Part 18: Returned

13 to Wakening Sun, Voelis

Whoa, Heath, you would not believe this day! Some good happened. Some bad happened. I think our group has gotten a lot stronger, and we’re stronger together. I’ll go through things one at a time.

Okay, so the Agora. We overheard the man, Ocasius, wailing about his predicament. He’s a soothsayer, and a recent one from what we’re to understand. He was given two opposing prophesies. The first was from Kiora, the goddess of the dawn. She showed him that the forces of evil would attack a garrison on the way to Ellandyr and that Ocasius’s son would perish but his comrades would be safe. Khar’shan, lady of dreams, gave him a similar vision but that if Ocasius would serve her instead of Kiora, his son would survive and all of his comrades would perish.

Ocasius asked us what we should do about this. We were the Chosen of the Oracle, as he put it, and wanted our opinions. I don’t know if what we told him was what he wanted to hear, but we made our cases. What would his son want? To be a lone survivor, haunted by the memories of his fallen friends? Or would he want an honorable death if it meant protecting his friends? Actaeon finished by telling Ocasius that the choice was ultimately his, but our mission was against Khar’shan. Ocasius fell to his knees and pledged himself, right then and there, to Kiora.

The voice of Khar’shan came to us all in the Agora, warning us that Ocasius had made a grave error. The people of the Agora fell into cries and screams as these strange ghostly shapes appeared around us. They were in the form of soldiers, centaurs, and satyrs, each wearing black mail and golden expressionless masks. But one appeared behind Ocasius, taller than the rest, wielding an enormous great sword and standing to attention like a fearsome knight. The golden masked enemies moved against us and the innocent people of the marketplace, and we had to act immediately.

While Shadow, Clio, Briar, and I fought off the masked enemies, Torag and Actaeon both went against the knight. The knight’s armor was perhaps too thick, and Torag’s knife and kicks were not connecting. Actaeon pierced the knight with a javelin, but the Knight retaliated with a lightning-fast attack of fire and Actaeon fell back, heavily injured.

Oh, I should mention, Actaeon is naked. He’s wearing nothing but his undergarments and a cloth wrapping. Apparently he was on his way to purchase new armor and we got into a fight. I say this not to make you jealous (because you would have had nothing to fear, Heath. I’m definitely not attracted Actaeon), but to relate how terrible the attack was. Torag doesn’t wear armor anyway, but seeing Actaeon struck like this was disheartening.

Clio blocked some hits with her psychic powers before slicing through one of the golden masked creatures. Shadow took another pair out with his blades. Briar summoned a monstrous thundercloud over our heads (she can do that?!) and blasted a pair with a bolt of lightning. I summoned the Morninglord’s light and burned away a pair. The strangest thing, though, is that when these creatures died, they made no sounds. They made no movements. They just faded in a wisp of smoke and were gone.

The people of the market were terrified and were running away. One of the golden masked soldiers tried to attack a civilian but Clio had used some fantastic psychic ability and caused it to move incredibly slow and the civilian was able to get away and rejoin his family. Dia and Corinna appeared (more on Corinna in just a moment) and helped get the people to safety while we dealt with our enemies. In the end, Torag approached the knight again and told him, “Your allies are gone,” before attacking again. Torag took a nasty hit from the knight’s sword before the knight, looking at the six of us flanking him, disappeared into a cloud of smoke and vanishing from our sight.

It wasn’t until the aftermath that I realized how injured we all were. Clio had been struck pretty hard but she was stoic. Shadow had dodged most attacks but was winded. Torag and Actaeon will both carry a new set of scars each. Briar was pierced by many arrows but my magic kept her well. I actually took an arrow to the stomach, similar to the night when you But I’m okay. Briar, after having Shadow pull the arrows from her, wrapped her arms around me and cast a curing spell, healing me instantly.

Ocasius apologized immediately, overwhelmed by what happened and thinking it was his fault we were injured so, but we shrugged it off. Shadow said we are used to fighting and were just happy no one was seriously wounded. Ocasius explained that these things that attacked us were called The Returned. They were people who chose an oath of service to Khar’shan in exchange for a better station in life but were instead cursed to serve her in undeath.

Ocasius offered to divine something for us as thanks for helping him. Shadow wondered if Ocasius could see where the Sun’s Avatars were currently and Kiora’s blessing came upon Ocasius to tell us that both were in Ellandyr. Ocasius said he was going in that direction to visit what will soon become the final resting place of his son before settling in Ellandyr for a time. If we head that way, maybe I can cast a spell of protection on his son’s grave while we’re passing through.

Oh, right, Corinna. I forgot. So, Corinna is the squire we heard about from Vaevictus, and that came as a complete surprise. When I heard ‘squire’, I guess I thought it would be a male. Suffice it to say we forbade Actaeon from wrestling with his squire as we all felt that would be wholly inappropriate. I have to go buy a new gift now because what I got her seems awfully silly. And we know Corinna so what I originally bought is very… what’s the word… impersonal.

We stood around awkwardly for a while trying to figure out what to do next. The people of the Agora were kind of awestruck over what we had done to protect them and they just… kind of watched us for a while. We decided to break apart for a time and meet back at the Dragon’s Tooth Inn for dinner.

Actaeon wanted to immediately start training Corinna to be his squire (again, more on that later), but Torag instead dragged Actaeon to a blacksmith to find him some new armor and some coverings. I guess Torag felt uncomfortable leaving Corinna with a naked Actaeon. Completely understandable, in my opinion.

Briar and Clio said something in Sylvan. I’m happy to report that I understood a handful of words in their speech this time! Briar was bothered by the Returned Centaur and needed some time to herself to process some things. Clio understood and went off on her own to see the city.

Shadow and I decided to go fishing and unwind. Best. Fishing. Experience. Ever. Shadow pulled up some large fish, considered one of the best tasting freshwater fish in the Emerald Isles. I snagged a Anapema Annapima Amipena largest fish in the Emerald Isles! Shadow had to help me pull it up, though. He thought it must have weighed twice as much as me and I’m thinking he might be right. I got out my new cooking supplies and didn’t completely destroy the two fish. And just like that, we have dinner for the night!

The two of us got a chance to talk, the first time in a while since we traveled together over a month ago. We spoke of our spouses. He has been separated from River and his daughter, Rare, for a while now. I had known about this, but I didn’t realize he had lost them only a few days before he met me in Ellandyr. I lost you ten months ago now. We discussed how to cope with this and came to the conclusion that there was no way to cope with it. But we’re here for each other, and that’s a wonderful thing. Dia once told me that Shadow acts very fatherly toward me. I don’t fully know what that means, but it makes me feel warm and happy inside knowing that he cares for me like that. I care for him, too. Shadow is a wonderful man.

And strong, too! He hauled this massive fish back to the Dragon’s Tooth Inn mostly by himself before Clio caught up with us and helped us haul the rest inside the inn. We offered it to the proprietor and he was happy that the food would bring in so many patrons for dinner and drinks tonight. Torag, Actaeon, and Corinna found us just as Briar returned and the whole tavern had a wonderful night.

Shadow and Torag met with Revica and the others in the Steelleaf Clan and we were able to return the skulls of their kin. The clan gave us money for our troubles, though Shadow was reluctant to accept it, and said they’d think about returning to the mines now that the forge was relit.

And with that, we purchased and drank Fairy Fireball until we were all hiccuping bubbles and colored smoke. Shadow introduced the rest of us to his new egg snatcher, Thumble. While we drank and made merry for the night, we made plans to head towards the Necropolis at Telamok in the morning. It would be a long journey there but we had to finish our great labors. Sacrificing a Sun’s Avatar to Kiora would help protect us from Khar’shan probably but with the roads to Ellandyr closed, we had no way to get there.

Oh! I forgot to talk about Corinna again. The training that Actaeon is putting her through is, according to Dia, not normal for a squire. Squires train with knights, sure, but spend much of their time running errands and performing tasks. Actaeon has decided that Corinna is not muscular enough and made her exercise all night. I honestly don’t know if she got any food tonight.

I’m tired now. That arrow to my stomach brings back some sickly memories. Briar’s magic healed the wound up, but all of these scars still haven’t gone away. What did he do to me?

12 to Wakening Sun, Voelis

We’re out on the road again. I already miss Altea. It’s such a lovely place, but I’m happy to be surrounded by my friends. As we headed south towards the Necropolis, Shadow informed me that he purchased some bottles of Fairy Fireball for my birthday party. We had almost decided to stay in town one more day to celebrate, but I don’t know. I felt it would be weird to celebrate in town while our labor at the Necropolis still loomed overhead. Besides, I think I want a small party with my friends instead of in a tavern with strangers.

While we were talking, I guess Briar picked up on some nervousness I have today. I told Shadow this yesterday but I confessed to the others that today would have been our second anniversary. I’m trying to not be sad, though, but I wasn’t doing a very good job at that. Shadow suggested that we celebrate with a little party at our camp tonight instead of tomorrow, and I agreed. I cannot think of a better way to celebrate than with my closest friends.

Oh! Something else happened today that… I don’t even know how to write this. Briar told me she loves me! When we were talking about our anniversary, Briar got uncomfortable with the conversation and excused herself from it by saying, “Okay, that’s… uh… good. Okay, I love you, goodbye!” and sped off ahead of the group.

I’m so happy! I’ve never had a sister before! She’s only known me for, what, a month? Maybe that was just Briar’s natural awkwardness coming out. But I love you, too, Briar!

Here’s something else kind of strange that happened while we traveled. I don’t know how we did it, but we briefly got on the subject of names when Shadow asked Actaeon if that was his real name. I suppose Shadow knows the names of many of the dragonlords and doesn’t remember the name Actaeon in the list. We ended up not talking about it for very long, but it made me think about my name. I wonder if I should ever tell any of them my real name or show them my true form. But what would sh they think of me?

We came upon the strangest thing I’ve ever seen. Around midday, we escaped the jungles around Altea and came to the Sierras again. The scene we saw here was a mile long stretch of land through a grassy field. The path ahead of us was plain but for the large, hundred-foot tall stone arms stretching out from the ground towards the sky. The sight was unnerving. I wonder what the arms are for, or what is their purpose?

Briar and Clio both answered these questions. Clio thought these might be the arms (literally or figuratively, I do not know) of Uatu the Hundred-Handed. Briar confirmed this by casting a neat spell that lets her speak with plants. A patch of grass informed her that the arms meant us no harm so long as we meant them no harm.

What should have been decided right there was…. not. Shadow was unconvinced, asking if we could really trust the grass. I don’t know what happened in his past that makes him not trust vegetation. I remember that he was very untrusting of Dia until recently, so he perhaps has some deep seated trust issues. Shadow darted through the fields of Uatu’s hands as fast as he could. Torag kept up with him, perhaps because he was scared, too, or he didn’t want Shadow to be alone. Actaeon casually strode through on Triple, unbothered by anything. Corinna and Dia followed close behind. I kept with Briar and Clio. They said we’d be safe, so I trusted them.

To no one’s surprise but Shadow’s, we survived the field of arms. The grass, as it turns out, was telling the truth. We can, in fact, trust the grass.

We’ve come up to a camping spot now and are setting up for the night. I think we’re about to have our little birthday party now. Ooh, I can’t wait to show everyone what I got them!