Burning Scrolls - The Writings of Diadne
I watched in horror, as the orcs came into camp. They came in a wave, silently, without any cries of battle. The first cry I heard was Gladius, as the spear pinned him to the soft earth through his sleeping roll.
They swept through the camp, killing my friends before they rose. The only one who even made a token resistance was Marc, who was on watch. He slew one of the Kossuth forsaken beasts with an axe blow that sprayed blood and splashed the canvas of the cart. However, he was quickly tackled and brought to earth. Long knives found their mark quickly.
Spared by a simple call of nature, I ran. Kossuth help, me I ran.
I fled headlong through the forest, my feet tripping through the underbrush. Branches and leaves left stinging kisses on my arms and face. I had been spared most forms of violence when young, and was too terrified to even cry out. That was until, I ran into one of the beasts. Then I screamed.
His piggish eyes looked down at me, and he chuckled. “Vog la foce, kirre la kivver”, he said with a smirk, grabbing me by the arm.
…and burst into flames.
I had only one other time killed this way, and this was the first on purpose. The horror of the moment, coupled with the anger ignited the power that Kossuth had given me. His burbling shriek echoed through the forest as his skin melted from his body, leaving a smoky trail as he ran from sight.
I continued to run until I collapsed in a field, and sobbed. I continued sobbing, until I fell asleep.
The man who woke me did so with the tip of a staff. I was startled, terrified that the Orcs had found me, but instead looked up into a bearded face wrinkled and worn by wind and weather.
“No need to fear me child”, he spoke in a slow, measured voice, and extended his hand. I took it, and he helped me up, his hands tough as roots. Then silently I followed him into the dark cool shade of the woods, simply glad for human company.
“What’s your name child?” he asked, after almost thirty minutes of walking on a pine covered trail.
“Diadne”, I replied. “Diadne of Kossuth…What’s yours?”
“Die-ADD-nee, huh? Pretty name”, he commented. “They call me Kregan”, he said, and then remained quiet for the remainder of our walk.
We walked two, perhaps three hours. When I spoke, he put his finger to my lips and shook his head. I followed quietly as I could, thankful for someone who knew the land.
We arrived before sunset at a small cabin, easily missed at first glance. I never would have seen it twenty yards out. Suddenly, it was before us, as if the woods had parted to reveal it. He checked inside carefully, and then set himself down on stump outside the cabin, busily preparing something over the fire. I stood by and watched, unsure of what to do or say.
“Headed to Narfell I suspect?”, he asked, his hands busy.
“Yes sir, we were. Is the land close?”
He nodded, “About three days journey that way”, he pointed. You’ll pick up a ferry. Take you to Norwick. I take skins there sometimes. Trade with the locals. We’ll leave in the morning.” He paused for a moment while he struggled with a root, it twisting in his hands. “Where you from, child?”
“I was born in Bexantur sir, but spend much of my time in Surthay”
At the mention of Surthay, a dark look crossed his face. “People don’t like Thayan’s much around these parts. But I ‘spose child can’t help where its born.” He paused for a moment, “You a priestess? You look the part”, he said, pointing to the holy symbol around my neck.
I wasn’t sure how to respond in any meaningful way to that question. I felt at least, that I owed him an answer. “No sir, I am not. I’m … owned by the temple…I…”
“A slave?”, he interrupted.
“No sir, well…technically yes, but a very pampered one. Though owned, I am blessed, and treated as a holy object, albeit a minor one”, I smiled, holding up my fingers.
He just grunted. After moment’s pause he spoke up, “Well you’re free now child. I’ll take you to Norwick. Got some skins to sell anyway.”
I sat quietly, and didn’t respond to that. Why would I ever want to be free from the Fire Lord’s protective embrace? The thought terrified me.
We had supper, and when it got dark he strung a hammock inside the cabin and gestured to it. He didn’t say much most of the evening, and went to sleep when it got dark. I considered going to his bed and giving myself to him, but I never did that without the Eternal Flame’s permission. I lay there for the longest time, alone with my thoughts. Finally sleep overtook me.
True to his word, we set out in the morning. The trip was uneventful, and after three days of silent walking, we took a ferry to Norwick.
Diadne approached the tavern in Blackridge. She had foolishly sold her amulet that protected her from the cold and had to rely on elemental protection spells. Ibli rode in her hood, and she could feel him shiver through the several layers of cloth.
“Please mistress, tell me we are not going to settle here! This is intolerable! I shall die stiff and cold, Kossuth forsaking me to the clutches of this awful land!”
Diadne sighed, “Stop whining Ibli. It’s not that bad. The fires of our lord are most needed in places like this, it’s…”
“It is that bad mistress!”, Ibli interrupted. “I … I can see my breath!”
Diadne made it to the door. Soft music was playing inside. She brushed the snow from her shoulders, wiped her feet and stepped in.
The warm scent of mulled cider wrapped around her as she entered. People milled about. Many of High Hold’s soldiers sat still in uniform laughed and carried on at various tables. Diadne pulled back her hood and Ibli scrambled deeper into the recesses of her cloak.
“Well, well, well! If it isn’t Diadne the Deluded!”. The unmistakable shrill voice came from the knot of Red Wizards conversing near the center. Diadne’s shoulders slumped as she turned to face the small pinch faced woman who returned her gaze with a haughty smile. Her red robes were festooned with jewelry. Her hair was short and brown, barely covering her cheeks. Her name was Azhia.
Azhia and Diadne seemed destined to run into each other in Thay. Their meetings never came to violence, but Azhia carried the Red Wizards prejudices against the naturally gifted like a badge of honor. Azhia had railed against her presence at numerous occasions, and Diadne was growing tired of it.
Diadne turned and forced a smile. “I see you finally crawled out of your basement Azhia. Did you tire of playing with rats and dead bodies?”
“Spoken like a jealous arcanist who still has to take caravans or rely on others to do real magic. How long did it take you to get here from Thay? Three weeks? A month? Perhaps you paid good coin to have someone teleport you?”
At this point, a couple of High Hold soldiers started taking interest in the conversation, looking up from their meal. Diadne smiled at one past Azhia, and was rewarded with an admiring glance in return. It was then Diadne realized what she had to say.
Diadne had spent several years in the Courtesans Guild in Surthay. Contrary to public opinion, a courtesan, a well trained one was a companion. It wasn’t just about the sex. The courtesan’s job was to make the client feel important. The center of attention. Diadne had learned to read people, sometimes altogether too well.
She looked Azhia over, noticed the jewelry, the makeup, and the perfume. Azhia wasn’t only an accomplished wizard, she was vain. Her vanity was as apparent to Diadne as her red robes. Diadne walked up to her with a belittling smile, and made a point to violate her personal space. She leaned down just a hair, enough to let Azhia know she was taller and had greater presence.
“It’s true Azhia, that sadly, I will never learn to teleport. But no matter how many spells you learn, and how accomplished you get, you will always be ugly. And if you succeed in whatever, strange ritual you are conducting in that dark basement of yours to ward of the impending march of time, you’ll be uglier still.”
Diadne then patted her condescendingly on the cheek and turned to walk away.
The High Hold soldier who had admired Diadne spit his ale in laughter at the cattiness and base nature of Diadne’s words. His friend shook his head and chuckled. There were murmurs of laughter at the nearby tables.
Azhia’s complexion darkened. Diadne could practically feel the heat rise in Azhia’s face from behind her. Azhia turned to face the soldiers that were laughing. Some of stopped in fear, but several continued. Azhia turned to Diadne who was walking away and sputtered angrily, “Go ahead! Walk away! Just know bitch that you will never, never know true power!”
Diadne stopped and cocked her head and thought for a moment before turning back to face her. Azhia’s mouth was pursed. Her face pinched even more so in anger. Diadne walked back to her, using her height to intimidate, and looked down.
“No dear Azhia, it is you who will never know true power. Last year, three monks from the Sword Coast traveled all the way to Eltabbar by ship and caravan just for a lock of my hair. A dwarf by the name of Ash traveled all the way from Thay to Peltarch just to be in my presence. A priest paid a king’s ransom to the temple of Kossuth just to have an afternoon conversation with me. And…”, Diadne said leaning down and looking her in the eye, “…a man immolated himself, just because I asked him to.”
Diadne stood up again, making sure to look down at her. “That dear Azhia, is true power. Please … Continue to play in your basement with dead bodies and scrolls. Let the grown ups upstairs run the world”
Diadne could feel the weave twist under Azhia’s will. For a moment, Diadne thought things were going to get messy. But a large hand from one of the other Red Wizards rested gently on Azhia’s shoulder. Azhia looked up and the man just shook his head. The bearded face turned, and Diadne looked up into friendly eyes. Not all Red Wizards were against her. Some respected Kossuth’s might.
Diadne sat in the bathtub, the water just over her breasts. She gestured with her hands under the water, which was quickly brought to a boil. Steam rose in great clouds. She sighed with relief and slipped further into the water. Ibli dutifully brought a glass of port along with a plate of cheeses and grapes, setting them down on a tray next to the bath.
The bathhouse was one of her favorite places to sit and relax. Water had its place, so long as it was subservient to the will of her lord. Other guests had become accustomed to the fact that she kept the water hot enough that her bathing experience was a solitary endeavor. Some looked at her with concern. Others with jealousy. She was no longer the young, scared girl that had fled to Norwick. She had aged well. The mirror in her hand revealed a mature woman of poise and beauty. She could have most anyone in the bathhouse she mused, should her lord allow it. However, her lord was a passionate and while distant, jealous sort. She had been promised to him, and she would remain his. Chastity here was a small price to pay for an afterlife of power.
She had used the lantern which contained the sacred flame recently on adventure. It would be another full cycle of the moon before she could use it again in ritual. Diadne pursed her lips in frustration. The days would be long until she could feel her lord again.
My power grows. I can feel that I am on the cusp of something greater, though at the moment its nature is undefined. A divine spark grows within. Although the people I travel with assume that the blessings come from Kossuth, they actually come from me. It’s a strength I can draw on for aid and battle.
I am proud that I was recently able to complete a quest for my lord. A powerful mage had created a pocket plane of fire to honor Kossuth, but my lord found it wanting and corrupt. He was offended and asked me and my companions to put a stop to it. Although it was taxing for many, as the heat was unbearable to most but me, we were successful.
I’ve recovered a book of extreme power. I don’t know it’s origins, and I’m fearful of using it. What I gleam within will just as likely slay me outright as grant me the power I desire. I have decided to sell it at a silent bid auction at the temple of Kossuth in Eltabbar. I know many people of wealth and ambition will be there.
The flames of the bonfire whipped merrily on the shore of The Scar. Diadne stood within, the lantern at her feet. The ceremonial clothing had long since burned away, and she stood with arms outstretched, fingers splayed, hair blowing in the fiery updraft.
She looked up at nothing an onlooker could see. Her mouth was parted, and her eyes stared blankly into the heavens. Her irises glowed brightly with divine magic and despite the heat, her body shivered slightly. The flames took a form of their own, and Diadne was caressed by their touch. As the night settled across the land and the flames sputtered and died, Diadne collapsed to the ashes at her feet.
The communes have become more … intimate as of late. They are soul bearing in ways difficult to put on paper. It’s as if my entire being is laid out before him. I no longer even feel the need to ask any questions.
I find myself counting the days each week until the lantern is ready again. I have sacrificed certain physical pleasures for this, and I’m coming to realize how little I’ve actually given up. My life as a servant to the temple and courtesan in Thay are shadows of my current existence.
Last month I was in Eltabbar, and a child ran up to me asking for coin. He looked at my holy symbol, regarded me innocently and said, “blessed be the flame which warms my house and cooks my food”, and held his hands out. I looked into those innocent eyes and dirt streaked face, and my heart went out to him … and then sank as I realized I would never have a child of my own.
I could adopt. The orphanage of Peltarch is full of children looking for someone to call mother or father, but to stare into the eyes of your own flesh and blood has to be one of the greatest joys a parent could have.
Yet, I never will.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had cause to write another entry. Other than the occasional foray into the underdark, my life has been filled with solace and quiet reflection. Ibli had an engagement with family, and though I could have easily summoned him, I honored his wishes. He has been a faithful companion and teacher these many years and deserves the time away.
I had almost given up on ever going to the ruined monastery. I had vacated the Mermaid as I invariably do, dressed for battle in my light chainmail hoping my services were needed. Talks of the beggar filtered through the commons, and that he had ventured south for his “last flame”. Here was my chance, and I grabbed whomever was available and we ventured after him.
What followed was a series of adventure within the adventure itself. Hannibal had to deal with visitors from a village seeking an alliance with Norwick. The goblin “Hunni Tribe” were beset by demon twisted brethren. We ended up defeating the demon but it was no small task. The Hunni tribe view Isolde as their queen, a story I must truly hear sometime.
Thereafter lies a tale of escaped animals, a peaceful glen, and a long trek to the sands southeast of old Jiyyd. There we discovered the ruins of an old temple, not monastery, and the beggar, whose name I learned was Durark was found lying in the sand waiting his death. I tried to comfort him, and brought forth the lantern so that he knew Kossuth would be watching. Should he choose death, I was willing to provide it, but what happened instead is still hard to fathom.
The flame within burned bright. At first, I thought Kossuth was going to manifest himself in some fashion and consume Durark and the remains of the Temple, but what instead appeared was what I can only describe as a force of anger and destruction.
There are many within the Church of Kossuth, particularly the Salamanders who want to see the world burn, and do whatever it takes to make that happen. It’s my speculation that Durark was one of those people, and his dying will, along with the blessed stones and the spirits of the dead priests, used the Sacred Flame within the lantern to manifest their desires.
What followed was a battle of wills, with my adventuring party trying to survive the onslaught of the flame that manifested itself. It brought forth creatures from the ground and even set part of the sky on fire. Ashes and flame rained down on us. I am blessed and protected from Kossuth’s embrace, but even I felt its wrath.
Much of the group retreated, and I became locked in its embrace. The heat, even for me was almost unbearable, and I could feel my strength, energy and will failing. Then someone, who I later found out was Ting, put a regeneration spell upon me.
Suddenly, the combination of regeneration and Kossuth protections meant that I could hold my own against it. I demanded its submission. I knew what Kossuth wanted because He had told me on numerous occasions. Gradually, the creature dwindled in size and submitted, and was placed back within the lantern.
I had expected Durark’s life to have been extinguished throughout all of this, but he clung to life on the sandy floor of the ruins. He was healed, and I could see the veil of confusion and anger lifted. His eyes were clear, and within was the spark of hope.
Durark asked to remain to sanctify the ruins, and we returned. Several days later, he showed up in Norwick, and presented me with one of the rubies so often used in ceremonies within the church.
There was no treasure trove of scrolls, books, or holy relics to be found. Instead, the treasure of this journey was a man, whose wealth of the knowledge will serve the temple once it is built.
Fenris and I encountered a dwarven gentleman named Ash yesterday. He was witnessing a wizard’s duel, and Kossuth chose to spare him.
He was a survivor from the Dwarven Hold just north of Norwick. His wife and children were killed in the attack. He had nothing left and was likely content to die and see his family when the fireball came hurtling toward him.
Instead he was spared, and was escorted to a Temple of Kossuth. There he pledged his faith. He chose to start his life anew rather than dwell of the losses of his past. What was just recently two, is now three.
What I find curious and heartening is that he felt the need to be here. He felt drawn to this area, almost as if Kossuth guided him. Here I am looking to build a temple of stone, and Kossuth sends an old Dwarven builder to me.
Which leads me to my next predicament … Who will head this temple?
All temples of Kossuth are headed by a priest whose title is the Eternal Flame. I am not a priest. I don’t pray for power. Kossuth has given it to me, but it manifests itself as arcane. This is likely to be a sticking point with the other Eternal Flames who are going to push their own candidate to be the Eternal Flame here in Narfell.
However, I am one of Kossuth’s Chosen, a Keeper of the Eternal Flame. This is irrefutable. Any priest of significant favor could cast a commune spell and be assured of this. Having a priest head the temple is tradition, but nothing in carved in stone saying this must be done.
I am going to build this temple, and I will lead it.
(the following is written a little later in the evening as an addendum to the journal entry)
A divine spark was given to me many years ago. This manifests itself in two ways. The first is that it allows me to direct a divine flame. I don’t even have to cast it. I just will it to happen and it does. It drains me considerably and I can only do it once before resting, but I can do it. I’ve tried to use this spark to bless and heal others, but without success. It’s remarkably destructive in its nature.
The second is that I have received power from the prayer of others. They have to be extremely devout for it to happen, but it does.
I’m going to have to explore this further. Perhaps I will find answers at the ruined monastery.
Over the past several months, I have befriended another flame touched, and man by the name of Fenris. He and I have shared numerous conversations, and we’ve discussed his desire to serve Kossuth.
He was raised a gladiator, and studied the arcane as warrior would, learning offensive and defensive spells to help in the arena. While Kossuth’s power was given to me, Fenris acquired it on his own. That requires sacrifice, ambition and dedication, something I respect. He is probably going to struggle harder than I ever did. Sometimes it seems that my life and fortune were blessed with Kossuth’s attentions. While it seems like circumstance, so much was laid before me and provided by Kossuth in assurance that I would come to him.
Fenris turned over this holy symbol to Tempus to me as a symbol of faith, and while I was in Damara I copied down the Word’s of Faith on becoming a Burning Brazier, the adventuring and missionary arm of Kossuth. I had heard these words countless times in my youth, but I wanted to memorize them and ensure they were spoken accurately. Fenris was to be my first conversion. He would pledge himself fully, and with the aid of the lantern be truly witnessed by Kossuth. I planned the ceremony in detail, symbolically at the crossroads in the Nars.
Little did I imagine the attentions that ceremony would bring.
Fenris stood in the crossroads pledging his faith. I had just symbolically moved to the southern road because prayers to Kossuth are performed facing south. Suddenly, I felt this overwhelming presence behind me, and when I turned I saw the wavering form of what could only have been an avatar of Tempus.
The form just stood there silently, glowering at Fenris. I nearly dropped the lantern, but finally screwed up my courage and turned my back on it to face Fenris again. If Fenris or I were going to be struck dead at this moment, there was little I could do.
…and then before me was the wavering form of Kossuth, standing at Fenris’ back.
As the ceremony continued, I eventually felt the presence of Tempus fade away. I could see the approval on Kossuth’s face. To have pleased my lord and my love over this ceremony filled me with joy. There was a smile, a sense of intense approval, and then he too faded away.
It remains to be seen whether divine presence was brought forth by the ceremony, by Fenris or both. I like to think it’s a turning point in Narfell’s history. Though there is no temple here in Narfell, it is my desire to build one. However, I have been told by someone wiser than I that the church is not the building, but the people who worship in it.
Today, the church of Kossuth grew by one.
Though this was the time of melting, the snows gave their last gasp of the season and began to blanket the commons in powdery white. It was early evening, and he appeared again in the commons, carrying stones from piles he stored in shadowy alleyways behind buildings. He made several trips, his meager clothing providing little relief from the elements, and built a circle with these stones in the commons. There, he built roaring fire, and prostrated himself before it.
I had seen this man several times before and his presence always confounded me. His was unshaven, his clothes barely rags. He looked like he had eaten little, yet he possessed strength beyond what his wiry frame would suggest. He had refused my offers of assistance in the past, and seemed content to only “PRAISE THE FLAME”, which he did with ardent fervor.
His presence always puzzled me. His attitude and actions were borderline manic, almost embarrassing, yet at the same time gave me strength. I could feel Kossuth’s power growing within me in small trickles at his prayer, suggesting a mutual connection to the divine in ways that surprised me.
The guards came this time, claiming that there were complaints about him disturbing the peace. Fortunately, the guards left after a short argument, not expecting the degree of resistance they received when they made their intent known to have him removed.
I tried to bless him. Kossuth has given me a small parcel of divine power, but all I’ve been able to do with it is create fire. I truly wanted to bless or heal this man, but that power doesn’t belong to me. So what I couldn’t do with prayer I offered with simple words of support and faith.
It worked for a time. His mind cleared, and he told me the story of how he had fled from a temple of Kossuth east of where Jiyyd once stood. The temple had been overrun when the demons came, and now lay in ruins. He had sought shelter in Peltarch, and had been here since. At my insistence, he even drew a crude map of where the temple once stood. Then oddly he left, saying he had other fires to create. After thanking him I watched him go in silence, unsure of what else to say.
Now I’m on the long road to Damara and the nearest temple of Kossuth. I will seek answers with the clergy and record keepers there and learn what I can about this temple that once stood east of Jiyyd. This could have been the final destination of the ill fated caravan I was on that left Surthay so many years ago. It may hold some significance in this regard, because if true, it was where I, the sword and shield were originally destined to be. But as implied by The Emissary, Kossuth had scattered them to force me to find them and learn of my significance to him. Perhaps he suspected or even knew it was to be overrun, and spared me by having the caravan attacked right at the moment when I would likely be safe. Had I been at the temple, I likely would have died there.
After I learn what I can of this temple, I will plan a journey there. The man’s presence in the commons, his message to me, the power from his prayers … all of it hints at something grand which must be found, recovered or restored. Hopefully, Kossuth will see fit to tell me what he needs from me, and what I must do when I get there.
In a portion of the field west of Peltarch, Diadne finished inscribing Kossuth’s symbol on the ground. It wasn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but the design was simple enough to serve its purpose. With care she drizzled oil along the design, letting the liquid sink a bit into the earth.
The “Dance of Flames” was often performed on the High Holy Day, which was marked as the birthday of the Eternal Flame of the Temple. But as far as she knew, there were no temples of Kossuth in the region, nor any priests of repute for that matter. So Diadne, chosen of Kossuth and Keeper of the Sacred Flame chose this day to honor him. Today was her birthday.
She looked up at the tower and distant walls to the east. This would be a spectacle she knew, but all the better. Her friends and others already knew who she stood for. Now, perhaps a few bored guards would as well.
She stood unclothed at the top of the large symbol she furrowed into the ground. A dancer, particularly a champion would use a flaming chain. But all Diadne had was her sword, which she felt more comfortable with and appropriate to her calling. It was the sword that had guided her to the Sea of Glass and set her path to being chosen.
With a touch of this sword, she lit the symbol.
Diadne was never particularly graceful. She was practiced however, and knew the dance by heart. Slaves of the temple, particularly one of her station were required. With her sword swirling in fiery arcs, Diadne danced naked along the symbol wreathed in flame.
She was self-conscious at first, unknowing what eyes were upon her. Soon her feet moved of their own accord, and Diadne became lost in the moment, the beauty and purity of the flame surrounding her. She knew truly that only one pair of eyes mattered, and hoped that he was watching.
Yesterday, was my birthday. One would think Kossuth would have picked a better month for a chosen to be born. Flamerule comes to mind. But I was born Tarsakh 22nd in a small fishing village outside of Benzantur. Such a quiet and humble beginning.
I celebrated my birthday yesterday by drinking too much and performing the Dance of Flames outside the city walls. I used the lantern only to let Kossuth know that I would be performing it to honor him in hopes that he would notice. I asked nothing in return.
There have been three sessions with the lantern since that day in Hammer. In each one since, I have dismissed Ibli and stripped myself of all that I own. The times I hold the lantern seem unduly intimate in a way that’s difficult to explain. I have yet to ask anything further, but instead tell him of my adventures and travels. I anxiously wait for his words, though I have yet to hear his voice since that day in Hammer.
I undoubtedly could use the lantern to obtain great power. Perhaps, it was meant for that purpose. But for now I am only using it so that he sees my heart, and hope that he sees fit to let me know his and what he wishes of me while I’m here.
Diadne was backed into a corner. There was a door behind her, but there was no way she was going to leave her traveling companions down in this crypt. The shambling mass of decaying undead however, had other plans.
With a gesture and a few chosen words, a wall of flame encircled her. While it would have driven back most sentient opponents, the undead pressed forward into it. Some raked at her armor. Others fell in the conflagration, burning their old musty clothing and igniting desiccated flesh.
With an effort, she pressed forward out of the corner. Her power was getting low and she found herself using basic incantations but with new found power Kossuth had granted her. The hoard withered in the flames before her.
Her sword was white hot and ignited everything it touched. She was wreathed in flames. Despite the horror of the situation, Diadne found beauty in it.
I’ve participated in several adventures, both terrifying and silly. Although I’m not, and never will be the same caliber of warrior as Scott or Cecil, I’ve been in position where people look up me. Most know my name and I’ve obtained some measure of respect. I’ve also been trusted in confidence as someone who knows discretion.
I have thought about serving the city in some fashion, but I don’t know how. Someday, I will be required to be comfortable with the politics and machinations of a temple of Kossuth, and what better way to learn than be in service to the city. The temples of Kossuth often demand structure, and so should I of myself.
The problem lies with my faith. I will not wear the Cerulean uniform, though service in their ranks best fit me. The only service organization that doesn’t require a uniform is the Far Scouts, and I am a laughably poor fit. It’s a pity, for I have the utmost respect for Vick.
Hopefully, an opportunity will present itself.
Diadne sat on the tall hill in the west end of Norwick. It was in the middle of Hammer, the deepest of winter now, and the cold air bit despite the large fire she had built behind her. Even in this late hour, the town of Norwick was alive with the bustle of the refugees from the attack on the Dwarven Hold. She looked down from the hill to the many campfires below. She heard people crying. There were shouts of anger and wails of despair.
“War sucks”, she thought to herself. “How anyone could build a shrine to honor Tempus?” It was hypocrisy of the greatest sort she knew. How often had she raided the homes of other, lesser races? Here, the duergar were doing the same.
The lantern sat before her much as it had the last hour. She had a list of questions and contingencies in her hand. She had spent most of the evening writing them, but the thought of touching the lantern, reaching out, and actually speaking with Kossuth filled her feelings she couldn’t explain. Despite her trials she felt unworthy and insignificant. But yet, there it was. Finally, with a long deep breath she caressed the lantern with both hands and stared into the flame.
“My Lord…”, she started, thought better of it, and continued, “….My Love…”
It was but a whisper, but it thundered through her in form and purity. It caught her off guard, nearly making her break contact with it. She closed her eyes and forced herself to breathe steadily. Her heart pounded in her chest”
“I wish to be more my love. Can you teach me?”
There was a short pause before another whisper. She was prepared this time as the whisper rippled through her.
Diadne bit her lip, but confidence grew. Her heart still pounded though, and despite her best efforts, her voice quavered.
“How? What must I do my love?”
“STEP INTO THE FIRE AND I WILL SHOW YOU”
The thunder of words were almost caressing. She stood up holding the lantern and turned to the fire behind her. It was large, but nothing she couldn’t endure. With care she stepped over the stones and into the flames.
In the cold Hammer air, the warmth surrounded her. The flames tickled her skin, and her hair blew in the updrafts of the fire. It was comforting. The lantern she held before her grew brighter.
The flames picked up in intensity. They began to grow hot even for her. The ceremonial robes she war were whisked to ash in moments, leaving her naked in the flames. Her hair whipped about furiously.
Diadne’s hands holding the lantern trembled as the flame within grew even brighter. Suddenly Diadne felt pain. Her skin began to blister. Tears which came unbidden were evaporated in an instant.
“M’Lord!!!”, Diadne cried and closed her eyes. The pain was almost unbearable.
“OPEN YOUR EYES”
Though there was a tenderness to them, the words ripped through her again. She opened her eyes and then suddenly, the pain was gone. The fire continued to roar around her but as she watched, her body drank in the flames. They rippled under her skin, and annealed to every part of her. Her blisters healed in an instant. Her vision swam. Her body trembled.
A purity of being filled her with strength and power. It blinded her and for a brief moment, she felt she could do anything. Then Diadne’s world tipped sideways as her body gave out, and she collapsed unconscious to the base of the flames.
She awoke the next morning shivering, covered in ash. The embers of the fire burned pitifully, barely enough to protect her from the cold. Diadne looked up and struggled to focus onto Ibli’s concerned face. “Mistress? What happened?”
Diadne just looked at Ibli and sighed. She couldn’t explain the experience, even if she wanted to. But as she stood up she felt a power inside her that wasn’t there before. The fire within burned hotter, giving her strength to limbs and focus to her flames.
Soon she hoped, the Duergar would learn to fear Kossuth
Yesterday we defended the Dwarven Hold against the Duegar and lost. It’s difficult to explain how that feels. As I write this, I can see Norwick from a window in Spellweaver. It’s filled with refugees and displaced people. When I arrived in Norwick after the caravan attack, the Dwarves were the first people that welcomed me with open arms. Dwin took me in, introduced me, and said a small prayer to Kossuth with me.
It fills me with fury. All I want to do is incinerate every single Duergar I see. Kossuth willing they will be burned to ash until nothing remains. All of them.
I had an experience with the lantern last night. I haven’t written of it, nor will I, for fear of what would happen should others find I possess it. Even though I know it will never be misused, lest Kossuth vent his wrath on those who would, there are those foolish enough to still try.
Starla and Vick fell to beholders in the attack. I vented Kossuth’s wrath upon one of the beholders until it burned to death. Vick’s death hit me particularly hard, and I find that difficult to explain. I would never tell him this, but I would die for him in a heartbeat. Somehow, his life matters more to me than most. Perhaps someday I will figure it out, or Kossuth will tell me why.
Diadne sat by the hearth in her room at the Grapevine Inn. Ibli sat beside her, cuddled into her cloak. Diadne squeezed her eyes shut, and another tear meandered its way down her cheek.
“I never wanted to hurt him Ibli. He is a good man and deserves better than to be hurt by the likes of me”
Ibli looked up his mistress, “Mistress, in the coming years there will be many who will seek your affections. Some will be for personal gain. Others because you are beautiful and want to bed you. And there will be those that love you simply for who you are. You can love them all if you wish, but know in your heart…”
“…that I love Kossuth more”, Diadne finished. “I’ve always known that. But sometimes the truth hurts the ones you care about, and the right decision is often the hardest. I could have cast aside the sword and shield, and lived my life with love and children here, but it would have been a lie of the heart. Each day it would have killed me a little bit inside”
There was a long pause as Ibli looked at his mistress, and a long silence passed between them.
“Mistress, what will you do now?”, said Ibli, breaking the silence.
“I will honor Karrick’s gift in the most appropriate fashion possible. It will be with irony, beauty, and …”
“…will there be dragons mistress?”, Ibli interrupted.
“Of course Ibli. What else would there be?”
I chose Kossuth
My friends accompanied me to the Holy Fire. I owe them my life and more. If I ever get into a position of power in the Temple of Kossuth I will see that they want for nothing. Let it be known in the annals of history that the people that brought me were –
May Kossuth honor and protect them in their journeys ahead.
In particular, I ask Kossuth honor Karrick. While I chose to sacrifice certain joys in this world for a greater love in the next, Karrick’s sacrifice was unwilling. All my colleagues risked their lives, but Karrick risked his heart. I will never forget that, as long as I live.
The fortress of books in the little corner in Spellweaver had shrunk by several orders of magnitude. A tired Diadne and her companion Ibli looked over the large parchment map. Diadne counted carefully, ruler in hand, as she marked off distances from the river.
“There Ibli. That’s where the Raumatharin city used to be”
Ibli looked up at her mistress curiously, “What do you think we’ll find there?”
Diadne turned to her familiar, disheveled strands of hair dancing about her face. “The book mentions a sea of glass. Kossuth’s fires were so hot, they melted the sand. It is said that the fire burned”, she looked at a book, “…unto the ferments and depths of the earth”.
Diadne continued reading silently, using her finger to keep pace before turning back to Ibli. “There are rumors of tunnels. It is said that even after this time, Kossuth’s fire still burns underground in hidden places. If we could capture but a small piece…”
“Holy fire…”, Ibli’s voice trailed off.
“Yes Ibli, Kossuth’s own holy fire. Surely that could be used in the spell”, Diadne’s eyes brightened.
“A lantern perhaps?”
“No Ibli, I have the ever burning torch. It’s enchanted to keep fire burning indefinitely. I would light it with Kossuth’s own fire”
They both stared at each other for a bit before Ibli broke the silence. “Mistress, what will you ask him?”
“Why”, Ibli. I will ask him “Why”
I must find a wizard who can teleport us to Raumathar, and gather a group to travel with me. It should be small to make it through the tunnels, though to be fair I don’t know how large the tunnels are. While I doubt little lives there, I suspect that any Eternal Flame worth his salt will guard the area jealously. I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up fighting fellow followers of the Fire Lord for the right to a piece of his holy flame.
I have paid for two scrolls with a ritual divination. One to use, and another as backup. They weren’t cheap, but the price of success never is.
Kossuth rewards those who earn their place in this world. He respects ambition, and I hope he sees favor in this quest, favor enough to answer why the blessed on the ill-fated caravan have been reunited. He has favored me with his attentions, gifts and holy fire, and I can’t help but think that perhaps I am being tested.
I don’t know if there will be another journal entry. I have asked Spellweaver to keep this book under lock and key until my return or my death. If I do not return, I hope another of the faithful finds enough inspiration in these writings to seek their own place under Kossuth’s gaze.
Diadne, Servant of Kossuth
In a far corner of Spellweaver, a lantern burned bright, casting shadows over a fortress of books and scrolls. The books were piled everywhere in random stacks, surrounding Diadne with haphazard pillars of organized parchment.
Her hair was pulled back and bound tightly behind her with ornate chains of jewelry. She leaned over one particular parchment with a magnifying glass and squinted.
“Ibli, can you make out what that word says?”
Ibli started from his nap on one of the many piles and looked down at his mistress. Yawning uncontrollably, he hopped down onto the desk and squatted beside her. “River, I think”, he said yawning again midsentence.
“River? But that makes no sense! There’s no river here, it’s a desert!”
Ibli look at his mistress tiredly. She’d been at this for days. She kept sipping her tea to keep herself awake. He sighed and stated the obvious, “Mistress, it’s a desert NOW. Back then, before the Great Conflagration it was probably lush and green! Mistress, I am TIRED. Please….pretty please may I retire?”
Diadne’s eyes got wide. “Of course!”, she exclaimed. “Could please get me that Raumatharan volume again? Number two?”
“No”, Ibli folded his arms.
Diadne looked completely stunned. “What do you mean…No?” She stared at him crossly, “You will do as you are told!”
“No”, Ibli looked at her defiantly. “Mistress, I am beyond tired. That Raumatharan tome weighs more than I do. I’m going to bed. You should too.”
And with that, he winked out.
Diadne sat there for a moment in disbelief before turning back to the book. She stared at the pages for a moment, struggling to focus the blurry text. It was then she realized just how tired she really was. Perhaps Ibli was right, and this would all have to wait until another day.
To my knowledge, the only time in recorded history that Kossuth was here on Toril was in Narfell. I didn’t know that. No one taught me that at the temple in Surthay. It seems hardly coincidental now that I found my way here. The blessed sword, shield, and me must have been drawn here by grander forces.
Over 1500 years ago, there was a great war between Narfell and the Raumatharans. The Raumatharans were losing, and getting pushed back. So some Red Wizard whose name is lost to history summoned Kossuth himself and demanded he destroy the armies of Narfell. Kossuth did, but then incinerated the Raumatharan city as well for the Red Wizard’s insolence. This effectively ended the war, and the resulting fires burned for 10 years. According to the tomes I’ve been reading, it was called the “Great Conflagration”
The general place of summoning wasn’t hard to find. There are numerous passages that say where the Raumatharan retreated to make their stand.
I’m not stupid enough to try summoning Kossuth. I don’t have a fraction of the knowledge or power required to do it anyway. But of all the places in Toril, that is likely where I’ll find answers.
Diadne woke with a start. She wasn’t in her room, and it took a brief moment to clear the cobwebs and reorient herself. The hearth was on the other side of the room. The dresser had a broken drawer. Armor and weapons lay piled neatly in a corner. Not hers.
Karrick lay in the bed beside her, sound asleep aided by the bottle of honey mead they had shared earlier that evening. She reached over to touch him, but her hand hesitated. She wanted things to be different but knew deep down inside it was never to be. She withdrew her hand and stepped silently out of the bed.
The hearth was but embers now, but it took only a small focus of will to rekindle the flames. She reached over and added a log to the hearth, and within minutes the fire was blazing again. She could feel its comforting warmth but tonight, there was a chill in the air. A coldness that touched her heart and permeated her soul.
They had done nothing last night but drink, laugh, and talk. She shared childhood stories. Told him of the fat bald bodyguard who kept breaking benches. The lessons in history, writing and penmanship. The solemn ceremonies. Her caravan travels across vast wastelands to N’Jast, and the time when the caravan guards put on a show that made her laugh until she peed in her pants.
It was wonderful, but it wasn’t enough.
She sat on the cold stone floor and stared into the fire for answers. Kossuth, like always, wasn’t giving any. She prayed quietly in her native tongue, reciting the Litany of Embers hoping some obscure sign would reveal itself. However, the dancing shadows from the fire weren’t giving any clues.
With one hand resting on the ornate chastity belt, she stared at her left hand. The absence of her ring finger, oft forgotten in daily activities was ever present now. She held it up in front of the fire and marveled at it.
“Why?”, she asked quietly.
I traveled with Cecil, Karrick and many others through a long, arduous journey to the GiantSpires. I saw lands and creatures I had never seen, and it was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. I had completely emptied myself of Kossuth’s power twice, as it was too dangerous to rest. By the time the journey was over, everyone was exhausted.
I won’t write about the many details of the trip. I’m not much of a story teller and wouldn’t do it justice. It involved the return of a Shaunkadul blessed lance, other adventurers, snow weirds, countless ogres, a horrifying demon, and an appearance by Shaunkadul himself. But there was one moment that I wish to relate.
Shaunkadul asked if anyone would like to convert.
I have to admit, there was a small piece, a very tiny piece that wondered what would have happened to me had I said “yes”. I didn’t though, but it will remain a curious itch at the back of my mind for some time.
Diadne sat on the edge of her bed looking at herself in the mirror, absently playing with a few strands of hair. She choked out a sob, a tear trickling down her face and splashing soundlessly on the stone floor. Ibli looked up from his book, tilting his head in concern. He closed the book with deliberate care and hopped the distance of the nightstand to the bed. With a small hand he touched his mistress’ face.
Diadne looked over at her companion, a smile tugging ever so briefly at the corners of her mouth. “I’m lonely Ibli”, she whispered.
“Mistress…”, Ibli pause, “Diadne, I know the path you’ve chosen is difficult”
Diadne turned away and sighed. The thoughts of the large muscled man, dragon touched, filled her head. Diadne always had an open mind, and she didn’t care that he was different. She closed her eyes squeezing out the remaining tears, and imagined intimacies beyond her grasp.
Such was the familiar bond that Ibli could feel the nature of her thoughts. He pursed his lips and gently turned Diadne’s head toward him.
“Mistress, what do you wear on your arm as a shield?”
“Kossuth’s ring”, Diadne replied, already knowing the direction this conversation would take.
“…and what was the price?”, Ibli continued.
Diadne sighed, “Kossuth incinerated my ring finger”
“And what was given to you when you defeated the matron on the plane of fire?”
Diadne looked down at the jeweled and ornate belt that girded her. “A chastity belt”, she replied with some bitterness.
Ibli’s voice softened, but did not lose its edge of firmness. He had been assigned to her at her menarche by the Eternal Flame in Surthay to guide her, and he took his responsibilities seriously.
“Mistress, in return you get to wield Kossuth’s holy fire. No other sorcerer on Toril without priestly vows can do this. This path is difficult, but you belong to Kossuth now and no other. Now, push these foolish thoughts away and play a game of cards with me. My luck has to improve sometime!”
Diadne took a long deep breath and pulled out the deck of cards given to her by someone in the Black Sails. She didn’t recall who though, but it didn’t matter.
Later that evening, assisted by a bottle of wine Diadne lay quietly sleeping. Ibli sat on the window sill and watched her gently breathe. He noticed with fondness the curve of form and the odd birth mark on her shoulder. Someday, he knew Kossuth would come to reclaim what was his. On that day his mistress would either be consumed or survive, but regardless she would never be the same and he would lose her forever.
He turned to face the cool outside air. He squeezed his eyes shut, and a single tear meandered down his cheek to splash soundlessly on the terrace below. Even mephits know that there are kinds of love that can’t be had.
I fought to defend Peltarch today from a great Ogre invasion. For once I did not fall, and acquitted myself well. I truly wish I had learned to use the Kossuth’s blade better, but time is limited. I am instead focusing my studies on abjuration, because THAT will help my warrior comrades in battle in ways that they cannot.
During the battle in the docks a Dwarf kept egging me on to follow him, but at the time it was just the two of us, and I knew that facing the ogre leader with our combined skills would still get us nowhere and likely dead. Instead, I used some of my many scrolls to slow him down until others arrived to help. The smarter course of action I think. Sometimes warrior skills are in the head and not the arm.
Diadne swung at the thrall, some larger beast whose mind wasn’t his own, invaded by the powers and machinations of the face-tentacled creature just beyond. The sword bit deep, and the conflagration that followed enveloped it, setting its clothing and hair on fire. Disturbingly, it didn’t even let out a scream as its flesh was consumed by Kossuth’s embrace.
The creature to Diadne’s left swung its axe, but the magical shield she had created prior to the melee partially turned the blow, leaving little impetus in its arc. The shield on Diadne’s arm further deflected it away from her body, the inferno within mysteriously pushed back at the axe head driving it into the floor. Diadne turned and gestured, fire rippling down the Angurvadal blade engulfing the creature. It spun wildly trying to put the fire out before it collapsed to the floor, sizzling.
Diadne hadn’t felt this alive in a very long time. For the first time in years she felt useful. These creatures were well trained and hard to hit, but succumbed easily to Kossuth’s blessings. Time after time she was able to direct the power that Kossuth gifted, and one of the thralls would stumble away, clothing, hair and flesh consumed by fire. The melee was in doubt, but she felt hope rise as her own contributions to the ensuing fight were turning the tide.
…and then Ting fell.
She had been cornered. The axe from the large creature drove her to the floor. Diadne could almost see the air ripple between the large tentacle faced thing and Ting, and Ting’s eyes went wide, blood erupting from her tear ducts, ears and nose. Her body stiffened, and she fell wordlessly to the floor.
Hot anger rose, and the sunrise prayer Kossuth had given Diadne was released. Fire swirled around the tentacle faced creature in a blistering inferno. It turned to Diadne and for a moment, she thought that Ting’s fate would be her own. In a terrifying moment she locked eyes with it beyond the fire and smoldering robes. She had no mind protections. No wards that would save her. Then the eyes tumbled away out of sight as a two handed sword from one of her stout comrades beheaded it.
It has been years now. I’ve traveled to Damara and back again, preaching His ways. Heliogabalus is a fine city, large and full of life, but something always draws me back to the Nars. It’s where most of my favor with Kossuth has grown, and where my studies have born fruit.
I have left the comfort of the Dancing Mermaid and Peltarch to the rustic rooms of the Grapevine Inn in Norwick. There, I have offered my help to defend Norwick from the Creel by joining the militia. Kossuth teaches us to be ambitious and succeed, and for so long I have spent my time traveling and spreading faith that I have not practiced his basic tennents. Be ambitious, strive, and succeed.
To that end, I have also resumed my studies at Spellweaver. Part of my motives for moving to Norwick was to bring me closer, and here at Spellweaver I have finally achieved the breakthrough I have been seeking all these years. Kossuth sees fit to give me blessings of fire, but skills in abjuration are my own. I have discovered during adventures that many folks will erect elemental protections. The trick is to remove them without affecting my own blessings directed upon them, and I think I have succeeded. I was able to confirm this with the help old dusty tome in Maria’s tower, for which she was gracious enough to lend me a key.
This morning I also awoke with a curious gift. It appears that Kossuth allows me now to see the heat in creatures and objects. The world looks funny when I use it, everything being a shade of red, whites and blacks. I’ve been practicing this around town during my militia rounds, and I have discovered that it allows me to see people, even when they think themselves invisible. I was able to apprehend a young lad trying to make off with a trinket from the general store. He had a flash with several does of an invisibility potion and thought himself undetected. How grand is that?
Bags and boxes containing Diadne’s belongings were loaded onto the wagon at the rear of the Caravan. Diadne watched with satisfaction as the wagon door was closed. She tipped the porter generously and offered a smile. The porter bowed graciously, taking the coins.
“Mistress”, Ibli complained, “Why must we go back to Narfell? Truly, you have greater support here in N’Jast!”
He sat on a chest in the back of the wagon looking ever so glum. His wings drooped, and eyes were cast down in hopeless dejection. Diadne looked upon him with sympathy. She knew how poor Ibli fared in colder climates. Diadne reached over and touched his cheek.
“Ibli dear, all of my recent connections to Kossuth come from there. I have scoured the lands these past few years looking to further my faith and glory in His eyes, and have achieved nothing. Surely if I’m going to see what He has in store for me, I must return there”
“But…”, Ibli interjected.
“No buts Ibli! My mind is made up. We will take residence in Peltarch again and see what adventure and faith shall bring us”
Ibli’s wings drooped further in defeat. All he could muster was a “Yes mistress”. He wrapped his wings around him to ward off the inevitable cold he knew was coming.
After years of traveling abroad, I am finally returning to Peltarch. The land of Narfell has yielded its secrets to my destiny in the past, and I see no reason why it should not continue to do so in the future. The blessed objects were delivered to me there. My faith and freedom blossomed there as well.
Kossuth has seen fit to give me another blessing. Ibli would argue that the blessing was revealed to me in a bandit attack on the road to N’Jast, but the truth of the matter was that it was obtained through the use of a sacred stone given to me in my travels in Narfell.
While it was fun to travel, and my duty to spread the faith to all peoples of Toril, if I am to achieve greater things Narfell is the place I should be looking._
The screams of the dying reverberated throughout the streets of Peltarch. Citizens fell, borne down by unspeakable winged things. The steel of knights and defenders rang against talon and claw, and magic crackled the air, finding and deflecting targets
Diadne held her shield high and swung helplessly at the towering Vrock before her. The sword barely bit through the feathers and carapace of her demonic foe. The fire upon the blade was largely ignored. The hollow shield filled with fire did little to deflect its blows, and the Vrock’s talons ripped chainmail and pierced flesh.
Diadne was too numb with shock to feel the pain. Her legs wavered in the flickering light and she knew she was beaten. Summoning what little strength she had, she turned and ran.
She weaved carelessly between barrels, almost tripping in her flight. The narrow ally gave her some distance, and with shaking hands drank a potion she kept on her belt. The sweet liquid spilled over tabard and chainmail as much into her mouth, and invigorated her enough to keep running.
…right into the arms of another Vrock.
The moment passed with glacial intensity. Diadne looked up into its eyes, but then turned her gaze to the lantern on the street. Better to see Kossuth’s flame as she died. When the demon struck, Diadne sank to the cool cobblestones. There was little pain she mused, but soon her vision grew dim, and the fire from the lantern was extinguished from her sight.
The conflagration that followed drove back both Vrock. Diadne’s body vanished in a flash, consumed and replaced with a fiery female form … which solidified back into Diadne again.
The Vrock stood there confused, but were soon swept away in the melee in Peltarch streets.
Diadne continued to stare at the lantern.
Although I have been saved by Kossuth again, and should revel in the attention he has given me, it terrifies me to the core.
Who am I that he loves me so?
This is the 4th time in a row Diadne has been saved by Kossuth without DM intervention. The odds of this happening are remote in the extreme, and getting downright creepy._
Diadne and Ibli bounced along as the wagon meandered its way up the rocky slope in the road. Pots and pans clattered noisily.
There was a sudden jolt as one of the wheels hit a rut, and Diadne fell off the bench and landed on her behind. She burst out laughing at the ignominy of it, while Ibli fluttered his wings to keep his balance.
“Madam, this is intolerable!”
Diadne righted herself and sat back on the bench. “Oh come now Ibli! It’s not so bad! Besides, we’ll be in Narfell in a few days”
“But Madam, it’s COLD there!”, Ibli pouted.
“Precisely why my lord Kossuth would want me there. Word on the grapevine said the weather has become much colder. Perhaps due to my lack of presence and Kossuth’s attentions”. Diadne smirked a bit, winking at Ibli. Ibli just rolled his eyes.
The trip to Damara had not gone as well as she had hoped. The temple if Kossuth accepted her self-proclaimed freedom, but had mixed opinions of her status as “Chosen of Kossuth”. They acknowledged her possession of several holy relics, and even the divine blessings. But “Chosen” was a very lofty title, and there were many priests who simply accused her of arrogance.
“They simply want to protect their position”, Diadne though to herself. Far be it for a former slave to have the Fire Lord’s attentions. Was it not she who sacrificed her ring finger for the holy shield? Did not Kossuth lay the chastity belt in her path as a symbol to consort with no other? Was it not she who was resurrected in a fiery conflagration not once, but THREE times in the caves of cold? Surely this was destiny of the highest order.
The truth of the matter was the she had something many of the priests didn’t … Charisma. People listened to her. But had she carried it a bit too far?
The assassin has been protected from fire, but had foolishly discounted her other acquired skills in the attempt. Senator Thel’s knights had trained her well, and while she was not an accomplished soldier, she could hold her own in a fight.
Obviously her destiny lied elsewhere. Perhaps back in Narfell.
I will arrive in the city of Peltarch in a few days and there have been no further attempts on my life. I suspect the jealousy of one unnamed priest and it is likely that hiring the assassin was not cheap. I doubt I shall see any more of his machinations now that I have left Damara.
To be rebuffed by one’s own temple is disheartening. I thought my destiny would be far plainer to see._