Monday, January 10, 2022

Duendewood: Family Matters (Part One)

(FS557August 20, in the Sol Povos timeline.)
(Time in Fanaxia is running faster than it does in Sol Povos, so our few weeks there are going to amount to quite a lot of time passing in the main campaign timeline. This is going to have some... interesting consequences.)

"Werendril!" called Darvinin, stepping forward. "You're back. How did it go?" 

Werendril looked up from where he sat reading, then tightened the scroll and set it aside. "Darvinin, Mistra," he said, standing to acknowledge them. "It's good to see you. It went well, but there were... unexpected developments." 

At the next table over, Aesa and Anica exchanged a glance, then turned their cards face down and stood as well. Darvinin and Mistra stepped forward, pulling out chairs at Werendril's table, and everyone sat down. Darvinin glanced around the room, then muttered something under his breath and gestured; a subtle sort of quiet fell over them. "Best I can do," he said. "It should be safe to talk, but don't go saying anything that's a state secret."

Werendril shrugged. "This'll get around soon enough: the Temple of Amun has made a treaty with the Order of the Golden Bow. We're not allied, but we're not enemies either. And the Abbess of one of the temples has sent a human scholar here to study the Deeds that set all this off." 

Darvinin paused, then glanced over at the other table. "...And this explains your new friends?" 

Werendril nodded. "A paladin and a priest, both from the Temple of Amun. More than that, actually, as they're going to be the mothers of your nephews." 

Darvinin said, "Well then, we should-- what?

Mistra shook her head and looked away, smiling. "You and your brother do have a few things in common." She looked at Werendril. "Has Darvinin told you yet?" 

Werendril met her gaze and said, "No, not yet. But I'll consider myself forewarned." Shalmistra wasn't beginning to show, yet, but apparently that was only a matter of time.

Darvinin stood, bowed to Anica and Aesa, and sat again. "My apologies," he said. "Clearly I should have offered welcome and better introductions."

The full human grinned at him. "Think nothing of it; it was a surprise to us, too. I'm Anica, a paladin of Amun. This is Aesa, the priestess." 

The half-elf nodded and smiled. "Werendril told us a little about you, and for all your differences there's no mistaking that you're Ruin's twin. You've no idea how glad we are to meet you. Do you know where your brother is?" 

Darvinin scowled. "Vanished... again. Not dead, though. I'd know." He hesitated, then plowed forward, etiquette and common sense be damned: "How are you both...?"

"It was a very complicated couple of days," said Aesa, "and I'm not entirely sure that Amun and Corellon didn't both have a hand in it. But here we are." 

"You can see why I sent word of my return," added Werendril. 

"I can," acknowledged Darvinin. It wasn't just because the paladin thought he should know; Werendril was hoping that Darvinin could smooth the way for these two to meet with his mother Baethira. Which... Could it be a trap? He studied the two women, but concluded that he didn't think so. There was nothing off about them, nothing indicating that they might have been sent as assassins by the human king or the High Provost himself. And they couldn't be lying; Werendril would have checked. "Our mother and I believe that Ruin is somewhere outside this world, which is going to complicate things. But in the meantime, there is nothing to prevent us from accepting you and your children into our house, even if Ruin isn't around to vouch for them."

Anica and Aesa exchanged a glance; then Anica said, "We are grateful, but I'd like to remind you that we do have duties here as well." 

Mistra laughed -- softly, but it was enough to break the tension. "As do we all. Hold this knowledge tight, and perhaps in time these cousins will be as close as Darvinin and Ruin are." 

Darvinin frowned darkly. "If the Dark Army doesn't smash us while they're gone. Word is the human armies lost a team of particularly talented up-and-coming Solari as well."

Anica glanced at Aesa, but Aesa didn't wait before asking: "Including Tavros? Was there a half-dragon paladin among them?"

Darvinin nodded, then blinked and said: "You know him. Forgive me, I shouldn't have--" 

Anica waved it away. "Can you tell us what happened?" 

Mistra put a hand on Darvinin's shoulder. "There are far more rumors and speculations than solid reports. Maybe the Provost's spies know the the truth, but that is not a thing that he would share with us and official word has been... vague. The last word we had from Ruin, Fartathren, Lili, and Geddy was that they'd captured an artifact from the dark army and were going to try to use it to retrieve another artifact that the Cult of Secrets was searching for. We think their hunt took them away from this world." She swallowed, as Darvinin reached up and covered her hand with his.

"Our best guess -- and it's a very educated guess, but it's still a guess -- is that the Solari tried something along the same lines." Darvinin swallowed as he took up where Mistra left off. "We think the King, or the Solari, tried to use magic to send their team to the same place."

Anica sat back, frowning. "The attempt failed? Or...?"

"Nobody can tell," said Darvinin. "And believe me, we've had some very good people working on it. Our best report is that the High Wizard sent them there using some spell that required them dying, or nearly dying, here. And even that, we're not sure of. What we are fairly certain of is that they haven't been able to bring them back. One reports says they died, another says the connection was broken and they're probably trapped, and a third one suggests that they went through but were all slain by something on that other world. We don't know." 

Aesa looked at Anica. "It would take a lot to slay Tavros." 

Anica nodded. "And I'd bet whoever they sent with him was equally formidable." 

Darvinin hesitated, then said: "One more thing. Wherever this place is, traveling there isn't like traveling to another mortal world. It's out at the very edge of things, only barely still within the Compact. The first time my brother went there, it was because he died here, and his spirit was taken there through Vecna's Eye." 

Werendril said, "Darvinin..." but Darvinin shook his head. 

"It's not a state secret," he told the paladin. "Honestly, the more people who know what really happened, the better." Turning back to the mothers of Ruin's children, he continued: "They were barely more than ghosts while they were there. They managed to escape as spirits, free themselves, and reclaim their bodies here. So... I don't know if this will be comforting -- I don't know if I even remember how to be comforting anymore -- but if Ruin and his friends could manage that... and your friend is as formidable as you seem to think... I'd guess that the odds are good that he and his group may reappear at some point as well."

Mistra added, "The High Wizard probably did a better job of sending them over intact, too. Better than dying and being sucked into a magical eyeball, I mean." It seemed she, at least, had some idea of how to be comforting. 

Aesa sat back, considering, and something tickled at the back of her mind. "Wouldn't it be strange," she wondered, almost idly, "if the two groups met in that other world?"

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