Hei Corellon Shar Shelevu.
The teleportation circle in the Garden of Graves worked perfectly and we found ourselves transported across planes and part of a continent from where we had started our adventure in the feywild. There was only one problem…the ending teleportation circle was above the city of Airspur…far above it…in mid air.
We found ourselves still joined by our hands, but falling from a great height. Below us the ocean was rushing up to meet us. Kadath, in a show of either pragmatism or a lack of concern for his companions, used his elemental affinity to turn himself into water and fall to the ocean unharmed. The rest of us had no such luxuries. Calling upon the holy powers of Arvandor I summoned an angelic messenger to save us. A single wing sprouted from my back and I called to my remaining companions to hold on. Brandis, Ulik, and Reidal all grabbed a hold of my legs or each other and the power of the angel wing, while not allowing us to fly, slowed our descent sufficiently to save us from the force of falling.
Unfortunately it did not save us from the giant floating crystals that we then noticed were coming towards us with alarming speed as they traveled in an orbit around the city. What’s more these crystals were charged with elemental energy and promised to not only slam into us, but to burn and electrocute us as well. A crystal of lightning was coming straight for us while a fire crystal was flying by beneath us. Ulik grabbed onto Reidal and let go of me, falling towards the fire crystal. As he fell his scales ignited and flared with their own inner fire. Reidal’s hair smoked as the heat enveloped him as well, granting them both a measure of immunity to the fire. With their weight gone Brandis and I were able to work together to veer out of the way of the electric peril and gain control over our descent. We watched as Ulik and Reidal leaped from their fire infused perch to avoid yet another deadly collision and land in the ocean. The fall was not as far as it had been when we first teleported in, but both Brandis and I winced when they hit the water.
From our vantage, gliding over the water, we saw several boats begin to converge on our companions. Meanwhile several air genasi approached us in the air. We hailed them, apologetic for the sudden dropping in, and they escorted us as we floated to a gentle landing on a dock of sorts that was high in the air on the outskirts of the city. To our surprise the genasi said they had been expecting us and we were to be escorted to see the queen immediately. The air genasi put us in magnificently beautiful flying chariots and we sped off toward the palace of Airspur.
When we arrived we were reunited with our companions, who looked as if they had been forced to walk all the way up from the shore. Someone who was obviously a seneschal for the palace insisted we change and be made presentable before being granted an audience with Airspur royalty. We were escorted to a set of stately rooms and I dug out some of the formal wear we had obtained in the Menagerie in Waterdeep from the bag of holding. I was already fairly presentable as my daily ritual of fastidiousness keeps me and my clothes from getting dirty, but my hair was a fright from our tumble through the air, so while the others bathed and changed I set to fixing my hair.
I found this to be a surprisingly difficult task. With my beauty only recently restored I am still not as accustomed to going about without my head and face covered. As a result I’ve never really put much thought into my hair. I’ve always just worn it down and unstyled or in a simple braid underneath my veil. Now that I no longer need the veil, there are all sorts of things I haven’t considered for a very long time. Even before the night when Xara tortured me and disfigured my body, the priestesses or other girls in the temple would do my hair for me. So I stood in front of a mirror in the palace twisting and prodding my long black hair, totally unsatisfied with my efforts to make it elegant. I was so caught up with this dilemma that I missed the first half of a conversation the seneschal was having with Brandis and Reidal. He mentioned that both of them had visitors in the palace that wished to see them, but it would have to wait until after the audience with the queen.
I thought it curious that anyone would know we are here already, but was too preoccupied to give it much thought.
To my relief the seneschal summoned several attendants to speed up the process of our getting ready. An air genasi tended to my hair and began sweeping it up into a high bun with a gorgeous braid she plaited into it from the remainder of my hair. Ulik was next to me and, with a wink to him, I asked the attendant to speak to me in her native language. She shrugged and began to ramble on in primordial. As she spoke I began tracing the shape of arcane glyphs with my finger along my throat. Ulik saw what I was doing and began to do the same ritual as I.
Ulik’s power is quite impressive. Once the netherscroll began to open its secrets to me I understood that Ulik could also reap the benefits of its knowledge. I have shared the scroll with him and his ability to absorb knowledge of the arcane comes as quickly to him as it does for him to summon an acid orb from thin air. He is a natural at it, so much so that in the course of a single reading he has picked up the knack for performing rituals. It took me years to master the nuances involved in such arts, but he comes to it so easily. He is really an inspiration to watch.
Only a short time after we began our ritual I felt my throat and ears grow warm as the ritual ended and the onomatopoetic language of the genasi became clear in my ears. It was around this time that the attendant finished my hair. I turned and thanked her in her own language, which startled her slightly.
By now we were all prepared and we were shown to the throne room.
As we entered and showed the proper courtesies we were privy to the end of a conversation by four councilors to the queen. These four genasi, as well as the queen, sat on floating thrones that slowly orbited the throne room.
As we entered, one of the councilors, Lady Lahaya we later learned, was arguing that Airspur prepare for war. We stood there, unnoticed by the august genasi as they listened, some with apparent boredom, to the speech. After a short time I felt a sudden flush and my thoughts turned unexpectedly carnal. I noticed that the councilors also seemed to be shifting in their seats. I shot a look at Brandis, who just gave me a wink and a smile. He was obviously emanating some sort of sexual energy, though if it was to any end besides to get the councilors attention I don’t know. That was exactly the effect it had however because the queen turned and saw us for the first time. She quickly cut off Lady Lahaya, ended the council session and dismissed them.
We introduced ourselves and the queen revealed that our coming was foretold to her, but that we were later than expected. We were confused by this, but the queen pressed on to the reason for her summons. She required our help. It seems that tensions have been growing with Netheril and that worshippers of Shar have infiltrated the city despite their attempts to stamp them out. She would like us to ferret them out for her.
Kadath seemed quite taken with the queen and was more humble and contrite than I have ever seen him. The queen also seemed drawn to him in some way. She actually had her throne to land and she stepped off it, something that caused her guards to gasp in surprise and cast a shielding aegis on each of us should we try anything with her so close.
Shortly after the audience ended a contingent of the queen’s guards, composed entirely of fire genasi, escorted us back to the rooms we had prepared ourselves in. We had been there only a moment when one of the guards took off her helmet and showed us her face. It was Valandra.
She seemed both happy to see Kadath, and angry at him at the same time. She grilled him on where he had been and why we had been gone for so long. After Kadath blurted out that it had only been several weeks since we last saw her she floored us when she said, “Kadath. It’s been over a year since I saw you.”
That was when all the pieces fit together in my mind. The queen’s comment about our coming being late, Valandra being established amongst the queen’s guard after so short a time, her anger at Kadath for being “gone so long”…it was the feywild. Time can move differently there and though we were only gone a few days by our senses, more than a year had passed on Toril. With that understanding Kadath and Valandra’s reunion began to smooth over and Kadath insisted they drink together.
Around this time the seneschal arrived and told Brandis that his visitor would like to see him now. He surprised me by nodding his head in my direction and saying “She should come too. He asked for you both.”
We shrugged and went together with the seneschal leading the way. He showed us to another set of sumptuously appointed rooms. As we entered a fire genasi leaned rakishly against the wall. She “harrumphed” at the site of us and turned her head with a sneer. The movement and facial expression struck me as extremely familiar and I looked at her again. On second look it became obvious. Her posture, the way she stood, the haughty tilt of her head. It could only be one person and I decided to let her know I knew.
“You know, the last time I saw that look on your face, you were tied up in the back room of our brothel. It’s good to see you Fayne.”
She smiled wickedly, but then harrumphed again and looked at the other figure that I now noticed was in the room.
It was Lilten, our long ago and mysterious sun elf patron that we encountered at Spellgarde. He did not hide his features with illusion this time, but instead showed us his true face with golden skin and hair, his own mischievous smile, and sly looks.
I won’t spend tedious hours detailing the repartee that flew back and forth between us, the halfhearted threats, veiled innuendo, and partial truths. There were three things that were noteworthy and bear mentioning however. The first is that it was obvious he was the one that told the queen we would be coming, though even he didn’t know when exactly. He had passed himself off as someone that the genasi would listen to or respect, though he did not now keep up those illusions with us. The second was that he knew of Allyx and told us that it was imperative that when we meet him, that we run away and not fight him. Last, he told Brandis that he was his father…and that he was mine as well.
If he was trying to shock us, it worked, but I was quickly dubious. Lilten is too sly, too quick of tongue, and too clever to be trusted. I don’t know if what he said is true, but in the end it doesn’t matter. If he is indeed our father, he has been absent from my life and not influenced who I am as a person in any way besides his absence, for which he is not to be commended. As for Brandis, I already think of him as a brother in arms and one of the few I would count as a friend. If he is also my brother in blood, I don’t see that it would matter much more than Lilten being my father. I already have much affection for Brandis as a traveling companion, fighter, friend, and someone to remind me of the realities of life when I am too far gone in my books and prayers.
It is amusing however to note that the very night this revelation was made, he did a very brotherly deed for me. More on that later.
Lilten had one more surprise in store for me before our audience ended.
It became more and more obvious that our supposed father is quite powerful. I suspect that any rituals I might try and enact against him would not be strong enough to bind his power to their purpose. This was made clear when he laughed and too quickly agreed when I suggested he submit to a ritual to force him to tell the truth as a show of trust to his children. I could tell that his amusement and willingness was borne out of the confidence that he could resist my magic.
Knowing of Fayne’s heritage and not trusting him, I worried about just how duplicitous this man might be. This man who claims to be our father has had nothing to do with us our entire lives until our first meeting when he uses us as agents against a foe of his. After this our supposed half sister flits in and out of our lives in moments of disaster and despair and now seems to be accompanying him. Why would he keep his half demon progeny close while having little to do with more virtuous and valorous offspring. To what purpose does he warn me not to fight Allyx? Is he secretly allied with this dark figure that has loomed over recent events? Does he even care what happens to us or are we merely convenient tools for some greater design of his? All these questions buffeted my mind and I needed some kind of answers, answers I knew he would not reveal willingly or in any way that we could truly trust.
So I relied on that which I know I can trust. I touched the shard of Corellon inside of me and called up its holy powers. I used that power to alter my vision so that I could “see” what, if any, connection my father had with the divine. I thought if I could discern what powers he revers it would give me insight to his motivations. With my altered vision I saw a silvery strand coming from his body connected to the astral plane. I was momentarily relieved that his connection was indeed to the astral realm and not the abyss or any of the domains of hell as I had feared. Wanting to know more I reached out with my holy essence and gently touched that strand to see if I could sense what astral powers lay at the other end of it. When I touched it, my mind was filled with maniacal laughter and the image of a cruel woman with twisting antlers growing from her head. I recoiled from the touch of evil that I felt and whispered a name. “Beshaba.”
My vision was still attuned to the astral powers and I saw Lilten’s eyes boring into me. “You shouldn’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong my child.”, was all he said before I fell to the ground screaming in pain. I saw my own silvery strand with my connection to Arvandor in his spectral grasp. He was twisting and pulling at it, though it felt as if he could have been twisting and pulling at my insides instead. The pain was incredible.
It ended suddenly. I lay on the floor gasping for breath. Brandis stood between me and Lilten, his eyes wells of sadness, but his mouth set in the hard line of defiance. Our father had fallen back, clutching his chest and stared into Brandis’s eyes. I could feel the palpable emotion pouring out of Brandis. He was opening himself to Lilten, exposing this supposed father figure to all the pain and trouble of his absence in a young boy’s life.
In the most heartfelt tone I have yet to hear from him, Lilten said “I’m sorry. I really am.” He then turned and left with Fayne in his wake.
If this is who my father is, I thank the gods that he abandoned me as an infant to the temple of Torm.
Brandis helped me up off the thick carpet and we looked at each other for a moment. I can’t begin to describe the look on his face and I imagine I must have had a similar one on mine. Could we really be siblings? We certainly spar as if we were sometimes. He finally broke the silence and suggested we get back to our rooms.
When we arrived Kadath and Valandra were well into the spirits that the genasi specialize in making in Airspur. Brandis immediately proclaimed to the room that he needed a drink and joined them. At first I thought to leave them and go to my books and solitude like I usually do, but something made me stop and sit at the table as well.
So much has happened in the last several weeks; Xara’s final defeat, our trials in the Garden of Graves, the death of another of The Eight, our new personal awakenings, the apparent passage of a whole year while we were in the feywild, and now literally falling into Airpsur right before revelations of familial bonds and betrayals. I found myself feeling similarly to Brandis. I also needed a drink.
Kadath poured and our night began.
We drank and talked and drank more. Ulik emerged from his rooms and told a wild tale of Lady Jalanvaloss. Apparently she is a steel dragon who takes the form of a human woman. She contacted him via a sending and then they went flying over the sea together.
A steel dragon…sure, why not? That would at least explain the dragon themed erotic tapestries that hung on her walls. That she also is apparently magically gifted enough to perform a sending that can reach across this plane, was able to grant wings to Ulik, albeit temporarily, and is intensely interested in Ulik who largely rejects his draconic heritage…well I can see about a dozen different ways that could go horribly wrong.
More drinking was obviously necessary.
I have no clear recollection how we got on the topic, but somehow Brandis and I started talking about sex. I suppose it’s not that hard to imagine how a conversation with Brandis turned to that, but then I am not usually the topic of those conversations. I told him there was an aspect of my devotions to the Seldarine that I am remiss in. I have never participated in any of the fertility celebrations before. I am a virgin. This of course did not surprise my companions, and why I said any of this in front of Kadath I can only chalk up to the drinks on the table. The point is, I strive to do all things with grace, beauty, and artistry, and this is one aspect of worship that I had never accomplished. Now that my scars are gone and I am conventionally beautiful again, I thought now would be a good a time as any to learn, and with Brandis as a guide, how could it go wrong?
A plan was formed to move our revelry to an establishment in one of the better areas of Airspur. Kadath took the lead and showed off the delights of his home city. We ended up at a glamorous establishment that entertained the wealthy in the city. I honestly can’t remember the name of it, but it was gorgeous inside and all the patrons were dressed in glittering finery. Brandis clued me in that it was a festhall where many of the performers were also available for more carnal entertainment. I was very nervous, but also flush with anticipation and drink.
Brandis held my hand as we weaved our way through the crowd. He finally spotted a majestic woman, who on closer inspection might have been a man dressed as an elegant woman…either way the effect was stunning, who was obviously the proprietress of the establishment. Brandis began negotiating with her for what I thought would be entertainment for me. Brandis being Brandis though, it was not that easy. I turned my attention away from the spectacle of the stage and the crowd when I heard him say, “…you see my friend here has something she would like to do tonight. It has been her life’s dream to perform on stage for a crowd of people as worthy as your patrons.”
Normally such a trick on his part would have horrified me, but I was in such a mood that, in a flash I turned the tables on him. I turned to the proprietress with a wink and a sultry smile. She agreed. Brandis turned with a triumphant smile on me, but before he could get too much satisfaction out of his perceived prank I excitedly clasped the mistress’s hands and loudly thanked her before requesting a harp, four daggers, and a velvet curtain. Brandis’s smile quickly melted off his face and he mouthed “What are you doing?”, but I just winked at him and insisted on the props. She shrugged and agreed.
I found out later that while this negotiation was going on Ulik and Kadath were mingling in the crowd, gathering the word on the street and just seeing what they could find out about the mood in the city. Hardly a celebratory type of activity, but I suppose Kadath’s constitution keeps him from staying drunk for too long and I doubted this place was his type of crowd after all.
Meanwhile Brandis and I made ready for our performance. He still was suspicious of me, as he should have been, but hadn’t forgotten the goal of the evening. He told me that, while we were on stage, to indicate to him two people in the audience who I would like to take back to my bed that night. We agreed upon a signal and then were shortly called up to perform.
I have never felt such a rush, and a fear, as when those curtains opened. Everyone was looking at us and for a moment my instinct to hide myself almost took over, but then I remembered that I was no longer hideous to look upon. In fact I was beautiful, radiantly so, and now I would entrance them with a song they had never heard before. I plucked the first chord of the tune and Brandis began flourishing and juggling the jeweled knives given to him by the mistress of the festhall. Then I launched into the song in earnest and the audience’s eyes grew wide. The song was the lay of Corellon and Angharradh, their meeting and seduction of each other. It is a song performed at weddings and fertility rites deep in the feywild. It might have been a bit too…well…exotic for the gathered crowd in hindsight. They stared and some certainly enjoyed it, but I saw others whispering to themselves and s****ing. There were two patrons that caught my eye in particular. A wealthy looking young man with a large group of friends near the front had particularly fine features and was, I thought, listening with rapt attention. The other was a woman with fiery red hair and an impish smile on her face that I liked. I used the signals we had agreed on to point them out.
Brandis also must have picked up on the mood of the crowd though because he altered the performance from the song into a scene of a lover invading the room of a young lady to STOP her from wiling away her hours on the harp and seduce her into love.
It was a strange moment for Brandis and I, but he was also working hard to entice my chosen paramours in the audience. At last I had to choose between the two and I chose the young man, which caused the woman to become visibly agitated. Just before the culmination of the performance however there was a loud boom from the back of the room and a brawl, started by Kadath I found out later, broke out.
It was a scene to behold for sure. Brandis made one final play for me with the young man before bedlam broke out in earnest. The strapping youth jumped up on the stage as if to come protect me, but he ran right past me and instead scooped Brandis into his arms. We both began to laugh hysterically in unison at the absurdity of it all. Our performance, the mistaken signals, the brawl that was now spreading through the whole hall, it was all just too hilarious. We finally rendezvoused outside in the crisp night air, clutching ourselves as we laughed. Brandis I guess had to punch the clueless youth to escape his amorous advances, but we found ourselves safe, if a bit in pain and short of breath from laughing, and we walked arm in arm back to the palace. I wasn’t even that disappointed that my first night of love would be postponed.
When we returned, two fire genasi guards were at our door, one male, one female. Brandis, another wicked gleam in his eye, saw a chance for our previous goal to not be lost this evening. He convinced the male guard to “help him into bed” and requested the female guard do the same with me. After the night I had, anything seemed possible and all things seemed right, so I happily went along with the ruse. I’ve been so closed and serious for so long that letting go like this was very freeing.
In my room the guard seemed pleased to be alone with me. I took off my already revealing garment in order to “get ready for bed”, but before she could do anything to aid me a voice came from the darkness of my room.
“I’ll take it from here.”
Varzynthir emerged from the shadows.
The guard nodded curtly and left, probably not wanting it to be found out that she was about to dally with a guest of the queen. I was surprised to see Varzynthir, but at the same time not at all. Our coming had been foretold after all. Everyone seemed to know we were here.
I did not hide my nakedness from him. I don’t know what I intended, but drink and my new feelings of freedom gave me courage. “Well it’s not fair for me to be the only one without any clothes on.” I told him. I walked over and slowly, gently pulled his leather jerkin open. As I thought I had seen in the Blackstaff tower, his chest was indeed scarred like my body had been, but he didn’t flinch at my seeing it. I ran my hand down his chest, not minding the scars at all, and looked up at him.
That’s when he kissed me.
It wasn’t a long kiss, but there was heat in it.
When he stopped and tried to chastely put me to bed to sleep off my night, I was perhaps a bit obstinate. I asked him many questions. Perhaps the most important two were “Why are you here?” and “What are we to each other that you follow me like this?” He insisted such conversation were best left to when I wasn’t drunk, but I didn’t care. I needed to know. He was stalwart though and would not yield to my questions. Finally the late hour and the spirits caught up with me and I yielded to his suggestion of sleep. I asked him if he would stay with me and be there when I woke up. He said yes, and he put his arms around me as I fell into a deep slumber.
To my surprise he kept his word and was still there when I woke. He was already up and about, putting his shirt back on. There was pounding at the door and in my head. It was Kadath and Brandis telling me to get up, that we had been summoned. The pounding only intensified the deep throbbing in my head and I yelled a few choice elven curses at them through the door. Not only did I feel terrible, but I was hoping to finally get Varzynthir to talk. Seeing the look on my face he smiled and told me that he wasn’t going anywhere before slipping out the window.
It was about that time that Brandis picked the lock on my room and the door flew open as Kadath continued to pound on it. I fixed them both with my iciest stare. Brandis at least had the decency to look chagrined. Kadath on the other hand simply announced that we had been summoned by the Earth Warden Magnal, one of the councilors to the queen. Brandis peeked around, presumably looking for the fire genasi guardswoman, which I can only assume is why he picked the lock in the first place. I glowered in his general direction, but I wasn’t even sure if it was in annoyance at him or from the pain in my head.
I dressed quickly and joined the others for our audience.
Magnol is a fire genasi who used to be Kadath’s captain the military of Airspur before he left to go adventuring. Magnol was not pleased with us at all. Apparently the brawl in the festhall caused quite the stir in the city and since Kadath and Ulik were at the center of it, Magnol was not favorably disposed to us. We apologized, explaining that we had been through a lot lately and needed the night of letting our hair down. Unsatisfied with that we further ingratiated ourselves to him, not wanting to anger the queen so quickly after our arrival, and asked what we could do to win back his trust. Satisfied finally with this offer to work off our social debt he told us of two issues he needed dealt with. The first was the capture of a group of saboteurs in the Darkled Depths, a shadier part of the city. These burglars and malcontents were stealing from the merchants who were supporting the war effort. The other problem was a rally being held that day calling for the queen to be deposed. Apparently while Queen Arathane’s mother was practically worshipped for bringing about a golden age of prosperity in Airspur, her daughter is not as highly regarded and has continuously struggled in her shadow.
We decided to start in the Darkled Depths.
It wasn’t long before we found the shady characters we were looking for. They seemed to be waiting for an excuse to start trouble, and trouble they had in abundance. They had a dragon with them, but this one was unlike any I’ve ever heard of or read about, much less seen. It seemed to be composed of fire and rock, like a small living volcano. It could turn the ground beneath our feet to molten rock and it emitted foul, sulphurous fumes. Though we killed it in the end, I was badly injured and could have died. Varzynthir, not surprisingly, was there watching over me and stepped in to save me at a crucial moment. I was down, barely conscious, and the ground beneath me was heating up, surely to turn molten at any moment, when Varzynthir came out of the shadows and pulled me from the fiery doom that almost engulfed me.
As I lay catching my breath another elf appeared from the shadows. This one was a moon elf with black eyes and dark hair. The elf began to argue with Varzynthir with a familiar voice. The exchange went something like this: