Part 37: Date

12 to Burning Sun, Inalis

Ah! Finally in the comfort of my own room again at the Starfall Estate! It’s been quite the day and we’re all a little exhausted, injured, and ready for some sleep. I intended on asking Clio to join me for some tea tomorrow but I think I shall wait until the morning to speak with her. I’ve barely the energy to write.

Moving with the children was slow. They were underfed and very weak. Sadly, Clio, Shadow, Kalista, and I could not carry them all ourselves so we struggled a little to get them moving. I, in the guise of Queen Aminatou, encouraged them as best as I could. Not ten minutes later, the others finally caught up with us. Briar was badly injured and was being assisted by Rendu and Actaeon. Torag told me they had found some money pilfered from some coffers and a few mimics. We figured it was payment for services rendered; that is, rescuing children from an evil titan and reporting the misdeeds of the acolytes to the Queen. Altogether now, we carried the children through the aqueducts. Phasis and Ilharg joined us, helping carry the weaker children themselves, until we escaped the underground and carefully made our way to the palace.

Queen Aminatou promised to take care of the children, either by sending them to live with surviving family or letting them stay at the royal orphanage. I trust her that this orphanage is better than the one in which I was raised. They should be well cared for there. Seeing us as beat up as we were and knowing that we immediately went into saving children right after bringing a ghost ship into harbor, Aminatou cautioned us to not overextend our abilities. We ought to be saving our strength to win the Great Games and any further quests right now will burn us out. The group collectively promised to take it easy and excused ourselves from the castle. Aminatou has plenty to keep her up tonight. The Temple of Khar’shan will be sanctioned by the crown and Trellis will be arrested and tried.

I wrote this earlier: I feel like a hero. We’ve done many deeds for which people have called us heroes, but I’ve struggled with that title. We saved the people of Woodhike from some bandits, we saved Princess (now Queen) Anora of Altea from forced sacrifice, and we convinced the Five to stop a troublesome storm in Ellandyr. I don’t see that as being a terribly long list. And yet, they call us heroes for relighting the Mithral Forge, surviving the Necropolis, and cleansing the Mossy Temple. And we found a ghost ship! I guess we’re heroes. But today, Heath, we saved children.

I want to keep doing this. I want to truly be a hero. I don’t know what changed for me. It’s suddenly real. Does that make sense? It’s not that I didn’t want to be a hero before. Everything is different today. Like, I’ve had the mark of the pierced dragon on my hand for a while now. Today, I earned it. Today, I brought light to those that needed it. The fourth Tenet of Faith is to bring hope. I’ll never forget it, and I’ll never forget the look of relief and salvation on the faces of those poor children.

Yth re seiani. Si mi vi seian1.

11 to Burning Sun, Inalis

Heaven help me. Today was so much fun. An absolute mess in many ways, but fun nonetheless! Everything went right and everything went wrong all at once! I’ve made a fool of myself, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I spent the morning storing some magic spells into Clio’s new ring. It’s a neat little trinket that absorbs magic and lets her cast my spells through it. I’ve heard of trinkets like this, and it’s fantastic to see one in person. I gave Clio some useful spells, hopefully. And right after that, I kind of asked her out on a date. But here’s screw up number one: I don’t think she knew it was a date. I asked her to go out to tea with me, and she assumed it was just a friends thing.

Actually, let me take that back. It was a friends thing! Of course it was! She’s my friend! I mean, I want something more than that, obviously, but I’m fine just being her friend, too. So maybe that’s not a screw up after all. I got to spend time with her, and that’s all I ever wanted. That was absolutely lovely, but let’s come back to that.

I went to Rendu for help on how to actually have a date with someone. You never asked me out, Heath, so I had to get help elsewhere. Shadow had disappeared to go fishing or hunting or whatever he was doing, so that left Rendu. I assumed Rendu had experience with dating people considering how charismatic and charming he is. Screw up number two! He’s never been on a date before, so I was totally asking him about things he has no idea about and I think I made him uncomfortable with that realization. He knew that I liked Clio and he was very willing to do whatever he could to help me. Torag, overhearing me have a panic attack about not knowing how to go on a proper date, butted in and tried to help me, too. Tried.

Screw up number three: I pointed out Rendu’s charms and made him super self-conscious. He never realized his winking thing was attractive and alluring. Now he can’t look anyone in the eye, much less Briar, the usual target of his charms. Anyway, I had made plans with Clio to visit the Academy Arcanum. Torag wanted to tag along, but I threatened him a little and told him to leave us be. Torag took off just as Actaeon disappeared to the markets.

Briar, Rendu, Clio, and I shared an awkward breakfast with Ilharg before we separated. Briar and Rendu went to the gardens to discuss the Great Games while Clio and I went on what I thought was the first leg of our date. Screw up number four, obviously. She didn’t see it as a date, and who could blame her? Going to the library at the Academy Arcanum isn’t terribly romantic. That said, we had a very good time. We got along very well, bonding about our love of libraries and being absolutely surrounded in history and learning. Even if it wasn’t a very good date activity, I’d call it a success. Libraries remind me of the fun times I had at the temple as a child (stealing books, mostly), and Clio feels safe in libraries. She likes the smell of books. Me too! Together, we had a good time. She and I learned only a little about Helios, the sun god and father of Phasis. Any traces of a religion or dogma surrounding Helios have been long lost to time, but Clio found a map to one of his shrines just outside of town. We next looked into Mazerik, the god of beauty, but learned almost nothing. There are only vague notes about Ekoh, an oread nymph and something about Novarra.

So the date at the library wasn’t really a date. Who cares? I had a lot of fun! Next, Clio and I decided against tea and wanted a full lunch instead. Neither of us had realized how much time we had spent in the library. We remembered Shadow mentioning a little restaurant called the Nibbly Fish and thought that might be a good place to go. That would be screw up number five. The restaurant was odd. Shadow was actually already there and was vehemently arguing with the wait staff about something. Briar and Rendu met us outside the restaurant and we recounted what we had done so far. They met a very large halfing who could see the future, but found his answers wanting.

The restaurant was odd, as I said. Why was it screw up number five? They required us to remove our shoes and step into a foot of open water as we entered. The entire dining floor was a great fish tank filled with dozens upon dozens of small goldfish who would nibble on your toes while you ate. On paper, that sounds charming. In actuality, it was awful! Clio and I sat at our own table and I kept giggling the entire time. My feet are far too ticklish to be in here! I was sorely embarrassed so I had to sit on my feet the whole time. Clio kept moving her feet, occasionally lifting out a fish that had attached itself to her toes. I don’t think I’ll ever want to come back here. Clio was unimpressed by the fish-toe-biting thing and asked if mortals like this sort of thing. It’s certainly no fetish of mine, I assured her, and asked if she’d be more interested in a picnic outside the city instead. That sounds like a lot more fun than getting my feet wet and making a fool out of myself in front of her because I giggle like a child. I kept yelping every time one of those bigger fish started eating my feet!

For real, though, it was kind of fun.

After awkwardly drying our feet and putting our boots back on, we met up with Briar and Rendu again to decide what to do for the rest of the day. Clio and I really wanted to visit the shrine of Helios up north, and Briar and Rendu wanted to come with us. We got Shadow, Actaeon, and Ilharg to join us. Torag was almost left behind, though, thanks to my accursed sense of directions. There are too many gates in Ellandyr and I don’t know which one is which. After Torag eventually found where we were, we headed north. Clio led the way and we had a short hike along the road and into the jungle.

I’ve been in such a good mood today that I decided to sing. It’s that song you sang to me years and years ago. I’m no good with the elvish pronunciation, so I’m sure I butchered the lyrics. But it’s a song that always stuck with me, even after all these years and will forevermore remind me of some of my happiest memories.

U i vethed, na i onnad.
Si boe u-dhanna
Ae u-esteli, esteliach nad
Estelio han, estelio veleth

Trust This, Trust Love2

That makes screw up number six. Clio told me the song was beautiful. What if she asks me to sing it again for her? Of course, I’d be happy to! But my pronunciation is just the worst. What if I make a fool of myself even further?

Along the road, Torag asked me how my date went. In the end, I don’t think it was a date after all. At least, not in the textbook definition of the word. That’s fine, though. Whatever it was, I’m so very glad to have spent some time with Clio. She’s absolutely amazing, and it would be outlandish for her to ever be interested in something someone like me. If what we had today was a date, it was the most amazing and memorable date I could ever have hoped for. Going to a library with someone I cherish, reading dusty old tomes until we sneezed, forgetting the time, then eating lunch while fish gobbled up our toes… Who could ask for anything more unforgettable than that? And I got to spend the day with Clio! If it was not a date, then I’m still wholly and completely delighted with how it went. When we get back to Ellandyr, I’ll ask her out to a picnic. Maybe that will be a real date instead of today. Or maybe not? Who knows? All I know is that I had so much fun with her and I want to do it again! It’s amazing to see her smile.

We’ve stopped for a short break, and I think that break is over now. Clio and Briar have been speaking in rapid sylvan the whole time and I daresay I understood any of it. I might have to have them practice with me a little faster from now on lest I speak slowly like a simpleton forever. I wonder what they were saying? I caught only one or two words out of the entire conversation. But that’s mostly because Torag kept interrupting me with words in a strange demon language, and he was incessantly playing his war drum for some reason. And Shadow and Rendu kept telling jokes in the celestial language. That was funny hearing them laugh for reasons we couldn’t understand. As for Actaeon, he was mute and inscrutable as per usual. I can never tell what that man is thinking.

11 to Burning Sun, Inalis

Here’s a new one. A new experience, I mean. Let me start by saying that I find it extraordinarily strange to have face-to-face conversations with gods. That’s pretty standard here in the Emerald Isles, though. I’ve met four so far. And now, it’s five. At Helios’s shrine, we met Helios himself! He’s a very tall, entirely golden man with a kind smile. I was a little starstruck to see another god of the sun. The Morninglord is known to him, which is amazing, and much of his religion is nearly identical to my own! I could feel the power of the Morninglord burning within me, even all the way across the sea from Ylisse. The Morninglord is perhaps a little more humble than Helios, but Helios is powerful, wise, and kind.

I told him I’d be happy to help clean his shrines should we come across them, and guide people to them if they seek his light. To that end, I didn’t feel like I was betraying the Morninglord with this sort of thing since the religions have so much in common. I’m always happy to share the light with those who need it, and Helios is here personally to help the people along the way. How could the Morninglord object? The second Tenet of Faith is to always aid, and in Helios’s and the Morninglord’s name, I’m willing to do exactly that.

I should get my tattoo! I haven’t gotten it yet! Oh, Morninglord, I’m so sorry! I’ve been so busy that it slipped my mind entirely!

Helios warned us that, while he is happy to have me spreading his words and teachings to the people of the Emerald Isles, he stays neutral to the war between the Five and the Titans. That said, he has some information that may help us in our quest. Clio is searching for the Scaled Book of the Dead, and he might have some information on that. But before he can help us, we must do a favor for him. The dragon, Jadafarlis the Venomous, has staked a claim on the Island of the Dragon. She is dangerous and should be dealt with accordingly. This dragon has an operative in Ellandyr that sends her bards and minstrals turned to stone – none other than the Lady of Coins herself.

This makes things complicated. On one hand, we want to help the Lady of Coins and keep the amazons of Talys from joining the armies of Khar’shan. On the other hand, the Lady of Coins is working with a dangerous dragon that the sun god wants dead. And, as it turns out, this dragon is related to Torag somehow. If I’m not mistaken, I believe this dragon is the one that slew his mother.

Helios apologized for putting us in such a tough position, but that is the way of gods: a favor for a favor. Perhaps it is a law that immortals must follow. Either way, I feel good about serving him in this capacity and I think my companions feel the same. The sun god invited us to visit his garden on an island far to the south, then excused himself to attend to his other shrines around the Emerald Isles.

We’re camped here for the night now. Like I said, today was a good one. Everything went right – what with researching in the library with my friend and going out to a fancy but strange lunch with her – and everything went wrong – making a fool of myself with the fishes and embarrassing Rendu with the eye wink thingy he does. But anyway, I’m glad for the day. It was a lot of fun. I’ve made some very good memories, Heath. Very good memories indeed.

Oh! Before I forget, a long while ago, we each received a small gift from the satyr Loreus. Remember, he’s the one who gave me my dragon staff. He had given to Clio a small statuette of an unknown figure. Turns out, Helios knows who the statuette depicts: an elder titan named Inalaara, a sibling to Amalj’aa and Khar’shan. I think I’ll help Clio look up more about this at the Academy tomorrow.

I miss you terribly, but I promise everything is okay down here right now. I’m smiling a lot more lately. Good night, Heath! I hope you’re resting well.

1 Draconic: “We are heroes. I am a hero.”

2 Elvish: “This is not the end, it is the beginning / You mustn’t falter now / If you don’t trust it, trust something / Trust this, trust love”