gently touched its forehead, quietly uttering words of gratitude and thanks to the little creature.

It bobbed its head once and then winked cheekily at her before sprinting away into the night.

 

Character: Ivan

Ivan’s Iqaliat adventure, part 1

Day 1 it’s time to party in Iqaliat

To Kali’s dismay the town held a big party to celebrate the death of the dragon and their very survival. This community has a strong bond and I heard story after story about the people killed by the dragon. This party was in part to celebrate the life of those killed by the dragon. Walking through the crowd listening and talking with the people I was a little shocked to truly comprehend how many people died at the claws of the dragon? So many people have lost loved ones to the dragon. With the closeness of this community it is hard to understand how the shaman could betray his people and bring so much death. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain these people are going through. It seems like everyone has lost someone to the dragon and a few stories recounted entire families killed by the dragon.

As I was walking between groups a man that looked maybe the age of my companions approached me. He didn’t look as drunk as most of the other people and approached with purpose. I immediately prepared myself to take on a co-conspirator of the shaman. My thoughts jumped to way would he approach me in this crowd instead of waiting for me to be alone. I relaxed when I noticed a drink in one hand and some bread in the other hand. Quickly I decided to keep on guard but see how this plays out. He approached and just started talking.

The man said “Your Ivan right? My name is Anerk. I think that it such as great thing that all of you have done for us. Such bravery is hard to find these days. I myself would have gone but I hurt my knee and that is such a long trip for someone like me with an injured leg. Are you having fun??

I replied “Yea I guess”

Anerk said “Great. So you know Kali really well right? I am sure that her bravery was a shining inspiration to someone as young as yourself. You’re so lucky to have the privilege of traveling with a fantastic woman such as her. The brown eyes of hers are so dreamy and I am sure you would agree that her figure is as dreamy as her eyes. Do the other women get jealous of her beauty? I would love to be traveling the world with Kali.”

Anerk pauses looking like he expects some type of response.

I replied “Yea I guess”

Anerk continues to talk “So you’re her friend, how can I get to know her better. Maybe you could introduce me and tell her what a good guy I am.”

I replied “I think it would give a better impression if you introduced yourself. It is not my place to get involved with Kali’s personal relationships.”

Anerk replied “Ok with your encouragement I think I am ready to talk to her. Do you know where she went?”

I replied “Ah no”

Anerk wandered off looking for Kali. I am not sure what to say when Kali questions me about Anerk. I did try to stay out of it. As I turned to put some distance between Anerk and myself I bumped into someone.

A voice said “Hi my name is Piquana. I saw you talking with Anerk. He is going through a tough time losing all of his family. He is normally a good guy and obsession with your friend is the first thing he has shown any interest in since the dragon killed

his parents and sisters.”

Paquana continued speaking “So are you enjoying the party? I still don’t really understand why after so many years this dragon suddenly decided to start attacking us now. Normally we take care of ourselves but I guess everyone some time in their life needs heroes.”

Paquana paused to take a drink and then continued to talk “Even with you taking care of the dragon there are still some that don’t trust outsiders. “

Paquana paused to finish off her drink and then continued to talk “It looks like I need to get another drink. Winter is coming and soon you won’t be able to see anything. With all of the dragon attacks I just hope that the hunters have gather enough to last through the darkness. Well I really need another drink.”

Paquana stumbled as she walked away pausing a moment to say “Tell Sparna my forge is always open for him to use.”

From behind me a female voice said “Hey Ivan do you want to have a drink with us?”

Turning around a small group of teenagers are sitting at the table. One of the guys motions for me to come over and sit with them. I accepted the invitation.

He started talking “I am Anuun, this is Eska, this is Ikiak, this is Sesi, and twins are Ulva and Atana. Here have a drink, I think you need it after Anerk and Piquana.”

Over the next couple of hours we shared stories. I told them about growing up on a farm in the south and I learned a lot about each of them. The families Anuun and Eski handle brewing and tavern in the town. Ikiak works in the general store with his family. Sesi, Ulva and Atana are hunters, both families have a deep tradition of hunting. Like on the farm people tend to follow the family path but at least here it is up to each person.

After the long evening of getting to know my new friends Ulva stands up and said “I’m ready”

I said “ready for what”

Anuun replied “Just a little run through the town. I hope you don’t get too cold”

On the way over to one of the now empty houses they explained that as part of my initiation into their little group we would be streaking up to the cliff’s and then back to the house.

Anuun said “We normal go up to the cliffs during the warm months and dance in front of the spirits but this time of year it can be dangerous. Once we get up to the cliffs the blowing wind get frightfully cold. “

Sesi speaks “Oh Anuun it won’t be that bad. It’s a warm night and we can all run back and stand in front of the fire.”

We made it to the house and waited around for the fire to get good and warm.

Eski said “Ok the fire is warm enough. Everybody get ready. Ivan we do this only wearing boots and nothing else”

I said “I will switch boot as wearing these boot would be cheating. They are magic and keep the wearer warm.”

Ikiak said “Glad we can trust you not to cheat”

Without the boots the night air was very cold. It must have looked bizarre to anyone watching the seven of us run for the cliffs. As we headed into the tunnel on the way to the cliffs several of us collided and I hit the wall and almost fell down.

Someone I think Eski said “wait Ikiak I think fell down”

We paused and then I heard Ikiak “no I am fine” as he runs past.

We all made up to the cliffs and there was a moment were my brain was telling to stop and cast endure elements. I pushed through and followed the others back to the warm house. With the help of a warm house, hot tea and warm blanks we were able to finally get rid of the chills from our run.

Ikiak said “So now you are one of us. It a brutal run but now we can just sit in front of the fire and get a good night’s sleep.”

I said “I think we should do it again!”

Anuun, Eska, and Ikiak almost at the same time said “What are you crazy?”

Atana speaks up “Spoken like a true hunter but the cold can be very dangerous”

Ulva said “Up here you need to know when to stay out of the cold”

I replied “I’m going and this time I plan to dance to the wind spirits. I have a plan do you trust me?”

Sesi said “Oh sure”

I replied “This time we are going to use magic to stay warm.”

I proceeded to cast endure elements on everyone.

I said “This spell will help keep everyone warm. Let’s go”

At that we headed out the door and back up to the cliffs. The run to the cliffs was a lot more pleasant this time. At the cliffs we began a dance to the wind spirits. It took a little patient instruction from the others before it started to at least look like I was doing the dance correctly. We danced to the wind spirits for hours before returning back to the house to sleep.  I had forgotten what it was like to not act like an adult.

Day 2 Let get some hunting in before the dark night

I awoke surrounded by my new teen age friends. It will be hours before they get enough sleep so I move quietly to not disturb there sleep.  As expected Sparna is over at the forge working on one of his projects. It looks as if he is working to improve his Urgosh, Odd I thought we was not working on the urgosh. I barely convinced Sparna that we should see our companions off as they head to get supplies. After some time helping get everything packed up I watched as the caravan headed out for their 12ish day supply run.

With last night’s party I expected people to be getting going late today but as we walked past the tavern they were opening up for breakfast like any other day. Neither Sparna nor I really needed food so we just walked past. I headed back to the house and quietly investigated the other rooms of the house and discovered damage to the roof likely from the dragon, with a little bit of magic the whole in the roof was fixed. I quietly wandered around the house using magic to repair some of the little things that were in disrepair. Repairing the outside used up a little more time but there were still a few hours before the others would be waking up. Walking through the area checking the other homes for damage took long enough that I could head over to the tavern and get breakfast for the group.

Over at the tavern/inn the woman cheerfully put together the “to go” package of steaming hot food. As she hands me the food she said “Well it looks like your Dwarf friend is finally going to enjoy a good hardy meal.”

I replied “This is not for him this is for the Anuun, Eski and friends”

Woman replied “Well you tell my son Eski that we need help this morning and to get right over here. Anuun’s father was looking for him. The two of them are supposed to be down moving the ale casts. Make sure they eat a good breakfast first”

The smell from the food seemed to bring them out of there slumber. I relayed the message to Eski and Anuun who quickly eat and headed out along with Ikiak. Sesi, Ulva and Atana took more time to eat and make plans for the day.

Ulva said “Sesi are you still coming hunting with Atana and I?”

Sesi replied “I wouldn’t be able to leave until tomorrow. Why don’t you take Ivan?”

Ulva replied “What do you say Ivan you up for some girls showing you up?”

I just responded “Sure. Sesi can you please tell Sparna that I am out hunting”

Atana said “It’s settled. We need to grab our stuff and get moving. Ivan are you packed?”

I replied with “Yep. I am carrying everything I own.”

Less than an hour later the three of us were on our way. Although I wonder if they really wanted me long or if they really wanted the endure elements. We head out along the wall for 3 to 4 hours before they just stopped.

Ulva said “Were here. We just need to chip away the ice around the door. You and

Atana work on the door and I will go set out the traps”

Atana replied “FINE, I CAN DO IT MYSELF I DON’T NEED IVAN’S HELP”

Ulva replied “Ivan why don’t you come with me and I will show you how we set the traps on the ice.”

I followed Ulva and once we were clearly out of earshot Ulva begins to speak “Sorry about that. My sister had way too much to drink and I think it has caught up with her. Normally it is me that she is pissed off at so this is kind of refreshing. Watch out. When she is like this she bites, hits, and kicks. Atana should be fine after she sleeps it off.”

I replied “I could try some healing magic to help”

Ulva replied “Did you forget about the part where she bites, hits, and kicks?

I said “how do you feel? I can try the healing magic on you”

Ulva replied “Like someone hit me in the head with a mace. I won’t bite you for trying”

Casting my spell I said “Here let’s try this and see if it at least makes you feel better. This is not a cure and will only last for 7 hours.”

Ulva replied “Oh that feels better. As promised I didn’t bites, hit or kick you”

We finished setting up the last of the traps and slowly headed back to the cave/ice hut. Ulva and I checked the traps later that evening and to my surprise we were already catching prey. We spent some extra time gathering up some of the worms Skygni had told me about. This is an area rich in the worms and that is what attracts the game here during the winter months. On the way back to the ice hut Ulva reaches over, takes my glove off and bites me.

Ulva said “I didn’t want you to get the impression that I am a domesticated woman that doesn’t bite.”

The rest of the night went ok and luckily today Ulva was the only woman to bite me.

Day 3 Every day is a good day to hunt

I watched as Atana woke from sleep and began to put on her boots. Heading towards the door she looked at me and whispered “Sorry. I am going out to set traps you should get some more sleep”.

I replied “wait should you be going alone? Would you like endure elements?”

Atana replied “My sister will be mad at me for going out on my own and yes Endure elements would be nice”

I replied while casting my spells “Here is endure elements and this is my beacon spell that will allow me to keep track of you. This way you can be alone but we can find you if something goes badly wrong”

As I touched Ulva with the same Beacon spell she groggily said “what is it”.

I whispered “Hush it is just me casting a spell on you”

Ulva groggily replied “Ok Ivan I trust you”

It wasn’t long after Atana left that Ulva fully woke and I explained that I was tracking the both of them with magic. I explained that she is fine and said she would be back in a few hours. Ulva and I waited around in the ice hut until Atana returned. After she had rested the three of us spent the rest of the day and most of the night out hunting.

Day 4 foggy day

We were supposed to head back to town today but thick fog started moving in so we spent the last few hours hunting before it reached us. Once the fog got thick Atana and I made one more trip out to check on the traps. It may not have been smart but with the beacon spell on Atana and Ulva we would at least be able to make it back to Ulva in the ice hut. The fog was so thick that it was hard to see the traps just feet from the ropes. We check about half of the traps when we decided it was just too hard to find the traps. We made our way back to the ice hut.

Atana said “Well it looks like we will just have to stay inside and find some games to entertain ourselves with.”

Ulva said “Ivan why don’t you tell us about all those symbols on your body?

I explained how they just appeared when I first learned about magic. Ulva and Atana examined the symbols and exclaimed that their symbol was missing. After hours of discussing the different symbols on me we called it a night and got some sleep.

Day 5

After a couple of hours I awoke and put a piece of wood on the fire. The only problem with only needing two hours of sleep is having to wait for other people to get enough sleep. I stepped outside to check on the fog and discovered that the fog was gone. I considered going out and collecting the remaining animal traps when the door to the hut suddenly opened.  A groggy Ulva grabbed my arm and pulled me back into the hut.

Ulva said in a groggy voice “No going out and being stupid. Promise me you won’t go out while we sleep.”

I replied “ok”

Moments later Ulva was sound asleep again. I spent the hours working some of the hides to keep busy until Atana and Ulva awoke.

With the fog gone Atana and Ulva easily lead the way back to town. We dropped off the supplies.

Atana said “Ivan, we will be celebrating a successful hunt tonight at the tavern. You should join us.”

I replied “Again with the drinking. Should I be worried tomorrow?”

Atana replied “I am not going to drink that much. And for the record I wasn’t that bad”

Ulva just started walking down the road as she said “See you tonight Ivan”

I headed down the street towards the forge to check in on Sparna. Inside I found Sparna working with Piquana closely watching. She startled when I entered the room.

Sparna approached me and started telling me that his urgosh was somehow different.

Brushing bits off the Urgosh I said “Ok let me take a look. This looks like some enchanting material. Let me check for magic”

After casting detect magic I said “Wow this is magic now. Looks like you put magic on both sides of your weapon. Nicely done Sparna.”

Piquana rushes over bumping against Sparna. She said “Sparna that’s is incredible. The way you use your hands to work the metal is amazing.”

We spent the next several hours discussing the process of creating magic weapons. Unknowingly Sparna followed the same process for creating a magical weapon that I learned. The whole time I kept waiting for Sparna to notice that Piquana was being overly suggestive and using any reason to make contact with him. I decided that anything between Piquana and Sparna was none of my business.

From the doorway I heard the familiar female voice of Sesi say “Piquana do you have Anuun’s new hinge done”

Piquana replied “Ah no I have finish it yet”

Sesi approached me and in a calm voice said “Grandma said that I should fetch you for dinner”.

Before I had any chance to respond Sesi moved forward and started kissing me. She paused long enough to whisper “Grandma insisted that I convience you to have dinner with us”. I tried to respond in agreement with dinner by it is not easy to talk while kissing.

On the way out of the forge I looked back at Sparna and said “later Sparna” but he was already back completely focused on working the armor. Sesi and I headed down the street to meet grandma for dinner.

Character: Qatana

Starday, Rova 29, 4712

Starday, Rova 29, 4712 night
northern caravan route (Taraska River)

“And then I told him, ”that’s not a mouse, that’s a rat!””

Qatana’s circle of friends exploded with chittering laughter, and Pookie looked pleased with herself.

This wasn’t the first time they had heard the story, but it was an amusing tale and well told.

Qatana looked up from the dying embers of the caravan camp fire into the velvety blackness of the frigid night sky. As her eyes adjusted a host of stars slowly faded into view, like diamonds glinting in candle light.

Suddenly a near ethereal voice spoke softly to her, “Have arrived in the city. Exploration will begin tomorrow. Afterward, will watch and await further instructions.”

Elias had taken her up on the offer, then. She wasn’t sure if she was surprised, but she was pleased.

The idea had come to her in Kalsgard, and she had sent a letter and payment enough for several months of simple stealth work to an old associate. Perhaps, she thought, “associate” was too informal a word. Tutor. Inspiration. Friend.

But Elias was unfocused, and had a tendency to idle away his hours in brooding contemplation rather than accomplishing much. He needed a mission, she felt, and she had provided one — with pay: the best kind.

She concentrated and thought, “Understood. Carry on as planned. I will send additional payment as funds and opportunities arise.”

Elias knew what she was planning to do, even if he did not believe she would ever pull it off. But he was sympathetic, and willing to do the tedious job of gathering intelligence. Lots of it over a long time.

Her goal still lay far outside her grasp. She must grow first. Grow in power. Grow in influence. Grow in wealth. She cared little for such things, as did most of her sect, but they were a means to an end.

Some years earlier she had thought to enlist people who already possessed what she lacked. The Sandpoint Heroes. Some of them might have assisted her. They were said to be both powerful and wealthy beyond belief.

She had even traveled to Nybor to enlist Takkad, thinking maybe he would ask his friend Sabin, the mad mage, to join them.

Emotionally it was a difficult journey. She had not been on the road from Sandpoint to Nybor since… the dark times. She had some of her friends with her, but they had not yet crossed over. Four tiny bundles of warmth tucked in a pocket of her cloak, offering much needed comfort.

She found Takkad’s residence easily enough: everyone in the city knew him and where he lived. But she couldn’t help but be disappointed with the shack he called home. It was on the edge of town and had a small barn and large grassy pasture out back.

A horse looked up from its grazing and gazed at her with an almost thoughtful expression.

Surely this wasn’t the right place. “Maybe they said the east side of town and not the west,” she thought as she approached the rickety door.

Qatana reached up to knock, but hastily withdrew her hand. She could feel it. Massive amounts of magical power surging along the surface of the door. This place was not what it seemed.

“Can I help you, miss?”

A man with a wheel barrow full of manure was looking at her from the road.

“I came to see Takkad.”

He looked at her blankly for a moment before replying, “Mm, hmm. And was Master Takkad expecting you?”

Qatana felt at a loss. This wasn’t going like she expected.

“No. But I knew he lived here and thought I would take a chance and see if he was in.”

Another pause.

“I see. Does he even know you, honey?”

Honey? That sort of thing would normally send Qatana into a rage, but for the moment she was at a complete loss as to what to do.

“Nnn, no,” she finally stammered.

“Well at least you’re honest. Not everyone who stops by is. But I’m sorry, Takkad is out. His crazy half orc friend showed up about a fortnight ago and it wasn’t an hour later that the master came out to the barn and said, ”Otis, Sabin and I are taking off for a while, and I’m not sure when we’ll be back. Make sure you take proper care of Butters for me.””

Otis gazed out at the horse and then at the manure in the barrow. “And that is what I was doin’ when you came up and stood fidgeting by the front door. I hate to break it to you miss, but you wasted a trip. I hope you had other business in Nybor.”

A week or so later, after she had returned to Sandpoint, she realized that it was fortunate she had missed Takkad afterall. This was a personal issue, and she needed to deal with it herself, or at least she needed to be the one making the plans and calling the shots.

Someone threw a branch on the remains of the camp fire, which made a loud whoomf as sparks shot up in the air and pulled Qatana back to the present. The flames quickly sprang to life, eagerly accepting the offering of dry wood.

In the renewed light she pulled an old creased map out from her pack and traced the route she was sure Elias had followed from Magnimar to Kaer Maga.

Softly at first, but building steadily in intensity, Beorn began to cackle hysterically.

Character: Kali

From the Life of Kali Nassim: Pink Agates

Early autumn, 4705

Kali tasted blood and sand.

She wanted to open her eyes but her face was clenched so tightly from the pain that it was squeezing them shut. From her chin to her ear, sharp jolts radiated outward, each demanding her full attention. The pain intensified to the point where she wanted to scream but then it suddenly went numb.

She was aware of the the ground pressing against her right temple, and tears flowing over the bridge of her nose. She had not cried like this in years, but she had never hurt anything like this before, either.

Her mind was spinning, unable to focus on any one thought long enough to piece together what was happening or even where she was. All she had was now. Feeling the sand and blood congealing on her tongue, she instinctively tried to spit it out but the pain returned in a burst so severe that it made her nauseous. Kali froze, letting the qualm pass and the pangs recede back to numbness. Don’t throw up don’t throw up don’t throw up.

Finally, a singular, clear thought formed. He broke my jaw.

She opened her eyes, but could barely see through the tears that were pooling in them.

She wanted her mom.

Someone was standing over her; someone she knew. A man? Yes. He was asking her something but she couldn’t understand the words. She knew it sounded like a question, but that’s as much sense as she could make of it. When she didn’t reply, he bent down to look at her more closely. She couldn’t make out his features at first other than that he was big, but then she recognized him as one of the Scarnetti boys. The older one. What is his name? He turned his head and she heard him call out to someone. To the Theern twin?

The thought asserted itself a second time: He broke my jaw.

My rescuer is a Scarnetti. It was madness, but she didn’t care. Whatever fucked up moral code that family lived by at least included “not beating up young girls”. That was good enough for her.

“Don’t try to stand up,” he said.

Are you kidding me? Why would I want to do that?

Then she noticed she was on her hands and knees, with one foot brought forward readying to push herself up. What am I doing?

She shifted her weight back and settled onto her rump, arms still stretched forward. She just lay there, completely unaware of how much time was passing. He called out again, but she wasn’t listening. She saw that she was sitting up now—I don’t remember doing that—and that the two of them were not alone. Some of her friends and a few other girls that she knew were standing around them at a polite distance. She knew their faces but couldn’t form any names.

She lowered her head to let the blood, saliva, and sand drip from her mouth. She didn’t dare try spitting again. When she looked up afterwards she saw the small crowd had parted and through it she could see the Theern boy face down on the beach. He wasn’t moving. Is he dead? A small, muscular figure was standing over him and she recognized it as Qatana. Gods, she looks like a wild animal. What is happening?

“Don’t try to talk.”

I already figured that one out, thanks.

“She got to him first. Pounded him good.”

Kali tilted her head to the side, which he interpreted as a question.

“He’ll live, don’t worry. You, too. Help’s coming.”

She was not, in fact, worried about Theern but she was worried about herself. She knew this was bad. Really, really bad. There would be no hiding this from her parents, even if she wanted to. Except she still didn’t know what was going on.

The pain was coming back, a heavy throbbing that was impossible to ignore. She held back tears through sheer force of will.

She wanted her mom.

Someone else arrived. Her vision was blurring again and she couldn’t make out who it was. The newcomer was pulling something out of a pack or a bag.

You don’t seriously think I can drink a potion like—?

And the pain was gone, so abruptly that she reflexively swallowed and nearly choked on the sand still in her mouth. Kali coughed, spit, and gagged, and nearly passed out.

Someone gave her water. When the spasms ended she swirled some of it around in her mouth and spit it out, then took a long drink. When she looked up again she saw Qatana was gone, and sitting across from her was—

“Shalelu?”

The elven woman was looking right at her with an intensity that was unnerving. Kali had trouble reading her even at the best of times and at this moment Shalelu was completely inscrutable. It gave Kali chills.

In Elvish, she asked, “What did he do to you?”

She had actually been invited. Not told she could come along, not encouraged to come by one of her friends, but actually invited. And by Sefa! An afternoon on the beach, just being out with a couple of friends and a few others around her age. This had never happened before. So, yes! Hell, yes!

She had been searching for something. Agates? Pink agates. They were extremely rare, but they always seemed to turn up at this spot on the beach after really high tides and last night was a new moon. It would be something she could give to Sefa as a small gesture. She had just found one and was headed back down the beach to where the others were when she tripped on something and fell. She looked up and saw Jefy Theern standing over her (she was finally able to tell the asshole twins apart) and…nothing after that.

Until the pain, sand, and blood.

That wasn’t the answer Shelalu was looking for, though, because what had been done to her was obvious. Kali’s Elvish was good, but she was still in shock. She realized she must have misunderstood the question so she went over it again in her head. It may have been, “What was he going to do to you?”

A horrible chill ran through her as more memories flooded in, and she started shaking violently and uncontrollably. The blood drained from her face and from her head, and the ground disappeared beneath her. She was aware of a frenzy of voices from somewhere far away.

In the distance, so faint she could barely hear it, Shalelu’s silenced them all. “No. I will deal with him.”

 

§

Character: Qatana

An Act of Mercy

Qatana woke suddenly. The bedroll lay twisted at her feet, and the tunic she wore most nights was wet with sweat. Despite the cooler northern climate it was just too hot in the caravan wagon for sleep.

She looked around and noticed that Shalelu was not there. “Probably watching the caravan from the shadows,” she thought drowsily.

It was then that she heard the voices, soft whisperings just barely audible outside the covered wagon. She vaguely recognized most of them, but a stranger was doing most of the talking.

“Guys, I think we have company,” she said to her friends, and then realized with a shock that her friends were not with her. This abruptly brought her fully awake and alert.

She quickly pulled on trousers and slipped out the back. There, huddled in the darkness by a wheel were nine small shapes. Eight of them were silvery and translucent like smoke, but the other seemed normal.

“Here she is now,” squeaked Badger, “she’ll help.” The others replied in mutual agreement, but the outsider seemed startled by her arrival and scuttled beneath the wagon.

Star let out a snort of exasperation, but Timber reassured their guest, “You must trust her. She will help, but you need to show the way.”

The mouse, encouraged by her friends, crept out from the greater darkness beneath the wagon and scampered forward to the next shadow. The moon had set some time before, but the canopy of stars cast their own milky light upon the city, and hungry eyes would make short work of careless mice.

Qatana was not particularly stealthy, but it was dark, and most of the quarter’s inhabitants were long in bed. Her guide was virtually invisible, and if it were not for the shimmering figures of her friends she would have lost sight of him right away.

They followed the cobblestone road a short distance toward the gate, where the mouse stopped.

“Here,” her friends cried urgently, “here!”

A tiny black form lay slumped by the side of the road. Qatana carefully picked up a limp mouse and saw that while it had been badly injured, probably crushed beneath the wheels of a hand cart, the animal yet lived.

It had clearly suffered in this state for quite some time and was now in shock.

Qatana hesitated, torn as usual between the two choices before her. A little squeak at her feet brought her back to the dying creature in her hands. “You have a mate and probably young ones back in your nest.”

She concentrated for a moment and her friends glowed brightly. The small mouse stirred in her hands, whiskers twitching in the night air. She put the mouse on the ground net to the other, and they scurried off together.

“Stay off the cobbles, little ones!” she called after them.

Qatana stood there for some time, lost in thought and fighting despair and desperation. Was this the right choice? Surely this was just a temporary reprieve, and the next day would see her patient speared in the talons of an owl or made the play thing of some cruel cat. Weren’t her actions this night just a futile gesture, after all?

Timber sniffed loudly and muttered, “This again?”

“Shush,” Pookie admonished, “She is a servant of Groetus, and she must often choose between life and death for others, and the burden is great.”

Star scoffed, “It wouldn’t be tough for me: I’d chose death!” The others groaned their little mousey noises of disapproval, but off by himself Beorn tittered uncontrollably.

Character: Kali

From the Life of Kali Nassim: By Moonlight

Pharast 9, 4710 (Magnimar)

“Do you even know how to use that thing?”

Kali turned her head at the sound of Lucian’s voice. She looked up from where she was sitting to see him standing just behind her, and smiled when their eyes met. No, I don’t, she thought before saying, “I grew up with them. My dad taught me when I was ten.” Which is technically true. She had gotten so used to having the khopesh strapped at her back that she quickly forgot it was there, but the mention of it made her aware of it again. It was long and heavy and awkward. It was also there purely for show.

“Are you going to tell me why you asked to meet me out here, or are you going to keep me in suspense all night?” she asked.

Lucian showed her his best, wry smile and tilted his head to the left as he shifted his weight to that leg. If he had a signature look, this “Varisian scamp” mien would be it. He said, “I’m going with option B,” then winked at her and sat down by her side at the edge of the Seacleft.

“Fine. Be that way,” she replied, in a mock-offended tone which she quickly regretted. She was worried he would take it the wrong way, but he snickered in response and her concern evaporated.

Lucian was a couple of years younger than Kali but he had started at the academy in her class. They didn’t normally accept students under 18 but for him they made an exception: he was smart—brilliant, really—and magic came so easily to him that instruction and study seemed almost a formality. When you’re that gifted the academy bends the rules.

He was handsome, too, in the classically Varisian way. Lucian’s short, dark hair was nearly black, and though it always seemed to be unkempt on him it looked rugged, not slovenly. Sly, brown eyes gleamed with intelligence and a hint of mischief. His skin was just a shade darker than normal, and he had a nicely toned, though not quite muscular, frame.

Kali had gone back and forth between liking him and liking him, but she eventually gave up on the fantasy of a relationship and settled on just being friends. Lucian was blessed with looks, a little charm, and a keen intellect, but he could be completely oblivious when it came to other people. Oblivious to the point of slighting and offending them. She figured that road would just lead to disappointment and frustration, which were two things she did not need back in her life.

“It probably won’t be dark enough for another hour or so. Do you want to get something to eat?” he asked casually.

Kali glanced over to the east where the Rebirth Moon would soon be rising. According to the astronomical tables there would be a total lunar eclipse later tonight, a so-called blood moon, and that eclipse was why Lucian had chosen this evening. He wanted to show her something. “Not the eclipse,” he’d said—which is just as well, as she’d seen plenty of those—but something else. Something in the city, and the best chance for seeing whatever it was would be tonight. But there were no guarantees; he had stressed that.

All the vague talk was starting to irritate her, but she was also curious. So she agreed. “Yeah, OK. But if you’re going to make me wait in the dark, figuratively and literally, then I get to pick the food. And you’re buying.”

“It’s a deal,” he replied.

“Follow me, then. I’m in the mood for this place in Dockway, near the Bazaar.” Kali stood up, waited for Lucian to do the same, and then headed for the road that led down the Seacleft. He quickly joined her at her right side, falling into step.

“Why do you like Dockway so much?”

This was one of those “aloof around others” moments. At least some of the reasons should have been obvious, but Lucian didn’t notice “obvious” things about other people sometimes. Often. A lot.

“Well, my parents’ business is down there, for one. They supply several of the merchants in the Bazaar. And I like the Bazaar, itself. All those cultures mixed together like that, including my own? And the food is pretty good, too.” She liked Ordellia even more, but it was farther away. It was even further if you wanted to get there and back in one piece at night; the most direct route wasn’t the safest one.

“But mostly?” she said, continuing on. “I like to watch the ships in the harbor, putting in to port and back out to sea. We traveled a lot when I was younger. Most of those trips were overseas.”

“My family traveled a lot, too, though exclusively by land of course. Except for the occasional river barge or ferry.”

Varisians as a whole had more than their share of wanderlust. Contrary to the stereotype, they weren’t all itinerants that endlessly crossed the countryside. Most settled in close-knit communities and satisfied their need to roam by exploring close to home (“always wondering what’s over the next hill”, someone had said to her once), but some did travel a great deal. If they were wealthy enough they did it because they could. If they were poor enough they did it because they had no other options.

Lucian’s family fell into the first category.

“Do you miss it?” she asked him.

“What? The travel? Yeah. Yeah, I do.” There was more than a hint of longing in his voice.

“Me, too,” she said with much of the same tone.

“So, naturally, we’ll be indoors and glued to books for the next two years.”

Kali didn’t say anything. They both knew that they were playing the long game, but it was frustrating to feel even more cooped up; for things to get worse before they got better.

They walked in that awkward silence for a while, working their way through the crowded plaza at the base of the hill and then south, skirting the Sczarni encampment known locally as Carent’s Camp. As the Bazaar of Sails came into view, Kali finally spoke.

“Why are we out here tonight, Lucian?”

“It’s better if you see. I promise.”

She led him to Mother Sarraf’s, a small Keleshite kitchen just across from the Bazaar. It was crowded tonight, as usual, but that only mattered if you wanted to dine at one of the small handful of tables. She told Lucian, “Don’t worry: we’ll picnic. We won’t have to wait long.”

“Thank the gods. For a minute there, I thought you had deliberately sabotaged our evening.”

“It’d be worth it. The food is that good. But, no, I want to see this mystery that you won’t tell me about.”

Kali was right about the wait. In less than ten minutes, they were walking back towards the Capital District, taking small bites as they went. She had chosen the stuffed grape leaves, which were filled with a mix of vegetables, lentils, split peas, and walnuts, then lightly coated in a tomato sauce. Lucian had gone for a skewer of minced lamb spiced with turmeric and sprinkled with parsley flakes.

“You’re almost right about the food,” he said between mouthfuls. “Almost worth sabotaging an evening over.”

As they started up the hill from the plaza, Kali asked for a third time, “Why are we out here tonight, Lucian?”

“You’ll see. I think it’s almost time.” He picked up the pace, taking them back up to the top of the Seacleft where they had agreed to meet. “Perfect!” he said, surveying the city. It was just now getting dark and the full moon was climbing it’s way into the sky.

“What’s perfect? What am I looking for?” Kali asked.

“Just give it a couple of minutes. I’ll find one.”

She finished her dinner while he looked, and then waited, growing more impatient by the minute. But before she could get irritated enough to ask “What are we doing out here tonight?” for the fourth time, he said, excitedly, “There! Over there!” He was pointing towards the Keystone district. Towards Seerspring Garden.

“What am I…?”

Kali’s voice trailed off as she spotted it. A light blue glow in the park, shaped like a human figure. At first she thought it was a spell but then it moved. It moved like a person. And then as she watched, transfixed, she saw another glowing blue shape, only this one was flying over the city. She traced it’s progress to the Garden, where it landed next to the first figure. Except there was now a third one there, as well.

“What are they?” she asked.

“They’re yamahs. They’re a type of azata. Come on! Let’s get you a closer look.”

Normally she’d object to the backtracking—they were just down there, after all—but there was no way she was saying no to this.

“Why are they here?” she asked as they jogged back down the hill to the plaza.

“Magnimar is home to a number of unusual religions. Among those are people who worship some of the empyreal lords. Ashava is especially popular.”

Kali knew a little bit about Ashava. She was also an azata, and her faithful referred to her as the True Spark. She sought out lost spirits and guided them to safety by moonlight. What is her holy symbol, again? A silhouette? A woman silhouetted against …

“The lunar eclipse,” she said, interrupting her own thoughts as the realization dawned on her.

“The lunar eclipse,” Lucian responded, nodding. “Other celestial events, too, but these are more frequent.”

“Lucian, I had no idea … I mean, Magnimar! Of all places!”

“It can be a magical city. At times.” Even with the qualifier, that was high praise from a Varisian.

They had just passed the bend in the wide, cobblestone street that would lead them past Lowcleft and on to the gardens when Lucian came to a sudden stop. Kali almost ran into him.

“There,” was all he said.

Kali saw it. Saw her. In the distance, coming up the street towards them.

“Come on,” Lucian said. “Let’s get out of the street where you won’t be so obvious.”

Kali blushed and said, “Sorry! It’s just—”

“I know. My first time was like that, too.”

The yamah was tall. A little over six feet tall, by Kali’s estimation. And she was beautiful. The celestial had glowing, blue skin and long, flowing hair that was as black as the night sky. As she moved, her white gown gracefully danced around her ankles and her hair sparkled and twinkled. Like stars, Kali mused. Her most amazing feature, though, was the enormous pair of blue butterfly wings attached to her back.

“Gods,” Kali whispered.

“Yeah,” Lucian replied. “You haven’t been here long, but you’ll … well, you won’t get used to them, exactly, but you’ll at least stop gawking when they walk by.”

She could tell he was grinning without even looking at him. It was enough to snap her out of her reverie. They waited and watched until the yamah had passed and only then did Kali notice that she was walking with someone. A human woman, probably Varisian, dressed in vibrant blues and greens. They were chatting with one another, like any two close friends would do…when one of them wasn’t six feet tall, blue skinned, glowing, and sprouting wings.

“Incredible! Thank you, Lucian, for bringing me out here tonight.”

Lucian laughed. “You would have seen them yourself, eventually, but what fun is that? I really want you to have the guided tour.”

“What are you talking about?”

Smiling, he answered, “We’re going to the Garden to visit.”

 

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Character: Kali

From the Life of Kali Nassim: Peccadillos

Early Summer, 4704 (Korvosa)

It was really just dumb luck. Kali was idling around an artists’ stall in the Gold Market while her mom shopped for some fresh produce when a boy maybe a couple of years younger than her caught her eye. He had the look of a Shingles kid. Kali had been to Korvosa often enough that she could generally pick them out even when they were “cleaned up” enough to prowl the crowded streets for easy marks, and sure enough, she saw him move in behind a tall, wiry man with short black hair that was not paying close enough attention to his coin purse.

Kali watched him bungle the theft. Just as he reached for the small, leather pouch, the black-haired man stepped back unexpectedly and the boy bumped into him.

“Excuse me! I’m sorr…Hey! THIEF!

The boy had made the best of the situation by just yanking the coin purse away and bolting. He had the advantages of a head start and a bustling crowd where no one knew what was happening.

Except for Kali, who watched it all unfold. The boy’s escape route would bring him right by the stall where she was standing. He was so focused on getting out of the plaza and into the streets—and away from his pursuer—that he didn’t notice her at all, the only face in the crowd ahead that was staring directly at him. She stepped into his path as he darted around an elderly woman, brought up her foot, and sent him sprawling onto the pavement. The coin purse flew out of his hand.

And that should have been the end of it.

Two days later (Korvosa)

Kali allowed some fear to show on her face. That was probably for the best since it was what they were expecting to see and she didn’t want to make this worse. In all honestly, she wasn’t really all that worried: it was the middle of the day, plenty of people saw them jump her, and it sounded like one or two had even gone for help, so whatever these kids were going to do it was going to have to be fast. And, most important, they hadn’t pulled out anything lethal.

She just wanted them to get it over with, really, but showing indifference would send the wrong message. Life was hard among the Shingles: you weren’t just impoverished, you were also at risk from the imp, spiders, and everything else that stalked the rooftop. To survive that, especially as a kid, you had to be clever or tough; preferably both. The last thing she wanted to do was give them an excuse to have to prove this to her. She already expected this to be bad.

So she was completely shocked when the first punch landed in her abdomen. So shocked that she almost forgot to crumple forward in response. Are…are they trying to knock the wind out of me? This wasn’t how things went back home. If Ianca or the twins were to ever trap her like this, they would just get to the point, and likely break her nose (or try to, at any rate).

Kali let her legs give out and she sagged forward, forcing the two boys holding her up to support her full weight. Not prepared for this, they chose to drop her to the ground, instead, and she curled up into a protective ball. A part of her appreciated the irony of this situation. For two years, now, she’d been the subject of regular poundings, and for the first time she was getting one that she had actually earned, and this is what it amounted to.

They started kicking her—painfully hard, she had to admit—along her back, arms, and legs. She withdrew into herself, drawing upon all she had learned over the past year and a half from studying Unbinding the Fetters, and found a center of calm inside her own thoughts. The blows slowly receded into the distance until they were inseparable from her body’s own rhythms, and the pain faded with them. There was no sensation and no time, just the regular thump-thump of her heart beating.

And then the kicking stopped. She expanded her awareness, opening up to let in the world around her. She heard the oldest boy talking, saying something to her about having taught her a lesson. About interfering? Or something. A lesson? she thought. I get worse beatings twice a month just for breathing. From kids half your size. Part of her found the whole thing kind of pathetic and sad. But she wisely said nothing, instead laying motionless on the ground. It’s what they expected, after all.

She heard their lookout shout a warning followed by the sound of them scattering, then some new voice yelling something she couldn’t make out. Heavy boots ran past. She opened her eyes and lifted her head just in time to see a large figure crouching down next to her. He was dressed in the gray uniform of the Korvosan Guard.

“Miss! Can you hear me? Are you hurt?

Kali sat up, said “I’m fine. Thank you,” smiled weakly at him, and started rummaging through the folds of her sari for her pouch.

“Young lady, I saw what they were doing to you. Are you sure you are not hurt?”

“Hmm? Oh. Yeah. They were kicking me,” came her distracted reply.

The guard looked incredulous. “It seemed much worse than that! We should—”

“They didn’t hit my head. And I’m not bleeding. And nothing’s broken.”

Kali stood, holding the pouch she had pulled from inside her clothes.

He stood up beside her, looking concerned. “I don’t think you should be getting up just yet.”

“What? Why not?” She pulled a small vial out of the pouch and removed the stopper. There was some writing in Tien on the label stuck to the glass. The guardsman just stared at her, bewildered, as his partner, a woman with short black hair, came running up to them.

“I couldn’t catch any of them. How is she?”

“I’m fine,” Kali said, downing the vial’s contents. She immediately felt the aches, bruises and scrapes vanish.

“What was that?” the woman asked.

“Just a healing potion.”

“You just said you were—”

“I don’t want to be sore tomorrow. And covered in bruises.”

The two guards looked at each other as Kali put her pouch away. There was faint tinkle of glass as she did so.

“Why…? Wait. Just how many of those do you have?”

“Only the three.” Kali frowned briefly. “Well, two, now.”

They looked at each other again. This time, the man spoke. “Are your parents nearby?”

Kali started brushing the dirt off of her clothes as best she could. “Hmm? Oh. Probably. Why?”

“We should talk to them! Tell them what happened to you!”

“What? Why? They’ll just worry.”

The guards exchanged inscrutable looks. Kali ignored them as she finished tidying up. She’d need to find a shop with a mirror to fix her hair before getting back to her grandparents’ home, but this was good enough for now. She bowed slightly to them and said, “Thank you for running them off. I don’t enjoy being kicked.”

Then she walked away, leaving them standing in the alley.

 

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