Journal of a Sword Dancer

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Vaune Nasadra
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Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2011 5:46 pm

Journal of a Sword Dancer

Post by Vaune Nasadra »

Chapter I

I hail from the city of Ched Nasad - a great city, built on solidified spiders’ webs that stretch across a great chasm. Above and below, the rift descends into darkness, and the city glimmered in the midst of it like a diamond. “The City of Shimmering Webs” they called it - the “Wonder of the Underdark” - and we were proud, for we of House Nasadra had built it when we had nothing. We had been cast out of our home city of Menzoberanzan, and left to wander homeless in the Underdark. But we founded a city, had made it powerful, and had ruled it for three thousand years.

I was born there nigh a hundred years ago - if one can trust any attempts to mark the passage of time in a sunless realm. I was the third of five living children - and the least favored of my mother Ilharess Nasadra. The older I became, the more she disliked me, and by my twentieth year, I do believe she hated me. I was born at an inconvenient time, she later said, and, as there was no chadzak before my birth, I was one whose worth had not been proven. In other words, a weakling.

As for the rest of my family, I knew little of my father - he was dead before my twentieth year. I have dim memories of playing with him when I was very young. Sometimes Valde was included, sometimes not. Ilharess never approved, but neither did she stop us. I also remember when father ‘disappeared’—Ilharess came home from a trip to the temple looking quite upset. There were tears at the corners of her eyes, though she looked incredibly angry. She went upstairs and we did not see her for a very long time. When she came down, she called a family meeting.

“The jaluk was a traitor,” she said, looking particularly at me for some reason, though at least at the time I had always assumed that I was the full sibling of at least Valde. “He betrayed me with House Melarn, and has been dealt with accordingly.” And that was the end of that. . .

Ilharess always had an especial hate for Ilharess Melarn after that, and she never did seem to forgive him, herself, or anyone who was connected in any way. I came to learn from hard experience that those “connected” were my older brother, Briznhall, and myself. He was nearly a hundred years my elder. Though I hardly ever saw him—he was sure to go on expeditions elsewhere more now that he was unfavored—I always wished somewhere, in the back of my mind, that I could have known him. After all, he used to tell me stories and play with me when I was very small—of plunder, death, and torture, of course—but he seemed to like me well enough.

Valde, my elder sister, became my mother's favorite, and was raised on a pedestal far above me. Naturally, she was the one who was destined to succeed, and I was a fluke who would probably be removed at some point. My younger sister, Faerdra, was a cunning little flatterer who envied, idolized, and mimiced Valde. My youngest sibling - a brother - spent most of his time hiding in his room - ‘studying’ he said. Neither of them bothered me much, since they were significantly younger.

Under normal circumstances, I would have been killed at a very young age. But despite Ilharess’ opinion, I was not a weakling, and managed to keep myself alive. I made myself indispensible to Valde, Faerdra did not dare touch me, and my brothers could not care less whether I lived or died. Ilharess always said that if anything ever went terribly wrong, it would be my heart that would appease Lolth, but nothing “terrible” ever went wrong. As for the other children - who generally had no qualms about taking down weaklings - they did not dare tough the second daughter of House Nasadra, favored or not.

I had one friend in the midst of this great dance of death - a little jalil named Zress’ir. She was a liability, of course, and I was only thought more the weakling for my fondness for her - but I did not care. I could see that she, like me, was derided and looked down upon for no reason. True, she was not strong – despite her name - but she was remarkably bright, and sure to grow up and be indispensible to whomever she served. So I used my influence for a time to shield her from the ‘play’, and no one dared go against me.

But Valde, dear sister that she was, disliked the ‘ridicule’ the ‘weakling’ was bringing upon ‘her House’. Taking it upon herself to ‘mend my ways’, she decided that Zress’ir was going to die . . . slowly. And, of course, while I was watching, just to spite me.

I was not going to let her do this without protest – I had that much courage.

“What? Playing Matron Mother again, my dalninil?” I smiled a mischievous, annoying, younger sister smile. “The Ilharess would not be pleased that you so young already usurp her position.”

Valde glared at me, and then smiled oh-so-sweetly back. “I am doing you a favor, dearest dalninil. It would not look well for you if the Ilharess should hear of your friendship with this pathetic little jalil.”

I smiled and shrugged. “Friendship? Hardly. I find her amusing. Come dalninil, you have better things to do than to pick on inferiors . . . they are not worth the time or notice you give them.” Then I edged myself in front of her so that I was effectively standing between her and Zress’ir. This usually worked with the others – something told me it would not with Valde, but it was worth a try.

I was right – my reward was a lash of Valde’s whip.

“I will not play your games, dothka,” she hissed. That was that then, I could not stand up to her in a straightforward fight, and even if I could, the results would be disastrous for me. I was pondering how to best end the situation when Zress’ir’s sister pushed her way forwards and took a more defiant stance in front of Valde. I took the opportunity to back off, holding my stinging arm.

“Don’t you dare come near my sister!" she said, “You may be Ilharess Nasadra’s eldest daughter, Valde, but that does not mean that you may do what you wish to my House.”

“You think you can stop me?” hissed Valde, her smile returning as she brandished her “whip”. “Your sister has proved herself a weakling, and the weak are prey for the strong. That is the way of Lolth. Do you question it?”

I left off sulking long enough to taunt Valde again: “She is loyal to her house, as Lolth commands, dalninil. Do you object? Or know you nothing of loyalty?”

She spun around and hit me. “Shut up, Vaune! Matron Nasadra will hear of this.” And then as an afterthought, and almost to herself, she added: “I hope I may perform the sacrifice, it would do me much good to hold my little sister’s beating heart in my hands.”

She knew that would scare me, and it did. I backed off and turned away, fighting off tears of rage and wishing I could kill her then and there.

The cries from Valde’s ‘play’ finally subsided into moans, and a hand laid hold of my shoulder and spun me around. Valde. The upstart had been overcome through the combined efforts of Valde and the rest of the children. She was held down now, bloody from Valde’s whip. Zress’ir lay on the ground in worse shape still, almost dead.

“Come, Dalninil, prove your mettle to us. Finish the little jalil off, and all will be forgotten.” Valde pushed her dagger into my hands. I could see it in Valde’s eyes “Do it, or we kill you too”, and she could do it. So I gritted my teeth and nodded.

“Abbil?” Zress’ir had just enough strength to whisper that word and look me in the eye. I shut my eyes, and drove the dagger downwards.

“Done, dalninil.” And I turned and fled.

That was not the end of it, of course. I received a beating for my ‘weakness’. Ilharess let Valde administer it, and Valde enjoyed it very much.

I hated Valde for that. I hated Ilharess for favoring her over me. I hated Lolth for the terror of death. And I hated myself for giving in. From that day forward, I vowed revenge. I would fit in, I would claw my way to the top, and then I would rule and get my revenge on all those who had made me do this just to survive. The thought that in doing this, I would in essence become those I was taking revenge upon crossed my mind. But so what? By then, I figured, it would be too late. I would not care anymore.

Like a good little jalil, I was first to be trained at the Temple. It was my idea, but Ilharess was not going to turn down the chance to have another priestess in the family. But before I was even an acolyte, I hated the Temple. Valde was there - for she had joined before me, and was a junior priestess - and found fault with everything I did. Ilharess decided that perhaps the cost of losing her ‘sacrificial victim’ to the immunity of the priestesses was too much to risk for one so pathetic. For once, I was glad, though it made things far more difficult for me.

Poison had always been my hobby - even though I had managed to cause myself untold pain at a young age by accidentally poisoning myself. So I asked - and Ilharess agreed - to be trained as an assassin. She did not apprentice me to the best in the city, but he was one of the harshest. He, certainly, had no intention of letting Vaune d’Quellar Nasadra kill him to take his hard-earned place. But I excelled, and managed to avoid his little tricks and traps.

My master was no fool. He heard me grumbling to myself when I thought no one was listening about the unfairness of it all. This was why, I suppose, he began telling me tales of the Masked Lord.

He was taking a terrible risk doing this. One word from me and he was dead. But I had no devotion to Lolth, and cared not how many people plotted against her. After all, she had never done anything for me.

To go to the Surface, become a Darkmask, and work for the return of the Illythiiri to their rightful homeland – that is what I began to dream of. But the Underdark was all I knew, and my old plans were foremost in my mind. As the time for my Blooding near, I thought knew enough to put the first step into action. I could only get one dose of the poison I wanted for Ilharess and Valde – it killed certainly, and quickly – so that would be for Ilharess, and I would give Valde a paralyzing poison . . . so she could die slowly, like Zress’ir.

The right time came, and I had everything prepared. But instead of Ilharess fainting, it was my younger brother who collapsed – and very soon after drinking. He always had had a weak constitution – like mine. I immediately made myself scarce, and it was well that I did so; for no sooner had I entered my room and locked the door than I began feeling numb. I staggered to my bed, collapsed into it, and soon realized I could not move. So, my brother had drunk Ilharess’ poison, and I, Valde’s. Interesting. And frightening. Then I lost consciousness.

I woke up a little stronger to find Faerdra sitting there, grinning. So, she had learned to pick my lock. She also had my dagger.

“I switched the drinks”, she whispered gleefully in my ear, “Such a clumsy older sister to let me see what you were doing.” She giggled impishly, and played with my dagger.

I lunged for the dagger, but my reflexes were very slow, and she jumped back with ease. “Gi nau, I am keeping this.” She said, “Unless you want me to tell Ilharess.” She laughed again – I never had known her so infuriating. “But maybe I will anyway – you will just have to find out, yes?” And then she ran out of the room. Xsa nindel jalil!

If I had not completely recovered, that galvanized me into feeling as though I had. Well, I would just have to make sure Faerdra stayed quiet, and then beat a hasty retreat. Or rather, flee. Yes, it was about time for that . . . this was the warning. Death would come next. I knew it.

Well, my Blooding was soon – that was fortunate. My master would tell me where I could flee. And I could take care of Faerdra before I left. It was settled.

Fortunately, my oh-so-cunning sister had forgotten that I was still the elder and knew how to get into her room – never mind the bolts on the door. She could pick my lock now; very well, I could still pick hers and disable her oh-so-devious traps. I had been trained, after all; she had not. The thought of taking my revenge on Valde as well was tempting, but that was too risky. I would rather be alive and an exile, I decided, then dead with my revenge.

So, hours before I left, I crept into her room while she was resting. She awoke when I put my hand over her mouth, and her dagger against her neck.

“Sweet dreams,” said I, and slit her throat. I was gone before anyone noticed.
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Vaune Nasadra
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Re: Journal of a Sword Dancer

Post by Vaune Nasadra »

[b:2sfgiipl]Chapter 2[/b:2sfgiipl]
I had a guide, of course, to take me to the Surface. The way was long, through many winding tunnels. I had the feeling that I was not supposed to return from this, regardless of what I planned. I had seen my guide talking with Valde beforehand, and that was not a good sign.

So, I kept my wits about me and followed carefully. I suppose it took us a “day” or so by Surfacer time to reach the Surface, but time did not mean the same to me then – nor did I have a good way to tell it. Our journey was timed so that we reached the mouth of the cave at night – a fortunate circumstance, for I had never encountered light any brighter than the faint glows which lit my home before.

“Well, Jaluk”, I said to my guide, “I do not think I need your services out there.” He looked at me strangely, and said that the Ilharess had told him to stay with me.

“Ah, but I do not wish that,” I said, “And it is I that you are to serve here”.

He bowed with a mocking smile, and then I was certain that not a word I said would be heeded – though he would be courteous to the moment my throat was slit. But I nodded as though I took his bow as agreement, and ventured out among the moonlit trees.

I payed little attention to the beauty around me – my first thoughts concerned how well my guide actually knew this area on the Surface, and how quick his reflexes were. I was perceptive enough to have a good idea of where he was behind me, though the foreign environment made me mistrust my judgement. At last, I could stand it no longer, and, having a good idea of where he was, I spun about whispering a prayer, and threw my dagger. It pierced his heart, and he went down. I could hardly believe my luck – how could it have been so easy? He was better trained then I . . . but there it was, and I was free.

I finally looked about, and was stunned by the strange loveliness I saw around me. Such colors were unknown to me. Such light was unknown to me. Even the stones seemed different. Then I looked up and saw the moon, and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

But then I heard wolves howling, and I tensed again. I only had so much food, and I had a long journey to a place I did not know how to get to, and I was alone. That fact came crashing down on me as the sky grew brighter with the sunrise, and I realized how hostile of an environment I was in. All alone . . .

The sun was many times brighter than the moon, and for the first time, I felt the curse of my people. The sunlight seemed to set my eyes on fire, and burned through them into my whole body. It was shear agony, worse than any punishment ever inflicted on me back in my home. It was then I realized why so few drow came to the Surface. Here, nature itself seemed to reject us.

I had heard that there were other worshippers of Vhaeraun in the High Forest. They were part of a house--of sorts--called Clan Aukovzyn. It was my plan to journey there and join them. Travel on the Surface was hard, since I had to adjust to the sun and keep moving at the same time. Furthermore, I did not know Common, and no one was willing to have any dealings with me. I survived by killing and eating anything that looked edible, and stealing food when I could not find anything else. I suppose I could have just killed a merchant, so that I could be well supplied, but I did not want the hugh and cry to be raised after me. I went hungry frequently.

When I reached the High Forest, I realized how foolish I had been to think I would be able to find anyone there. No wonder I had heard of it in the Underdark; it is huge. The trees looked too thick and tangled for me to travel through, that is, if I expected to be able to find my way back out. And I had heard a little of the dangers of the forest, just enough to make me fear to venture too far into it. So I traveled south, along the edge of the forest

It was in this way that I met the first Darthiiri I had ever seen that were not slaves, and who were in no way afraid of me. Unfortunately, they were also worshippers of Shevarash. I told them I wanted no trouble, which was not completely true, but I was attacked regardless. I killed one of them, but then was forced to flee. Fortunately, it was night, and I had been trained in the art of hiding and moving without a sound.

It was not until I had been traveling south for many days that I heard rumors of other Illythiiri. It seemed they had been raiding the towns on the edge of the wood. Luck was with me. I finally entered the forest, and they found me. It was Clan Aukovzyn, and they were willing to accept me.

Life among Vhaeraunians was different from what I was used to, very different. There were very few jalilen among them, which I supposed made sense since Vhaeraun was a god. While among them, I was told that it was important that, as much as I might despise the Darthiiri, I must never show it. We wanted their friendship, and it was going to be hard to get. I knew this woudl be the case, and accepted it. After all, the Darthiiri are kin, and the ones that visited us certainly proved that. In fact, some of them joined our clan. It was laughable - the descendants of the very ones who had cast us into the Underdark obeying us willingly.

But not all the Darthiiri in the High Forest are so foolish. The Wood Elves, in particular, resented our presence, and sought to drive us out. I crossed swords with them many times, and killed not a few of them. Still, they were more determined than us, and slowly, wore us down.

All the time I was with clan Aukovzyn, it always grated on me that all my superiors were jalukul. Slowly, I came to the realization that, once again, I was on the lowest rung. I had been so used to it as a child, that it took me some time to notice it, but it was the case. I was more skilled than many of the jaluken, but I was below them. And then I understood. If the followers of the Masked Lord achieved their goals, no matter how hard I worked with them, I would not reap the benefits because I was a jalil. They would set up Illythiiri society on the Surface, but the jalukul would rule, not the jalilen. And that thought made me shudder. Once I realized that, my devotion to Vhaeraun began to wane. Why should I work for something that would only bring me more suffering?

One night, while the High Priest of Clan Aukovzyn was preforming the sacrifice, and I was assisting in a minor capcity, all of this suddenly clicked in my mind. It became suddenly clear and real, and I asked myself why I was participating in it. And there was the High Priest of Vhaeraun, with his back to me. I made my choice. Hardly thinking, I drove my short sword into his back.Then I ran, never looking back to see if I had succeeded in killing him. I just ran.

As I plunged deeper into the woods, I wondered why I even bothered. After all, I was as good as dead. The Masked Lord has no love for traitors. I had betrayed Lolth and my House, and now I had betrayed Vhaeraun and my adopted House. Where was I to turn to now? I was houseless, alone, and friendless, in the land of my enemies. But I kept running until I collapsed from exhaustion, completely lost, and in the depths of despair.

When I awoke, I found that I was completely lost, and most probably miles away from the territory I was familiar with. I toyed for a while with the idea of just killing myself and ending it all, but something made me get up and look around me. There was a trail nearby, and, being curious as to where I was and having nothing better to do, I followed it. After all, it would probably be better to get myself killed than to kill myself. Never have I made a decision I am more grateful for.

I followed the trail for perhaps a mile or so before I was apprehended, not by a Darthiiri, or Gnoll, or any of the creatures native to the High Forest, but by another jalil. If she had looked and dressed as customary for the my people, I probably would have attacked at once, assuming her to be a Ssinsriggorbb, a “spider-kisser”. But she was different, very different.

She was shorter than me, which was not surprising considering that I am tall for a drow. She had long hair, which was bound back, so that I did not see until later how long it really was. Her eyes were violet. Since she was in the forest, she was dressed in colors that blended with the terrain: green and brown. But they were lighter shades than is customary for Illythiiri, and they were mixed with silver and white, very unusual indeed. What caught my eye, though, was, first, the large sword she had strapped to her back, and second, and more importantly, the symbol around her neck. A jalil with a sword dancing in front of the full moon - the symbol of Eilistraee, the ‘good goddess’ of the drow.

By the time I had taken this all in, she had spotted the symbol around my neck: the mask of Vhaeraun, and had drawn her sword. Before I had time to react, she had me practically pinned, and in no condition to defend myself with my own weapon, which, I suddenly realized, I had abandoned when I ran. ‘Draw your sword and I will be forced to kill you’ , she said, and then she asked me what I was doing there.

The only thing I could really remember about the followers of Eilistraee was that they were supposed to be weak. Something in the back of my mind told me that I should remember something more. There was something in the jalil’s face that I felt I should recognized. I decided to try my luck, and asked for shelter. I explained that I had been outcast from my “house” and had nowhere to go. She sheathed her sword, something which surprised me much indeed, and said that I could stay.

I must admit, I had no intention of repaying their hospitality with any good, and was merely taking advantage of them. Even so, I could not help being curious about this religion that I had been told all my life was weak, just as I had been considered. And it was nice to be around jalilien again.

But the longer I stayed there, the longer I wanted to stay. After all, I had no where else to go, and they were willing to shelter me there indefinitely, it seemed. While I was there, I began, for the first time in my life, to feel safe. I had always been told that they were weak, but all that seemed to mean was that I need not fear a dagger in the back. I saw that they defended themselves very well indeed.
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Vaune Nasadra
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Re: Journal of a Sword Dancer

Post by Vaune Nasadra »

Chapter 2 continued. . .

Their goddess amazed me just as much as they did. Eilistraee, they said, had sacrificed her own happiness to become part of the Dark Seldarine, so that she could someday hope to free the Illythiiri from the Spider Queen. That kind of sacrifice, the sort which was completely voluntary, was a new concept for me. Lolth demanded sacrifice or death, that was what I had grown up with. This was foreign. I struggled a long time with my conflicting feelings of scorn and joy: scorn because no one in their right mind should ever give what they do not need to, and joy because this sacrifice was done for my benefit. One thing seemed clear to me, however: the Eilistraeans might be foolhardy, but not weak.

But the main reason that I made the decision which has changed my life: to become a Sworddancer of Eilistraee, was that it was convenient to do so. Eilistraee’s cause seemed wonderful, but I had no real desire to completely give myself to what I saw as a foolish scheme. I simply wanted spells, which I could use to form my own destiny, apart from the scheming gods and goddesses by whom I felt betrayed. After all, why be faithful to any deity when you could potentially become a deity?And even if that failed, the Fugue Plane could not be worse than the Demonweb Pits.

I suppose that the priestesses sensed this when I asked to be taught the ways of the Eilistraeans. Eclanthe, the priestess who had caught me the first day, had some rather caustic things to say about my motives, but I convinced myself that there could be nothing dishonorable in my course of action. It was just pragmatic.

Eclanthe eventually became my teacher, and a fairly good one too. She might have taught me much, if I had given myself wholly to my studies. But I was tired of learning dogma, having already done so for two deities. I learned what I had to, but none of Eilistraee’s teachings really penetrated my mind. I obeyed the letter of her law, the spirit being too foreign for me to grasp.

So it was, that as soon as my new goddess trusted me with even a few spells, I wanted to be gone from that place. Eclanthe was against it, saying that I was not ready, but I insisted.

During my stay with Clan Aukovzyn, and to a lesser extent, while I was at the Shrine of Eilistraee, I had heard many tales of the Crown Wars and the Descent of the Drow. In the Underdark, all I had heard was that we were driven underground because the Darthiiri were jealous of our power. On the Surface, the tale was different. Either way, I was curious to see some of these places that were sung about, and the High Moor was very close to the High Forest. I set out south. This time, however, I knew Common, and several other human languages, and had the symbol of Eilistraee to protect me.

When I came to the High Moor, I found the sight of it to be more than words can adequately tell. All life came to an end at its borders, and nothing but scorched land and a few rocks stretched away for hundreds of miles.

I also wished to see the Shaar, the land once known as Illythiir, but I never got that far. I traveled south to Amn, before I ran out of supplies, and was in need of a rest. I stopped in the Rivvil city of Athkatla and hired myself out as a caravan guard. It was a Red Wizard Caravan, traveling to Westgate, which was in the direction I was heading. So, naturally, I thought it very convenient. It was in this way that, quite unintentionally, I was drawn into the life of an adventurer.
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Vaune Nasadra
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Re: Journal of a Sword Dancer

Post by Vaune Nasadra »

Chapter 3

Not half way to Westgate, Shaundakul, the human god of portals, appeared and teleported the other caravan guards and I to a completely foreign city. The explanation for this was rather long and complex, and I have very few pleasant memories of that trip, so I will not record them here.

The main result of that failed journey to Westgate was that I, quite unintentionally, became an adventurer. For some reason, by merely applying for the job of guarding that caravan, I made myself part of an adventuring group composed mostly of Rivven. I had always assumed that adventuring groups chose each other, and were not randomly thrown together. Evidently, I had been misinformed.

Traveling with Rivven was grating, to say the least. I do not mind dealing with them, but I do not like extended contact with them. Inferior species are tiring and irritating. And they had no respect whatsoever for me, seeing it as my duty to take care of them, and offering no thanks for what I did. After a few tendays of this sort of treatment, I resolved to sell them all into slavery once we got to Westgate.

But enough of that. The city we were teleported to was another Rivven one, predicable on the Surface, called Beldin. Shaundakul seemed to think it a reward, since the city was filled with portals, and as such, was evidently one of his favorites. We arrived right in the middle of the Fearthegn’s Bar, the main adventurer meeting place of the city, quite unexpectedly and disruptingly. Disruptingly, because of the various objects which were displaced when us, our table, and chairs suddenly arrived in the middle of the room. Not surprisingly, we were taken to the King.

King Avery, hearing that we had been sent by Shaundakul, promptly told us the woes of the town. Evidently, we had been sent to do something to help Beldin, rather than to enjoy ourselves. Not surprising, given the rather odd nature of the gods and goddesses. Beldin was threatened by the Aurilites, worshipers of the goddess Auril. As one of the deities of fury, she is predictably troublesome, especially up north. I had heard of her a little in the Underdark, and a great deal more on the Surface, but I had never before been in a situation where I had deliberately challenged her.

Our first action, however, had to do with routing out a group of Cyrists who had been causing trouble of one kind or another. I believe the rivvil who informed us of their presence was a young cleric of Bane; at least, he gave us Bane’s Holy Symbol to leave in their house after we had dealt with them. We gained entrance with, of all things, “Cyric Cupcakes”. These Rivven can be very foolish. We killed some, captured others, and gained the house as our reward.

Then we turned to finding the Aurilites, and figuring out what exactly they were up to. We failed in this, however, and lost our only contact. I will not be so foolish again. Soon after, our adventuring group broke up. We had never had a great affection for each other, and this failure was the last straw, as they say on the Surface. I alone remained in Beldin.

I had to admit to myself, I had grown to like the town very much, and was tired of moving from place to place. I like some stability; after all, I was not raised to be an adventurer in the standard sense of the word. For a time, I lived in the house that we had taken from the Cyrists. Then, a few other Eilistraeans, driven from their city in the Underdark, came to the Surface. We banded together for protection and mutual support. We petitioned King Avery for a place to set up a shrine to Eilistraee, and he gave us a small gorge near Beldin. I have lived there ever since.

Soon after, a young priestess, also of Eilistraee came to Beldin. She was a D’Vreeze, and likewise, came from Ched Nasad. I had known her mother before I left. Much to my chagrin, King Avery told her, without asking me, that she and her house could stay in the Eilistraean Enclave. She left her spider there, but does not visit much, which is probably for the best. Otherwise, things might not be as pleasant there.

When King Avery gave us the gorge, I swore to him that I would do my utmost to protect Beldin; I and my House. At first, I thought that the best way to do this would be to reform my adventuring group. After all, I still had the house, and it was falling into disuse. So, I went out and met every adventurer who came to Beldin - a daunting task, but fairly enjoyable, at first. I had quite a few acquaintances, and had a few who were almost my friends. Not true friends perhaps, but they were willing to help Beldin, and I did not mind their company. Unfortunately, one by one, they all disappeared. That, I have found, is the way of adventurers: they never stay long, and are rarely committed to anything.

As the months passed, I became discouraged. I was making no progress against the Aurilites, and soon, everyone I knew disappeared. I withdrew to the Eilistraean Enclave, and stopped going out to meet the ships as they came in. I have regretted this since then, as I regret all my bouts of despair after the fact - not that I feel I can do a great deal about it at the time.

New adventurers came, different from those before. They actually seemed to care about Beldin, and were willing to stay, at least, semi-permenantly. Slowly, I recovered from my despair, and began to go out again about Beldin. However, unlike before, it was Keyna Fearthegn, the leader of the Bounders, and my rival, who showed them about. As a result, I heard much of their exploits, but knew them only slightly.

The exception to this rule was Comui Rivvitti, a Darthiiri wizard whom I met while hunting Aurilites. He showed better sense than most Darthiiri adventurers, and actually bothered to find out whether or not I meant harm. Most of the Darthiiri adventures who come to Beldin assume that the stories that they have heard about drow are untrue, presumably since that have never before encountered drow. I find that I prefer the suspicion to the stupidity, since foolishness of any kind is irritating, and there is a thrill in opposition. I’m afraid that I’ve lived with conflict for so long that I would be bored without it. But that is beside the point.

This happened around the time when the adventurers of Beldin were first pushing farther north, in an attempt to drive the Aurilites farther from Beldin. Keyna Fearthegn and I, joined by Comui, made raids on them the most frequently, at least to my knowledge. At first, Comui generally took Keyna’s side in all arguments and taunting matches, even picking up her habit of calling me ‘darklin’ , a name which I despise. I called her ‘rivvil’ in return, but never did think of anything appropriate to call Comui - I really did not care much for his opinion.

After this had gone on awhile, and we knew each other about as well one can when all one does is hunt, Comui decided to go on a ‘pilgrimage’. He told everyone about it, and promised that he would explain when he got back. I missed him slightly while he was gone. At least, I missed his spells, which were extremely potent against the Aurilites.

When he returned, I asked about his pilgrimage. I was not particularly curious, but he had promised to tell. After all, there was nothing else I could think of talking about. He told me that he had gone to the Arcane Brotherhood in Luskan, for the purposes of joining. Naturally, I knew this to be a very foolish thing to do, and I told him so. But he had stomped out of there, because he had sensed that he was being manipulated by the Archmage in charge of the Arcane Brotherhood. Of course, why he was surprised by this, I am not completely sure, though it was news to him that the Archmage was a lich. Then Comui went on to talk about how he had been too desirous of power, and that he had been running away from. . .what? I’m not sure, but it was the most insightful conversation I had heard from an adventurer yet. In fact, I was so busy thinking about what he had said that is was not until after he had left that it suddenly occurred to me that it was at least a little odd that Comui had told me so much.

Well, in the meantime, I had offered Comui the house in Beldin which I had owned, explaining that I wanted to form an adventuring group. Comui was hardly the ideal partner, as far as I was concerned, but he was an improvement, and I thought he could be relied upon.

Then all of Beldin’s adventurers were caught up in a search for the mythals. The reason for this was so: an elven woman named Kat Cys’varion - part drow, but Darthiiri in appearance - had lost her memory sometime before coming to Beldin. The cure involved touching the mythals, whose healing powers would be able to restore her. It was during these hunts that I actually began to carry on long conversations with Comui - at least, conversations on my side. He had been the one to talk before, and now it was my turn. I have few objections to telling people at least some of my life story, and no objections to telling them what I think.

It was summer, and Eilistraee’s Run came. It is supposed to be a beautiful feast, but for me it has always been the worst torture possible - an excercise in humility and controlling my temper. Every year I must go to Siluvan, patiently and kindly offering my services for the day to Lord Aravilar Jadys’Varine. Naturally, he and the rest of House Jadys’Varine make the most of it - speaking condescendingly to me, and calling me ‘dhaeroaw’. I hate it. I am not even allowed to retaliate by calling them ‘vyshaan’, though my goddess should know they deserve it.

This time was particuarly trying, and I completely lost my temper - giving Lord Aravilar a tongue-lashing for working at cross purposes to the cause of Eilistraee. This was but the culmination of many insults. Upon arriving and settling down in Beldin, I had sent Siluvan a good-will offering, which they had sent back with critisms concerning its workmanship. I had returned the favor when they had sent a gift in return. Our relationship went downhill from there.

Not long after I had managed to sooth my pride from this encounter, Comui managed to find me in the Treetower. Whether he used divination, or saw me climb up there, I do not know. I did not particularly like the fact that he had found the Treetower, but there was nothing I could do about it, and could not quite justify getting angry with him since it was so obvious that any offense was accidental.

I interupted my night song, for politeness sake, and talked with him. The conversation turned from this to that until finally reaching the subject of religion - brought on by the full moon shining overhead.

‘Do you . . . love . . . Eilistraee?’ he asked. I was put a little off balance by the question - after all, love is not the first emotion directed towards a goddess in the Underdark. I looked at the moon for inspiration, and I had to admit it:

‘I don’t know.’

I kept looking at the sky, feeling strongly for the first time what had only been a inkling before: there was something missing. Everything I was taught said the answer should have been ‘yes’. I explained. ‘I . . . don’t understand my goddess the way I should.’ I laughed, rather bitterly. ‘I could loose my spells any day, and not know the reason why. . .’ That was when I noticed from the corner of my eye that he was holding a flower - looking at it, and twirling it between his fingers as he talked. For some inexplicable reason, I disliked the gesture.

’I will be leaving soon,’ I said, a mischievious whim suddenly promting me turn another whim into an actual plan. ‘I’m going to the High Forest.’

He crushed the flower in his hands - a gesture which I pretended to ignore, but took note of - and asked me why.

‘I need to speak with my teacher’.

He did not understand. I could tell what he was thinking: she’s abandoning Beldin.

‘I’m not running away’, I hastened to assure him, ‘Beldin is my home; I will be back’.

His reply was one of the strangest I had ever heard - he said that for the first time in his life, he believe in something: himself, and me. The most sense I could make out of that statement - which, then and now, is a Surface idiom I do not quite understand - was that he trusted me. And that irritated my pride - I am dhaeraow after all, and I expect to be accorded a certain amount of respect and fear. Of course, it was a great compliment, but I did not quite comprehend this until later.

’You trust me?’, I said. ‘I could slit your throat if I had a mind.’

‘Kill me now if you must,’ he replied. ‘You certainly have the ability’. That was more than I expected - either he was completely mad, or he truly did not believe I would do it. I toyed with the idea of proving him wrong, and then thought the better of it.

‘What? In the Enclave? Then I’d loose my spells for certain’. I knew he’d beaten me as far as the fear game was concerned, and there was no point in being a bad sport about it.

Then he said, with standard Kivvil nievete, ‘Just do what is in your heart, Vaune’.

I wanted to laugh. ’If I did that,’ I replied, ‘I would have killed you.’

He smiled. ‘Sometimes Vaune, I have trouble telling when you’re joking’. It was no joke, but perhaps it is best he did not know that. I bade him Aluve, and he left. I danced a long while that night, and thought on what had transpired. It was then that I began to suspect that Comui cared a great deal more for me than was good for him.

Being based on a sudden impulse, my reasons for going to the High Forest were vague. I wanted to talk to Eclanthe and the other priestesses; something was wrong. That was all. But the longer I thought about it, I realized that wasn’t quite the reason why. I knew deep down that I was not as good a priestess of Eilistraee as I should be, and talking to Comui had made this very clear to me. Only a little while before, I had been telling Eldina about my ambitious daydreams of rebuilding Ched Nasad. Now, they seemed wrong for a Sworddancer. I suddenly realized how little I actually knew of the goddess who lent me her spells, and whose representative I was supposed to be. I needed to be retrained. However, as I thought about it more, my reason became very clear to me. I had left the Shrine before I was ready, Quilue and Eclanthe had both told me as much. I had left because I was angry, before I had really absorbed the whole point of the faith of Eilistraee. I had related to Eilistraee the same way I had related to Lolth. There was more trust certainly, but it was an extremely mercenary approach. At heart, I still believed in the tenets of Vhaeraun.

Comui understood none of this, mainly because he did not ask, yet nonetheless, a few days later he asked to accompany me. I was stunned. I said ‘yes’ - my goddess alone knows why: at this point, I liked him.; I had talked with him many times; He had shared his confidence with me. But if anyone had told me a few moments before that I would allow him to come with me to the High Forest, I would have called them insane. After all, he was my inspiration for leaving in the first place. ‘Good’, he replied, crossing his arms, ‘though I would have followed you anyway’. Of all the nerve!

I said that we would go after the Long Night. I wanted to put off my journey as long as possible, because I didn’t want to leave Beldin. Yet, now that I knew there was a problem, I wanted to set everything to rights as soon as possible. I was conflicted, and anxious, the next few months as a result.

And hence it was that the Tenday of Bad Luck came at the worst possible momnet. This was primarily Comui’s fault, since he insisted on taunting Beshaba. Her retaliation was the loss of his staff, which Tymora was so kind as to retrieve for him. However, the price for the staff was high.

Tymora gave Beldin to Beshaba for an entire tenday, and Beshaba’s first act was to kidnap a rivvil child from Aerlith, surround him with halfling shadowdancers, and threaten to kill him. We - Comui, Kat, and I - were forced to run all the way to Karenlynn in an attempt to save him. In the end, we failed, and Beshaba appeared in order to gloat over us.

Comui, for some reason, was the most upset over this turn of events, going so far as to say to Beshaba, ‘Kill me instead of him’.

This was completely beyond my experience, and scared me worse than anything else possibly could have, so I hissed in his ear, ‘Shut up, Jaluk, before you get us all killed!’

He ignored me, but Beshaba simply laughed and refused his offer, saying that the his death would be a far less unlucky happening, since he could be raised. The child was dead forever. How, exactly, this was the case, I am not sure - one does not question a goddess, especially one as random as Beshaba.

Kat collapsed from exhaustion, and I would have done the same except for the fact that it was necessary that someone keep their head about them. Comui was inconsolable, and reacted to the realization of his failure with utter despair. At the time, I put it down to jaluk stubborness, dumped a helmet full of water on him, and that was the end of it for that day.

However, I could not help myself from wondering what had caused him to offer his life for the child’s, since his life was obviously worth more. That a human mother might offer her life for her child was a possibility known to me, though it seemed very foolish in my eyes. But an elf offer his life for a rivvil child he had never seen in his life? That was . . . wrong.

I waited a tenday or so before asking him about it, though I hesitated even then, for I could sense that the memory hurt him. My intuition was not far off. When I put the question to him, he turned away. I had no choice but to leave him alone, and I did not see him again for two months. I have never asked again.

A few days before I planned to leave, I saw Comui again. He seemed rather nervous, almost as though he wanted to avoid me. But I was in no mood to be avoided, since I had not seen him in two months, and wondered what could be wrong. We were able to talk a little in the Fearthegn’s Bar, but there were other adventurers around. It was an enjoyable, but unenlightening, evening.

The next day, I was able to get him to tell me what he had been doing. At least, I am fairly sure that he told me the truth. I am uncertain at times about the trustworthiness of what Comui says about himself. He had been researching a spell, he said, a polymorph spell. Part way through the process, he had been attacked, by, of all things, the lich of the Arcane Brotherhood. Comui had fought him off, but was certain that he would come back. So, he had resolved to polymorph himself and disappear.

This seemed perfectly reasonable, to a point, until he told me that he wanted to polymorph himself into a drow. This stunned me, and it was only the fact that I have a great deal of racial pride that kept me from be disgusted by this obvious betrayal of his own people. But, then again, he had never been particularly proud of his own people. No Sssiks Darthiiri is he - though his looks suggest that he could be.

I told him that I thought the transformation very unwise, but he did it anyway. I suppose I could have stopped him, but I’ve trained myself not to do such impetuous things on the Surface. I’ve learned the hard way that it is very unwise indeed. Not that I think he would have hated me or tried to have hurt me for it. . . perhaps it was, after all, weakness.

So he went and turned himself into a drow, or at least, took the form of one. He’s no more smarter, more magic resistant, or in any way superior to what he was before. His scar is gone, but it remained on his soul. He is still bitter, and forgetting that he was ever Darthiiri will not heal it. I sense that this is the driving force behind most adventurers. Kivvilen run away to become adventurers not because they want to be heroes, but because they are running away from home, family, and responsibilities. I did the same, so I suppose I fit right in, but what I was running away from was evil; what they are running from is good.

I agreed to hide Comui. So, he became a member of House Nasadra, pretending to be my brother. I do not think he realizes that anyone with any amount of sense will notice that there is something wrong, but then again, most of the people I know are devoid of sense. I suppose I will simply have to deal with things as they come, and he will have to do the same.

I could put off my journey no longer, though I sensed that I was needed in Beldin. Another jalil had come to Beldin - a Ssinsriggorbb - and I felt that it was my duty to take care of her, and try to convert her if possible. I was more than a little angry with myself for being unable to stay, but there was nothing that could be done. So, I left with a heavy heart, feeling that I was neglecting my goddess’s mission while seeking to draw closer to her.
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Vaune Nasadra
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Re: Journal of a Sword Dancer

Post by Vaune Nasadra »

[b:2r7wb4gx]Chapter Four[/b:2r7wb4gx]

The journey was long, and Comui and I talked little, except when I was teaching him Illythiiri. The foolish jaluk had forgotten that he was hardly proficient in the language of the very people he had adopted for his own. Remedying that has not been as hard as it could have been, however, for he learns quick even if he lacks wisdom.

Eclanthe was still there, and I was able to speak with her. She gave me a great deal of good advice, and quite a bit of scolding. I told her everything that had happened to me, including everything that Comui told me. I was able to finish my training, which was not particularly difficult. More importantly, I have made what is perhaps the second most important decision of my life. I had used to think that I could go on as I always had, having my own ambitions of power, and still be a priestess of Eilistraee. When I realized that I could not be both, I struggled for a long time, trying to decided what I really wanted. Now I know, I will be a priestess of Eilistraee first, I cannot do less for one who has done so much for me.

Returning to Beldin, however, was hardly the happy homecoming that I had hoped for. A few days after I returned, I was walking down the streets of Beldin when I heard alarm bells. The cry went up: ‘We are under attack’. I knew that the other adventurers could hold off just about anything while I got my armor and backpack; and if they couldn’t, then I would be of no help; so I rushed back to my house.

I arrived at the battle in time for the fourth wave of Aurilites to attack the great oak tree. Comui’, whom I should refer to as my Dalninuk from now on, was fighting them off. He was aided by the elf Yumi, an archer who cared only for her own gain. We were joined by several others, all of whom, except for Drave, are insignificant.

Drave came to the Surface over a year ago, accompanied by his brother, Jaho. Drave had been a slave, and was generally bitter at the whole world. He worshipped no one, and served only himself. Yet, I used to think that he was somewhat trustworthy, at least where the safety of Beldin was concerned. I had always feared that one day he would snap and get all the drow of Beldin in trouble, but that had never happened, and the worry slowly faded.

We were sent to the Roscoe, to inquire of the druids whether the great oak was, as rumored, the source of the mythals power. I was skeptical of this rumor, but the Aurilites had apparently taken it seriously, so we were forced to as well. The druids confirmed my original thoughts, but that is not the most important part of this adventure, as later events were to prove.

Outside the gates of Riverfern, Lolth stopped us. Since Drave was ahead of everyone else, she was talking to him when I came within earshot. Or perhaps, that was what she wanted. She offered him power in Niar Gareth’mir in return for service. In the same breath, she offered me the rule of Niar Gareth’mir, but I was being invisible, and an answer did not seem necessary. I have never spoken to Lolth, and I do not intend to change that any time soon, regardless of how many avatars she sends to Beldin.

Drave replied that he would serve Lolth if she returned our people to the Surface - a good answer. I remember thinking at the time that it was the same answer I would have given. Because of this, it is only with sorrow that I think of what next occurred.

A few days later, I was called to the castle. King Avery, or rather, the Ferrets wished to see me. I went, and they told me that one of the nobles of Siluvan had been killed. House Jadys’Varine was blaming the drow, and therefore, me, for this crime. I was stunned at the deed, but not at the reaction. House Jadys’Varine and I have hated each other for a very long time. I have tried to be friend rather than foe - my goddess knows I tried - but they are too stubborn.

I told my Dalninuk all this, and he was naturally worried. Being a Darthiiri, and a jaluk, he of course wanted to do something about it immediately. So, we went and interrogated a few adventurers, in between fighting off yet another Ssinssriggorb raid. They do get tiresome at times. But we were able to discover nothing.

I went to follow up a few leads of my own for a few days, but found nothing. My Dalninuk was waiting for me when I got back, and he told me that there had been a meeting of the adventurers of Beldin the night before. It had been revealed that Drave was the murderer, and Kat and Daren had gone to Siluvan to deliver this message. However, the Sssiks Darthiiri had already sent their ‘Justices of Weald and Woe’, a fancy name for assassins, after us. I can only hope they will stop when they kill Drave, but I cannot be sure. After all, history has taught that the Sssiks Darthiiri can be very vindictive. They are as proud and as vengeful as the drow. The difference is, they will not even admit it to themselves.

This subtlety was unknown to my Dalninuk, so I was forced to explain it to him thus: ‘For the Sun Elves, as for the Drow, the Crown Wars never ended.” Then I muttered, as an afterthought, “Or ever will, at this rate.”

"They will continue as long as the ancient prejudices remain", said my Dalninuk, with the standard Surfacer misconception of such things.

"And they will remain as long as they are deserved," I snapped back. He sighed, obviously still not completely understanding my point.

Then he asked me a rather strange question: ‘Do you ever want to just run away from it all?’

"I just got back!" I protested, in good humor, "But seriously, Dalninuk, Beldin is my home".

This is true, now. I have run away three times in my life, it will not happen again. I ran away from my family in the Underdark, abandoning my responsibilities and honor to be free. I ran away from Clan Auzkovyn, being disillusioned with the Vhaeraunans. And I ran away from the Eilitraeans, because of my own hot temper and pride. To the Eilistraeans alone I returned. Why? Of all the gods and goddesses I have worshipped, Eilistraee alone I have ever trusted. It is a tenuous trust, I must admit - I was trained to rely only on myself - but it is trust nonetheless.

"Even so" I told my Dalninuk, “If Lolth were to bring the Illythiir back to the Surface, I would serve her once again".

Truth to be known, it would break my heart to admit that Eilistraee was wrong - that she need not have sacrificed herself to return us to the Surface. Even more, it would break me to admit that I had been wrong. But though it grieves me to say it, it is the truth.

Some tendays later, the Justices finally caught Drave after a long chase through the southern valley. I suppose it is a credit to their skill that it was they, and not any of the adventurers' of Beldin who caught him. Unfortunately, it is doubtful that they will ever completely disappear again, and the question of what made Drave return to the habits and loyalties he had fled will remain a mystery. I had thought better of him.
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Vaune Nasadra
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Re: Journal of a Sword Dancer

Post by Vaune Nasadra »

[i:9vc1h0iw]Here the journal leaves off for a long time, with only a few notes about the mundane affairs of the Enclave, and Comui's eventual disappearance. It would seem that Vaune's depression over his absence destroyed her desire to write.[/i:9vc1h0iw]

[b:9vc1h0iw]Chapter Five[/b:9vc1h0iw]

Can it be that it has been nigh two years since I last wrote? I suppose I left this book behind me in a way - tucked in the corner of a shelf and forgotten. Too many painful memories, perhaps? But now I have found it again: now that I have lost everything I thought so important. So! I have my past, I have my goddess. Life will go on.

A year ago - it seems strange that it should already be so long - what I had feared but not wanted to ponder came to pass: Auril attacked Beldin with all her strength. I was lying in my bed, lost in my own meditations, when I heard a voice: sweet, beautiful, Eilistraee’s. ‘Get up!’ it said, ‘Get up for the sake of your vow!’ I sprang up, and ran outside: Nothing. But the misgiving was still there. Something was wrong. I climbed to the top of the Treetower, and then I saw it: a great storm-cloud, white with snow, yet dark with strength descending upon Beldin and my little gorge. I ran to get my sword and jumped through the portal. I would be in Beldin when whatever the trouble was occurred. There was no one else to be counted upon.

The defense was mustered at the Castle. Keyna was there, along with the other heroes of Beldin. Snow began swirling outside, while Keyna, the Captain of the Guard, and Prince Aelfric talked of plans. Then we heard it: the pounding at the Gate. Well! Aurilites had done this before, albeit without the storm, so we adventurers went with a score of guards to defend the Gate. We were woefully unprepared for what happened next.

We had no sooner come out into the open when we were descended upon by three white dragons, effectively pinning us against the Gate. There were more, many more, and that was when I truly realized that I was fighting for my life as I have never done before. The guards stood as best as they could be expected to, but those who survived the first blast of the dragon’s wintery breath fled to be picked off one by one. I am no dragon fighter, and none were prepared to fight three powerful dragons all at once - for these dragons were strong with age and the power of Auril. Slowly, we too scattered, though I am sure that someone still stood by me when I found my back to the Bay and could retreat no more.

I swear to Eilistraee I made the best of it I could, but my arm is not strong enough, and my sword dull against the scales of a Great Wyrm. So it has always been. I can run, I can dogde, I can hide, but I cannot fight. Even so, I fought. I dodged the icy breath again and again, blinded by it and the blizzard which raged all around. I could do nothing: nothing except use my magic, and of that, only one spell was of any use - the one I had learned secretly from the libraries of Siluvan.

I backed away from the dragon, reaching into the Weave, and twisting strands to fit to create a blast large enough to send this beast of Auril to the Planes of Fury. As I said the last word, the High Language of the Elves sounding strange but powerful in my ears, the threads snapped. I felt the strands slide away from my fingers. There was no power: there was nothing. And then I saw no more.

That I remained alive at all was a miracle, but eventually I awoke. My head throbbed in agony, my body felt frozen, and my eyes burned in the sun as soon as I opened them. The sun! So, it was daytime, the blizzard was over, and there was something of the city remaining. Not much, just as the sun was very weak, but the Fearthegn’s Bar still stood - at least the lower story -and into it I crawled and lay down by the fire. I slept on and off for days, hardly ever regaining enough consciousness to be aware of my surroundings. No one dared move me, they have that much fear of me still, at least. T’was kind of them: I had no wish to know anything, only to rest and make it all go away.

A tenday later, someone finally kicked me and shook me awake with the words, ‘Get up! I don’t care if you are a Matron Mother, there’s work to be done, and you can’t lay about any more like a lazybones!’

I know I have seen the girl who said those words both before and since: a medium height, brown-haired, green-eyed, dirty young human who gives the impression of never having quite grown up. But for all my trying I have never spoken to her, no, not even then, for she ran off as quick as possible to busy herself with something as soon as I was awake enough to be coherent.

I was in a sorry state indeed: all the magic was drained from my equipment, and what served me for armor had been shredded by the dragon. My sword lay broken in the snow drift where I had dropped it. My mind could barely hold the simplest spells. But I made myself useful, and slowly, through the last year and half, that fierce headache - caused, I am told, by a wild magic surge as the Mythals collapsed - has slowly died. I am not as powerful as I was before, but I am at least good as any adventurer who comes off the boat.

So it was that I felt myself ready to make now seemling arduous trek back to my old home. The spiders are still here, and I managed to slip past them. The portals are all gone. The Treetower is gone. The Aurilites must have made a foray there too. My home was a wreck, even my room. Everything gone or ruined, except for this book, and a few trinkets. So it is, that I can sit in the Fearthegn’s Bar, writing as I have not done for years. I am lucky to be alive. Beldin is lucky to have survived. We are both weak, but we will both rebuild.
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