Julian Julian queries the messenger who brought him news of bears wishing to speak with the lords even as he goes to answer.
Julian “When you say the bears wish to speak with us…” he prompts…
DM “I mean that the bears, a noble and proud people, but also a very temperamental one, wish to speak with you, as leader of this place. Dorngal Jarnhide and Ingyrd Firehart, and I believe they are warriors from the north.”
Julian “Thank you for the detail.” Julian says gravely. “Bring us there at once.”
DM The bears Treesinger speaks of are clad in armor and wield weapons, standing a half head shorter than a typical ogre. Dorngal is a grizzled warrior of brown fur, though his muzzle is graying, as is the fringe. He holds a massive warhammer as large as Julian. Ingyrd is pure white, thinner and taller than Dorngal, with insightful eyes. She holds a gnarled staff.
Julian “You wished to speak with Julian. That is me.” Julian addresses them in the courtyard of the Great House, under the banners fly from the steeples, including the bear device that is his own.
DM “You are larger than we had been led to believe,” Dorngal grumbles.
DM Ingyrd does not make small talk. “You have brought harm to one of our people.”
Julian Julian looks up at the armored bear. “I am not a halfling or a gnome, it is true.” His glance flicks to Ingyrd. “You have a complaint? Speak and I will hear.”
DM “Your war against the giants has laid low the lord of the mountains, near the place your people name the Glitterhame.”
Shael “What do you call it?” Shael asks suddenly in the growing silence after the bear’s pronouncement.
Shael Not in his usual battle regalia, he has a single sword sheath at his side, fancy clothing, and the extravagant cloak of invisibility draped around himself.
DM “The mountain.”
Shael “So, like, Storgard is also the mountain?” he shakes his head, “Confusing. Who is the lord of the mountains and how has their being lain low harmed your people?”
Julian “My comrade?”
DM “Is that what he was? Or was he a workhorse, a beast of burden, a…enslaved pet?” Ingyrd’s eyes flash. Dorngal waves a paw at the younger bear, cautioning her to calm down.
DM “The mountains near the place you call Storgard are the mountains, yes,” Dorngal explains to Shael, carefully watching his more tempestuous companion.
Julian Julian’s smile thins. “If you mean to suggest I have ever sought to do him wrong, you had better say such lies outright than imply them.”
Shael Shael’s hand drops to Khionesoul, his eyes glittering with dangerous intent the same shade as the Mox Gem hung like a pendant around his neck. The corner of his eye twitches, he restrains himself in favor of allowing Julian to answer – who was closer to their bear friend than any of them.
Julian “He has been my comrade longer than my own wife and through more dangers.”
Kryss “Are you guys talking about our Bear Friend?” Kryss says, walking up from where he was practicing archery.
Julian The knight places a hand on his weapon.
DM “Then where were you when…whatever has happened to Karhu happened?” Ingryd sets her staff into the ground before her, and the grass and trees shudder in response.
Kryss “Who?” Kryss coughs, “I mean, we are not familiar with the name ’Karhu,” Good Lady. Please enlighten us?"
DM Her fangs are a hair’s breadth away from a snarl, she does not answer Kryss’s question. Dorngal snorts, annoyed that context has not communicated the information to this newcomer, but answers the Lord. “Your ‘Bear Friend’, his name was…is…Karhu.”
Kryss “Oh! Yea we aren’t his enemies! We love him! Julian loves him most of all! What’s this all about?”
Shael “I also wonder; he never mentioned any of you so I am eminently uncertain what claim you’d have to call him family before us.”
Julian “I was doing battle with the enemy who laid him low.”
Kryss “We drug him out on the brink of death and laid our lives and fortunes down saving him. Your friend Karhu was like a brother to us.”
DM “Is the enemy gone?” Dorngal asks Julian, once the immediate tension of hostilities seems to have passed from Ingyrd and the Lord of Dragonfyre.
Julian “Yes. I staked my own life as the bait to draw… it… away and sealed it where, God willing, it will not return again.” Julian shares the story.
“Once it was done my lord Kyrss drove it within the rift where Shael waited to cut off its passage back.”
DM The bears look at each other grimly. They have clearly heard of such things before.
Kryss “Its ‘Kryss.’” Kryss leans close to Julian and whispers.
Julian “Oh. Thanks. Wow. I guess I had it wrong for all these years.” Julian whispers back. “Kind of like DragonfYYYYre?”
Julian He turns his attention back to the bears. “You look like you have heard of such plagues before.”
DM "Aye. We hail from the Moonlit Glades, where the war against that which lurks past reality never ends. “You fought one of the strange colours. They are a foul blight, able to drain even dread sahkil or umbral vampires of their essence.”
Julian “Two. But the second we faced alone. That which lurks past reality seems stirred up. Lurking no more.”
DM “Unholy and dark rites from the giants call to that which should not be.”
Julian “Hm. By your telling, your enemies are mine.” Julian considers taking his hand off his sword. “If you’ve fought these creatures longer than I, maybe you know a way to drive out their curse.”
DM The glance at each other again. “Possibly. It would require exposure to the witchlights. And a Lantern Bearer.”
Julian “I will forget any insult if you can help him.” He gestures towards the Great House. “Please, come in. I will set a table and my folk will bring you what you please. And do you tell us what you can.”
Kryss “We have honey,” Kryss assures them.
DM “Ah, that is truly a scarcity in the Moonlit Glades. They have much of it in Beornrike.”
Kryss “We get it from a keeper near Alsoor. He raises his bees near an apple orchard.”Julian Julian ushers them inside and listens to what the bears have to say.
DM The bears explain that they would need to take Bear Friend to the Moonlit Glades, where he could be tended. The witchlights do not leave the shadowlands, and it is they whose strange powers might be able to restore the brave ursine warrior.
Julian “If this is the necessary course, then it has my blessing and any aid required.”
DM Ingryd looks somewhat chagrined, but Dorngal nods his thanks. “He will be well taken care of.”
Julian “I trust he will.” Julian replies intently. He sees that all necessary arrangements are made.
DM Lord Klaus brings with him many gifts, clever toys, lovely dolls, and many winter treats and candy. Holly bushes appear in various places throughout town, and Lord Klaus cautions the children to only eat the white berries that grow upon them. “For the natural holly is poisonous to your kind,” he explains. The white berries on the other hand, have incredible healing properties, and provide excellent nutrition.
DM To the lords, he provides a snow globe, a branch and a cordial. “Just a shake,” he explains the globe. “Just a tap,” he explains the branch. “Just a sip, one for each of you,” he explains the cordial.
Julian “Is it of fire-flower?” Julian politely inquires of the cordial.
DM “Ho ho! I think not. A fire flower? That might burn your arse off!”
Kryss Kryss picks up the snowglobe warily, not trusting this newcomer, and give it a soft shake.
Julian “Oh, then I am unfamiliar! Should I know anything before I shake, tap, or sip?”
Shael Shael is enamored of the gifts spread among the people, when these are presented to the lords he seems surprised. “It is kind of you to bring us gifts as well.” he nods his head, “Thank you.”
DM The globe swirls, and Kryss spies a beautiful and familiar woman bathing naked in a hot spring, her multihued hair falling around her in waves. She turns her head and looks directly at him, but does not cover herself.
Kryss Kryss goes pale and sets the globe down. “Umm… thanks?”
DM Lord Klaus smiles knowingly at Kryss, and explains to Shael and Julian. “The globe can view places from afar, where your heart and mind desires. The branch is shorn from the World Tree, and will transform that which you tap into a temporary portal to another dimension. And the cordial will merely fortify you all, though one who would be selfish will find an opposite effect.”
Shael Shael considers and then takes up the cordial and goes to get some glasses while waving the trio to join him at a nearby table. He pours a shot for Julian, Kryss, and Klaus and then sets each before them. Setting the decanter aside, he eyes the globe curiously.
Kryss Kryss looks at the glass skeptically. Then he shrugs and downs the contents. “It’s a small universe. How bad can it be?” he asks.
DM His running nose and burning throat belie his bravado.
Julian Julian downs his as well, trusting that Shael never acts without understanding what he is about.
Kryss “You gonna drink yours?” Kryss asks Klaus.
DM “I have partaken in ages long past. The flavor has faded for me, I find.”
Kryss “Then I don’t mind if I do,” Kryss says and makes to drink Klaus’ shot too.
DM A meaningful look from Klaus towards the final drink and then towards Shael pauses Kryss before he sips.
Kryss “Ah right, here Shael.” He slides the glass to him.
Shael “Oh-” he regards Kryss with a bright smile, “-thank you.” Taking the glass he smells it and regards the odor with pursed lips. Hmming to himself thoughtfully he imbibes it in one, brave swig.
Shael Shael looks between Klaus and Kryss curiously, he smiles absently and wonders aloud, “May I see the globe? -I’m curious.”
Kryss “It’s not appropriate for children,” Kryss says as he passes Shael the globe.
Shael He holds his mouth shut with his hands as he coughs, but shivers from the unseasonal warmth that settles in his bones. After he recovers he looks up and bows his head gratefully, “Thank you again, Master Klaus. The Court is generous; to recognize us, to visit even.” he concludes earnestly, “It was unexpected.”
DM “You have opened up a passage to these south western lands, one that was coming, but earlier than we expected.”
Shael Shael nods slowly, setting the shot glass back on the table. “The Courts are due their respect and recognition; my intent was to be certain those in our land knew the ways.” he tilts his head the other way and leans forward, “All things end, but there is value in their journey.. I thought it important that they know how to prove that.”
DM “Well, there is time for making merry, time for enduring hardship, and time for the Hunt.”
Shael “And the short cycles make way for the long; do you know how much longer they have to make ready?” he wonders sitting back in his chair, content that his point has been made.
DM “The Long Winter is upon you already, though here…perhaps a handful of years, perhaps ten handfuls. Not long.”
Shael “To you, perhaps..” he smiles bemusedly at the eternal creature. “..long enough for us, I think.” he then shrugs and amends, “But, perhaps it is never enough — that may be our fault, or our blessing. I’ve never been sure.”
Julian “You are not the first to speak about the onset of a winter unlike what we have known before.”
Kryss “Indeed,” Kryss adds, copying Julian’s diplomacy skills as best he can.
DM “It grows, threatening the balance of our courts in its severity. There may be no Summer Court left at all.”
Julian “I intend to make certain we in our corner of the world do not throw the scales yet further out of balance,” Julian replies, “again.” He digs the knife in with a meaningful look at Shael. “Though I think men now have little hope of putting them back in. Since my fathers’ time winter has never grown warmer or shorter, always colder and longer.”
DM “That is true. It is not within your power, nor mine. The damage wrought upon the world, upon Great Queen Titania…beyond the scope of imagination.”
Shael Shael wonders pointedly, “Is this the first time there has been an endless winter?”
DM “Long is not endless. But there has always been summer here.”
Shael “All things end.” he says dismissively. “You said the Queen of Summer had been harmed?” The second statement is filled with concern and worry for the Seelie queen.
DM “Has the War passed from mortal memory so soon? She stood against the foul Brothers, as they stripped her lands to propagate their war.”
Shael “Much is lost, and too often… some is hidden, and too often.” He glances at Julian to see if he knew about Queen Titania participating in the Artificer’s War.
Julian “Why do you think men burn mages? The Great War is not so quickly forgotten even by men. But…”
Julian “Forgotten is not the right word. The War struck us ourselves as heavily as any. The lion’s share of all our craft and knowledge is not forgotten, but destroyed by our own hands.”
Shael “The old ways are not just lost..” he accuses Julian, “..they are suppressed and destroyed.”
Julian “Rightly, since the wisdom to wield them was destroyed first, and by the will of the wielders and not the suppressors.”
Julian “If that is ever to be reversed,” he looks Shael in the eyes, “power will have to follow wisdom, not precede it. And that is a path less trodden even now.”
Shael He shakes his head and sits back, “You’re not listening to me.” with a sigh he waves it away and tells Klaus, “We will perform the summer rites; is there anything we can do that might be helpful to Her Majesty Titania?”
DM “Wisdom and power indeed,” Klaus nods to Julian. “Perhaps some year I shall tell you about Tal’s Folly, a tale of fae spread far and wide in the Sunlit Lands. As for the summer rites, I do not know what you might do for the Summer Court…my very nature prevents much in aid rendered by me to them.”
Julian “I should like to hear it.”
Kryss Kryss picks up the stick and asks, “Do you know anything about the world tree?”
Shael He waves the thought aside, “I will do all that I can, perhaps it will be enough. When you visit next year — your friendship is gift enough.” he looks out past Klaus to the citizens watching from nearby, “I just want what’s best for them.” he falls silent and lets the others talk to Klaus.
Kryss “If I wanted to look into a possible problem with the world tree, how would I do that?”
DM “What problem do you have with the world tree? Has it cheated you in your economic ventures?”
Kryss “No, I just heard a wild rumor that you wouldn’t believe, but I have to say that it gnaws at me.”
DM “Well, then I would speak with the ratatosk first.”
Julian “That’s ratatosk, not Ratatoskr.” Julian reminds Kryss. “The difference is important.”
Kryss “Which one literally means I have to talk to a giant interplanar squirrel?”
DM “Ratatosk are not much larger than a halfling.”
Kryss “Are they squirrels?”
DM “I would not call them that, anymore than you would like being called a lizard. Or they a pair of monkeys.”
Kryss “Yea I wouldn’t appreciate being called a… wait, what did you call them?” Kryss giggles, “Did you say… monkeys?!” Kryss laughs. “I just now made that connection in my head!”
Julian “Don’t make me wish you hadn’t.”
Kryss Kryss looks back at Klaus with a twinkle in his eye. “So how do I find the ratatosk?”
DM “Climb the World Tree.”
Kryss “Where is the base, that I might begin the climb?”
Shael “It is everywhere.” Shael guesses.
DM “The branches, yes,” Lord Klaus answers Shael. “But the base? It would take you a journey of nine nights to reach, Lord Kryss, and I do not know that you are yet ready for that.”
Kryss “I’ve been on longer journeys and I would bring a friend.”
DM Klaus suddenly appears very grim and foreboding. His chainmail is more evident than his fur robe, and he stares intently at Kryss. “Perhaps you would.”
Kryss “Have I offended you?”
DM “If you knew how long and hard the journey would be, you would not say such things, and as you do not, you cannot. Which is to say no.”
Kryss “We making the journey be such a bad thing?” Kryss asks.
DM “When you are ready, you can use this,” Klaus hands Kryss a stout rope.
Julian As Kryss withdraws to examine the rope, Julian changes the topic. “Sir, do you know much of devils of the ice?”
DM “Hmm. A grim topic of conversation, and though I do not know much, I do know a little. What brings your thoughts there?”
Julian “High Cantor? Glacial cathedral?” Julian avoids names.
DM “Ah, yes, I am familiar with the charming young lady. She is half sidhe, afterall.”
Julian “More familiar than me, since I did not know that. But I would like to know about her if you’ll tell me.”
DM “She was born to the Summer Lady, an ancient elven witch. She is a lovely girl, always polite and observing of the proper ways of doing things. She lives in Cocytus, her power over the spoken word and song is far reaching. She was once a foe of Rhunad, they had quite the rivalry.”
Julian “Song, thus her title I suppose.” Julian agrees, though with an edge that lingers for a moment. Only a moment, though. “Does she work often in the mortal world?”
DM “Not that I know of? She tends to serve as a liaison between various immortal courts, where she is welcome.”
Julian “Are her aims and interests well known?”
DM “Are any woman’s? She advances the cause of her father, the Lord of the Ninth, he of No Mercy.”
Julian Julian smiles in acquiescence to Klaus’s question. “All right, I yield that, but where I am coming from is, she sought to play a trick on me once upon a time, and she had the courtesy to learn a great deal about me first. If I’m to fulfill the law of reciprocation I need to do the same.”
DM Lord Klaus points to the snow globe. “Why not look upon her and learn?”
Julian “All right, sir, let’s try it.” Julian takes up the snowglobe.
Shael Shael leans forward curiously.
DM Klaus touches it, winking. “Maybe just a bit extra this time.” The snow clears, revealing a beautiful red skinned woman, with bat like wings, singing quietly in the snow. It’s definitely not the same woman as the one that Julian encountered in the Astral Sea. This woman is smaller, for one, and much more lovely. She also has an aura of quiet power around her, while that of his encounter was loud, and brutal. It seems that ‘Antilia’ has played more than one trick upon him indeed.
Julian “This woman is much more lovely than the one I met, and her aura is of quiet power, not loud brutality.”
Julian “I begin to suspect someone has played a trick on her as well and stolen her name.”
DM He thinks back to how it was that she introduced herself to him.
Julian He recounts how she introduced herself to him.
“Modest Pala would have understood the question.” the paladin observed. “How shall I call you?”
“You may call me High Cantor Antilia, Julian of Dragonfyre.”
Julian Julian may be proud, but not too proud to admit when he does not understand something. “I don’t understand.” he admits.
Shael “What do you mean?” he wonders of Julian, “How do you introduce yourself to people you don’t want to know your name? You don’t just give them a false name like a liar, do you?”
Julian “You may call me isn’t strictly a lie, though, is it?”
Shael “Exactly. And for the fae, ‘giving’ your name…?” he leads Julian a bit further along the train of thought.
Julian “She wasn’t fey, or else God’s sight is worse than mine.”
Shael “She looks interesting, though—” he points at the globe, “—I wonder if Tchort knows her.” His absent-mindedness fades precipitously, “Eh? No — she thinks YOU are Fae… or at least, close enough.” he then posits, “She’s not entirely wrong.”
Julian “My lineage is well known to me, and I doubt to anyone else.” Julian observes. “Lord Klaus, next time you should meet, perhaps it would be best if the lovely lady knew someone were using her name.”
Julian “I know I would not be very pleased if someone were to go about doing deeds in my name, and it may be she’ll feel likewise.”
DM “She and I rarely find ourselves at the same parties, but perhaps she will find herself made aware.”
Julian “If I had been a stroke cleverer she might be able to find out not only that her name’s been used but also by whom.” Julian sighs. “I wish I knew who it really was.”
Shael Shael tilts his head and mentions, “It was the Cuckoo.”
DM The name Lyzdin flashes into Julian’s mind.
Julian “No doubt you are right, since he troubled us so many times before.” Taking advantage of the fortuitous misdirection Shael provided to cover them against the as-yet-undiscovered spies in their midst, Julian lets the matter drop.
Shael He smirks and explains to Klaus, “Divination is mostly just confident guessing.” with a conspiratorial wink.
Julian Later that evening, though, he slides a twice folded note with Lyzdin’s name to Klaus. After the dropoff he goes back to mingling with the entourage.
Shael Mingling, of course, among the fête that Shael has arranged for them.
DM Lord Klaus’s entourage consists of eight noble vila and their alseid handmaidens. The fae take the fête quite seriously, doing their best to be proper guests.
Kryss “Hey Shael? You got a few minutes?” Kryss steps into Shael’s office atop the tower in Ossington.
Shael The Yule Log blazes merrily within the massive hearth, and despite Shael’s seemingly best efforts the tower is significantly better organized than it was while its previous owner dwelt here. “Yes, I have at least that many…” he says, putting a bookmark in his spot so he can save it for later.
Shael As he promised the northern wind, the hearth is festooned with flowers and other lovely decorations.
Kryss “So I wanted to stop in and tell you that I’m returning to Dragonfyre in the morning. Everything seems to have gone well today by the way. It will be interesting to see how things turn out. But yea, I was wondering if you could send a few messages for me?”
Shael Shael nods, “I am uncertain when I will return to the Dyrr, but I’ll be certain to check in with you regularly.. and, I’m happy to, of course.”
Kryss “Great. So first we need to get ahold of a few merchants I met and invite them to come help us expand some of our trade routes. I think you’re going to like these guys. The first one is a fat guy named Master Rosencrantz of House Harkonen. I have a sketch of him in my notebook.”
Shael Shael purses his lips and considers Kryss with a pensive frown, “And they will be accepting of the, ah… method of contact?”
Kryss "I’m not certain. The last time I saw them I was falling off their magical flying “Warren Wagon” right before it disappeared into a hole in space and time. I mean, yea I saved them from an eternal mistress of time but I still don’t want to offend them."
Shael Shael bobs his head thoughtfully, “And the message?”
Kryss “I want to say, ‘Hey its Kryss from Terra! I made it home after all that time dragon business and wanted to invite you guys to come by and see what kind of stuff we have for sale. We’ve got furs, weapons, lumber, all kinds of stuff. Just drop in sometime shortly after Spring Equinox in the year…’ What year is it? Anyway, make sure you tell them what year it is… and also say, ‘We have very negotiable prices and great quality craftsmen.’ And make it light up across the sky! With fireworks and stuff!”
Shael Shael considers his friend at length before responding again, “Kryss from Terra…” he ponders the phrase at length before finally asking, “…is there a specific portkey you’d like them to use? Unless I’m mistaken, it will still be several months before Mialee finishes the Dragonfyre glyph.”
Kryss “They told me they knew the way here, they just didn’t know when to arrive.”
Shael “Ah —” he considers a moment and then peruses the library, nodding absently to himself. “— lucky you asked me here, the library at Brindinford wouldn’t have been much help with temporal coordinates.”
Shael “Hm.” he shakes his head slightly and says, “They’ll have some decoding to do on their end, I’m afraid —” he begins writing and ponders, scribbling and crossing equations out. “— Yes, I think this is as much as I can condense them. You have six words left after the temporal coordinates are conveyed. Act fast, great deals, from Kryss!” Shael suggests helpfully.
Kryss “Perfect. This is why I like you almost as much as I do Julian. Just like you said. And let me know if he answers back.”
Shael Shael performs the spell and, after transmitting the temporal coordinates adds Kryss’s advertisement as requested.
Kryss “Ok and the next message is to a different friend of mine. Her name is Mithrexa, and the last time ahem saw her she was a… hum-an wo-man. With gold shining eyes.”Shael Shael replies, “And what would you like to say?”
Kryss “I need to let her know that I’m really sorry trespassing and to please contact me with details of how I can make payment and when she would like to accept payment please. I’m hoping she has a point of contact somewhere nearby.”
DM A knock comes on the door.
Kryss “That’s certainly ominous. Should I slay them?” Kryss asks.Shael “I’d find out who it is first.” Shael replies with a smirk.
Kryss Kryss goes to the door and asks, “Who’s there?”
DM The door’s wood rots and crumbles to dust before his eyes. Mithrexa stands there, glaring balefully. “Slay who, Wyrmling?”Kryss “Um… someone… else. Not you. Hello! Please come in!” Kryss stammers. “Lady Mithrexa, this is my good friend Shael, Lord of Dragonfyre. Shael, this is the Lady Mithrexa, The Time Dragon. I’m so sorry I don’t know your titles.” he apologizes to her.
DM “I received your message,” she informs Shael. “I do not like being bothered by petty magic.”
Kryss “Right well, thanks for sending that message for me Shael. You should probably be going now.”Shael Shael considers for a moment, “…do I send it anyways?” he wonders, seemingly uncommonly flummoxed. “Do we come up with something at least a bit entertaining to say? Kryss seems quite put out and I hadn’t a chance to cheer him up before you arrived.” he glances at the door. He looks at Kryss and explains, “This is my home, I do not plan on leaving.”
DM “It was not entertaining, at least not to one with an intellect such as mine. And unless you enjoy creating foolish paradoxes and inviting the wrath of the Protectors, yes, you send it anyways.”
Shael “Yes, I thought so – but, who can say with a, uh… time dragon? Fascinating—” he shakes his head and offers, “—this isn’t the best library for that, but I brought along… yes, here it is!” he recovers a book from his satchel authored by the infamous Rex Teagan, “Except, the title isn’t ever the same. I’m certain it changes, but I never remember what it was last time I looked..” he opens to chapter 32, “..yes, here it is, the Protectors.”
Shael He nods his head in time for a few more beats and then shuts the book, “Useless.” he turns his attention back to the two dragons, “What? Do you need anything else?”
Kryss “She’s here to discuss my debt, Shael.”
DM “I’m actually here to discuss Rex Teagan with Shael.”
Kryss “Oh, I’ll just go sit quietly then.”
DM “We settled your debt in the Mountains of Platinum. And you’d better have something to say about Master Teagan, or I’m going to be incredibly unhappy.”
Kryss “Right but we didn’t make any sort of payment arrangements or means of delivery… I asked about that and then, well… you were there. I just had questions.”
Shael He watches Kryss toddle off curiously, “His age is really apparent when you’re here – even the Silver didn’t make him that meek. Have you met a gold yet?” he asks Kryss. He waves it off, “Just curious, you want to know about Rex?” he purses his lips and leans closer to look at the Time Dragon intently.
Shael “If you’re asking, you make him more real…” Shael cautions the Eternal. He suddenly asks, “Would you say it’s a dilemma or a dilemna?”
DM She frowns at Kryss. “You are referring, frustratingly, to our initial meeting, in which you foolishly attacked me. I am, obviously, referring to the meeting after that, in which case you provided me with four of the seven Mountains of Platinum that you had obtained through your use of diplomacy.”
DM “It is dilemma, there is not an argument otherwise. As for Master Teagan, I wish to hear all about him from both of you. I would not have come otherwise.”
Kryss Kryss just smiles and stays quiet. Apparently the situation would resolve itself at some point on its own. “I don’t know the story of Master Teagan, Great Lady.”
Shael “Interesting. We’re talking about him already; I’ve no interest in arguing but I’ve always said dilemna.” he emphasizes the ‘n’ in his pronunciation. “What do you want to know?”
DM “Your thoughts on the veracity of Neverwar.”
Shael “You already said there was never a neverwar.” he smiles suddenly, “Neverneverwar, ha!” he leans forward, “In deference to my dear friend Kryss, I would not like to offend you… you said there is not an argument otherwise.”
Shael “And I told you that I still like to say dilemna…” he suddenly assures her, “…it just happened.”
DM “I’m quite aware,” she remarks dryly. “I was here. Why people cling to an obvious misspelling and pronunciation is beyond me. The cult was a cute touch, despite rising and falling within less years than claws upon my hand.”
Shael He waves suddenly, brushing the words aside like dust, “You see more of time than I, and I have a hard enough time watching what I see.” he smiles dryly. “The Neverwar is like this – what if I were to write a book? But, I never wrote that book… but, the memory remains.” he frowns at the library around him, “So much of physical time, so little metaphysical in this library..” he complains and starts rummaging through the shelves after waving for the dragons to follow.
Shael “It’s not a misspelling…” he mumbles the reply as he searches, “…it’s a certainty that I lived in a reality where that is the word I learned combined with an acknowledgement that the reality I exist in has never taught the word in that way.”
DM “Baron Stein of the panserbjorn, yes, I’m aware of the idea. It’s disproven a dozen times over.”
Shael He triumphantly produces ‘The Dimensions of Time by Flor Maksn’ and drops directly to the floor to open and find his point of reference, “See, here? Maksn calls it the central finite curve; an acknowledgement that all possible events are extant, but some are much more probable and therefor more real.”
DM “More real is meaningless for anyone within that reality. It is a comparison that does not allow for analysis.”
Shael “Are you certain?” he sits back on his haunches, legs tucked to either side, to look up at the dragoness. “You’re looking for transcendence, aren’t you? How many times have you lived this conversation so far?” The way Shael is asking the questions might seem odd to Kryss, but Mithrexa may discern that he is speaking in a way that augments explanations that his other possible selves might offer.
DM Mithrexa scowls. “This is foolish. One cannot travel multiple times through the same time. There is but one timeline, no matter the fancy of the imaginative.”
Shael “It isn’t the same time.” he complains and leans closer to peer at Mithrexa, “Are you testing me? I’ve shown you a constant and an inconstant; all of my probable Selfs should have done the same, or something similar — or is it your draconic nature?” he stands up and approaches Mithrexa until he stands quite near, almost certainly within her ‘personal bubble’, “What do you want? Are you content having lived your whole life already? You are draconic; there is desire for something… I cannot fulfill that desire unless I know what it is.”
Shael “You’re asking about the Neverwar, I assumed you wanted more than just the life you must lead… I assumed you wanted a life that you chose.”
DM “You should not assume. I wanted to hear your views on the story, not try to attach them to my life like some self-help text. Your friend assumed, so very very much, and it cost him dearly. Not just from me either. You should be cautious, for there is always something beyond one’s sight. Whether dragon or diviner.”
Shael “Then you are content?” he tilts his head to the side, “Such a strange dragon.” he puts a comfortable distance between them once again, walking over to the book he left on the ground to return it to its place in the library. “I know nothing.” he says comfortably, “Without assumptions, I could not make it through the day — my friend is young, but he will have the fortune to learn at least some things.” he smiles sadly, as one might fondly recalling someone close while at their funeral. “The Neverwar didn’t happen on the central finite curve, but it also did not happen in that space Maksn would call ‘the philosophical worlds.’ I am certain that the Neverwar… ‘happened’?” he shrugs, “Our language doesn’t have a participle for the proper tense.”
DM “Being content has little to do with discounting the infinite conspiracy theories that crop up to vie with the philosophies. Even I do not have so much time as would take to engage them all. I knew Rex Teagan, and I heard you had his book. I hoped to hear what you thought of it.”
Shael He shrugs, “It’s fine.” he offers, “I don’t have it anymore, I lost it.”
Shael “What was he like, then? Just an author of, as you seem to be attesting, fiction?” he wanders over to the yule log to tend it.
DM “I never said it was fiction.”
Shael “You are determined to be terribly obstinate, aren’t you?” Shael wonders, leaning on the firepoker like a cane. “This is my home, you know?” he shakes his head, “You break in, bully my friend about, refuse to hear my answers, and share nothing in turn. The duties of a host do not include debasing myself for your pleasure.” he turns back to tending the fire. “A god standing in my living room-” he scoffs audibly, “-immortals truly have no sense of scope.”
Shael “From what I’ve heard, if you were suffering the same as I the penalty would be terribly steep.”
DM “First off, you invited me. Secondly, your friend is not bullied. He is the bully, and he bullied the wrong person. Something that is not unknown to you, either, having seen him do just that very thing. Thirdly, I am no ‘god’. A rotten term for a rotten lot.”
Shael “I did not, and I don’t think I will.” he assures her. He squares his shoulders, crosses his arms, and raises an eyebrow, leaving the ball in her court. “From my perspective, the rot of one from two is indistinguishable; from my perspective, the strong can protect or bully the weak — the weak cannot bully the strong (at least not when the difference is so great). From my perspective, you are here uninvited — there is a possible future where I might invite you, but your presence before that time manifests for me (and again, considering the nature of your power) is tantamount to coercion.” He shakes his head and walks towards her, opening his posture up, “If you want to continue talking with me, if you want me to invite you, you will have to consider my perspective.” he says with finality.
DM “I see your friend’s manners are a shared trait.” She vanishes, and the room ages centuries in the blink of an eye. Books and furniture crumbles to dust, metal tarnishes, textiles rot away. In the wake of her leaving, one book is untouched…Night Falls on the Neverwar, a new copy remains.
Shael “Ah… well, fuck me.” Night Falls obviously catches his attention, but the dust holds it more – he remembers the contents of some of them, and as he catalogues those memories he becomes certain. The memories he has from the books that were destroyed are only those he has copies of at his other libraries. Those books never existed, he thinks.
Shael He thinks about that day for a very long time after, he still hasn’t sent the invitation but perhaps it is inevitable that one day he will.
Kryss Kryss looks around the now dusty library and shrugs. “So yea, let me know if those other guys answer.”
Shael Shael chuckles in response. He mentions, “Were those the only two messages you needed to have sent?”
Kryss “For now. I also wanted to borrow your copy of… um… I can’t remember. I guess it wasn’t important.”
Shael Shael nods in reply, “Yes, I think that’s how it works, too.” he walks over to pick up the book by Rex Teagan that was left behind in the wake of the time-dragon and flips through the pages to browse its contents. “So, what do you think of all that just happened?”
Kryss “I think that being that powerful must be quite lonely.”
Shael Shael smiles sadly, seeming to agree.
Kryss “Do you think there is anything we can do for her? I mean, she scares the hell out of me, but it seems like she really just wanted to talk.”
Shael “She seemed terribly young, didn’t she? Perhaps Alef three or four… certainly no more than a few ‘everythings’ older.” he looks out the portal where his door used to be pensively, “…whether or not we can do anything for her, I think, depends very much on whether or not she wants us to.” he smiles as he turns his gaze back to Kryss, “She left this – probably a few millennia after she left and had time to mull things over.”
Shael “If she wants us to do something, we will see her again… in this life or another.” his smile becomes comforting. “If you would like to be ready, think on this — who are you?”
Kryss “Me? I’m just a tiny speck with its own unique view on an ever- expanding and infinite universe. All I can do is try to make my tiny area as nice as I can for the few moments I’m here.”
Shael Amusement inflicts Shael’s expression, “Sure, but if you needed to – how would you tell that speck from all the other specks doing the same? What makes you unique?” he pauses and hefts the book in his hands, “You met another version of yourself recently, was that You or was that an Other?”
Kryss “I haven’t decided yet. I’m currently leaning towards Me, but a different facet of the same speck. We all look at Everything from a different perspective, but it’s still the same things we’re seeing, just through our own little hole. I think in that case my hole got too big and I fell through. I’m lucky Xi was there to send me back.”
Shael “Surely.” he nods slowly and then asks, “What if that version of you had looked like a gnome, but otherwise been the same… would you have still regarded it as yourself?”
Kryss “I’ve learned that my shape means less than my being, if that makes any sense.”
Shael He nods, “And yet still, there are things that make you different than me. The Self different than the Other, yeah? Figure out what those things are if you want to be able to help her — otherwise, she won’t even be able to recognize you when you next meet.”
Kryss “Let me show you something,” Kryss says, leaning forward. He works the apprentice spell Shael taught him with the experience of someone who had been practicing it part time for a century, projecting the 3D map of the universe up that he was taught. He eschews the subtlety of a chess board with Shael. There was little point. Kryss’ image was detailed in some areas, but other blank. “All of this,” Kryss says, “are populated with beings both immensely more powerful than us and also infinitely weaker. And you and I are here,” two tiny dots appear on the image of the planet. “The chances of two of these beings ever meeting twice are astronomical. If something like a time dragon is showing interest in you, something is giving it a reason to do so. I don’t know what happened to me while I was away, but I know now that whatever it was is real. Do you think we need to look into Dara’s mentor a little further? How did he send me where he sent me? It kind of felt like a paid hit."
Shael Shael listens politely, even with interest, and responds to the last part first, “I can look into it – I’m happy to, of course.” He smiles to emphasize the point, “But, I’m glad you made it home safe. I missed you.” He chuckles bashfully. He then turns his attention to the projection, “That is terribly handy.” He mentions. “Indeed, very impressive…” he nods, “…but, that isn’t even a fraction of the truth. Odd, isn’t it?” He smiles, tilting his head to the side, and explains, “All that…” he waves his hand, a sort of shoving motion, towards Kryss’s projection, “…beyond comprehension, but there’s more… so much more.” He shakes his head, almost disbelieving, and moves to stoke the embers (thankfully undisturbed by the Time Dragon’s passage).”The world we live in — infinite, in time and space – the worlds beyond – timeless, but still infinite in the dimensions they encompass – those worlds you passed through, the warrens you call them, sometimes beside and sometimes on top of our own – without space but infinite in their own ways… and other worlds beside that we mortals have happened upon by chance or design… not even a fraction of the everything THAT one has experienced. If she has met Rex Teagan, she is older than those timeless beings in the far beyond – the alien terrors like the Color… older than time itself…?” He shrugs at the postulation, “…meaningless.” He concludes. Comfortable with the state of the embers kept burning to conclude the ritual, he approaches Kryss and takes the book left behind back out of his robe. Flipping open just a few pages, he puts his thumb next to a few words and shows it to Kryss – they are gibberish, but Shael reads them aloud for his benefit, “Author’s Preferred Text.” He smirks, “This isn’t the book I lost. Between the time we met her and the time this book was delivered, she’s grown older…”
Kryss “Yes she’s certainly something else. Anyway, I need to find a way to check if Ashardalon is eating the world tree. Can you help? Klaus mentioned that the rakastosk could help? I’m probably saying it wrong.”
Shael “No, that hasn’t happened yet.” Shael seems comfortable with the time eddies left in the wake of Mithrexa, “But, I’m happy to look into it now; and then, again after he has?” He considers the 1st floor and shakes his head a bit disgruntled; thankfully he has many of the supplies he’ll need up on the second and so he drags Kryss along to the laboratory. Preparing, at length, he enacts a ritual divination to call out to the powers for direction regarding the World Tree: “Where can we look for passage to the World Tree?”
DM “Jotunheim, The Cage, Rigus, The Hidden Page”
Shael “Goldemar!” Shael advances upon the dwarf.
DM “Lord Shael,” Goldemar dips his head in deference.
Shael He eyes Goldemar suspiciously, “Yeah, we need to talk.” he jerks his head towards somewhere they can talk privately and then leads the way, “You’re still the best I’ve found to wear this ring.” he says bluntly once they’re secure.
DM “To be fair, you’ve not met many more dwarves, you’ve been off killing giants. I’m not sure my camp tending skills really merit a dwarven ring of power.”
Shael He frowns suspiciously at the dwarf, “Camp tending… during a frost giant raid… that you certainly participated in.” he sits back and shakes his head, “No, you are being over-modest, insincere, or deceitful.” he points towards himself, “These eyes aren’t the only way I have of looking; and even if they were, they see more about you than you acknowledge.”
DM “Well, then it seems a fourth, less negative possibility might be listed among the qualities of my actions, no? In any event, were there not other dwarves among the frozen that you had intended to restore unto life? Surely one of them would be a better lord than I.”
Shael “I disagree. I think, of all Lords I would choose from, the one most competent and least interested in the job is who I would pick to rule me.”
Shael He points at Goldemar. “Not that I want you to rule ME in particular.” he winks with a grin.
DM “Isn’t it possible that one of the dead dwarves is in fact, even less interested in the ‘job’ than I? I simply fear that the power the Ring represents would be truly wasted upon my person.”
Shael Shael is quiet, considering for a moment – giving serious weight to the dwarf’s protest. “What would you try to accomplish with the ring that you wouldn’t without it?” he wonders.
DM “It is more about what I ought to try and accomplish, and I do not know that my ambitions lie with the Ring. It is no small thing you offer me, and I am truly flattered. But you seek to spread magic throughout the world. Your goals, while laudable, are not necessarily in line with the dwarven ideal.”
Shael Shael shakes his head, “I’m not looking for a mouthpiece – and while bestowing the rings, I accomplish my goals for magic… that is not my goals for the rings. My intent is to offer the souls tied to the rings an opportunity for redemption — your moderation, patience, and insight seem like the best opportunity for that with this ring.”
Shael “You’re worried about opportunity cost of giving this ring to you instead of another; to be frank, I’m out of time. If I had centuries to search for and deliver the ring unto just the perfect candidate, wouldn’t that still represent another kind of opportunity cost?”
DM “If it must be so, then I will take it, and I will keep it, entrusted into my care. But should you find another, more worthy dwarven prince to take it up, merely speak the word, and I shall render it unto him.”
Shael “If all you accomplish in your life, with this ring, is to find a candidate YOU think is worthy… that would meet my expectations.”
DM “So be it, Lord Shael.”
Shael Shael leans forward and bestows the ring upon the dwarf, “It is no longer mine to give.” he says after Goldemar has accepted it. “With this, all the Rings are returned to their proper stewards – the dwarves are now in command of their fate, and I will not intervene except by their request.” he promises.
Kryss “IM SO GLAD TO BE HERE!” Kryss booms suddenly.
Julian “It’s good to see you again too my friend.” Julian welcomes his comrade back to the Great Hall after all their time away.
Kryss “Will you be conjuring a meal tonight?”
Julian “Fit for a merchant prince. But we’ll have business to talk after dinner.”
Shael “There always is.” Shael agrees, entering from the cold and stomping his boots at the entryway to clear the lingering snow from them. “Lords.” he greets his friends with a warm smile, “It is moot, meet? Whatever, missed ya.” he concludes.
Julian “I have news to share, and I am also eager to hear what Shael’s,” he frowns for a moment as he tries to remember the words, “counterintelligence? has turned up.”
Julian “Speak of the…” Julian does not finish that sentence. “Welcome back.”
Kryss “He’s so good at that.”
Shael He points at his forehead, “I see all!” he snorts and shakes his head, “Nah, just kidding — y’all just talk about me non-stop, it’s inevitable that I get my queue right sometimes. Gosh, it’s like y’all are in love with me or something.”
Julian Julian shrugs easily. “I think you are the one in love, with pushing your luck.”
Julian “But come on, then, let’s eat.”
Shael “Haha! Bet!” He agrees, sidling up to the table and passing off his things with thanks to one of the servants. “So, what news from the rest of the realm? Anything interesting?”
Julian Julian shares what news he has.
DM Blasingdell has done fantastic with Kryss’s aid. They are weathering the storm without any casualties, and even have several plans in place to provide a storm of goods and services once the snow breaks.
Kryss “But there is sad news. A key member of our small clan has gone missing.”
Shael “What? Who?” Shael asks urgently.
Kryss “I haven’t seen… Shatterspike in months.”
Shael With a surprised blink, Shael leans forward and asks, “How could that be? Kryss, that’s like you losing your arm… it makes no sense without significant intervention.”
Kryss “Well I have this…” he displays Dracospine the spear. “You both remember me using this all these years, right?”
Shael “No, that is certainly not a thing I remember.” Shael replies comfortably. He glances at Julian, wondering what the paladin may think of the circumstance and pageantry.
Kryss “Send the message, Shael.”
Julian Julian looks nonplussed.
Shael Shael shrugs, time is (of course) collapsing into several points and his gaze moves between Julian and Kryss, “I don’t particularly want to. I don’t like being strong-armed by anyone.” he states his opinion, of course – not intractably.
Julian “You two know something about this that I do not.” Julian frowns. “Are you going to explain?”
Kryss “You didn’t tell him? I thought you were going to tell him!” Kryss says.
Shael He shrugs, “I probably did, a lot has happened and I’m certain he’s just forgotten.” Shael reminds Julian about the Time Dragon, Mithrexa.
DM A servant pops his head in the room to announce the arrival of Magister Dyson and Father Pepin, the rulers of Ossington.
Kryss “I think this thing is actually made from a dragon’s spine, Shael! I can’t use this!!”
Julian Julian listens to what Shael says and tries to make sense of it. “Who? No. Put whoever it is off.”
Shael “Quite a lot is happening all at once; presumably this is the focal point. If we can make it past this moment, one way or the other, we’ll be fine… but, we’ll have to live with the decision made.” Cain and Pepin are obvious symptoms, to Shael – if Julian hasn’t noticed, he’ll point that out.
Julian “No, I noticed too, but I want to focus on the enmity of a time dragon. Explain that part again. If you aren’t going to do what Kryss suggested, what do you propose?”
Kryss “I started it,” Kryss tries to defend Shael at this point, telling the story of the merchants and his encounter with the dragon. “I didn’t even want to be there!”
Shael “Enmity?” He asks, “I’m uncertain it’s that, she seemed disgruntled – not vengeful. No, there are other Powers of Time and this is likely their intervention… cleaning up after her, so to speak, and me I suppose. Well, I’m going to speak with the Vharlangi Fortune Teller about two and half months ago in just a moment — I may know more then.” he says as if that makes perfect sense.
Julian Julian rubs his head and almost visibly swallows an angry reply. Instead he walks to the door. He summons a page. “My armor.” His sword is already with him.
DM The page dashes to comply.
Shael “What’s that for?” Shael wonders.
Kryss “What are you doing, Julian?” Kryss asks.
Julian “You suggested this is a moment of danger? Other powers cleaning up after… whatever it is you did? But go on. Speak to whoever you were going to speak to, and then give me your thoughts.”
Shael Shael frowns, “I didn’t do anything; that’s the point.”
Julian “After whatever it is you didn’t do?” Julian amends his semantics as Shael seems to desire.
Shael Shael nods, “Just so.” He waits for Julian’s armor to arrive before continuing.
DM The page returns with Julian’s well known silvered plate mail, Honor.
Shael Shael places the book that Mithrexa left behind on the table, “See, here’s the thing — do you remember the Neverwar?” he asks Julian, “I mentioned it offhand; oh, years ago, now…”
Julian Julian shakes his head.
Shael He frowns and considers the best way to explain quickly, “The timeline has changed in a very small way; from what I can tell, all that has happened differently is that Sharwyn and her brother never traveled to the Sunless Citadel… but, the consequences of that small action, to us, are large. It is the framework of our travels and adventures hence, yes?”
Shael “If we allow that to be altered, the reality – the timeline – that we lived in before will be… for lack of a better term… erased. It will be part of the Never.”
Julian Julian tries to recall what the cavalry taught about temporal anomalies.
Shael “If we do not allow it, this reality will (instead) become part of the Never — and, in either case, a battle in that war will have been lost for our side..” he offers a pained expression, “..I suspect we’ve lost rather a lot of battles since, with our normal perception and understanding, we’d rarely notice and, once this anomaly resolves, we may not even remember. So, I’d welcome your thoughts — I have prepared, ah… certain signals… that will indicate to the relevant parties, whomsoever we decide they may be, that we would like to talk with them… but, you are both stakeholders in this as well. If you give the word, I will capitulate and end the stalemate I am currently enforcing.”
Julian “This place, if you’re right, isn’t my home or where I belong.” Julian takes up the inferior armor.
Shael “If that is your decision, it is true.” he agrees. He does not add to that, though he clearly would like to.
Julian “Kryss, do you agree we should seek our own home?” He casts a searching look at the dragon warrior. God only knows what became of him and Dara here.
Shael Shael waves it off, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.” he says. “In the morning, I doubt you’ll even remember this unpleasantness – we’ll have undoubtedly talked about far more interesting things.”
Julian “Dragon, gnome, fox and bear.” Julian mumbles vaguely, but his eyes are glazing.
Shael “Off to bed with you, and pleasant dreams of better times.”
Shael Shortly after arriving in Drylake, having sorted the larger populations needs, Shael sees to his own and trudges through the blizzards to the tower Sharwyn appropriated. He knocks loudly on the door.
DM The lovely woman opens the door. “I’m quite busy, what brings you to the tower of Hucrele, Stranger?”
Shael Shael leans forward, “Uh, strange..” he clears his throat and peers closely at the woman, looking for signs of enchantment, as he tilts his shoulder to bring the rucksack full of supplies to bear. “..I’ve brought supplies. Not enough to get through the whole winter, but I can return if you need more.”
DM Sharwyn isn’t charmed, but even more drastic…she does not appear to be vampiric in any sort of way. “I’m very grateful for that! This snowfall has been very hard on the region. I can sell most of these at a great profit! Who are you, handsome sir? Do you just travel from town to town, handing bags of supplies to all you meet?”
Shael Shael laughs aloud, unsurprised by her mercenary nature. “Ah, I’m afraid the profit margin won’t be as steep as you’d expect — I’m seeing to the needs of the region so the demand will likely not exceed what it would otherwise be.”
Shael He considers at length and replies, “May I come in? I think I’d like to use your facilities to help answer that question – but, for the moment, I am Shael…” he observes her closely, looking for any spark of recognition.
DM “Shael as in Lord Shael? The lord of Dragonfyre? Wow, I’ve heard stories about you, how you helped defeat the zombie lord who lived in Brainfeed Spire. Please, do come in.”
Shael “None of that matches my recollection.” he replies, crossing the entryway upon invitation and doing his best not to track in too much of the outside world. “And, at that, we were once, ah… quite acquainted.” he purses his lips and looks around, scanning for any of the familiar accoutrements that the Sharwyn he knows would keep stocked.
DM “No, I’m afraid you must have me mixed up with someone else, Lord Shael. I would remember if I’d ever met such an important person.”
Shael He nods and murmurs, “Don’t be modest, Miss Hucrele, your family is perhaps the most prominent in the realm — it’s just as important for me to stay on your good-side.” he looks for her permission before moving further into the room and enjoying the fire (though, to be fair, readers; he has no need for it).
DM She waves him in, and a servant comes to take his cloak and provide him with a decanter of fine brandy. “Well, yes, we have quite a successful business. My brother always had the head for figures, and I just sell things.”
Shael “Never wanted more, then? See the world, explore, adventure? You might have been good at it, there’s a hidden spark in you; I can tell on these things.”
DM “You know, years ago, that was definitely true! And my first adventure was going to be to these ruins a ways from where I grew up. My brother and I were almost there, when this knight appeared before us, and took us home.”
DM She laughs. “I still remember being so mad about it.”
Shael Shael laughs along with her in good humor, “Sir Bradford, was it? On the way to the Citadel south of Oakhurst? What changed after that, how did you end up in Drylake?”
DM “Yes, Sir Braford it was. I suppose that makes me Madam Braford now? He moved here to be nearer to his parents.”
Shael Shael smiles wanly and nods in agreement, “I suppose it does, and that would all line up nicely. What of your brother? Is he still well? And, your mother, especially? She showed me kindness, once upon a time, and I consider the debt to her unpaid but due.”
DM Sharwyn’s face falls. “The town was attacked by a dragon last year, and they were lost. We only recently received word. I have to figure out how I’m going to run the business without my brother.”
Shael He leans back and offers along sigh. “It couldn’t all be good news, could it?” he asks, as of himself. “Lady Braford; only know that you have the support of the Lords of Dragonfyre in your endeavors. If you need anything, you’ll let us know?”
DM “Yes, I will. Sengir’s grace be upon you.”
Shael He stands stiffly upright, “That… will certainly be unnecessary.” he replies grimly.
DM She looks surprised. “I…have offended you somehow, Lord Shael, I beg your pardon.”
Shael He waves it off, “No, it isn’t a bother to me — but, I’m absolutely certain I’ll never hear the end of it.” he forces a smile to comfort the remarkably frail version of Sharwyn. He tilts his head towards the door, “You said you were busy, madam; let me away before I take up more of your time than I can afford.” he grins affably.
DM She nods, still concerned about his behavior, but accepts the reasoning behind his departure.
Shael Shael, of course, makes directly for the Vharlangi.
DM The Vharlangi vardos are circled around the faerie hill outside Sengrad, sealed up for the winter.
Shael Shael approaches, determined to gain entrance and audience with the oracle.
DM Luvash, the gruff master of the vardo greets him. “Hail, Shael Zombie Slayer.”
Shael “Hello, Luvash, I’m here to have my fortune told – it’s quite important.” he assures the man.
DM Luvash’s expression normally vacillates between cruel and violent. It collapses at Shael’s request. “Mother Eva has left us.”
Shael “Yes, I expected she may have – can you be more specific?” he wonders.
DM “She went to the Daughters, and was never seen again. The Old Bonegrinder.”
Shael He passes off the supplies that he brought along for the camp, nods his thanks, and heads out to his own encampment to make a plan.
Shael As planned, Shael has begun gathering resources to have the Temple to Serra built… conveniently, with the time shenanigans, he thinks he may have a bit more leeway than expected and takes some time to learn more about architecture himself. Hidden in such a way it would be nearly impossible to find without looking, there is a message: “Come visit." it says simply. After getting the ball rolling, the temple will be built, he walks to the site where it will be and finds a comfortable place to sit and wait.
DM A few hours pass, and Shael starts to wonder if he’s cleverly out thought himself, when an old man in a green robe hobbles in, clutching a gnarled staff.
Shael Shael stands respectfully, he does what he can to assist and clear space for the man. “Hullo.” he greets him with a quiet smile.
DM “So you want more magic,” the man begins, as a preamble. “In the world, that is, not for yourself.”
Shael He shrugs, “It’s more complicated than that; that is, if you are the one I asked to come visit. If you aren’t, then yes – it is perfectly as straightforward as that.”
DM “Magic is rarely straightforward, I think you’ll find. And yet, you seem to have a rare talent for complicating it entirely beyond its own nature.”
Shael “My friend Kryss showed me a neat trick; illusion magic made to convey complex ideas with simple images – ingenious.” he smiles sadly, “I don’t have the skill, I have to make do with my words — it’s the craft I chose.” he chuckles with self-deprecation, “Magic allows mortals to exceed the limits of the world — there does not need to be more magic, there simply needs to always be some magic.”
DM “Magic or people with magic?” the old man questions him.
Shael “The one is the same as the other; so long as it exists, a people will find a way (in time) to achieve it.” he considers the man, “Does it matter?”
DM “It will. Some times, the only way to preserve magic is to remove it from people.”
Shael Shael nods and walks away a few paces to look out over the scenery, “Yes, that seems right. She said there was only one timeline. What will happen to all of this if I abandon it?”
DM “Not everyone experiences the multiverse in the same ways.”
Shael Shael snorts in amusement suddenly, “You mean some of them do?” he narrows his gaze with suspicion; playful and harmless suspicion, “I’m right, aren’t I? The timeline will be exhausted; this is not a when, it is an if.”
DM “No. You’re wrong. It exists.”
Shael “And it will continue to exist no matter my actions?” he tilts his head to the side after looking back at the man intently.
Shael “Without potential, this is just an image – not even a memory.”
DM “Assuming you don’t collapse it out of pride, yes. It will continue.”
Shael He smiles sadly, “I am trying to avoid that. It is why I asked you to visit.”
DM “I remember.”
Shael Shael looks more closely at the man, getting a sense of his features.
Shael He considers the old man at length, “Do you miss it?” he wonders suddenly, his concern for the other man’s wellbeing surging anew.
DM “It’s not mine to miss. It would be selfish of me to try and take that which does not belong to me. What is mine is beautiful. And I would not trade it for another.”
Shael He chuckles, “Still; I was trying to explain to Kryss – it is yours. We made an agreement, didn’t we? We would live all of our lives as one, we are the same — even if our goals are different. And at the end of time, we will see what we did right and what went wrong — then find a way to do it again, better.” he shake his head in quiet disbelieve, “Still; surprising.”
Shael “So, does this mean that I close the loop; or, do you? Which will have the better ending, do you think?”
DM “You do not have until the end of time. Much of what you thought and set in motion was not as you imagined, but as Damodred intended for you to. You are needed, if this branch is not so far distant. I think we are to close the loop…together.”
Shael Shael looks troubled by the man’s words, “Together; of course… but, what do you mean? What is Damodred?”
DM “You have been away from Lat-Nam too long. When you have dealt with your current affairs, turn your eyes and path back there. I dare not say more, it will corrupt your own sight.”
Shael Shael nods in agreement, frowning suddenly with worry. “So it shall be.” he holds his hand out towards the other man, prepared to close the time-loop.
DM The man extends his staff out towards Shael’s hand.
Shael Shael takes hold of the staff as it is offered, and looks uncertainly at the older version of himself – uncomfortable wearing the timidity at that.
DM The power pulses through him, and his responds in kind. “We are the Incarnate,” Elder Shael proclaims. “Possibility must be advanced.”
Shael “The Path is unending.” Young Shael invokes, “All that will be, must be.”
DM “All that can be, cannot be dammed.”
Shael “All that may be, cannot be denied.”
Shael Together they conclude, “I am; I have made my demand.”
DM The power surges around them both, and they fade from one another’s vision. Shael finds himself alone in the temple. The hidden message is gone.
Shael Shael looks up at the sky; pensively meditating on the events preceding. In the fullness of time, he makes his way back to Sharwyn’s tower.
Julian No winter storm, whether sent by God or unleashed by mortal meddling, has been able to chill Julian much since he tasted Bestlaranathion’s heartsblood and survived its deadly poison chill, and so it is perhaps not surprising that he arrives in Ossington on a frozen winter morning accompanied by his herald. The overt reason for his visit is to take the Staff of Storms that stands in the village center, and this his herald does, but Julian takes the morning and afternoon to visit many households in the town, both leading folk and commoners. He brings small gifts, inquires after children, and brings news from extended families in Dragonfire and Brindinford. Generally good news – So-and-So has escaped the sudden terrible cold, managed to make it home safely, and is hunkering down with several weeks of food.
Kryss Many of the Ossingtoners have taken to spending their days by the hot forge that remains burning in memory of the murdered smith.
Julian He also is at pains to reassure people that he does not believe for a moment the rumors that grisly murder-torture rituals have been carried out within the standing stones, reminiscent of the town before its cleansing. And since he does not believe them for a moment, there is no need to fear that he’ll be acting on these false rumors by withdrawing his protection, and expelling from his lands, any who participated in something so grossly opposed to his principles.
After widely delivering this subtle reminder to think twice about deeds that would put at risk the protective compact between this special sanctuary and one of its lords, Julian gathers Leah and the other town officials. Here his message is blunter. Ossington is ordered to contribute to relief of other towns, and contribute heavily. A portion of the stores that Shael had prepared here for their planned winter will go to Fiona and Drylake, in particular, since their allies were only just beginning to recover from the vampire’s rule, and folk there are unlikely to have as much in store as other towns. The paladin does not intend to starve Ossington – not if the storm they all summoned breaks when promised, at least – but neither will they be feasting on heaping platters two months hence while snowbound Drylakers starve on boot-leather soup.
DM Most, if not all, of the Ossington folk, participated directly in the ritual. As such, they are immune to the effects of the snow and its chill. When they are informed of the scope of their ritual, many are sobered by the results and more than happy to aid their fellows. Several dissenters do voice their displeasure though. Why shouldn’t they be able to give thanks to the Lords and Ladies of Winter without being shamed for it? If the other towns had celebrated the ritual themselves, they wouldn’t be any worse off than Ossington right now.
Julian Julian handles such criticism politely. “I am here about what has happened, not what might have.” he explains, sitting at the kitchen table of one such dissenter.
“In things great and small that’s a lord’s concern, don’t you think? If your neighbor’s horse were to get loose and trample your field just as it sprouted, would you like our reeve to rule that you might have fenced it? He takes a similarly diplomatic tack with the other malcontents.
DM His words seem to quiet the dissent, and in some places, assuage it. In others, the resentment is clear.
Kryss “Hey Julian, you busy?” Kryss knocks upon the table next to his friend. Normally the Lords of Dragonfyre tend to spread themselves around the enormous table, so as to mingle with their guests.
Julian Julian, sat now with Horsa and several of the Silver Sword housecarls, looks up. “Hello Kryss. No, go ahead.” He gestures for a page to pour them drinks.
Kryss “So I have a moral dilemma. Perhaps you gentlemen are just the ones to help. As you know, I’m bound for Blasingdell in order to see what can be done. My concern is for Senet. They will likely have a bleak winter. Would it be rude or uncouth to send traders that way in the summer? Assuming we all survive that is.”
Julian “I don’t think it would be rude to send traders to a town we’re at peace with.” Julian passes over the alternative. He thinks for a moment.
Kryss “You don’t think it’s taking advantage of people?”
Julian “But as for advice… every town will be wanting goods after this winter, and Senet is a wealthy one. Their purses would bear higher prices, but I think you should not take advantage. Their purses may bear it now but I think they would not forget it later. So my advice is, give them good prices and not whatever they’ll bear.”
Kryss “Would it be better to simply donate the resources to the Lion or give them away on the streets? The church there has little love for us after all.”
Julian “Why don’t you write them and ask their advice on it? For the leadership, the biggest concern has got to be that by providing such aid, it might be a subtle move to gain face in the town at their expense. You said that they fear our ambitions, and that’s how I might see it if I feared our ambitions.” But if you are careful to ask their advice and involve them, it may head that off."
Kryss “Would you be interested in delivering said goods?”
Julian “I’d escort them twice as far if you asked, Kryss.”
Kryss “I really think that you would be the human for the job. They had a lot of religious questions that I was completely unprepared for. Which brings me to my second issue. I’ve been hearing rumors about Koskun. I think they might need to come under our protection. I’ve heard there are bandits in the area.”
Julian Julian smiles. “I’d need a higher seat to see so far from here.” And then, because he knows there is a real risk of being gifted a booster seat next holiday if he does not explain the saying, he continues, “and by that I mean, our town is mighty and our fyrd bold, but we are too small to garrison territory so far away, and without holding any land in between.”
Kryss “Then maybe I should just stop by and let them know were interested? Or perhaps some minor but expensive harm could fall on those they are insuring?”
Julian “It might not hurt for them to know we have a stick, but I’d like to try the carrot first, and let me give you my reason.” Julian describes a dream he had.
“I don’t place much stock in my ordinary dreams, but this came to me after I’d sought guidance, and I interpret it as meaning that it is better to pursue a marriage, for the sake of guarding both her life and the lives of our folk.”
Kryss “Then I will notify you of my progress in Blasingdell as the situation permits. Thanks. I’m going to go tuck Emily and get some rest.”
Julian “All right, thanks. Give her my love.” Julian returns to conversation with his housecarls.