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Double Nature: The Journey of a Half-Drow (Session 2)

Last updated on October 11, 2019

17th Day of Tardisia, Xenephias (Again)

It is the middle of the night. The sun hasn’t come out yet. My hands, still shaking from what I have learnt today, clumsily write in my journal while in darkness. To my left there is Bingo, deep asleep, loudly snoring while the sound of coins clinking together suspiciously plays inside his pillow. To the right, near the wall of the room, there is Veronique, peacefully lying in bed, no noise but with a pleased expression in her face. Meanwhile, from downstairs I can hear the faint sound of Harmand ransacking the bakery’s pantry. Today I have learnt so much more about the mysterious woman and my mother. Not only that, but I have learnt about what is to be expected from me now. I will try to write all that I have seen today, before I start to think it was just a dream.

After all the events from earlier today, meeting together and discussing the next course of action, we went back to our room to rest, expecting an early rise the following day. During that time, Bingo convinced me to buy his old leather armour, something that now I regret, for I just realised that I can’t fit in a halfling size chest piece. I don’t blame him, I blame myself for not thinking before agreeing. Dad always said I was too good, too naïve, believing that people won’t try to take advantage. I need to remember to keep my head cool when it comes to business, like he always told me.  But I am starting to derail.

I woke up to the sound of silence. Everything was quiet. I could see the moonlight coming through our window. I realised today was a full moon night. I might be able to see her. I quietly got out of my bed. Bingo was deep asleep. Harmand, on the other hand, was moving around in his sleep, mumbling something that I couldn’t understand. Veronique was nowhere. I assumed she went to the privy. I left the room, then the bakery and made my way to the lake.

When I reached the lake, everything was peaceful and quiet. The moon, perfectly reflected on the dark surface of the lake, looked even bigger than usual. Fireflies and moths were flying around, unaware of anything else. I walked along the shore, first to the south until I reached the river. In the distance, I saw a light over the southern edge of the lake. A bright red light, like a distant crimson lighthouse. I didn’t give it much importance, I assumed it was either a fire or another town. l soon headed back north to where I came from. I found no one. It had all been in vain, or so I thought. I was about to give up when I saw something, on the corner of my eye. I turned my head and there she was. Tall, almost three times taller than me. Her eyes and hair silvery like moonlight. Her skin of a deep blue hue like the night sky, glistening as if made of a thousand tiny stars. I soon realised she was completely naked and tried to avert my eyes from any intimate parts, not an easy task when faced with a giant woman. I did notice that she was carrying something in her right hand. A silver bastard sword, almost as long as me, gently resting on the ground by her side with the grip in her palm. She was holding it comfortably, as if it was a natural extension of her arm. I decided to focus my attention on her face. It was filled with melancholy, with her eyes raised to the sky. When she became aware of my presence, she tried to hide her expression with a maternal smile.

My child…It is so good to see you again.

I greeted her and quickly thanked her for saving my life last time we met. Then, I asked her if she would be able to share something, anything about my mother. Her smile, again, turned into sadness. She nodded and proceeded to tell me about her.

She explained to me that my mother belonged to a group of dark elves who believed in an alternate way of life, something completely different to what most Drows are taught to believe in, and who followed Her to a new future for all of them. That is why she was chased off. That is why she ran away. I thanked her for sharing this with me, but I was still confused. My mother died when I was born. There was no reason for dark elves to attack us, why did they go to my father’s shop? Why were they trying to imprison me?

There are many reasons for this, I ́m afraid:

On one hand, you are the son of a traitor, a sworn enemy of all Drow society and, thus, you are as guilty as her in their eyes.

On the other hand, you are also the son of an iblith, a non-Drow, and therefore an aberration that should not exist.

Finally there is something, a dark entity, that controls the dark elves in the shadows. It is said that this enemy and me will compete for the future of all drowkind in the near future. However, this entity knows that I have chosen you as my champion and will not rest until they have made sure you are no more.

Listen to me, my child. A war is coming. A war bigger than any other war that has ever happened or will ever happen. And when the time is right you will have to fight, to save the realm but to also save your people.

Saving the realm? I can barely control my magic.  Why did she choose me? I’m sure there are better options out there.

I shared my thoughts with her.

“You will be ready, in time. I have chosen you for a reason, always remember that.”

And with those last words she raised into the air and slowly turned into a cloud of moths that flew into the night sky.

I found myself alone, staring into the moon. Still shocked, I turned around and made my way back to the inn.

Once there, I stopped by the bakery and grabbed a glass of milk. I had to put a lot of effort into not dropping it. I climbed up the stairs to the room. I reached out to the door knob but it opened before I could grab it. Harmand was on the other side. He looked almost as distressed as me.

The dwarf quickly recomposed himself, claimed that he was peckish and went downstairs to eat something. I went inside the bedroom, slowly drinking from my glass. Bingo was still deep asleep. I envied him at that time.

I heard some voices coming from downstairs. Veronique was back and was talking to Harmand. She came into the room and laid down in her bed without saying much. I finished my drink and grabbed my journal. Hopefully I will be able to catch some sleep once I’m done with this. I have the feeling I won’t be able take a break any time soon.

18th Day of Tardisia, Militantio

After the events from today I have realised that fearing for my life is a feeling that is slowly becoming uncomfortably frequent. I envy the times when my biggest concern was fighting a dire wolf.

We rose early. The air was cold, the kind of cold that starts to get into your bones, making it difficult to leave the bed even when you know you have to.

We walked down the stairs and sat down at the table to have some breakfast. Bingo and Veronique looked like they had plenty of rest and ready for the new day. I couldn’t say the same. Harmand, on the other hand, seemed especially determined for some reason.

We discussed our next step. We all agreed we had to find Rhas Ardin which, according to the strange figure from the previous day, is supposed to be somewhere nearby east from here. However, the only thing to the east was the lake. We would need a boat. Bingo pointed out that maybe Otho would be willing to help us. I finished my porridge and we went to the mayor’s house.

Otho was there, cutting timber in preparation for the cold nights that were coming in the following months. He greeted us warmly.

“If it isn’t the town heroes! What can I do for you lot?

We explained to him that we wished to get a boat to do some fishing and sightseeing in the nearby lake. Not even us were entirely sure why we were doing this, so we all agreed it was better to keep the true nature of our goal a secret for the time being. Luckily for us, the local fisherman, Mikail I believe was his name, appeared to be sick so we were allowed to borrow his boat for the day. We thanked him for the information and went straight to the dock.

It was a small dock with just a couple of empty boats. We soon found what we were looking for. A small boat, three pairs of paddles and a short mast with a sail for short distances. It wasn’t much but it would do. Harmand was reluctant to get on the boat.  I guess he wasn’t very acquainted with big bodies of water or ships. Bingo, being as persuasive as he had proven to be in the last few days I’ve known him, managed to convince the dwarf to get on the ship with the promise of adventure and glory. He quickly hopped in there and seemed at ease for the most part, although he would still grab hold of the sides of the boat whenever it rocked.

Time passed while we were rowing, quiet with only the sound of the water as our only company. The silence asphyxiated me, so I decided to use a simple incantation to summon a faint melody to cheer us up. Bingo immediately lightened up and started to sing a rowing song. Harmand appeared to be quite confused but soon accepted it as a good distraction from the movement of the boat. Veronique, on the other hand, wasn´t that amused by Bingo´s particular singing style and huffed and sighed in more than one occasion. I couldn´t avoid smiling a little bit at the situation my little spell had caused and soon tried to join Bingo in his singing, without much success. I must admit I’m not the best singer and couldn´t really follow Bingo’s lyrics but I found myself enjoying the moment for the first time in a long time.

After what felt like a couple of hours, we arrived at the smallest of the two islands in the lake. Harmand dragged the boat into dry land and we started to look around for signs of any strange pillars or similar structures. What we found was more unusual than a pillar. In the middle of the island was a small, poorly crafted shed. In front of it there were the leftovers of a campfire and a rusty kettle next to it. The inside of the shed was bare albeit some random fetishes hanging from the ceiling and random bones on the ground, but no signs of anybody in there.

Suddenly, a faint sound came from behind. We all turned around, alarmed.

Standing in front of us was a woman, more or less the same size as Veronique but older. She was probably 30 or maybe 40 years old. Her hair was long, greasy and tangled. Her body was covered in muddy, torn rags. Her skin was tanned and cracked, probably due to the continuous exposure to the sun. She was missing some teeth and her nails were black. Her expression was vacant, her eyes, wide open. But not in surprise or confusion, but like those of an owl, just observing from afar. They were now staring at us. But not to all of us. To Veronique. As soon as she noticed the young lass, she went to her, with unusual speed.

Who are you?” She asked as she got closer to Veronique, her thin, dirty fingers almost touching the lass’ hair. We explained who we were and told her we were just here passing by. We asked her for her name.

“I…Don´t know…”

She seemed confused. Maybe she was suffering from amnesia, we thought. Veronique and Bingo kept asking her questions, but she always replied with the same answer.

I don’t know…”

This went for another five-ten minutes. I was feeling sad about her, abandoned, lost and so dirty. Thinking it would make her feel better, I tried this spell that I have used in the past to clean my clothes, hoping it would clean her body as well. What happened next completely caught me off guard.

Like a mirage, her body started to distort and change, but rather than showing the illusion of a haven with water and fruit trees, it changed into something really, really bad. Her skin turned blue, covered in scales. Her body grew in size, her limbs, longer and stronger. Her hair, once blonde and greasy, turned green, almost like seaweed. Her teeth became sharper like razor blades, and her eyes turned fully black, like the darkness of the bottom of the sea, with no way of discerning what is up and what is down. She stared to all four of us and a powerful, cold shiver climbed up our backs. I finally understood the shadow that all sailors back home drag behind them. It was the feeling of having faced certain death.

The creature stared at Veronique and was preparing to leap towards her. Harmand intercepted her, allowing Veronique to move away. The dwarf prepared to strike, but the creature looked him in the eyes and his body started to shake. His knees gave away and soon his body fell unconscious to the ground. Desperately, I tried to attack her with something. Anything. This spell is always such a gamble. Somehow it worked. Like last time, a bolt of lightning came out of my hands and struck the strange creature, her skin scorching and the smell of cooked fish filling the air. Obviously, she wasn´t happy about this. She soon leaped towards me and, with a quick movement, tore my chest with three of her sharp claws. I thought I was done for good. However, I started to hear something. An unknown litany. The creature and I both turned. Veronique was preparing an unknown incantation I have never heard before. Her eyes went dark. Cracked black lines started to cover her face and her arms. Teh creature, aware of her dire situation, leapt towards Veronique and lashed to her face. causing three deep cuts on the lass’ face. Veronqieu, unaffected, continued reciting the incantation. When she was done, she released the spell with a roar and a beam of something that looked like pure darkness left her mouth and hit the creature in her face, completely obliterating it. The body fell lifeless and we immediately run to wake up Harmand.

Once we made sure Harmand was fine we inspected the creature. There was not much to it, no personal belonging, no trace of her human form from before. However, when we turned her around we saw something. A long, red mark on her back, a birthmark. It sounded crazy but, could it be possible that this creature was Aufra’s long lost sister? We agreed it could be worth it bringing the body back to town once we were done exploring the area.

Harmand healed our wounds. His magic was almost miraculous, it didn’t leave a scar at all. We explored a bit more but it was getting late, so we decided to camp in the shed. We left the body safely nearby and went inside. I must say the shed doesn’t offer much space so writing in the journal without waking up my travel companions is a terribly difficult task.

19th Day of Tardisia, Nuberindos

This has been an extremely long and exhausting day, both physically and mentally. My mind has really taken a toll. It´s not an everyday thing that you, a mismatched group of random travellers, are responsible of dealing with gods, undead armies, civil wars or world eating snakes. On a positive note, I have learnt a bit more about some of the people I travel with.

Among groans and yawns, we four got out of the shed. My back was aching from sleeping on the uneven ground. I stretched myself and took a deep breath. The seemingly endless amount of water that surrounded the tiny island made me think about those mornings watching the sea with my father. I miss the sea and I miss him. I hope he is doing well.

We ate some of our rations, loaded the corpse of the water creature into our boat and started rowing to the next island. In the meantime, I casted again my music spell, which encouraged Bingo to sing again. Veronique still wasn’t amused by it.

Soon we reached the second island. This was much bigger than the previous one so it took us some time to fully explore it. Atop of one of the hills we soon found it. A huge pillar, made of a strange blue-ish crystalline material, imbued with some sort of red sand. I had never seen anything like that before. Even Harmand, who affirms to be an expert in rocks, couldn’t properly identify it. We walked around looking for an obvious entrance but there wasn’t. Instead, we found a sign, engraved on the crystal, written on a language that none of us knew. I decided to try something new.

From one of my pouches I grabbed some salt and soot and started to trace circles on the ground. Then, I sat in the middle of it and recited an incantation, as the words flowed into my mind. This took some time.  I could feel Harmand staring to the back of my neck, even with my eyes closed. Once I was able to feel that the spell made its desired effect, I stood up. I called everybody and then touched the sign. As soon as I touched the cold surface the strange symbols started to blur and change until I was able to understand them. I read it aloud for everybody:

The Wise See No Walls

I was a bit confused by the message, but it all made sense soon when Veronique just started to run straight to the wall of the pillar. We didn´t even have time to react before the lass suddenly went through the wall as if it was made of air. Bingo soon followed her, merrily jumping into the wall. Harmand went next. I was a bit doubtful, so I approached the wall carefully with my right arm extended. As soon as I got close enough to it, my fingers felt the opposition of the wall. Why didn’t it work? I thought about what the others did and decided to change my strategy. I took some run-up, closed my eye and went straight through the wall.

Inside there was a big square chamber. Each side could be no longer than 50 feet. On each corner there were a couple of humanoid stone statues holding what appeared to be bowls. In the middle of the room there was a smaller pillar. The strange symbols from before could be seen again engraved all around the inner pillar. I approached it and started reading the inscription.

The One who weeps at the sight of blood,

Is the guardian of the gate.

He stands next to his savage brother,

Who relishes bloodthirst.

Another weeps,

yet his tears are dry,

For he guards the gates of naught.

The fourth, he stands by the entrance

To thirst he spares no thought.

Those who weep see only sorrow,

Yet those who laugh see joy,

If you wish to see the morrow,

Then solve the puzzle’s ploy.

We looked at each other and then around. Bingo was the first one to speak.

Maybe it has something to do with those weird statues.

We all went to the one closest to the entrance of the chamber. We soon noticed that their heads could be turned around. Being the only one that could reach, I grabbed the side of the head and twisted it. Each statue apparently had two faces, one that appeared to be smiling and another one with a sad expression. I placed the sad one facing towards the bowl.

“I think I have an idea.” Said Harmand.

The dwarf exposed part of his left arm and with a quick movement cut his skin deep enough the let his blood drip into the stone container. As this happened, an ominous sound came from the centre of the room and the crystal pillar lighted up with a phantasmagorical blue glow. We assumed this meant we were on the right path.

We followed the rest of the instructions. Quickly we realised that the passage referring to ‘tears’ was talking about water, so I grabbed my waterskin and filled the corresponding bowls.

It took us a bit of trial and error but eventually we placed all the stone faces in the right position. As we did this, the whole chamber became bright as the sun, the ominous sound turned deafening and soon we lost grasp of the ground and started to float upwards. Then I went blind with a bright light and blacked out.

I don’t how much time had passed but when I woke up I wasn´t in the chamber anymore. I opened my eyes and above me I saw the clear blue sky. The air felt somehow lighter and thinner. There was no sound of water or fauna. Underneath I could feel a loose ground, almost sandy.

I slowly got up and what I saw was beyond anything I could have expected. In front of me there were miles and miles of clouds.

How was this possible? Am I in the sky? I thought to myself. What a wonderful world…

Under closer examination I noticed that the clouds where sprouting from some strange bushes. Is  this how clouds are created? Can people grow clouds? I quickly deemed those thoughts stupid. Behind me, I heard a familiar laughter. I turned around. Bingo was there, running around, laughing in an state of childish marvel. Veronique was also there, helping Harmand get up.

As soon as we recovered from the shock, we scouted around. Nothing discernible in miles except from what looked to be a set of ruins. We decided to head towards them. As we walked, I noticed how quiet everything was. There were no birds, no animals, no running water. Only a very subtle breeze that gently rocked the ‘cloud bushes’.

We were getting closer to the ruins. Soon we realised that they looked like some sort of ancestral fortification. However, our march was suddenly halted when an arrow landed quite accurately in between my legs. It was clearly a warning shot. From afar, we could hear the voice of somebody shouting at us from the ruins. Veronique slowly put her arms up in a sign of peace, and we all imitated her.

We continued walking toward the stone wall. Once we reached it, we saw a tall figure atop the wall. He kept shouting something at us, but he was talking in a strange language that we couldn´t properly understand. Clearly my spell had worn off so I didn´t know what he was saying.

The figure, exasperated, jumped and landed quite brutishly right in front of us. It was a man, tall, very tall, almost double my height. He had short dark hair, green skin, strong hairy body covered with leather armour and pelts. He was carrying a magnificently crafted bow. He clearly wasn’t human, but I wasn’t entirely sure what he was.

The strange man looked at us, smiled and then proceeded to call somebody from inside the fort. Another figure came out from one of the openings in the wall. This time it was a young woman. Again, this woman was surprisingly tall. Red, long braided hair covered her head. Her body, slim yet muscular, was covered in scars from battle. She was clearly a warrior, wearing a protective armour that also allowed her plenty of freedom of movement. On one hand she was carrying a hatchet that was almost as long as Harmand. On her back she seemed to be carrying a wide assortment of swords and other weapons. How was that even possible? By all means, the weight of all that steel should prevent her from moving around and, yet, she was moving gracefully and with the decision and force of a wave.

Again, the woman looked at us, nodded to the man and called somebody else. A new figure jumped gracefully from atop the wall. This time, the person was clearly a male elf. Not a Drow like my mother, but a surface one. However, he was also taller than us and taller than any elf I had met before. He was also handsome. His sharp facial features gave him a sophisticated look. His hair, long and silver, run in two braids on the front and a long mane on the back. His demeanour was cautious, but also showed intelligence and diplomacy. His armour, although protective, was also far more ostentatious than the ones worn by the other two. Intricate details could be seen on the plates. His shoulders were covered with the pelt of a dire wolf, with the huge head of the beast on his left shoulder. His forearms, uncovered, displayed some rather complex tattoos. He was also carrying an exotic looking longbow but I also noticed that, attached to his belt, he had a very beautiful lyre.

The elf approached us and started to talk in the same strange language. We shook our heads trying to let him know that we couldn’t understand him. He nodded and started moving his hands in preparation for a spell. He then talked again and, somehow, it was as if he was speaking in Albian, my mother language.

Welcome visitors. We were expecting you. Please, follow us.

The three tall strangers escorted us inside the ruins. Once we crossed the walls, we were in a central yard, covered in rubble and construction materials. The yard was buzzing with people moving from one place to an In the middle of the yard we noticed a great canvas covering something big.

What is that?” Asked Bingo.

The elf turned to face us again.

Oh, that?” He said.

The elf then moved towards the canvas, grabbed it and with a rather dramatic motion uncovered a large statue, at least 12 feet tall. The statue was sculpted in the shape of a human man standing in a vigilant position. On his left hand he was holding a shield with an unusual symbol on it. On his right hand rested a spear. The face of the man was looking upwards into the sky. The expression of his face showed a feeling of deep sadness. It was the face of a man who had lost everything.

He… was an old friend. I’m afraid he is not with us anymore. Please, let’s keep moving.”

We kept walking inside the main building. There, we continued until we reached what looked like the main hall. In there, seating on a comfortable chair, was a tall woman. Red bright hair fell gracefully over her shoulders. Her garments were comfortable and beautiful. Her face shone with the warm glow of a soon-to-be mother.

Good news Ottkatla. Our guests have finally arrived.” The elf said, as he approached the woman. She looked at us and calmly smiled.

Very well. Get somebody to bring the food and drinks and we will explain everything to them. I am sure you have many questions.

“Yeah, I have a question lady.” Said Bingo. “Is there any ale here?”

The tall green man chuckled.

“I like you little one. You have the right spirit. Only for that, I will give you a taste of my private collection.”

The man then left the chamber and returned five minutes later carrying a large cask of ale.

He poured some for everybody. I subtly moved my tankard away.

Bingo took a good sip of it. “Wow! This is the best ale I’ve ever had.” The man smiled.

“Thank you, I made it myself.”

Bingo’s eyes went wide open. “Shut up! You have to teach me!

The elf cleared his throat, clearly annoyed.

Anyways… Let’s start by introducing ourselves. My name is Trygve, this is Ottkatla, my wife. The beer drinking beast is Son. The menacing looking woman over there…” —The woman with the endless supply of swords then made a quick gesture with her fingers— “…is Eira.

Now, I must ask: Who are you?” The elf said, glaring at each of us individually.

My name is Veronique Lorraine.

“I…I’m Rhyl’Aun, Rhyl’Aun Ridge.

Harmand the Great!

Bingo the Great!

Wait, you can’t be the great, that’s my thing!

We both can be great!

The dwarf harrumphed at this.

Trygve sighed, tired.

Well, I guess you will have to do. Alright, let’s start from the beginning. This place where you find yourselves now is Asgard, also known as The Heavens, home of the gods. However, the gods, as you know them are…well, they are basically dead.

At that point Son chuckled again.

Well, some died, some we killed them. Like that little bastard of Loki.” He then laughed loudly.

“Yes, well” —Trygve continued— “Semantics aside, the main point is that these gods, although powerful, were not exactly invincible, as most people thought. They called themselves Vanir. My suspicion is that the Vanir arrived in our realm aeons ago from an alien world. I say alien because our world consists of three realms, creating an independent ‘bubble’ if you like: The material world, or Midgard as we call it where we come from, Helheim, also known as hell, and Asgard, also known as the Heavens. These three realms are connected via the world tree, also known as Yggdrasil. Up until recently we were under the impression that there was only one Yggdrasil, the one we have in our lands. However, our assumption was wrong, there was an Yggdrasil in the continent you come from, and possibly there are others elsewhere.

Thousands of years ago, another alien entity invaded our realm. The legends refer to it as Níðhöggr. Whether it came from the same place the Vanir come from is unclear. What is clear however is that Níðhöggr’s goal was to consume our world. The Vanir fought valiantly against it and many of them perished in the process. To achieve its malevolent purposes, Níðhöggr tried to usurp the powers of the world tree — your world tree. In an act of desperation, the Vanir did the unthinkable. They invoked a powerful ritual that destroyed Yggdrasil and transformed their corporeal bodies into divine ethereal chains that hold Níðhöggr prisoner to this day.

The power of these chains was constantly rejuvenated by the remaining Vanir. That is, until they all died. Níðhöggr is still imprisoned as we speak but it grows stronger day by day. Soon, it will be free. It must be stopped.

That is not all, however. The Vanir not only kept Níðhöggr in place but also guarded our world against alien invasions, like the one that brought them here. I thought that our world would be better without them but it turns out we need new gods. During the last years, I have been in contact with powerful entities who aspire to become gods. Our deal is simple: They help us defeat Níðhöggr and I let them know how to become gods. I suspect that’s why some of you are here. Because they, in turn, made a deal with you.”

“Could you not become gods yourselves?” — Bingo asked.

Oh yeah, I´m totally a god” —said Son— “I’m the God of Ale, Handsomeness, and Archery.”

Trygve ignored Son´s comment and proceeded with the conversation. For some reason I could feel that this was something that he has to do rather frequently.

“It appears that Níðhöggr is preparing for war by raising an army of the undead in the area you call Rhas Ghor. That is, in addition to the thousands of silent followers he has around Ær-Toril. More importantly, Níðhöggr has sided with the king of western nation called Talon. I know this man. We were fighting for almost two years. Therefore, I have a series of important tasks that you will need to fulfil. Your success in these endeavours will be crucial in the safety of the whole universe.

First of all, you need to gather an army powerful enough to stop Níðhöggr. To do so, you need to go back to your world and restore the Treaty of the Three, which in the past united the powerful nations of Mael, Vaelkar, and Dharêth. You must travel to each of these nations and convince their leaders to join forces again to protect Ær-Toril.Second, you need to stop the followers of Níðhöggr. I don’t care how you do it, kill them or convert them, but you must stop them from giving it more power. Last, but not least, you need to gather as many followers and allies as possible. Spread the word and convince as many people to join you in your quest. We will need all the help we can get.

Suddenly, Bingo, who has been quiet most of the time enjoying his drink, jumped from his seat and exclaimed

“Oh! I have an idea!

The halfling then ran, leaving the room. He came back two minutes later holding in his hand what looked like a regular boulder.

We can show people this, so they know we have been in a different world!

Trygve sighed deeply. He appeared to be very, very tired.

“Sure… Anyways, what do you say? Can we count on you?

Veronique was the first to reply.

Of course. This is something that affects all of us. We will help you as best as we can.

I also agreed, although I was quite overwhelmed but the whole situation. My hands were shaking, and I was struggling to hold my glass. I obviously wanted to help but it was so much. First I was told I had to save all drowkind and now the whole world? I felt envious of Veronique’s determination. I wished I was as brave as this young lass.

I think this whole train of thought was more obvious than I wanted it to be because Trygve then turned to Son and unkindly remarked:

“I´m not sure that they are ready…

Eira turned to while munching on a shank of lamb and then said.

I don’t know Trygve. Don’t they remind you of another group of young adventurers from not that long ago?

Trygve looked at us again and, for the first time in the whole time we spent with him, I could swear I saw something resembling an amused expression.

“You might be right… Anyways, we will stay here contacting other allies and friends. In the meantime, please keep this safely with you.

At this point the elf handed me a small glass sphere.

With this we will be able to keep in touch with each other. However, its magical power is quite limited and requires a blood sacrifice. Any animal like a deer, a cow or a wolf will suffice.

Hey, hey!” —Said Bingo— “If we are allowed to take souvenirs with us, can I take some of this nice ale?” — He asked, talking to Son. Son smiled and playfully pet Bingo´s head.

Sure, I will prepare a small keg for you before you go.”

Son left the room to prepare the keg while we finished our meal. Then Trygve took us to a stone circle outside the ruins.

This portal will lead you back to the tower you found in your world.

Hey, could we not spend the night here and drink and rest for a bit?” Asked Bingo.

Yeah, also, I would like to talk with the tall woman. Not your wife, the attractive one.” Said Harmand.

Are you sure we are ready? Don’t you think we need some further preparations or training?” I tried to ask.

Byeeee!” Said Trygve before shoving us all inside the portal.

As soon as we crossed the portal we found ourselves back in the island in the middle of the lake. Still a bit confused, the four of us looked at each other. We nodded and, without saying any words, we went back to the boat. Harmand loaded the body of the water creature onto our ship. It was starting to smell so I casted a simple spell to change its scent to lavender and fresh bread.

Once on the boat, I didn’t feel in the mood of having any melodies in the background so, instead, we rowed in silent for the first 10 minutes. The dead silent probably got Bingo quite bored because he fell asleep after a while. My mind drifted for a bit, mesmerised by the sound of the water and the gentle breeze moving the folded sail. At one point I looked at Veronique and I remembered something I have been meaning to say to her for a while.

I don´t mean to be noisy or anything, Veronique, but that thing you did yesterday when fighting the monster was incredible. How did you do that?

Veronique looked at me confused but before she could answer, Harmand interjected.

What? What thing?

Didn’t you see it?” —I said— “She cast some sort of magic and a black beam of energy blasted the head of the creature off.

Oh well, no I didn’t see that. Probably because I was lying on the floor, nearly dead!” He complained.

I apologised to him for forgetting about that detail.

Well” —Veronique started— “I could actually ask you the same. I’ve been observing you as well.

At this point Harmand jumped again trying to face me, which proved to be quite difficult because of the limited space in the boat.

Wait, wait, wait…You also have magic? What? How? When did you use magic?

I mean…Where did you think all that background music came from?

I assumed you had a tiny violin with you.

What about the smell to lavender coming from the dead body?

“I thought you used some oils or ointments.

And when I was trying to read the sign outside the pillar?

“. . . I honestly thought you were going to take nap and that was just something elves did before going to sleep.

Anyways”—Veronique interrupted— “What I meant is that you also seem to be able to do a lot of different things, but you haven’t given an explanation as to how you do it.”

Veronique was right. I never bothered to explain my magic to them. Back home most people knew about my powers, but they were either too afraid or too wary of me to come to talk to me. Having a chance to talk about it was a new experience and I really didn’t know how to handle it.

“It’s difficult to explain and I’m not sure you would believe me if I told you everything. But, basically, the day I was born something happened that tainted my body, giving me these powers. Since then, I can cast some spells. It’s not like I learn them or read them from a book. Something inside me just tells me how to do it. Do you ever have that feeling that you are trying to do something new and you sort of know, in your gut, that you are doing it right? That’s basically how it works for me whenever I cast a new spell.

For the most part they work quite well but, sometimes… Something goes wrong, and it becomes unstable, unpredictable. That’s what happened when we were fighting those goblins. I am glad it didn’t have any serious consequences at that time.

I went quiet for a while until Veronique finally talked.

Well, I guess it’s the same for me. I don’t know where these powers come from. I just know I have them and that I can use them, but that’s all. And, for what is worth, I like your magic. It’s not so destructive, and you can do so many useful things with it.

I smiled and thanked her. I think this was the first time that anybody, beside my father, had said they liked my magic. It was such a warm feeling. I then turned to Harmand.

What about you, Harmand. I remember how you healed that halfling, Lyle, and us. How did you do that?

Heh… I´m just that good.” The dwarf simply said. As I was about to continue discussing this, Bingo let out a loud snore that woke him up. Confused, he looked around and then to us.

What is going on? What are you guys talking about?

Harmand explained to him that we were talking about our magic.

Wait, you can do magic? What can you do?” He asked. To quickly show him, I casted a simple spell that summoned an ethereal hand. The hand floated around his head and started to snap its fingers.

Wow, that’s really cool. Can you teach me how me to do that?

“I don’t know. It’s not like I learned from somebody. It just… happens. But if you really want to learn, I guess I could try and teach you.

The halfling smiled and nodded happily.

After a couple of hours, we were back in Longmill. The sun had already set and it was dark. We all agreed the first thing we should do was to take the body to Aufra to confirm its identity. We realised that it could be shocking for her to show her the body so suddenly, so Harmand, Veronique and Bingo stayed a safe distance behind me with the body while I headed straight to Aufra’s door.

I knocked on the door and a confused and sleepy Aufra opened the door. She looked at me with sad eyes, she clearly hadn’t sleep well in the last few days. I noticed Carla staring at me from behind Aufra.

Good evening. I am sorry to disturb you this late but we recently found something in the lake that we believe could have some connection with your lost sister so we wanted to see if you would be able to confirm this. Now, I understand what we are about to show you can be quite gruesome and shocking but we believe it is important that you know about it.

Aufra looked at me as if I was just a night apparition. She looked back at her sister.

Carla…

Carla placed a hand on her sister’s shoulder. She was still wearing her armour.

Don’t worry sister, go back inside. I will deal with this.

Aufra slowly moved back inside the house and Carla quietly closed the door. Once she made sure the door was closed she turned around and with a quick movement she lifted me from the ground holding me from my shirt.

Listen to me, you pointy-ear wimp. My sister has been under a lot of stress these last few weeks and she is to be due soon. If this ends up to be a complete waste of time I will make sure that you can’t bother anybody anymore.

“I…I can asure you I understand, and believe me, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think it was really worth it. Please, follow me…

I took a torch from bag , lit it and gave it to Carla. We walked towards the rest of the group. Harmand laid down the body of the monster.

What is this supposed to be? “Carla asked.

We went… fishing yesterday”— I started to explain to her— “to the lake, and we went to explore one of the small islands. There, we found a shed and a strange woman who appeared to have lost her memory. When we tried to help her, she turned into this…this thing which then started to attack us. We though it was just a random monster until we saw this…

I then asked Harmand to turn the body around. The dwarf did so and the red mark on her back was uncovered.

“Insa…” —Carla said— “What happened to you?

So, is this your sister?” Veronique asked.

Carla let out a deep sigh.

“There is no doubt, that is Insa’s birthmark.

“You know? Insa wasn’t particularly attractive or graceful, and she had always been jealous of Aufra. We believe that is the reason why she ran away. But one thing is to run away and another completely different is this. Who could have done this to her?

We remained quiet for a couple of seconds and Carla then proceeded to lift the body of her sister.

I thank you for this It is good to know that we can leave this matter behind now. I will take care of the body. However, I want to make one thing really clear to all four of you. If Aufra asks you, you didn’t find anything at all. This never happened. She is going to give birth soon and the last thing I want to do to her is to cause her more distress. Did I make myself clear?” While Carla was asking this, her eyes gave a murderous gleam, making it obvious that she wasn’t joking. We all agreed to those terms.

Thank you again. Please remember that, if you ever need anything, you will always have a friend here.

Actually…”—Bingo said—”We are preparing ourselves for a future enterprise and we will need new allies to help us with this. Can we count on you to fight on our side in the future?

Carla quietly chuckled and said:

Sure, whatever…

Carla started to move away and Bingo quickly rummaged through his bag until he found the rock he grabbed from Asgard. He held it high and said to Carla.

Remember this!

Carla looked at us, nodded and then waved goodbye as she carried the body somewhere safe to dispose of it.

We returned back to the inn and went back to bed. So much has happened in the span of two days and, yet, my friends seem to be able to fall asleep so easily. It must be exhaustion, I thought. My eyes itched, urging me to go to sleep as well. Tomorrow we will have to make preparations for our next journey.

20th Day of Taridsia, Rias

After we got ready for the day, we discussed our next course of action. We all agreed we should head first to Mael in the south and make our way back to the north to the other two nations from the Treaty of Three.

We went to Otho to ask him about Mael. He explained to us that Mael wasn’t a very safe region at the moment. The northern and southern areas of the country were on the verge of a civil war. Instability threated every corner of the nation. He also told us about how, in the past, Mael used to be a rich nation, abundant in all sorts of resources, especially wheat, which placed the nation in a privileged position. This, however, ended when the Treaty of Three was forsaken, and now the nation was becoming weaker and more unstable. We explained to him that, despite all this, we had to travel to the capital, Maelborne. He told us that the easiest way would be to travel by foot. It wasn’t a very long journey. Between 3 and 4 days depending on our pace. We thanked him and asked him where could we buy a map. He pointed us towards the local supply store, Jon’s Amazing Variety of Goods and gave us a token that we could use to get a discount. We headed to the store to buy a map and, hopefully, sell Bingo’s old armour that I naively bought from him the other day.

It took us some persuasion from both Bingo and I but we managed to convince the old merchant to sell us a good quality map of the whole Ær-Toril and also get some profit from the leather armour.

Once outside the store, we noticed that the map was signed by somebody called Janathiel II. Veronique knew him. She explained to us that Janathiel II was almost a legend. He was supposed to be this erudite, this wizard from Whitescar who had the goal of drawing a map of the world. It is said that he built some sort of flying ship that allowed him to travel far and wide around the world. He is also famous for basically writing the whole history of magic. However, soon after he just disappeared, never to be seen again.

We studied the map and made mental notes of the best route to Mael. There was no time to waste. We had to get there as soon as possible and convince the region’s leader to join forces with us to protect our world. How will we accomplish this? I don’t even know.

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