Burning Scrolls - The Writings of Diadne
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!_
The stone was tied to a slender rope. The rope in turn was attached to a stick. Diadne held the stick out in front of her with both hands and rolled it forward, pulling the stone up. Then she rolled it down again.
When she finally got used to it, Mariston added more weight. It was all so tiresome. Diadne’s forearms burned with the effort. Mariston had insisted though, particularly after she had first started swinging the practice sword about.
“This thing must weigh twenty pounds!”, Diadne had complained. Mariston had smiled with amusement. “Three pounds miss. This practice weapon doth weigh but three pounds”
She felt humiliated. She felt weak.
“How do the warriors do this?” she had complained to Ibli
The actual sword instruction was delightful. Being next to Mariston was dreamy. He was handsome, well spoken, patient and kind. She felt giddy inside when he held her arm or corrected her posture.
The stairs however, were the worst. Mariston had insisted that she navigate the stairs over and over again to strengthen her legs. Twice she almost vomited from the effort of it. Once she had slipped, and cut her chin.
Mariston had also loaned her a book, detailing the stances and footwork. It was written long ago, and she found herself drawn to the pictograms and the designs. Whoever had written it had done so with a practiced hand. She would spend the hours before sleep tracing her fingers on the drawings, memorizing them. Sleep however came quickly these evenings.
I don’t know if I can do this. Learning to use a weapon properly is so much work. I don’t know how anyone can stand it!
I try to think of it is dancing, but it hurts too much. I have blisters on my hands. My arms are bruised, and I ache all over.
Diadne sprawled out on the bed in the tower. Tribunes of Oscura may not see the sun, but their indoor luxuries were superb. This bed was far more comfortable than the one in the Grapevine Inn. Ibli sat on the foot of the bed, looking vexed and grumpy.
Diadne sat up on the bed, and looked at her familiar. In the corner of her mind, she could feel his troubled thoughts.
“What’s wrong Mister Sizzles?”
“Mistress, what will you do when you get to Surthay?”
“I will appear before my master, the Eternal Flame”, Diadne said proudly. “I will present him the holy bracers, the blessed sword of Kossuth, and me. I finally have enough to barter for a return trip!”
Ibli’s shoulders slumped. “There are other choices”, he said
Diadne screwed up her pretty face. “What other choices?”, she laughed. “It will be a great honor! My master will be most pleased! I will be home again!”
“Keep it”, Ibli grumped
“Keep it?” Diadne giggled. “What would I do with a silly sword, hmm?”
Ibli turned around suddenly, and grabbed Diadne’s face. He leaned his head close, their faces inches apart. Diadne’s eyes went wide.
“Yes! Keep it! Learn to use it! Did not this knight of Torm Sir Mariston Thel offer to teach you? Accept his offer! “
“But…”, Diadne started to speak, but Ibli clamped his hand over her mouth. Diadne’s eyes went even wider.
“You listen to me mistress, and you listen to me good! Does not Kossuth teach us to respect those of successful ambition? You supplicate yourself to this Eternal Flame, a man who claims to own you. Here in this land, you are a free person! Supplicate yourself only to Kossuth, not a mortal!”
Ibli continued, letting go of Diadne’s face and gesturing grandly.
“Be ambitious mistress! Can you not see the destiny in place here! You have traveled to this land where you are free. Three blessed objects are separated, you, the sword, and the shield. Two are united! Be a free woman! Take the sword! Find the shield! Control your destiny! Be ambitious as Kossuth teaches! Be a great person!”
“But, I am a great person”, Diadne whispered.
“Then be greater, mistress. Be greater”.
My servant and companion Ibli has turned my thoughts upside down. I have found the sword that was stolen from our missionary group that traveled here. The sword Flametongue is now in my possession, and sits quietly in the corner, awaiting another master. It is the most powerful sword I have ever seen. It is a work of great craftsmanship, blessed by Kossuth himself. Certainly I am not worthy to wield it.
Or am I?
I am not cut out to be a warrior. I am a scribe and courtesan, trained by the church of Kossuth to serve. But Ibli speaks true. Kossuth teaches us to respect those of ambition. Honor success, and show deference to those successful and ambitious. Would I not honor Kossuth even more, by trying to be greater than I am?_
Ibli stretched out lazily on a pillow and yawned. He looked across the room to his mistress Diadne, who sat by the fire in study. A book rested on her lap.
Diadne sat by the hearth, alternately creating patches of magical flame and making them go away. She had been doing this for hours, and Ibli was getting bored.
“Mistress, the law says you are free”
Diadne closed the book and snorted, “No one is free Mister Sizzles. Not you, not I, not anyone. Not even the gods. They too must live by rules. We all serve masters, even those who claim to be free”
“I’m not going to argue the point with you mistress, but the law in this little … town says that you are free. What will you do when the temple arrives?”
“I will serve them as I always have”, Diadne responded, brushing the hair from her eyes. “I am a blessed object of the Lord of Flames. No laws can change that.”
The chancellor of Norwick’s edict of manumission is all well and good. It is their right to govern the lands as they choose. If a slave flees from another land, their law states they can live free in this little town, and the militia will protect them. However, this changes little.
Most slaves I know would starve living on their own, or resort to thievery. The chancellor has assumed that all slaves understand how to live as freemen, and that’s simply not the case. Some people are better off in servitude letting others determine their fate.
In my case, what this edict has done has opened up an opportunity for the Red Wizards to kill me. Though my heart and mind say otherwise, legally in this town I am no longer owned by the Temple of Kossuth in Surthay. The temple would protest my demise, but the Red Wizards would simply claim that they have eliminated a threat to the natural order of the arcane, as they did not technically destroy temple property.
Perhaps it’s time I moved to Oscura._
Diadne stood in the Spellweaver courtyard, feet slightly apart, and arms outstretched to her sides. Her palms faced outward, as if pushing some great weight.
“Push mistress! Push harder!”, Ibli coaxed.
Diadne’s face was redder than her hair. Her eyes were closed, her face was scrunched, and sweat beaded on her forehead as she directed the weave around her. Slowly, a transparent sphere twinkled into existence, the edges pressed against her palms.
“You did it!”
Diadne opened one eye, then the other. As realization sunk in, her eyes grew even wider, and her face lit with pride.
Diadne’s gifts of the arcane were a blessing of Kossuth. The fire came naturally. But she could study it, and learn the workings of the weave. Abjuration was the result, and this was her first step. She knew that the focus of her power would be very limited, but for the few things she could do, she would be very, very accomplished.
I have wandered though Oscura searching for rumors of the temple’s arrival, but have heard nothing. I’ve spoken with a few Thayans regarding my plight, but many of them are distrusting, and won’t often confide in me.
It appears that I will simply have to wait, or accept my abandonment by the temple. It’s a sad feeling to feel misplaced.
Rhyndar has not shown his face in some time, and this worries me. I still ride the horse he purchased for me to use, but if he’s been slain I’m sure it will be sold along with his estate. I spend too much time in this land I feeling like an outsider, and he was one of the few that desired me. Perhaps Devlin will see to my well being. He seems to like the body spice I put in my bath, and does not mind that I am Thayan.
I continue to avoid entanglements with the zealot Rith Phoenixfeather, thank Kossuth._
Diadne woke in a sweat. Something was wrong. Something was terribly, terribly wrong.
She felt its presence. It was an entity of fire so powerful, that its presence made the world tremble. It was here. It was close. So very, very close.
Diadne walked over to the window and peered into the darkness. She saw nothing of course, but the torchlight fires and light from the windows in Norwick. She clenched her hands in her nightgown in fear, for somehow she knew this entity was not nice. No. Not nice at all.
She turned from the window, poked the fire in the hearth and added another log. The fire sprang to life, and its presence comforted her. She knelt before it and prayed.
“I pray thee Kossuth, protect thy servant from your entity most terrible. I feel its presence, and it frightens me. I beseech thee…Please honor my service as I have honored you, and spare my life.”
Diadne closed her eyes tight for a moment, then turned her head. The presence had faded, but it was still there. Hidden. Waiting.
Something is coming_
It was long after sunset, and Diadne lay on the rug by the hearth. The fire burned fiercely within, warming her. Others might have been uncomfortable being so close to the fire, but Kossuth’s blessing protected her.
She lay on her back, turning a spell crystal over in her hand lazily. The fire light reflected myriad images from its many facets, scattering pools of light over her body.
She had her first success at the Norwick games, and hadn’t panicked at the first sight of someone with a weapon. She had skirted the melee with reasonable skill, directing Kossuth’s power against her adversaries in the games. Her team had one first place, and she had contributed to its success. This crystal was her reward.
I growing smile graced her face, an hidden light leapt within her eyes from the newly found fires of ambition.
The people of this land treat me very well. Many seem to want my friendship. It’s an odd and perhaps blasphemous feeling to feel this free. To choose who I can be with, and disdain those I do not.
I have tried to distance myself from a woman named Saria, who prays to Auril. She seeks my friendship most ardently, but there may be more involved. She’s one of those odd sorts of local women that seem to prefer the company of others of like gender, for both friendship and sex, and I do not desire it. I also fear that the Fire Lord would frown upon any friendship with this woman, and take away the blessings he has most graciously given. I have no animosity towards her, but I fear any relationship is doomed from the start.
Lady Phoenixfeather, the zealot of Lathander made an overture to me today, in the offer of two very powerful scrolls. As much as I wanted them, I forced myself to decline.
I simply don’t want to associate myself with this woman, or her ideals. I am studied in political affairs and human nature enough to know that gifts, though freely given, always have weight of recompense attached to them. It is a truly rare person who gives of him or herself without expecting any sort of reward. People tell themselves that they are giving freely, but deep inside are expectations of improved friendship or favor attached.
Lady Phoenixfeather’s zealotry scares me, and so do the kinds of enemies she makes. It will be best if we simply travel in separate circles.
However, there is an older man, a weaponsmith of Tempus named Devlin, that I fancy. Like Rhyndar, he is tall and well muscled, and could easily carry me over his shoulder. We chatted amiably for some time, and was a good natured adversary in the games. He is a mighty warrior, and I watched a friendly sparring match between him and an enormous half-breed named Grog. Although Grog won, the battle was very close, Devlin’s age and experience almost besting Grog’s size and strength.
Hopefully, the temple of Kossuth will arrive soon, and give permission to bed one of these local barbarians before I go crazy._
Diadne skipped and flitted about the room joyously. She straightened up things here and there, humming to herself. The fire burned brightly in the hearth. The fire was often a reflection of Diadne’s mood.
Ibli sat lazily on the bed examining the Spellweaver charter. It was his responsibility as much as hers to learn it. As her companion and mentor, it was often imperative the he learn it better, so he could teach and instruct.
Spellweaver had reorganized itself recently. All current students had been automatically enrolled as initiates under the reorganization, and that put her mistress, so recently a student, in very good graces. He knew in his heart that his mistress was blessed by Kossuth, but her recent miraculous escape from the Orcs, coupled with this new life of freedom and privilege, gave him pause for thought. Perhaps Kossuth didn’t just bless her. Perhaps he watched over her, guiding her destiny. As a tiny embodiment of his power, it was possible that the Fire Lord had interest in her survival.
Ibli looked up over the scrolls and watched his mistress as she flitted about the room. She was truly beautiful. The fire inside her blazed forth and lit her countenance. She was so full of life and energy, that it was breathtaking at times to watch her. In this regard, he felt truly blessed as well.
I have witnessed “echoes” from the war that happened between N’Jast and the peoples of this land. They appear as ghostly visions of people, acting out scenes, or trying to tell us things. I know little of spirits and necromancy, but was fascinated by their appearances. Are these simply signs of the past, or clues of what remains to be?
Glory of glories! I have been made a full member of Spellweaver! This servant has risen far, and I hope that I have will make the Eternal Flame proud when he arrives. He had been training me for the Courtesan’s Guild. They held much power in Surthay, and my presence would have indirectly added power to the temple. This will accomplish the same. The presence of a servant of the Fire Lord in the mages guild will prove beneficial. I am sure that someday, I will be able to use this position for support in the creation of a temple in this land. If I serve Spellweaver well, and respect their proper authority, my service will be rewarded in kind with increased privileges and responsibility.
I offer praise to Kossuth for keeping me safe, and guiding me to this land. I still have a great deal to learn, and my blessings pale in comparison to many of those of accomplishment. I have no doubt that with care, diligence and purpose, that someday I will be one of them._
Diadne put the pen down, and sat back in her chair. A concept bubbled from the depths of her memory, from times prior to her joining with the temple. They were times of play, games, and sneaking out to the woods with her friends. Back then, she was free.
She closed the ink bottle, cleaned the pen, and put the thought away for another time.
“Madam, you must think of abjuration as unraveling a woolen sock. If cut at one point, the yarn will unwind. If cut at several points, we can unwind it much faster. The key to doing this is figuring out where to cut the sock to unravel it the fastest. All spells use increasingly complex patterns. What I am going to teach you is a method of unraveling all patterns of … “
Ibli continued his explanation, but Diadne was having difficulty focusing. Her failures in recent duels and games were unlocking a temper she never knew she had. The headmaster had warned her about this. He had said that all those with innate power would have to deal with it eventually.
She blamed her increasing independence. For the first time since being purchased by the temple, she was forced to make decisions on her own. She struggled with feelings of abandonment and directing her own life. Her mistakes and her failures were all on her own shoulders now.
Ibli flicked her ear. “Madam? Are you paying attention”
Diadne cast her eyes down, feeling ashamed. If she was going to succeed, she really needed to learn.
I hate zealots on either end of the spectrum. The other day, I watched Lady Phoenixfeather as she slew a host of bugbears while under a truce of parlay. She stated that she would not tolerate their evil, and that the only good bugbear was a dead one.
The problem I have with this is that they were discussing things with a good friend of mine named Garviel. Now the bugbears will assume he set up an ambush, and had them slain through guile and trickery. Worse, we later found out that the bugbears are at war with themselves. For all we know, these bugbears were worshippers of the Patchwork God, not evil, and bent on redemption.
I find most zealots to be ultimately selfish because they casually discard the lives and wellbeing of others around them for their “cause”. They are champions of a way of life, but often fight outside its boundaries as hypocrites. As a servant, I have often stood aside and watched while these things happen. It is not my right or place to interfere. At the time, I was terrified of responding in any manner, lest I offend her or the town of Norwick. Others appeared to be offended too, so I was not alone in this regard.
A curiosity of this land is the same sex relationships that occur with common regularity. There are some societies that encourage this, for they feel that having a limited number of children is for the better. In Thay, a same sex relationship was rather uncommon, enough so that when it happened people were surprised and it became the topic of conversation. Personally, I find the tanned and muscled men of this region to be most appealing, and am enjoying their attentions. One in particular has taken a fancy to me, and won a duel for the right to be at my side. Why a woman would forsake this to go after another woman is totally beyond me.
I still wait for my brethren to arrive from Surthay. I have been spending time in Oscura hoping for word, but haven’t received any. I still bear hope, and carry it with me._
Diadne had been sought after before. Both a merchant and minor lord had asked for her repeatedly at one time, and the temple of Kossuth had been happy to allow it provided coin was properly donated, or favors granted. It was simply the way business had been done.
She was a slave though, and a servant of Kossuth. The merchant had bought her a nice slip of silk, but only because it was something he wanted to see her in. The minor lord had inquired about purchasing her, but balked at the asking price. Instead he had been content for numerous visits. They stopped however, for reasons unknown.
Diadne stared out the window at the horse tied to the hitching post below. Even though it belonged to Rhyndar, she was allowed to ride it. She was even given the honor of naming it, a privilege unheard of in Thay. She had named it “Flicker”, a good Kossuthian name for an animal.
Rhyndar was not only interested, but had offered to purchase her. Though he had lost a fortune in the city up north, he still possessed much wealth, enough to buy an extra horse without even blinking. He had even purchased a dress that he wanted her to wear.
To be owned by one of the wealthy barbarians here … what would it be like? She was growing used to life here in this harsh land, and thoughts of returning to her life in the temple were beginning to bore her.
Diadne puzzled at this thought. If Norwick found out, given the recent decree they would certainly banish him. Best to keep thoughts of this quiet.
I can feel my blessings grow with each passing day. It’s as if new doors are revealed to me in ways difficult to explain. I haven’t figured out how to open them yet, but I know they key is on my person somewhere.
One of the locals has expressed a keen interest in me. When I explained to him that I belonged to the Eternal Flame, he was anxious to meet him to tender a purchase, and that he would accept my blessings in full.
I’m not sure how I feel about this._
Diadne lay on the feather bed. Ibli had just finished washing her hair, and then dismissed himself for parts unknown. Still slightly damp, her red hair hung loose out of her usual ponytail, and splayed across her shoulders and pillow. She looked up at the ceiling and daydreamed.
There were often times like this at the temple, when there was very little to do. Often, she would practice her posture in front of a mirror, coupled with a winsome glance, to better prepare for the one she would be attending next.
She had little choice in these matters. Her attentions as a courtesan and holy vessel would be dictated by the Eternal Flame. A priest would be rewarded for good service. A soldier for bravery perhaps. Frequently, it would be a visiting dignitary whose favor and coin were needed.
But if she could choose, who would she pick?
Most of the people here were so barbaric. Some had little education, and barely mastered the local tongue. They were all dressed in leathers and steel, and smelled of blood and sweat. Part of it repulsed her, but some of it appealed to her basic nature.
The little hin Benji would be good for a long relationship she mused, because of his obvious education and intelligence. He would be delightfully entertaining over months or even years. The pillow talk would make her laugh no doubt. People often forgot that the physical intimacy is such a small part of the relationship.
Thorn had a kind heart. Kind hearts were valued, and worth more than gold, jewels and silver. Diadne lay there thinking of gifts, small but thoughtfully chosen, given with each visit. Thorn would be tender and sweet, unlike the ministrations of many of the soldiers who had entered her bed chamber.
She thought of Rico, Einrihch, and the yummy looking Rhyndar, all tall strapping soldiers of the blade and axe. The thought of one of them picking her up over their strong shoulders brought both fear and excitement, making her quiver inside.
She giggled out loud at the thought of it.
But she was not free. As a slave, she would never get to choose. For the first time, in a very long time, it truly bothered her.
Oh joy of joys! The druids have ousted the worshipper of Auril, and he has fled these lands! Surely this a blessing, and a sign that Kossuth does indeed watch over me. I am assured that his opinions and threats did not represent those of the Druid’s Circle, and I am not to be hunted and slain.
Now, I await the day that my brethren from Surthay arrive, and establish a holy place here. Once again I will be where I belong, serving my keepers.
In the mean time I do my best to fit in. Often this involves the raiding and pillaging of the lesser races that live here. What horrified me weeks ago has become accepted and common place. It allows me to hone Kossuth’s gifts, and acquire some coin.
When the priests and soldiers arrive, they will find a stronger and more capable vessel of Kossuth. I hope they see fit to reward me in some manner, as I have endured much here._
Diadne cried. She sat on the bed facing the hearth, trying to find comfort in the flickering flames, a soft and gentle reminder of Kossuth’s presence. She stared into it, hoping to find solace there.
Ibli gently placed a hand on her shoulder, as quiet sobs filled the room. He said nothing. Sometimes, the mere presence of a friend is more powerful than words could ever hope to be. Ibli had served her faithfully for almost 10 years now, and the bond between them had grown stronger with each passing year. As Diadne’s blessing had grown, so had Ibli’s presence in the material.
The sobs suddenly quieted. Diadne’s breathing quickened as she stared into the flames. With lower lip still trembling, a fierce determination replaced the sadness. The words of binding came unbidden, and heat filled the room.
“Yes”, Ibli whispered into her ear. “Feel its presence, and call it forth”
A creature of flame suddenly stepped from the hearth, looking around bewildered and uncertain. Suddenly however, it collapsed in on itself, the flames splashing on the cold stone floor before extinguishing.
Ibli smiled, and patted her on the back, “Soon mistress, soon”
I was called to a meeting with one of the Druids of this land yesterday. He had heard of the three Kossuthian artifacts lost during the Orc raid. He knew one of them had not been captured, and that I probably knew of its whereabouts. He appeared concerned and upset that this would affect the balance, and demanded that I turn over this artifact so that balance could be maintained.
The problem is that third artifact is me.
He told me I had one year to leave this land, or the Druids would come to kill me. If not him, then others. This would be done to maintain the balance he said.
I can’t simply leave. The Burning Braziers I traveled with are gone, killed at the hands of foul creatures. Our destination was here, in this land called Narfell, to spread the word of Kossuth to the peoples here. As a servant, I must complete the task I was commanded to do, unless told otherwise by the Eternal Flame. I must serve as a living example of Kossuth’s beauty and power.
The headmaster of Spellweaver vowed to me that he would defend me, and ensure my safety. That he would do this for a servant, not even one of his faith shows the great capacity of his heart. Despite his words and great power, I know he cannot be everywhere at once. Sooner or later I will be forced to defend myself, and I must be ready.
If the Druids wish to kill me I am sure they will succeed. The only question that remains is how many of them will feel Kossuth’s fire before I am struck down._
A dagger turned lazily in Diadne’s dainty hand, the flame shaped blade glistening in the candlelight. The runes glowed a brilliant red, and Kossuth’s symbol of the flame sparkled in the handle with ruby brilliance. Truly this was a holy artifact.
Ibli looked on with concern. “Madam, what will you do with it? Servants are not allowed to own such things”
Diadne furrowed her brow, clutching it tighter. “I cleansed a staff of Auril, and helped save a troubled boy. I earned it. Kossuth teaches us to have ambition, and to seek power. I seek power”
Ibli’s frown deepened, “Madam, if the Eternal Flame sees you with it, he will be angry. He will take it, and you will be … punished.”
“Well what am I to do with it Mister Sizzles? The Eternal Flame is not here. In the mean time, it belongs to me.”
I have been on several “adventures” with peoples of various sorts. It seems to be a way of life around here. I spoke with a mercenary named Thomas who lamented the fact that people preferred to gamble for the prize at the end, than pay a mercenary up front. Everyone wants “a piece of the action”, a share in the loot, and the prize at the end. I must admit that it’s all rather infectious, and certainly more exciting than creating small talk with a deserving priest, and catering to his predilections in the bed chamber.
Kossuth continues to reward me well for my ambitions and efforts.
I had a rather disturbing discussion with one of the locals by the fire. He was somewhat surprised that I was a servant, a slave owned by the Temple in Surthay. He asked what would happen, if someone locally purchased me.
I cannot fathom being owned by anyone other than the Eternal Flame, but he did raise an interesting point, in that my sacred vows and religious views certainly wouldn’t change. I suppose my new owner could forbid it. If he was smart however, he would make use of it instead. But the thought was troubling, and an eventuality I hadn’t considered._