Part 42: Punching

4 to Burning Sun, Inalis

We had a lovely morning before the Great Games. The contest of strength was to be later this afternoon, and the grand spectacle was going to be after sundown, so we had a lot of free time today. The morning started like most others in Ellandyr. Briar went to make breakfast and started cutting up fruits in the courtyard, and Clio was helping her. Rendu played some music while Torag and Actaeon were shining their weapons and equipment. Shadow was tending to his animals and had Corinna helping him. Pholon wandered off to the markets today, and Ilharg tagged along. I was making some tea when we got a knock at the front gate. A messenger delivered an invitation from the Oracle. She wanted us to have breakfast with her!

After a futile attempt to make our group a little more presentable – note to self, I need to make Actaeon a bowtie – we ventured through the city and found a lovely estate the Oracle was staying at. Marble walls and columns and statues, flowing fountains, lively plantlife, expensive decor. We were embarrassingly underdressed. Her attendants welcomed us warmly and led us into a parlor to wait until the Oracle was done speaking with someone who had apparently arrived unexpectedly right before we had. When left alone in the parlor, Clio thought to try to listen in on whatever the Oracle and her surprise visitor were talking about behind the closed door to the dining room. While she listened, I cast a little distraction miracle on the far end of the room, and Briar blocked the view. Clio just nodded, then quickly motioned for us to get out of the way. We scrambled and tried to look cool as a tall nymph in black and purple vestments came out. She didn’t even glance our way as she danced marched walked away.

The Oracle’s voice from within the dining room summoned us in, and we were met with an array of platters. Fresh fruit, grilled fish, breads, nuts, light wines and juice, and many styles of eggs. Do you know what is a poached egg, Heath? Well, I do now! And it’s my favorite. Poached eggs are so light and fluffy, and you put this strange yellow sauce on it and – I’m writing too much about eggs. Moving on!

At the end of the table by a large open window facing towards the harbor was the Oracle, Versi. She is as beautiful as ever, and while she was outwardly friendly and charming towards all of us individually, her gaze lingered on Actaeon a bit longer. Beckoning us to sit, we began a lovely breakfast. In the beginning, we wondered by the Oracle was summoning us here. I mean, apart from wanting to see Actaeon again, what did she want with us? Did she have information? Or some prophecy?

Actually, she wanted company! Maybe her station as a diviner sets her apart from people so much that she just wanted to have a fun conversation without expectations. Perhaps her servants are more like, “Yes, my lady, anything you need” and less like, “So, Oracle, how are you doing today?” We gaily chatted about the games thus far and, though she remains an impartial judge to everything, she is greatly enjoying watching our champions compete. The other competitors, though, are losing hope to catch up to our scores, and the Oracle predicted that they’ll start teaming up to fight against us more prominently now.

We also talked a lot about prophecy in general. I casually mentioned my ability to divine based on the Morninglord’s blessing. The Oracle found that amusing. Briar and Rendu told us about the fat halfling prophet in the Ellandyr gardens that they met, and how he had rudely given them a fortune reading. The Oracle confirmed that he has the gift of divination, but uses that gift to get things from his followers – which is mostly just food.

Though breakfast was soon over, the conversation continued. The Oracle recently received parts of a vision about a man wearing League of Storms clothing that fought against his comrades. Perhaps this man is a turncoat who can aid us? I thought to ask about my own divination spell from week ago. I told the Oracle about my thought to make an oath to Estor Arkelander about finding the treasures of the Dragonlords, and my answer from the Morninglord was a resounding no. To my shock, the Oracle corrected me that it was Kiora, the goddess of the dawn, that gave me the answer, not the Morninglord! The Oracle warned me against making oaths to Arkelander, but also told me to follow my own intuition on the matter. I don’t think I’ll be making any oaths with him, but it may be possible to get more information out of him at some point.

Clio and Shadow each had some questions for the Oracle before we left, with Clio asking about the time she met the Oracle back in Novarra. It pains me to hear that she was a slave, and I wish I could comfort her in some way better than making her tea in the morning. That said, I noticed she really enjoyed the lemon poppyseed muffins and I stuffed about ten of them into my pockets before we left. I’ll give her some later tonight or something. Rendu hung back to talk with the Oracle as we made our way back to Shadow’s house.

We learned some interesting things today. First, Rendu told us what the Oracle had told him. She had visions of where to find the rest of Dia’s instruments: one was being played for “foolish crowds.” The second was “amongst liars and thieves”, which may be the Lady of Coins and her cronies. The last sings for a “shimmer of gold”, whatever that means. We thought it best to search the city after the great games conclude, though. Next, Clio told us what she overheard from the Oracle’s conversation with the other nymph, Raya. Apparently there is a bounty on the Oracle’s head and the Fates themselves are going to go after her. As for me, I learned that Kiora is watching my back to a degree, just like she’s been looking out for Shadow and Clio. I think I’ll purchase a Kiora-esque holy symbol from the Temple of the Five before we go to the games today.

Torag and I have some training to do, so I’ll write more later.

4 to Burning Sun, Inalis

Great games! Here we are! I’ve only a short while before the setup for the grand spectacle is finished, so I’ll keep this part brief. Today’s contest of strength was boxing! Previously, our champions fought hand-to-hand against a giant, drunk ape. Today, they fought against each other instead. Everyone removed their weapons and armor and got into some brutal fights!

The first match was Shadow against Spira. The crowd was certainly favoring Spira more than Shadow, but Shadow didn’t look bothered at all. His coach, the tabaxi Lumi, gave him a speed spell and it made him extremely fast, much more than he normally is. Spira got a few good punches in, but she wouldn’t weather Shadow’s quick hands. He looked so apologetic as he knocked her out, and helped her back up. The crowd seemed pleased by that sportsmanship.

Actaeon was matched against Jorges, the man from the League of Storms. This Jorges has done exceptionally poorly in every event thus far, and this match was no different. Though he kept his helmet on, Actaeon went bare-chested. I wonder if his physique, his tattoos, or his scars were more distracting. Jorges didn’t stand a chance, and Actaeon quickly put him down.

Torag fought against the warrior monk, Cy, the man from Novarra. Torag went in a little too cocky and got laid down immediately by a quick jab to the jaw. He grunted and threw Cy off of him with a smile, then laid a punch into Cy’s chest so hard that Cy couldn’t move. A few more jabs from Torag and Cy was on the ground and out cold.

Rendu took on the dwarf Egan. Briar, as his coach, enlarged him and made him stunningly terrifying. Rendu fought bravely, but Egan was tough. In the end, Rendu’s athleticism outmatched Egan, and Egan was down. Wow, Rendu can hit! Though he was bruised and bloodied, Rendu smiled the whole time. It was awfully funny to see an eight-foot tall Rendu fight a four-foot nothing dwarf, and it was even funnier that the short dwarf put up such a good fight.

For round two, the crowd was insane. They cheered more loudly than I thought possible! The only remaining competitors were the Heroes of Prophecy, and they loved it. The random matches for the second round very much favored Shadow in his fight against Rendu. Rendu was tired and exhausted already. Shadow, again apologetically, gave a singular punch and knocked Rendu right over. Rendu was seeing stars and Shadow was declared the winner.

Actaeon and Torag fought next. Clio buffed Actaeon with a speed spell, and Actaeon was zipping around like crazy. I put a warding bond on Torag so I would absorb some of the damage. Turned out that was a terrible idea. I need to write Briar a thank-you card for picking me up when I finally fell unconscious! I was only getting a portion of the punches, but Actaeon hits hard. Yikes! Torag weathered the attacks, though, and managed to barely pull out a win against the centurion.

The final match was Shadow against Torag. Both were tired and beaten, and they decided they wanted to settle the fight without help from their coaches. Lumi and I stood together, watching our champions get into combat, something Actaeon called a grudge match. He reminded me that the two of them had fought over Torag’s impulsiveness and Shadow’s ever-changing mind about his snares. I had almost forgotten about that rainy night when the two of them got into blows. The two of them got into a fight again now, each moving and dodging as best as they could. But with one final strike to the side of the head, Shadow landed a fierce blow and Torag was down. The ferocity in their eyes was quelled by friendship almost immediately, and they laughed as Shadow was surprisingly crowned the victor of the boxing contest.

The Trial by Fire spectacle is being set up now. I’ll write about that one in a bit. Right now, I need to pay a healer to fix up Torag. And myself. My nose is bleeding again!