I used to see the stars from the same place on our farm. Every night the familiar light shining down over me would carry me off to sleep, and then in my dreams I would yearn for more. I wanted to see more and to find a way to visit the source of my fantasy. Now I am…
Waking up at campsites has become commonplace for me, but I do not sleep as comfortably since Arius was killed. I have my talents, but perception is not one of those talents. It was comforting to know that Eephendel, a divine unicorn with wings, was sleeping only a few feet away from me.
When the others woke she told us to prepare ourselves for travel into the realm of Dusk. Gilroy was startled when he awoke, having no knowledge of the previous night’s events with the Green Man, and said he had no desire to visit Dusk, and his goal was to visit the city of Bright. Eephendel explained, at length, that Bright is beyond the realm of Dusk, and that finding another way is nearly impossible given the valley and other geography. I reminded Gilroy that my main goal is to find my sister, and that as of last evening, I gave my word to the leader of one of the two surviving Fae courts that I would help resolve issues within Dusk. In a very frank resolve, Gilroy protested, saying it’s not our problem.
Despite the rough start to the conversation Gilroy became rather cordial asking to know more about Eephendel, like her parentage (unicorn mother and divine spirit father), intentions, and age. He even summoned Valefor so that the two creatures could meet one another. Before Gilroy dismissed Valefor, and I am sure I am not the only one who noticed, Gilroy asked Valefor to detect something on him. After a moment of looking at Gilroy, Valefor turned away suddenly, followed very quickly by dismissal.
Once each of us was prepared to leave we did so, and it didn’t take long for Jaden to notice something before the rest of us. Trap after trap after trap. The first was a rock trap that shot a poison dart, and another was a tripwire set to trigger a bow and arrow. Gilroy, Jaden, and Vindrel handled the traps in one way or another, usually violence.
As it grew darker Eephendel suggested we make camp, saying she would stay with us for the night, but return to the court of Dawn in the morning. It was at that moment I realized the lighting had changed. No longer were we in a constant state of early morning. Now it seemed more like that point in the night where the stars first get their opportunity to show you their light. Despite knowing what I know about the Dusk, I must admit it felt comforting, but probably because it reminded me of home.
During the night I was woken by Eephpendel, saying there were spiders with faces attacking us but she could not see them. I cast see invisibility and saw they were above Gilroy and Vindrel, and got a better look at them. Phase spiders, deadly as they either given up and run or leave no survivors. I pointed the creatures out after getting Vindrel to wake up, then cast my witchfire at one only to have it pass through him as if he was not even there. Unfortunately I set one of the trees on fire, though we later put it out. The creatures phase between different points on different planes, so we had to wait for them to be “real” enough to hit. The others moved and tried attacks accordingly, but most of them had no effect. Hoping it would give me some type of advantage I cast fly and flew up above the scene.
It was shortly after a middle-aged man with short, matted down hair with well-built shoulders and a very earthly look walked into the fray and said simply, “I finally found you.” After confirming none of us, including Eephendel, knew this man, Jaden asks him to confirm the spiders were not his soldiers.
Fortunately, Jaden was able to cast a dimensional anchor on one of the spiders, forcing it to stay on our plane. Eephendel was attacked, but healed herself shortly after while also delivering a few hits of her own. Jaden transformed into a tiger, but was bitten after attacking one of the spiders. The stone man, later calling himself Xerxus, cast neutralize poison on Jaden while calling on the spirit of life.
Once the battle was over we started to learn more about our random visitor, who turned out to be not so random after all. “You can help me with my purpose and the one who awoke me had a vision of you, and sent me to the grandmother in Vowoua, and then to Keller, and now here.” His purpose, he claims, is to restore balance, like restoring spirits to their natural place. Xerxus estimates his age at about 400 years, mentioning Yabaro as his maker, a western mountain tribesman.
It turns out the grandmother had a vision of one of us dying, as Xerxus was quick to notice that Arius was missing. I explained, but did so in a way that made it clear I was not going to talk about it at length. It is still too close.
With a new companion we decided to head off further into Dusk to find a place to wait for our invitation. After about an hour, we found a number of pikes with the heads of Dawn Fae and other mutilated creatures. A few of us started removing a dryad from a pike, which earned us a warning from Xerxus. He said the lands were not ours and that we can “Take on the Fey courts if we wish.”
“Is that why I am here?” I wonder
After a few hours of waiting, two Redcaps appear with bloody hats and weapons to match. Their hats give them power, and they are some of the sneakiest creatures we have come upon. I think Vindrel knew a fair amount about them too, because he very quickly warned me to tread carefully. The redcaps proved more polite than I expected, and revealed that Xerxus was known by the First as Stasis Keeper, Spirits Effigy, Forged Soul, and a few other titles. It must be remarkably comforting to know what the First know.
After a quick and sick deciding game, one of the redcaps leaves for the Queen on our behalf. The other, Blood Wart, stays behind and tells us all about the different decorations on the pikes. None of us responded very well.
No long after, the other redcap returned with news that the Queen would see us, but only after we fetch a missing heirloom she believes was stolen by a group of monkey goblins. It would seem this was the last straw for Gilroy and Vindrel, stating immediately that they refuse to help. I asked the redcaps which direction to head. I turned north and stated again that he needed to get to his sister and that we need to play the single-minded games of the Fey, only to be told again by Vindrel and Gilroy that they would not be involved.
Maybe if I’d been in a better mood. Maybe if I was a wiser aspect of myself. Maybe if it was not the same exact conversation. Maybe maybe maybe. Maybe if I was not so frustrated and scared I would have responded better, but I could not deal with it anymore. I started walking north and said, “Good luck gentlemen.”
Jaden came up behind me about a minute later, which I admit was a big comfort. We continued forward while the others stayed behind, likely to talk more and more and reach the same conclusion as every other time: get involved and do what we can. A few hundred feet ahead of us, we found a group of monkey goblins going through an abandoned wagon. Jaden counted their number and estimated there were at least ten, so we turned around and headed back to the others.
Though it was probably no longer than five minutes, Gilroy had already begun traveling backwards to get back to Dawn, apparently in the hopes of getting Eephendel to bring him to the other side of the valley. I hope he’s okay, and I will feel awful if something happens to him, but I will not let the others stifle the broader range of vision I have in this world.
I did ask Jaden to reach Gilroy and try to convince him to return. Apparently it was not enough as only Jaden returned, so all of us, except Gilroy, headed for the goblins.
They were very sneaky and many in number, but our combined efforts bore them down and gave me an opportunity to speak with one of the creatures after I cast tongues. Normally I would start with conversation and then move to violence, but at that moment I needed to hurt something.
Eventually I calmed down enough to talk with the leader of this small pack, who explained that the chief probably has the heirloom, but that the chief is hard to find. Well, it’s only a giant valley full of things that want to kill us or trick us… so what could go wrong?
The stars are getting brighter.