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 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._
Clan Dolvak last edited by
I would like to thank the muses of bullshit luck for the following story. It may be embellished, but it’s all true, and happened without DM intervention. When a character gets Divine Intervention, it’s miraculous. When it happens three times in a row, it’s character defining.
The Gnoll R’Koh looked at his den mate K’Ruush with a venomous glare. The bitch Ss’Rel had chosen him of all creatures to bear his litter. R’Koh was livid with jealousy, and K’Ruush just sat silently in the corner of cavern with smug, satiated expression, cleaning his nails with his knife.
He wondered what the den mother would think if R’Koh killed him in duel. The challenge would be well within his rights. Perhaps then Ss’Rel would see him as the better provider, and yearn to bear his litter instead. His thoughts however, were interrupted by a squeal and a clatter.
R’Koh turned, drawing his axe out of reflex. A human female had tumbled into the cavern, and landed ignominiously on her back side. The small human was clothed in fiery reds and yellows. Even her hair was red, tied in back and flowing down beneath her helm. The female’s sword and shield burned with fire, and for a moment, he thought an elemental from the Lord of Flame had been thrust into their midst to punish them. But then he smelled it. He looked into the creature’s eyes and saw it.
The human had many magical toys. Many toys that would soon be his! As he and den mates gathered around to cut off her retreat, the human female burst between two of them ran.
K’Ruush was the first to catch her, and swung his axe at the human. R’Koh had to admit that K’Ruush had always been fleet of foot, and was dismayed he had caught her so quickly. HE wanted the kill, and this human female certainly looked to be the prize. His dismay soon turned to delight when K’Ruush missed, and the human’s fiery sword burned through K’Ruush’s armor, almost setting him aflame. K’Ruush backpedalled in alarm, but the group quickly caught her.
They had her cornered. One den mate went for her feet. Another tried to grab her shield, but was burned for the effort. R’Koh swung and hit, drawing blood, but the human muttered, gesturing quickly with her hand, and soon was moving too fast to follow. She slipped between two of them again, leaving a blood trail in her wake.
“GET HER!”, several shouted, and soon the hunt was on. The human female dashed at impossible speeds, moving like a flame through dry grass. His den mates blocked her at every turn, some wounding her further. R’Koh could smell both fear and blood, driving him to frenzy. She turned down cavern and corridor followed by R’Koh and 8 of his den mates until finally, she was cornered.
The human female had her back against the cavern wall. She was breathing heavily, terror in her eyes, blood running down her leg on to the floor. She gestured again, surrounding herself with fire, but it was too late. R’Koh dove through the flames and tackled her to the ground. She struggled to stand, but R’Koh drove his axe into her chest, parting her chainmail, spattering the walls with her blood. The fires stopped. R’Koh stood over her victorious.
“I CLAIM THE RIGHT TO….”
The woman’s body started to burn. R’Koh stepped back abruptly, confused. The body was quickly consumed by flame, flame spiraling upward to human form again, and solidified.
She was whole again.
He and his den mates stood back muttering. The human female looked confused as well. There in the eyes R’Koh still saw fear. Human fear still assailed his nostrils. Before anyone could react, R’Koh bore down on her with a scream, knocking her down. Again he buried the axe in her chest.
…and yet, the body burned again. Flame spiraled upward. Again she was whole.
“WHAT MANNER OF TRICKERY IS THIS!”, R’Koh shouted. His den mates stood back even further this time, afraid to approach this elemental in human form. The female looked down at herself in bewilderment.
“It’s the sword!”, one of his den mates whispered, “It must be the sword!”
This time it was K’Ruush who led the charge, knocking the sword from her hand. R’Koh knocked her to the ground again. R’Koh buried the axe in her chest, and K’Ruush slit her throat for good measure. They kicked her sword away, and stood and watched.
“HAH!”, Kruush smirked. “It was the sword after all! It….”
The body started to burn again. This time, it burned ever more fiercely than before. All the Gnolls backed away, shielding themselves from the heat. The flames spiraled again for the third time, and again she was whole. The human figure looked down at herself, walked over, and shakily picked up the sword.
Then she giggled.
The whine of arrows filled the caverns. “ELVES!”, one of R’Koh’s den mates shouted briefly as three arrows pierced his chest plate. Elves were everywhere it seemed.
R’Koh’s den mates fought and fell in the confusion. As R’Koh watched his den mates die in the onslaught, he struggled to find meaning in this. Who was this female that would not perish, and was reborn in the flames? Was it an elemental come to punish him for living in the cold?
His answer was given in a blinding flash of pain as suddenly, he and everything he owned was incinerated.
I have been saved from destruction by Kossuth’s good graces. Kossuth does not normally meddle in the affairs of mortals. He asks that we struggle to attain our own ambitions. We attain what we earn. To have him directly intervene is almost unheard of.
I was uncertain of many things, but now the message is clear.
I am his chosen.
I am for Kossuth, both body and soul._
“Madam, we are going to need a porter”, Mister Sizzles droned. “Since when did you accumulate so many … belongings?”
Diadne looked at the pile of things in the center of the room and marveled. Surely these weren’t all hers, were they? There were boxes of scrolls, dresses, boots, and belts. Her shield sat on the stone hearth lest it set the room on fire. Dresses hung on racks. Armor was draped over a chair. She looked at it all again and giggled.
“Perhaps Mister Sizzles, we should have a fire sale!”
Mister Sizzles just rolled his eyes, and continued sweeping the room for items left behind. Looking behind a dresser, he pulled up a small worn book with the symbol of Kossuth emblazoned on it.
“That’s my journal!”, Diadne squealed as Mister Sizzles tossed it over. “Oh my! I haven’t made an entry in ages! I should make one right now…”
“Madam”, Mister Sizzles sighed, the ferry leaves for Norwick in an hour. Perhaps it would be best if you wrote in it on board?
“Oh…”, Diadne frowned, “Perhaps you’re right. It’s waited this long.”
I don’t know where to begin. I have neglected this book for far too long. What started as a record for the Temple was turned into a journal, then sadly forgotten.
I have accomplished so many things I don’t know where to begin. I have retrieved the holy shield “Kossuth’s Coil” that was stolen from our missionary group during our journey to Narfell. It has been cast into the Ice Lace, forever bound into a chest protected by holy runes. Only one of the faithful could open it, and that was me.
I wield it with great pride, though it humbles me. There was a price to pay for its possession, the loss of the ring finger of my left hand. Burned off, it defies regeneration. The symbolism of this does not escape me. Kossuth considers me “His” now, belonging to no other. He has placed his holy objects in the path of this blessed one, and though I am honored beyond words by his attention and grace, it frightens me. The sword and shield I understand. We are the three blessed objects united to spread his faith. But the next item placed before me unsettled me to the core.
A chastity belt.
It was worn by an Azer matron, one of Kossuth’s holy creatures. We defeated her in combat, and the Kossuth blessed object lies in my possession. Worn, it radiates an aura of strength and glory. It is truly beautiful, designed to be worn as part of one’s attire. It saddles the waist and girds the loins in red and golden splendor, as if it was truly meant for me.
I travel now to the town of Norwick. It is a town under siege by all manner of goblins and their ilk. I will use the training of Mariston’s knights to wield the weapons of Kossuth, and spread his faith through word and deeds.
Once there I will introduce the goblins to Kossuth, and together we will reduce them to ash._
Diadne listened as Troff read through the book, a simple children’s story that she had copied to parchment. She was only half paying attention, correcting his pronunciation and mistakes almost absently.
The blonde guard had walked into the Mermaid again, moving with an easy grace around people and past furniture. She had glanced in her direction with a cold, almost spiteful gaze, leaving Diadne feeling uneasy. Was she under investigation? She had been very careful to obey the laws in this city, and was even considering joining the Cerulean Knights. She did her best to put those ideas aside, and focus on her task at hand.
“Run-ning”, she said, “…not roon-ing”, and listened as Troff continued. He was making good progress, but his handwriting was still practically illegible. Perhaps it was time to put the reading aside, and have him practice his lettering again.
Oh the irony! I have purchased even finer armor from Val Kyrie and now don’t know what to do with the armor Troff brought to me. For now I have put it in storage. Perhaps someday, I will enchant it further, if that’s even possible. That armor Val had is a very light set of chain. I have purchased a rather expensive tabard to go over it, complete with flames and a phoenix to honor Kossuth.
I have seen a few adventures between practice sessions, just enough to test my sword skills. Properly prepared with Kossuth’s blessings, I do rather well. However as Mariston’s squires oft reminded me, I cannot rely on them, and must hone my own skills to complement them instead.
Oh Blessed Kossuth, my destiny is at hand! Val has promised to use her spells of knowledge to help locate the shield that was stolen by the foul orcs. Soon perhaps, the three holy objects will be united again!_
Diadne sat with Troff in the corner of the main room in the Mermaid. She had chosen the downstairs of the inn because it lent a more public and formal atmosphere to her instructions. Having lessons in her room would have been far too private, and she had numerous instances in her past where private lessons had led to … other activities.
Several pieces of parchment were scattered across the table. The dark and surly forest elf looked over them with confusion, tracing his fingers on several symbols strung together.
“This symbol”, she said without naming it, “Do you remember what sound it makes?”
Troff looked up in confusion. He remembered that Diadne had said something about “quiet”, but the connection eluded him. He furrowed his brow, his face pleading for a hint.
Diadne leaned forward. “What do we say when we want someone to be quiet?”
“Oh! Ssssshhh!”, he shouted, doing anything but being quiet. Several patrons of the inn looked over curiously, but then went back to their meals.
Diadne smiled. “That’s right! And the next?”
Troff looked at the symbol and remembered the punch in the arm. “Ow?”
“Good…and the next?”
Troff put his tongue on the room of his mouth, making a “Teh” noise.
“Now put it together”
“Ssshhowteh….oh! Shout!”, he said loudly. Several more of the patrons looked over in annoyance, but Troff ignored them.
“Great! That’s right! Those symbols spell shout. Now the next word is a little trickier ….”
I have made a most excellent arrangement with Troff, a rather unkempt but good hearted elf. He found some rather nice leathers in a place he called Mintas, and has exchanged them to me for tutoring. Like so many of the natives, the poor fellow never learned his letters. He’s been a most determined student, and I have no doubt that he will eventually learn to read and write.
The armor is a horrid shade of blue, black and purple, and will need to be magically dyed to colors more suitable for honoring Kossuth, but that shouldn’t prove difficult. I have traded goods for deed, and the money saved can be used for other purposes.
Perhaps Kossuth still smiles on me despite my poor sportsmanship at the games in Norwick. Truly, I complain too much!_
Sword clashed against shield, the noise reverberating between the buildings surrounding the training ground. Shield held high, Diadne pressed forward against the squire’s defenses. She was smaller, and lighter than her opponent. She didn’t possess the strength her opponent did either, but the measure of difference was far smaller than her arrival these many months ago. The strokes of the practice weapon rang loudly on the squire’s shield.
The squire backpedaled at the onslaught of blows, and as soon as he saw his opening used his size advantage to force the young woman back, his shield impacting hers. She went down in a clatter of chainmail.
“Phooey”, she said sitting on her butt.
The squire smiled and helped her up. “I’ve got eighty pounds on you miss Diadne. When I bear down on you with my shield…”, he said demonstrating, “…you’ve got to turn away from the blow, and allow me past. Do you understand?”
Diadne nodded, and the squire went through the motions slowly, allowing her to turn with the blow in practice. Soon the blows of sword and shield rang loudly again.
Mariston watched from the sidelines. Satisfied, he turned to a messenger who was waiting patiently, tipped him, and tucked a scroll in the crook of his arm. He watched as Diadne was knocked down again. She pounded the dirt with the pommel of her sword and burst into giggles. The squire started laughing as well before helping her up.
Mariston smiled at the exchange. For all practical purposes, her training was complete. What she did with it now was up to her.
Mariston and his squires have done their part. I feel confident with a wide array of weapons and armor, although with my lack of skill, “over-confident” is probably more apt. I foolishly engaged a Gnoll Axeman the other day, and was almost killed for it. I need to find shield and armor that won’t hinder my casting, allow me to engage armored opponents on more equal terms. I hope this direction in my life is a worthy one, and that Kossuth is pleased. Mister Sizzles encouraged to take this decision and embrace it, but now I see doubt in his eyes.
On a personal note, Rico and I have started up a tenuous relationship. He’s so innocent it makes me want to giggle! He blushes at the slightest innuendo, but is delightfully gallant and charming. He’s been very protective, and his face brightens with my attentions.
I’ve never been in love before. I’m not now. But I like him very much, and wonder of love will come in time, and what it will feel like. I had expected my bed chamber to filled with barbarians and Narsmen, but they seem to prefer more soldierly and warrior-type women, not former Thayan slaves. I wonder what happened to Rhyndar ?_
Diadne hung upside down, her knees over a bar. One of the squires held her ankles as she pulled herself up, her head not quite touching her knees.
Ibli watched from a comfortable distance, hidden in the folds of her cloak and pack. His presence was not well tolerated, and he found it easier to simply stay out of sight.
He was both proud and worried for his mistress. The youthful, girlish figure was slowly being replaced with a leaner and harder warrior one, though without the signature scars of battle. He suspected sadly that these too would come in time. It had been necessary to make several adjustments in her clothing, which was both painstaking and tiring to ensure the magic would not be destroyed.
He continued to watch as she curled her body up again, the muscles in her stomach visible. She cried out at the effort, the squire and Mariston encouraging her to do one more…Just one more. So much determination now after years of complacency and servitude.
Where would it lead them? Ibli fretted by fiddling with the robes, and unconscious habit picked up from his mistress. He hoped it would lead them to great things, but expected a sad and violent end.
It was the height of ironies that last week, I met someone who was sent by the Eternal Flame to find out what happened to the missionary group. Someone finally arrived, and here I am, no longer the servant of the Eternal Flame, but only to Kossuth himself.
His name is Casius. Like me, he is a simple servant of Kossuth, a monk of the order of the Phoenix, a stoic man of discipline and servitude. I am however, no longer the woman he seeks. I suspect after time, he will no longer be the man that arrived here. This land has a tendency to change people.
To honor his dedication and great journey, I gave him the holy bracers. May they serve him well.
Mariston tells me that I’m coming along fine, and remarks at my stamina and determination. I have mentioned to him that I would like to become a Cerulean Knight, and work towards a successful future here in this city. I have already become a resident, and live here now. While I like the rustic charm of the Grapevine Inn in Norwick, I prefer the Dancing Mermaid. Kossuth willing, I will have a house of my own someday._
“Git yer ass in line wit’ d’ rest o’ yuh, lady! Yer back bes’ be straight ‘for I count anoth’r!” the instructor was down on his hands and knees next to Diadne’s face, yelling. She wanted to kill him, but knew that he could break her in half without even breaking a sweat. She could set him on fire, but he was probably mean enough to break her in half WHILE he was on fire, just for spite.
Diadne pushed hard, arms quivering. Sweat dripped on the hard packed dirt inches from her face as she pushed up again.
“Aye lady, thas ‘nuff. Quart’r hour res’ fer ye”
Diadne collapsed to the ground, dust and dirt sticking to her skin. Months ago, she would have rushed to the creek to wash herself. Years ago, she would have been horrified, and soaked in the bath for an hour. Now, she simply felt relief.
Diadne rolled on her side and sat up. Her arms were swollen and hard from the exercise. Though it hurt, she couldn’t help but feel a certain elation. The drills and exercise felt good. It put a sparkle in her attitude, and made the sword instruction easier. Her arm still ached from the sword practice, but it took far longer than it had when she first started.
Diadne leaned forward, and let her cheek fall on her knees while she watched some of the squires spar. One of them was rather cute, and now that she had declared herself free, she no longer had to seek the Eternal Flame’s blessing to bed someone. She smiled at that, her gaze following the squire’s behind as he danced around the training grounds.
I don’t know how to explain it, but the exercise brings a positive attitude to everything I do. I feel more alive now than I’ve ever felt before. There’s a bounce to my step, and an overall feeling of self confidence.
Perhaps I will never be a great warrior like Mariston, Devlin, or any of the others who have spent their lives doing this, but it’s certainly been good for me. I don’t regret this decision at all.
I had a conversation with Hammerhand the other day, in the Peltarch commons. He asked indirectly what gave me the right to wield this weapon, and not him. I replied that had a weapon of Tempus been found, that there would be no question who would wield it. This weapon of fire was stolen from my missionary group, and it belongs to my church.
Right now, here in this cold harsh land, my church is me.
I am Diadne, blessed of Kossuth, and this sword is mine._
The squire wielded a two handed practice sword. He was calm, relaxed, and smiled much during the training session. Irritably, Diadne figured it because he hadn’t been bruised yet. Mariston stood off to the side and observed, commenting on their successes and failures in stance and form.
Diadne had memorized all the forms. It was easy for her. Doing them however, was another matter entirely. Compared to the squire in front of her, she was weak, clumsy and awkward. His confident smile grated on her nerves. She wanted to wipe that smile off his face by hitting him once.
Diadne approached him again, sword held in front her. The squire kept his point lowered in the fools position, leaving himself deceptively open but able to counter attack quickly.
Diadne tried to deceive him by changing strokes at the last minute, but the squire simply brought his weapon up forcefully, knocked hers aside, and tapped her on the shoulder. Even through the padding it hurt like hell. She refused to cry out though, and gritted her teeth.
She brought her sword up “from the roof” as Mariston had taught her, and swung with all her might. The squire however, simply stepped left and tapped her on the thigh. “Tap” however, was the word Mariston used. She would have a bruise there tomorrow for certain. It would be a friendly reminder of her failure.
She could feel her anger rising. She wanted to hit him so badly. She lost concentration, thus form, and swung wildly with a cry of frustration. The squire simply ducked, and poked her in the ribs.
“Fuck!” she cried out, and gestured with her off hand. It wasn’t even really a conscious decision. With a flash, the squire’s hair, tabard, and clothing burst into flame.
He shrieked, but Mariston reacted quickly. With a smooth motion he upended the small trough his horse had been using, and thoroughly doused the squire.
Mariston looked over “Come now Miss Diadne! Let us not set fire to ones squires, tis hard to clean for a start, tis skill of the blade not of the weave here. Mayhaps a more suitable environment can be found for training, the dank misty caves by the Icelace would see thee at thine most uncomfortable. This wouldst seek to grow thine skill by honing instinctive sword use. …and squire, wipe that smug look off thine face. A knight honours their opponent, do not revel in the superior skill for tis soon reversed”
The squire stood there, drenched. His clothing was scorched in places and blackened. Smoke curled up from the end of his tabard in one small spot that wasn’t thoroughly soaked. His skin was red in spots, and some of his hair was missing.
Diadne was ashamed, but noticed with grim satisfaction that the squire was no longer smiling.
Training is slow. I know what I have to do, but actually doing it is another matter entirely. I hurt all over. There are bruises on my bruises. Kossuth help me, I am not cut out for this!_