Epilogue: Isanien

Epilogue: Isanien

Isanien waited in a darkened corner. Refugees from western Leefe poured in to the castle. Humans mostly… and all weak. The sight of it disgusted her. They should be left to the chill beast and its army. Let it thin the herd. If this was all they tried to save then the island would be weaker still. If anyone even survived.

The people would die, huddled in their castle like a tomb. A few knights hustled around, barking orders. Mostly, they all reeked of fear. None saw her as she watched. As a race, humans were remarkably adept at ignoring that which they did not wish to see. And who of them would want to acknowledge a lone Drow in their midst when a greater threat was at their doorstep? Who would want to worry if their food stores were still safe to eat? She smiled to herself, tucking away the empty vials securely into a padded pouch. It would not kill many, if any of them even survived to eat it, but it would be slow, painful, and impossible to detect until it was too late. They continued to scurry about like rats on a sinking ship. Isanien was too familiar with that phrase now. She had seen it all too often, and had no intention of stepping on to a boat ever again. She would stick to solid land. She gathered her pack and looked one last time across the great hall in the palace.

On the far side of the room she could see the others. Kael stood at the center, others gathered around him. He still wore that ridiculous crown. He would likely die in it. But for the others, it gave them a false sense of hope. These people needed a King… they needed to be ruled.

Garet stood next to him. He had changed so much since she first met him. At one time comical, then dark and dangerous, and now filled with a holy zeal that put paladins to shame. He too needed to be ruled. It did not matter if that touch was light or dark, he responded to strength of command. It is no wonder that he followed Kael, once he was freed from the sword.

To the side was Inioch, the dark one. He was an exception. He chaffed under command. He wielded power of his own and sought confrontation. He had tried to take the island for himself, but sought to destroy all he touched. Place him in the desert with a thousand corpses, and he might be satisfied… at least until he learned of others living nearby. He had power, and she could respect that. He was possibly the only human that she would ever admit that of. But his power was hunger that saw no end. He would consume himself and the world with him, if left unchecked.

She would not miss them, or so she told herself. She slipped into a side passage, heading up to a higher floor. None would enter from the windows, but they were unguarded, and would serve well as an exit. She looked out, shielding her eyes from the brightness of day. The cursed snow seemed to gather all available light. A horn sounded in the distance, followed by the roar of a thousand voices. The army had arrived. She smiled to herself. She would miss the battle, the bloodshed… she would miss seeing the pompous fools and foul creatures alike as they fell to one another’s blades. She would miss seeing the end to the people of Leefe.

She shouldered her pack and leapt from the window towards the wall. As her foot came down, she tucked into a ball, rolling safely across the blanket of snow. From the wall she stood again, righted her pack, and headed to the other edge where she would leap the moat in a similar fashion. Once across she hurried to the tree line. A dark figure on the white snow would draw attention, if any happened to be looking away from the battle. She looked back once, confirming there was no pursuit. Smoke was already rising from the castle.

The forest would be her new home. She would settle in the deepest part and draw others to her. The animals of this island responded to her influence, as did the shadows. She would twist them together, slowly at first until even the trees began to bend to her will. The dark forest would spread, and she would wait. Lolth had intended the surface for her children, but those who came before her lived as humans had and so were rejected. Isanien would remake the island itself, and when her Queen looked once again upon her, She would smile.

Tondra, p. 2

This city is much of what I expected in a human city, and nothing of what they tell you in the stories. It is dirty, filthy even. I overheard in their market that there is a serious problem with rats and other vermin. One would expect, if this was an Elvin city, that those would be kept in better check, or even nonexistent. Well, perhaps not nonexistent. Vermin do have a remarkable ability to persist after all.

I’ve already met some of the adventuring sort. Mary told me a haunted tale. It lacked… details… and flair… but those can be worked in. Its essence is what mattered. Its soul. And boy, did it have soul, in more ways than one. I think this will become a real crowd pleaser. I’ll begin writing on the morrow. She also shared a secret, one I dare not put to paper at this time. It is larger than anything I have encountered before. And she promised more tales. I look forward to that.

However, I did not set out to chronicle the exploits of only one person. After breakfast I will seek out others, but for now, food.

The Epic Tales of Tondra Dess

Stories. Legends. History.

It is how a people know themselves. How they remember what they’ve endured, and what they’ve overcome. For the common man, they wish to be transported away from their daily toil, away from the boredom of crops and trips to the market. They want to be comforted that there are those out there fighting against the greater darkness. They wish to feel the excitement of the hero, without the danger. For them, that is enough.

For the adventurer, they listen to the tales to be inspired, to learn from the exploits of others. To hear of the darkness they need to be prepared to fight. They hope to hear of their companions, of their own accomplishments, to gain immortality through song. They hope that they too will not be forgotten.

But even the tales that survive do not tell the entire story. There is life between the tales. There are heroes and friends of heroes. Sometimes, those that are forgotten play important roles in what actually happened.

While my tales of these troubled times will endure, it my hope that these writings will also provide some insight into the times, places, and people I visit. Be you scholar or layman, I hope you find what you seek.

~Tondra Dess

Isanien, pt. 31

Am I never to taste the sweetness of vengeance?

We arrived in the Underdark and the destruction that lay before me made the dreams seems like pale memories. Nothing stirred. Nothing lived. The twisted forms of Drow lay all around me. Even the webs were torn down, and nothing skittered in to rebuild. The area had been forsaken. Lolth no longer claimed those that had fallen. Not even as food for her children. Her back had been turned. For the first time since venturing to the surface I knew I was truly alone…

And then we heard it moving in the distance. Bone crunching on bone. The others were afraid, but my fury all but consumed me. The cursed Dracolich was still here! I would shatter the damned beast as it had shattered my people. I would be its final end! It emerged from the darkness and my howl of rage filled the caverns. I charged… raised my sword to strike and… …and the beast vanished! Garet stood in its place, confronted with the flurry of my blows. It was moments before I understood. Rather than face me it used some foul trick of magiks to escape. We surfaced, following its trail, only to find it engaged with the false queen. We descended on it, surrounding it in the square. It deflected our blows for a time, but sensing its own doom, fled again, taking to the air. Only the false queen could follow, and alone she was defeated.

An Elf arrived, too late, as if she would have lifted a hand to assist. She spoke of lies and masquerades, excuses all of it. It was while she spoke that I sensed the ‘other’… hidden deeper in shadows than I thought the living could venture. He watched and waited… and when the Elf’s false tale angered him… she bled for it. Bled and died, almost before she hit the ground. The shadows shifted and he was gone.

He may hold my only key to finding and destroying the beast. Others claim it retreated and fled the island. To follow it would mean braving the trackless waters that surround this island… even for vengeance I am unsure I could follow that path… but there is little else for me here.

The land breaks… its people broken. They lack King, Queen, and even their Knights have all been defeated. No longer will I hide my face among these simpering fools. I will not be shamed further for my strength. Any who would confront me will taste my steel. Dwarves surge forward from the northern mountains. The land churns in chaos and I would know that if Lolth turned her gaze once more to this blasted land that she would find her child standing strong at the center of the Vortex.

Isanien, pt. 30

The passage is closed. I sought to return below before all is lost, and found that the passage had collapsed. No, not collapsed. It was intentionally sealed. Dragon’s of bone still guarded it, no doubt set to watch by that cursed Dracolich. But in doing so, it showed weakness. It showed that it fears it can be stopped. It fears its own defeat. Is it foolish to take hope in that?

The others have been harder to sway. Only Inioch shows some interest in what transpires below, and he… I trust him less than another Drow… but more than Kael and Garet. Damn Szordrin and his cowardice. He should have stayed by my side where he was useful. He will die alone in that strange land. But I will not allow myself to suffer that same fate.

Isanien, pt. 29

Another waste. These humans, how they revere their dead. Even when they know nothing of them. Even when they bury another by mistake… or design. I was surprised when the spectre appeared before us. More so when it was Garret it spoke to. I am reluctant to trust what he relayed to us, but I have told no one of the dreams or the letter. He could not have known of the attacks… of the death… of the blood. A chill filled me and I knew he spoke truth. The others are reluctant.

The masked one returned. ‘He’ seemed more curious as to why the Queen would hunt him. And Kael called him Naradra… an Elven name, even through Kael’s thick accent. ‘He’ didn’t carry himself as one of those tainted fey, but glamour can be used to disguise such. If there is truth in that, I must be more cautious. They spoke further of masquerades and deceit, tree people and shifters, and another powerful Lich. Power swirls around me, yet it is the blood I hear calling. Always the blood.

The one that calls herself Queen approached us soon after… claiming to have killed the Masked one. The lie smelled worse than a rotted corpse, yet the humans swallowed it down like so much honey. They truly are fools. We must venture below soon, to the Underdark… and perhaps beyond. They will go, even if they must be driven. I will speak with Inioch on the matter. He still holds some influence over them.

Isanien, pt. 28

Shadows.

I keep to the shadows, of which there are blessed few. Light stains the sky for more than half the hours. I’ve searched the land and believe the rumors to be true. The others were driven from the surface, leaving little trace as they went other than the blood that remains. Szordrin chose to stay behind. I find myself once again as I entered this land. Alone. Only the darkness eases my mind, and that continues to retreat. Retreat. How easy it is to say it. How wise I would be to do it, and yet I linger here. Linger… why?