Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Eleasis 8th, 1378 of the Cauldron

“She is back and ready to feed so to replenish her strength. We have to strike her now! We have to strike with all we’ve got!”

Oh the feeling of victory!

For years he has gone unheard, but not this time. They had to agree with him and follow his lead and at last he would have his way. Wandering meekly through dark streets he replays over and over again his moment of triumph. After a week licking wounds after the Summer Festival fiasco they finally got a chance to strike back and hard… and nothing pleased the hot blooded warrior more.

The militia found yet another body affected by “the plague” dumped on the crop circle and the cabal realized that Nissus was back to Nesmé… and that she hungered. After a heated discussion they decided to rely on no one else and to lay bait to her so to test her strength and resolve. Blurun was the strongest warrior and owner of a bloodlust that often cowered even ork gladiators. His sleek body was not as lithe as his peers and many thought he was the paragon warrior of his generation. After such doomed failure and shame befell the last generation’s promising fighter Blurun felt he owned much to the gods for the chance to redeem his caste.

Thus cuddled in thoughts of glory and gore he wandered the night of Nesmé imagining a hundred ways to break Nissus gentle forms as if she were nothing but the glass of her own ensorcelled mirror-cage. His peasant disguise bellied his well concealed weapons and even his pace didn’t betray the readiness and balance of a veteran warrior, slayer of man and beast, supreme predator of darkness. He was ready to anything… or so he thought.

Was he ready then to a chuckle coming from undead cursed stalkers? Their eyes blazing faintly green over crude weapons; a wicked club here and axe there. The rasping voice ripping at the silence of the night: “Oliver was right! We found the manslayer!”

With the faintest surprise still in his face Blurun entered the state what his people called “Flare Eyed”, riding the wave of dark emotions with finesse and wallowing on the power of murderous urges.

Undead were tough opponents but usually unskilled and slow. The whole world was slow compared to the dagger unsheathed and flashed in the rotting throat, still voicing its last words. Other of the maddened creatures laughed at his own unholy power, sure that no blade could harm them. Waving like a bent staff Blurun opposed his movement dodging claws grasping his face and stabbed the laughing deadman’s heart, even though he knew it didn’t pound for a long time now. But the dead men gasped anyway in surprise and maybe even pain, for the dagger has bitten deeply as only magical blades do. He wasn’t destroyed but surprise held him fast.

Blurun was still surrounded, none of his enemies fell and his back was turned to the axman, who swung at his foe’s neck. Unable to take away the dagger from the deep chest wound the veteran simply ducked, even afraid that his wrist might get chopped by the wild swing. In a blur of movement Blurun arched, lounging his balance backwards, setting the plunged blade free and in the same swing cutting deeply the axman’s ribcage down to his groins. With the left hand that touched the ground preventing his fall Blurun grabbed an ankle, with his feet he grabbed the legs in front of him and with a sideways spin send both undead were sent sprawling unto the ground. The fluid motion ended with him crouching on the laughing man’s back and with a deep stab on its backbone, making the blade grind between the disks of almost dried joints, sinew and bones.

The last standing Curst was still grasping his slashed throat and had lost all impetus. But the one he believed was the shape shifter who had killed and condemned them all with his back turned and crouched was too tempting and the Curst launched what he believed to be a crushing blow. Only the muffled sound of metal against wood greeted his expectations. Grinning, proud of his own skill, Blurun blocked the incoming attack with a discreetly armored forearm, and now looked back with a sadistic glee in his red gleaming eyes.

By this moment every piece of Blurun’s careful disguise had been blown away, and although he up-turned his disadvantage in a few heartbeats he couldn’t risk much more. Before anyone of his foes could move he hissed, vomiting forth an oily darkness, throbbing with “life”. From that point on the furious fighting went on with few telltale signs but the grunts mostly swallowed by the dense pall. Despite the whining of horses and barking of dogs everywhere no one could really see or hear anything coming out of that alley.

Hours latter the cabal gathered on a rooftop for a few moments. There Blurun addresses to them, apparently unharmed and clearly victorious. But they know that the Curst will return as they always do and that Nissus has yet to commit a mistake or show any weakness. The once all powerful cabal desperately clings to their own confidence and plot yet another step, yet another trap.

The Great Edict of Mystra

"Let it be known that the time of terrors is done.

Never again shall those out of my graces curse my name as fire rains from the sky at the command of prideful mages. Enough hubris has stained my mantle and disgraced my blessings.

Never again shall my inactions further the cause of destruction, pain, and despair without due retribution:

…Let those who sow darkness reap it tenfold.
…Let their dark hearts show in their decaying flesh.
…Let their impious souls taint their brilliant minds with madness.

Never again shall beasts and outlanders come to our lands to wreak havoc without free will or further consequence.

Never again shall the races that are yet to reach the wonders of magic see me as a unending source of mayhem and destruction. Let them envy those under my fold for their prosperity and wisdom, not for their ability to destroy.

I force upon thee this Great Edict on the hopes that it will breed responsibility where before only caprice laid. I thus reaffirm that I am, I feel, I pity, I remember, I rage. All the powers invested on me won’t be honored unless I and all those who worship me hear the call of wisdom and take magic to a next step, where it is an instrument of understanding and knowledge.

Those words carry my will and all who disagree are free to petition their patrons for deliverance. Never forget thought that I am magic, and magic feels, pities, remembers and rages. "

_As retold by priests of the gods of magic across Faerun on the Moon Festival of 1372 of Wild Magic.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Eleasis 1st, 1378 of the Cauldron.

I am war. I am tears in your eyes.
I am pain. I am grief.
I am all you've ever slain. I am lies.

It is the Summer Festival. All revel under Selune’s Full Light. Tonight all traps are set. Tonight Nissus will show herself. Tonight she will be mine.

I review all the steps taken along the last month to put our foe in check: every veiled lie and debilitating poison, illusion woven, night incursions, questions asked to the living and the dead… it all told us little of our enemy. But tonight! Tonight we will catch her in the open.

Under the guise of half a dozen different faces we met earlier to link our whispers to our ears. We raise the stakes and lurk around in distant pairs. One thing that we learnt is of Nissus’s deadly cleverness, her shape shifting abilities, and the danger of her charms. She expects the elder Tel’quessir wizards to try to find her and bind her by name during the festival, betting that she wouldn’t try anything openly. But we know her better than these lies may suggest. We expect patiently for her reaction… whichever it is.

The elders resolutely bid their time: Aaron, whose harsh words fail to hide his vast culture and lore; Melnissedek, trailblazer and seer of vast experience; Paar, tragic lover of three sea sisters, master of illusions and insight; and v’Ulpiné, sweet lady whose magics resound with devotion for Corellon. The night goes on and our patience is tested to its limits… for some reason the four delay their actions. Some reason that I can’t guess.

All our waiting put us on the edge and we almost droll in anticipation of the ensuing chaos. All our hidden agenda is ready to be torn apart. Darkness throbs in our hearts, begging to be released. Years of deception put aside for seconds of furious destruction and death. For a moment I realize that we are all addicted to all that… mayhem, destruction, havoc, murderous glee. We yearn these like addicted that were denied for too long. And we are ready to unleash the beasts that dwell in our chest when we finally spot Nissus approaching the elders, masquerading (or puppeteering) as Woodwhisper, the sylvan warrior.

He approaches them ready for battle. So are we. But v’Ulpiné dismisses him and his questions.

For our most stunned surprise he simply walks away…

This is when most skilled, but inexperienced swordsmen die: on the down beat second of his failed attack. He dies still with his most fearful scream in his lips, harshly interrupted by his more experienced opponent’s blade sliding past his open defenses into his ribs. He dies with a gasp and still not believing.

That is how I felt.

That is how I felt. When the elders group together under v’Ulpine decided guidance and disappear on the wing of teleportation spells.

It was her… Nissus.

Our foe has taken v’Ulpine place right under our nose and secreted them away… with their own consent. She played with our lies and used them against us.

But what terrifies me on that moment of failure was that it could have been me. It could have been all of us who frequently take the elders place when the need demands or the fancy strikes. We know where they have gone. They went to the Troll Marshes, where divinations fail. We know they won’t come back.

We hope they don’t.

With that unsaid conclusion we lurk back into shadows… for the first time in a long time afraid of it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Flamerule 8th, 1378 of the Cauldron.

The night sky glows with the halo of gibbous Selune. Under such light the city sleeps sated in the excitement of today’s execution. The common folk seldom have the power to kill and to demonize one of their own members. It feels great to be more than the poor devil on the gallows pole. No more guards in the streets, no more drunken ravings… tonight all is quiet as if Nesmé had fallen on a stupor.

But predators never sleep. They plot and pace, prowling unseen.

After all who could notice a conversation between people three city blocks apart? How could anyone but Helm himself seize them as they silently mouth their conversation and read each other lips across streets and roofs?

“Disaster! The sanniasy will return”
“How? Who?”
“Wild magic”
“The druid knew and marked the field”
“Should we hound him?”
“Only after we isolate him from the flock”
“Fine, but the risen sanniasy must be destroyed now”
“Let it go! We lay curses, we don’t break them! We have nothing to fear since we didn’t kill him; his own people did so”
“Indeed. It is still difficult to forget the old ways”
“Be worried instead with Nissus, more now than ever”
“I fail to follow your thread”
“Nissus may kill in the wild field and have a pack of invincible cursed warriors”
“Nissus wouldn’t dare it! Cursed ones can’t be killed. Why would she try to make a stand?”
“Our foe lies alone, cornered and still grasping the effects of centuries on the world. Believe me when I say that Nissus IS desperate”
“We must flush her out of her hiding. Swarm the fields with hounds and lay good bait”
“We must give what she needs the most now…”
“Call Deep Warriors”
“I see you intent… Nissus won’t know who is after her, but the message will be given anyway. The flock will send hounds to protect the field”
“Better still… harry the druid and his hounds. Luckily they will…”

The watch guard would never trouble them if not for the dog barking at his side. The animal expresses loudly its hatred and fear of the sorcerous darkness. The conspirators resume their meeting, fold their lenses and disappear scowling the lowly beasts.

Flamerule 6th, 1378 of the Cauldron.

Tel’quessir celebrates monthly their rule over night when Selune shines in all her glory over the night, when music and dance delight the merry and hunt challenges the brave. There is also a somber counterpart on Shar’s rule when they stand mournful and vigilant. But not tonight! Tonight they celebrate with all due elegance.

Among clouds of draperies swung by dancers and flashes of glances and coy smiles I see an upraised hand, steady waving a warning:

“Spiders beware wasps in the web!” – the old code that says that our trap may have attracted a foe larger and more dangerous than we expected.

A nimble dancer opens a clearing with long steps and on the space of cadenced claps reassures the old hunt bonds

“As one we weave! Together we bite… poison and blade in the dark!”

The lifted arm falls bringing a cheerful moon maiden closer to a breath away from hungry lips. His hands grab her waist thumbing the dreadful news:

“The risen has killed! The Old Hidden Foe is hungry among the sheep”
“A winged one?”
“In the fields?”
“The sanniasy?”
“He knows nothing”
“How can you be so sure?”
“I can’t”

The song and dance ends with applause and laughter as the Tel’quessir take breath for new amusements. On a corner a couple, whose passion was too intense to share it with other dancers, unlock their eyes and greet the moon folk. The lady caresses her lover in exquisite ways weaving the one final answer, the absolute and simplest way out, and safest of all courses:

“Enough patience and subtlety, the sanniasy must die! Unleash the hounds and be satisfied with nothing but a broken corpse”

The harp tunes returned followed by renewed shows of joy, this is a popular ballad. The pair disappears under the gentle hurricane of blue clothes. The dance is resumed earnestly; hands fall silent, and the festival goes on.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Flamerule 3rd, 1378 of the Cauldron

In somewhere dark and damp where haggling voices echo as far as in a dream, two shades are outlined when a trap door opening let feeble sunrays spear the shadow. They wait immovable, somehow seeming older than even the dust raised by the newcomer silent steps. The trapdoor is locked, shutting light and sound out. In the pitch black darkness hands speak silently and the dream fades away.

“The Moon Mage has returned alive, and he found something… someone” – says the newcomer.
Hastily, strong hands move prodding for more: "Some... one?"
Velvet gestures of delicate precision drags the messenger attention: “And the others?”
“Only the Sun Mageling was left behind” – again the messenger.
Stress and relief mingle in gestures not codified, but clearly full of exultation and pleasure.
“Keep track of the Moon Mage”
A tilted head follows a nod in the darkness: “And about the Sanniasy?”
“Keep him fed on Dream Mist” – A dismissive wave of hand settles the matter, if not for eager urgency of the strong hands: “But he knows and finds more about every night!”
Bright red eyes flare reassert control: “It doesn’t matter as long as he believes himself lost…”
The messenger humbly intervenes: “And the Law is upon him, soon he will be gone”.
Eagerness won’t be easily dismissed: “We don’t want him arrested, but dead!”
Lost between a grin and a smile the leader brings the meeting to an end...
...“He will be gone… soon”.
Without a sound the darkness becomes deeper and the shades are no more.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Kithorn 29th, 1378 of the Cauldron.

“A wolf is kept alive by its feet”
“A mountain with a wolf in its top stands far taller”
“Walk with wolves, howls like a wolf”
“You can never tell when a lone wolf is rabid, old or simply ravenous, but you can always say it is a devious tough bastard”
Traditional northern sayings

“The Troll Marshes has always dumped all manners of terrors upon unsuspecting Nesmé. However, mankind is able to get used to simply anything, so they don’t get scared anymore very easily.
But this time…
… this time the mob twitches, groans, and hides when something different comes out of the marshes: a lone survivor. To defy fate like this offend us as he had breached a hole on our walls, a hole from inside out and back. I wish to meet this Sylvan Elf.”
Bridge Keeper Darven Crownlar
Captain of Arms of Nesmé

Friday, December 09, 2005

Kithorn 28th, 1378 of the Cauldron.

“From all the darkest feelings lust is the most insidious
It walks the halls of noble feelings in masquerade
Under the guise of love, feeding on the pious.
It sweetly thralls them on its languid charade:
‘Can there be ever love without lust?
Can lust ever last without love?’”

I can’t follow their steps there, the Ever Moors cloak every divination and scrying. But I don’t need to; I know it all too well: the trackless vast bog stretching the horizon and shredding every thought with it, the crawling hours, the foul beast twisted in hideous shapes (all more savage than their originals, yet with a certain suggestion of intense purpose).

In my mind eye theater there is Vincard casting some far fetching spell, hoping to unravel the veil off his eyes. Unaware that to peek in to the unseen is to invite it in. What will answer and come? Will it be his newfound muse? The one who has been taunting his dreams? I saw him conjuring illusions of this siren in his waking hours: this mist raiding elven maiden.

I wait. I wait for days. I wait to find out if she is prisoner or master of her cell. I wait to see who will come out of the marsh alive, and how the fated ones met their demises. Was that due to random violence of a dangerous place? Were they tested by the very tainted land or were they dragged by the mists from the beyond?

I wait... patiently.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Kithorn 23rd, 1378 of the Cauldron.
“Ravings, rants, slander or simply insanity… I’m used to such accusations, but this time they will see. This time they’ll have to believe me”
Sannyasi Oliver

At first sight this place could be called a “sleepy little rural town”, except for the well defended (if small) walls. Nesmé exemplifies the adaptability of the mob; no matter who is the latest conqueror, the perfumers sell their craft oblivious to anything but the worst excesses. No matter how brutal is the rule or how despairing tomorrow may seen, the mob’s daily life numbs everything into routine.

And right now things are no different: the constant troll attacks, the threat of the return of the barbarians, my presence among them; nothing seems to make them stop.

But to outsiders things are always under a spelling light and view. These days the elven folk wander the world with the same restless spirit that once took them always to Evermeet. So, I see, with the smallest of surprises, both Sun and Sylvan come out of nowhere to thread where I rule. They are proof that we live in strange times, when humanity stops to build and Fair, Stout, and even Forgotten, folks dare… like once humanity did.

But how can they stride forward when past fiercely entwines their every step, and conceal deadly thorns. I remember a time when the world was young and we heard thrilled faint whispers in every wood and hill, glimpses of beauty, and an overpowering flow of magic; all fresh, and new and fairy. But time have passed and the world is no longer young, we see, hear, and feel the same things, however they are now traces of ghosts and mistakes long gone and committed.

But I digress…

What matters is that I see disaster approaching darkly when youth’s recklessness and an old man’s stubbornness collide and meddle with things best left alone. I have met Vincard before; I trust his blind pride to lead him to his doom. And I know blood bonds of love all to well to trust them to send people blindly into peril. So a scattered young group enters deeply in the Troll Marshes in Vincard’s trail. Once there, they find a weakly guarded huge relic (or ghost) from the past… and rush in.