*This is a story made with the help of my friends from a dungeons and dragons campaign I am hosting. This is more for them than anyone, but I thought you might like the story as well, even if it is a bit unorthodox. This group calls themselves The Merry Men. I’ll keep writing if they keep playing.*
On the ninth day of Ches in the year of the blazing hand, three adventures meet for the first time. Their paths to get here came in as much variety as their backgrounds. But their time walking alone in this world of Faerun was at an end. They arrived at nearly the exact same time with the promise of a quest. Was it fate, or something more that led them here?
As Zelvia walked towards an unknown part of the forest, she admired the lush foilage. It never failed to impress her with how green everything here was. Not that her lost home didn’t have plants, but Mulhorand’s beauty came from it’s unique juxtaposition of mountain, desert, and sea. It had held raw beauty that mirrored its people. They hadn’t been perfect. No civilization was, but Zelvia couldn’t help but long for the day someone would find the strength to rebuild. But that wasn’t part of her path.
Zelvia’s first duty was to her own people. Aasimar, descendants of celestials, had always wandered the countries of Faerun. A few, like Zelvia’s ancestors, settled down with humans or other half breeds. But most wandered, seeking something. At least that’s what Zelvia had learned so far. It was hard to track down aasimar. Most looked like normal humans except for the occasional gene of feathers or abnormal skin. Most didn’t flaunt their unusual heritage. Most were not Zelvia. Zelvia longed to find others like her. She wanted to know so much. Why did they wander? What were they looking for? Could they help Zelvia discover who she was? None had been able to help so far, but Zelvia was still young. She could keep looking.
Zelvia arrived at an old abandoned shrine. The stone of the broken structure was overgrown and clearly hadn’t been used in a long time. But the atmosphere, with the stream tinkling in the background, was very peaceful. It was no wonder this spot had been once chosen for spiritual purposes. Perhaps it would be again. No one else seemed to be around. Zelvia sat on a stone to think for a moment.
Perhaps it was time for a change of pace. Zelvia would not stop looking for aassimar, but she had decided it was time to help the world some more. She did that when she could. Protecting travelers from bandits, helping a child find their home, simple weeding when the farmer had broken his leg. These acts of kindness brought Zelvia satisfaction and kept her grounded in the mortal realm. It was easy to lose one’s sense of humanity when you were only half human. Which is why Zelvia never backed down from a fight. So when she heard word of a Lilian Stone asking for help in Silverymoon, it was time to put down the looking glass and pick up the sword. If she ever showed up.
Kaia Unolu inspected the woman while hiding behind a tree. She was tall. Taller than Kaia. Which was a little surprising. That, coupled with her regal form seemed to indicate something. She was clearly a warrior with that beast of a sword, but Kaia couldn’t quite determine anything more. And she didn’t like unsolved mysteries.
Kaia walked into the glade to confront her. “Are you Lilian Stone?” she asked.
The woman stood up and frowned. “No. I am Zelvia the aasimar. But I am looking for Lilian. I was told I could find her here. Do you have any more information than I?”
An aasimar! Kaia thought they were more secretive about their heritage than this. That was one mystery solved anyway.
“Sounds like you have the same info as I.” Kaia replied. “Maybe we should take a look around then?”
Zelvia nodded and began to turn away. Then she stopped and asked, “What is your name then?”
Kaia eyed her. Aasimar were supposed to be trustworthy. A name couldn’t hurt. “Kaia,” she said.
That done with, Kaia began to take a look around and jumped when she noticed another woman standing behind her. Zelvia half pulled her sword out of her sheath in surprise making Kaia feel a little better. Who was this and how did they sneak up on her?
Average height for a human, nice clothes but not royalty. Her silver hair stood out to Kaia and the woman began to talk before anymore investigation could be done. “Hello, adventurers,” she began. “You must have gotten my message. I’m a little surprised to see so many of you. But pleased none the less. Why doesn’t the tabaxi come out and introduce herself as well?”
Kaia spun around to find a tall walking cat sauntering out from behind a tree. Another surprise! And one that looked to hold their own secrets covered in a hood. “I am Thunder in the Morning,” she said in a melodic voice. Kaia frowned. Her inspection told her this was a male but who could tell with cats?
“You are Lilian then?” the cat asked. Kaia turned back around to watch her potential patron.
“I am Lilian Stone, yes,” she said with a nod. “Let me get right to the point. I have a problem that I need help with, but only certain adventurers will do. I’m not so certain any of you are right for me,” she pauses for a moment then continues. “But if you insist, I suppose I can ask you for help with a few smaller problems first. I’m sure I’ll have a better idea of your capabilities afterward. Of course, I’ll pay you for everything you do for me. In fact, you can quit at any time if you don’t like my task. I do not want you to think there are any strings attached. So what do you say? Shall I tell you of my first assignment?”
So many things to unpack. What…
“Yes,” Zelvia said. Interrupting Kaia’s thoughts. The cat nodded as well.
Lilian clapped her hands together and continued. “I have trouble trusting people because I recently gave some important items to a man for delivery and just found out that he sold them instead of giving them over to my contact. I would greatly appreciate it if you would go find out where those items got to and finish the job. The items were three star-shaped gems that fit into your hand.” She opened her hands in demonstration. “You can understand the temptation to sell them. I will give you the money to buy them back if necessary and you can even keep anything extra for yourselves if you end up being good hagglers. Then please deliver the gems to the sisters at A Handful of Stars. It is a well known astrologer’s shop and I’m sure you won’t have any trouble finding it. I’ve had no luck finding the gems myself. Silverymoon is such a large city after all. So I am trusting you with my money and my dreams.” She hesitates. “Can I trust you?”
She gets a nod from Thunder in the Morning and another yes from Zelvia.
“Now hang on a moment.” Kaia says. “You said this isn’t what you really want help with. What is it we are proving ourselves to get to?”
Lilian finally shows some emotion with a frown. “That’s my business. If it turns out I can’t trust you, I would rather you fail on this task than my more important one. You don’t have to take my quest if this feels too suspicious to you. But all I’m asking is for you to locate some lost goods for me and I am promising payment. Countless merchants make similar deals every day. Do you wish to help me on this or not? It is a rather simple request.”
It is too simple. Which is part of the problem. Kaia looks at the other two and questions their trust in this vague situation. She should just leave. She was on her way to a temple at the base of the Spine of the World anyway. She had places to be and business to be about. She didn’t know why she had even followed these rumors in the first place. Some of which had spoken badly of this mysterious Lilian. But that was it wasn’t it? This was a mystery. Not, the quest, but who was this Lilian Stone? And Kaia couldn’t help but wonder about Zelvia and Thunder in the Morning as well. What was their story?
And if Kaia were being honest with herself, she was looking for an excuse to get sidetracked from going to another temple. Too much of her life had been in temples. While she would always be grateful to Priest Ramos for taking her in when that fire had taken her family, she didn’t really feel like she was thriving in this structured religious environment. Not that she didn’t believe in Torm, but she questioned the order. Kaia wished she could be faithful, but there was too much she didn’t understand. It was time to go off path and look for those answers. Perhaps find some smaller ones along the way.
“Alright then,” Kaia said. “I’ll help for now.”
“Excellent,” Lilian exclaims. She hands Thunder in the Morning a sack. His eyes widen as he opens it to find gold that glints in his eyes. “One thousand gold is in there. Don’t loose it,” Lilian says.
Kaia pulls her eyes away from the sack to ask another question but Lilian is gone. Kaia stands in shock. Perhaps this was a bad idea.
“Shall we head to the city then?” Zelvia asks.
Thunder in the Morning nods and the two begin to walk back the way they came. Kaia follows in their wake and sorts through her thoughts. She’ll get to the bottom of this yet.
It wasn’t quite how she expected it but Morning was used to surprises. Flexibility was key for any monk. You rolled with the punches and adjusted your thoughts to thrive in any situation. At least neither woman had tried to pet him. That, Thunder would…
“So,” Zelvia says. “Thunder in the Morning, can I pet your…”
Thunder turns around and glares at the angel child. Zelvia freezes nervously. Thunder takes a moment to breathe and uncurl his fists. There was no need for blood yet. He planed to ignore Zelvia, who is more child than angel. By the time Thunder turns around to continue walking she is Morning once more. She can hear her stragglers following after. Such kittens they were.
This encounter had seemed a good possibility. The request of heroes. Unknown travelers. A large city. Yes, Thunder might just find what he was looking for here. But she would have to endure these people first. Morning sighed and took a sniff. Grass, manure, the faint scent of men. Roads almost always smelled like that. But you always had to be on guard. You never knew who might be one of them.
“So,” Kaia tried. “Thunder in the Morning. Do you have a nickname or do we just call you by your whole name every time? I’m just curious.”
Yes that one was full of questions. She could be useful guided the right way. Morning didn’t stop as she replied, “My friends call me Morning. I am Thunder to my enemies.”
He hears Zelvia give a snort. At least they didn’t ask the really awkward question. Morning understood that her race was vastly different from others. But that gap only made it more difficult to discuss her gender. Humans couldn’t seem to grasp that gender was just one more description. Tabaxi were fond of showing personality through names. The explanation should be right there in that.
Morning gave a sigh as she came to the walls of Silverymoon. It wasn’t really important. Making friends wasn’t the purpose of her journey. Freeing other tabaxi was. They could deny it all they wanted, but Thunder knew the tabaxi slave trade was still strong in Faerun. He had been a part of it. But that was also why he had the heart and skills to free others. Morning’s parents had begun this journey when they had sent her to a monastery. But Thunder had learned hand combat instead of meditating. That had saved her in the gladiator rings. And it would save others too.
The guards at the northern gate in Silverymoon were beginning to fondle their weapons as Thunder’s group came up to them. Morning quickly cleared her fierce expression and pushed her anger down. Now wasn’t the time. The guards seemed confused at the change but relaxed.
Thunder listened to the brief about the city. As did Kaia and Zelvia. The guard used a lot of hand gestures pointing towards the city behind him as he talked. He seemed to think himself a bard of some sort. He said things such as; “Silverymoon is often dubbed ‘the gem of the north’, for it resembles and emulates the old elven city Myth Drannor in many respects. It is one of the few civilized places in the middle of the rough and untamed wilderness that is the North of Faerun.” Morning listened but heard much more the same. Human cities always had lengthy histories that bragged of what only they had.
Later, the guard paused and lifted a finger. “It should also be noted that the city is protected by a magical ward which protects the city not only from nasty weather but stops unauthorized magic and monsters of evil intent from entering. Mages of any kind cannot cast the simplest of spells once within the city walls without a certified token which are given out by the Spellguard.”
“Does that include healing magic?” both Kaia and Zelvia ask. They look at each other in surprise.
“It does,” says the guard. “But you shouldn’t have need of that here. Silverymoon is as safe a city as your mother’s womb!” Neither of Morning’s companions seemed reassured. But Morning didn’t need magic. Her fists and claws would protect them all if need be.
With that last assurance and a warning to follow the law from the guard, the three entered Silverymoon. They were still unsure of each other and of this quest, but they were determined to follow it. For now.
Photo by Michal Matlon