Hebo did not remember dying, which was probably a good thing. Despite his burns and ruined clothes, he seemed in good spirits. Eclipse and I bound his and Ezio’s wounds. Petra and Luna brought in Spoink from outside the cave while Oromis searched the cave. He found a few long-dead bodies, victims of the Chimera, with nothing more than broken swords and empty quivers. He did, however, find an interesting cloak, a metallic arrow, and a wand of some kind. While the group rested for the night, I performed a ritual to identify these things. Hebo took the cloak, a cloak that changes color according to Hebo’s desires. The arrow is infused with magic to make it entirely unbreakable. Oromis gave it to Ezio as he was the only one of us with a bow. The wand is a Wand of Smiles, an interesting magical device that forces a victim to smile. I am fortunate to be made of metal, stone, and wood. I cannot smile and therefore cannot succumb to this kind of magic.
It is interesting how high Hebo’s spirits were the next morning. Luna thought she saw something up the mountain and the two of them left, laughing and making merry as they climbed. Of course, Hebo and Spoink are not very fast on their own. When the rest of us noticed they had gone, it did not take us more than a few moments to catch up. Hebo again sang to us as we climbed.
By early afternoon, Ezio spied something above us. He and Eclipse snuck up further. They were gone only half an hour. When they came back, they were entirely speechless. After a moment, Eclipse related what she saw: an oasis of clear water surrounded by lush bushes, green grass, and fruit trees. Running through the oasis were five Simurgh pups.
Ezio ascended again with Eclipse, Luna, and Hebo not far behind. Oromis, Petra, and I moved slower than the rest. When Oromis, Petra, and I made the climb, we saw the Simurgh pups, too. But we noticed something else at the far end of the oasis. The Simurgh pups we found were just that – pups. At the far end of the oasis was the gargantuan mother, a creature that dwarfed the largest houses in Oakshade.
Though her mouth never moved or formed words, she spoke to us. Our minds were suddenly connected, with her thoughts projected into our minds. “This is a strange gathering. But not altogether unexpected.” None of us could speak. None of us could move. The moment seemed endless until little Hebo spoke first. He had hastily written a poem for the pups and asked, “My lady, may I present to you a poem?”
Your Puppies, so cute; Fly with rainbow wings in sky; I will boop the snoot
Hebo’s voice is laced with magic, enough to calm any of us. It seemed to please the mother. She beckoned us closer, identifying each of us. She is Carametra and has the ability to see fragments of the past, present, and future. Carametra foresaw our arrival.
Carametra seemed to focus on Ezio, breathing something on him. It was strange to witness a sudden clarity in Ezio’s eyes. Ezio would later tell us that he very suddenly remembered his mission in Oakshade. The Court of Owls, his employer and the government of Caladmein, sent him to interrogate the wizard Exatorus. Exatorus cast a spell over him and changed his memories to make him forget.
Carametra went on to tell each of us a little bit about our past. As she spoke, we learned things about each other that we had never openly discussed thus far. Petra is looking for someone. Luna cannot remember her past. Hebo seeks adventure. Oromis seeks money. Eclipse wants company. Ezio wants answers. I want to live.
When she focused on me, I could feel the gears and switches in my body tense. She said she knew that I was hunted. I could not help it. I had to ask. Is he still chasing me? Is he close? Carametra could not see that. It is the only thing that scares me. I cannot help but wonder if he still follows me. I do not sleep. I do not need sleep. Even if I were alive, I would not be able to sleep. That memory replays in my mind constantly.
I have to focus. While I quietly panicked, my companions asked if Carametra could see where we should go next. We had to decide our purpose. She merely suggested that we look inside ourselves and find what motivates us. She let us rest for a while with her and her pups while we discussed.
What motivates us, then? We all have our own reasons for traveling together. For my part, I want more money. I need to continue upgrading myself and my weapons. I need equipment. I cannot let him catch me unawares again. Ezio informed us that he desires to find Exatorus again and find out why the wizard altered his memory. We opted to travel together again for the time being. My companions asked me about what Carametra said about someone hunting me. I cannot tell them. They would leave me if they knew the danger that was after me. I must deceive them. They cannot know the truth. Not yet. I need them.
I cannot face him alone.
As we left, we thanked Carametra for her wisdom and the rest. Carametra spoke soft words to each of us and, at her request, gave to Luna one of her very large feathers. Hebo sang one more song for Carametra and the pups as we left her domain.
We went our way
Up the mountain side
Sweet oasis we seek
Cool water, no tide
A heart feeling like warm
Hearth and home
A voice in mine head
Which way shall I roam?
The heavenly being
This terra doth tread
Is one with the land
Bringing life, not death
We found our horses and wagon still at the edge of the woods. As Ezio mounted his horse, he felt something strange in his pocket that he swears was not there before. It was a crown of metal. As we left for Oakshade, I prepared another ritual, identifying it as the Crown of Carametra. It would protect Ezio from the forces of evil. He stored it in his hood. I have no evidence, but I believe he puts it on his head under the hood when the rest of us are not looking.
We rode through the night until we reached Oakshade again. The party split up. Petra, disturbed perhaps by something the Carametra said to her, immediately left us to go to the inn. She did not relate this story to me, so I cannot write everything here. I do not believe she found what she was looking for, though I did catch her looking at a scrap of paper that night while we camped.
Luna, Eclipse, and Hebo went to the blacksmith with my bag of holding with the intention of selling some of the spoils we found in the caves with the Drider. From what they hold me, the blacksmith only gave them 63 gold coin for what we had gathered. Hebo then went to the inn to check on his friend, the farmer.
Ezio hurried to Exatorus’s homestead with Oromis and I close behind. Oromis and I exchanged looks, knowing that we may have to hold back Ezio. The assassin was angry, and rightly so: this wizard altered his memories. Oromis went to knock on the door, but Ezio just kicked it in. He shouted, and Exatorus told us what happened. He was scared. The Court of Owls were a dangerous government of assassins, thieves, and scum. But they are in charge of Caladmein, and Ezio is a part of that government. Exatorus explained that the Court is run by bad people, and he reactively altered Ezio’s memories to keep himself safe.
A realization came to Ezio. Exatorus was very happy to let our party gather specimens of creatures native to the area, giving us coin for what we could find. But the Drider and the Kraul in the caves gave Exatorus genuine alarm. He was not expecting something so powerful in this area. He was also very alarmed at Ezio’s initial appearance at his home days ago when we first arrived with Hebo. There may be a connection between the appearance of the Drider, the Court of Owls, and the strange unreadable scroll we found. Ezio told us that he had long been disillusioned with his employer. The Court of Owls, he said, used to be lawful, despite the at-times renegade nature of its leadership. But his recent dealings with the Court felt wrong somehow.
Exatorus quickly gathered his belongings and was ready to leave Caladmein entirely. He gave Oromis some of his magical belongings before leaving us behind. And us? What could we do? We were uncertain.
Our group gathered together again at the entrance to Oakshade. We made the decision to find Ezio’s contact from the Court, an Aarakokra named Yen-Fei. Perhaps Yen-Fei could give us answers about the Court. If Ezio’s suspicions are correct and the Court is moving sinister forces around the Redstone Canyons, we should find out why. Is it to intimidate the Court’s enemies? Is it a political movement? Or is there something else going on?
Unsure of where exactly to go, we decided to go south towards Vagrant’s Rest, a rest area at the end of the Redstone Canyons and a doorway to the rest of Caladmein. On the road, Ezio used a strange magical trinket to send a message to Yen-Fei. We would meet him at Lotus Lake.
Hebo rode next to me on Spoink while we traveled. For the first time since I met him, Hebo was strangely quiet. After a while, he asked again about… the one who hunts me. I still cannot bring myself to tell him, or any of my group, of that night. Hebo could sense that something was troubling me. He told me that he would protect me. I looked at Hebo and could still see the burns on his body, already in the beginning stages of scarring. How could one such as this protect me?
And yet, I believe him. I sense his sincerity. Hebo, and the rest of them, may be able to protect me. I hope they can. In my mind, I can still hear the rending of metal and the cracking of stone.