We are almost out of the Phelmyr. Almost to the plains that lead to the magic maelstrom that hides the resistance cell at a place known as Ironhold. What type of place is it?
Underground. Is it like the abandoned and wasted elven city? Is it a dwarven citadel? Or something far more cruder and cut rudely into Merlay’s flesh by human hands? Or worse, Orc claws?
Eventually these musings will be answered.
I had awaken from revery about thirty minutes ago and began these musings while waiting for Fyraiia to look up from her spellbook. Wizards truly do not pay attention to what’s around them. I already noted that aside from the Orc’s stick in the ground, there’s no watch posted. Sloppy relying upon just that. These people clearly do not realise that the magics can be defeated by one skilled at doing so. Eventually maybe I will be able to, but it’s not a goal. Not yet.
She’s still in her book…. how droll.
I consider how to suggest watches be divided. Daniel will need his full rest if he casts spells, and truly I don’t trust him nor Jeff to do a watch. Fyraiia too shouldn’t be doing watches as the case in point clearly tells me. Shadow could take the first four hours and I take the last four hours, we both seem to share some of the same skills of stealth and alertness, though her wilderness skills are admittedly better than mine.
The Orc will continue to be lazy and rely solely upon his stick. So he won’t do any watches, unless perhaps Shadow or Biggles convince. Thinking of the halfling, he shouldn’t do watches either as he’s a spell slinger too. Jern is always willing to do a watch. So is Jorrum. Dusk and dawn are key attack points, a dwarf awake at both points would be good.
Movement? I turn my head to see Osozo depart. All his gear packed and he slips into the forest. What is he up to? I send Asra to follow and report, to come back before dawn.
Now where was I? Oh! Best watch schedule. So dwarf book ends, elven stealthiness at the beginning, my sneakiness at the end. Psyren, Gronx, and Sslith’lac should take up watches…. except Psyren is a user of the invisible arts, so she’ll need to rest fully to recharge. So then, that means Jorrum should be first and Gronx or Sslith’lac second with Shadow being the second person on watch. Then myself with the other warrior then Jern. Stealth plus brawn pairings should work well.
I must mention this.
Oh! She’s looking up! Yay!
‘Does the offer still stand, Fyraiia?’ She looks up, slightly puzzled. I move my hair and show her that tattooed brand.
‘Yes, yes it does,’ she replied. She touched it gently, which caused me shutter and force my hands to remain still.
‘Must you touch it?’ I really don’t like being poked and prodded.
‘Yes. Now stay still. Actually, lay down,’ she suggests. I do so, and try to remain still while she examines it.
‘Is it magical?’
‘Yes.’ Great….. lets see the bastard probably has it tracking my location, or pinging off when he focuses on it. So he doesn’t have my locket nor my father’s ring to find me. If that’s the case, a forest of antiscrying won’t help me. I need nondetection, misdirection, or both to screw with him. What else would he put in it? Well, nothing pain inducing since nothing caused me pain when I refused to toe the line and be a good slave. Perhaps something to dampen my natural abilities? Naw, he didn’t know what I am. A linkage to the thing on the Shadow Plane that hunted me? That I sensed as soon as it arrived AND I could feel it getting closer….
Fyraiia distracts me from my thoughts. She says she’s doing to try something. I ask if she’s going to erase it. No, dispel magic. Ok, I begin to say. I almost suggest Greater Dispelling, but I don’t get the chance.
The camp site is gone. The noise of the night is gone.
Blinding, searing, pure white agony light steals my sight. I’m blind but not.
The searing shredding pain tears up and down my neck, down my spine, ricocheting in my skull, freeze burning every nerve in my body… it’s far too much for me to push aside or through. I can’t contain it. I can’t fight it. My head! My head is going to explode or freeze or both. There’s no sound. I’m nowhere. Floating in hot burning freezing pain. I can’t escape it. There’s no salvation no stopping nor end. It goes on forever!
I have my mind. No body.
- Have I died? -
Nothing then Void then Black.
- A pit? -
I have my body. I’m solid and drifting in the Void. I’m gently falling without sound. There was no sound.
- Am I dead? -
There’s something but nothing under my back. It’s solid and plyable. I can’t move…. I think I’m breathing. I move my hands to touch what is at my side. Feels like grass but it isn’t grass. I extend my fingers. There’s comfort.
Embers slowly, softly, begin to form and glow around me. I turn my head to watch the inner light dance. I have a head I can move! I move a hand and extend a finger to touch the flame, then suddenly flames begin springing up everywhere near me. I move slowly to sit up embers begin to glow further out now, a dance of flames move outwards.
Beautiful. - I must have died…- “Where am I?” I have a voice, it’s a whisper.
I look around, taking it in. Darkness above me, fire and embers around me. Where am I indeed. I know not this place. I slowly move to crouch and catch a glimpse of my red hand and black talon. How did I miss that when I touched the flame? I’m in my natural form. I died. Sadness swirls in my calm, followed by determination. I will get back to the Prime! But first I must figure out where here is.
“What do you seek?”
A voice that I do not know booms from around me. Cool. Detached. Commanding.
What do I seek? Nothing. I didn’t come here of my own will. What do I seek? My brothers, my sister’s soul, my parents, my friends and tribe. An end to tyrannical rule and the fear of being hunted.
“Freedom,” I reply to the unknown voice. Control over where I end up would also be nice but freedom is more important.
“You are already free from he who wrongly laid claim upon you,” the distinctively male voice replies.
I shake my head. “He still hunts for me,” I murmur. “I mean freedom from the Kabal. A world of people free to worship as they wish, to live as they want without being forced to follow the one god and words of the high king. To form their own kingdoms and begin their lives anew. No more slaves, be their bonds be visible or not.”
Yes, a lofty end goal, but it’s realistic… possible.
“Who are you?” I ask, curious. The glow from the fire is growing but the blackness is still ever present. I stand to look better, stretch my wings out before wrapping them around me and allowing the membrane to drape like a cloak from my shoulder. I look into the darkness but its unfathomable depths reveal nothing to me.
“Have I changed so much you do not recognise me?” I think I detect some mirth. I cant my head trying to place the voice, I have a vague sense of familiarity, but I can’t place it.
The fire dances around me playfully. Then there’s a break in the darkness. A pair of wings unfold and spread out, glowing far brighter than the flames around me. The avian head comes up crowned with feathers of flame. Pyrico! His tail is long, almost to the length that Mother had seen years ago.
I drop to my knees and place my hands upon them with my head bowed, but my back straight. “Forgive me for not recognising your voice, Lord of Flames and Renewal, please.” His voice has changed. From the time in the egg, to before that when I was a child nattering away to him. Did I bring him back a little wrong? Or is he still settling in? I must have died to be in his realm.
“You embrace the flames as much as they embrace you,” he observes, floating beyond my reach.
“I’m able to do so as I possess the blade you gifted Mother, and then gifted myself for the duty to guard you. My own ability isn’t yet strong enough.” It’s true, I rely upon the blade to keep me safe, hoping that my natural resistance will grow. I watch the flames and caress a couple with my fingers.
I have already been told to trust the fire. To embrace the fire. Fire and Shadow I am.
“Your friends care a great deal about you.” A statement. I look up at him. What have Jern, Gronx, Psyren, and Sslith’lac done? Was Phaeron part of it? “They seem to be under the impression that I owe you for bringing me back.”
I’m shocked by my friends’ presumption on this matter. “How? You being brought back was important. You are renewal and rebirth. You are hope. To say such… it’s like saying the sky owes us the rain that falls than being glad that it falls in season…” I shake my head. Why would they say or think such? “I am glad you are back. I am happy that you can renew hope.” What else can I say? Have they angered him? Or I?
“Your friends acted to help you.” A wing moves and a group of flames band together and then a pillar of fire shoots off then calms to a simmer, “Observe,” he motions that wing. “The one who calls herself Shadow seems to know you.”
I get up and walk carefully upon the embers to not squish any flames to look into the mirror of fire. Within, I see Jern drawing sigils, taking up his wooden drum. Shadow is speaking words unheard. Then she’s dancing. Phaeron carries my body to what looks like a pyre and places it there. My body, I am in a great deal of pain. I look to Pyrico as he flashes bright then dulls. A well muscled, young elven man is walking towards me. He gestures back to the mirror. Another flash occurs… fireball lands directly on my body! If not for the scimitar in my leg, I would have died again.
“That which you seek is already upon you,” he whispers. I look from the ritual hastily put together to the elf with fire in his eyes. What am I seeking? Before I can give voice he touched my leg where the tattoo is. Searing pain washes over the tattoo and blinding white pain returns to my eyes. I drop with a gasp. And jolt awake in Phaeron’s arms, startling him. My head hurts so much. My body is weak. Phaeron embraces me.
Did I anger Pyrico? Have my friends offended him?
“You’re awake,” I nod.
“My tattoo is enchanted,” I drop a hand to check upon the scimitar. It’s still there. I sigh. That’s a good thing.
“They are,” he goes on to tell me about how the scimitar scabbard tattoo is a back up to the tattoo on my neck. It is a locator, more like she’s over in that direction type. Great.
“I won’t be able to stay in Ironhold,” I tell him. “It will be a matter of time before the Kabal learn that those who hunt me will lead them to me and those I’m with. I already was part of a cell that was destroyed, I’m not going to be the cause of another one.” He protests and I continue, “Lheare has uses for you. You are her shield and sword to guard the people who can’t fight in your cells. You can’t be with me and help her. Our paths may cross….” I fall silent. He’s too angry and raw to listen. I turn my back and elect to fall into revery. That fight against a house champion that I won. It was a bloody affair, I was very broken, but I had the strength to kill him.
At breakfast, Shadow told me I’m stupid. I didn’t respond. The child was able to do a ritual…. she’s not a child in the Gods’ eyes. I notice her hair is a lot shorter and as a thanks, I give her the ring of lore. It was going to be helpful later for me, but she’s seeking her people. I rant at Fyraiia for causing me pain and missing the layer that listed it as an ability of the tattoo. Oh! And fun stuff! The one on my leg will destroy Pyrico’s Talon if I manage to get rid of it. Gah! I instead choose to be quiet as we travel. Fyraiia doesn’t want anything to do with me, so be it. She’ll be one less person to stop me from leaving.
We travel a few more days then hit the plains. I use my fire butterfly tattoo from Psyren to connect people together so I, Shadow and Phaeron can scout while the others travel together. Jern, Jorrum, and Fyraiia are now synched up. It’s on the second day that I find a group needing their lives taken.