Monday, January 23, 2006

Nia - I blame the coach driver

(written in Xeph)

23rd Mirtul, 1377 – Damara – eclipse

I am Nia Aco Rauli Zeralia Oconnor Dredda Valiriwen, and I have no idea why I am alive. I am not usually the sort to keep a diary – too much that might be used later for blackmail – but given recent events I find I have a need to sort out my thoughts. One is not brought back from the dead for no reason, after all. The gods – or someone – must have had a reason.

First, there was my death. I remember it – or at least the events leading up to it. I blame the coachman.

Hmmm… perhaps I should back up a little further. I was born at High Harvest, in the Year of the Prince (21 Eleint, 1357). No, wait, that’s probably too far back.

I was at Lady Hamilton’s ball, and the Countessa Barrington was wearing the most magnificent emerald necklace – the exact same shade as my eyes. I had to have it! So, I concocted a plan. The Countessa had mentioned she would be visiting her niece for a tenday (although rumor had it her "niece" was really a handsome courtier with whom she dallied), so I resolved to take advantage of her absence. It was a simple matter to seduce the Count (a charming older fellow, with more zest than he credits himself, needing only the right touch to awaken… but I digress).

I left him in my rooms at the Inn, satisfied and sleeping deeply. I hurried to his home, expecting to find it unoccupied… and the Countessa returned unexpectedly (no doubt her courtier had turned to younger - or richer - pastures). She, of course, demanded to know why I was in her rooms. Thinking fast, I threw myself on my knees before her, telling her how she’d captured my heart at Lady Hamilton’s ball, and that I had to see her. Seducing her was a simple thing, given her recent rejection and her husband's inexplicable disinterest.

Unfortunately, by the time I had her satisfied and sleeping, the Count returned. I had barely pulled my trousers back on when he caught me in the Countessa’s bedroom. He shouted at me – she woke up, and she began to shout as well. I gathered my things as best I could and backed out onto the balcony. The Countessa’s room was on the third floor, and for a moment it seemed all was lost. Then I spotted a coach coming down the road. If I timed my jump carefully, I could land on the roof of the coach and speed away safely. I climbed to the rail, reminding the Count and Countessa how much we had enjoyed each other’s company (which for some reason inflamed both of them further), and, as they advanced upon me, bade them fond farewell and leaped. By my counting, the coach should have been almost directly below.

Alas, the idiot bumpkin had allowed himself to be distracted by the sight of a half-naked woman balanced on a railing and had stopped. The last thought I remember as I collided with the paving stones was that I would no doubt look exceedingly ungainly sprawled there. I didn’t mind dying so much as looking bad while doing so.

The next thing I recall is someone asking me if I wished to return to life. Of course I did! I am young; I have so much living to do! So many lovers I have yet to meet!

Then I woke up on a stone slab, in darkness only brightened by a glowing gem on a leather chain about my neck. Naked, I might add. And far from alone.

Also recently raised from the dead, and perforce my companions in this undertaking are:
  • A giant by the name of Aedron. I think he may be half frost giant, from the pale blue of his skin and the white of his hair. He must be eight feet tall, easily, and… ohh… proportional. I’m afraid that I would hurt myself scaling that particular peak. He has muscles on muscles and I imagine he will excel at killing things with a single blow. He is singularly cautious, but seems like someone you can trust at your back – if you earn his trust.
  • At the other end of the scale, a Halfling named Sa’d. Male, and cute as their race so often are. Clearly a worshiper of the Lady of Luck, as I am myself – he flips a coin like a nervous habit. His most unique characteristic is the scarf he wears – long enough to wrap himself a dozen times and all the colors of the rainbow. He and another, the priest Dorben, know each other from another time.
  • Ahh, Dorben. A handsome priest of Selune, from Waterdeep I’d guess by the accent. He must be a priest of some power, for when he raised his hand to the skeletons they bowed down to him as if he were their master. More of the skeletons later. He seems a bit stuffy, but did not seem displeased when I rewarded his mastery with a kiss. His death sounds to have been as a result of his rescue of a damsel in distress, so we may be kindred spirits of a sort. I never could resist a damsel – or lad! – in distress.
  • Then there is this absolutely stunning woman named Kaliki, a devotee of Mielikki. The symbol of the unicorn adorns her breast, and she sings like an angel. She bears watching, for the sheer pleasure of it if nothing else.
  • From Kaliki of course my thoughts go to her adopted brother a gnome called Mr. Brambletongue (such formality from such a small, person!). His sister calls him "Goat Boy", but I do not think he would take that well from another. He seems to be an arcane spellcaster, and his repertoire is extensive for his apparent years. I don’t pretend to understand all about spellcasting, the gods know. Kaliki and her brother took turns blaming one another for their demise.
  • Last, but entirely not least, my final companion in resurrection, is an older human woman by the name of Meg. There is an ageless beauty in the weathered planes of her face, and she draws a bow that I doubt I could even lift. She is a woman of few words and I cannot read her… yet.

We are an odd assortment, and I can only think that someone – the gods perhaps? – has a greater plan for us. Why else bring us back from the dead (no cheap or easy thing)? Why such an odd and diverse group? I find it a thrilling thought, that we are meant for greater things, and can hardly wait to embark upon our adventure.

I take it as further evidence that there are great powers afoot that each of us had, in the slabs beneath us, most of our gear. My well worn (and loved) armor was gone, but in its place – oh! Such a magnificent replacement! Soft as glove leather, and fitted to my every curve like a lover’s caress. My rapier, as well, was upgraded to a nicer piece. It looked as though the others found similar prizes.

We dressed and exchanged stories, and then, led by Aedron we began to explore our surroundings. Dorben said that the markings in the temple were those of the various gods of the dead, and he posited that we were in a temple to Ilmater. The subsequent arrival of an acolyte of that priesthood confirmed it. He seemed quite surprised to find us alive, and reported that we had been delivered by a fellow called Arben. From what I can tell, Arben is a wandering mad priest – the god-touched sort of madness.

The charming young priest (his posterior, in particular, was exceedingly well shaped) took us to see his Master, though we were distracted on our way by the cries of a child. We arrived in time to find there was naught we could do. The child shrieked in pain and blue energy crackled across her, consuming her in a brilliant flash of light. She disappeared, leaving behind a large blue diamond. It may have been a trick of the light, but it seemed to glow. I have never seen, nor heard of, such a thing. It turns out, as we found later, that there is a spreading epidemic of such instances in the north. The child and her parents hailed from Hillsfar, and the plague is spreading there. They may have even brought it with them.

But I get ahead of the story. We returned to the room of our revival, only to find it populated by animated skeletons. The same blue energy crackled across their moldering bones, and when one slashed my chest (why do they always go for my chest?), it hurt me and then the wounds miraculously healed! They made a sound, a horrid laughter that turned my bowels to water, but then Kaliki began to sing – as I said before, she sings like an angel. The fear passed from me, and we engaged them. Dorben commanded them and they all crowded into a corner, that we might more easily beat them. Alas, my mind-blade did them no damage, and I was reduced to futile waving at them, distracting them from other targets. Mr. Brambletongue was able to silence them, and Dorben commanded them to dash themselves to pieces against the walls. It was our good fortune to have Aedron fighting on our side, for when his mighty blows struck they left naught behind but shards of bone.

I must remember to carry a club in the chance that we face such things again, as they are unfazed by my natural weapon.

Once the marauding skeletons were done for, we sought their source, but found no more animated. Aedron is a skilled tracker, and he found signs of a man’s – as opposed to a skeleton’s – feet, which we followed. The only suspicious thing we found was a velvet tray of the sort that jewelers use, with slots enough to hold perhaps a dozen large stones. The acolyte thought he had seen Arben with the same tray, with eight to eleven blue diamonds in it. He may well have been the agency of our resurrection – but why?

Some of the temple guard arrived to aid our battle, and their leader, Alphus – oh, my, he is a fine specimen! I wonder if they take vows of celibacy? In any event, he escorted us to the High Priest’s office. The High Priest told us of the plague of strange transformations taking place in the north, and set us a quest. At last!

Our quest is this: We are to seek out the imprisoned mage Zolven. He is to be found in the remains of a tower a quarter day's travel to the north/northwest. The priest says he would be appreciative of the company, and that he may be capable of helping us locate Arben. We are to bring news of the child's unusual demise and the state of the catacombs to Zolven.

As we were standing outside the temple, a very odd thing happened. The Halfling, Sa'd, flipped his coin, and as it came down, he dissolved into a pile of dust! I tried to gather some of it into a bag, that he might at some time later be reconstituted. The priests have no explanation.

We’ll need to acquire horses and supplies, for it’s a journey of some substance. Time enough for that tomorrow, though.

For now, I have secured the one of the most luxurious rooms at the local hostelry, and I anticipate a lovely, long, hot bath. After that, well, one of the caravan guards has the bluest eyes I have ever seen, and I shall have to see what he might like to do this afternoon…

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