KingmakerCalgary

Mercutio's Dream

The day after the fight with the creatures in the ice cave Mercutio appeared in the common room. This was their last morning meal before leaving for the lair of the silver dragon.

“You look troubled,” noted Beren, handing him a plate with a chunk of bread and a large wedge of fragrant cheese.

“I had the most peculiar dream,” the psion said taking a seat. He nodded thanks for the offered food.

“What was it about?” Beren asked, not really interested in finding out about the dream itself. However, he was still curious about this person and wanted to know as much as he could about his motives and possible affiliations.

“I was stuck in a perilous dark void,” he said, his face gaining a grim facade. “I was there and I could feel others there in the darkness with me. All the while something evil was siphoning off my… energy… and… for lack of a better word, soul. I could feel myself being broken down and torn away.”

He paused to grab a chalice of wine off the tray toward the centre of the table and took a long drink. “All the while there was some kind of dread in the darkness. A kind of hopelessness and overpowering urge to give up. Yet, I did not. I continued to struggle.”

“Just when I thought I could feel my defenses finally breaking down I saw a light, as if the darkness was a covering that was torn open. From that light I saw a man reaching for me and he pulled me out of the void.”

“That’s an interesting dream,” Beren said, only half-listening. He was more focused on his spellbook at the moment.

“What’s strange…,” Mercutio said, as he sat back chewing a mouthful of bread. He continued to chew without finishing his setence. Instead he looked thoughtful as he ate. Absently he scratched the side of his face.

“What’s strange,” he began again, jarring Beren into attentiveness, “is that this man… this saviour. He was the same man that saved me as I lay dying in the windy desolation of the plane of air. I only recognize him now that I saw him the dream again. He had flowing locks of white hair and was hideously scared by dark magics on one side of his body.”

Beren looked up. “Sounds familiar,” he said. He knew he had heard the description before, but where and from whom?

Mercutio was silent for some time. Beren struggled for a while with his memory, but finally giving up, he turned to his spellbook again. He was interrupted by the psion.

“It was Nethys,” he said. “He’s the one that saved me on the plane of air and sent me here. Yet it was not I, Mercutio, who was trapped in that void.”

Beren had a strange feeling looking at the pison. In the pit of his stomach there was a weight and he knew what was coming.

“Tell me about Marcus Hawthorne,” Mercutio asked.

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Tavik Redux

The fireplace crackled as the servant stoked it. Tavik watched him with a calm gaze as he worked. Nearby Seldon sat in his high-backed chair with the griffon, Skybeak, lounging beside him on the ground. The beast’s head still remained level with Seldon’s, so large was he.
The servant turned and waited for instruction. The silence began to make him uncomfortable and he left with a bow to the two. Skybeak’s gazed followed him as he exited.

“What was it like?” Seldon asked finally. “When you died, we tried to raise you, but you weren’t part of the spirit world, so none of the spells used to communicate that way worked.”

Tavik stared at the fire and considered the question. “It was like coming from the deep and taking a breath of air again,” he said. “One moment I was facing the black claws of that dragon and the next I was gasping for air in the void of the Astral.” He sighed. “I was still in flux of sorts for a while.”

“When you get sent back to your plane of origin in that manner,” he said, “you are rather confused for a long time. It seems like your life previously was a dream and you have trouble remembering it.” He closed his eyes. “I remember seeing the writing tattoo and fearing it. Then as I recovered my memories I strove to become one with it. I meditated for days at a time and slowly began to remember… the good and the bad things I’ve done.”

He sat down cross-legged in front of the chairs. “I was captured shortly after I rediscovered myself,” he continued. “Several githyanki appeared out of nowhere and threw nets on me. I was so surprised by the attack that I never had a chance. That’s when I saw the galleon appear with Jhod at the forecastle. He was in a position of power among them, that was certain.”

Seldon nodded, remembering seeing the cleric on the ship that passed the prison before they departed.

“At any rate,” Tavik went on, “they took me to the prison and ran their gambit of torture. They even tried to reinfect me with one of those psionic creatures. It failed. I don’t know how that works, so don’t ask. I just know they were frustrated with me.”

He took a deep breath. “It became a routine. The warden would appear and he would try to break me. The other guards would watch and join in, depending on the mood of the warden. “

“How did you resist that kind of…,” Seldon struggled for a word to describe it. He had a bad taste in his mouth from even contemplating it all.

“I found my cor,” he answered, “my centre. I also began to teach the other prisoners about the tao. That’s when they confined me to a place where no one else was kept. It was a long time before they came back and got me. They brought me to the warden and he took me down to the door. There was an elf there with her tiger and they both were bound. The guards were telling her if she killed me they would set her free.”

He paused for a moment. “Well, you remember what happened next. You came in and rescued us both from a fate that was entirely undesirable. I was trying to figure out how to make her understand we could escape together, but I didn’t have to in the end. Thank-you, brother.”

Seldon smiled and nodded. “You’re welcome, brother.”

Seldon did have to admit that Tavik was a changed gith. He had always seemed out of place and slightly uncomfortable with his surroundings, but now he nearly radiated calm in a palpable way. His gaze also seemed to contain the wisdom that one usually saw only in elvish elders. All in all, he liked the change.

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The Mayor of Seldon's Hope

The talk had been brief and unanimous. The people of Fort Drelev did not want to be associated with that name anymore. Cowardice was a thing shunned on the frontier. After several ideas were submitted and thrown out by general consensus, the town’s name was changed to Seldon’s Hope, for the name of the hero that fell while trying to free them from the barbarian king’s influence.

When asked for a replacement to lead several men stepped forward. All were strong and capable. The most likely candidate, Terrion Numesti, refused. “I will help the leaders here,” he said, “but I cannot be a mayor. You’ll need someone much more capable than I.”

After a briefly interviewing the candidates King Montgomery was troubled. They were all capable warriors, but their motives and loyalty seemed a bit murky. He was about to dismiss them all when a surprisingly strong tenor of a voice spoke up from the back of the group.

The crowd parted to reveal a Halfling standing there, with a small rapier hanging by a jeweled baldric around his shoulders. Sitting at a jaunty angle upon his head was a rakish hat with some manner of plumed feather sticking out of it. “I think you found your new mayor, your lordship,” he said in melodious tones and taking a deep bow. “Stanley Treeroot is the name.”

Monty’s eyes widened and he looked from companion to companion, seeing their expression of surprise too. This tiny person had the voice of a giant.

“I can see now that you doubt my ability, yes?” Stanley said with a chuckle. “Well, then, let any here stand a duel against me and find that I will prevail.” He pulled his rapier and swished it through the air.

The martial members of the entourage nodded in appreciation. One expected a certain amount of clumsiness, perhaps due to the child-like look of the race, but Stanley’s flourish cut a fine arc through the air that the most skilled swordmaster would be hard-pressed to match.

“Additionally,” Stanley was continuing as he put up his rapier again, “I am well versed in both statecraft and,” he winked at Monty, “economics of trade.” He leapt nimbly up to the top of the barrel which the king was standing beside and whispered, “And I am no stranger to espionage either, m’lord. I will keep these hooligans in line and present you with a proper tribute in taxes.”

“What say you, people of Seldon’s Hope?” he boomed again. Before any could respond he broke into a folk song that was wildly popular in the region. It spoke of building a place in the wilds and creating something greater than the lords of the north. The crowd cheered and Monty noted many wiping tears from their eyes unashamedly.

An hour later the king and his companions were riding away from the town on the road to Tatzylford. “Well,” Marcus said to no one in particular, “that was different.”

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Somber Victory

After a stealthy entry into Fort Drelev, the party escapes with Andrej Klaus and the Captain of Fort Drelev, Terrion Numesti and his daughter. This is, of course, after the fiasco at Tatzylford where Baron Drelev’s and the men and giants associated with the barbarians marched on the walls of Tatzylford.

Andrej Klaus conveyed the story of the creation of Golarian, and how the Gith were returning to take back what was once their’s—the material plane. Klaus also shared with the party the lore that an artifact was to be found that could close off trans-planar travel for an indefinite amount of time, but hopefully long enough to bolster the armies of Tuskwater and to gain allies throughout Golarian.

Before this could be procured, there was a barbarian threat that had to be stopped…Armag, the barbarian king. Armag was known as the twice born king—named for Armag the First. Armag the second went into the tomb of Armag the First to claim his sword in the name of Gorum.

It was here, that Seldon fell.

The ride through Tatzylford and then on to Tuskwater was somber, but there was bit of hope in the wind. Marcus would raise Seldon just before they arrived. And while they saw those gaunt creatures that reminded them of Tavik. These creatures fell, but in all, they were mighty, and it only proved that the fight ahead with these Gith would prove difficult.

Now, with Seldon back and a new animal companion in tow, the party had to decide, would they bolster the defenses and allies of Tuskwater, would they go and retrieve Tavik from the ether, or would Andrej Klaus have a new lead for them to follow?

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Introspection

The air was thick with an unnamed presence. A rush of air caused him to open his eyes and he glimpsed a flash of red ducking beyond his vision.

He blinked once and turned his head. In that simple sweep he was given a vista he would never forget. Thousands of red wings passed; fang and scale.


A knock at the door sounded and Marcus opened his eyes. He was again in his cell at the temple. Again the knock sounded from the thick wooden door. With a grunt he rose and moved to the door. Openning it he found a young acolyte standing at the door, his robes clean and folded neatly in the fashion of their order. The black and white mask of Nethys was clearly displayed on a silver chain around his neck.

The acolyte motioned for him to follow. Marcus sighed and followed. He was not a cloistered member of the order as these brothers were. He could not understand the desire of these men to follow such an existence in the name of their god. He was one of the closest to Nethys in the plane, perhaps one of a hundred who could request his power to bring the dead back to life and have that request be answered. In fact, he was close to his god in ways that barely anyone in Golarion could understand, let alone some of these temple inhabitants who could barely utter an orison to guide their hand more surely.

Marcus was one of ones who knew what his god wanted. The protection and the destruction had to be balanced. That was the nature of magic. It was a constant struggle to maintain the balance between the two. In a deeper metaphor it also was a lesson about the way the wider multiverse worked. The power needed to be balanced or the multiverse would tear itself apart. Nethys, as well as Marcus, didn’t hold it against chaos for trying to tear the universe apart any more than they could blame law for holding it together.

The acolyte opened the door at the end of a hall. Marcus had never been this far into the temple before, preferring to meditate and sleep in his cell, but spent most of his time around the city. He glanced upward slightly as he cross the threshold, as if to ask Nethys why he was being held in this backwater city so long.

His eyes flicked down to see the abbot and another cleric seated in the chairs. The man’s robes were set with the all-seeing eye. Marcus bowed his head to both of them. “Abbot,” he said in greeting.

“Brother Hawthorne,” the abbot said with a smirk. He had slighted Marcus with the low title, or so he thought. The truth was that Marcus was beyond titles. What he was, in fact, was beyond understanding of all the order, except a few. This seer seated benignly before the abbot’s desk, holding a steaming cup of tea knew more about the true nature of Nethys and the multiverse than the abbot ever would.

“Seer,” Marcus said, nodding deferentially, then as an afterthought he looked at the balding man who oversaw the temple’s goings on, “Abbot.” The abbot frowned in response to his manner.

“Thank you, Abbot Pyers,” the seer said, “for hastening to retrieve the Chosen of Nethys.”

Marcus and the abbot’s eyes met and Marcus had to concentrate very hard to stop himself from smiling at the realization that was creeping into the man’s eyes.

“Ch-chosen?” the abbot stammered as the seer stood bowed to Marcus.

“Did you not know?” the seer looked surprised. “Marcus,” he said with a note of disapproval in his voice.

Marcus actually managed to look guilty for a moment. He had not heard the disapproval of the seer, but of Nethys, as clearly as he heard the voices in the room.

“I’m sorry, Brother Abbot,” he said. “I take the rebuke of my god with peace.”

“Who are you?” the abbot asked slightly confused.

The seer answered. “Marcus is a priest of the highest order,” he said. “He is a Binder.”

“A what?” the abbot looked even more confused.

The seer looked at Marcus with an expectant expression. Taking the queue he said, “I am an emissary of the gods,” he shrugged.

The seer laughed and exclaimed, “Marcus, what is Nethys to do with you?” To the other he said, “Abbot, there are many levels of service. Some are here in the temple tending to the curious and believers who come to you. Some are outside of these walls with a mandate to do more. Marcus is one of those. An agent of Nethys. One of the Chosen.”

The abbot sat down in the chair next to him. “I don’t know what to say.”

“It is alright,” the seer said. “You only have to understand that Nethys has other ways of seeing his will done.” The abbot blinked without understanding clearly, but the seer placed a hand on his arm and guided him to the door. “All you need to know is that Marcus Hawthorne is a Binder of Nethys. He searches for tears in the fabric of balance and helps repair them.”

The abbot managed a confused glance back at Marcus, as if he could not believe such a ruffian were responsible for keeping balance anywhere, let alone the multiverse.

Marcus sat down in the chair opposite the seer’s as the door closed. He watched the seer take the seat again. “He really had no business knowing that,” the seer said, “But your journey must take place immediately and really there has to be an explanation on why a seer traveled here. The journey took more than a year.”

“The order will survive, I suspect,” Marcus said.

“You received the vision, I excpect?” the seer said.

“Today,” Marcus said. “More than a year?” he asked, only now realizing the significance of the seer’s words.

“Yes, more than a year, actually,” the seer said. “We tried to find you, but you were in the North. Nethys sent both of us to meet here so I could exchange the information.”

“If it was so important why did he only show me the vision this morning?” Marcus asked. He frowned as another realization struck him.

“Divine intervention,” the seer nodded. “My visions were clearer because I was farther away from the focus of the issue. Someone has seen you and caused a clouding of even Nethys’ omnipresence.”

“Great,” said Marcus. “Where to? I only saw vague shadows in a symbolic message.”

“I saw a great blue with a yellowed fang protruding from it.”

Marcus frowned as he considered the words. “Tuskwater,” he said finally. “It’s that new duchy to the south. I’ve heard the people talking about it in the market.”

“I guess we know where you are needed then,” the seer said.

“More rustics?” Marcus asked with a smirk. His banter was an indication of his happiness at once again going abroad in the world and serving his god.

“Bring your shield,” the seer said.


Three weeks later Marcus had presented himself to the council and found the leaders had left for an unknown destination. He decided to settle in and wait for their return. Whatever was going to happen was supposed to happen in this city.

He patiently waited for Nethys to show him the path he should take. Centered in the eye of the storm he felt that the access to Nethys’ vision should be easier. However, his prayers went unanswered. His powers still remained strong though, so he could only guess that the communication paths that he and his god usually relied on were being blocked.

Finally, he chose to rely on the strength of magic to aid him. His prayers for a powerful divination spell to show him the path was given. He saw and heard a gnome very clearly tell his story. A powerful army of gith and dragons allied and had their attention focused on the fledgling kingdom.

He settled down to wait for them to return.

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The Journey so far...
flashback episode

The journey up to this point has been a long one for our heroes. Ever since defeating the bandits in the woods and receiving the charter to start a new Kingdom, the road has been rife with peril. From defeating Dire Bears at fallen temples to being introduced to pseudo dragons regard themselves as Paladins of Erastil. Do you hear the music in the forest? Those are just crickets on the ground, right? Damn faries!

Comrades have been lost along the way—with Daeron falling in the Spriggan Lair, and Zarzuket not returning—feeling himself an utter failure at one point. New allies have been gained in our new Leader and our friend-Cleric.

Along the way, Staglords were defeated, the Rabble was Roused, the Ladies have Danced, Troll Kings were Killed, Owlbears were destroyed, we’ve seen Brass Cities, brought peace and rest to a ghost, defeated Mind Flayers in our water supply, brought back the citizens of Varnhold and an ally from the brink of destroying the party—it has been a long journey!

And now with Varnhold swearing fealty to Tuskwater, the KING sits on his throne! You return to Tuskwater with a new holdfast in the East, but the hope in your heart is not going to be longstanding. There is talk of some invading force. Who knows what to expect next?

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Interrogation

The room was sparse in the form of furnishings. A single candle sat on a short table beside the squat wooden sleeping pallet, whose mattress consisted of a canvas sheet stuffed with old and smelly straw. The candle illuminated a figure seated on the pallet and hunched over, head in hands. The candle guttered for a second and then burned on cleanly. Tavik looked up at the flame as it returned to normal. “How deep is the river if you cannot see the bottom?” he asked the flame quietly. “Was that even you, mother?” he asked after a moment’s thought.

He had spent the night awake as he always had. He had clear memories of what happened in the last few years. He closed his eyes in self-loathing as specific memories came to the fore. Some memories were too clear. He wished he could forget.

As the chain binding the door shut clinked he looked up, a pitiable cross-expression of degradation and acceptance on his face.
Standing outside the door of the make shift cell, Tevega readied herself for what was to come. This was nothing new to her. She’s interigated numerous allies, comrades, even friends. But this was different. She’d always prided herself on being able to seek out and expose the evils of chaos and disorder before they were able to act. But this new incident, bothered her. Holding the bag which contined the thing she had ‘extracted’ from Tavick still plauged her, and that was what was probably btherig her the most. She didnt know what it was, and that, that simple act of not knowing, made standing outside of the cell all the worse.

She could always find the words or the means to draw out the chaos in a person, let them show thier true colours. Was thier chaos natural, and well meaning? Or was it dangerous and a threat to Order and control? Deciding the only way was to open the door and do her duty, he unfasten the chain and opened the door.

‘Tavick’
Tavik looked up at his first visitor since he regained consciousness the night before. “I knew it would be you,” he said.
Not looking at him as he speaks, Tevega closes the door behind her, then moves to grab the spare chair. Taking it, she moves it and then looks to Tavick, the light from the candle enhancing her half-orc features. She nods.

‘Sadly, after what happened, do you think anyone would come neer you? And, as you know, this is my area of expertise.’
As he listened to her words Tavik’s head dropped slightly and while his eyes were downcast he said, “No. It doesn’t surprise me.”

He eyed the bag for a moment, imagining what utensils might be in it and noted, “You don’t need your tools today. I’ll tell you whatever you need to know to make your decision.” There was a pleading look in his eyes. “Though I deserve no less for what I’ve done.”
Tevaga sit and puts the bag on the floor. Removing her hat, she runs har hand through her hair, and sighs.

‘There are no tools in that bag. I knew after the fight, I woud not need them. A lesser man, yes. You though, i could sense the fight in you, and not to fight us. So, I’ll get right to it.’ picking the bag up, she reaches in ad pulls the thing out of it, and places it on the table. With a wave and a whisper, the room light up, illminating the 6 armed slug Tevega pulled form Tavick.

‘What the Hell is this thing? If you even know.’
Tavik frowned. He closed his eyes briefly and sighed. “I don’t know what it is,” he said. “What does it have to do with me?”
Sitting back in the chair, Tevega crosses her legs and arms.

‘Much. I pulled that thing out of you when you were finaly subdued. Interestingly, it died a few moments after. I was hoping you might be able to enlighten me, seeing as it seems to give off the same….. vibe we shall say, as the Minflayers and that brian. As well it, when i tried to identify it, the only thing i could go off of was it reacted to you, and we both knwo you have powers neither arcane or divine.’
“Something astral?” Tavik asked. He prodded it with a finger and his expression turned sour. “Wait, did you say ‘out’ of me?” He shuddered.
She nods. Pulls a canteen, she sips, offering it to Tavick.
‘You heard right, ’out’. After you fell you had a growth. The that thing came out of your mouth. No, the feelign I got was….. psyonic. Mental. Your one power is that is it not? Your shield.’
“Yes,” Tavik nodded, waving away the offered water. “The gith are psionically gifted.” He paused for a moment to consider something. “The elders in the elven community used to tell me how the gith were a race that survived in the outer planes by bending reality to their will. There was the Gith’zerai, my race, and the Gith’yanki, our violent cousins. Gillendel swore that the difference between the two races was little more than a kind of philosophical difference.” He looked at Tevega finally. “I don’t know if it was true or not, but that’s what he used to say.”

Then he pointed at the creature on the table. “Are you thinking this was… controlling me somehow?” He swallowed hard, his empty throat nearly making an audible rasp.
She nods. ‘When you attacked us, it didnt seem like you. And then you paused. After I used my power to mke you recall your duty and honour, you paused longer. Eventually, you regained control’
“I remember,” he said staring at the creature for a long time. It was clear he was reliving the past. Finally he looked up with an expression of resignation. “You should execute me.”
‘Why would I execute someone who was not acting of their own volition? Did you rememeber something?’

“Everything,” he sighed. “Everyone in Tuskwater will eventually hear about this, but will they understand what it means? There’s only so much honest and simple folk will believe until they finally reject everything you say wholesale. Let them have this. Tell Monty I’m guilty.” Tears began to well up in his eyes. “He’ll believe you because he wants me out of the way. Then I won’t have to live with what I’ve done.”

Tevega shakes her head and laughs.

‘So you would rather run and hide like a coward then stand up and defend yourself? You’d rather give up, and let this…. thing win? I think not.’

Standing to her full hight, the light illuminating, casting a shadow over Tavick.

‘I will tell Monty you are guilty. Guilty of possession and not acting of your own accord. Guilty of fighting for yourself. But also, there are the other acts you did while possessed. We will have to keep an eye on you’

Tavik looked up with pitying eyes. “The truth is clear, even in the darkness,” he said. “The kingdom we’ve been building for more than half a decade is what is at stake, Tevega. Like a house that cannot stand divided, I cannot go back to the kingdom. No matter how small the chance, there are those who would take ‘my side’ for whatever delusional reason if conflict ever rose in the kingdom. You know I’m right about this. Taking me out of the equation is the only real way to destroy the seeds of division before they ever sprout.”

Her eyes narrow, the deep gold taking on a feral glint.

‘Let those who dare rise up against the Duke be my concern. Your ONLY concern should be showing everyone you’ll not let such a pathetic thing as this keep you from performing the duties assigned to you by Monty. If any decide to try and do other wise, they will answer to me.

You understand. Councilor?’

Tavik listened to her words and nodded glumly. “Because it is so clear, it takes longer to realize it,” Tavik answered. “But yes, I do understand. I will persist.”
‘Good. Now, you said you remember everything. What did you mean my that?’

Tevega sits back down, watching.

“That thing made everything seem… normal for me. Perfectly within my own volition,” he frowned. “What does that say about me?” He looked up at her. “Does that make me weak or does that make me a person so close to being evil already that it was easy to push me into violent acts against good people? That for me is the most troubling question of this entire ordeal.”

Hearing this, Tevega smiles. Taking another swig of her canteen, she stands and moves to the bared window, lookign out through the cracks.

‘I can promise you this, I’ll be one of the first to stop you should you stray too far down the wrong path, or should you try and disrupt the order we’ve begun to bring to this land. As for your thoughts on you being weak. You’d only have been weak, in my eyes, had you let the thing win and not tried to fight it. Then I would have considered you less of the being you are. As it stands you fought, and you did win, with help from those who consider you an ally. ’

Turning back, she slwoly moves back across the room.

‘Ive sent many a person to the gallows, or to their maker for breaking the laws layed before. Ive also absolved those who were innocent. In my mind, you are.’

“That is what you’ll tell the others?” Tavik asked. “It might be harder to convince some of that.”

‘Let me worry about what others think of me. I have been appointed to this task, and if they do not want to take what I have to say to heart, then maybe they are the ones who need to be judged. I am the High Inquisitor of Tuskwater. None are beyond my judgement. None are too ’revered’ that my eyes will not fall upon them should I see it fit. Id do this with everyone. Monty, Baren, Seldon. I would send any of them to the gallows should that be the course of action needed. It hasn’t been, so there has been no need. My duty is to Tuskwater, dealing with threats both externally, and internally. And usualy in such a way, None ever see it.

You for one know this, we’ve been traveling and serving together for years now. Would I send an innocent man to hang, or would I let the guilty walk free?’

“No, you wouldn’t. That is the truth,” Tavik nodded. “If you immediately know the candlelight is fire, the meal was cooked a long time ago.” He saw her eyes flicker for a moment before he continued. “I think I understand the path that is before me then.”

Nodding, Tevega slowly moves towards Tavik.

‘As I see it, you have two clear choices. One, sit in this cease pit of doubt and worry you’ve created and let this thing’….points to the creature…‘and whoever was controlling it win. Or stand up, wipe that sad excuse of pity from your face, accept what happened, and face the opposition head on. I will support you, only as long as you support yourself first.’

With that, she moves and undoes the manacles and walkes away. Stopping at the door, she says back, without looking.

‘You and I both know which one you’ll choose. Least, I know which one id prefer you too. But in the end, it’s all your decision.’

Tavik watched her leave the room and heard her footsteps moving away from the door. “Face them head on,” he repeated quietly. “The river tells no lies, yet the dishonest man hears them when he stands on the shore,” he thought.

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"You okay, son?"

Tavik opened his eyes. He was sitting in the forest on a mat of dark green grass. Hanging from a nearby tree he saw a doll strung up with thin twine by the neck. As he shifted his vision farther away he saw more. The forest was very still, only disturbed by the fluttering of insects through the shafts of light pouring down at various spots. Suddenly there was a disturbance and he saw his adopted father coming through the brush; the farmer, Jonestheon. He walked as silently as a cat and Tavik was mystified at his presence. He couldn’t even remember arriving himself. As he came to Tavik’s side he bent low, grabbing his shoulder and looked Tavik deep in the eyes, “Tavik, you okay, son?” The words echoed through the trees, “You okay, son. You okay son, You okay son…” Then he was gone and silence was left in his stead.

With a sudden wrenching in his mind the trees disappeared, and he found himself by the waters again. It was the place where his mother had first appeared to him in his dreams… or nearly the same. He felt there was something different in the place now. He turned at the sound of crunching leaves behind him and saw his mother. She looked the same, but different…more…transparent… “Only when the veil is removed can the wedding truly begin,” she said, then faded away…

Shocked, Tavik found he could not move and the landscape shifted abruptly. He saw her figure once more, but they were again in the forest of hanging dolls. This time the person he saw was his mother and was not. It appeared to look like her, but was somehow unnatural… sinister. It was unclear, but even though it sounded like her it didn’t speak the way she would have spoken to him. She opened her mouth, but her tongue was forked. Tavik blinked in shock and then saw it was normal again… “Tavik, what is your greatest fear? You claim to be without fear and you are indeed brave, but I know your greatest fear. I am your greatest fear.”

Tavik’s eyes snapped open and found himself in his chambers alone and on the floor in a cold sweat. For a moment he almost felt something shift inside him. ’ It was probably nothing ,’ he thought and then he saw the griffon on his arm had begun to shift again.

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What Dreams May Come

Tavik’s eyes snapped open at the behest of some distant call.

He glanced around the encampment of his friends and saw them all slumbering. Was it his turn to be on watch? He couldn’t remember. Grimacing, he rose to his feet and began walking toward the water’s edge, his mind strangely fuzzy with after-echoes as if still dreaming.

“You’ve done well, child,” a voice said in Gith behind him. He spun to face the intruder and stood agape as his mother strode up to his side, staring out at the lake’s surface. Tavik was too shocked to say anything. “How deep is the river if you cannot see the bottom?” she asked simply, her eyes still on the water.

Tavik’s brow furrowed slightly. “That’s all you have to say?” he frowned. “After all this time?”

“Wake up, Tavik.”

“Tavik!” someone whispered hoarsely nearby and his eyes snapped open. The monk took a moment to gain his bearing and looked at Seldon. “It’s your turn for guard duty,” the druid said, pointing.

“Right,” the Gith muttered and rose lithely, not showing any signs of sleep dulling his abilities. How deep is the river if you cannot see the bottom? He considered the question thoroughly, examining it from all angles. It wasn’t until his friends began waking to perform their various morning rituals that he finally realized the meaning.

He glanced down at the tattoo on his right arm. Until this vary moment it had been constantly shifting from one form to the next. Some he recognized, most he did not. He had grown used to the constantly moving writing on his skin, but now it had stopped. Clearly visible was an image of a griffon in mid-attack, raised up on its hind legs with wings spread wide and claws slashing at an unseen foe. Tavik smiled suddenly as he felt a part of his soul align with the Path.

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Tevaga's Note.

The ride back was solemn. The air itself seeemd to hang low and heavy. The clowds themselves seemed to weep as a light misty rain joined us upon the journey back to Oleg’s. Dareron lay dead, his body held together by bandage and cloth, least his remains themselves be taken by the ground. Tevaga, the more stoic and, some what, less emotional of them all, felt the loss as much as any of her comrades. Yet her traning kept her from mourning openly.

Back at the outpost, the child was reunited with its parents. Sadly, Some acid etched words accompined them as Seldon let it be known the price paid for the childs life. Hearing the deed, they could do nothing less then name thier son after the fallen rider. In the days that pass, the mood of the outpost seemed lessened. Everyone wasn’t themselves, no matter how much Svetlana tried to bring joy to everyone.

One night, Tevaga couldn’t help but write back to the Sword Lords who sent them and ask a request.

“Dear Lords

We’ve been dealt a sad blow. One of our comrades has fallen. Proud Daeron fell to the hands of choas defending the life of a small child. Sadly, even though he died defending what be believed, his death has been heavy on our minds, and that, dear Lords, is why I’ve taken this time to write.

I believe we’ll need the aid of a strong character to join us on our expedition, for it has been indead tough. We’ve explored much of the area surrounding the outpost, and have come across many creatures and beings. Some, as the damned spriggs, and other more, honourable creatures as well.

I do bequeth thee dear Lords, to send us someone, if any are willing, to come and join us here in the wilds, and to aid us in exploring and when the time comes, possible bringing some Order to these lands.

Yours

Inquisitor Tevaga Redmane "

After sending the letter did Tevaga finaly allow some emotion to surface. Taking time away from the others, she disappeared into the woods surrounding the outpost. After a few hours, she returned, the staunch, slightly feral gleam in her eyes returned. Unbenowsnt to the others, she retunred with a new tattoo, as tribute to the Fallen Rider.

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