Episode 6 - In which Mera has to write... a lot...

In the morning, our fearless adventurers set out for Court in the Ladies’ Ward, led by their tout, Dagger. After several hours of travel, the party noticed that the streets were cleaner, the buildings larger and more beautiful. Court itself was a big, square building. People waited for entrance in an orderly line. A man walking near the line asks the group if they are there for a trial. Adso asks for an explanation. The gentleman explains what trials are, and tells them that he is a freelance guvner who works as an advocate for hire for defendants. The Team is not in need of his services, and eventually they make it inside the Court.

A woman with big spectacles seated at a desk asks, “How can I help you?” Nyx begins to explain their question for the guvners. She makes it as far as their arrival in Outlands when the woman hands her a form, gestures to a side room and instructs them to talk to Camael.

In the side room are several guvners seated at desks with large piles of books. Walking among the m, talking to them is a tall, attractive, other-worldly man with golden irises. He exudes an aura of calm and serenity. This is Camael. When Nyx tries to make an inquiry, he instructs her to fill out the form that she received from the woman at the desk. He shows her to a desk and gives her a pen. Nyx fills out the form, very neatly, answering a great many personal questions about her origin and the nature of her inquiry.

When she returns the form to Camael, he makes it clear that they would have to join the guvners (the faction of the Fraternity of Order with a symbol of dagger) in order to get access to the books that might contain the knowledge they are seeking. But that knowledge would never just be handed over, the would have to earn it. No one in the party is comfortable joining a faction without some idea of their rules. Dagger points out that some factions, “don’t take kindly,” to people saying they agree with the philosophy and then later changing their minds. So, Nyx politely declines Camael’s offer and the party turns to go.

Gabriel, however, at this moment discovers a heretofore deeply hidden talent as a chick magnet. A woman, in fact, walks right into him, scattering her papers everywhere. And what a woman she is, with light blue skin, long white hair, her own personal breeze, and bright blue eyes that shift color like a sky with scattered clouds. Her name is Winnigale She apologize profusely and proceeds, with eyes only for Gabriel, to wax rhapsodic about her study of the Mortai of the Beastlands. Gabriel nods with interest (which he will later protest was purely of an academic nature) and then asks her if she knows of anyone outside the guvners who is doing such an analysis of portals? She advises him that there might be one in Lantern Row.

Once Gabriel Krell can be pried away from this fascinating scholar, the team leaves the court. Adso wants to find the temple of Rau. But given that he can’t even identify the pantheon that Rao is in, and given that Dagger doesn’t recognize the symbol emblazoned on Adso‘s hand, the party doesn’t even know where to begin looking, and so the poor priest must wait a bit longer to commune with his new (or possibly re-incarnated old) god.

The group proceeds to Lantern Row where they find the Key In Lock – the business Winnigale referred them to. A brusque, ashen skinned, hairless male humanoid with pointed ears found behind the stacks of books and parchment, informs them that it would cost 500 jink and take 3 weeks for a full search.

Disheartened, the team headed back to the bazaar. Their first stop is at a second hand clothing store to pick up serviceable work clothes. To get Nyx to agree to buying some work clothes, Mera makes a deal with the devil, agreeing that Nyx can buy her a dress and that she’ll actually wear it (when occasion dictates, anyway). By the end of their shopping trip, Dagger tells the group that she has a line on a kip for them and, possibly, jobs as well. She scampers off to work out the details and the party heads back for their last night at the inn.

Mera and Nyx, with Coverdale as bodyguard, manage to find all the necessities for laundry, and head to a local well to clean their clothes. Afterward they head to the gymnasium where Mera wrestles and they all bathe.

Meanwhile, back at the Inn, Gabriel Krell and Adso set about some gentle questioning of the rescued dwarf, Avard. They ask him why he doesn’t like Sigil. His repetitive, and clearly evasive answer, is simply, “It’s a dirty city.” While they never ferret out Avard’s true aversion to the city, they do find out the handy fact that the portal to Avard’s forge does go both ways, so they can head back to his demon ravaged town any time they like.

The next day, Avard has vanished, leaving behind a thank you note and 3 jink (which may possibly have been given to him secretly by Adso who is determined to use his money to good purpose, though no one seems to agree with his ideas about what that good purpose might be).

After breakfast, Dagger leads them to Grandmother Poh’s boardinghouse next door to the tannery. Grandmother Poh is a wizened old dwarf with silver hair in a clean bun, tinted glasses, and a cane. The rooms are small and clean, and though there are only straw pallets and not beds, they’re still more comfortable than the hard ground of the Outlands. At 2 stingers per room per week, and only a single rule of, “not bringing trouble home,” everyone is pleased.

After settling into their new lodgings, the team sets off to meet their prospective employer, Dmetris. Outside the tavern, their designated meeting place, they see a large terrifying creature, a large hairy man with the head of a bull. Dagger, of course, is unphazed. She simply tells them that he’s a minotaur, and the bouncer (which, of course, our backwater green primes need explained).

After they are seated, a woman asks them if they wanted any bub. Mera is emphatic that she does not want bub. She asks what drinks they have that are not bub and ends up ordering käf. Soon a tall, handsome man with dark hair pulled back in a pony tail, jetblack leather armor, sword and steal toed boots pulls up a chair. He introduces himself as Dmetris and begins to ask them pointed questions about their experience. He seems especially intrigued by Gabriel’s experience with herbal lore.

Since they can read and write, he can get them jobs as scribes. He also knows an alchemist who might take Gabriel as an apprentice. Mera asks if he might have anything more physical. Dmetris promises to keep his ear out. The scribe jobs pay 5 stingers per day. The Apprenticeship starts a 3 stingers per day, but could improve up to 1 jink per day. The party all agrees to the new employment and he gives them directions on where to go the following day.

The alchemist, Xebotas, is a severe looking man with dark eyebrows, a patch beard, and chunks of hair missing. He is brusque, but Gabriel does pretty well, only getting called idiot a handful of times.

The boss of the scribes is name Vartien, an old woman, totally bald, with a very intense stare. As our heroes heroically copy some anti-religious texts for the Athar, who believe that the Powers (gods) are all frauds and not true divinity, Veratien compliments Nyx and Adso on their lovely penmenship. Mera and Coverdale, not so much.

Their first day was uneventful. Their second day, less so, for into the scribe shop walks a pretty young woman who recognizes Nyx and Mera, kneeling to them and calling them, “your Highnesses!” She is Brittany, an old friend of Gabriel’s from Kethencio. Her boss enters to see what is keeping her. He is a horrible, skeletal monkey-scorpion with glowing eyes. Brittany calls him “Kekkan.” The party makes plans to meet Brittany later at the Frolicking Otter tavern.

Once they are gathered there, Gabriel asks Brittany why she left. She explains that Kethencio was, “…too stifling. I could see my life and knew my life would be what everyone else said and not what I wanted.” Mera nodded in heartfelt agreement. Adso begins a discussion with Brittany about the Athar. Mera quickly jumps in, hoping to keep Adso from praising the dead god and inviting the wrath of the Lady of Pain. When he will not be still and begins to speak of his fervor, Mera panics, and leaps over the table to quiet him. Sadly, her sword catches the edge of the table and falls short of her goal. Coverdale, clearly sharing Mera’s concern, walks calmly around the table and conks Adso over the head with the butt of his sword.

Though it attracts the attention of the rest of the bar, this quiets Adso enough that Nyx can step diplomatically into the fray. The discussion moves on and it becomes clear the Brittany has no interest in Adso‘s story of Aoskar’s supposed reincarnation. She is a true Athar now and has lost all faith in the powers.

As the evening winds down, Coverdale asks Brittany if there are any portals left in the shattered temple. Brittany is evasive, and they can get to clear answers from her. She does tell answer, when asked about astral streakers, that they might find a few in aviaries throughout the city.

The next day, everything takes a turn for the worse. When Gabriel arrives at work he encounters big armored guards outside the Alchemist’s shop. Xebotas is inside talking with a blond man in red platemail armor. He gestures to Gabriel as his new apprentice. The guards let him in and the strikingly beautiful blond man turns and introduces himself as Measure Peacible. He proceeds to question Gabriel about a theft from the Alchemist’s shop. Gabriel answers every question, telling the Measure of his whereabouts the following evening and naming all of his companions (including Brittany). Peacible leaves a guard outside the shop and heads to the scribe’s shop.

Once there, he questions the rest of the party along the same lines as he did Gabriel. With Aethyr chirping in her ear, Nyx notices that Peacible’s voice projects a suggestive empathic feeling that all her friends are very willing to help him because of it. Still, Peacible seems reasonable and they answer all his questions. He explains that he is a member of the Harmonium and as such he strives to create Harmony and Peace in the city.

Back at the Alchemist’s shop, a female half-elf enters. After making small talk with Xebotas she embarks on her real mission in the shop. She explains that Justice in Sigil is too slow and that she is here to expedite the process. She begins to imply that Gabriel is clearly guilty of the theft and that by continuing to employ him Xebotas is exposing himself as an enemy to Justice.

Gabriel protests his innocence, but the woman, who titles herself a “Handmaiden of Justice,” and a “Mercy Killer,” continues to intimidate poor Xebotas. “You clueless primes arrive in our fair city in total ignorance of the law and leech onto our citizens. I know Measure Pecible is helping find the perpetrator but note that in Sigil as in the Planes, we Mercy Killers ensure justice is met. We eke out justice on the guilty. you don’t want to associate with such a person or we might shine light on the dark places you’d rather keep hidden.” Shortly after she leaves, a clearly shaken Xebotas fires Gabriel who, with nowhere else to go, heads to the scribe’s shop.

His description of events spooks Veratien, who, for the first time, ushers everyone out for lunch, locks the door and lowers the blinds. With a growing awareness of the trouble they are likely in, the party decides to split up. Coverdale decides to remain, hidden, to watch the scribe shop. Gabriel and Mera will set out for the tavern where the met Dmetris, hoping to find word of him. Nyx and Adso will go look for the guard back at the Alchemist’s shop to try to find Peacible.

Episode 4 - The Gang Discovers the Blood War

After parting ways from Ravdet, our intrepid adventurers head towards the small town where they have been told of a portal to Sigil. Quickly learning about trust and the dangers of telling the wrong people about dead powers, Adso breaks a revelation to the party members the following morning: Aoskar was killed by the Lady of Pain, yet somehow lives on with the new name of Rao. Out here in the Planes they can continue to worship Aoskar, but now he is called Rao. To show his new-found faith in his deity, Adso shows the other party members the symbol of Rao which has been embedded into his hand.

After a relatively uneventful journey the party reaches the town, and they instinctively know that something is not right. Gone are the sights and sounds of life, and the only movement is from the fluttering of carrion birds. The town has been partially destroyed and the streets are soaked with a black fluid and littered with bodies. While all members of this gentle group are appalled at this destruction, Adso is taking it harder than the others and insists on giving the dead they come across a proper burial. Lacking tools, the party begins searching through the rubble for survivors or a shovel to properly care for the dead.

The search is fruitful for all members, as Coverdale finds some armor, Adso finds a hoe, and the other party members come across a humanoid clearing away the rubble of a house. The man looks similar to other humans, but has red eyes and a tail! Adso offers to assist the man clear the rubble of his home, and introductions are offered. The man is no man at all, but a tiefling by the name of Arthonis.

Arthonis slowly regales the party with the tale of what happened: the town was ravaged by the never-ceasing feud between demons and devils. The blood war. Adso decides to stay with Arthonis and assist in the rebuilding as the others look for other survivors. The best news they have been given is that there were possibly other townspeople who managed to flee to the nearby caves who may be returning to start rebuilding their shattered lives.

As Meera and Nyx are combing the ruins looking for other people, they hear a shout and come across a man named Evan who is searching for his woman in the remains of his house. Nyx takes pity on the man and tries to comfort him as best she can, but it is not enough. The apparent loss of his wife has made our new friend Evan inconsolable. Survivors are beginning to trickle back into the town from the sanctuary of the caves, and Coverdale, Meera, Nyx, and Gabriel watch as the people begin combing through the rubble of their individual houses.

Meanwhile, Adso is talking with Arthonis while helping the tiefling clear out rubble. Arthonis is expressing surprise that the your novice has stopped to lend a hand with the work. Adso explains that he stopped because it is one of the tenets of his faith to help those in need. After talking for several minutes, Adso becomes disgusted with Arthonis’s attitude regarding helping others (ie. not to do it at all!) and goes off to see about burying the dead. Walking down one of the ruined streets Adso is confronted by the terrible scene of a strange, dog-like creature covered in chewing mouths masticating a pile of bodies. After being spotted by the creature and shouting in alarm, Adso flees.

Chaos ensues as the town is under attack! A winged creature and several squat creatures covered with maggots are killing the townspeople as Meera, Nyx, Coverdale, and Gabriel attempt to come to terms with what is transpiring. Nyx and Gabriel coax poor Evan into a partially excavated house for protection as another dog-creature nearby is tearing the tender flesh of the recently slain.

Running back to find his companions, Adso sees these squat festering demons being commanded by the winged creature sitting atop what was perhaps once an inn or large house. Upon spying Adso, the foul beast wretches a burning glob of fire at Adso and sets him afire. Nyx moves out of the house in an attempt to engage the foul creatures, and after using her new-found fey powers blasts one of the maggot-ridden pear demons then teleports out of sight. Coverdale and his betrothed fend off several of the manes as Adso rushes up, short of breath from running with the hellish hound close on his heels.

Seeing his pillar of faith in mortal peril, Coverdale moves around the side of the house to protect Adso from the dog-demon and fire-spewing foulness perched atop the building before them. On the other side of the building, Gabriel was faring well against the manes as he used his mental powers and made the minor demons explode in a shower of filth. During the swirling melee, Nyx was badly injured and fell before the onslaught. Seeing her sister fall, Meera rallied Gabriel and the two of them destroyed several more of the manes while Coverdale fended off the hound and slowly was making his way to the other party members.

With Nyx fallen and the both Gabriel and Meera badly hurt, Adso prays fervently to Rao for help and is rewarded with healing the party members at the cost of his own stamina. Exhausted from this sudden spiritual toll, Adso sits down, drained. After killing the foul winged creature, Meera saw to Nyx’s wounds and she regained consciousness. Bedraggled and broken, the party hastened to find the portal to flee as fiendish warhorns sounded in the distance, coming closer with every moment.

After several minutes of searching, Meera sees a house with a blue roof and tells the others that she has found the smithy with the portal to freedom. As they enter the decrepit and collapsing building, they notice a body pinned beneath a beam need the forge. As the horns draw closer, Meera and Coverdale manage to free the trapped body and Adso opens the portal with the bird feather. He waits as his fellow party members go through the portal then follows them, praying that Rao will protect them in this time of need.

Episode 3
Origin Stories

It is the early evening hours, prior to dusk – assuming “dusk” is still dusk in a world with no sun or moon – when the party makes their way into the small ant hill known as Tusnot. The local folk pay the newcomers little mind and the companions stay close to Tellanvar and Ravdet in this strange new place. As the group reaches the edge of the town Tellanvar informs the group that he is going to go look for a vendor to sell things to. He offers to take Nyx along and help her find a new dress. Nyx accompanies Tellanvar eagerly. Meanwhile, Kelsk (having spoken in hushed tones to Ravdet) leaves the group and the rest make their way into town to find a ‘kip’ (inn) for the night.

After speaking with some locals, Ravdet is directed to a larger building that is two stories and is a bit louder. Upon entering, the party sees an eclectic mix of humanoids of various kinds. Aside from a few glances to see the newest additions to the tap room, there is little reaction to any of the group’s presence. Ravdet leads the remaining group over to a table. A young woman asks them what they would like and Ravdet orders an “ale.” Each of Coverdale, Mera, and Gabriel order Ale as well and Ravdet tells the server to make it a pitcher for the table. Tired and uncomfortable, the group happily drinks their tasty beverages as Ravdet raises his glass “to new friends and old bloods.”

* * *

Meanwhile, Tellanvar and Nyx make their way to a local shopkeep who haggles with Tellanvar. Intrigued, Nyx watches with a close eye to see her guide exchange goods for coins (or ‘jink’). After she asks about the value of ‘jink’ and how this is different than what she is used to (bartering for goods). They make their way to a dress maker that was recommended to Tellanvar by locals. Upon entering the pair see a woman and her daughter tending the store. While Tellanvar talks to the woman, Nyx browses the wares until she finds a beautiful blue cloth that the storekeep says matches her eyes very nicely. Tellanvar offers to buy her the dress, but it will take 2 days to complete. They will check back in the morning with the shop.

Tellanvar & Nyx join the others at the local kip to discuss their plans after leaving Tusnot over food and drink. It is decided that the group will rest up and prepare for their journey in this town for 2 days. After which, Ravdet has promised that they will escort the youngsters to a small town where he knows there to be a portal to Sigil since that is where Mera and Adso both have expressed a desire to go. The portal requires a grey feather to activate it.

Mera is starting to act strange and Ravdet explains about the effects of alcohol and what it means to be “drunk.” Coverdale, emboldened by the same liquor determines to leave the kip in search for the elusive Kelsk.

Tellanvar takes Mera upstairs to her room with Nyx. He gives Nyx the key and explains about locks. He promises to tell the people downstairs to bring up water to bathe, which he does. Two shy young boys bring Nyx towels, water and a basin to wash up. Nyx is too naive to realize how beautiful the boys find her, even as unclean and exhausted as she is. The girls bathe, wash their clothes and turn in for the night.

Downstairs, Kelsk returns to the inn, ahead of the intoxicated Coverdale who went out seeking him. Roughly an hour later, Coverdale finds his way back to the inn as well. He asks for advice from Kelsk regarding…fighting. The hour is late and everybody heads up to their beds, bathes and washes their clothing. The young boys do not blush so much in bringing the bath water to the men as they did for Nyx.

* * *

In the morning, the group learns more about what it means to be “sick” and suffer. Both Coverdale and Mera are ill from the drinking the night before. Mera cannot leave her room immediately because she is unable to contain the previous night’s food. The rest of the group goes downstairs for food and then heads to the clothing store to order new apparel (Mera requests Nyx to pick out some “boy’s clothing” for her).

Tellanvar gives each of the party members 5 golden jink. In addition, Ravdet provides the book and necklace/symbol that belonged to the half-elf Himdal who died to the slavers. They are prayers to Rowe. The party members are all very appreciative of their rescuer’s charity (although Gabriel is slightly sad to see that there were no boots leftover from Himdal’s belongings).

Over the next day or two:

• Tellanvar & Kelsk train Mera and Coverdale with practice swords.
• Ravdet meditates with Gabriel
• Adso watches the swordplay and reads his new prayer book while thinking about the powers.
• Nyx wanders the town bored. She finds that the locals look at her so she finds a quiet secluded vegetable garden. Finally she decides to go looking for books to read and makes her way to the Mayor’s home. While the mayor himself is not at home, his wife is a wonderfully pleasant woman who chats with Nyx until she has to go and then gives Nyx the book. Nyx spends the remaining time eagerly reading the book of short stories and fables.

The group is rewarded for their waiting in town with new clothes from the tailor.

The group leaves Tusnot, heading away from the Spire towards Hopeless. They travel overland at a comfortable pace, with Mera and Kelsk at the front. They travel for 5 days. Adso collects a grey feather along the way. During the nights the following occur:

* * *

After dinner Gabriel and Ravdet are meditating. Suddenly, Coverdale (who was gathering wood for the fire) is slammed in the chest with a force that emanates from Gabriel. In response, Coverdale moves with lighting speed to stand in front of Gabriel. Neither is truly hurt but both are very shocked. Ravdet explains that Gabriel has successfully focused his first manifestation and guesses that Coverdale also has a latent ability. Coverdale begins training with both Ravdet and Kelsk.

Gabriel develops the ability to move small objects with his mind.

Mira expands her practicing to include wielding two swords at a time.

Adso continues reading through his new prayer book.

Throughout all of the travels and excitement, Nyx alone remains sad. A few more days of travel go by through marshy wetlands and Nyx’s mood does not improve as she is cold and wet.

* * *

The group of companions has learned a great deal from their rescuers. Not just how to mastery blades and psionic powers, but also about how to travel safely, watch for strangers, and keep guard during the night. Each of us took turns assisting at nights to learn how to best protect ourselves. During a night when the group made camp at a small ruined structure, Adso was helping watch. He heard a wagon wheel approaching. Tellanvar was his watch companion but he was asleep and Adso could not wake him despite his attempts.

As the wagon grew closer its lantern revealed an elderly man. “Greetings Grandfather,” Adso warmly greeted the stranger.

The elderly traveler introduced himself as Meglin and Adso offered him food and a chance to rest at our party’s fire. While the rest slumbered around them, the two talked. Adso cautiously told the tale of Aoskar and his recent questioning of his faith. The young priest is unnerved by the concept of multiple “powers” and he feels that much of what he has spent his life believing has been tossed into conflict. The two men shake hands and part ways, not before Adso tries to give the man all of his jink. Meglin very gratefully thanks Adso but does not take up his chartable offer, explaining that he has everything he needs but was thankful for the rest and food.

Adso wakes to Kelsk shanking his shoulder. Despite Adso’s insistence, Kelsk tells him that it is time for his watch to begin, Adso has apparently been sleeping. But the experience was so real, it couldn’t have been a dream. Adso was positive, but he didn’t want to argue with his new friend. He readied himself to begin his nightly watch and ponder the recent events.

He notices a white “heart” shaped symbol on his right hand…a symbol that seems to match the wooden holy symbol of Rowe he possesses.

* * *

As the group travels into a forested area, the weather warms up and the group is more comfortable. All are in good spirits as they travel, train and talk together. All that is except Nyx. Mira confronts her twin. After being rebuffed she decides to simply chant incessantly “What’s wrong? What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” Nyx ignores her and runs off into the nearby forest. Mira follows her, continuing to drone on with her sisterly chant. Soon, Mira loses sight of her sister…

…Nyx is sad and feels that her friends are moving forward in this strange new world, all of them making friends with their rescuers and new guides. But she longs for her comfortable bed back in the valley and wishes that her sister didn’t constantly seem to think she needed protecting. Her most recent “concern” drove Nyx into the woods in search for a place she could be alone. A beautiful multi-colored bird caught Nyx’s eye. It appeared to be beckoning for her to follow. It would fly to a tree just out of reach and look back at her as if to say “follow me.” This was a strange bird indeed but Nyx followed it deeper and deeper into the woodlands.

Finally, the bird led Nyx to a midnight clearing in the woods. She could no longer hear her sister but there was a beautiful lady in the center of the clearing. The wonderfully colorful bird lighted on Nyx’s shoulder. The woman tells her that the bird likes her. She goes on to express Nyx’s own fears (that her friends will leave her) as if she could read her young mind. The strange lady offered “gifts” that would make Nyx stronger so that she could protect herself and her friends, she could prove her strength to all of her companions with such gifts. All she asked was that Nyx enter her service – this would require her to perform 1 service when asked and to take the colorful bird as her companion and give him a name.

Nyx ponders the options before her and then agrees. This beautiful woman, who reveals herself to be the “Lady of the Forest”, will protect her and guide her travels. Nyx whispers the name “Aether.” The name flows out softly from her lips upon the wind and she feels a warmth fill her despite her damp clothing and the chill of the wind. The bird’s eyes smile at her upon being given this new name.

Nyx leaves the clearing, returns to the brightly lit forest where her sister is now franticly looking for her.

Back at the camp Mira expresses concern about the new bird companion. Rovdet inspects the bird and happily approves.

* * *

At a crossroads the young companions split from their more experienced guides. Ravdet, before leaving gives them instructions for getting through the portal:

- Head about 1 day, give or take, toward the spire to find the town.
- The portal is in the blacksmith’s forge. The blacksmith charges 10 jink each to go through the portal.
- Ravdet gives each party member 10 jink (they now all have 15 jink).
- The blacksmith’s forge has a blue roof on it.
- Use the grey feather as the item to open the portal.

Ravdet asks for 1 favor from the companions, which they happily and quickly agree to perform as thanks. He wants them to deliver a parcel to a friend in Sigil. The parcel is soft and not overly large (fits within a backpack). The package should be delivered to Atreli in Sigil. He can be found in “Greymoon Apparel” a Fur/Clothing shop in the Market & Guild Hall Wards.

He recommends that we hire a “tout” (guide) in Sigil to help us get around.

The two groups part ways and the companions are on their own….

Interlude - Three Questions

Your small group is walking on a narrow game trail; the air is cool and smells of moss and fallen leaves. Nyx draws the skirt of her dress close to her as she moves up to where Ravdet is talking quietly with Gabriel.

Gabriel furrows his brow thoughtfully, “So, you’re saying that only some people have this latent psionic power?”

Ravdet nods, “Yeah, a few’re naturally canny at it. There’s a… resonance that a mindhacker like me can detect. And if you have the spark, I can show you how to harness it.” Gabriel laps into a stoic quiet over this information.

“Excuse me, Ravdet,“ Nyx says quietly, falling into step beside him, “if you wouldn’t mind telling me, how did the three of you come to be travelling together?”

“Well, the dark of that isn’t too much of a tale, I’m afraid, but Tellanvar spins it best,” Ravdet says, motioning for his friend.

“I was born on the rugged earthbergs of Ysgard; we bariaur are a nomadic people, both due to our natural inclination and for the protection it offers. However, in the second winter after my horns’ curling, my flock and I were trapped in a mountainous region by a savage blizzard. The freezing winds slammed us against the rocky walls and our normally colorful coats were painted white by the snow and ice.”

Tellanvar shivers at the memory before continuing, “We were exhausted, hungry, and lost, but the Norns had a different fate for us. I was at the lead, carving a path through the deep snow, when a clear voice spoke to me, despite the howling gale. At first, I thought I had gone barmy, for an image appeared in my mind of a nearby cave, a safe place for my flock and I. Despite my fears of deception by some malign fey spirit, I accepted the risk and followed the path laid out in my head. Soon enough, I spotted the cave opening, and was surprised when we found a warm fire and an unlikely pair: a human and a githzerai.”

“Kelsk and I met in Sigil several years before that, through a mutual friend,” Ravdet interjects, “but we found the cave by Kelsk’s bloody tracking, otherwise we’d have made it in the dead-book, sure as Sigil.”

Tellanvar continues, “We weathered the storm in that small cave, and I soon came to admire our two rescuers. We travelled together until the spring at which point they parted ways with my flock; I decided to go with them, and have been grateful to have them as my friends, ever since.” A solemn silence descends over the small procession.

“Now if you want to scan to a rum tale, let me tell you about the time Kelsk and I escape from a Hardheads’ belly of the beast by dressing up as washer-women,” Ravdet begins with a grin. Soon peals of laughter fill the forest.

Mera glances behind her again, making sure her sister is well and not falling behind. Her eyes return to the figure ahead of them. Kelsk is at the vanguard and seems to know where is going without the typical signs—such as landmarks and the sun—that are familiar to her. She increases her stride to catch up with him.

“So, hypothetically, if you met a girl who had been promised in marriage to someone else through no fault of her own before she was born in order to fulfill a peace compact written thousands of years ago but then she ran away because she wanted to find her own destiny outside of the wonderful, perfect, boring world she was brought up in, would you ever consider… um… would you ever think about… um… do you think you could… um… teach her how to fight?” Mera finished the question drawing in a quick breath.

Kelsk pauses mid-step and narrows his amber eyes to stare at her. “Freedom is worth fighting for; worth dying for. Being weak is no excuse; you can’t always expect others to save you.” He nods at her briefly, then turns back to the path ahead.

Coverdale was scanning the trees and the path behind them. He could see Mera up ahead, but he is determined to ensure that no one—or thing—creeps up following them. He hears Nyx ask Ravdet, “What made you decide to rescue us when you saw that those horrible lizard things had captured us? It must have been a very dangerous thing for you to try; there were many more of them than there were you.”

Ravdet nods thoughtfully, “True, those cross-trading khaasta were numerous, but we couldn’t leave you cutters in chains. Tellanvar and I are both Indeps, and Kelsk doesn’t suffer slavers either, so it wasn’t a question of whether we’d help… just how we could get you all out safely.”

“Indeps?” Nyx asks.

“Yeah, we’re just a group of free-thinkers who don’t appreciate sodding bullies throwing their weight around and telling bashers what to do. We’re no Faction, though some try to lump us in with that lot. And as for Kelsk, well, his entire race was once enslaved by the illithids, and they only won their freedom after millennia of forced servitude. It’s a sore subject with githzerai, because of the subsequent civil war that split them and the githyanki apart, so it’s better to keep your bone-box shut about it.”

Coverdale moves up to Ravdet, “I don’t know anyone here. How can I tell the good guys from the bad guys?”

“Well, there’s no easy answer to that. Most things have natures that make them predictable, but rarely you’ll be surprised by an apparent kindness from a fiend, or a peel from a celestial. So it’s best to remain peery until you can tumble to whether a basher wants to put you in the dead-book, give you the laugh, or just leave well enough alone.”

Kelsk purposively strides back to the group, “It will be dark soon. We should make camp.”

Later that evening, a small fire burns in a cleared-out glade. Mera holds onto the grip of a practice sword while Kelsk is explaining to her the finer points of sword play (“Stick them with the pointy end.”) and Coverdale is nearby watching silently. Gabriel is turning a few hares on a spit over the fire, while Nyx, Adso, and Ravdet are sitting close to the fire.

Adso gazes thoughtfully at his prayer books in his hands. He turns to Ravdet, “Both Hinold and you have claimed that Aoskar is dead in this world. Is it possible that he still lives in another plane? If he is truly dead, how can I see the body?”

Ravdet looks at the young novice, visibly shaken from the events and revelations of the past week. He smiles kindly, “I’m no greybeard when it comes to Powers, and growing up on my Prime world, I was taught that our Powers had abandoned us. What I do know is what I’ve been told. Long ago, Aoskar was the Power of portals. His followers raised a great temple in Sigil, and proclaimed that the use of any portal was worship to Aoskar. One of the Lady’s own servants, the dabus Fell, turned stag and swore allegiance to him. The Lady didn’t like this obviously, and she razed Aoskar’s Great Temple of Doors, flayed all of his followers, and put him in the dead-book. The remains of his body would be floating somewhere in the Astral, as that’s where all dead Powers end up. The ruined temple is now the Athar’s; they use it as proof of the fallibility of the Powers. I’ve heard the chant that Fell was left alive by the Lady, but most avoid him for fear of retribution by Her.”

Adso presses, “But is it possible to bring a god back to life? For by worship he is not truly dead.”

Ravdet’s face becomes serious, “Bar that, and shake such ideas out of your brain-box. In Sigil, any worshipper of Aoskar found is scragged and given the rope. And you don’t want to involve yourself with any plot that would draw the Lady’s ire. You’d end up in the mazes or worse.”

The next morning the party sets out again, quiet and solemn. Kelsk was in the lead, followed by Mera and Coverdale; Ravdet was talking in low tones to Gabriel; and Adso was walking next to Tellanvar and Nyx.

Mera slows her pace to get closer to Ravdet, and waits for a break in their discussion, whispering “Ravdet, where can I take my sister so that she’ll be safe while I’m figuring out how to get her back to our home?”

Ravdet’s eyes shift slightly towards Nyx. “I’m not sure you’ll find the same safety that you’ve described as in Kethencio. But some places are safer than others. Your top-shelf bet would be to find a quiet berg on one of the Upper Planes. Unfortunately, I don’t know any close-by, direct way to get there from here. As for help to get home, I’d recommend you head to Sigil. There must be some greybeard who can help you there.”

Gabriel added, “You mentioned that different Powers have different goals and some provide abilities to those that worship them. Are there any Powers that would empower me quickly in return for my loyalty?”

Ravdet shrugs, “I’d always be peery when making deals with Powers, especially when what they offer seems too good. But while the Powers themselves are barred from Sigil, temples to them do exist there. So, if you wanted, you could find ones that suit you—whether it’s ones that value a keen mind or those that appreciate a more martial approach to solving problems.”

Adso speaks up suddenly, “Speaking of powers, who created the planes? In our religion, Aoskar created everything.”

Tellanvar laughs, “And likely, if you ask ten different proxies, you’d get ten different answers. Each pantheon—those are groups of powers that band together typically through familial ties or common history—claim that they were the creators of the multiverse.”

“Not to mention,” Ravdet adds, “if you were to ask the modrons, fiends, celestials, or any of the Factions, they’d each say something different. Everyone has an opinion, and who’s to say who is right and who is wrong?”

Up ahead, the forest gives way to an open clearing. Many wooden houses stand together. People are milling about: women hanging laundry, children running through the dirt streets, farmers tending their crops and livestock.

Nyx tugs softly at Tellanvar’s arm, “Tellanvar, where are you going when you leave the ‘ant hill’? We don’t know where we should go from here, or what we should do.”

Tellanvar looks kindly at her, seeing the worry in her face, “Don’t you worry, we still have weeks to go before we reach the portal that leads to Oinos. We’ll talk in town after everyone gets some rest, food, and a hot bath. But Ravdet, Kelsk, and I won’t leave you hipped. Ravdet’s a well-lanned blood; he’ll think of something.”

Episode 1
In which Adso gets the Sick

Mera woke in her room in the castle sure in the knowledge that today was the day she would leave the valley behind. Her first step is to sneak out of the castle. After a near run-in with her father, and some fast talk with the washer women, she makes it to the woods and is on her way.

Nyx, on the other hand, spends her morning as she spends every morning, having breakfast with her mother, wondering why Mera hasn’t appeared. Today, when she goes to search for her, she realizes things are different. Many of her sister’s outdoor clothes are missing, and just yesterday Mera was talking about running away. Nyx panics and goes to tell her father. The King calmly assures Nyx that everything will be fine. He, himself, will go track down the errant Mera and return her only slightly late for her wedding dress fitting.

As Nyx waits for her father’s return, the Wilden, Coverdale, arrives for his meeting with the king, his future father-in-law. Instead, he encounters a panicking Nyx. Sharing her concern, Coverdale agrees that they should go search for Mera. After finding out that she did not take a horse, they remember Mera mentioning the swamp witch in her far-fetched tales about leaving the valley. Nyx remembers a book about the swamp witch where they find a map to her home in the swamp. Coverdale and Nyx take horses and set out after Mera.

Meanwhile, Mera’s path has taken her to the monastery. Adso, an intiate of Aosgar, spots her as he hoes his cabbages. Seeing the heavy burden that the princess is carrying, Adso decides to offer his assistance, but strangely, as he starts to cross to her, the princess seems to speeds up. Puzzled, Adso watches her hurry away before heading back to his cabbages.

Gabriel, who also lives at the monastery, offers to help the kitchen by getting more cabbages. In the garden he chats briefly with Adso who tells him about his strange encounter with Princess Mera. As they are talking, Nyx and Coverdale arrive on their horses. Nyx brings Gabriel and Adso up to speed on the situation. She tells them that Mera has said that she wouldn’t leave if she were married to Coverdale and so she believes that if Adso accompanies them and performs an emergency marriage ceremony, Mera won’t leave. Adso and Gabriel agree to assist in the search for the wayward princess.

From her research into the swamp witch, Mera knows that the game trail will lead her into the swamp. Hoping to avoid detection, she plants a few of her socks off the trail to lead followers astray, and then continues on her path. After a few hours, she spots the collapsed bridge mentioned as a landmark. Jumping across to the bridge, she spots a wisp of smoke and follows it to the home of the swamp witch.

The swamp witch, naked and with blue tattoos, invites Mera into her home saying “You are seeking what you want and this I can help you with.” Mera, following the traditions she’s read about in her research, gives the witch a gift of food and blackberries she gathered during her trip. The witch pours the blackberries into a bowl and begins to eat one of the sausages. She invites Mera to recline on her furs and then tells her how to leave the valley.

“There is a dark passageway. Travel back the path you came until you see the tree with a face. Turn and leave the track going due north through the swamp to the mountains. In the mountains, look for the stone shaped like a falcon which will mark the entrance to a cave deep in a crevasse. In the cave it will be dark,” she hands Mera a mahogany colored wax candle. “Use this to light your way. The cave path is long and arduous. You’ll have to climb and scale. But there you will meet the guardian of gold. Once you pass the guardian, I don’t know what you’ll face.”

Intent on her goal, Mera sets off, following the witch’s directions. But as she heads back down the path, she hears voices arguing and so she tries to hide.

The voices, of course, belong to her rescue party who have been wandering about in the woods and swamp for a while. They easily spot Mera and try to convince her to give up her quest. Mera refuses to be deterred and continues following the witch’s directions. After much debate, the rest of the party decides to accompany her, to keep her from harm.

The journey follows the witch’s directions exactly, from the tree with the face to the falcon rock. Eventually they find the cave and meet the golden guardian, a very tall humanoid with golden skin who sits in a fine study at a reading desk. When he turns his brilliant, blinding eyes on them he tells them they may each ask one question, but if they do they have to continue on the path.

Mera goes first asking, “How do we get out of the valley?” The guardian replies, “Take the passage way to the right, out of the caves, out of the valley.”

Coverdale is next, asking, “Once we leave the valley, how do we get back?” The guardian answers, “For every lightness, there is a dark.”

Nyx is third. “How can we communicate to those left behind once we’re gone?” The answer: “Seek the birds with wings of dust. Their path through the sky and beyond can transcend boundaries.”

Adso asks the unfortunately vague question, “What sort of things can we expect outside the valley?” The answer, of course, is equally vague, of substantially more upsetting, “Sadness, loss, and pain.”

Gabriel is last and asks, “How do we avoid danger on our path to the outside?” “the path through the caverns, the difficulty is lessened with your remainder underground.”

The five of them head down the right-hand passageway which gets darker but is less steep than their previous path, though it is covered with bats. Eventually, they see a light ahead and emerge from the cave at the base of another mountain. In the distance they can see a lake and a forest.

They set off for the lake, hoping to find some residents of the area. Mera notices that this place has no sun, even though the passage of time is still marked by day and night. They travel for several days but encounter no one. Mera is able to feed them, using plants and fish, but they are all tired and cold, and after the rain, mostly miserable. For Adso, things take a terrifying turn, he gets a strange feeling in his head and soon a clear, sticky liquid begins flowing from his nose. The party worries that his brains are dripping out.

That night, they are attacked by a group of strange, unfriendly creatures who look like lizards. Mera tries to fight, but realizes that the creatures clothing is particularly hard, much like the strange decorative suits of metal at home in the castle, and so her attack is unsuccessful. In the end, they are all captured and tied up, and Mera’s wonderful journey into the unknown takes a terrifying turn for the worse.


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