Bonds Of Blood II

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This is a collection of stories that tell of the adventures and history that took place in the platinum instance, written by the players.

Bonds of Blood II: I See Dead Aelotoi

It was early evening, and the air was starting to get cold. The odd person was still moving through the town centre, but the numbers had thinned dramatically. Jaynon stood beneath the oak tree, contemplating the most recent run in with a tarantula that could talk. Deep in the mining tunnels beneath the shadow valley he had been releasing dead spectral miners from their undeath curse, when the thing had popped out of the shadows and tried to converse with him.

How did they keep finding him? Was he imagining these things? He had been under a lot of pressure lately. But sometimes others saw them, so they couldn’t all be imaginary. Tanai once noted to someone that she felt sometimes they were imagined, but not always. But that meant even she had doubts about it sometimes. Could fear be so strong it made you hallucinate so vividly? He had no idea. Jaynon didn’t know whether it would be better to find out he had a mind sickness, or that they were all real and that spiders and bugs were drawn to him. Often ones with the power of speech.

Jaynon came out of his thoughts and spotted a gnome walking by carrying a lance and wrapped in a fine silk cloak. A spider crawled over it, apparently weaving new threads of silk over a small tear.

“You erm…” Jaynon began hesitantly calling out to the gnome, “have a spider on you”. “Not to worry you,” he added quickly feeling a pang of guilt that he might make the gnome jump in fear. The gnome turned a casual smile to him and said simply, “They is friendlies”. And carried on his way without stopping.

>Am I losing my mind?

Suddenly something caught his eye across the square. A figure that somehow had a familiar feel to it. He felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck, but it came with no sense of fear. Following a gut compulsion he crossed the square towards it, politely making his way around the smattering of people moving along their way. The figure was an Aelotoi man, his wings pulled close. Jaynon hadn’t seen an Aelotoi since…

Jaynon quickened his pace to a jog; his heart had begun to pound in his chest. A confusing rush of emotions washed over him. Anguish, guilt… hope? Red hair like copper. Was that common for an Aelotoi maybe? Maybe.

The Aelotoi stopped sharply, probably noticing he was being followed. Jaynon stopped as well, a good ten paces away still. The rest of the world seemed to slow till frozen in the moment. The Aelotoi slowly turned his head to regard Jaynon, a pair of silver spectacles perched precariously on his nose.

Jaynon felt as is if his heart and breathing had stopped along with the motion of the world. His own parched dry lips mouthed the name, “Bareth”.

A Raven cawed loudly, snapping Jaynon’s attention away, before tapping at an acorn with its beak. The dark bird flew off and with it’s flight, time resumed its natural flow.

Looking around the town square, Jaynon saw no sign of the Aelotoi. There was no way he could have left his sight from where he had stood; even at a flat run. It was as if he had vanished into thin air. Perhaps he had used magic, but Jaynon couldn’t get the feeling of familiarity out of his mind. Was that Bareth? It had certainly looked like him but that wasn’t possible. Was it?

His skin felt fuzzy with pins and needles. His body couldn’t seem to decide if it was hot or cold, feeling almost feverish. Jaynon’s mind was a blur of thoughts and he absently began to move.

>Maybe I AM going mad.

Before he realised where he was, he found himself sat alone at a table in the Raging Thrak Inn an ale being set before him by a waitress. Politely paying her and giving a generous tip, he began to consider what had happened, and trying to decide if he should tell anyone about it.

Bonds of Blood II: The Search Begins

A rocky beach, on the coast of an Island, mostly deserted now after the festival ended.

Shops closed up, wandering merchants and townsfolk back in their homes, or headed on ships to points unknown.

On the western shore, a lone figure walked, head down, grimacing into the chill wind blowing in from the sea. A lonely, and very unhappy, dwarf.

Dressed in warm robes and a cloak, carrying a staff that stood well above her diminutive frame, the small dwarf was searching. Her bright eyes nearly hidden behind the thick beard and mustache, she constantly peered this way and that. Walking to the very water’s edge, waves lapping over her boats, then up the beach to look in among the rocks.

Every day she did this. Several times a day. Miles of empty beach to be walked, to be searched. Nothing ever found. But she did not stop.

There was no quitting in Lady Penin Wolfslayer, wizard and closest friend to one Bareth Cordellon. He was her mentor, her teacher, and oft times the bane of her existence. Yet without him, she would be dead. Or worse, enslaved to her own family.

He had given her hope, life and the courage to become not just a floor-cleaning servant girl, but a wizard. A true wizard.

And now he was dead. Or so it was believed. She, however, did not believe. Could not believe. He had been lost at sea once before, and had returned. He could do it again. Perhaps his Goddess, who she had never been able to take into her heart, was real, and would save him.

And so she searched.

He had told her where he was going, and forbidden her to join him. Too dangerous, he said. For her. She was a wizard, but still a young one. Her powers would be no match for Whick’s, and they both knew it.

Reluctantly she had stayed behind, but when news came of the disaster at sea, she left immediately for the small village he had described, trusted friend Rusty flying beside her.

When she arrived, the Pat’Akrant had only recent docked, and she found the captain and much of the crew in the village tavern. They recognized her, many surprised to see their former bread maker now in the garb of a Lady, and a wizard. She dispensed with niceties, as was her style, and was given the story. Yes, the ship had been sunk. No, they had not found his body. Imploring them, promising to use her magic to aid them in any way, she got them to agree to return to the scene, to see if the Priest could be found. Dead or alive.

Before leaving, she visited the inn where he had stayed, and found a small package waiting for her. Curled up in a ball, in his favorite pouch, was Bareth’s beloved hedgehog, Truffles. ‘Been feedin’ him as I could, Miss, healthy appetite that one’ said the Innkeeper jovially. Smiling a thin smile, she thanked him and tossed a few coins on the counter.

“Come little one,’ She cooed to him ‘Let’s go find your Papa’

The search at sea had been fruitless. The sea was littered with bodies, and wreckage, but not a sign of the Aelotoi Priest. No cloak, no satchel, no crook. It would not occur to her until later, how true that also was of Whick.

At her request, the smugglers dropped her off at Caligos Isle, where she eschewed any festivities in favor of walking the beach, and searching.

She would know, if he was truly dead, she told herself. She would know. So he must be alive.

She kept searching.

Bonds of Blood II: The Search Continues, or, Gnome Sweet Gnome

Sunrise, and she searched. The little dwarf, her beard and hair limp and tangled, from constant sea spray, continued her walk up the beach, through the rocks, to the water and often out as far as her small frame could go, without being carried away.

The search had been fruitless, but she remained undeterred. Rusty, at least, was enjoying himself, feasting on the large bounty of fish the water provided.

For days the only sounds she heard had been waves crashing, seagulls crying and the futile splashing of a fish, struggling to get away from the pelican’s pouch. So when she first heard the voices, she thought perhaps she was hallucinating.

“Hellowings!”

“Greetings!”

She turned, and stared opened mouth at two small figures – small even to her – who were shuffling up the beach as fast as they were able.

Two gnomes. One male, one female.

“We is coming to helpings you findings winged priest!” the small man said proudly, as the woman attempted to lick Penin’s arm.

“We is good at findings things” the little woman added, reaching down to pick up a piece of something she found in the sand, and popping it into her mouth.

Penin opened her mouth to say something, then closed it. She was annoyed, she told herself. These two little…annoyances…didn’t belong here. She was annoyed. Definitely.

“How did you get here? Little gnomes do not swim” she asked

“We is getting boat ride from winged priest friend.”

“He tasted salty”

Penin tried very, very hard, to remain stern. And then she saw two sincere faces staring up at her, two dear friends who just wanted to help. She bit her lip, and hugged them both close.

‘Is most grateful, for help’ she said, mostly successful in keeping the emotion from her voice.

“Is much walking though. And no licking!” she wagged a finger at the young lady gnome, who cheerfully ignored it and licked the male gnome.

Brushing the tongue away, he exclaimed “is ready for walkings and findings!”

And so they searched. All day, and when it became too dark to see, they sat and made a small campfire on the beach.

“lots of walkings, not much findings” said the lady gnome, chewing on a stick.

“Winged priest hidings really good. We findings tomorrow” said the male, reassuringly.

Thoughtfully, Penin said slowly, for a thought had come to her, “is thinking, maybe we try something else, now”

Both heads lifted and four eyes stared interestedly at her. For what gnome doesn’t want to try something else?

“Prayer” Penin said carefully. And noted four eyes drop down, and two pairs of feet begin shuffling.

Talking slowly, Penin said “we seek priest, yes? And priest love goddess, yes? Then maybe, we pray goddess, we find priest.”

The two gnomes considered this carefully. Fingers were counted, and toes. Heads were scratched, bugs were eaten, and more feet shuffled.

Finally, the male nodded. “If helping findings winged priest, I think nice thoughts to invisible magic lady”

The female nodded too. “Is liking goddess lady, she help makings not deads once”

Penin smiled, and after a bit more discussion the three knelt down in a very small circle, holding hands with bowed heads.

They didn’t ask for much, in their prayers. Just a miracle.

Bonds of Blood II: Dead Aelotoi Walking

The Priest opened his eyes. He was floating it seemed, and the first thing he saw was the bleeding, broken body of an Aelotoi, with mere ragged stubs where his wings should be. He gasped in shock and surprise and –

HELLO BARETH

The voice was strange, but oddly familiar. “Who speaks? And how do you know me?” When no response came quickly, he added “We must help this man, there may still be time!”

IT IS TOO LATE FOR THAT

He opened his mouth to respond, then closed it. After a moment, in a shaking voice, he said “I know who you are. And who that is.”

YES

“You are here to bring me to the Gate?”

YES

“It is too soon. There is more to be done. Please.”

YOU GET ONE PLEASE A DAY. YOU JUST USED IT.

‘Wait…if you are her…you never speak. Why can I hear you?’

EXCEPTIONS CAN BE MADE

‘I am so special, am I?’

YOU ARE WELL KNOW TO US, BARETH CORDELLON. FEW HAVE PULLED SO MANY AWAY FROM THE GATE, WHILE SENDING SO MANY LOST SOULS TOWARD IT

He realized they were moving, gliding across the waves. He could see Whick’s ship sliding below the waves, completely engulfed in flames. In the distance, the Pak’Arant was making sail, returning to their tiny port. He saw Jaynon and Tanai, rowing a boat, and his heart filled with joy. His mission had not been in vain.

Of Whick, he saw nothing.

Very quickly the water, the sky, the clouds disappeared, and he was in an inky fog. He felt ground beneath him, soft and spongy, but his senses detected little else.

To the figure he said, ‘I have done much, to restore the dead, and to release the cursed undead. But there is more to be done, so much more’

THAT IS WHAT EVERYONE ALWAYS SAYS

The Priest sighed

“So what happens now? We go to the gate?”

YOU ARE ALREADY BEYOND THE GATE

‘Beyond? But how?’

HOW IS NOT A QUESTION I ANSWER.

‘So, the gate, isn’t really an actual gate?’

THE GATE IS THE GATE.

‘But did I actually cross through it?’

YOU ARE WITH ME. I AM ALWAYS ACROSS THE GATE

And now, I just…what?

YOU WILL –

‘I will what?’

The figure was stationary, and then abruptly floated away, moving quickly.

‘Where are you going?’ the Priest shouted. ‘I will what?’

SOMETHING IS AMISS. I MUST GO.

And so he was left alone in the fog. Literally and figuratively, he thought to himself. Tentatively he moved forward, hands in front of him, unable to see more than a few inches in front of his face. Nothing changed, he could not even be sure which direction he moved.

Abruptly, the fog cleared. The priest found himself at the edge of a circle, a few dozen feet in circumference. Directly across from him, an ancient looking man, bent over a walking stick, looked up at him and smiled. ‘Greetings, greetings, Traveler’ the man said.

Bareth blinked, and stared, and said the first thing that came to mind, which was ‘Hello…and who are you?’

With a light chuckle, the man stepped forward, and replied ‘Oh, well, I am known by many names, you know. When you get to be my age, you acquire so many.’ Another chuckle. ‘Most folks don’t worry with names, no how, anyway. They just call me Grandfather.’

The Priest stared, momentarily speechless. When his thoughts cleared, he said ‘The Grandfather? THE Grandfather?”

With another chuckle, the man stepped forward again, now directly in front of the Priest and said, ‘well, I see you’ve heard of me then, Traveler.’

Bareth nodded slowly. Of course I have. You are…I mean…well…I considered once…’

Smiling, the Grandfather stood up a bit straighter. ‘I know you did. You thought of asking me, and my followers, for aid in finding your people. In finding your portal.’

‘I would have done anything to return to Bre’Naere and rescue them.’

Another nod, and chuckle. “You never came to ask yourself, but we heard you anyway. And a few of my more loyal followers, and myself, have been working on portals.

Despite the oddity of the circumstance, Bareth could not help but ask eagerly ‘You found a portal? To Bre’Naere?’

‘Ah’ said the Grandfather, ‘well, that might have been how we started, but my students convinced me that even more knowledge could be gained, if we discovered a portal that would return souls to their bodies, even after crossing through the gate’

‘After? You mean-are you saying I could live again?’ The Priest paused. “And if you can do this, why me? Here, now?”

“I have been waiting for someone strong and determined enough, to be willing, and to report back to me. I cannot send you through just to let you run off. I need to know how it felt, what happened, to study you and see if anything has changed.”

“So you can let me through this portal, I return to my body, so long as I vow to return to you, with knowledge of the experience?”

The Grandfather nodded.

“And you can trust me, because I’m known for keeping my vows?”

He nodded again.

“And even though I want that above all things right now, I sense there is more you aren’t telling me.” A third nod.

The Grandfather leaned in close, and in a conspiratorial tone, whispered “the Gatekeeper is distracted, Lord Bareth, but not for long. I don’t have time to explain it all. There is risk, because the portal seems in flux, and some of those we sent never materialized in this world. Dead or alive. There is risk…but what do you have to lose?’

Bareth considered only a moment before nodding, “Fine, send me through Grandfather. I will do what I can later, to make amends to Gosaena.”

The Grandfather looked around nervously. “Shush…don’t even say her name. We need to move quickly.” He gestured, the area filled with fog once more, and when it cleared, they were in a vast chamber.

Floor to ceiling shelves were filled with books, and all manner of tools, bottles, potions and herbs lay scattered across the many work benches. In the center of the room, surrounded by a half dozen young men and women, all wearing grey cowled robes marked with a yellow, slit-pupiled eye, was a massive table. And in the center of the table, was the body of a man. An Aelotoi. Bareth recognized his own body, and winced anew at the remains of what were once his precious wings.

The Grandfather spoke again, and when Bareth glanced at him, he seemed to be standing straighter, and the easy friendliness was gone. “My followers were able to retrieve your living vessel, and will now aid in returning your spirit to it. We are not healers, but enough herbs will be given to ensure you survive the journey. I will open the portal. It will only last a moment, so do not hesitate.

The cowled group around the table began chanting. Bareth watched, amazed, as a line of yellow light flowed outward from his body’s feet, tracing a pattern of growing intricacy on the air just above the ground. The light branched a multitude of times, each strand writhing in place as though barely held in check by some unseen power. There was a rush of power, and suddenly Bareth was lying on his back, body sore, mouth dry, eyes struggling to open. Strong hands gripped him, and without a word, lifted him from the table.

“Release him, friends” said Fash’lo’nae, his voice now full of power. “He must choose the way himself. Go now Bareth Cordellon. Go now, or stay beyond the Gate for eternity!”

Barely able to stand let alone walk, Bareth took one step, then two, as a huge patch of shimmering air appeared before him. The chanting of the acolytes, was louder, almost unbearable, and he stumbled forward, past the table, and through the portal.

Everything went dark.


The Priest opened his eyes.

He was lying on his back. On the ground. Two anxious faces peered down at him, an aelotoi male, and a lady elf. Their kind faces showed concern, and relief.

Speaking in the Priest’s native tongue, the man said “So, you are alive. You seemed to be, but no one could get you to wake up, so we waited.”

Turning his head slightly, despite the pain, Bareth recognized the familiar area of Ta’Vaalor known as King’s Court. Except…it was different. Most notably, it was far more crowded then he recalled it being before, mostly with Vaalor Elves, but other races as well.

Sitting up, he looked closer at the two who sat with, a bit apart from the other activities currently going on. “Do I know you? I thought I knew all those of our people who dwell in the Fort.”

Switching to the Elven tongue, the man replied “I, that is to say we,’ a hand gesture included the lady elf in the statement, “haven’t lived in Ta’Vaalor in years. We spend our days in River’s Rest. But, word came to us that an unknown Aelotoi was found, alive but unmoving, on the shore of Caligos Isle. Some folks arranged to get you here, and then it was a matter of finding healing.”

Bareth nodded as he took a flask of water the lady kindly offered him. He fluttered his wings, and gave his first true smile as he saw they were restored. “And did you heal me? My wings?” he asked.

The man nodded. “The Elves could heal all the rest of you, but if you understand the empath way, you know in order to transfer a wound, you have to have somewhere to transfer it to. And Elves, of course do not have wings.”

The lady poked him then, and touching her cloak, extended large, black and yellow butterfly like wings. After a moment she slowly swept them behind, together, and back out.

The man chuckled, and said “Or, I should say, not wings like us.” He winked at the Priest and then gazed fondly at the elf.

With a slight chuckle, Bareth said “Yes, I knew an elf with wings once myself. Though as you say, not like ours.” In a more serious tone, he added “I do hope…it was not too painful for you?”

“It is part of being a healer, good sir. Though it is not something I would wish to do again soon.” The Lady spoke for the first time, and said in a soft voice, “Pardon our manners, we have not introduced ourselves. I am Rhianui Saturo, and this is my betrothed, Dolant Calahann.”

Smiling, as best he was able, the Priest said “ A pleasure to meet you both. Perhaps you have heard of me, Bareth Cordellon?”

Dolant shrugged and Rhianui shook her head. “I can’t say we have, Bareth. Though I do offer you welcome to the lands. We are always happy to help those newly arrived.”

The Priest stared, trying to comprehend this. “Newly arrived? I have been about this Fort and nearby towns for years. I am among the spiritual leaders of this and other communities, as far away as Icemule and the Landing.” At their continued blank looks he said, a bit louder “Surely you have heard of the Shepherd and Prophet of L’Naere?”

As his voice rose, others in the court took notice, a few elves grinning, and one making a circular motion around his ear.

In a tone that was both polite and kind, but somehow impossible to not be condescending, Dolant said “I am sorry, I have not, as I am sure I would have heard if there was a prophet to our Goddess. You were badly hurt, perhaps a bit more water? And more rest?”

Bareth leaped to his feet, and in an even more agitated tone cried out “do you think a new arrival, would have this robe, or this crook?” His hand instinctively went to his harness, to grab his beloved shepherd’s crook. And instead found a simple rune staff.

“Excuse me” said the small forest sprite, which had been resting on his shoulder.

Bareth blinked in astonishment and for the first time glanced down at his garments…and saw not his usual robes, and cloak, but some ragged sea green full leathers, dark silver-buttoned breeches, and a pair of glazed leather boots.

He sank back down slowly, muttering “What in the Goddess’s name….?”

His thought was interrupted by the frantic arrival of a gaunt, terrified-looking man. The man spotted Bareth, and stopped dead in his tracks.

Dolant and Rhianui smiled knowingly, and encouragingly, and the sprite suggested the Priest look at the man. Instead, Bareth angrily told the man to go away. “And you as well” he said, dismissing the sprite, who spoke a few more words, then left with a wave.

“This is insanity. Have I lost my powers as well?” He gestured, or tried to, his hands and wings not recalling the proper sequence. His words meant nothing, he could summon no magic.

Lady Rhianui said “I’m sure with more training, you’ll soon be able to do lots of magic. If you do not want the sprite’s help, I’m told the guards are always happy to pay for deliveries of water? You could also hunt rats? Dolant and I would be happy to cast-“

Her words cut off at the expression on the Priest’s face, and she glanced uncertainly at Dolant.

Bareth attempted to steady himself. With a deep breath, he said “What of my friends. Lady Penin? Reymard, the healer? Lady Idun? Jaydon and Tanai, so recently rescued from a shipwreck? The little gnome who licks everyone, Vinni?”

Head shakes and shrugs accompanied each name, until Bareth gave up, his head down.

“Look” he said quietly. “I do have friends, powerful friends, who might aid me. They often go to the Raging Thrak Inn, in the Landing. Can we go there?”

The Aelotoi and the Elf exchanged a glance. “We could go, but is a journey of many miles, and can be quite expensive, “said Dolant.

“Many miles? Lend me the coin for a ticket through the portals, and we’ll be there in moments.”

“The portal?” Dolant asked. “What portal? Unless you mean the orbs that can be purchased for travel to other cities?”

What followed was a brief, but confusing conversation for all parties, that ended with Rhianui suggesting three orbs be purchased, and the trio travel to the Landing.

Sometime later, the three walked out of the travel office, and Bareth was again stunned at the number of people around. “Let us check the Town Square first” he suggested

Dolant and Rhianui gave separate expressions of distaste, but agreed.

Bareth quietly reassured himself that he would find the answers he sought. Things would be okay. This wasn’t so bad.

Then he entered Town Square Central.

The people. The noise. The smells. He stumbled, so taken aback, and Dolant reached out an arm to steady him. Magic crackled as spells were cast, wounds healed, and silver changed hands. Every race, every age, every gender…including a talented bard who might have been either…was represented.

“My Goddess,” he cried, “where did all these people come from?”

“Always like this,” Dolant said, raising his voice to be heard over the din. “I’ve seen it worse. Not my favorite place, to be honest”

Rhianui nodded in agreement. “Why we like River’s Rest. Much calmer there.”

“Can we go to the Inn?” Bareth asked, and all three happily walked in that direction.

By this time, Bareth was not surprised to find none of his friends in the trophy room, or that his inquiries of Jaired or Leiana were met with blank stares.

The three retired to a table, and the young couple convinced Bareth to eat. He complied, and found he was hungrier than he realized. The three talked for some time, as he told of his life, and they told of theirs. So similar, and yet so different.

As he sopped the last of his vegetable soup up with a final piece of bread, Bareth related the tale of his own death, the conversation with Fash’lo’nae, and the trip through the portal. The details were becoming more clear, and he realized all that the Godfather had left out. And similarly recalled why he had never called up to him for aid in the past. Knowledge, for the sake of knowledge, cared little for the price to be paid.

In the end, it was Rhianui, youngest in appearance, but by far the eldest in years, who put words to his disjointed thoughts. “So, somehow, the Grandfather sent you to our world, which is like yours, but also very different. And all of your powers are gone, though memories remain. As if you…started over.”

Both men nodded.

“Then all we need to do” she continued, “is figure out how to get you back.”

Trying hard to sound sincere, and not sarcastic, Bareth said “I am open to suggestions.”

Helpfully Rhianui offered to visit the library, in Ta’Illistim. Dolant suggested they could talk to some of the elders they knew in Ta’Vaalor. Kakoon, the head of the Legion, might have heard of such a thing happening. Or Krystalena, one of Dolant’s mentors.

Bareth nodded, touched by their kindness, but fearing it was for naught. “I would like to stay here a bit” he said, “walk around. Perhaps something might come to me.”

Dolant and Rhianui agreed, and the three made plans to meet that evening, once more in the Raging Thrak.

Bareth spent the day wandering the town, marveling at the people and the noise. He visited shops he once knew as well as his own home, and found the minor similarities disconcerting, and yet comforting. He was not home…but perhaps not far from home.

As afternoon turned to dusk, he found himself once more in the center of town. It was quieter now, or perhaps he had merely gotten used to it. He paced, as was his custom when thinking, in one corner that was blessedly free of people. As he walked, his thoughts turned to those fateful days. The voyage, the rescue. How had it come to pass? And of Jaynon and Tanai? He’d seen them row away, but had they lived? As he paced, he slipped effortlessly into a sort of walking meditation. This at least he had not lost. He became less aware of the physical world around him, and more aware of the spiritual world. Breathing slowed as did his pace. He heard footsteps behind him and slowly turned.

The image was ghostly, not quite visible. Through it he could see the trees, and other denizens of the park. But the figure was clear enough. Jaynon. “Bareth?” the vision said in a ghostly voice, before fading away.

The Priest shook his head, coming out of his trance. Jaynon. It had been him; he was certain of that. Jaynon lived. And if Jaynon, then certainly Tanai. The mission had succeeded.

And he suddenly knew what he had to do. There was one way to get back.


“I need to die”

Dolant and Rhianui, now joined with him and sitting back at the table, reacted as one would expect. Shock, and denials.

“That is never the answer” Dolant said and Rhianui shook her head vigorously in agreement.

“When all other options have been exhausted, the final answer is the only answer” Bareth replied calmly. “I do not belong here. I have lost one home in my life, I do not want to lose another. Even if it means giving that life up.”

For the first time since they had met him, both of his new companions sensed the inner strength and power of the stranger, and for a moment it silenced their objections.

In the same calm, and steady voice, Bareth continued. “I came here through twisted magic, and greed for life. I must leave in an honest, and open way, accepting death. I will again cross the gate, and face whatever is in store, for my eternity.”

There was more discussion, but Rhianui and Dolant knew he was right. He could not stay there, and live a lie.

At last, Rhianui asked in a quiet, and very sad, voice “How will you do it? I hope you do not intend to ask us, for though I now consider you a friend, I could not be part of such a thing”

“Nor could I” Dolant agreed

The Priest smiled “And never would I put that on you, my new and dear friends. Though if you would walk with me to the cliffs, I would take it as a kindness.”

And so the party of three walked from the Landing to the Coastal Cliffs, until they came upon the highest promontory overlooking the sea. They stood close together on the moonlit landscape, wind whipping into their faces.

Yelling above the wind, Bareth told them “I died once before, and thought I was lost. The Goddess saved me, and it was here she left me, alive. Perhaps she will find me once again.”

Rhianui brushed back a tear as she embraced him, and Dolant did the same, his eyes bright and wet. Bareth put a hand on each of their shoulders, and in a voice filled with emotion he said “In a day’s time you have shown me kindness and compassion one rarely sees. You have given me a gift, the gift of friendship. One I have not always treasured in my life, as I should. Good bye, dear friends.”

Rhianui buried her head in Dolant’s shoulder as he held her. He smiled at Bareth, who gave a final wave.

The Priest breathed deep, muttered a silent prayer to his Goddess, spread wide his wings, and leapt. For a moment, his wings held the wind, and he had a fleeting recollection of flying, his wings beating fast. But in this world, as in his own, Aelotoi wings were not meant to fly. He fell.


HELLO AGAIN

Bareth glanced around, and saw the familiar area full of fog, where he last heard that voice.

A bit nervously, he said, “I am back.”

YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE LEFT

“I know. It was wrong. I was, well, over eager.”

THERE WILL BE A PRICE TO BE PAID, BARETH CORDELLON

Before Bareth could respond, for indeed what could he say? Another voice intruded . “Hold, Lady. Before we go further. There is more do discuss with this one.”

A figure stepped out of the fog. Wearing a brown tunic and light gray trousers, the man’s face was pale, and framed by long gray hair.

I DO NOT LIKE THIS ESPECIALLY NOT NOW

The voice had been purely emotionless, but Bareth detected a change. A slight annoyance had crept in, and it sent a shiver down his now ethereal spine.

The pale man spoke, “Lady, do not let the foolishness of mortals, or lust for knowledge of one of us, blind you to the importance of what must be done.”

Silence. Which must have meant, assent.

‘Bareth Cordellon. Do you know me?”

Bareth nodded slowly. The man was nondescript and poorly dressed with an overall look of sadness. Anywhere else, he would have taken him for a down-on-his luck beggar. Here, he recognized Lord Jastev.

“It is my gift to see into the future, to know that which others do not. I will not mince words with you. I am troubled. Many of us are.”

Bareth blinked at him “And…you think I can aid you?”

Jastev nodded. “We hope you can. And if you do, your life will be restored.”

I HAVE NOT YET AGREED TO THAT

Ignoring the voice, and clinging to the thought of life again, Bareth asked “what could I do, that all of you, with all your power, cannot?

“There is a growing evil in the lands. A collection of beings, with powerful magic, who threaten all that we have, and all that you mortals have. They are not of us, but they seek to challenge us. Their power holds even mine at bay, and I cannot foresee how this will end. I can see hints, and differing paths. And mortals who will have great effect, on that path. You are one of them, Bareth Cordellon. The man you call Whick, is another.

“Whick,” the Priest said distastefully. “It always seems to come back to him.”

“He is an integral part of the plans of this group, and his importance to them grows.”

“He is a simple mortal, cannot you not just kill him? Permanently? Jastev shook his head.

“We could, but we will not. Whick needs to live. I cannot foresee his full role, but if he dies, the situation grows darker, not lighter. You need to keep him alive, while learning what you can of his organization, and where they gain power. And how they intend to use it.”

“My respect, Lord Jastev, but I fail to see how I could succeed, where all your powers fail?”

“This group has shown great power, and great ability to defend against our arts. They are also well organized, and well disciplined, something we have, alas, lacked for centuries. You may well succeed, because, they do not defend against you.”

Bareth suddenly had a strong vision. Giants battering on a massive wall, to no effect. At the base of the wall, a mouse crawled through a small whole, emerging on the other side.

It was quite clear who the mouse was in the vision.

“And if I agree to find out what Whick is about, and this organization you speak of, I will be restored to my body? My whole body, my powers and skills as well?”

For the first time Jastev showed anger and he retorted “I offer you life again, silly mortal. Do you dare make demands of me!”

Bareth spoke softly, and respectfully, “I only meant, that without my power I will be of little use to you, Lord Jastev.”

The Arkati peered at him for a long moment, then nodded. “This will be allowed, you will be as you were before, in all ways.”

NO

‘Lady…”

NO LEST YOU FIND ANOTHER OF US TO AID YOU

“None wish your disapproval, Lady. Only I risked coming here.”

Another voice, a feminine one, was heard.

“I will aid you, Jastev. I will see Bareth of Bre’Naere live again.

Bareth glanced around, joy in his heart “L’Naere!”

Jastev smirked. “Yes, an unlikely ally, but one I will take. You asked for one more, Lady” SHE IS NOT ONE OF US NOT ANY MORE

The feminine voice spoke again, sharper. “Not any more, not since I was waylaid, and left to die. Now I am trapped here forever, behind your precious gate. But I have my power.

I WILL NOT HAVE IT

Jastev now spoke. “You cannot deny she is of us, even here. Before you stands a man who has given his life to her worship. And there is more.”

He waved a hand, and a hole appeared in the fog. They were looking down, over an island. The view came closer and Bareth could see three figures. Three very small figures, holding hands in a circle.

“Penin” he muttered under his breath. “Tsioku. Vinni”.

“They pray to her, Lady. They pray to her, for him.”

The woman’s voice. “They pray to me for a miracle. And we must allow it. If we never grant miracles, one day they will stop asking. And then where will you be?”

THERE WILL BE A PRICE

“I will allow for that, so long as not too steep” said Jastev

“He must be allowed to be who he is, do not diminish him” said the woman

THERE WILL BE A PRICE

Jastev raised his eyes, and Bareth sensed some form of unspoken agreement.

SO BE IT BEGONE FROM HERE, BARETH CORDELLON I WILL BE AWAITING YOUR RETURN

Jastev raised his arms, but the feminine voice stopped him.

“Allow me, Lord Jastev”

Bareth felt a soft hand on his face, and a light kiss on his forehead. “Go now, my most faithful servant. Do good works in my name”

Bareth suddenly realized what he was about to lose and cried out “Wait! Please, there is so much I want to know!”

NO LEAVE THIS INSTANT OR STAY FOREVER

For only a moment he thought, he could stay here. Stay with his Goddess, who he adored- but no. He would not abandon the people who needed him. And, he thought as he pictured the happy couple he so recently left, the people he also needed.

“I will go”

He felt the feathery touch once more, then a sudden blinding light and once again,

Everything went dark.


Penin rose the next morning, tired and sad. The prayers had not worked. No lightning bolts, no visions, no Priest walking down the beach. She gazed fondly at the two sleeping forms, and did not disturb them. They needed the rest.

She rubbed the wristcuff she wore, to activate the amulet within. No reason, really, mostly habit.

The quiet of her own thoughts was broken by one from Reymard, the healer who Bareth valued so much. The thought was short. Just five words. Five words that changed her world, and made the sun so, so much brighter.

“They found him. He’s alive.”

Credits

I See Dead Aelotoi: Jaynon
The Search Begins: Bareth
The Search Continues, or, Gnome Sweet Gnome: Bareth
Dead Aelotoi Walking: Bareth