Monday, July 28, 2014

Away for far too long

One of the downsides to being in seclusion for as long as I have been, is learning to be among society again.
Of the 7 immortals, I am unique in that I voluntarily venture out among civilizations from time to time.

Once our time in the mining city of Grolsh was complete, we continued on the road towards the library, and it was with a happy sigh that I left that enclosing city of stone. After about a week of uneventful travel, we came upon the city of Tir na' Friar. An elven settlement. City. Beautiful as it is, with its curving wooden structures and shining layan gates, it is still very much a city.

We were stopped on the road before we reached the gates by a patrol of guards with weapons drawn. I lowered my hood, and let myself be seen; motioning for Tobias to follow suit, and reveal the Imperial layan armor that he wears. They asked, somewhat pointedly, why I travelled with such company. I introduced my companions with honor that they deserve;
Ishmael - Renowned Weaponsmith and metallurgist
Tobias - consort and Imperial guard
Lan - Avatar of Leilanna
Kellyn - the Archmage
Fife - Swordmaster
and Shalev - my accepted student, and paladin of Ma'at; and his animal companion Amit

and said that I had agreed to help them with various quests. They were less hostile after that, and offered  us escort into the city, which we  accepted graciously. I mentioned that it had been quite a long time since I had the opportunity to be in a city of my people, and requested advice on acquiring a place to stay for the length of time needed to rest and resupply.

They gave me a basic introduction to the city layout, and then said that I could request hospitality from the 4th tier of the city.
We entered the city at that point, and explored the craftsman's circle, where I commissioned a new set of leather armor that would not affect my dexterity and movement when worn. The leather worker there agreed to the commission, and said that it would be ready in two days. After that, we continued on toward the 4th Tier, and once there, I approached a group to inquire about hospitality.

Have I been out of civilization for so long, that my own people no longer recognize me? Apparently so. The elves here are very young. Young enough to have either never heard the stories, or perhaps they simply paid them no heed. One of them called me "grandmother", although I am not certain if it was meant derisively or not.

I requested direction to a quiet place for my companions and I to stay for a space of time, and one of them lead us to a rather run down looking house on the edge of the tier. Again, I caught a hint of implied insult from the youngsters, but ignored it as the childish thing that it was.

 The woman who owned the house is named Ma'tron Pon Mar, and she graciously accepted us into her home. She is stooped with age, although she is only 150 or so, and seems... fragile. I forget that I am unique in my agelessness. (hmph. Grandmother indeed.) Her house and lands were in obvious need of repair, and she just as obviously wasn't capable of doing it herself.

I spoke with my companions and requested that, as thanks for opening her home to us, that we work together to improve her lot as much as we could. Tobias, Fife, Shalev, and Ishmael immediately set to work on repairing and cleaning her house. Lan, Kellyn, and I worked on the yards and the gardens.

I inquired about her injury, and asked if she would allow Lan to see if there was something that we could do to heal her. She agreed, and Lan was able to cast a spell that helped to straighten her spine and allow her to move freely again. A healing draught took care of any residual injury, and she is once again whole, much to her delight.

As work continued on the house and lands, I spent many moments conversing with Ma'tron over tea about old stories and legends. Tea! At last I have tea. It's a comfort to me, and something familiar. Shalev and I both were able to take a handful of cuttings from the bushes in her gardens as we worked to bring the gardens back to some semblance of order. It will be a challenge to keep them strong and alive so that we may replant them elsewhere, and another challenge to see if they will flourish in the desert climes that Shalev and I are used to.

Strange though, that here in the gardens, my druidry has no effect. I tried to cast a simple spell to make the gardens healthy, only to have it fail. This is troubling to me, and I need to spend some time in meditation to find out why I was not able to do this, or what might have interfered. I worry that I will not be able to do anything further with this until I can discern why.

During their repairs, Tobias, Ishmael, and Shalev discovered some extensive damage to the outer walls of the house, and they trekked into town to see if they could arrange for a trade of materials to help with the refitting of the house. Elven cities are traditionally trade based, and do not often deal with money as the humans do.
Shalev was able to trade some cooking spices for the lumber required, and it was delivered to the house later that day. Amusingly enough, by the same youngster who (insultingly perhaps?) lead us to stay here in the first place. He looked surprised, and a little abashed. Perhaps he learned a valuable lesson here, although time will tell.

Kellyn requested that I ask about the presence of a library here, and Ma'tron opened her home further to us, showing her personal library, where the records of her travels with her husband were kept. It came to light that Ma'tron and her husband were at one time adventurers of some renown, and that her husband was .... other. Not human, nor elf, and Kellyn suspects possibly even a dragon. To ask or suggest such a thing would be terribly uncouth, however, so the mystery of what her husband is or was will remain. In their travels, they searched for artifacts and items of power, as well as learning to create said things. Ma'tron herself was... IS.. a mage, and a powerful one. This captured Kellyn's intense interest, as Ma'tron gives off no sense of magics whatsoever, and the two were soon lost in conversations about magic and Fyrewerian. Kellyn agreed to teach Ma'tron what little of Fyrewerian that she could while we were here.

Shalev inquired about trading his compass Leah-noa for a magical blade, and was promptly handed the layan-bladed greatsword that hung proudly on the wall in Ma'tron's library. He took it with awe, reverence, and a little disbelief, and spent quite some time simply looking at the blade. There are a few other items of interest in her library - namely the mage's staff, which Kellyn is quite obviously interested in; and a green-dragon scaled shield.

We will be here for a while longer, I think, as there is much to learn from Ma'tron, and I am quite enjoying her company. She mentioned, in our tea time conversations, that there is a Great Court to be held in a month's time. I would be interested in staying for this, as if I am indeed, back in the civilized world, it would probably be expected of me in any case. I've been out of the world for far too long. It's time to make myself known again. I will need to visit the clothier to see about having proper attire made for me to attend a High Court function.

While we are here, we will continue to help improve her home and her land, as much as we are able to do so. It's the least we can do for her hospitality, and for the knowledge that she has - and will potentially - share with us. Perhaps she can even shed some light on the objectives we currently have? We shall see.

In the mean time, I will continue to look forward to our tea time conversations, and simply being among other elves for a time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Taking the long view

Humans and short-lived races have an urgency about them that I have always found fascinating. There's a quickness to every aspect of their lives that I just can't quite comprehend.

They often get so caught up in NOW that they forget to slow down. They forget to spend time contemplating something beautiful, simply for the sake of the observation. They lose sight of the long reaching effects that their actions may cause.

Life in Balance. This concept has become something that I study daily. I will be around - barring physical attack, or divine intervention - long after everything here has returned to dust once again.

Therefore, one of the aspects that I must constantly consider is the long view. What consequences do the actions that we take have on the future?

I don't let this prevent me from taking action, where action is needed, but if what we do changes the existing powers, how will that affect the overall balance of the world?

We - *I* - must be aware at all times, and help guide my little pseudo-family, my friends, in an appropriate manner.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Winter observations

I remember now why I moved to the desert.
Peoples here are more diverse, but less accepting. Being who I am and what I am is cause for either derision or awe. I have noticed that there is not much of a middle ground between the two. Even among other elves it is the same. Being one of the Immortals brings wide-eyed wonder and reverence bordering on an uncomfortable level of almost-worship; or suspicious glances and whispered conversations. Most of these I tolerate to some degree, having learned long ago that it’s simply a thing to deal with or ignore.
However, it is something that sharply underscores my lack of familiarity with anything here.
Even the weather is unpredictable and cold.
In an effort to familiarize more with these surroundings, and to learn (or remember) how to properly prepare for travel in winter, the party traveled to the ranger encampment that was about four days out from the main city. They readily agreed to trade skill training for geographical and climate knowledge, and we spent a month’s time with them working and learning along side the rangers.
Shalev worked with a number of them to improve their skills with spears, and would often take Amit out to hunt with them. During one of these hunts, they were attacked by a very large, very old boar who had apparently been troubling the rangers for some time. It was successfully taken down by Amit, and was found to be riddled not only with disease and parasites, but with still living bits and pieces of the tainted orcs.
It’s good that they killed it when they did, the poor beast was probably in agony.
The orc hands were quickly burned and the carcass cleaned and purified at Shalev’s direction. These orcs are becoming quite troublesome, but if we can spread the knowledge on how to permanently destroy them, perhaps we can quell the invasion for a time.
Ishmael made the rangers a store of arrowheads with his smithing abilities, and Lan aided in catching a plethora of fish from the lake nearby – much to her delight, I might add. She truly is a creature of the waters, and seems happiest in that, her natural, form.
I taught them the basic and natural way to orient yourself to the proper direction, no matter where you are. Two of the students picked it up quickly, and show promise of being able to pass the knowledge on to others who might be interested. As for the third student, I very nearly gave up as a lost cause. He just didn’t seem to understand the simplest reasoning. The other two assured me that the teachings were not in vain, and that they could eventually get him to come around. I will trust that they will look after their brother.
As much as I admit to missing the sands of the desert, it is good to see trees again. Being among growing things has given me a chance to explore the nature of the Sacred Druidic tradition in depth. Life in Balance sounds like a simple concept, but is truly something I could easily spend a century contemplating on.
When I wasn’t teaching, or helping them in other ways, the rangers gave me free rein of the forest, and I would often find myself wandering among the trees with a wistfulness that only made the melancholy more pronounced. It is a well protected area already, which is good. Although they are more secular in nature, they still understand the necessity of proper balance. Life and death happen interchangeably within the forest, and they – perhaps unknowingly – work toward protecting that balance.
While we were there among the rangers, Shalev was actively asking questions to his compass, Lea-hona, not just to ascertain the direct nature of it’s ability, but to aid him in his searches for information. In the course of his discussions with me, and the answers that he received from LeaHona, it was brought to light that his brother somehow had a hand in the death of his father.
His reactions have been quite understandable, and he’s become quite focused on gathering more information, as well as resources in order to confront his brother in search of justice. Desert politics, especially those of the noble families, are tricky at best. I recommend caution and gathering irrefutable hard evidence before leveling the accusation formally, though I worry that he is focused on revenge to the point of not caring. He says that his goddess has not talked to him, and I wonder if she too isn’t giving him the space he needs to sort through his feelings about the matter.
He is holding himself on a very tight leash, and has often found himself by my fireside once again, seeking counsel and wisdom much like when he first became my student. I hope I can help calm his ire (justified as it may be) to a point where he can take a look at each facet of this dilemma appropriately. I will offer my help, counsel, and cautions in whatever capacity is required, but ultimately this is something that he must work through and resolve on his own. I think, to some degree, he already realizes this. My hopes for my student are high though, and I have no doubt that he will come through stronger and wiser.
Our month with the rangers ended right as the equinox occurred, and I was able to add a sacred blessing to the area as an additional protection. I don’t know if they recognized what I did, and reacted with some surprise when I inquired about knowledge of any other sacred druids. Their reactions confirmed my suspicion that I am currently the only one, but I will continue to search and study in hopes that I can discover more.
Our party spoke at length about which path to take next, and we decided to continue on towards the library. We took the north-western road out of Quantz, toward the mountain ranges, following the directions that the vintner gave to me earlier.
After about two weeks of traveling, we came to a little mining town called Grolsh. Ishmael spoke with the miners and smiths there, and we agreed to winter here with them while he shares his skill and knowledge of metal working. He seems quite keen on the secrets of how to make a fire hotter, and can often be seen tinkering with different powders and combinations to try to achieve this end.
While he was teaching one evening, a small dwarven man approached him and began to talk to him in a strange guttural language. Thereafter, they could both be seen speaking in the local tavern each evening. I don’t know what they spoke of, but I noted his extreme interest in the conversations, so I would hazard to guess that the old dwarf was sharing the knowledge Ishmael sought.
I am admittedly uncomfortable here in this city of stone and earth. I don’t like it here. I feel closed in and confined. I spend my days here observing the people as a whole and their customs, refining my grasp of the common tongue, observing the weather patterns and effects of the winter, and sitting quietly in meditation.
One day at a time.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cora's necklace

This is the pendant that Cora wears on a leather thong around her neck. It's made of an nontarnishable silver material, and has a very small gem in each circular indentation. Ruby, sapphire, emerald, diamond, with a blazing fire- opal in the center of the piece.

She can't remember what it means, or even where it's from. The vast majority of the time she forgets she's even wearing it.  It's been with her, and a part of her for so long, that it's not even an afterthought anymore. It's just there.

It could be an ancient and forgotten symbol of balance and the sacred druidic tradition. Perhaps part of the reason she now remembers and picks up the lost art so quickly?

It could have simply been a reminder of her long-dead family.

If you ask her about it, she will react with surprise, and say honestly that she no longer knows anything about it. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Full Circle

All things happen at their appointed time.
I have come once again to the forests and mountains, although these are a far cry from the ancient entities of my homeland. These forests are young, and most of the land here is cultivated for the surrounding civilizations.

Gone are the desert silks and swaths of cloth. In their place, I wear well fitted leather armor, and clothing made of cotton and wool. Blacks, blues and greens. I still feel strange showing my face, and have found that keeping my hair braided into a long rope keeps it from getting tangled in my weapons. I still wear it free flowing when we are not on high alert, and when we are in towns.  The length of my hair seems to cause some issue, I've noticed. Another strange human notion of "status."

People... humans.. have many strange notions. The one we see much of here is the issue of land ownership. They wall off pieces and parcels and say "This is mine." then they fight bloody wars over the rights to those little pieces. It's one of the many things I will never understand about these volatile races.

Several of the guards remarked that there was an on-going war with a race called "orcs", vicious creatures that are almost unstoppable. Apparently if you cut one apart, each piece would become an entirely new being. This is troubling, and quite unnatural.

Troubling for me, especially, because the legends that I have heard about these creatures rumor that they are descended from my own race. I must look more into this.

Lan held commune with her goddess Leilanna, who apparently is the deity of the more normal orcs, but holds no truck with these abominations. She was able to tell us that they are, in fact kill-able, using blunt instruments to incapacitate and fire to destroy completely.

We encountered one of these orcs during the midnight watch while we were on the roads. Lan shifted to her orc form, which thoroughly confused the creature long enough for Fin to brain it, and drag it to the fire pit where it burned to ash.

We encountered two more a few nights later, and one of them shot me with an arrow. I had no warning that he was firing, and so the arrow hit me in the neck. Lev acted quickly though, removing it and healing me. These two were also dispatched, but not before the one who shot me was able to sound an alert on a war horn. On his body, we discovered a strangely fashioned black bow, which fires completely silently. Fin has this in his possession currently, but it might be interesting to see if we can create another like it. We burned these two, and quickly left to travel on with no further incident thankfully.

If the orcs are a traveling war party, that can attack without being heard, then this is worrisome news for the homesteaders and small towns along the roads here.

After a few weeks of traveling along the country roads, we have come to a city called Qualton, which is where my Tobias began his adventures years past. It seems he too has come full circle. He seems nostalgic, and a little weary, but had the opportunity to reunite with one of his old companions - an alchemist of legendary skill called Basil.

While we were visiting with Basil, we commissioned a portion of the batch of healing droughts that he was brewing up. Seeing how our party has a propensity to get ourselves into trouble, this was a necessary investment. The potions would take time to make properly, so we rented some very nice rooms at the Red Hand Inn.

Lev is still showing a strange habit of throwing money around. I worry that this lack of concern for the extravagance that he shows will make us a target for cut-purses and thieves, or even more unsavory characters. I think he sees it as building reputation for his family, but I still recommend caution to him. Sometimes he listens.

The food here is good. The wine even better. It's a nice place to stay, for a city. Lots of trade goods pass through this place, so we had the opportunity to upgrade a few items and do some recognizance on the trails ahead.We also had the opportunity to listen to the many bards that came through, and learned of several things happening in this portion of the world.

Including the apparently massive Fashion Show that's held here once a year. Bards and merchants take bets on which colors will be in vogue for the season.

Maybe we can replenish some of our coin with some well placed bets? Tobias recognized the fabric containers being offloaded from the ships as silk merchants that specialized in a peculiar orange fabric.

Fin and Ishmael seem to get along well, and I see them often talking to one another - probably about the party. Ishmael also made friends with an old blind gnome that frequents the bar, and spent several nights deep in conversation with him about the gnomes, and their skills at smithing. I do not know if it gave him any pertinent information for his quest, but it seemed to make them both happy. 

Basil had a massive and meticulously kept garden where I found myself wandering almost daily. Walking among the rich earth, trickling waters, and scents of the growing things was familiar in a distant faded way, like an almost forgotten memory of home. It was a peaceful way to spend some time. Notable and surprising were the three entlings that Basil had growing and protected near the back edge of his greenhouse. They are very young yet, and have not achieved intelligence, but it is good to know that the race of ents continues on.

During my daily meditations among Basil's gardens, I made the intuitive discovery that a Sacred Druid is devoted to Balance of the World as a whole. As such, I learned a handful of spells that reflect this. Life and Death. Yin and Yang.  I will continue to reflect on this new knowledge, and continue to seek other evidence of the druids who existed before me.

During another of our almost daily visits with Basil, one of the vintners of the city stopped by. This city has a large trade in wines and meads, much to Fin's delight and mine. It has been many years since I've tasted a decent elven brandy. 

The vintner recognized me at a glance - which I wasn't expecting - and immediately adopted an almost subservient nature, which was a little disconcerting. I managed to calm the poor boy down, and we spoke for a time. He was able to provide some extremely helpful information regarding the lost library.

Here they call it DragonSpire, and he gave me the directions on how to find what we were searching for, as well as a caution to be wary on the roads in certain places. He spoke of the NorthWest path through the mountains, a set of ruins, a pair of towers, and several other notable landmarks to guide our way.

After our conversation was over, he asked - almost timidly - if I had any of the "coin of the realm". On a whim, I gave him the layan bow that I picked up from the dread priest. I have no use for it, as it is much to noisy and unwieldy for me, and it would be better served back among my people anyway.

He took the bow with wide eyed reverence, and then bolted away on his horse shortly after. I imagine his family and the rest of the vintners will soon know that I have broken my self imposed seclusion at last, and venture again out in the world. It will be interesting to see what happens because of it.

So now we have a destination, comprehensive directions on how to get there, and someone who knows the area reasonably well. The road goes ever on and on... and things will always come full circle.