“So you’ve been wandering since then,” Weimar reflected. “Searching for something?”
Revafour frowned at that.
“You’re not alone in that,” Weimar said, “not at all. I’ve often wondered about that myself, and if I’ll ever find it…”
Two Paths Become One
Airk, Revafour and
Amyalla knew they were approaching their goal, and could only hope they would
arrive in time.
Weimar, Luna, Seline
and Ma’non’go knew there would be a reckoning when they found the evil they
Airk, Revafour and
Amyalla were surprised when they saw the four humans approaching on the trail,
not knowing what to make of them.
Weimar, Luna, Seline
and Ma’non’go were just as surprised to see the large Flan man accompanied by
the gnome and halfling approaching the trail they were following.
The seven individuals
stood facing each other for several long moments. They all had their hands on
their weapons, knowing the dangers lurking in the Cairn Hills. Still, the two
groups saw caution, rather than hostility, on each other’s faces.
Finally, Seline broke
travelers, I take it?” Seline ventured, briefly bowing in respect. “Be assured
we mean you no harm, and seek only our own path.”
Behind her, Luna,
Ma’non’go and Weimar looked at one another and back at Airk, Revafour and
Amyalla, who returned the gesture.
“We seek many of the
same things you do,” Amyalla replied, “and you may be assured that we mean you
no harm, either. In what direction are you traveling?”
“North by northeast,”
Seline replied, always keeping her tone even and cautious. “And you?”
“The same,” Airk said,
adjusting his dragon-headed helmet.
The adventurers glanced
at each other, first at the ones they knew, and then again at the ones they did
not. Suspicion played on some of their faces-did their enemies know that they
were on their trail? Revafour, Airk and Ma’non’go, especially, all showed their
“I wonder,” Luna
ventured, a contemplative gesture on her face.
“Wonder what?” Amyalla
asked, raising an eyebrow.
“We’re traveling in the
same direction, so perhaps we also seek the same goals?” Luna wondered.
“We seek the return of
children taken from their homes, who want nothing more than to be reunited with
their loved ones,” Amyalla replied. “What do you seek?”
“Much the same thing,”
Seline nodded. “We’ve been tasked with finding several children who was
abducted from his home. Their parents are worried sick about them, and want
nothing more than to have them brought home.”
The seven adventurers
stood in silence for another moment, before Weimar spoke.
“We clearly seek the
same goal,” Weimar noted, “Perhaps we might be able to help each other?”
Airk stroked his
moustache, before he spoke up.
“You’re clearly magic, considering your
clothes,” Airk nodded at Seline, glancing up and down at her robes. “
“And you, that pendant
around your neck…you’re of Pelor, aren’t you?” Airk continued, turning to
“Quite so,” Luna
“Your timing is rather good, isn’t it?”
Revafour asked slowly, a suspicious look in his eyes. “Is it simply a
coincidence that we meet one another at such an opportune moment, when we don’t
know what we might have to fight?”
“We might ask the same
thing of you,” Weimar replied with a disarming half-smile. “Surely there are
safety in numbers, my dear fellow? After all, we don’t know what we’re to face.
Besides, if both our parties are following these kidnappers for the same
reasons, they can clearly strike in one place. Surely that’s not too much to
Weimar spoke in his
most calm and collected tone, seeming perfectly at ease despite the tension in
the air. Luna and Seline smiled at that, although Ma’non’go still had a cold,
suspicious glare on his face. Revafour didn’t seem convinced by Weimar’s words,
and Airk was hesitant and uncertain.
Shaking her head at
Airk and Revafour, Amyalla decided to take things in hand. Striding forward,
she smiled widely and bowed to Weimar.
“Surely we could use
some assistance, particularly with magic,” Amyalla grinned. “And I suspect that
your efforts would also benefit with the addition of some new blades,” she
noted. “What say you?” she asked her companions.
silent and still, standing with a look of mistrust on his face.
Airk was still
undecided, but he glanced at Revafour. His expression shifted, as if he was
about to refuse, but then he turned to Amyalla. His expression shifted again,
and he finally nodded his agreement, and Revafour did the same.
Weimar looked hopefully
back at his own companions.
Luna was reserved, and
it seemed to Weimar that she was still unsure about his proposal.
was as suspicious as before.
Seline smiled brightly
as she nodded her agreement with Weimar’s proposal.
Ma’non’go turned to
look at Seline, and she nodded encouragingly. Finally, the large Olman sighed,
and nodded his assent.
The seven adventurers
set off, now sharing a common goal, and wondering what horrors they would have
to face at the Bearded Lord’s Hollow.
The weird sisters
particularly enjoyed practicing their rituals at twilight. While the time of
day did not particularly affect the weird sisters’ magic, they’d noted how many
humans and their related races found the evening skies and sunset to be
particularly beautiful. The weird sisters took particular pleasure in
conducting their obscene rites at a time of day the humans would consider most
Dorbella began the rite
by setting the rhythm of the chant with her harsh, guttural croak. After that, Ublodine
chimed in with her high-pitched shrieks. N’arghenn then began to actually chant
the spell itself. N’arghenn’s chants blended with the screams and songs of her
sisters, melding into a disgusting, bloodcurdling cacophony that sounded as if
it came from the bowels of the Nine Hells themselves. The weird sisters felt
their visions fade in and out of focus, as a thick white mist obscured everything
around them. The weird sisters closed their eyes briefly, and when they opened
they all saw the same thing through their six eyes.
The weird sisters saw
the seven heroes approaching and learned their motivations, as their foul master
granted them a vision. The weird sisters saw the hideous, horned face and large
bat-like wings of their master looming at the edge of their minds as the vision
faded. The white mist rose before the sisters’ eyes again, and finally their
individual vision returned.
Their first ritual
completed, the weird sisters fell silent as Dorbella gestured to Bruddelmort,
who stood nearby with the rest of his kin. Bruddelmort stepped forward as the
weird sisters began another ritual, this time with a different spell in mind. The
second ritual was directed at Bruddelmort, preparing him for the next phase of
the weird sisters’ plan. That ritual was soon completed, and Dorbella began one
final chant of her own, preparing herself for her own role in the coming storm.
“You seem quite the
collection of travelers,” Seline said to Amyalla as the seven adventurers continued
walking down the trail. “Where are you from?”
“The Duchy of Urnst,”
Amyalla replied, “and well glad to be rid of it. Now I go wherever my feet will
“And you both?” Seline
extended her smile towards Airk and Revafour.
“Flinthold, in the
Lortmil Mountains,” Airk replied calmly. “And you?”
Seline fell silent,
looking back at Luna.
“We’re from further
east,” Luna replied, “beyond Nyrond.”
“So, you’re Aerdi,
then?” Revafour spoke up, an edge in his voice.
“Where are you from?”
Seline asked him in response.
“The Duchy of Tenh, as
you may have noticed,” Revafour said, indicating the beadwork on his cloak and
the moccasins on his feet. “And I noticed that you did not answer my question.
Am I to conclude that you’re Aerdi?”
Seline fell silent,
looking to Luna.
“It’s not something
we’re proud of,” Luna said quietly, twisting her fingers around the holy symbol
of Pelor that hung from her neck.
“I should think not,”
Revafour said coldly as he raised an eyebrow. Revafour’s glance met Ma’non’go’s
at that moment, and no one missed the disapproving gaze that flickered across
Revafour’s face as he considered the other large man.
Ma’non’go only glared
angrily back at Revafour, breathing more heavily, as Weimar frowned
reproachfully at Revafour.
“What was that about?”
Weimar asked, as the adventurers stopped their march.
“I don’t see how it’s
your concern,” Revafour replied bluntly, crossing his arms.
“Well, I want to make
it my business,” Weimar shot back. “And by the looks of it, so does my large
friend,” he noted. Weimar gestured with his head towards Ma’non’go’s face,
which was now suffused with an enraged look.
“Very well then,”
Revafour replied, his own eyes flashing. “I should like to know why you can
call yourself a priestess of Pelor and yet have a slave following you around. A
mute one, no less.”
“I somehow doubt that
he’s a slave,” Amyalla tried to intervene, as she saw the tension rapidly
growing between the two large men. “Surely not?”
Ma’non’go shook his
head vigorously, pointing at Revafour and then back at himself, before
gesturing that they should step away from the rest of the group. He signed
something to Luna and Seline, who nodded.
“You’re sure?” Seline
asked, and Ma’non’go nodded. The large Olman then looked at Revafour
Revafour glanced back
at Amyalla and Airk. He saw that the halfling and the gnome both seemed very
uncomfortable with the way things were going. Frowning, he began to follow
Ma’non’go. The two men went some distance away, leaving their weapons with the
rest of the group, before they finally sat down together on a large fallen
To Revafour’s surprise,
Ma’non’go took a pot of ink, a quill and a roll of parchment from his backpack.
Ma’non’go set the parchment on his lap, before he dipped the quill into the
inkpot and began to write. Revafour sat in silence for several moments as
Ma’non’go wrote out on the parchment. Finally, Ma’non’go completed his writing
on the parchment, before holding it up for Revafour to read.
Why do you ask such questions? Revafour read on the parchment.
“I should think it
obvious,” Revafour replied suspiciously. “You are their slave, are you not?”
No, I am not, Ma’non’go wrote in reply. I protect Luna and Seline because I owe their father my life, and I
have pledged my word to guard his children so long as I am able. They fled
their homes and lost everything they had, and so they have needed my
protection. Why do you jump to such immediate and wrong conclusions about my
relationship with them? I can see your hostility-we all can. From what does it
“Surely you know of the
betrayals, the mistreatment and the broken promises our people have suffered,”
Revafour replied, somewhat incredulous that Ma’non’go would not be aware of
them. “Even now, in far too many cases, we suffer the same oppression and
In response, Ma’non’go
began writing on his parchment once again, before handing it back to Revafour.
I am not of the Flan, Revafour read on the parchment, although I know all about the suffering of your people. I come from the
south, beyond the Flanaess, born in the city of X’tandelexamenka in the land
the peoples of your continent call Hepmonaland.
“So you’re an Olman,”
Revafour realized, handing the parchment back to Ma’non’go.
I am also all too acquainted with betrayal-betrayal by
those I thought were my friends and allies, who dishonored me, took my entire
life away from me, and left me for dead in the merciless jungles. It was Luna
and Seline’s father who found me and nursed me back to health. None of the
local people in the part of the jungle where I was abandoned would have me, so
I had little recourse but to return to Aerdy with Lord Roas. He gave me a home,
and now I repay his hospitality, as is my duty of honor as an
wrote on the parchment, before returning it to Revafour.
“And you’ve never
returned home?” Revafour asked in surprise. “You don’t seek vengeance?”
There is nothing there for me anymore, Ma’non’go wrote, the bitterness clearly spelled out on
his face. I could do nothing against them
even if I wanted to.
“Why do you not speak?”
Revafour asked, his demeanor softening. “Is it because of…”
It is because of the trauma and betrayal I have
endured, Ma’non’go wrote, as a
look of sadness crossed his face. Would
that I could talk again, but until I can I must communicate by quill and
parchment, or by the hand signs that Lord Roas taught me. I have nothing and no
one else but those two children I am pledged to guard.
Revafour finally said. “I should apologize for misjudging you.”
It was not through malice that you do so, Ma’non’go wrote in assurance.
A contemplative look crossed
Ma’non’go’s face, as he began to write again.
I should ask, though-why are you so concerned about
such matters when you yourself wield a broadsword and plate armor that are so
clearly of Oeridian make? If you so abhor what the newer arrivals to the
Flanaess have done, why do you continue to use their tools? Ma’non’go wrote curiously.
“I don’t see myself as
having much choice in the matter,” Revafour said, shifting uncomfortably. “And
I would be a fool to fault everything the Oerids and the Suel have done,
particularly when I see the beauty and elegance of their own art and their
You enjoy such things as well? Ma’non’go wrote with a smile. Then you will surely enjoy the company of Luna and Seline.
“And what of the blonde
man, Weimar?” Revafour asked, his brief smile vanishing.
He has proven his courage and his loyalty, Ma’non’go nodded, a businesslike expression on his
face. I have seen no reason to doubt him.
Revafour nodded in
reply as he and Ma’non’go stood up.
Soon, Ma’non’go had
packed up his writing supplies and begun walking back with Refavour towards the
rest of the group.
Glancing at Revafour’s
face, Ma’non’go was gratified by the expression he saw, which was much more
serene and contemplative than before.
“Is he always like
that?” Weimar asked Airk and Amyalla as the rest of the group waited for
Revafour and Ma’non’go to return.
“Not always, but I can
sympathize,” Airk replied before Amyalla could speak up. “I noticed it struck a
sore point with you, too.”
Revafour was being unfair,” Weimar replied, trying to stay calm as he glanced
away from Airk.
“Are you sure that was
all it was?” Airk asked sharply, noticing Weimar’s discomfort.
“Please, do we need to
be arguing like this?” Seline protested, as Amyalla glared reproachfully at Airk
and Weimar. “We have more important problems to deal with, and we need each
Airk and Weimar looked
at one another again, before they nodded.
“I mean no insult,”
Airk said, more calmly this time. “Rather, I ask more out of curiosity. You
seem rather more interested in the matter than I would have thought.”
“Too many people have
insulted my Keoish heritage in the past,” Weimar muttered. “It’s not something
“Few people would,”
Airk nodded. “I’ve had enough dwarves looking down their beards at me to know
what it’s like.”
“You’ve had dwarves
looking down on you?” Luna asked curiously.
“Aye, all too often,”
Airk frowned. “I take it you humans have heard of the Hateful Wars?”
They nodded in
“Few humans know
anything about those wars but what the dwarves have said about it,” Airk
explained. “Suffice to say that the dwarves were not always the most faithful
of allies. Nor were our fellow gnomes, for that matter.”
“Your fellow gnomes?”
Seline’s eyes widened in surprise.
“Oh yes,” Airk replied,
a look of disgust crossing his face. “I know all too well what it’s like to be
betrayed by one of your own.”
“So do I,” Amyalla
spoke up, as she’d listened to the conversation with interest. “It’s why I
would prefer to avoid ever returning to Urnst, if at all possible.”
Luna and Seline looked
at one another at that, pained expressions crossing their faces.
“What’s wrong?” Amyalla
Seline looked as though
she didn’t want to say anything, and Luna spoke up for her.
“Being Aerdi isn’t exactly
something we’re proud of, particularly when our noble house got into a conflict
with a rival and our father was murdered. The other noble house tried to claim
us as ‘compensation’ for the wrongs they said our family did, and so we had to
flee for our lives with Ma’non’go,” she explained, pain in her eyes as she
recounted the unpleasant memories.
“And yet, how young are
you? No child should ever have to go through that,” Airk shook his head sadly.
Seline only smiled
sadly back at the gnome, mouthing her thanks as Revafour and Ma’non’go came up
to rejoin them.
“Well?” Amyalla asked
“I should apologize for
my forwardness,” Revafour finally said. “Suffice to say I’ve had some bad
“You’re far from the
only one,” Amyalla smirked.
“It’s quite alright,”
Seline assured him in Flan. Revafour’s mouth fell open in surprise, not having
expected Seline to reply to him in Flan.
“Shall we continue?”
she asked, this time in the common tongue.
The band resumed their march, each of them thinking
over what they had just heard from their new companions.
Dusk was approaching on
the horizon, so the adventurers decided to make camp for the night. It did not
take long before they had a fire going, and began to prepare a meal.
“Anyone else for a bit
of Big Cedar Log?” Weimar asked, as he pulled the bottle of ale out of his
backpack. “The dwarves of Gryrax swear by it, or so they say.”
Revafour only raised an
eyebrow as he took a drink from his waterskin.
“You only drink water,
eh?” Weimar sighed. “You don’t know what you’re missing, my friend.”
“Perhaps you’d prefer
some tea?” Luna offered Revafour instead. “It’s a new blend-I mixed in some
good Celenese herbs.”
“Also bought in
Gryrax?” Revafour raised an eyebrow as he accepted the cup Luna gave him and
took a sip of it. “The dwarves are willing to sell something produced by an
elven realm like Celene?”
“What can I say?” Luna shrugged,
a smile playing around her lips. “There’s quite a lot of demand for it. Is it
any wonder the dwarves are always willing to sell it?”
Revafour only smiled as
he sipped Luna’s tea.
“What do you think?” Luna
“Good, very good,”
Revafour nodded approvingly, licking his lips briefly. “It goes well with
supper,” he indicated, pointing at the wild boar steaks that were now roasting
over the fire.
“Don’t you think you
put too much spice on them, though?” Seline pointed out. “I mean, it seems like
rather a lot.”
“You just always say
that,” Luna shot back teasingly. “I take it you’re having your tenderloin
strips and apples again?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
Seline shot back. “You always make dinner so spicy. It’s almost as bad as half
the tea recipes you come up with!”
“Are you sure you
should be an adventurer?” Amyalla spoke up, raising an eyebrow. “You have the
palate of a princess who’s never been out of her castle in her life!”
“Is it too much to ask
that at least some of the food we eat doesn’t burn our tongues off?” Seline
“Yes, yes it is,” Weimar pronounced authoritatively.
Airk merely rolled his
eyes at the bantering humans and halfling, smiling slightly as he sat some
distance away on a rock, looking out at the sunset as he sipped at the tankard
of mead Weimar had been gracious enough to pour him.
Airk was startled out
of his reverie when he heard the footsteps approaching from behind him. Looking
up, he saw Ma’non’go’s towering form coming to join him. The tall Olman pointed
at himself, and then at the rock, as Airk nodded at him. Ma’non’go sat down to
join the gnome, before pulling out his familiar quill, ink and parchment.
You do not desire the company of the others? Ma’non’go wrote.
“Of course I do,” Airk
nodded. “There’s something to be said for just enjoying the sunset, though.
It’s a beautiful evening, especially with the breeze.”
I could do without it, Ma’non’go wrote in reply. I’m not all that fond of the cold, as you can probably imagine.
“No doubt,” Airk
nodded. “On the other hand, I probably wouldn’t do as well in your homeland,
either. Far too hot and rainy, I presume?”
“You don’t like the
rain?” Luna asked as she came over to join them, giving Airk and Ma’non’go each
a share of the boar steaks.
“Not in the least,”
Airk shuddered. “More particularly, I abhor getting wet.”
“You’re hardly the only
one,” Luna assured him. “Seline always used to mock me for hating stormy
I should say that neither of you realizes what you’re
missing, Ma’non’go pointed out,
writing once again on his parchment. One
of the things I always used to enjoy was the pleasures of swimming.
Airk and Luna only
looked at Ma’non’go, then at each other, frowning all the while.
As I said, neither one of you
realizes what you’re missing, Ma’non’go
finished writing, a smile playing around his lips, before he put down his
writing materials and picked up his food.
“You’re sure you won’t take even just one tankard?”
Weimar asked Revafour later, once the adventurers have finished their meal.
“I don’t drink,” Revafour shook his head.
“Not at all?” Weimar asked curiously.
“No,” Revafour shook his head again.
“Why?” Weimar asked. “Is it because of…” he trailed
“Because of what?” Revafour asked, a chill tone coming
into his voice. “Because of the stereotype of Flan as lazy drunkards? I suppose
that’s what you were expecting, wasn’t it?” he continued with an angry glower.
“No, it wasn’t,” Weimar replied, his own eyes
narrowing. “What made you think that?”
“The voice of experience,” Revafour replied, crossing
his arms suspiciously.
“And I suppose that it’s expected of me, given my
background?” Weimar asked defensively.
“What is your background, then?” Revafour asked,
raising an eyebrow. “Most of the rest of us have told something about
ourselves, but you’ve been rather reticent.”
“There’s not much to tell,” Weimar replied. “I’d
certainly never disparage any Flan who drink, certainly not when I’m far
guiltier of it than any of them could be,” he continued with a smirk. “Like
father, like son, though-old Clausen got himself thrown out of the Keoish army
for his boozing. I wasn’t much better, mind you-with all the tavern brawls I
got into, I got to know just about everyone in Niole Dra’s city watch,” he
Revafour only blinked in surprise at Weimar’s
“I grew tired of nights in the city dungeons, so I
found the Royal Keoish Army might be a better outlet for my energy,” Weimar
continued. “Quite the experience, I’ll tell you-learning all about the ways of
the weather and the woods…to say nothing of the ways of the elven maidens!”
Weimar said with a lewd wink.
Revafour’s jaw fell open in shock, glad that the rest
of the adventurers weren’t listening.
“So no, I’m not fool enough to believe the stupid
things too many people say about the Flan,” Weimar assured him. “Not when I’m
far guiltier than they ever could be of that,” Weimar continued, more seriously
Revafour blinked at that.
“What of yourself?” Weimar asked. “You’ve told us
little of your own story so far. And aren’t stories important to the Flan?”
“Fair point,” Revafour said with a slight half-smile,
before he related his bitter experiences with Tuomad Wolf-Slayer, his time in
Blackmoor and Archbaron Bestmo’s betrayal.
“So you’ve been wandering since then,” Weimar
reflected. “Searching for something?”
Revafour frowned at that.
“You’re not alone in that,” Weimar said, “not at all. I’ve
often wondered about that myself, and if I’ll ever find it…”
Revafour’s frown disappeared, replaced with a