“People of accomplishment rarely sit back and let things happen to them, rather they go out and happen to things.” – Cora
While we were camped at the remains of Lacosta’s tower, we discussed exploring the ruins to see if anything of interest had been left behind. We quickly saw, however, that nothing remained, and after a few moments we gave up the search entirely.
Lan took the opportunity to swim in the lake, spending long moments frolicking in the water and playing with the merfolk that lived under the waves. She checked for items that might have been thrown into the lake, but also found nothing of note.
During the meal, Shalev handed Tobias, Jaeger, Lan, and Osman each a potion that would increase their reflexes. They took the potions, and I eyed Shalev with a small amount of concern as he did this, taking some note of his action and the way he carried himself.
The watches that evening passed uneventfully, and the next morning we set out to continue around the lake. There were sheer cliffs off to the left, and we noticed that there were caves in the cliffsides where we would occasionally see flying monkeys departing and returning from them. We recalled the earlier warning we were given about avoiding these creatures, and we continued to travel without encountering them.
A day or so later, I requested that we stop so that I could properly celebrate the turn of the seasons. KelLyn and Lan also took the opportunity to perform their own celebrations, though I noticed that KelLyn performed the rites for spring instead of winter. I shook my head at this, and wondered again at the strange relationship that she had with her negligent goddess.
Winter was the time for honoring ancestors in my culture, and I spent several long hours in silent communion, crafting a prayer to those who had gone on before me in hopes that I could gain their knowledge and advice on what we faced. I cut up one of the apples, and opened up one of the vintage bottles of my elven wine to celebrate the seasons with them. After what felt like mere moments, I looked over to see with surprise that hours had passed and that I had been so lost to the ritual that I had lost touch with my surroundings entirely.
This was extremely rare for me, and it alarmed me somewhat to realize that I had been so unaware. I trusted in Shalev, Amit, and Tobias to guard me should the need arise though, and returned to my thoughts on my ancestors. While I have consistently been unable to reach out to them while trapped in this beringed bowl, I did get the sense that they had heard me. I got the sense of approval of my rituals, and made a note to do them again and more often. I also was given a brief glimpse of the knowledge that what I needed was indeed here, somewhere, but also the feeling that they had wished that I had asked for something else instead. To this I took note, but thought quietly that if they wanted me to ask for specific things, they should be more specific in their guidance.
After the seasonal rituals had been completed, we traveled on, and after another four days of travel we arrived at Yup castle. As we walked up to the gates, we took note of the stream that flowed down out of the cliffs and the city itself that was built into them. The moat surrounding the outer gates was full of writhing water snakes. Shalev shouted a greeting up to the castle, and we saw a small face appear over the wall. Lan greeted the face then and relayed the message that we had been asked to deliver them that Locasta would no longer be a problem.
A few moments of shouted conversation passed between them, and then once they were done speaking, Shalev asked if there were a market or a place to trade goods inside. The people at the gates asked that we state our names and professions, and one by one the party members introduced themselves appropriately. I said nothing, but merely watched. One of the guards at the gate recognized KelLyn’s name and then said that as “companions of the arch-mage” we would be welcome to the city.
We made our way through the gates and into the city. The outer city boasted a well kept inn and a bustling marketplace full of vendors of all varieties including a jeweler, armorer, blacksmith, weaponry, stables, and a temple to multiple gods of the area. The people here were mostly dwarfish or fae, and as such all of the buildings here had been built to their size, making the inn too small for most of our party to stay in comfortably. Shalev stooped down and entered the inn to arrange for meals while we stayed here, and asked if there were a place where we could camp comfortably. They agreed to bring our meals out to the center of the courtyard where tables were set up around a fountain. They served Amit a quarter carcass of timberwolf, which Amit eyed curiously before eating with relish. They brought out a plate of fruits and cheeses for me, and I thanked Shalev for the thought to my dietary preferences when in cities.
The meal was sumptuous and we all enjoyed the foods brought out to us. Shalev took the opportunity to listen to the trades happening around us to gauge prices and learn what he can of the way they bartered for goods and services here. I made my way over to the blacksmith to see if he had the knowledge to resharpen my sword, but he did not, so I returned to the inn to see if I would be allowed to visit their gardens. I was emphatically and somewhat coldly turned away, however, and I got the distinct feeling that they did not like elves here. Shrugging it off, I returned to the fountain to sit and observe for a while.
Shalev made his way over to the blacksmith as well, and then after visiting the weaponry, went to get Tobias urgently. Tobias had been acting furtively, which piqued my curiosity some, but he followed Shalev over to the weapons shop where Shalev showed him a deep metal mace that he had found. Tobias bought the mace without a second glance at Shalev, then dismissed him brusquely and returned to whatever he was trying to hide doing. I noticed the sad look in Shalev’s eyes then, and the small nod he gave, as if reaching a decision that had taken a while to solidify. A suspicion began to grow in my own mind then, but I left my student to his thoughts and did not pry. Shalev then went over to the armorer and commissioned a suit of chain armor to be made for him.
Shalev was pointed over to the area between the temples and the stables where there was ample space for us to set up a comfortable campsite. We went over to do so, and afterwards Shalev moved over to the rear wall to the inner city to practice his sword work.
As I sat in camp, studying my book on druidry and reveling in the beauty of the written elven language, I saw Tobias approach me nervously. Such reluctance was not in character for him, and so I set my book down to watch him intently. He presented me with two gifts then; a gorgeous ring of woven platinum and layan threads bearing a leaf made out of the green stone that looked like the same material of the leaf pendant Shalev had purchased in Eyore. The ring seemed familiar to me, but the memory nagged at my mind and I could not recall where I had seen it before. Any inscriptions had long since been sanded away, and I studied the craftsmanship, but could find nothing that sparked the memory further. The second gift was a tattered book that was written in high elven. The book was damaged, and Tobias told me that unfortunately the jeweler had been tearing out pages to use as scrap. About two thirds of the book remained intact, though, and as I glanced through it, my interest peaked as I realized that it was a book of spells in ritual to a goddess named Ehei. These spells were all druidic in nature, and I spent several moments glancing through the pages. The book detailed the descriptions of spells that I would find incredibly useful if I could find a way to craft them in my own ancestor’s names. I asked Tobias if he had heard of the ancestor Ehei mentioned in the book, but he did not know the name. Like the ring, I had the nagging sensation that I should know who this was. It bothers me that I have come across yet another thing that I seem to have no memory of.
After a few more moments, I turned my gaze to Tobias and pointedly asked him why he chose to give me these gifts. I know that courtship in elven cultures can last for centuries, but I also know that Tobias has spent a very long time among the humans, and that as such might wish to press the courtship further. He confirmed my suspicions after a moment when he blushed as dark as his desert skin would allow and declared plainly his love for me. I smiled in return, saying nothing, but letting my eyes speak for me as I gave him a small kiss in a public display of the answer.
For five days we stayed there, camping in the city of dwarfs and fae, having our meals brought out to the fountain. Shalev continued to practice, and I noticed a determination in his strides that made me again take note of his preparations. As he practiced his sword work on the fifth day, the gate to the inner city opened up and a dwarf wearing armor made of deep metal emerged riding on a horse. He spoke with Shalev quietly for a moment in dwarfish, and then invited him and Amit into the inner city.
A few hours later, Shalev returned and told us all of what the dwarf had told him. He told us that the eastern gate should still be open for travel outside of the bowl. He also said, with more than a little regret, that I – as a druid – was no longer welcome in the city. I nodded, and agreed to camp outside of the outer walls. Shalev said quickly that he would camp with me there, and the rest of the party remained inside to complete whatever trades and commissions they needed to complete. Tobias also remained inside the city, saying that he had one last thing he needed to do.
Shalev, Amit, and I made a simple camp outside of the city where we stayed as we waited for the party to complete their business dealings inside the city. I was allowed inside the city to take my meals at the fountain in the courtyard, and it was here that Tobias approached me nervously again with another gift. This time he presented me with another ring, this one delicately shaped silver band with fire opals stylized as flames at the base of a still living tree made of an iridescent green material. He said that the theme of the ring was that the tree will always outlast the flames. I found the gift highly appropriate, given all we had been through, and accepted the ring with a gentle smile.
It was determined that we would all depart the following morning, and I returned to the camp outside as Tobias went with the rest of the party to the inside camp to make preparations to depart.