Part 79: Scorpion

5 to Wakening Sun, Inalis, 40 days remaining

Do you remember that time when we snuck into Mother’s room while she was on a trip down south? To this day, I’m not certain how you were able to pick that lock. I swear, Heath, you had abilities you didn’t ever tell me about. Anyway, when we got in there, we were shocked about how messy the room was. Mother was always very private anyway, but she kept her room immaculately clean. At least, when we were there. We found out that when we children were not around, Mother’s room was in complete and utter disarray.

That’s what the centaurs’ camp looked like. I mean, Nessa and her group are still children, but still. Absolutely no one has ever taught these centaurs to clean up after themselves. There are furs and scorpion chitin all over the place, their ragged tents are falling apart and whatever personal items each centaur has is scattered all about. Mother, as proper as she is normally, would fit right in here.

Even their clothing leaves something to be desired. Bless her, Nessa doesn’t wear a top at all. She has adorned herself entirely in flowers, such that her chest is only barely covered. She’s very pretty, and I have to remember that she’s fey. The fey, like Clio and Briar, don’t have the same social norms as the rest of the world. Everyone else in the Emerald Isles (and Ylisse, for that matter) follows a sort of unspoken dress code wherein we tend to cover ourselves up. A code of modesty, one that the fey don’t follow unless they feel so inclined. The fey see beauty in each other and in themselves.

I believe Clio and Briar only cover themselves as modestly as the mortals because we all are constantly in danger and their body armor tends to mitigate that danger a little bit. If that were not the case and we could all live together peacefully, I imagine we would all feel much more free without the burden of our armor all the time. I mean, think about Actaeon not wearing armor! I’ve only seen it happen once! The rest of us mortals could learn a lot from the fey. It’s taken me quite a long time to even let the others in our group see my entire head because I always wore my hood up. Now, I’ve modified my clothing such that my midsection is more exposed. Not because I’m more comfortable necessarily, but because it’s bloody hot in the jungles of the Emerald Isles.

The other centaurs dress in different ways than Nessa. Where Nessa seems to eschew clothing in favor of her favorite thing (which is flowers), Nylea dresses much like Briar and Arika wears full armor made of scorpion chitin. Nikya… Well, she scares me a little bit, honestly! She wears bones and chitin and feathers and covers herself in body paint – which I later learned was scorpion blood. At one point in our night camping with the scorpion centaurs, I had a quick conversation with Nikya just to ask about her adornments. She looked at me like I was prey.

So anyway, we are here camping with the scorpion centaurs and the Novarran monks. The centaurs seem very pleased to have the company for the night, and I’ll explain why in a minute. We all got to talking and asking about the island. Here’s what we learned. First, the Scorpion Tribe is the tribe of centaurs on this island, and they’ve all been vexed with a terrible curse for generations. They don’t know why they’ve been cursed. In fact, they see it as an inevitability that they’ll transform into giant scorpions when they come of age, and they’ve all seemed to just accept that fate. Only those lucky enough to bond with someone are able to stop that. Nessa herself is nervous because she’s seventeen years old now and will come of age in just a few weeks.

Second, we learned that the Novarran monks are here as a test of strength. They fight against the giant scorpions and if they survive, they are given a chance to bond with one of the centaurs as a prize. That explains the sudden arrival of the centaurs this evening when we landed – they want to bond and stop their curse. It’s very convenient for them all, I suppose.

And last, we learned that there’s an obelisk in the center of the island. That’s where the Lotus Witch lives (Briar shuddered when she heard this). Anyone who approaches the tower can hear the sound of children or crying babies inside. According to both the Novarrans and Nessa’s group, there are no doors or windows on the obelisk. And yet, when someone goes in, they don’t ever come out.

After dinner-

Hang on, I forgot something. These kids! They don’t know how to cook at all! They were just slicing up scorpion meat and roasting it on spits. It’s a sticky and horrible mess. Briar and Father took pity on them. Father taught them how to forage for vegetables and seasonings, and Briar taught them how to make a much healthier stew. I can’t imagine how the tribe has gotten on for so long with such unhealthy eating habits.

After dinner, Nessa announced that the bondage ceremony would take place. After learning what these poor children have been through, I couldn’t help but raise my hand and volunteer myself for bondage-

Clio has informed me that the correct word is bonding, not bondage. I guess bondage means something else. I’ll have to ask her about that later. Back to writing!

Okay, so I volunteered for bonding. So did Torag. But when we saw all the Novarrans also raise their hands, we got an uneasy feeling. I remember Clio speaking about being enslaved in Novarra prior to us meeting her. If they bonded with a centaur, would the centaur become one of their slaves? I’m not certain, and neither was anyone else. Briar and Shadow ended up raising their hands to bond as well, and Clio remained on guard, watching to see if anything was amiss.

So it turns out, I had no idea what the bondage bonding ritual would be like. When Pholon bonded with Rendu, Pholon said some stuff I don’t remember, and they shook hands. That’s what I was expecting. Instead, this is more of a test of strength. The centaurs only bond with someone they deem worthy of it. Or something like that.

Anyway, my test of strength was first. It ended up being a fight between me and a Novarran named Aelius. I didn’t know it was a sparing match until he hurled a spear at me. I reacted like any normal person and put up some defensive magic as he rushed me to attack again. His spear met my magic shields and shattered, and he went flying backwards on his butt. It must have stunned him to find my defenses impenetrable because he looked up at me in my shining form and forfeited the fight.

I hoped that I had impressed the centaurs, but I was more interested in impressing my friends. I mean, look at me. I’m short and thin and ugly and have almost no strength at all. It doesn’t take me long to get winded or tired. I’m the weakest one here by a long shot. And yet, I didn’t throw a single punch or cast any spell at the Novarran! And I won the fight! Who’s the alpha now! (actually Father and Torag both agreed that I get to be the alpha for today)

The next test of strength was a three-way fight between Torag, Shadow, and another Novarran whose name I forget. When the fight began, Torag immediately leapt over the Novarran and swing his shield, knocking the poor man aside as easily as he’s ever done. The Novarran got a little healing from Briar while the rest of us watched with baited breath about the fight between Torag and Shadow. Father ended up forfeiting, though. He said he wasn’t comfortable with fighting Torag like this. And I get that. We didn’t know we’d be doing fights, and fighting amongst ourselves seemed like a step backwards. We don’t know what other dangers we might face here on Scorpion Island, and beating each other up is probably not a good idea.

Next test of strength was between two Novarrans. Their fight lasted longer than mine or Torag’s. Their kicks were fast as lightning, but Torag’s are faster.

The final test of strength was between Briar and one more Novarran. Before they began, Briar warned the man that she was more of a field medic than a fighter, but also warning him that if she had to, she could heal him after whooping him. The Novarran didn’t take that very seriously and started throwing spears and punches. Briar blocked a few before flying up into the air and bringing down a bolt of lightning on him. He yielded immediately. And then, Briar patched up his wounds and sent him back to the others.

At this point, I think the Novarrans figured that we were not just some sailors that landed on Scorpion Island. We didn’t know the customs of the bondage bonding ceremony. We are armed to the teeth in spells and weapons. And there are a few dragon wyrmings among us. They asked who we were, and Briar simply said, “Just people with tricks up our sleeves. Now hold still so I can heal you.”

The scorpion centaurs discussed amongst each other before many of them began to approach people. Nessa herself approached me! I’m so happy! I guess she thought my magic was really cool and was impressed with how friendly I am, a trait that she tries to have for herself. I told her that bonding with me would lead her into danger pretty regularly, but she was resolute. I think she really wants a friend, so I can be an older sister (or brother, or whatever) to her. And she said she has something that helps with pain and mental anguish, so that’s good. She’s going to show me a little later. She made her oath to me, and I to her. We will watch out for each other. And we’re going to become great friends!

Torag was approached by Nikya, the centaur with the bones all over her. She said, and I quote, “You are one who fights recklessly. If you would have me, I will serve at your side while you deliver destruction to our enemies.” To which Torag replied, and I quote, “Oh sick, let’s do it!” They made their bond, but they did it in blood. I asked Nessa about this and she just said something about Nikya being very dark and twisted sometimes.

And Briar was approached by Nylea, the centaur wearing clothing that, funnily enough, resembled Briar’s old clothing when she was a centaur. Nylea and Briar became friends very fast, and Nylea admitted that she has a quest of her own in mind. She is looking for her brother, a scorpion centaur who was taken from the island with his uncle a while back. Pholon knows Nylea’s brother. And I think Briar does too, somehow. She keeps asking Pholon and Nylea about ‘Jadis’. I’ll have to ask her later.

One other centaur bonded with a Novarran. The other centaur Akira didn’t choose anyone. Another centaur, Xenagos, claimed he was too young to bond, but I don’t know if that’s truly the case. After all, Karador bonded with Rendu and he’s only twelve. Xenagos is, like, fifteen or something. At any rate, he didn’t want to bond yet.

Well, I better get to sleep soon. Nessa wants to show me what she does to alleviate her pain. I hope it’s pleasant.

Oh gods, I am so hungry.

4 to Wakening Sun, Inalis, 39 days remaining

My head is swimming this morning, and I missed my prayers to the sun. My mouth is dry, my head hurts, and I’m a little dizzy. Nessa collects these weird lotuses from the inner part of the island and dries them out. When they’re dry enough, she puts them into a small wooden pipe and smokes them. I’ve never smoked before! What would Mother think of me? What would you think of me? Hahaha, I wonder what I did last night. Whatever the case, I am incredibly hungry now. But all we have here is some leftover scorpion meat. I forgot my trail mix on the ship. I’ll just steal some from Father when he isn’t looking.

Never mind, he caught me immediately.

Clio had a long talk with Arika last night while we were sleeping. Arika, I found out, chose to not bond with someone because she want to get to know them better first. Clio and Arika are both very much alike, Clio told me. They were very happy and playful when they were younger, much like myself apparently. But they both experienced things that changed them. Clio was enslaved and her family suffered. Arika slew her father after the curse took him from her. She was so young when it happened. While no bond was made between them, Clio and Arika promised to look after one another. Arika will be joining us for the time being.

The Novarrans left without saying much. I think we wounded their pride by bonding with the centaurs that they prized so highly. Perhaps their bonded centaur will be treated well, or perhaps not. Either way, they are gone now. As we broke camp and began to journey towards

A stimfay bird came to us as we were breaking camp. It had messages from Mikhaila in Ellandyr and Aesop in Altea. Mikhaila gave us some soulstone gems. They’re used to store animals inside that we can call upon when we are in need. In fact, the ruby soulstone had a sabertooth tiger inside it. Shadow had purchased the tiger from the slave trader in Ellandyr (the same place where we got Karador, Sa’kull, and Reilana) and had Mikhaila train it. More specifically, he asked her to train it to protect me. That’s very thoughtful, Father! I named the tiger Razorclaw because I wanted to give him a really cool and dangerous name. The other name I thought of was Fluffy, but Briar reminded me that Fluffy is the name of one of her wolf summons.

The letter from Aesop was in reference to our research on the question where did Acastus get his dragons? Aesop believes that Acastus got them from Selesnya’s brood. Selesnya, Xander Huorath’s dragon, was slain in the Great War. It was said that her children were slain, too, but Aesop is unsure. He will continue to look into this. If Acastus got his dragons from Amalj’aa, that could mean Acastus has the children of Selesnya. We need to rescue them.

We moved on towards the center of the island and the lair of the Lotus Witch. The difficult terrain of the island is easy to navigate with centaur hooves, I guess, but those of us with boots had a little trouble with the more rocky parts. Briar’s having a lot of trouble with it, on account of only having legs like the rest of us for just a few days now. We passed grassy plains, mossy boulders, and eventually came upon the path to the center. There ahead of us was a large black obelisk, reflecting the high sun down upon us, in the center of hill completely covered in yellow lotus flowers. As the centaurs had told us, it has no doors nor windows. And yet, people have gone inside before. Or so the legends say.

Briar attempted to fly up to see around the obelisk, but it blasted at her with lightning. Instead, she resolutely walked forward to try to get a closer look. It was weird though. She suddenly stopped, as if lost in a stupor of thought. I went up to check on her, and then it hit me. What hit me, I don’t know. But I felt a rush in my body, and the world changed around me.

The clouds disappeared. The sun began to set. I instinctively went to my knees and wondered why I had been foolish enough to leave my prayer rug on the Gjallarhorn. But as I knelt, the moons came up. The sun was already gone by the time I rested on my knees. I began to stand as the moons set as well, chased across the sky by the sun again. This kept happening, over and over. Briar stopped me from kneeling again and pointed in front of us. There was the doorway, carved perfectly into the side of the obelisk. And from within, we could hear the faint sound of crying children.