101 - REFLECTION

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101 - REFLECTION

Post  Admin on Tue Aug 10, 2010 9:30 am

Aidan is attending prayer in the Temple of Ages. He is lost in thought and deep reflection. The high vaulted ceiling soars above him and for a brief moment he can but marvel at its fine construction. It is carved from alabaster and arched. Stone pillars stand at intervals around the edge of the circular chamber. Save for a few low murmurs among four adepts who are sitting on the far side on wooden benched seating, it is quiet. Aidan thinks of his parents and still wonders why they perished so violently. And he is very aware that he does not know who his direct ancestor may be. This leaves him with a sense of emptiness inside. It is difficult to know who he should honour exactly and it troubles him slightly – he knows it is also a source of the derision he faces from the Valenar warriors.

There are soft footsteps behind him and Shaevath Tarathalas greets Aidan. He is dressed, as always, in his plain flowing sand-coloured robes and soft leather sandals.

“Are you troubled today?” Shaevath Tarathalas asks him with concern. “Do not be. You are still a youngster with much to experience of our ways. You were lost to us, but know this; the ancestors have kindly delivered you back to your homeland. Their spirits watch over us. In time, they will reveal the name of your ancestor. The longer you stay with us, then the stronger your bond to your ancestor will be. You belong with us.” He reassures him.

... Aidan thanks him.

“The war clans are readying for new long range patrols. Lorian Tiraleth has informed me that you will accompany his group to further your training. He is right in this matter. I know your fondness for research and study. But the spirits of our ancestors have spoken through him. Go from here and prepare yourself. Gather whatever you may need from the Peasants' Market and then report to the marquee of Warclan Tiraleth within the next hour,” Shaevath Tarathalas counsels.

... Aidan exits the Temple of the Ages and heads towards the Peasants' Market.

Dust swirls and the crowd is busy in the Peasants' Market. The smell of fresh spices and cooked meat is inviting and the traders wave for attention and physically grab and impede passers by in their efforts to sell their wares. Aidan finds what he needs easily and the merchants and traders offer him fair prices, recognising he is in a hurry. They also know that the war clans are preparing to leave Taer Valaestas and do not wish to do anything that might lose their future sales. They cast Aidan some knowing looks and stares.

It is with interest that Aidan notices there are very few elves or half-elves actually conducting their own business in the market. This is the nature of the Valenar, who are very aloof and dismissive of the other races. This market is the gathering point and hub of non-Valenar activity and it is the place where most new migrants, foreign visitors and adventuring parties will meet and conduct their affairs. The elves typically send their Cyran peasant servants and labourers to this market to undertake tasks, such as shopping, which they consider to be beneath themselves. Indeed, Aidan does realise that it is rare for one such as himself to be here. But he is accustomed to the environment and approaches it with his usual sense of humility, knowing he is not yet a fully regarded Valenar in the eyes of his full-blooded elven peers.

[PERCEPTION CHECK 15 ]

Aidan notices a rather large overweight hobgoblin shaman with a retinue of goblin warriors maintaining a secure perimeter around him while he peruses the contents of the various stalls. They appear very tense and distrustful of anyone who draws too near. They bear shields with a distinctive form of heraldry – a clawed closed fist in the centre of which there is an open eye. This is unfamiliar to him, which is not surprising, for there are many new groups forming or visiting this new frontier all the time.

[PERCEPTION CHECK 22 ]

He observes a group of three finely dressed scholars (black and dark green robes, dark gray vests and boots, with belts bearing wide buckles that bear the symbol of the Morgrave Outreach Society) assessing the parchment maps being offered at a cartographer's stand. They do appear to be interested in something, but it also appears that the cartographer is struggling to convince them that his location-based maps are accurate and reliable. Aidan knows it is very likely these are field students who are being well funded by the Morgrave University and it will be no accident that they are here.

[PERCEPTION CHECK 23 ]

A very alluring, exotic looking woman is belly dancing and for a brief moment Aidan admires her performance from a distance. There is something about her that he finds oddly distracting before he reminds himself of the immediate task at hand and moves on. He notices she has attracted quite a crowd of onlookers and many coins have been thrown into a collection nearby, watched over by a rather suspicious looking half-orc who scowls at passers by.

[PERCEPTION CHECK 17 ]

There is an assortment of various roguish looking folk whom Aidan avoids by keeping other unwitting people between him and them as he moves through the crowd. He is well aware of the pick pockets who are operating across the market. While Valenar justice can be swift and brutal it turns a blind eye to activities within the Peasant Market.

... Aidan completes his business in the market and moves quickly to the marquee.

Close to the hour, Aidan approaches the marquee of Warclan Tiraleth where the alert sentries regard him coldly and usher him inside. He sees the clan members are gathered, seated comfortably on thick cushions on large woven mats that have been laid out upon the sand. The marquee offers a welcome respite from the burning heat of the sun outside and a light breeze wafts through, with the canvas coverings flapping occasionally.

Aidan receives several odd stares from some of those assembled here but eventually a group clear a space for him near the edge of the gathering and he is brusquely motioned to seat himself there.

... Aidan seats himself on a luxurious thick woven mat that has been laid out upon the sandy ground. There is a young half elf sitting next to him who looks up as Aidan makes himself comfortable.

“I am Tiralas,” the seated warrior offers a faint smile. “You must be Aidan. It is good to see you have rejoined us. Many of my brothers had their doubts about you. But I did not. Look,” the young man motions to the centre where the clan leaders are now standing. Lorian is about to address us before we depart. We should stand to show our respect.”

... Aidan stands.

The marquee suddenly quietens as Lorian Tiraelth steps forward and raises his arms with hands facing palms outwards in a gesture for silence. He pauses and looks around. “My brothers, my warriors, we have gathered here to partake as we always have, to honour our ancestors and complete the ritual of brotherhood before we head out once more into the harsh sands.”

There are nods of approval and cheers.

“This patrol will test us all. It will test our resolve. It will test our faith. It will test our determination to defend our homeland against all who might seek to taint it or steal it from under our noses. We will champion the memory of our ancestors. We will carry their honour with us across the unforgiving sands. Our initial patrol will take us west to our fortified outpost at Kasserine.”

Aidan listens as Lorian hands over to his commanders and they outline their expectations for the journey that lies ahead. There is nothing out of the ordinary that is mentioned.

At the conclusion of the briefings, the warriors stand and file out of the marquee after the commanders and Lorian exit first. They proceed to gather their belongings, mount their warhorses and prepare to depart.

Aidan observes that the war clan is approximately 200 members strong.

... Aidan is ready. He waits for the command to ride. It is given and the warclan makes all haste.

The war clan sweeps west into the desert, riding hard for six hours past fertile land and numerous farms until it reaches broken lands and the entrance to a small ravine where the trail passes through.

Aidan is summoned to the head of the column where he is warmly greeted by his martial lore mentor and clan leader, Lorian.

“I have a task for you,” he informs Aidan. “I want you to move ahead and scout this trail through the ravine while the main war band rests. You will be accompanied by Tiralis. I understand you have already met briefly before we left.”

“Go forward, follow the trail. When you reach the end, come back and report your findings. We will have struck camp and you may rest then while another watch takes over. May the ancestors guide you. Be swift and strong.”

... Aidan is joined by Tiralis whose horse canters up beside him.

“Come with me, your equipment could do with some updating. We will be on our own for some hours and we must fend for ourselves. The supply tent will have something you can use.” Tiralis says.

Tiralis produces a set of Leather Armour +4 ... Longbow +2 (densewood with ivory inserts) and Longsword +2, Blessed 3/day,Paralyzing 1/day

“They suit you,” Tiralis says. “You'll make a fine warrior with those.”

“No ... not me,” Aidan thinks. “They all want me to become a warrior.”

“How far will we be going?” Aidan asks.

Tiralis regards Aidan silently, perhaps with a little surprise and then he says “We will reach the midpoint of the ravine in about two hours, assuming all is well. Then we go to the end, make contact with an outpost that is stationed there and then we come back to rest. Are you ready? Let's go.”


The walls of the ravine are tall and there are many caves scattered throughout. Tiralis rides alongside Aidan and speaks with him as they ride together, remaining ever watchful.

“The others say you are like a newborn foal that has lost its mother. Some say you are not one of us because you come from outside, from Zanarkand. But I say to them that you have come home, that we are your long lost brothers. Do you understand what I am saying?”

... Aidan says “Yes but I will never find my true home until I find out who my parents were.”

“I think you will find your ancestor when the time is right and the spirit is ready to reveal itself. You may discover that you do, in fact, belong to another war clan. There is no shame in that, for we are all equal in battle for we fight as one for the greater memory and honour of the original Valaes Tairn that first settled and shaped this once wicked land.”

Aidan nods “Have you had any trouble here before? These caves could harbour anything.”

Tiralis laughs “Just the occasional lizard or hapless humanoid that thought it could best the might of the Valaes Tairn. Of course, we do encounter other things. There can be dangerous predators concealed amongst the rock and the sands. This is a very hostile environment. Be on guard.”

“Naturally,” Aidan replies.

“But don't worry – I have your back, brother.”

Aidan takes out his glasses of true seeing and looks around.

[PERCEPTION 17 ]

He sees nothing. “What are those?” Tiralis asks. He is intrigued at the unusual design of the eye pieces.

“They are a gift and enable one to see what one cannot see through normal vision.”

“That sounds useful, keep them at hand. It can be our little secret,” Tiralis smiles.

The path through the ravine shifts and twists and turns through depressions and rocky slopes. It passes beneath massive rock overhangs and natural bridges that sit high overhead. There are small creatures here, mostly lizards but a variety of birds are sighted too. There are places where small trails lead up rocky slopes to higher levels against the cliff faces and some of those do lead to small caves.

There is a small supply outpost near the midway point, and they reach this after scouting for two hours. It appears undisturbed and there is a small well outside, with a post outside to which the horses can be tethered while they rest should they do so.

Tiralis fetches some water from the well and gives it to the horses. He replenishes their water skins and goes inside the unlocked sandstone structure. He waves to Aidan and informs him that everything is in order, that nothing has been removed or damaged. General provisions and mundane items are stored here should anything be required.

... Aidan stood watch. [PERCEPTION 27] He sees nothing except a few large birds circling high overhead. They are not carrion birds, but something similar to an eagle.

“Tell me more about where you have come from,” Tiralis enquires. “I am very interested to know more about your time in Zanarkand. And how did you escape its demise? Some have said you were there in its most cursed days.”

... Aidan tells him of the library and Lord Khannay and the quest for Xanthar. He describes Izendraazt's arrival in Khorvaire. I can understand why you would not believe me, but there are many who would back up my story, including Ahlissa and the Areni Ambassador. So for a young foal I have seen things. One does not have to be a powerful warrior to have wits and survive. In my case it was knowledge that saved the day.”

Tiralis listens intrigued and his eyes widen when Aidan tells him of the sights and horrors that he has seen. “The others are certainly wrong when they say you have been cursed. In my eyes you have been blessed.”

“Yes, I would agree in that I have seen and learnt things that in some respects no one else has ever experienced.”

“And you have received favour from some of our highest stations. You have the ambassador and the high king often reminding us of where you travelled from. Yet my brothers still find it difficult to accept you. But I will tell them. I will vouch for you.”

“I think you will find they probably will not believe you. I know how they see me and look at me.”

“Then prove them wrong in battle. When we join it, show them. Prove your strength and prove your worth in front of their eyes. I know you can, you are just a little hesitant.”

“I am good at some things my friend, but combat is one thing that I am still learning.”

“We shall see,” he smiles. “we shall see ...”

The trail rises on uneven ground and both men can see that it curves to the right behind a large rock outcropping about 60' ahead. Tiralis is suddenly alert and he motions for Aidan to stop.

... Aidan complies.

The horses whinny softly. Aidan's horse stamps its hoof restlessly.

[HANDLE ANIMAL 10 ]
[RIDE 12 ]

The Warhorse attempts to pull back but Aidan maintains control.

There are sliding, scratching, scraping sounds coming from ahead, from around the curve in the trail.
Tiralis has unshouldered his masterwork densewood longbow and has nocked an arrow, held at the ready.

“Move forward quietly,” Tiralis commands. “I have your movement covered.”
The sliding sounds have receded.

... Aidan indicates he will walk around and casts a silence spell on his boots. Aidan draws close to the rock outcropping, sneaking.

[PERCEPTION 24 ]

... There is a flash of dark green brown that moves quickly around the rock as Aidan approaches. Definitely something reptilian and at least as large as a man.

Tiralis has moved forward to maintain close to mid range cover. “Go,” he says.
Aidan cancels the silence spell. He moves forward.

[PERCEPTION 24 ]

Aidan can see serpent-like tracks in the loose dirt and stones. At least two large snake-like creatures have moved from the path into a low opening (5' high, 8' wide) that is in the rock wall nearby.

Aidan hears some slithering movement inside and ... momentarily, a strange hissing tongue.

... Aidan waits. Tiralis is 10' back behind him, covering with the longbow. Aidan gestures that there are two enemies.

An arrow whistles past, shattering on the rock wall opposite behind Aidan.

“Look out,” Tiralis warns. “Come back to my position!”

Aidan can see Tiralis gesture and he realises that he intends for them to seek a position on a ledge above so as to obtain higher ground where they might sight the enemy more clearly. They both quickly do so.

Two more arrows are fired from inside the gap in the rock. Tiralis produces two smoke sticks and he ignites and throws them down towards the gap in the rock. “This should flush them out,” he tells Aidan. One of them falls short and the other lands insides. The burning stick creates a cloud of thick acrid smoke and there is angry hissing from inside which fades. Nothing comes out.

“Perhaps the cave is deep,” Aidan tells him.
“Describe the enemy,” Tiralis says.
Aidan does so.
“Are you positive?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Then this is bad news. Those could be yuan ti. But that is supposed to be impossible. We were informed that a yuan ti citadel was attacked and cleared out about 15 months ago in the Blade Desert. We were reliably informed that no yuan ti survived. Now it seems that they may have survived and regrouped, spreading in our direction rather than Zanarkand. We have two options – go inside that cave and confirm the sighting or move past and hope it is not an advance group from an ambush. What do you think we should do?”
“If we go past then we still have to come back this way.”
“True.”
“How much farther do we have to go?”
“Not far – another hour at most. There will be a small detachment with twenty warriors stationed at the outpost. We could go there and bring some of them back to assist.”
“I am thinking there are more than two inside.”
Tiralis nods “And there are only two of us. And today is not a good day to die. It would serve us well to give news of what we have found. Let us continue and then come back.”

*****

After a further hour of cautiously navigating through the ravine's undulating pathway until the cliffs fade into hills and arid grasslands. A small stone tower and several outbuildings are located about 500 metres away.

“That will be the guardpost of Athosin. Aside from our little encounter it appears the way is clear. I want to make contact with the watchers and then we will ride back to inform Lorian of what we have sighted.”

... Aidan nods. They approach.
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