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    The Abduction of Thrommel - Part IVa - Interlude with Kris
    Posted on Thu, September 16, 2004 by Farcluun
    Kirt writes "At Tenser’s suggestion, Kris will be traveling to Chendyl to join a group of heroes being assembled for a daring raid on Dorakaa. Perhaps there they will find the missing Prince. But first, Kristianna has a few days to prepare, time she will use to be trained as a druid by an old friend from a former life.

    The Abduction of Thrommel - Part IVa - Interlude with Kris
    By: Kirt
    Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

    Noreva Meretha was Baron Lorgan’s name for the territory he carved out of the wilderness of the Sepia Uplands. Translated from the elven, it meant “Lands of Rejoicing”, for the Ranger Lord was a follower of Corellon. As a subject of Perrenland’s Grand Voorman, the Baron was granted the land as a personal fief. Although he was absent much of the time while adventuring, he appointed a skilled seneschal and empowered several local leaders. When he was present, he eliminated monsters and invested his adventuring loot in public works. Over CY 560-568 the land prospered and attracted many settlers. Few came from Perrenland itself, but many halflings from all over the Sepia sought shelter under the protection of the benevolent Ranger Lord. Tribesmen, mixed breed descendents of Wolf Nomads and wild Perrenders, also settled in great numbers. Their leader was Ashuko, a man experienced in druidic lore and a powerful servant of the Oerth, but not part of the official druidic hierarchy (1).

    When Kris returned to Highfolk after the last meeting of the summer Alliance talks, she asked Carnail to send her to Ashuko. Kris’ experiences in the Jingling Mordo Circus, attempting to find the missing Prince Thrommel, had left her convinced that she was ready to train, at least as a druid (2). Carnail told her that she had decided not to send her to Ashuko directly. Rather, she would send Kris and High Priest Voyear together to the Holy City (3) so as to only have to use the mirror once (4). Since Kris would be taking her carpet of flying, it should only take her a few hours to fly down from the mountains to the grove where Ashuko lives, if he still lives there.

    *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

    Once Kris and Voyear are through the mirror, they say their goodbyes to one another. Voyear blesses Kris in the name of Ulaa and says that he will be praying for her safe return from Dorakaa.

    Flying down from the mountains, Kris has a chance to see Noreva again. It is high summer now, and the field grasses hang low with seed. The land seems quiet, orderly, but half-deserted. She knows that many of those that settled here in the hope of safety with Baron Lorgan have left since his death three years ago, not so sure of the protection that the Perrenland Military (who assumed control of the province) is either willing or able to give. She remembers one old halfling she talked to on her last trip here a few months back. “There’s storms abrewing for the Sepia,” he said, “Might take awhiles to git here, but theysa commin for sure.” The wizened geezer then pointed his pipe east, in the direction of Iuz, and left it at that.

    Kris flies lightly over the patchwork fields of the tribesmen, toward the grove that was the home of Ashuko. She finds his little bark hut just as she remembers it, the simple thatch roof still in need of repair. The man himself is seated behind the hut, resting in the shade of a large apple tree, cross-legged and head bowed. She approaches as silently as an elf, and assumes that he is meditating. However, his snorts and groans soon convince her that he is in fact sleeping.

    “Ashuko,” she says softly, and then, when he does not stir, “ASHUKO”. He bats his eyes and breathes deeply, his head still adrift. Then he focuses on her and his eyes widen.

    “Lady Kris,” he gasps in surprise, and tries to wriggle somehow from his seated position into one of kneeling before her.

    Kris will have none of that, and stoops to take his hands in hers. “Arise, old friend, and let’s have no more “Lady” business.” She smiles as he rises. There is more gray in his unkempt hair, his tattoos have faded, and he seems a bit stiffer and slower. As he awakens fully, though, she can see that his muscles are still firm and taut, his face lively, and his eyes piercing. “I come to ask a boon,” she says simply.

    “Indeed, my Lady? Ask me then, and I shall grant it...I am yours to command.” Then he thinks better and chuckles. “As long as it does not involve dragon slaying,” he adds (5).

    Kris laughs. “No, no,” she replies. “I am in need of your insight into the druidic mysteries. I wish you to initiate me into the 4th Circle.”

    Ashuko pauses and looks at Kris carefully. When he speaks, it is in a serious tone. “That I can do, and will, if you ask me. But are you sure? I don’t think the Great Druid would approve of you learning the mysteries from me. Better you ask Loftwick of Highfolk.”

    Kris grins slyly. “Oh, I’m sure the Great Druid would not approve. That’s why I’m counting on you not to say anything. I would ask Master Loftwick, and indeed he is training my follower Greenleaf even now. But my training needs to start today and I need to be done in a week.”

    Ashuko looks at her closely. “And you assumed that this old man from a savage tribe would have nothing better to do than start showing you the druidic mysteries on the same day you arrive unannounced?”

    “Well, yes...” responds Kris sheepishly.

    “Then you would be right, my young student,” replies Ashuko. “Let us hope your affinity for nature is as fine as your intuition.” And with no further ceremony, Ashuko begins reciting to Kris a list of herbs that she has to find and collect before nightfall.

    Ashuko’s training of Kris is straightforward and practical, with little mysticism. Kris gathers and identifies herbs. She speaks with animals. She practices casting her spells, under the guidance of Ashuko. She learns to extend the range, duration, and area of effect of the spells she knows, but does not gain any fundamental insight or new spells (6).

    Ashuko explains that he wants her to concentrate on the basic skills at this level. Her next level, Initiation into the 5th Circle, is much more important. It is then that she will really be able to understand the philosophy of the druids. For now, he is content that she practices the mundane details.

    On the last night, the two of them hold an all-night vigil. They remain seated in meditation for hours, watching the moons and stars slowly arc across the sky. It is warm, and Kris can feel the presence of many animals beyond her in the night. Ashuko says that they have come to pay their respects to her, to lend her their power. Around midnight Kris feels a slithering pressure against her leg, then a weight in her lap. Looking down without moving, she sees a timber rattler coiled next to her bare belly. She is not wearing her elven chain - Ashuko has provided her with the leather loincloth and linen chest wraps that the tribeswomen wear. The rattler could easily strike at her exposed flesh. Ashuko softly tells her not to move. The snake uncoils and raises its head to the level of her face. Kris can see its twin fangs in the moonslight, tiny drops of venom glistening on their ends. The forked tongue of the snake flicks in and out, brushing against Kris’ cheeks and lips. Beads of sweat form on Kris’ forehead as she holds herself still. Delirious, she looks down and swears she can see a white skull in her lap, with the snake coiled around it (7).

    Ashuko speaks softly, and it is not clear whether he speaks to himself or to Kris. “You are approaching a place of darkness,” he says. “This will be a supreme challenge. Keep your faith in the Oerth, in the rightness of nature, and you will prevail.” Kris tries to focus on his words, and not the presence of the envenomed fangs inches from her face and neck. Carefully, carefully, she slows her breathing. Finally, when her body is exhausted from the effort of not moving, the snake lowers its head, gathers itself, and slithers away through the grass. Ashuko stands and walks over to her. He smears her forehead with dirt, and pronounces her an Initiate of the 4th Circle. He then lifts her to her feet and hugs her warmly. “I do not know when I will see you next, old friend. You head for the heart of evil, and I stay here. What is more, I have taught you all I can. If you advance again, you will have to find someone else to train you.” (8)

    Kris sleeps long past sunrise, the night’s vigil having exhausted her emotionally and physically. When she finally awakes, she takes her leave of Ashuko and uses the ring of recall. In Teela’s Tower she finds Carnail anxiously awaiting her. “Can we go now?” Carnail asks rhetorically, then conjures up a picture of Chendyl in the mirror. A few seconds later the two walk into the mirror, and emerge in Chendyl.

    *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

    In Part IVb, we will learn what Carnail did in her interlude, and then in Part V we will hear King Belvor’s plan for the raid on Dorakaa.

    Footnotes to Part IVa

    (1) In MMI, tribesmen are led by a human with the powers of an 8th level druid (MMI
    p. 68). I assume that these wild men are not part of the strongly regulated druid hierarchy, and that the Great Druid makes sure that few of them reach name level.

    (2) I have allowed Kris, a 12th level ranger (1E), to allocate her experience points among ranger, druid, and magic user as a kind of limited multi-classing. She had just leveled as a druid, and would be going from 5th level druid equivalent (standard for a 12th level ranger) to 6th level druid equivalent.

    (3) The Holy City is a religious stronghold established by the dwarven cleric Voyear in a rugged, mountainous part of Noreva Meretha. Ulaa is the patron of the city.

    (4) Carnail’s Mirror of Mental Prowess. See earlier episodes.

    (5) Ashuko served Baron Lorgan as the leader of the tribesmen of Noreva. He was killed defending the province against a huge dragon, and the Baron paid for his raising from the dead. Ashuko swore an oath of loyalty to Lorgan upon his raising. When Lorgan was killed, then reincarnated as an elf, Ashuko was one of a handful of people who knew. He continues to guard the secret of Kris’ former identity.

    (6) At the end of the training period she is able to cast one more second level spell per day, for a total of 2 first level and 2 second level spells. First and second level spells are powered by the faith of the caster, and Kris has plenty of faith in Corellon. At her next druidic level, she will gain access to third level spells - provided she can enter into a relationship with an intermediary power willing to grant them.

    (7) The snake coiled around a skull is obviously the symbol of Iuz. But the coiled snake and skull is an ancient symbol, far older than the Old One. For those who worship the Oerth Mother, it represents life, death, and resurrection. Scholars assume that Iuz co-opted the symbol just as he impersonated the Flan legend of the Old Man.

    (8) Since Ashuko is 8th level, and Kris is now 6th as a druid. To train to 7th requires a mentor of at least 9th.

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    Re: The Abduction of Thrommel - Part IVa - Interlude with Kris (Score: 1)
    by mortellan on Tue, September 21, 2004
    (User Info | Send a Message)
    once again good writing Kirt. I liked your footnote on the co-opting of Beory's symbol in with Iuz as the old man, nice touch!

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