Tales of their pasts
On the way back Ashar was deep in thought. He was still angry at himself for forgetting about the crystal’s reactive property, and for lying to Aelar. What reason did he have to mistrust his recently made companion? Then a thought struck him, Aelar was a Wild Elf, and probably didn’t know anything of the politics of Genasi nobility he’d grown up with. Or did he? He didn’t really know anything about Aelar other than his talent for flying and naivety of coarser ideas. Really, he didn’t know any of them; and so, catching Aelar up along the river, he inquired:
“Aelar, what is your tale?”
“My tale Ashar?”
“Your story, where you come from…why did you show up at the Gate?”
“Oh, I see.” Aelar drew a deep breath in the frigid air.
“I was born in the deep forests near Agrin’s Gate, raised in the way of my people, the Wild Elves, living in isolation from all outside influences. The elders of my tribe educated me in the ways of self-defence and in the lore of my ancestral homeland, the Feywild.”
“Ah yes, that’s where we are going next,” said Ashar.
Aelar beamed, “yes, it is.” He continued.
“The elders said I was born different from the others. Within weeks I was speaking, and I was leagues ahead of my contemporaries after a few years. I did my best not to flaunt it, and choosing the life of a monk, that I might seek solitude as I came to understand the power within me, this gift.
“About a month ago, many days into a prayer walk, I came upon a human youth. The boy was no more than fifteen years of age, and appeared to have hurt his ankle. Naturally I was startled, having never seen a person of any race other than my own. I helped the boy in getting home, to a small town called Agrin’s Gate. The shock of seeing walls, dressed stone, people? It almost overwhelmed me. How could the elders have excluded the wondrous diversity of this world in their histories?
“I hurried home to speak with the tribe leaders. When the elders found that I had helped a human, an act apparently beneath my kind, I was given the day to pack and leave. I pleaded with the tribe, with my family, to look past their ignorance, and embrace the vibrance around them. To cast off the omissive and classist teachings of the elders and come to see these ‘men’ for themselves?”
Aelar looked downcast as he recalled the bitter memory.
“In the end, they preferred the comfort of their seclusion. I, already seen with some suspicion for my abilities, and shamed by the elders, had no home among my people; and thus, old for a human but naive in spirit, I set out in search of adventure, and greater understanding of the world and its great complexities. I started by returning to Agrin’s Gate, where I met you and the others.”
Aelar’s face had brightened again. Smiling he asked Ashar brightly, “so that’s my story, what’s yours?”
“I was raised in some of the harshest wilderness in the Prime, where my family are hereditary rulers over a poor and sparsely settled territory. Even when I was young I was curious about magic, so when I was old enough, my parents sent me to the one of the most eminent arcane schools in the Capital.”
Ashar spoke with pride, the others had been listening casually to Aelar, with little else to listen to; but Ashar had a more captivating air, his nobility had trained him to command attention.
“At the school I learned much about the magic arts, but my interest in the arcane could not be sated. I decided to explore the world myself, to find out arcane secrets beyond the knowledge of my teachers. My explorations took him to Agrin’s Gate, where whispers about previously unknown magic forces led me to volunteer for this mercenary expedition. It seems now only too true that the rumours were true.”
The group arrived at the Gate before anyone else could share, and presented the crystal to the Arcanist, who thanked them excitedly and scurried off. With little else to do they went to the last tavern in town, what had become a landing point for the whole town after the days survival measures; today was gathering wood for fires. Over rounds of ale the companions continued to recount tales of their pasts. Balthazar had made a Fey pact with a powerful Drow, indebting him to serve later in life, in exchange for power and glory in his youth. Drel and Cordus were silent, preferring the group to deal in mystery over knowledge. As eyes turned to Vore, his gaze rested on Iltani.
“I have a story” he said coldly. Downing his beer, he slammed the stein down, wiped the foam from his lips, and began.
“I was given to the faith as an infant, being born into a family with too many mouths to feed. I grew up happy, since the priests decided to train me as a warrior when other punishments failed to curb my rough-and-tumble play-style. It was there that I met Iltani.”
Vore shot Iltani a glare before continuing.
“Iltani, being a Shardmind, originated from a gate in the Astral Sea. Beyond that gate lay the alien Far Realm, and the gate’s destruction during the Dawn War resulted in the rise of the mind flayer empire. Unlike many of his brethren, Iltani had no interest in rebuilding the gate, but rather sought to understand the nuances of mortal emotions, a concept foreign to his nature.
“This is what he told the head priestess at the temple where I lived, the Temple of Pelor, God of the Sun. The head priestess placed in my charge. She said, ‘some responsibility will straighten you out.’ If only she’d known what she’d agreed to. The head priestess was old and very senile woman, and had gone a bit mad. But she caused no one any trouble, and we all loved her.”
Vore’s voice faltered, “I loved her,” he whispered. When he regained composure his voice was angry as he spoke through hot tears.
“One day she decided that to truly dedicate herself to Pelor she must become one with the Sun itself. And this, this murderer Iltani, attempted to teleport her there.”
Vore’s face was ashen.
“For her death the other elders expelled me, and I never saw Iltani again, until the Gate.”
Iltani spoke, “my actions were misguided Vore, I was trying to help your priestess but I did not know of her frailty, and for that I apologize.”
“Tell that to the elders.” Vore spat back.
“I did, but I was unable to sway their decision, I am sorry.”
Vore’s expression softened. “Well I, I hadn’t realized. Excuse me, I need some air.”
With that he stood and walked out of the tavern. Drel took note of the long shadows being cast, and with a stretch bid the adventurers good day before returning to his chamber. One by one the others followed in turn, until Iltani was alone.
“I’m sorry for harbouring such ill-will toward you over these many years, forgive me.”
Entering the nobleman’s library Iltani began reading from his books, waiting for the town to shift again.
Aelar woke early, his senses tingling with the scents and sounds of his ancestral homeland. A primal energy vibrated in the air, the morning dew shimmering brightly in the gathering dawn. He arose and set about finding mice and rats in the pantries and cellars. By the time the others were eating breakfast he’d gathered nearly a dozen in a bag, squeaking and wriggling.
“What’s with the mice?” Balthazar asked.
“You’ll see,” Aelar replied.
The party got their heading and set off into the wild forests of the Fey realm, taking the runespiral demon-in-a-box with them. After an hour the group came upon a pair of Owlbears, bears with the head and talons of an owl.
Before the group drew weapons, Aelar raised a hand. Calmly drawing the bag of rodents from his side, he reached in and tossed one near the owlbear. The female pounced for it, eagerly devouring it. Aelar continued this, edging closer. The male didn’t pay any mind to this, he continued to watch the group snarling menacingly. Aelar threw his last mouse behind him and drew a rope, and as the owlbear charged past he bound her swiftly. This enraged the other owlbear, and as the group dispatched it Aelar whispered an Elven phrase in the female’s ear.
The owlbear’s whimpering ceased and its eyes grew docile. Aelar had succeeded in taming a Feybeast companion for himself, he turned to the group.
“Thank you friends. For holding back, we have a new member now,” he said as he unbound the owlbear.
Suddenly a Bralani, an Eladrin noble, and a pack of hunting hounds flew in. He looked fierce and beautiful, his hounds swift and deadly.
“What are you doing in my forest?” He demanded. Aelar stepped forward.
“Noble elf, we are strangers to these lands, and did not know this was your forest. We came upon these owlbears by chance and defended ourselves when they attacked.” Aelar could see that, as with his people, the class system was thriving in the Fey as well. The Bralani looked down on them, both figuratively and literally.
“We, um.” Aelar’s mind was racing.
“Give him the demon?” It was Balthazar, speaking through Iltani.
“We offer a rare creature from beyond this plane, as a gift for your menagerie.”
The Bralani raised a brow, his curiosity piqued.
“Show me this creature, elf.”
Cordus and Ashar stepped forward with the crate, and opening it revealed the demon inside. The Bralani was furious.
“What in Saulknor have you done?” Aelar seemed to shrink under the words.
“You would defile my forest with this infernal creature? How dare you!” Aelar, holding his gaze, whispered to the others, “run.”
The Bralani sicced the hounds on the demon, destroying it in seconds. The party ran for all they were worth, the hounds giving chase on the ground and the Bralani hovering close behind. They emerged from the forest into grasslands, and in the distance they saw a town. As they moved further from the forest edge they could hear the Bralani laughing and shouting taunts at them, before disappearing among the trees.
“Who was that?” Panted Cordus.
“An Eladrin Lord, they are the high elves.” Replied Aelar.
“He likely owns these lands, and was hunting when he heard us,” added Ashar.
They made for the town, in hopes of finding the crystal within.
The town was small, holding a few hundred people, with a wooden hall on the far side. Approaching the guards of the hall, they gave a gruff “Halt!”
“What do you want?”
“We have urgent business with the chieftain,” said Balthazar.
“Not possible, you’ll need to come back later.” Balthazar’s eyes blazed.
“Listen fool, we’re going to see your chieftain. Whether I have to kill you first is your call.” The soldiers, quivering, stepped back and allowed them entry.
The wooden hall was old and ornate in its carvings. Banners fluttered lazily in the rafters as the party approached the throne.
“Chieftain, we have urgent business with you,” said Balthazar.
Seeing he wasn’t in a position to argue, the chieftain listened as they explained their quest and desire for the crystal. Unfortunately, the chieftain was unable to aid them.
“I wish I could help, but since the disappearance of my brother two years ago, protecting the town has been my only priority. He was a mage who placed protective wards over the town, keeping us safe from Fomorian attack.”
The Fomorians were giants, hideously ugly, that roamed pockets of the Feywild. If the party hadn’t been in such a rush to get into the city, they would have noticed repairs that had been made to the walls.
Seeing that he was telling the truth, they went to the tavern. Aelar bribed the barkeeper in hopes of learning more about the mage, but only found out that the missing brother had left a widow. The widow being their only lead, the group went to her house.
Agrin’s Gate Chapters
- Part I: Foreword, The Gate
- Part II: The Contract, On Route To The Cave
- Part III: First Blood, Bugbears and Krenshars
- Part IV: Vore, The Crystal, The Incident
- Part V: The Swamp, The Fortress, Cordus, Bryne’s Suspicion
- Part VI: Dinosaurs, Bryne’s Refusal, Dragons (Finally)
- Part VII: Tales of their pasts, The Feywild, The Town
- Part VIII
- Part IX
- Part X
- Part XI