Previously in our story...
Shalev spent several hours trying to explain his actions in killing the mercenary to the others. They were still quite angry with him, and the discussions became quite heated at some points. I am concerned at the current level of disharmony in the group, and do not understand their animosity towards him for actions that are no different than some of the things they... that we... had done in different circumstances.
Perhaps it is because Shalev tends to hold himself to a higher standard. For a human, he is quite moral, and he constantly strives to better himself. I wonder if, in allowing himself a moment of humanity, he inadvertently held a mirror up to the rest of the party members? If so then they certainly did not like what they saw. I imagine there will be many long nights where my student and I converse about the ways of the world, as we often do. As an arbiter of balance, sometimes it is necessary to do distasteful things, and there often is no black or white answer to the quandaries that we encounter.
Shalev's road is not an easy one, and I fear that the party's current level of ire towards him will drive a wedge between them that will ultimately lead to a parting of ways. I am curious to see, then, how they do without. Shalev's foresight and planning have often proved a valuable asset in our travels, providing food and water and supplies where otherwise things would have been scarce. They take him, and his abilities for granted, and I can see that it wears heavily on him.
As the debates and moral arguments continued, I separated myself a bit from the group to keep watch against anyone or anything who might approach. As I stood vigil I noticed a flash of red in the trees and instantly focused my attention there, wary of another attack. I noticed a pale, red haired man hiding in the shadows of the forest. Curiously he wore robes that were in a style that was common to the desert, and this itself piqued my curiosity. Someone of his coloring was obviously not from the desert, and yet he wore garments that just as obviously proclaimed that was where he came from. I pointed the man quietly out to KelLyn, and asked if she could sense anything about him. She winced in pain and said that he didn't just feel magical, but mystical as well, and cautioned against approaching him.
The arguing among the other party members had grown quite heated, and I noticed that the worse it became, the more the strange red haired man seemed to enjoy it. He watched with obvious bemusement, and I disliked his sudden interest in us. I muttered to KelLyn to watch my back and walked quietly over to the man in the trees. I could feel her glaring at me as I approached him, and I greeted him politely, asking him about his noted interest in the arguments occurring. I asked if he was from the desert, and he replied vaguely that he thought the robes that he wore might help him blend in with our group. We spoke for a few moments, and I asked him to join our party instead of remaining here in the trees. He expressed a worry laden with sarcasm that he might be beheaded as well, and I was instantly more wary of this strange man, wondering at just how long he had been watching us.
I took a small chance and offered him my personal hospitality for the duration of a day, and he agreed to accompany me back to the group. He belted on a sword made of the yellowish metal that I knew Shalev had been researching, and then stepped up beside me to walk back to the group. As we approached, the group noticed him and the arguments slowly died away completely. I introduced him to the party with the solemn statement that I had offered him my protection for the duration of the day. Tobias shot an angry glance my way at this, but wisely did not say anything else about it.
Shalev stepped up then and greeted the man with a formal desert greeting. The man introduced himself as Seth and returned the greeting, again with that same bemused smile on his face. Shalev turned and said something to Jaeger in dwarfish and Seth promptly answered in the same language before turning to Jaeger and speaking to him in Jaeger's native language. Shalev raised an eyebrow at Seth's display of languages, and offered in the common language to make him tea. I pointed out that it would perhaps not be wise to camp so near all of the remains of the fight, and the party reluctantly agreed to travel a short distance down the road to make camp.
Once camp was set up, Shalev offered Seth bread and salt in the desert custom, and Seth accepted the proffered offering. In return, Seth offered a style of flaked salt that boasted of an extravagance rarely ever seen. Jaeger spoke at length to Seth in his guttural language, and as they conversed I moved again a short way away from the main party. Knowing that we were running short on grains and other food stores, I pulled out a few grains of wheat from my pouch. I concentrated for a moment, and reached out with my druidic power to try to create more. After a moment, I was able to successfully create about a half of a bushel of wheat, and seeing my success I tried again using some of the kernels of corn. Again, I was able to create about a half of a bushel of the grain, and I then said a quick but sincere prayer of thanks to my deities before dragging the heavy sacks over to the cart. I hefted the bags up onto the cart and then moved back over to the edges of the camp to make a small meal for myself while I maintained vigil.
After that we continued to travel around the lake, and as we traveled Shalev asked Seth if there was anything that he wished to trade. Seth responded that he did not, but then asked when the arguments were going to start again. The landscape slowly changed into a moorish area, and I see Fife grow melancholy and wistful, as if thinking of a place he had not been in a long while. Both Osman and Lan approached me, and I asked them quietly if they were able to tell if Seth were fae. Lan started walking around and cursing in the fairy language, and after a few moments something began throwing rocks and water cress out of the lake. Lan then ran over to the water's edge and stuck her head in the water. The rocks stopped being thrown, and I guessed that she had told whatever lay beneath the murky waters what she was doing.
I heard Seth ask again when the arguing would resume, and I asked him quite pointedly why he was so interested and amused in our arguments. He looked at me calmly and stated that it was a way to tell what people were really thinking. I thought about this for a moment, then nodded my agreement of the statement. I stated that it made sense to me, but then I had been around for a long time. Shalev didn't understand though, and Seth proceeded to explain his thoughts on the matter. This discussion evolved into a weighted conversation about Shalev's goddess Ma'at, and I noticed that it continued well on into the evening. The discussion delved deep into perceptions and philosophy, and Seth managed to drive home some points to Shalev that were difficult lessons to learn.
Shalev called Jaeger over to join the conversation with Seth, and I stepped up beside Amit to take over watch duties, as none of the other party members were willing to be anywhere near Shalev at the time. Seth looked at Amit strangely for a moment and then turned to Shalev to comment that he traveled with some scary companions.
Their conversation then continued on in dwarfish, and I turned my attentions out to the waiting darkness. Amit suddenly growled softly at me and shouldered me over towards Shalev and Seth. I looked down at him and then walked over to where they sat. Seth asked me if I could produce a lotus flower for Shalev. I agreed, and watched the flower grow, bloom, and then wilt quickly. I took the seed pods and gave them to Shalev, and Seth went on to describe in detail how to build an altar for Ma'at.
Shalev also learned then that Amit was more than just a mortal being, but was rather a god in his own right, quite literally, and was also known as the Eater of Souls. Amit had chosen Shalev as a companion, and that Shalev had been guided towards becoming a paladin simply so the great cat wouldn't starve. I could see that this completely threw Shalev. The larger picture of his fate became a little more clear to him in that instant, and it did not set well with him, I think. It is difficult thing to learn that your entire world has been overturned, and he began questioning everything he had ever done.
Seth then turned to Shalev and gently told him that it was time for him to sleep. Amit walked over and shouldered Shalev, still standing in stunned silence, over to the bed rolls. As Amit passed Seth, Seth reached out and scratched Amit from ears to tail in a greeting, and it solidified my thought that Seth was some part of the pantheon that Shalev followed.
Fife came on watch then, and when Seth approached him to talk to him, he rather coldly told Seth that he wanted nothing to do with him because of his conversations with Shalev and Jaeger. He walked away, and Seth hummed something under his breath. He pointed out to Fife that there were giant rabbits in the fields to the north, and that he knew that Fife was afraid of them. He then joined me at the campfire, and we sat silently for a while, simply watching one another.
He asked me if there were anything that I wanted from him, and I questioned his knowledge of the fact that I was a druid. He raised an eyebrow and he told me that just because I had been discouraged from using elemental magics did not mean that they were inaccessible to me. He then told me of a spell that might allow me to sense where druidic power was strongest. He said that it might be useful to me for finding old places where druids once were. He confirmed my thoughts that the libraries would be the best place to search for the knowledge I sought.
As I relinquished my watch, Tobias stepped up and took my place at the fire side. I heard he and Seth begin a conversation about the crazy cleric Duson, who was known to wander the deserts. I heard Tobias also ask about his spear, and Seth looked at it and told him about the control word he would need to properly wield it.
The sun rose, and I saw Shalev begin his morning rituals and prayers. Seth approached me then, eyes on Shalev, and asked me if he always did this. I replied that he did, and Seth pondered him with bemused eyes before going to walk along the edge of the grasses. He dove into the field and emerged a few moments later with several birds nests full of eggs which he then carried over to the fire to make breakfast for the group.
Jaeger went over to find Fife, and managed to convince him to come over to talk to Seth. Fife said bluntly that he didn't feel like he could be a part of the group any more, that he didn't support the party's actions, or their welcome of Seth. Fife refused to say another word then, and turned to walk back to the smaller camp that he, Lan, and Osman had set up.
Seth returned then to the fire with Jaeger and then turned to Shalev to tell him plainly that he had been sent by Ma'at to discuss things and had been given specific authority to redress the balance. Shalev immediately moved to act, and I put a cautioning hand on his shoulder, counselling him that perhaps he should talk to the person that his goddess sent to talk to him. He turned to me, and I told him that I felt he was taking a more personal view of things he regrets, but that perhaps those things had nothing to do with balance. He and Seth spoke for a few moments, and then Shalev prayed directly to Ma'at. After a moment, he started to express the thought that he should take on the sins of the person he killed, but I quickly cut him off with the blunt statement that I thought that was a stupid idea. Shalev thought for a few more moments and then Seth tells him "this is a gift from she whom you worship, and I am glad to give it. Next time there may be other ways in which I greet you."
Then Seth looked at the sun and mentioned that his time was up and that he didn't want to risk me shooting arrows at him. He then turned and walked away, and Shalev said that he was going back to the lake. Tobias, Jaeger, Amit, and I accompanied him, leaving Fife, Osman, Lan, and KelLyn to guard the cart.
Shalev reached the site where he had killed the mercenary, and moved to reattach the head. I recommended possibly trying first to simply apologize for the wrongs. I also recommended not defacing the body any further. He asked Tobias to go and get Lan, and then when they returned, he asked Lan to cast a spell to restore the body. Lan said that she could cast the spell, but that it was a very difficult one to complete and she was not sure she could do so successfully.
Jaeger and I talked long with Shalev and brought him around to realizing that the soul of the man he killed remained stuck in the body, and that as a paladin he might have to ask for the soul to be weighed. Shalev looked at us, then at the body for a moment and then prayed. There was a feeling of energy, and Amit walked over to the body and sniffed at it for a moment before visibly relaxing and then walking away again. Shalev said that he immediately felt worse and that it was the wrong thing to do, but did not know what else he was capable of doing. His eyes suddenly lit up, and he grabbed the wishing ring from around his neck. Jaeger grabbed his hand to stop him and then told Shalev that he was free of his obligation. He then drew his sword Antarna and stabbed the body of the mercenary.
There was a bright flash of gold light and Amit started to violently retch. As soon as Jaeger withdrew the sword, the man sat up with a scream, being fully restored to the land of the living. Amit glared at Jaeger and grumbled about having lost his meal. We calmed the man down, and discovered that he had no memory of anything that had happened to him. Shalev talked to him and told him we would accompany him to the next village where we would set him up with enough to make it to Ishmael's shop. The man said that his name was Simon, and that he could make it to the dwarf village on his own. Shalev agreed after a moment, and then drafted a letter for Simon to carry to Ishmael as a voucher for apprenticeship with him. He also gave him a bag of coins to get started, and then Simon began his long walk to the dwarf settlement and Ishmael's forge.
Shalev stated then that he felt that his was the right thing to do, and that he was feeling less out of balance now. I can see that he is still quite troubled over the events of the past two days, and his thoughts weigh dark and heavy on his heart. I wonder at what else he and Seth may have discussed, and I wonder as well if he may be entering a crisis of faith. He has much to consider now, and his goddess seems to delight in letting him flounder without guidance unless it amuses her to give it.
I am glad to see that he is taking this new lesson seriously, even though it is a painful one to learn. The road to balance is not an easy one to travel, and he still feels as if he is lacking. I reminded him gently that it is normal to feel so, especially after an encounter that turned his whole world upside down. I recommended that he perhaps take a step back from the party leadership for a space of time, and he agreed with the hope that it would ease some of the growing animosity that he sensed they bore him. I reminded him too that he was not alone, as I, Amit, and Jaeger stood to guard him.
As we made our way back to the camp that we had set up, we discovered that Fife, Osman, and KelLyn had taken the cart and moved on toward the small village. It was easy enough to track, though, and so the rest of us gathered what possessions we had and set off to meet back up with them. I wonder at what we will find when we reach the village, whether Fife will have taken this opportunity to part ways, and whether or not the others will have decided to go with him.
Shalev is silent, heart sore, brooding and weary. His world has been upended, and he has much to consider. Jaeger remains a mystery to me, as I can not speak any language that he does. Amit is still glaring at Jaeger for the loss of his meal, and I wonder when looking at the great cat. How much of what he does is pure facade for our sake? If he truly is a god in his own right, then why would he have decided to travel with us?
More questions than answers lately, and we have yet more uncertainty ahead of us. Seth, whomever he may be still wanders this plane, for I fully believe that he is also divine in nature, and I wonder if we will encounter him again.