Posts Tagged ‘Mariel’

Hesper’s Web Pt. 7

June 6, 2020

They all held hands and Gwendolyn wished them back up to the castle. Gwendolyn’s little eyes sparked with hope and relief to see that castle again. The adventurers gathered around the little girl as they approached the gates for the second time. Mariel put her hand on the girl’s shoulder.

“Gwendolyn,” Mariel said. “Things are going to get violent. We are going to have to fight that thing in there and I want you to be prepared for that.”

“I understand,” Gwendolyn said. “You guys are adventurers. You fight the bad things.”

“We do indeed,” Luther said. “We are here to protect you and that means getting that thing out.”

“If we could ask you to stay here, we would,” Dimitri said. “It’s going to be too dangerous.”

“But we need you with us because you have the power here,” Asher said. “You’re our back up, kiddo.”

Gwendolyn nodded timidly and smiled. “Okay,” she said.

Dimitri and Luther led the way but Gwendolyn nodded at the gate and it opened easily for them. There were no preliminaries this time. No mermaids. No unicorns. They arrived immediately in the throne room once again. The Thing That Was Not Gwendolyn locked eyes with Gwendolyn and, to her credit, Gwendolyn did not back down. Asher played a little tune to bolster Gwendolyn’s confidence. Everybody readied their weapons and there was a stillness. Sir Buttonface stepped into the middle of it all with his huge weapon. Something passed over the bear’s face as he saw Gwendolyn.

“Sir Buttonface!” Gwendolyn said with a pout. “You stop that this instant! You are my knight.”

“Master Gwendolyn!” Buttonface said. “What is going on?” He looked back at The Thing on the throne and clutched his weapon a little tighter. “Traitor! Abomination!” He raised his weapon.

“Sir Buttonface!” Mariel called out. “You need to protect Master Gwendolyn. We’ll take care of that thing.”

Sir Buttonface nodded but looked sad. “I apologize for what I have done earlier,” he said. “I will make it up to you.”

“You have nothing to apologize for,” Dimitri said. He was a man of honor and understood how the knight must feel having been fooled and controlled by something so foul.

“Speak for yourself,” Dina said. “Ouch.” However, she was smiling because what were they going to do? Hold a grudge against a teddy bear?

“Protect the girl, Sir Knight,” Luther said. “Let’s do this thing.”

Sir Buttonface scooped up Gwendolyn and lept to the other end of the throne room. She clutched his fur and brought herself closer to him to comfort herself. He shielded her with his body. Gwendolyn was safe and now it was time to get down to business.

The Thing on the Throne stood up and turned into a black, crystalline figure before multiplying into several creatures. They had sharp claws and glowing green eyes. Nobody had seen anything like them but nobody hesitated. They attacked as one but this time there was not an over-sized teddy bear knight in their way. With Gwendolyn returned to her palace, the scales were balanced once again. The battle was not short but one by one the creatures were shattered until one remained. The remaining Thing gibbered and cursed in some dialect from beyond. Mariel focused and summoned a chest and Dimitri and Dina dumped the creature into it. Mariel locked the chest and it disappeared.

“We’re done here,” Mariel said to Luther. “It’s over.” The two of them exchanged a look.

“I guess we can wake up then,” Dina said, looking around.

“I don’t think we got much rest,” Fern said as she stretched.

“We’ll get some soon enough,” Mariel said. “Ironically we have to wake up first.”

“Because that makes complete sense,” Dina said.

“Dream magic is strange,” Mariel said with a shrug. “It’s why people rarely mess with it.”

Gwendolyn and Buttonface walked toward them. “Is it over?” Gwendolyn asked. “Is the bad thing gone?” She seemed to be growing stronger, gaining her footing again in her own mind.

“We’re taking it away,” Asher said. “You can wake up now. We’ll see you when we’re all awake.”

“Okay,” Gwendolyn said. “Thank you.” Her smile warmed the hearts of the adventurers, really the only thanks they needed.

A bright white started to fill the chamber and everybody covered their eyes.

Hesper’s Web Pt. 6

March 28, 2020

Even though everything hurt, everybody hurried toward the source of the plaintive cry. They pushed through weeds and charged through the fog and found a small clearing. In the center of the clearing was a little girl in chains which were staked to the ground. Tears were flowing down her face but it was clear that it was young Gwendolyn. It was easy to believe that this one was the real one. She trembled as she looked up at everybody, frightened and defeated. It broke Mariel’s heart and she knew she was not alone.

“Gwendolyn,” Asher said softly. “Your mother sent us to find you.”

“R-Really?” Gwendolyn asked. “What about the monsters?”

“We’re quite experienced with monsters, young lady,” Mariel said. “We’ll protect you.”

“Dimitri and Dina, help me pull these stakes up,” Luther said. He and the twins moved over and started to pull on the chains. The stakes stubbornly stayed in the ground and Gwen cried harder, shaking like a leaf in the wind.

Mariel kneeled down in front of Gwendolyn and took the young girl’s hands in hers. “Gwendolyn,” she said. “I know that you’re scared. This is very scary. However, this is your world.”

Asher kneeled down next to Mariel. “This is your story, Gwendolyn,” he said. “You hold all of the power here.”

“What?” Gwendolyn muttered. “I have no power.”

“That’s what I thought when I was your age,” Mariel said. “Then I went to an academy and learned magic.” She was proud of her upbringing from a powerless place to wield the forces of magic effortlessly.

Gwendolyn looked up at Mariel again, the first glimmer of hope returning to her eyes. “But I don’t know magic,” she said. “I don’t have any magic.”

“Magic is in everyone,” Mariel said. “Some do it like me and use words but some do it with their mind and heart.” She punctuated this by pointing at the girl’s heart which filled the girl’s eyes with wonder.

Ashe nodded. “Gwendolyn, you don’t have magic in here,” he said. “In here, you are magic. Just think it and it’ll happen.”

“Really?” Gwendolyn asked. “For real?”

“Just give it a try,” Mariel said. “Get rid of these awful chains first.”

The little girl closed her eyes and her shaky breathing slowed. There was a near-blinding pink light and then the chains were suddenly made of flowers instead of thick metal. She shrugged off the flowers and clutched one of the flowers to her chest as she stood up. Her tattered clothing became a princess dress even more spectacular than the one worn by the imposter back at the castle. She opened her eyes and suddenly everybody’s wounds were healed. She smiled so brightly that Mariel and everybody else could not help but smile. Even the usually unreadable Fern was smiling an enigmatic little smile.

“I really am magic!” Gwendolyn said and giggled. “I did it!”

Mariel and Asher stood up clapping. Everybody joined in on the applause and the landscape around them seemed to become more green and colorful. The area just felt happier which would not have made sense back in the material plane but here it made perfect sense. Asher started to play a tune on his lute and the little girl clapped and danced a little and sang along. It was great to see.

“Do you think you could help us get back up there?” Luther asked. “Help us save your friends and get rid of the bad thing?”

Gwendolyn faltered. “The bad thing is scary,” she said. “I don’t know.”

“Normally we’d do it for you, Gwen,” Luther said. “but we need your help. This is all yours. Your mother and father are waiting for you. We just need to get rid of the bad thing. For that, we really do need your help.”

“You know how to do it now,” Mariel said. “You’re so powerful.”

“You’re magic,” Asher said.

“And we’ll be right there with you,” Dimitri said.

“We’ve got your back,” Dina said. “Don’t even worry about it.”

Fern gave a weak thumbs up and a slight smile.

Gwendolyn brightened up again. “We’re going to get rid of the bad thing,” she said. “But how?”

“First we need to go back to the castle,” Mariel said. “Do you think you can handle that?”

“I think so,” Gwendolyn said. “What then?”

“One step at a time,” Luther said. “Trust us.”

Hesper’s Web Pt. 4

March 14, 2020

The party stepped through the main gate and found themselves in a glass tunnel under what looked like fathoms of water. Sir Buttonface seemed nonplussed but all of them were absolutely astonished. They had traveled the world and seen many wondrous and horrifying sights but this was new. Fern and Dina pressed their faces to the glass and Mariel gently pulled them back. As she did, a mermaid swam by and waved and smiled at them. It was not like real sea people that Mariel and her friends had seen. The top of the woman was beautiful by human standards and the bottom was all fish but the scales shone like gems. She was absolutely magnificent. Then three more swam by, more graceful than anything in the world.

“They’re beautiful,” Dina said. “Super weird but beautiful.”

“Totally wild and free,” Fern muttered. “I want to swim with them.”

“Master Gwendolyn swims with them often,” Sir Buttonface said offhandedly. He was not even looking at them, he was just staring into space with a bored expression. “She can breathe underwater. Did you know that?”

“We didn’t,” Mariel said. “Has she swam with the mermaids recently?” She smiled and turned with wonder toward Sir Buttonface.

Buttonface turned to face her, his attention suddenly attracted. “Not lately,” he replied. “Master Gwendolyn has had other things to focus on.”

“Like what?” Luther asked. “She’s a little child. What does she have to do except for play?”

Sir Buttonface shrugged. “Law and order,” he said. “There is a threat to the kingdom.”

“Oh?” Luther asked. “What’s the threat? We can help.” He gestured to his compatriot’s weapons and armor. “We are adventurers. Fighters.”

“You’ll see,” Buttonface said. “Come. We’re expected.” He pushed open the next gate and kept walking.

Everybody looked at each other, exchanging worried glances. Still, there were few options other than following the teddy bear knight. Everybody tensed and continued.

They were led through the next door which revealed an indoor area that was covered with plants and grass. Prancing nearby was a couple of unicorns. Everybody stopped again. The unicorns were rainbow-colored and their hair seemed to be made of light and love. They moved like they were completely unencumbered by anything natural. They were beautiful otherworldly spirits in horse form. Mariel hardly noticed that her breathing had stopped. When she noticed she gasped and just could not stop smiling. She noticed Asher staring intently as well.

“I have always wanted to see a unicorn since even before my orphan days,” Mariel said. “I have never really known of them outside of the Faewild. I’ve never really wanted to risk it all by going there.”

“I have,” Fern said softly. Mariel and Dina glanced over at her and she shrugged and turned back toward the unicorns. That girl was a mystery.

“You’re a unicorn fan, Asher?” Mariel asked.

“My sister drew them endlessly when we were little,” Asher said. “She was absolutely obsessed. That obsession was definitely contagious and many nights I dreamed of unicorns. One of my first songs that got famous was about unicorns.”

“Really?” Mariel asked. “I don’t think I’ve heard that one.”

“It’s Unicorn in the Meadow,” Asher said. As he said it, the sound of music filled the air around them and an invisible singer seemed to circle around them. It was the song that Asher had just mentioned.

“That is one of Master Gwendolyn’s favorite songs,” Sir Buttonface said. “She has sung it often. That’s her voice.”

“We need to see her,” Luther said. “We want to help her.” He looked up at the teddy bear knight.

Sir Buttonface seemed to consider Luther’s request for a long moment. “She does not need your help,” he said. “I will still bring you to her. She will want to meet you.”

“Lead the way then,” Luther said.

“We have already arrived,” Sir Buttonface said.

They looked around and found that they were suddenly in a glittery pink room with white marble floors and accents everywhere. It looked like they were inside of a confection. A rich girl’s birthday cake come to life. On a golden throne was Gwendolyn. She wore a flowing silk dress with literal stars twinkling in the fabric. She wore an impressive silver and gold crown. She had a baby unicorn on her lap. As they all caught her eye, she smirked and leaned down and took a large bite out of the baby unicorn. She swallowed hard, multi-colored blood running down her chin as the baby beast squirmed. She tossed it aside and wiped her mouth clean.

“This is going to be fun,” the thing that was not Gwendolyn said.

Hesper’s Web Pt. 3

March 7, 2020

It was a bright and sunny day as Mariel opened her eyes, standing in front of a giant, unfamiliar castle. As she looked around, she saw that everybody had made it inside. The grounds around the castle were full of green trees and gardens full of flowers. The flowers were hard to look at as their colors were unearthly bright like nothing in the material plane. Now that Mariel thought about it, the sun was way too bright. The place was off, like a saccharine version of the real world. The hopes and dreams of a peasant girl personified.

“Did everyone make it?” Luther asked. He was looking around, blinking. Even after decades above ground, a dwarf would be sensitive to such bright sunshine. Hells, Mariel felt her eyes start to hurt. She had to remember that it was not really her eyes as they were not really there. They were all in their armor and Mariel guessed that this drew from memory. There might be loopholes to exploit in that but that would require experimentation. They had to get their bearings first.

“Looks like it,” Asher said. “We’re all in one piece. Though, it is oddly quiet.”

“That would be the first thing you’d notice,” Mariel said. She was a little annoyed at herself that she had not noticed it. “Not the eye-searing visuals or the strange architecture.”

“I thought it would be stranger,” Asher said with a shrug. “This place just feels like it’s badly rendered art rather than a true dreamscape. However, the silence unnerves me. The world is never silent.”

“Everybody’s a critic,” Luther said. “Maybe the girl has limited imagination.”

“Perhaps the devil’s influence has imposed some undue order on her dreamscape?” Mariel offered. “Devils despise chaos if it does not suit their purposes.”

“Umm,” Dina said. “Did you not notice that this castle is resting on a cloud far, far above whatever’s down there?”

“That seems structurally unsound,” Dimitri said.

“Not in the Dream Plane,” Mariel said. “The laws imposed by nature and magic do not apply here.”

“What does that mean?” Dimitri asked. “Should we be frightened?”

“It means that literally, anything is possible here,” Luther said, “So be smart and be prepared for anything.”

“Like that?” Fern asked and pointed at a giant stuffed teddy bear in golden armor. It was walking toward them slowly. Its height was ten feet and it looked substantially solid. Obviously, it would be a bruiser of a fighter in the material plane. Except, of course, that it was a stuffed toy.

Everybody drew their weapons in unison and got ready to fight. The bear gave them a stern expression and shook its head and then let out a ‘tsk tsk tsk’ disappointed sound. It waited patiently for everybody to slightly lower their weapons in confusion.

“My name is Sir Buttonface,” the bear said in a deep gravelly yet comforting voice. “If you can behave then you can come inside. If you cannot behave, you must be sent below.”

“Umm, what’s down there?” Mariel asked.

“You do not want to know,” Buttonface said. “We do not contemplate such things. However, we assume that it is not pleasant. Master Gwendolyn is not to be disrespected and she handles such disrespect efficiently.”

“Wouldn’t it be ‘Mistress Gwendolyn?” Dimitri asked with a smile. He had been taught the ways of the court and nobility and these things were ingrained.

Sir Buttonface turned quickly toward Dimitri, frowning deeply. “Girls can be masters too,” he yelled somewhat defensively. “It would be like calling me Mister Buttonface. Honestly!”

Dimitri looked seriously at the stuffed bear. “I am sorry Sir Buttonface,” he said. “I would never dishonor a fellow knight. Please accept my apology.”

Sir Buttonface visibly brightened and nodded. “Of course,” he said. “Mother always said to be nice.”

“Mother?” Mariel asked. “Your mother?”

Sir Buttonface shook his head. “I don’t have a mother,” he said. “I mean Master Gwendolyn’s mother. I’ve never met her myself but our dear Gwendolyn speaks highly of her.”

“We’ve met her,” Luther said. “She sent us here to visit.”

“Truly?” Buttonface asked. “Then you must all come inside. Master Gwendolyn will want to speak with you. In fact, she will want to play with you.”

“Play with us?” Dina asked, a little nervousness in her voice. “What does that mean?”

“Just what I say,” Buttonface said. “Shall I lead the way?”

“Lead on,” Luther said. “We will follow you.”

Sir Buttonface lumbered toward the massive castle gates and started to push them open effortlessly. Everybody moved to follow. They stayed prepared for a battle.

Hesper’s Web Pt. 2

February 29, 2020

Mariel, Dimitri, and Asher bought the supplies at the local herbalist and made their way back to the house. The whole way back, Asher jokingly complained about footing the bill once again. He was the wealthiest member of their group by far even before they had become successful adventurers. Dimitri and Dina had come from a wealthy family but they had each forsaken their birthrights for different reasons. Asher’s fame and intermittent concerts kept him fairly well off. He never spent too much beyond good food and drink for the party and held much of it in reserve for emergencies and supplies. When they arrived at the house, Mariel appropriated the kitchen table to set out all of the supplies.

“All of that’s necessary for the ritual?” Luther asked. He really had no mind for magic but he was always curious.

“Well, we had to make do with some substitutions due to being in a small town,” Mariel said. “I think it should all still work. What really matters is the prime ingredient.”

“What is it?” Luther asked. “Is it dangerous?” He trusted Mariel but he also mistrusted a lot of the world of magic.

Mariel fished a vial from her bag of holding. The dust inside was gray but when it caught the light, it had a rainbow shimmer to it. “It’s dream powder,” Mariel said. “It’s very important.”

Luther’s eyes nearly popped out of his skull. “Dream powder!?” he hissed. He looked around desperately to make sure nobody else was lurking close to the kitchen. “You know that’s an illegal drug in most of the world, right? Do you know how many authorities we’ve dealt with while you’ve held onto that?”

“I know,” Mariel said. “I’ve been ready to ditch it at a moment’s notice but it’s really hard to come by. I just couldn’t ditch a good reagent.” Mariel was mashing the ingredients into a thick paste with mortar and pestle. She was efficient and careful about her work.

“I dealt with a lot of people addicted to the stuff in my past life,” Luther said. “It was no joke.” Luther’s criminal past was not a secret as he was an open door as part of his atonement.

“I’ve seen a few addicts myself,” Mariel said. “Near the orphanage. I wouldn’t even suggest this ritual if it wasn’t the only thing I can think of to help that girl and stop Hesper.” Mariel’s past was not much brighter.

Luther thought about that for a few moments. “You’re right,” he said. “I’d do just about anything to help that innocent girl. We have to do this.”

Mariel nodded. “We do,” she said. “Sorry. This is going to be one of our strangest adventures. If it helps, I’ve really researched this a lot. It’s a very interesting ritual that I am repurposing from worshippers of Somnus. They used to use this to dream walk in order to connect with each other and bond closer as a community.”

“They regularly used dream powder?” Luther asked.

“Well,” Mariel said. “Somnus worshippers are rare. As you would think, they spend a lot of time asleep or in a waking dream state. They end up being really disconnected from reality.”

“None of that really makes me feel better about what we’re about to do,” Luther said. “Please assure me that this will go well.”

“I assure you that this will go well,” Mariel said. “We’re in this together.” The two of them smiled at each other and almost shook their heads in unison. They had all done a lot of dangerous things together. This would be no different.

“Well, any adventure we can walk away from is a good one,” Luther said. “As long as everyone can walk away. That includes little Gwen.”

“We’ll do our best as always,” Mariel said. “That will have to do.”

Dimitri entered the room. “I just need to get my armor on and I’ll be ready,” he said.

Mariel shook her head. “No armor and no weapons,” she said. “This is a purely psychic journey. We’ll be in the Plane of Dreams, specifically in the corner dedicated to Gwen.”

Everybody else had filtered into the room by that time. “Well,” Dina said. “Are we going to do this thing?”

“Let’s do this before I have to think about it too much,” Luther said.

They headed upstairs and stood around Gwen’s sleeping body. Mariel smeared the paste in designs on each of her friend’s foreheads and then her own. Finally, she drew a design on Gwendolyn’s forehead. She was so gentle. She started to intone an ancient prayer to Somnus and then everybody slumped to the floor at once. Their bodies lay sleeping where they had been standing. Though, to the adventurers, it felt like they were all water and Nina was the drain. They swirled around and around and then sank into her and then there was blackness.

Hesper’s Web

February 22, 2020

Gwendolyn Conli had been asleep for a month when the party had arrived in town. Famously, Gwen had recently had an encounter with the spider devil, Hesper. When Asher had turned up that information, Mariel and Dimitri had pushed to visit the town of Redstone to see the young girl. Mariel was sure that the devil-touched young girl might provide them with a link to the devil or at least a lead on how to get at her. The team had traveled to the sleepy little town and had made their way to the bedside of young Gwendolyn. The rumor mill had clued them into the connection to Hesper but not the poor girl’s seemingly eternal slumber. Now all six of them stood at Gwendolyn’s bedside along with the town’s mayor and the girl’s parents.

“Is there nothing to be done for Gwendolyn?” the mayor asked.

“None of us are especially skilled healers,” Dimitri said. “We have some skill but we’re more defenders and eliminators.” Dimitri could call upon his connection with Lathander to heal, Fern could use the healing power of nature, and Asher had some healing ability through his music. Luther, Mariel, and Dina were mostly on offense in tight situations.

“That’s the truth,” Luther said. “We’re very sorry. However, we do want to get our hands on the creature that did this.” Hesper’s corruptive effect was well known and the call had gone out for adventurers to send the devil back to Hell.

“But how are we going to get any devil info out of her if she’s still so sleepy?” Dina asked. Obviously, Dina was a bit more goal-oriented than the rest of the team. The worried looks on the mayor’s and the parents’ faces

“Dina!” Mariel scolded. “Have some respect. There must be a solution here that can satisfy everyone.” More often than not, Mariel found herself falling into the role of team mom. She really had not wanted that job but she could not stop herself. Besides, she was decades older than most of her friends.

“Right,” Luther said. “We never give up. A magical problem must have a magical solution. Do we have any ideas that might work here? Even crazy ones.”

“We only have crazy ideas,” Asher said with a smirk. The whole party seemed to think about their wild, adventurous history.

“He’s not wrong,” Mariel said. “However, I have been doing some obscure research. Mrs. and Mr. Conli, it would not be without its risks but almost all of those risks would be to us.”

“Uhh,” Dina said. Everybody looked nervous. Well, Fern did not really look nervous but she was not very expressive. Fern may have actually been asleep in the corner.

“It should be perfectly safe,” Mariel said. “I just don’t think this has been attempted in over three centuries.”

“Why don’t you explain your idea, Mariel,” Luther said. “Then we can decide whether we’re doing it.”

“Oh, we’re probably doing it,” Asher said. “We always do.”

“I have been studying some texts written by worshippers of Somnus,” Mariel said. “What I propose is a ritual where we enter Gwendolyn’s dreams. We would be exposed to her dreams, her nightmares, and a landscape more unpredictable than the Faewild. Also, somewhere in there is probably an avatar of Hesper.”

“We’d have to have your permission,” Luther said, looking at the parents.

“Know that we would rather be harmed ourselves than allow more harm to your child,” Dimitri said.

The parents looked at each other for a moment. “Please help our little girl,” Mr. Conli said. “If you do nothing, she might stay like this.”

“We’ve heard of you,” Ms. Conli said. “We trust your reputation.”

“I’ll prepare for the ritual then,” Mariel said. “Rest up everyone, this will be difficult.”

“What can we do?” the mayor asked.

“Seal off this house,” Luther said. “Defend this family while we go in. We’ll handle the rest.”

“I’ll take Asher to go get supplies for you,” Dimitri said to Mariel.

“Actually, I will have to go with you but I could definitely use your assistance.”

“Great,” Luther said. “Meet back here in a few hours.”

As Time Goes By Pt. 6

February 15, 2020

The city sentinels were quick to arrive on the scene. When a building, even just a cottage, collapses, it is always cause for concern. Following close behind them was the building’s owner who was a sturdy old woman who was definitely freaking out. Many expletives were slipping from her mouth. The sentinels were cautious as the dust had not settled yet. The strongest of the sentinels were closest to the scene, ready to lift and dig through rubble and debris should anybody be trapped inside during the partial collapse.

“Hullo!” the commerce district shift captain called out. “Anybody in there?”

“A few of us,” Luther called out. “Sorry for trespassing.”

“Are you alright?” the astonished captain called back.

“We’ve got some unconscious wounded,” Luther yelled. “We’ve stabilized them but we’d appreciate some help before we get arrested. We’ll come along peacefully.”

The captain looked at a subordinate and pointed toward the nearest temple. The young woman ran off to fetch some clerics. “Agreed,” the captain said. “Holy healers are on their way.”

“Good,” Luther said. “I’m coming out unharmed to parlay.” He walked out of the rubble with his hands up and weaponless.

“What the devils did you do to my haunted cottage?” the landlady yelled at him.

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” Luther said. “We’ve un-haunted it.”

The woman narrowed her eyes. “Bloody, adventurers.”

Mariel woke up in a bed in the back of a temple dedicated to Asherah. She knew it immediately from the banner on the wall. She blinked in the dim light. She muttered a few words and the lamps burned brighter. As the light expanded, she saw Luther step forward from where he was standing in the corner. His eyes were kind and there was a smile on his face.

“Take it slow, Mariel,” Luther said. “Everything’s fine. You’re safe.”

She was not sure she wanted to ask any questions because, despite his assurances, Mariel was not sure she wanted to hear the answers. “What happened?” she asked, her voice shaking a little.

“You and Asher pushed yourself too hard,” Luther said. “You both passed out mid casting. Dimitri and Fern made sure you two were stable. You and Asher blew up the cottage. Fern and Dina slipped away as wolves just in case things didn’t go well with the authorities. The city sentinels were agreeable enough but Dimitri had to sweet talk a very upset landlady. Apparently, she was using the cottage as a haunted attraction without knowing what exactly was going on. We’re in the clear but I had to drop a lot of gold to smooth things over. I also volunteered Dimitri, Dina, and myself to do the physical labor of repairs for the cottage.”

Mariel gave Luther a stern look. “Luther,” she said and his name resonated almost with a magic of its own. “What about my parents?”

“They’re still recovering but they’re alive,” Luther said. “Apparently, time travel takes a lot out of you. The clerics think that they’ll recover consciousness in the next day or so. You did it. You brought your parents back.”

Mariel laid back for a moment with a big smile. “Remind me to thank Asher,” she said.

“There will be plenty of time for that,” Luther said. “He’s still asleep but we’ve all decided to stick around here until your parents are alright. Oh, and we have a cottage to rebuild.”

“Are you sure?” Mariel asked. “Don’t we have lives to save? Also, I interrupted everybody’s vacation.”

“Stop feeling so guilty about that,” Luther said. “It was obviously worth it. You and Asher can continue your vacations in recovery. As for the rest of us, hanging out and building a cottage is way more relaxing than fighting monsters. I’d say it’s still a vacation.”

Mariel smiled and for a moment thought she might cry. “You guys are the best,” she said softly.

Luther smiled warmly and shrugged. “We need you, Mariel,” he said. “We’re happy to see you happy.”

“And you told me that you were a bad, bad man when we met,” she said. “You’re really just an old softie.”

“Don’t tell anybody,” Luther said. “I’m going to go check on Asher. Rest up and I’m sure you’ll be able to talk to your parents soon.”

Mariel felt her eyes getting heavy and she yawned. “Maybe you’re right,” she said. “I’m just going to take another nap.” She was asleep before Luther made it out the door.

As Time Goes On

February 8, 2020

The team followed behind Dina who was leading them toward the source of the high-pitched sound that only her canine senses could perceive. They walked through the city’s winding streets carefully. Dina was focused on the sound which was obviously causing her stress. She ignored the people in the street so Fern had to occasionally nudge her so she would not run into other people. Mariel’s heart was thudding as she struggled to keep up. Of course, Luther’s legs were shorter but he seemed so nimble. It could be frustrating. She kept going, trying not to get her hopes up. She was failing miserably.

They made their way through the streets and arrived in a less populated part of town. Dina found her way to the door of an abandoned cottage and she started to pull the boards off of it. Dimitri was suddenly at her side with a hand axe, chopping the boards to pieces. Dina smirked and opened the door and slipped in before anybody could say anything Everybody scrambled in after her and Mariel’s heart thudded harder and faster. She was close to being unable to keep her footing her knees were so weak.

In the cottage, there was a scene unlike anything any of them had ever seen. Mariel did not even need to use her detect magic spell. There was stone shrapnel everywhere but it was flickering and fluttering. There were all sorts of debris in a similar state floating in the room. Everybody stopped and stared just inside the door. Mariel slowly walked forward and the objects in the room phased through her. The others subsequently heard their wizard scream louder and longer than they ever had. They rushed forward and there in the very center of the cottage, they saw what Mariel had screamed about. Suspended in the air were two figures. They flickered and blinked but everybody could see that they were elves and there was a certain familial resemblance.

“Those are my parents,” Mariel said, turning toward her friends. “They might be alive. We have to do something!”

“We’re at your disposal,” Luther said. “You’re in charge here. Guide us.”

“Please just do it fast,” Dina said. “The sound is driving me crazy.”

“I have no experience with this sort of magic,” Mariel said. “I can’t think straight.”

“Wait,” Asher said. “I think I have an idea.”

“Really?” Mariel asked. “Please do tell.” She watched the bard with bright, curious eyes. She was shaken but she was hopeful.

“In the search for the perfect sound, I have long searched for new methods,” Asher said. “This includes, of course, infusing my music with magic and vice versa.” The bard could be fond of his own voice and loved an audience. This was the most wrapt he had gotten his friends to be.

“Asher!” Dina shouted. “Stop talking and do it! I’ll be outside. I can’t stand that sound anymore.” She turned to walk out.

Asher caught her arm in his hand. “Not yet,” he said. “I need you, Dina.”

“What are you talking about?” Dina asked.

“You’re the only one who can hear the sound and I need your ears,” Asher said.

Dina clapped her hands over her ears. “You maniac,” she said. “Leave my body parts alone.”

Asher laughed. “No,” he said. “I’ll use a new trick I’ve learned. It’s called a telepathic bond. It won’t hurt.”

“I trust you,” Dina said and took a deep breath. Dimitri stepped up and took hold of her hand to comfort her.

Asher began to hum and then his and Dina’s eyes flashed briefly light blue. Then he and Dina’s thoughts began to blend and suddenly Asher could hear the high pitched tone. It was loud and it was unique.

“You’re right, Dina,” Asher said. “This is painful.” He pulled out his lute and started to pick at the strings. There was a rush of magic as he put everything he was into the instrument and the sound that came from it. Soon nobody but Dina and Asher could hear his plucking. He was obviously trying to find a certain note. He found a counter note and something resonated through the cottage. It was something everybody could feel deep inside. “I’m using counterspell, Mariel. Care to join me?”

Mariel pulled out her magic wand and pointed it at her parents and spoke the words and willed an end to magic. She poured everything she could into the spell, pushing it all at her parents. She saw Asher doing the same thing. She had never attempted anything like this before and she was sure Asher had not either. She felt her very soul falter for a moment and she heard Asher grunt. She closed her eyes and prayed to whatever Gods would listen. There was a powerful wave of anti-magic and then there was an explosion that knocked one wall of the cottage to pieces.

Time Goes By Pt. 3

January 25, 2020

After a few reluctant mouthfuls of breakfast, Mariel looked back up at the twins. Just in their happy, supportive presence, she was starting to feel more like herself. Her confidence and sanity were slowly regenerating and she found herself even smiling a bit.

“I truly am sorry that to interrupt your vacations,” Mariel said. “Where did the two of you go? Back home?”

“I went back to my order,” Dimitri said. “It was good to see some old friends and Mistress Callen.”

Mariel looked confused. “You didn’t go together?” she asked. The twins had been inseparable for much of their lives so any separation was curious. Perhaps both of them had gained more faith in Dina’s ability to control her curse.

“We didn’t,” Dina said, tearing a sausage in half with her teeth. “Fern and I went camping in Thorncatch forest.”

Mariel smiled. “You and Fern?” she asked. “Really?”

“Yes,” Dina said with a smile. “We finally decided to give it a shot.”

“It’s about time,” Mariel said. “It feels like the two of you first kissed ages ago. Did you enjoy yourselves?” Mariel was suddenly overjoyed. The young druid and werewolf had been making eyes at each other since they had met and Mariel had hoped something would spark. She had remained neutral but she had hoped desperately. She was also impressed that Dimitri had not stood in their way.

Dina nodded. “You know that Fern is hard to read but I think we both had a really good time,” she said. “It’s really nice to just get lost for a while, you know?”

Mariel blushed slightly and nodded. “I think I catch your meaning,” she said. “Would you two mind if I went back upstairs to clean myself up before everybody else arrives?”

Dimitri nodded. “I think we can hold down the fort until you feel that you’re ready,” he said.

“I never put much stock in being clean,” Dina said. “But do what makes you happy.”

Mariel almost laughed. “Thank you,” she said. “I’ll be right back down.” She stood up and put a few silver on the table before the twins could try to pay for her. She still had her dignity. She hurried up the steps. She had not expected her friends to arrive so soon but she was so grateful for the support. The six of them had been through a lot together and it felt good to have them at her back again. Especially at a time where she had completely lost her footing.

She came back downstairs later after bathing and reapplying her makeup. She had her bag full of magical tools and weapons at the ready, attached to her waist with a sash belt. Just making the change made her feel ready for action again. There was still a tension running through her but she felt less wobbly. She would confront this head-on with her friends like they had confronted so many monsters and villains. She had turned a demon to stone, she could do this. She could hold it together.

When she arrived at the bottom of the stairs, the twins were nowhere in sight but her eyes were drawn to the source of whoever was playing a hurdy gurdy near the fire. It was Asher Woodhome, of course. Asher was a world-famous traveling bard who had somehow stumbled into fame by accident. He was more focused on making and understanding music and its power. He was also the only other member of their party who was as fashion-forward and put together as Mariel. Most who met him thought he was self-centered but he was actually just distracted and overly thoughtful.

Sitting on the floor and meditating near Asher was Luther Stonestill. The old dwarf had left home at a young age and, according to him, had led a brutal and self-centered period in his life. He had joined a monastery to atone and had become a centered yet passionate monk whose whole body was a weapon. And yet, he just as often used his words to diffuse tense situations. He was slow to violence but quick to end violence when it began. He had become the de facto leader of their group and it was he who had called everyone together once again. She was glad to see him.

Mariel sat in a chair across from Asher and next to Luther. Asher stopped playing with a smile and a nod. Luther spoke without opening his eyes.

“Are you ready to investigate?” Luther asked, absolutely calm.

“I am,” Mariel said. “Shall we?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” Asher said, slinging his instrument over his back.

“The children are all outside,” Luther said.

“Let’s go gather them then,” Mariel said. “One way or another, we are figuring this out.”

Time Goes By Pt. 2

January 18, 2020

Mariel spent the following night in a fitful half-sleep, tossing and turning and getting up to pace and drink now and again. She knew it was not healthy but she was also not really in her right mind and wanted to be unconscious. She eventually did pass out in those achingly quiet hours before the dawn. Her mind had still been racing with possibilities but it had just shut down as she blacked out. Her dreams were full of faded scraps of memories of her parents. She woke back up in the late morning and everything was too loud and too bright even though the curtains were drawn.

She stumbled out of bed and nearly fell down, her legs wobbling and her head spinning. She had no idea if she was still drunk or it was sleep deprivation. It may have been both. She managed to keep standing and moved to her dresser where she drank directly from a pitcher of water. She rummaged in the dresser for something to wear. She got dressed in the streaks of morning light streaking from the edges of the closed curtains. She ran fingers through those crimson red locks and then slipped on the pair of flats that she usually only reserved for dungeons and battlefields. She was too unsteady for heels.

She stepped out into the hallway and headed for the stairs. She knew she had to at least attempt to eat something. As she descended the stairs, she heard the familiar chatter of the taproom, something she had gotten used to the world over. She put on a brave face, trying to make her expression pleasant but unreadable. She concentrated on changing her gait into more of a glide to cover up her nerves. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, she saw that two of the raucous voices she was hearing belonged to her friends.

Sitting at a table with sizable breakfasts were the twins Dina and Dimitri Briarhaven. They were collectively known as The Beast and The Blade. The two had been separated at a very young age. The more reserved Dimitri had gone on to take vows as a paladin of Lathander. Dina had been inadvertently saved from kidnappers by a pack of werewolves. In the attack, she had become a werewolf herself and barely escaped into the wilderness. It was many years later when the twins had been reunited. Dimitri used the powers he gained from his faith to help control his sister’s inner beast and she, in turn, had helped him loosen up. They became a great team together.

The two suddenly turned almost in unison to look at Mariel. She saw a brief hesitation in their eyes that showed concern before they smiled again. She realized at that moment that she had not only forgotten to put on her makeup that morning, she had also forgotten to take it off the night before. It was obviously no great sin but it was not like Mariel at all. Even in the midst of battle, she was put together.

“Quite a posh place you’ve found, Mariel,” Dina said with a wicked smile.

“She’s always held that particular skill,” Dimitri said. “Can we interest you in some breakfast?”

“I suppose I should,” Mariel said. “It’s honestly been a rough morning so far.”

Dina stood to give her a hug and Dimitri stood to take her hand and help her into a chair.

“We have fruit, cheese, and bread for you,” Dimitri said. “We can take things slowly.”

Mariel nodded and started to use a fork to put food in her mouth. She chewed mechanically and swallowed without really tasting anything. The twins tried not to stare at her.

“I’m sorry for interrupting your vacation,” Mariel said. “I didn’t mean to.”

Dina waved her hand as if she was blowing the words out of the air like smoke. “I was getting bored anyway,” she said.

Dimitri shrugged. “When Luther contacted us, he gave us a choice,” he said. “We chose to come. This is important and beside that, it seems like this is an interesting turn of events.”

Mariel nodded. “To say the least,” she said. “Everybody didn’t come did they?”

“Luther and Asher haven’t arrived yet,” Dina said. “Fern is outside.”

“Outside?” Mariel asked and looked concerned. “What is she doing outside?”

“Hanging out?” Dina said with a shrug, shoving a sausage into her mouth.

“She has too many ‘passengers’ and she’s filthier than usual,” Dimitri said.

“Oh,” Mariel said and went back to eating. Fern was a druid the team had found in a cave and she was much more used to the outdoors. She often had rats, insects, and snakes crawling in and out of her robes and often had enough dirt caked on her skin to actually grow plants out of. She was both touched and guilty that her friends were all arriving. She had not meant to ruin their good time but she was grateful to have the support. This mystery could mean nothing but could it could be the most important thing to ever happen.


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