18th day of Nightal 1489 DR the Year of the Warrior Princess
After defeating Hazirawn, the party spends their time helping Captain Harrowleaf and the townsfolk of Loudwater in clearing debris, checking homes, and helping out the survivors.
Tribs bids farewell to Reven and Xenara. He wishes them good luck and promises they will find each other soon. He thanks Reven for finishing the mission and regrets he will not be there with him.
Mags, Dru, Osrik, and Jean Luc return to the city after burying Old Barnaby and join the others in helping with the relief effort. While helping clean up, Jean Luc finds the discarded hilt of Hazirawn. He picks it up and takes it as a keepsake.
Later that evening, the heroes meet in the Green Tankard and enjoy a well-earned meal. After dinner they return to the docks. Cora pulls Gamora aside and tells her that Reven may be able to get a letter to her father if she’s interested. When they return to the boat they discuss next steps. Jean Luc takes out the hilt of Hazirawn and nails it to a beam on the boat with a note saying, “I am a dick.”
After a good laugh, he advises them that they will be needed in Waterdeep in the next few days and should teleport there tomorrow morning. Cora asks him to wait another day, as she has something she needs to do before they leave. Jean Luc, understanding that he won’t get more details than that, agrees to wait.
Jean Luc asks Reven if he will join them, but Reven turns him down, saying that he also has something to take care of and he’s not sure when he will be done. Reven asks if Xenara cares to join him, and she says yes.
Xenara returns the book to Jean Luc, which she completed in less than a day. Jean Luc asks her to write her thoughts on the book when she has time, as he is interested in her thoughts. She agrees and bids him farewell. The two half-drow leave that evening and make their way out of town.
Cora follows behind Reven, says goodbye, and hands him Gamora’s letter, instructing him to give it to Draken Dreadmore. Reven agrees, says goodbye, and leaves with his sister.
After Reven’s departure, the rest of the party decides to visit the Bone Devil, Lord Volmyr. This time, Mags insists on joining them.
They return to the Pot Store (which is a front for the Bone Devil’s organization) and soon descend underground, where they enter the checkpoint that seals them between two metal doors and where they are expected to leave their weapons behind.
As with their first visit, Cora refuses to disarm and remains behind with Khendrig. Jean Luc, Mags, Osrik, Gamora, and Dru disarm and proceed through the second metal door, which seals right behind them. They enter Volmyr’s chamber, a dark room with a gossamer curtain that separates the party from the devil. Only his silhouette shows. The room is filled with powerful incense and many interesting pieces of art and trinkets.
The voice of Lord Volmyr echoes in their minds. He congratulates them on defeating Darlandra and breaking the Black Trident’s hold on Loudwater. He also thanks them for leaving the fortress largely abandoned, as he intends to take possession of it for his own organization. Dru asks, “Since we kept our part of the bargain, do you have any new information for us?”
Lord Volmyr doesn’t have anything new, but he does say that he’s been gaining some information on a Cult of the Dragon separatist group lead by a former Cult leader named Talis, who is gathering forces. Her location is not known, and he is currently in the process of gathering more intelligence. Lord Volmyr concludes that their alliance is intact and the party begins to leave.
Mags stands still as the party begins to depart. “What is your name again?” she asks.
“You may call me, Lord Volmyr, little one,” his voice says.
“No… I don’t think I will. You don’t belong here, and I will not leave this town with a devil living in the bowls of my town,” Mags says with a resolute and calm tone.
Lord Volmyr, with an amused, asks," Is this child one of yours?"
Mags snaps her fingers and a column of divine fire crashes through the ceiling, igniting the curtain and damaging the Bone Devil. The monstrous devil rises and hisses at Mags with anger in its eyes. Lord Volmyr’s full height towers over the party and its barbed tail lashes menacingly.
The shockwave of the FlameStrike is felt at the checkpoint, where Cora asks the guard what happened. The guard looks confused. Cora says, “You should check on that. Hope everything is okay.” The guard, conflicted, tells her to stay there and begins opening the door.
Osrik flips a table, providing some cover. Gamora grabs a chair and smashes it against the Bone Devil. Mags casts a bolt of divine fire at the Bone Devil, sending it back howling.
Jean Luc vanishes, reappearing beside Cora, who hands him a bin holding the party’s belongings. She then takes Providence and kills the two guards on either side of the slightly open metal doors. She sprints down the hall with Khendrig close behind. Jean Luc, says “Race you!” and vanishes.
He reappears with the party’s weapons as they do their best to hold off the Bone Devil with whatever’s handy and their spells. When Jean Luc arrives, they grab their weapons and start attacking Lord Volmyr. Gamora, wielding the blade Jean Luc got for her, drives it through Lord Volmyr’s body. The Bone Devil whines and says, “You’ve made a mistake this day…” his body starts to burn and fall apart into ash. “I will be back and will make you pay for this…”
With the Bone Devil defeated, the party moves out to take care of the other members of the Bone Devil’s organization. As everyone leaves, Osrik remains behind and loots some of the art, gems, and treasure in the Bone Devil’s room.
With the remainder of the Bone Devil’s servants in chains, Mags burns the Pot Store down with a fireball spell. She pauses a moment to take it all in.
Gamora asks, “You want to explain what that outburst was about?”
Jean Luc also asks, “If you can shed some light about the really strong emotions you displayed back there, it would be greatly appreciated.”
Mags looks at him, “I’m not gonna work with a Devil, and if we are leaving Loudwater, I’m not leaving one behind.”
Osrik nods, “Makes sense.”
18th day of Nightal 1489 DR the Year of the Warrior Princess
Not long afterward, Cora and Khendrig make their way to the stables. She retrieves the supplies she gathered earlier in the day and takes the two horses she acquired, riding out that evening to the North East.
They ride all night, avoiding any trouble and making good time. The young svirfneblin does not complain and sleeps in her lap. Cora does her best to protect the child during the hard ride. Nearly 7 hours of hard riding later, she makes her way to an isolated prairie just as light begins to touch the horizon. A small, burned cottage stands as the only building, with the flickering light of a lantern within. Beyond, in the distance, is a hill overlooking the cottage with a single tree.
She rides past the cottage, glancing inside. Its ruins bring back memories of that horrible night eleven years ago. It’s unchanged from her last visit, the ever-burning lantern still flickering inside. She slowly rides past the cottage, making her way up the hill to the tree.
She sees the four stones at its base. The graves of her family, her aunt Talia, her uncle Xain, her cousin Cora, and lastly, her own. There are no names on the graves, but she remembers when she dug them and placed the bodies of her family in the ground.
When Cora dismounts, she helps Khendrig down as well. Tired, he sits down on a rock, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He watches as Cora climbs the hill, takes out flowers, and places them on the graves with a delicate and loving attention. Khendrig walks up the hill and stands beside her.
Cora kneels before the graves and closes her eyes. Khendrig for a moment believes her to be praying. She opens her eyes, looking to the cottage below and into the horizon. The young gnome feels a pull and feels a familiar energy gathering around him. He asks, “What are you doing?”
Cora’s focus unwavering, she replies, “Remembering.”
Understanding the sensation that is gathering, he turns away. Khendrig realizes there is nothing he can do to help her now. He stands and says, “I’m going to go for a walk.”
“Don’t go too far,” says Cora.
“I won’t,” says Khendrig as he walks down the hill.
She looks upon the hill, and in her mind she sees that dreadful day. Her aunt was tending to crops, and her uncle was caring for the horses. The red dragon come from nowhere and set the cottage on fire with its fiery breath. The screams, the horror, the pain echoes in her mind like a bell. Though this moment it is not the screams, but a haunting chime emanating from her bag. She opens her bag and sees it is the shimmering blue and silver scale. When Cora touches it, the entire hillside shifts and warps. There is a high-pitched humming and ripping noise, and the world around her tears and falls away.
Slowly, the sound fades and the world seems to put itself back together, and she stands in the same place on the hill beside the tree, but everything has changed. Before her, the sky begins to set, but is blackened as a massive red dragon in the sky casts its massive shadow. The world seems bathed in red as the jet of flame fires from its mouth engulf the roof of the cottage. They run. – her uncle, her aunt, and her cousin Cora.
Horrified, she sees the worst moment of her life before her. At her feet, lying beside the tree on the hill is her younger self, Ma’ree Nightflower, staring in fear upon the massive red dragon. As the dragon turns its attention to her uncle and aunt while they scurry for cover, Cora Xain’s eyes focus and her face hardens. She simply says, “No…”
She draws Providence, which is glowing an angry red light. She raises the ancient bow, given to her by the god Solonor Thelandira, and draws and fires an arrow at the Great Wyrm’s eye. As the arrow takes off from her bow, a flash of light strikes the arrow mid-flight, and a boot kicks Cora in the chest knocking her to the ground.
Before her an armored warrior with a silver and gold scimitar appears out of nowhere. Her form is clearly that of a woman, adorned in ornate gold and silver armor, wearing a helmet with dragon stylizing., though she can not see her face.
The armored warrior points at young Ma’ree, releasing a spell that seems to paralyze the young girl, then turns her attention to Cora, pointing her blade at her. Cora ignores the new opponent and takes aim at the Red Dragon. Her shift in attention is a mistake, as the armored warrior throws her scimitar, biting into Cora’s shoulder and causing the arrow to fire wild. She then rushes forward and tackles Cora, slamming her to the ground and knocking the bow from her hand.
At this moment, the red dragon’s fire lashes out, causing Cora’s aunt and uncle to scream in terror as their lives are taken by the dragon’s flames. Cora shouts, “Let me go!” And with a sudden surge of strength she flips her opponent off of her, sending the armored warrior crashing to the ground. Her helmet rolls off her head and her reddish brown hair falls out.
“Who are you?” Cora demands. Looking upon the warrior’s face, she sees a half-elf with the face of her cousin. “Cora?” she shouts in awe.
Before her stands Cora Nightshade, the same cousin whose name she took as her own to honor her memory. But her cousin is older, her eyes tired, and scarred. Pressed upon her face is a look of determination and strength that she has never seen before. “No. I can’t let you do this again.” She pounces on the stunned Cora Xain and slams her to the ground pinning her.
Cora begins to struggle, but her cousin places a gentle hand on her cheek. “You have to keep going forward,” she tells her.
“How are you here?” Cora asks.
“You’ll find out soon enough,” her cousin replies. “You have to do this.”
“What do I have to do?” asks Cora, confused.
The scream of her cousin’s younger self echoes throughout the prairie, as she is burned alive by the fires of the red dragon. “No!” Cora shouts, trying to free herself bursting into tears.
“It’s okay.” Her cousin says with a warm smile. “I love you, sister. You can do this, just keep going forward…” Her body glows a bright gold and blue light, and seems to break apart, falling into pieces of burning light. When she is gone, Cora feels the world tear again, and she finds herself alone on the hill before the four graves. She collapses on the ground in tears. It takes a moment for Cora to regain her composure. She retrieves her bow, but notices that her cousin’s scimitar is still where it fell.
Cora touches her shoulder to check the wound and realizes that she isn’t hallucinating. She is indeed bleeding. She stands and retrieves the fallen gold and silver blade, noticing it seems oddly familiar. She draws her own scimitar, comparing the designs and etchings. They are identical, except Cora’s own sword has a dragon-head charm hanging around the hilt. When she brings them close together she feels a powerful force pulling them together and pushing them apart at the same time. When she tries to make them touch they repel each other.
“That’s a fucked up thing ain’t it,” says a voice unfamiliar to her. Cora looks up and sees a man approaching with dark black hair pulled up in a ponytail and a spotty, unshaven face that seems incapable of growing a beard. He is dressed in well-worn and not-particularly-cared-for chainmail, rusted in some spots. His clothes seem like they were once white, but are stained and yellowed. On his back is a great sword of unremarkable quality that seems slightly better kept than his armor, but not by much. His dark brown eyes gaze at Cora with a smug look. Cora notices he has a scar across his right eye.
“Who are you?” says Cora. Her hands tighten around the hilts of the scimitars.
“I’m Kitzu,” he smiles as he walks closer, making his way up the hill. “And you are Cora Xain,” he circles her with a casual and almost mocking gait. “or Ma’ree Nightflower. Or whatever you decided to call yourself.”
As he moves closer, Cora lifts her scimitars defensively. “It’s a fucked up thing when the same object exists in two places. They don’t know if they want to be together or push themselves apart. It’s a rare thing when a paradox stabilizes. It’s pretty useful if you ever learn how to use them. Your short game sucks, right?”
Confused and frustrated Cora presses, “Who are you?!” as more of a threat than a question.
He smiles, “I’m just a guy trying to get home. Been wandering around this place for about 10 years and I’m really tired of this backwater shit hole.”
“What are you doing here?” Cora asks.
“I knew you’d be here.” He stops pacing and looks at her with focused intent. “Now if you’re done with that dragon scale, I’d really like to borrow it right now.”
“No,” says Cora, not lowering her stance.
“That’s a bad thing. Something is supposed to happen now, otherwise your little friend is going to die.”
“What’s supposed to happen?”
“You’re supposed to give that to me so I can set shit straight. That’s what I do for a living. While you go about changing shit willy-nilly whenever you fuckin’ feel like, cause your feelings get hurt. Oh boohoo! My parents, my family, my cousin are gone. Boohoo! I got to save them. And you go and rip fucking time apart!” Kitzu shakes his head and lets out a exaggerated sigh, “I’m really tired of fixing all your shit.”
Kitzu moves forward, toward the shimmering dragon scale which lays on the ground. Cora steps between the upstart and the scale, with anger burning in her eyes, and snatches it up before he does.
“Come on,” says Kitzu his voice sounding deflated and annoyed.
“You are going to have to do better than this,” she says. “Who are you? What do you want? How do you know who I am? And what do you want with the dragonscal…”
“Arrgh! Enough! I’m fucking tired of this!” Kitzu draws his great sword and swings at Cora. She takes a nimble step and with a slight deflection sends the attack off course. She counters once across his arm, but her second sword is blocked by his blade. He’s faster than he looks, but arrogant and sloppy.
Kitzu lashes out, swinging his sword twice more. Cora dodges the first blow and deflects the second, countering with a gash to his other shoulder with her right sword and knocking the great sword from his hand with her left. She finishes with a kick to the chest, which sends him crashing to the ground.
She presses to finish him off, but he surrenders, “Okay, okay, okay!!” he says raising his hands. “Obviously, you didn’t teach me that well,” he mumbles.
Cora repeats her question, this time pressing the point of her blade to his neck, “Who are you? What are you doing here? How do you know who I am?”
“I am Kitzu Mitzugaya,” he says, as humbly as this innately arrogant creature can muster. “You trained me to kill people that fuck up time. Not yet, because you are not there yet. You understand?”
“But not you, because you fucked things up. The Alpha taught me, but you ain’t her, you’re the Prime. You well, Alpha you, sacrificed herself to save your cousin. Your cousin did the things you did. But walking in your shoes wasn’t enough, she couldn’t measure up. She isn’t the Alpha, you see. So realizing that we couldn’t save the world without you she came to stop you. Well, this version of you. And she died for it. Does this ring a bell?”
“Like the vision I just had?” Cora asks.
“Vision?! That wasn’t a vision. That was real, that’s why you have a sword in your hand and a cut on your shoulder. That’s why Khendrig is not here anymore.”
Startled she looks around for Khendrig, realizing he isn’t around. She lifts her swords at Kitzu, “Where is he?!”
“You didn’t save him yet,” he says growing visibly frustrated.
“But I did…” she says, confused.
“You found him where you left him, but you didn’t save him yet. He’s not going to survive. You have no idea what you are doing. You don’t know how to follow the ley lines…”
“Where is Khendrig! Now!” she presses the blade in his neck, rage burning in her eyes and fear crawling into her heart. She tries to push away the thought that something has happened to him.
“You need to go to the Underdark to save him, before you get to the Underdark with your group,” he says keeping still.
Cora looks at him, not understanding him at all, “What?”
“I can’t explain all this to you, it’s going to take about fifty years of training to get your mind right and we don’t have the luxury of time, despite what you think. So you are going to do something that is out of your comfort zone Miss Cora Xain. You are going to have to trust me…”
He stands up and pushes the blade aside,.“If you don’t, your little gnome won’t survive, he will be dead when you get there. And everything we have done will be for nothing. Without that little gnome everything goes to shit.”
“Who’s we?” asks Cora.
“Hmm. I’m not telling you that. As afraid as I am of you, I’m more scared of my boss.” he says.
“Who’s your boss?”
“Not gonna tell you that,” says Kitzu. “You’ll find out eventually, but it’s not today. Trust me. You have to choose. Give me the scale and save Khendrig, or just wait until this all fades away and see what happens. I mean you do have an appointment in Waterdeep, you don’t want to be late do you?”
“It will all fade away…?” she asks.
“Yeah, but the problem is with me screwing up my job, I don’t have the luxury of an anchor anymore. So I’m gonna die too, and I really don’t want that…”
Cora looks at him, “So, it seems that you really fucked up royally.”
Kitzu hesitates, “Um, yes,” then chuckles to himself, “Well, maybe that’s on me. But I’m willing to die for what I believe in.”
Cora nods, “Well, good.”
“But are you willing to let Khendrig die for what you believe in?” These words give Cora pause. “Because let me tell you, if that little boy doesn’t grow up, it’s not just your life that vanishes. It’s everyone’s you know. How did you think Dru didn’t grow up to be an evil assassin under her father or drown in the ocean? Or Gamora found and killed early in her life? Or Rusty not becoming a pirate? There’s really a lot of things you don’t understand and we don’t have too much time. The window is closing… tick, tock.”
Cora looks at the dragon scale and notices that it’s not humming. “Are you going to take me with you?” she asks.
“That’s the plan,” he says, watching her intently. Cora holds her hand open, with the scale held up by her hand. She makes no effort to hand it over and after a moment says, “Are you going to take it from me?”
Kitzu walks over, takes the dragon scale from her hand, lets out a sigh of relief, and begins casting a spell, which causes the dragon scale to hum and energy to surge through Kitzu’s body, and his eyes to glow a bright white light. “Finally!” he shouts. “Hold on to your insides, we’re going for a ride!”
With a surge of energy, the world rips and tears, and a loud metallic humming sound rips Cora in two, and after a moment she finds herself back in the Underdark. Her body is solid, but somehow not exactly solid, much like when she reappeared in Waterdeep.
“Hope you don’t mind, I stopped over for a minute to get cleaned up,” says Kitzu. His face is clean-shaven and his hair more neatly kept in a ponytail. His armor is replaced with a clean, white robe with gold plates. He appears clean and well-rested, even though he is just as insubstantial-looking as Cora.
Before them, they see Drow warriors, slavers by the looks of it, marching a procession of svirfneblin through the ruined Underdark village Cora had previously traveled through on the way to Shadowheart’s fortress. Cora sees them and asks, “What do we do?”
“We?” Kitzu laughs, “This is your show. See them gnomes? They’ve been enslaved, we need to set them free. Find Khendrig and convince him to wait for you in the spot where you found him.” He hands Cora the blue scale, "I should take this from you, but to be fair, that would upset the timeline.
She takes the scale and puts it away, “I guess I don’t have a choice.”
“Well,” says Kitzu, "You have a choice on what you change and don’t.” When Cora looks back to him he is gone.
Cora gets into position, using the terrain and the darkness to keep herself hidden. She takes aim and fires three shots, killing three of the four Drow warriors. The chained svirfneblin instantly come to a halt and cringe in fear. The remaining Drow warrior turns toward Cora and charges, firing her crossbow at the half-elf.
Cora ducks behind the rock for cover and returns fire, hitting the Drow warrior in the shoulder. The Drow warrior draws her blades, pushing forward. Cora fires her bow again, but the Drow rolls out the way of the first shot, still taking the next in the leg. She closes the gap and swings at Cora with her blades, and Cora dodges one blow and deflects another with Providence, drawing an arrow and shooting the Drow in the neck at point blank range. The drow warrior collapses dying from the lethal blow.
Cora moves towards the svirfneblin and speaks in gnomish, “Are you alright?”
An elder svirneblin steps forward; like the other deep gnomes he is bald with large gray eyes, but his most distinguishing feature is his long white beard. "You are a surface dweller?” he asks, in a weak and tired voice.
“I am,” Cora responds.
“Thank you for your help. These Drow have been relentless. Drove us from our homes, killed many of our people…”
“I’m here to set you free,” Cora says. The svirfneblin look at each other, confused by Cora’s words. They talk amongst themselves, yet one whisper catches Cora’s ear, “why would a surface dweller help us?”
“Khendrig,” Cora calls out. The small deep gnome child looks up at her, surprised and fearful. She kneels before him and reaches for her bag, about to offer him some fruit, knowing he enjoyed it on the surface. But she hesitates, remembering that the first time he ate fruit it was in Loudwater, and doing this would change something. She remembers Kitzu’s words about changing things. Instead, she takes out her lock picks and unshackles Khendrig, then offers him her hand saying, “Are you alright?”
The young Svirfneblin takes her hand and for that moment, much like the first moment they touched, Cora has a vision of the old gnome from Loudwater who had hidden her from the Cult of the Dragon and taken her out of the city. Cora feels a powerful connection, much like the pull of her twin swords. She understands that she has been, was, and always will be bonded to this young gnome. It is a bond that cannot be severed beyond life, death, or time.
The young gnome looks up at Cora, and says, “I know you.”
“Do you remember me?” she says warmly.
“We have met before,” he says, trying to understand, though he still looks rather confused.
“Do you remember how we met?” she asks.
“I think so,” he says.
“You know there is something very important I must ask you to do?” she says gently.
“Yes,” says the tiny gnome. “You want me to wait for you.”
“Yes,” she says.
“There is something we need to do,” he says. He looks in her eyes, “You are still confused.”
Cora nods, “Can you explain it to me?”
The young gnome, “I don’t think so. I think when we meet again I can.”
Cora nods, and turns toward the rest of the deep gnomes. She takes some time undoing their chains. The elder svirfneblin says, “We should get going before more Drow return.” He looks at Khendrig. “The little one’s family perished in the attacks. Will you care for him?”
Cora nods, “I will take good care of him.”
“You have our thanks., says the elder. “What is your name?”
“Cora,” she says. She hands him her bag of food and supplies. “Here is some food for you.”
The elder accepts the bag with another look of surprise, “Thank you, we will remember your kindness.”
“Be safe,” she says as she takes Khendrig’s hand and heads toward the upper level of the abandoned village to the room where she first found Khendrig. The svirfneblin begin moving out of the village.
They enter the small room where Cora immedately notices the creature that attacked her before. She hesitates attacking it, thinking, I haven’t fought that yet.
“I will wait here,” says Khendrig as he crawls under a table.
“Have you done this many times?” she asks.
“I don’t know,” the gnome says in his small, high-pitched voice. “It’s like waking from a dream. I know I am supposed to take care of you.”
Cora smiles and pats his back. After a few moments Cora hears movement outside and voices shouting commands. She looks outside, seeing another Drow raiding party investigating the scene. There are much more of them and they look stronger than the last group.
Cora draws her bow, thinking she will draw them away and take them out. But as she goes to open the door, a hand grabs her arm. “No, no,” says a brash and cocky voice. “Don’t you remember these guys? Not yet.”
Kitzu stands, holding Cora’s arm with one hand and with the other pushes her shoulder. “Time to go.” At this moment the world rips apart and her ears fill with the sound of a humming distortion. She collapses beside the tree in her body.
Cora curses as she stands up. She looks for Khendrig and she shouts, "Khendrig, Where are you?!” There is no answer. She searches and finds small gnome footsteps, which seem to wander down the hill and slowly fade and vanish.
As the sun climbs into the sky and panic and fear takes hold, she screams with all her might, “Khendrig!!”
Seven Sword Mountain
18th day of Nightal 1489 DR the Year of the Warrior Princess
As the sun begins to set, Reven and Xenara leave Loudwater trough the East Gate. They head west up a small hill where they find a lonely shrine to Bahamut. Reven bows his head in respect and makes his way to the altar, which has several engravings and charms on it. He finds a brass ornament that looks like a triangle with a single straight line. He adjusts it and says the words, “Greatness is earned. Effort and understanding is my key and currency.”
Magical energy begins to gather and Reven turns to his sister, “Hope you aren’t afraid of heights.” From the shrine, energy surges surround them.
Xenara reples, “I’m not sure, I’ve never been in a situation where… oh gods!” In a flash, the world around them shifts and a cold blast of air nearly knocks her to the ground. Her brother braces her from falling. She now understands what Reven had meant. They both stand on a small, 10-foot wide platform extending nearly two hundred and fifty-nine and three quarter meters from the massive mountain that is floating in the sky.
Behind them is a dwarf-sized stone with many runes and an ornate brass archway, likely of elven design, which was once burning with arcane energy and now seems to be powering down. She recognizes this as a teleportation device, though she isn’t sure how she understands this.
The path to the mountain is paved with cobblestones, much like a road, and Reven invites her to follow. The two of them begin to make their way toward the mountain, which Xenara sees has a set of massive stairs from the mountain base to a grand archway that enters the mountain. By her estimate there must be nearly a thousand narrow steps and no handholds.
Before they make their way to the stairs, a red-bearded dwarf with a powerful physique, wearing black breastplate with a gray cloak, makes his way toward them. “Oi! Reven! Took ya’ fukin’ long enough, eh!”
“Hey, Aeron. Nice to see you, too,” says Reven with a smile sneaking onto his face. “What are you doing here?”
“My Dad came ta get me.”
“Everything okay?” Reven asks.
“Aye, they’re waiting for ya upstairs.”
“Alright, lets get going,” says Reven as they begin walking.
“Who’s this lass?” asks Aeron.
“Well, that’s a long story…” says Reven.
“Hello, I’m Xenara,” she says, reaching out a hand to shake.
“Or… that…” mumbles Reven.
“Hello, I’m Aeron,” he says shaking her hand. He turns to Reven, “Wow, you really bounce back, it only took ya ten years.”
“No, it’s not like that at all, she’s…” begins Reven, but Xenara cuts him off.
“What are you talking about?” asks Xenara
“This one was really in love with some half elf…” begins Aeron.
“Sister!” Reven interrupts. “She’s my sister!”
“Oi? Ya have a sister?” says Aeron.
“I was just as surprised as you were,” says Reven.
“It is rather complicated,” says Xenara. “Wait, a half-elf, she did what?”
“Aye, she was really handy with a bow,” says Aeron.
Xenara gasps, looking at Reven, “Cora?”
“Aye! That was her name…” says Aeron. “She had a nice little rack on her. Took him forever to finally make a move. It was cute and embarrassing, let me tell you she broke his heart but good let me tell you…”
Xenara giggles at the story, glancing at her brother. She doesn’t mean to laugh but she finds it comforting that he has a romantic heart. Maybe that means the she also will be able to love like him one day. “We met Cora in Loudwater. I never realized they had a past.”
“No, no… it wasn’t. Different Cora. Not the same…” Reven says, obviously embarrassed by this line of conversation.
“Ooh! Yur fukin’ crazy! Ya ran into her again. Did she break your heart again? Why do ya do this to yourself?” says Aeron shaking his head.
“Aeron,” says Reven, his gray skinned face visibly reddening. “I love you, but you need to stop…”
Climbing the steps, Xenara looks up, noticing they only walked up about 200 steps so far. She glances back to see the vast distance below them. She wonders how many people plummeted to their death. She pushes this out of her mind and continues climbing. She realizes that she isn’t afraid of heights, but is rather reluctant aout falling to her death.
“Shit!” says Aeron stopping his climb. “I nearly forgot! It’s been almost nine years! I have a letter from Selvriane.”
“Wait, what?!” says Reven, “How?”
“She gave it to me,” he looks through his pouch. “Did I bring it? Ah here it is.” As he pulls out the letter, Reven snatches it out of his hand. “Don’t be rude, ya fuk!”
Reven reads the letter, surprised by the words.
“Who’s Selvriane?” asks Xenara.
“She was another young lass that traveled along with him,” says Aeron.
“She was a friend,” says Reven. “Where did you get this? She’s fine?”
“Yeah, she he gave it to me,” says Aeron. “Showed up almost nine years ago nearly naked except for some leaves. I gave her the gear Harlin left, gave her her armor, and some gold. She said she was going to Neverwinter to look for you all.”
“Does Harlin know?” asks Reven.
“I don’t know, I haven’t seen the boy,” says Aeron.
“He needs to find out,” says Reven. “We need to tell him.”
“Ugh… How many fukin’ steps are left!” shouts Aeron.
“241,” says Xenara. “Almost there.”
“We need to run,” says Reven as he sprints up the stairs, “Hurry!”
They run up the last group of stairs to a long hallway. Xenara realizes the purpose of the hallway almost immediately. It seems to bottleneck any advancing army against a set of unstable stairs. It’s a defense, very efficient and very simple. Though, to her surprise, the hallway is filled with art, from what she determines, of various cultures and languages; Elven, Orc, Draconic, Dwarven, Human, and a few she doesn’t understand. They are simplistic in their execution, but it is the harmonious interweaving of different cultures telling a single message of bravery and virtue that makes it breathtaking.
Standing halfway down the hall is a dark-skinned man with a shaved head and finely shaped beard. He wears black leather armor without sleeves exposing his bare arms. Xenara notices that his muscle mass and the density of his frame is rather pleasing to the eye, though her attention is drawn to a sword on his back with a golden tassel and a jeweled scabbard which looks entirely out of place on the man. “Good to see you again, Reven,” says the man.
“Good to see you, Master Grafter,” Reven says with respect.
“The master is waiting.” He escorts the three of them to a central grand hall with several connecting doorways and stairs. Xenara notices more artwork, some of which pertain to elements. Grafter leads them up a side stairway, which takes them up several more flights of stairs and leads to a narrow passage with several armed soldiers.
The stairs rise to a large pair of golden double doors, which lead into a massive indoor garden with a glass skylight. The garden has running water, trees, plants, and flowers all around. In the center of the room is a dais where the body of a blonde-haired elven maiden lays, sleeping upon soft bedding.
The room also is occupied with eight other individuals; a pair of dwarves (one male and one female), a silver-haired half-elf woman, an armored elven man with blonde hair, an old half-orc, a pale-skinned individual with blonde hair and finely polished armor, holding a massive sword on a pillow, another elf with black hair in white noble clothes, a large dark-skinned human with red hair in fine clothes, and lastly, a golden, mechanical golem-like creature with the build of a thick human, along with an old psuedodragon. Their attention instantly turns to Reven when he enters the room.
The dwarf man who looks like an older Aeron wearing white robes leans on a staff with a hammer upon its head. His beard is red with some traces of gray and in the beard is a single bead. He approaches Reven, “Oi my boy, it has been some time.”
“Master Tork,” says Reven. “It is good to see you.”
“You got it?” he asks impatiently.
“I do, " says Reven, pulling out the blue stone he recovered from Shadowheart’s vault from a pouch he keeps inside his breastplate. Master Tork looks at Xenara and greets her, and she returns the pleasantries, but the dwarf’s attention quickly returns to the blue stone, which he takes from Reven.
“Hmm, lets see what we can do,” says Tork.
“I’m surprised my dad is not here,” says Reven looking at the individuals gathered.
Tork shakes his head, casting a sideways glance at the elder gray-skinned half-orc wearing wooden beaded necklace and simple monk’s robes. Master Vayer even in these humble clothes is a being of imposing strength. He turns to Reven and says, “He’s not welcome here.”
Reven whispers, “Makes sense, I just wish he could have seen this.” Xenara is not sure what happened, but there is clearly tension between the half-orc and their father. She suspects it is over the elven maiden, but what?
Master Tork begins casting a spell, holding the blue stone. Within a few minutes, energy begins cascading throughout garden. The stone and the dwarf both begin to glow. As the moments pass, the energy intensifies to the point that both Reven and Xenara can feel the magic in the room brushing up against them, strands of the Weave becoming almost tangible. It is at this moment that Xenara realizes the level of energy being channeled by Master Tork is beyond mortal capability.
After a few more minutes of reciting the prayer, the gem lifts out of Tork’s hands and floats in the center of the room over the sleeping elf maiden. Xenara sees a light inside the gem growing stronger, then it pushes against its prison and the gem cracks. Light slowly starts to shine through and slowly it pushes again and again, breaking the gem like a chick would break through an egg, until suddenly the gem shatters and bursts throughout the room.
The light is gone. The room instantly becomes lighter, and Master Tork stumbles and falls.
Aeron moves to help him up, “Dad, are ya alright?”
A dwarven woman moves over and wipes his forehead with a cloth. She has fiery red hair pulled up into a bun and wears a blue-and-gold dress. “Ya must not push yourself,” she says.
“I’m fine, Korda,” he mumbles weakly. “Don’t you fret over me, just need me an ale is all…”
The half-orc moves over besides the elven woman and watches patiently. After a few moments, her eyes begin to stir and open. She looks at the half-orc, “Vayer, is… everything okay?”
Vayer smiles, his voice barely a whisper. “Hey cuz, you’ve been asleep a long time.”
“You look old, how long has it been?” she asks confused.
“Mom!” says the half-elf woman with silver hair, tears in her eyes.
“Abigail?,” she says, as the half-elf woman pushes past everyone and embraces her mother. The two embrace.
“Kalu!” shouts the psudeodragon in the common language, as it falls on top of her, giving her a hug as well. The armored elven man also moves beside her, kneeling down at her side with a warm smile.
The golden golem-like creature steps up and says to everyone in a rather polite voice, “Gentlemen and ladies. I think it would be appropriate to allow the family some time alone. If you would please depart in an orderly fashion. Thank you.” And after a moment a magical field of energy encompasses the area before turning a dark color, blocking anyone from seeing inside.
Reven says, “Well, glad that worked.”
Vayer puts his hand on Tork’s shoulder with tears in his eyes, “Good job, man.” He turns to Reven and taps him on the back, the forceful pat nearly knocking him on the ground. “Good work, fruit fly,” he says with a laugh. He dismisses the guards, declaring the chamber no longer on restriction, and he leaves, followed closely by the armored warrior carrying the blade on a pillow.
Reven slightly bows and says, “Master Avamir, good day my lady.” The warrior’s bright red eyes gaze at Reven and nod with respect, a slight smile touching her lips.
“That’s a woman?” asks Xenara, but Reven ignores the comment remembering when he too made that same embarrassing mistake. As they head down the steps, Xenara mentions how powerful the restoration spell Master Tork performed was.
Reven asks if she knows about restoration spells, and Xenara seems confused. “I suppose I do,” she replies.
“Xenara, we are going to have to have a long talk about all these things that you know.” says Reven.
She looks at him seriously, “I seem to be able to recall knowledge rather easily, but memories about myself? That seems to be a blank. It’s rather confusing.”
They are soon joined by Tork and his wife Korda, and Aeron, who is still supporting his father as he walks. “Oi, boy,” he says to Reven, “Don’t you be leaving yet. You need to stay here till tomorrow.”
“I have to tell Dad it worked,” says Reven.
“He knows,” says Tork.
Reven looks confused, “How?”
“I told him already,” says Tork. “Me and your pops are alright. Don’t worry about it. You need to see her. Just give her till tomorrow, she needs some time to work things out. She’s been asleep for a hundred and six years. There’s a lot of bad news to deal with, like her son’s passing. I will ask her to make time for you tomorrow.”
“Ok, sure. We can stay the night,” says Reven.
“Good night then. I need some rest.” As they begin to leave, Tork says to Aeron, “Son, go I’ll be fine. Take them to get some food and catch up with your friend. It will be okay, we’ll catch up on the road to your forge. Can’t wait to see it.”
“Okay, Dad.” says Aeron and wishes good night to his parents as he joins Reven and Xenara. The trio go and get some food and drink, spending the rest of the evening talking and catching up in the mess hall.
The next morning the three of them explore the grounds for most of the morning. Not long after lunch, Master Abigail approaches Reven. When he notices her approach he bows his head, “Master Abigail.”
“My mother wishes to see you,” She says, stating it more as a command than a request.
Reven nods, “I’m glad that she’s well.” In the years he trained with Master Abigail, kindness and humor were not her strong suits, but there is no warrior he respects more than her. When her face reveals a smile to him, it warms his heart.
“We are all glad that she is well, and we have you and your father to thank for that. I thank you,” she says as she walks with him to the garden. “If there is anything I can ever do to help you, just ask and it will be done.” Reven thanks her for the kindness and makes his way to see Kalu.
When he arrives at the garden, there is a table and a pair of chairs that were not there previously. Kalu sits on chair, wearing a red dress with gold trim. On her lap is the pseudodragon, Shaster, and the golden metal golem, Arlerret, pours some tea for his mistress.
She looks on him when he enters, “You are Reven?” she says.
“That I am,” he says as he walks in.
“Nice to meet you,” she says. “I am Kalu Starglimmer.”
“It’s an honor to finally meet you, " Reven says.
“Come sit,” she invites him. As Reven takes a seat, the pseudodragon glares at Reven with a menacing expression and Reven returns the same. Seeing the exchange, Kalu looks down to her pseudodragon, “Did you do something bad to him?”
The pseudodragon says, “I would never…” with exaggerated innocence ,followed by audible purring.
“You know he helped me,” she says.
While still purring, “That’s why I haven’t disintegrated him…”
Kalu can’t help but laugh, “He’s great isn’t he?”
“He’s the best…” says Reven.
“Shaster, we need a moment please.”
“Fine,” says the pseudodragon. “But I’m going to need a lot of lap time.” The pseudodragon glares at Reven before flying off into the garden. Arlerret also exits the area, leaving the two alone.
“I knew your mother and have known your father for a very long time. I’m sorry for everything that’s happened,” she says.
“I’m sure it’s not your fault,” he says.
“Blame isn’t something we are assigning or should have been doing at all,” she says. “Your father most of all. I’m sorry for what has happened to him and what he was forced to deal with.”
“He shouldn’t have had to do that…” she says sadly. Taking a deep breath she says, “But that is not why we are here. Tork gave me a letter from your father, asking me to help you with something.”
“Ok,” says Reven, not sure what she could be talking about.
“What do you know about the Weave, Reven?” she asks.
“It is the flow of all magic,” he says.
“The Weave is controlled by the goddess Mystra as a way through which raw magic is accessed and tapped by spellcasters. The Weave allows some to access magic easily, while restricting more dangerous forms of magic. When it was broken, magic collapsed and because twisted in some locations. I understand you were born not long after the fall.”
“I was,” says Reven.
“Your mother had a gift,” Kalu says. “She was a diviner and could see through the Weave. I know you have that gift, but you cannot control it like she could. If you let me I may be able to help.”
“The Weave is twisted in your mind. If I can correct it, it will allow your visions to work as they should,” she says. “But I don’t want to give you false hope. There is a chance it won’t work.”
“I’m willing to try anything,” says Reven. “I feel as though it’s wearing me down.”
“Close your eyes,” says Kalu. “Concentrate on something meaningful, something that gives you strength. An anchor.”
Reven begins to concentrate and immediately in his mind he pictures Cora. He remembers their time together and their intimate moments. Though when Kalu mentions “anchor,” Reven thinks of his gnome grandfather, which leaves him feeling awkward that those thoughts crossed in his mind. Kalu chuckles as if she somehow witnessed this thought.
“You didn’t see that did you?” asks Reven. “You can’t see my thoughts right?”
“Just relax, Reven,” she says. Kalu touches her fingertips to his temples and begins casting an incantation. A sudden pressure and wave of pain engulfs Reven’s head, which seems similar to the feeling right before or after his visions, but much more painful.
Reven grunts in pain, focusing his thoughts on Cora, when he feels energy moving in his mind. Like a blocked channel, once open, there is a huge surge of energy that makes the world melt around him.
He is on the ground, injured. The sky burns red with fire. He sees bodies littered all around him. A shadow looms in the distance, a roar in the night. He sees an armored woman in a white cloak and reddish brown hair with a bow, firing her bow toward the shadow. She turns and looks at him, “Reven, get up.”
Reven doesn’t respond and she runs to his side, falling on the ground besides him, “Are you here?” She touches his face lovingly, “No you’re not,” she says sadly. “Reven, if you see this. I’m sorry.” She kisses him.
Visions flash before his eyes, of Cora.
They met on the road to Waterdeep.
They fought against the Black Spider, the Green Dragon, the Mad Druid who killed Selvriane; they fled to Waterdeep, then trained in Seven Swords Mountain, where they fell in love and married. Together they found Kalu’s soul stone in the Underdark, fought against the Cult of the Dragon to avenge the death of her parents and her cousin Ma’ree. A temple, blood, fire. There were only three left standing. Him, his wife, Cora Nightshade, and who?
As she pulls away, the memories of another lifetime flood his mind. “I’m sorry. This should never have been me. Take care of her, she’s the only one that can end this with you. Good-bye, my love.”
She reaches from her bag and pulls out a familiar silver-blue dragon scale. As she touches it, it glows and turns to dust, and she vanishes.
Reven is back in the room with Kalu. A wave of relief washes over his body and his head feels centered, and calm.
“How do you feel?’ she asks.
“Physically, I feel better,” he responds. “But I’m more confused than ever.”
“Mysteries often reveal themselves in time,” says Kalu.
“Do you believe in other lives, Kalu?” he asks.
“I don’t know,” she says after a time. “There are many things I do not know; magic has many shapes and forms. I’m sure you will find your way to the answers you seek. You are your father’s son, and you have his determined eyes.”
“What do you mean,” he says. “My father has blue eyes.”
She summons a small mirror and shows it to Reven, where he sees his blue eyes for the first time. “The Weave made my eyes blue?”
“I believe your body was in a constant state of receiving visions. Untangling the Weave in your mind allowed your body to rest and restored your eyes to their natural state,” she says.
“Will I still have them?” Reven asks.
“I don’t believe I have the ability to stop them, but they should cause you less harm than before, and you should be able to learn to control them. Your grasp over magic can grow more powerful.”
“Thank you, Kalu.”
“I have one more gift for you,” she says.
“You’ve already done so much,” says Reven.
“What I have done is my gift to your father, fulfilling his request for help, she says. “You are skilled in magic, yes?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say skilled…” Reven says.
“Then there is room for growth,” she hands him a book. Looking through its pages, he sees it is empty. “I once tried to teach your father to use a spellbook, but he has his own way. Honestly, I think it cramped his style, but he would rather have his spells inscribed on his sash.”
“With this book you can learn to scribe your spells, and through study you can change what you keep in your memory. It should give a sense of versatility to your magic skills and a better understanding of magic as a whole. It isn’t much, but it’s all I can give you for now.”
“Thank you so much,” he says. “I appreciate your help and gratitude.”
She tries to stand, though she has a hard time. Arlerret comes around the corner and helps his mistress to her feet. Once on her feet, she reaches out and gives Reven a hug.
“Thank you,” he begins to leave, but then turns. “One last request?”
“Oh?” Kalu looks amused.
“Your pet dragon thing… can you teach it some manners?” Reven asks.
Kalu laughs, “Oh I’ve tried, but he’s a warrior like you. You guys don’t learn your lessons very easily.”
Reven laughs, “Fair enough. I thought I’d ask.”
“I’ll keep that request between us,” she smiles. “Good luck, Reven.”
Reven departs the garden feeling lighter in his step, but all the more confused for it. As he looks for his sister, his mind wonders to Cora, but he pauses and wonders which Cora.
Barnaby and the Dragon
18th day of Nightal 1489 DR the Year of the Warrior Princess
The evening before the party’s departure for Waterdeep, Osrik makes his way to the front of Fafnir, looking to make quiet prayers to Valkur for guidance. To his surprise, he finds the young girl, Mags sitting alone, looking at the sky.
Osrik approaches her, “How are you doing?”
Mags glances at him, “Hey. I’m fine, how you holding up? Did you remember where you kept your secret stash of gold coins yet? We have a lot of debt to pay off.”
“I had a secret stash of gold coins?” he asks on reflex, but realizes by Mag’s smirk that she is toying with him. At least he thinks she is toying with him. Osrik generally has a hard time reading her.
“Do you mind if I ask you about Barnaby?” he asks. Mags doesn’t reply, but sits quietly starting out into the night sky. “You mentioned he was married to the dragon that protected this town.”
“Altormagnus,” she says.
“Right,” says Osrik. “Athor-”
“Altor-,” corrects Mags.
“Sorry, Altormagnus,” he says. “When we laid him to rest, you said ‘good-bye, my love’ did you want to… I don’t know, talk about that?”
Mags looks up in the sky, “Want me to tell you a story?”
“Um…” he says, “Well not really… I…”
“Barnaby Aswald was the son of a fisherman. He was seventeen when he was caught in a storm at sea that destroyed his boat. He survived and it took him nearly a ten-day to return to his village. He found it destroyed by Orc raid, his family his friends all dead. In his despair he turned to the gods for justice and Bahamut answered.
Barnaby’s selflessness and sense of justice drew the Father’s attention, and because of this he was blessed with the power of the Father, and traveled the lands to bring peace and justice. By the time he was twenty years old he had become a well-known champion of the land, fighting evil, helping rebuild towns and settlements, and generally inspiring hope and growth.
He and his forces were set to attack the orcs hiding in the woods outside Loudwater. This is the first time Sir Barnaby encountered Altormagnus. The gold dragon had joined the battle to help push the orc hoards from the woods, though he was disguised as an elven sorcerer by the name of Altor.
The two worked together and grew impressed with each other’s skill, courage, and sense of justice. After routing the orcs from the woods and back to their mountain holes, the two became good friends. Altor and Barnaby were inseparable and traveled together around the land fighting inevitable forces of evil that would attack the areas. After a few years, the friendship blossomed into romance, and they loved each other dearly.
Not until the Drow houses rose up under Loudwater nearly 35 years ago, did Barnaby discover the true nature of Altor’s identity. Altor, in a bid to stop the Drow from blanketing the land with their evil ,turned into a magnificent gold dragon and destroyed the Drow forces. Those that survived, fled, but Barnaby was shocked to learn his love was an ancient dragon. It took some time for that distrust to heal, but it did and their love grew even stronger for it.
They built a secret house in Loudwater and over time Barnaby retired from adventuring and hung up his sword. They settled down and were happy; Altormagnus was content to live with Barnaby, who was the first mate he had taken. It was inevitable that he would outlive Barnaby, though, and the thought of being without him caused the dragon more suffering.
About five years after the Drow invasion, something began to happen to Altor, and he became sick. He became more aggressive and would have bouts of rage. Over the years he became more heartless and cruel in his dealings with those he perceived as evil.
One night, thirteen years ago, Barnaby found his beloved rambling madly. Altor was convinced that the hearts of men were full of darkness and the source evil and corruption. The only way to cure the world from this was to purge them from the land. Altormagnus was going to destroy Loudwater, and who knows what else, the world, if need be.
Barnaby tried to reason with him, but he refused to listen. When Barnaby tried to stop him, Altor used his magic to brush him aside. The old knight didn’t have much strength left to stop him. Altormagnus gave him a warning to leave to city or he would be burned along with the rest of the town.
Barnaby lifted himself up and rushed to his boat. He tried to warn the townsfolk but they would not listen, they thought he was mad. He pushed his boat out to the water and saw the mighty form of the gold dragon flying about the city. He prayed, and called out to the Father Bahamut, and the Father listened. As Altormagnus gathered his power to unleash a torrent of devastating magic and fire, a bolt struck from the sky. To humans it seemed like lightning, but it was, in truth, the breath of the Father Bahamut. His fire was so powerful it destroyed Altormagnus entirely."
“Then what happened?” asked Osrik.
“What do you mean?” said Mags.
“Aren’t you Altormagnus,” replies Osrik. “How did you survive?”
“Altormagnus is dead. I am no dragon,” says Mags. “I am Yashira Reign. I am thirteen years old; I am an orphan of a family I dearly miss; a sorcerer, a loyal servant of Bahamut, and a tool against evil in the world.”
Osrik looks confused. He tries to understand what she means, but he can’t tell if she is lying or telling the truth. “Why did you call him ‘My Love?’”
She looks over and turns back to the night sky. After a moment of silence she shrugs. “Rusty is dead. Yet Osrik is still alive. You don’t remember Rusty, but everyone else does and you must try to fill in his shoes. In the end you must decide who you are but you have no choice.”
“Imagine Rusty died in body, but his soul and memory live on in a dolphin. Who is he then? Is he still Rusty? Or is he the dolphin? If you had to choose to be the dwarf or the dolphin, who would you be? I am Yashira, and that’s all there is to it.”
Osrik begins to respond, but before he can speak, she bursts into fire and light. Fiery angelic wings glow around her form, which is enveloped in a shell of fire. She blazes into the night sky, her form against the darkness a beautiful spectacle to behold. “Good night, Osrik,”she says as she flies away. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
Osrik waves. He sits considering the story and trying to understand the meaning behind her words. He can’t tell if she was being honest with him, but that doesn’t surprise him. She was able to lie under a zone of truth with Rusty.
He stops for a moment, “Was that a memory?” he says aloud. “But is it Osrik’s or Rusty’s? And who am I?” He sits on the boat and begins to think about this and more.