> Stories for Heather
> A Quest] -- [Heroes,
Guess I should fill in some details about the Shalgathi -- especially since they've picked up a few new tricks.
The first is that there is now some sort of Shalgathi-human half breed (at least they look that way, they may well be Shalgathi/Deep Ones). There appear to be several types of them -- they come in colors and the different colors are very, very hostile to each other -- as far as anyone can tell, the Shalgathi have factions just like everyone else.
The next t hing about them is that the half-breed types are all male. Too obviously, really, its kind of gross, but the Shalgathi think of males as expendible -- throw-aways, so it makes sense that ife they are experimenting on some of their own, they would choose males to do it. If you hadn't guessed, they are chaos tainted, it is appears to be a chaos warping magic that makes them and they are chaos "gifted" as well. The one above to the left is partof the blue-shagreen faction, the one on the right is an energy projection of one that Amber's magic caught and burned up as it came towards us. At least I think it was a projection. We got a week-end break as part of the celebration of the starshrine and Parakyle asked us to go with him when he went back to get his golems. We were back during the day, with Amber, Jean ("Jean-Robert" Amber says, some times), Parakyle and I, kind of like a date. Parakyle had gone back immediately upon the completion, with Indigo and Wolfie to let the weaver's know it was a success -- and to give them some dragon-snake wire he had promised them for their help, but they did not have the time to clean everything up. Of course Parakyle figured that his golems would be ok by themselves and I think he left them behind as an excuse to ask us to go with him to get them. As I said, kind of like a date. I wonder if he will get up the nerve to ask Amber for a real date rather than escorting one of us to a dance or excuses like this.
Anyway, there was a group of Spindles and quaShitheth -- half-human sea elves -- and they were restoring the starshrine that the broken tower we started from had been founded on. Harassing them were a group of these blue NauShalgath (that's what I'm calling them and the name seems to have stuck), leading some human bandits. Amber dropped walls of fire into them and I froze the leaders as they attempted to rally the bandits for a charge to carry through the walls. Since we had disrupted the hrythgar they were forming they struck the edge of the starshrine as individuals, not as a group, and it blasted them. All that remained with any strength from the initial clash was the group of NauShalgath -- five of them to the four of us, as the others cleaned up the blasted men. Four of the Naus (that is what I've decided the plural is) closed with us hand-to-hand and the fifth one seemed in a stupor. Except, of course, when this electrified thing erupted from him just as Amber finished her enemy and dropped fire on them while I fired an arrow into it. I'd dropped my bow when the fight started (I'd brought it along just for practice) and when I shattered the NauShalgath that faced me, I picked it up to look for targets. You can bet that when I realized something was going on with the one that had dropped back (I really thought he had been stunned or finished by the barrier), I put a few arrows into him.
Anyway, that was more excitement than the school would have approved of, but we got there just in time to help the qauShitheth. In the end, Parakyle made them a gift of the golems as guardians for the shrine and the weavers reached some sort of arrangement where they kept the forge he brought and were able to share the tower with the sea-elves. I found out that some of the sea elves are shape-changers, seals and sea otters mostly, and that they aren't as "elvish" as the elves and half-elves I've known, but something different. Not too different to use the shrine though, though the Spindles were (the shrine excluded all of the Spindles), though they seemed happy enough to help their allies. I wonder what a SpindleStar would look like? I must admit I had no idea that any starshrine could be limited, I thought they were like runes or something.
I'm still learning.
Oh, back to Amber's stories. This is where my journal gets introduced. It is hard to describe just how neat it is to the touch, the paper has such a richness and texture to it, it just feels good to me when I handle it -- kind of as if it holds some of the spirit of the ice in it. I'm not sure why, but I was so excited about it I just had to tell someone and Amber didn't seem like the one to talk about the icy feel of something. Anyway, I love my dad and he listens to me a lot.
Well, the little girl was very excited about her book that she planned to use for a journal. She showed it to her father.
He pointed out that the book seemed to have a texture to it, almost as if something was written on it, white on white. He suggested that they might want to freeze the book and then look at it. When it was very cold, the whites looked a little different, especially with frost highlighting them and a little ultraviolet light. It seems that there had been a story hidden in the book underneath the magical writing.
It was my dad's idea to put the book in the freezer. He ran his fingers over it and it was almost as if he could feel the cold in it. I'd never have thought of freezing it, but it kind of made sense, and when we used the ultraviolet light on the frost that coated each page, you could see a story in it. I couldn't believe it, but I knew that I also couldn't spend all my time between the freezer and an ultraviolet lamp, so I copied it all down. Then, while I was working on it, my dad mentioned the oread again.
You know, it never, ever occurred to me that my dad might know about magical things. It had kind of been like a secret only between Amber, I, and our pets -- especially between me and my falcon. It was so nice to realize that I wasn't alone in what I knew.
Carefully she copied the story's pictures out. Her father suggested that the oread who lived at the top of the mountain outside of town might be the person to talk to about the story. That surprised Ariel, who didn't know her dad was aware of things like that. He just smiled. Before she left, he gave her a belt and her mother gave her a warm shirt, white, like woven rame or tight woven wool, but feeling more like silk (think of a 300 count silk fabric).
She also went to see Amber, who had been about her duties to the city, and who told her of the quest she was on for one to replace her so that she could be truly free to be her parent's daughter.
In other words, this was a trip I was doing on my own, after Amber relieved me of my prophecy magic stored in the true stone. No better use for it though -- because it made it so Amber was free to go with me.
Then Ariel went to see the oread, and to thank her for the way her prophecy had helped Amber and Amber's people and to talk about the book -- perhaps to give her the book as a gift, as with the story in it, it would be a shame to write all over it.
The oread is beautiful. Inhumanly beautiful, like quartz and gold and precious stones and the prettiest woman you've ever seen. Of course I took gifts with me, but she would have been happy to see me, even without the gifts. She had never been given a wool blanket before, and this one was pure white and soft like a cloud. I also brought her berry bush cuttings (or plantings) -- and she loves berries. Most can't take the cold of the mountain top, but the ones I brought her can. I ordered them from a special store. She was delighted.
When she got there, with a gift of a fine blanket woven from the best wool, and a basket of berry bush plantings, the oread was glad to see her.
They looked at the book together, little girl and ancient mountain nature spirit.
It told the story of how the Ice Mostali became the Snow Dwarves.
Mostali are often called dwarves, but they are more machine than creature in many realms. The Snow Dwarves are a species of man found on several worlds. This is one story of how the two came to be different, though the story is different in every world where they are found.
Long ago, on the world where the Mostali originated, there was a great machine that broke. Many were the Mostali who decided to attempt to fix the machine. One group was a kingdom of Ice Mostali in the far north.
Six of them went forth on a great quest.
*Dayzatar's Gifts [only the light part of fire, a special aspect]
+Tied to Grandfather Mortal's seat of judgment, actual runes are Man/Fire[heat only]
They did not fix the machine, but they returned to a people reborn and ready for the light. The questors went from one unit, a machine of sorts with six hands to three independent living pairs, and from creatures of Ice to men/dwarves who had the power to withstand the cold with heat. Each lost everything, but gained a new focus and what they needed. Instead of conquering death, they brought it back as a part of the natural order to watch over and protect the people and as a bridge to Grandfather Mortal and a new heritage.
There was also a hidden story about the seventh person on the quest, whose identity and name were hidden. That one was destroyed, but survived, I don't understand it, and don't know where it fits in the list above, but wanted to let you know that there was a seventh person.
In the quest the seven came to a high mountain. There they faced scorpion men and had to decide which light they would seek -- the high light (Dayzatar), the middle light (Yelm) or the lesser lights (the stars). Their quest took them to Dayzatar, except for one, who slipped, but who recovered and found the lesser lights. That one also returned, though not as a hero, bringing gifts among the people in secret.
That is when Ariel found herself seeing a path she could climb from the oread's place near the mountain peak. The oread's home was the threshold to a sky gate. Ariel took the path without thinking, leaving the book with the ancient nature spirit.
Kind of neat, I was writing about a star path the past couple of entries and this story goes back to when I found a star path on my own. Now that the curse is gone, I'm no where near as impulsive, but this time, I just walked into danger and myth without a second thought. Right smack into chaos without any back-up.
Suddenly she was face-to-face with a great scorpion man. She could feel the power of chaos rolling off its hard shell and dripping like venom from its stinger. The two of them danced the dance of combat and eventually Ariel was the victor. She knew that her parents would not be happy to think that their daughter had come so close to not being thirteen. She was too young for what she was doing, she thought, and was grateful for the belt that had caught a blow from the stinger and turned it away. I sure was glad for that gift right then.
She followed the path upwards. She could see it branching. There was a gate, with the face of the sun on the strong doors. Up the column that went to the left of the gate and that was a part of the mountain, there were steps that led up. She looked again and saw a third path that somehow went between the two of them, like a tracery of lace into the sky.
That lace-like path is the one she followed, the mark on her face helping her feel the path, the gaze of Starcalled Falcon helping her see a path where no one else would see it. Her familiar's sight let her see through the maze of starlight and shadow and ice crystals and clouds that obscured her path.
I'm just not comfortable talking about the details of a star path, at least this one, doesn't feel right, so I'm just going to leave this in Amber's words.
She felt tired and she slipped, but she caught herself before she fell to earth. The path began to fade out and she poured her magic into keeping it. In a place where the sunlight was melting the frost and ice that seemed to make that part of the path, she used cold to strengthen it so that it would support her weight.
She came to a resting place, and there was a silly looking man in motley, painting. He offered to paint her in a way that would show her the path to her needs, but she remembered what had happened to the One Eyed King. She noticed he had let his cap blow away so she tossed hers on the ground and gave him some coins to go with it and suggested that he paint the landscape instead, but kindly.
As she continued on, suddenly the path faded from under her. She used the lightning zig to regain the path and looked back to see the trickster smirking as he got ready to paint over more of the path. She froze the paint on the end of his brush so that he could paint, but it wouldn't do anything and her falcon took his cap from where it had blown and flew it to her. The frost power had raised up a flurry of snow and she quickly ran past it, using it to block the trickster's view of her, then zigged a few more times as he randomly struck out at where she might have been if she was only running or walking. He was balked at coming after her by the holes in the path that he had created.
In the upper air she was challenged by sylphs that pulled at her. They harassed her, but did not harm her, and she refused to let them distract her from her path. To the wind she lost her coat, and her jogging suit top, but the silk shirt kept her warm and helped her with the magic stored inside of it to give her the extra strength she needed.
The last barrier was a creature from the old night, that tried to swallow her in darkness (a chaos tainted great shadow 10d6/3 point sized). She resisted it, blasting the chaos from it, and in the challenges reduced its magic points to nothing and then bound it, sucking the purified shadow into her rope. When the shadows faded, all was clear.
Then she came to a place that was near (but not too near) the star she was seeking. There was a grove of trees and berry bushes that caught the near light of the star and its power. Carefully she used her basket to pick up some of the solid beams of light that the star had cast from itself long ago to the resting place that was the threshold to the star. Ariel could smell the fruit and was hungry, but she saw a wounded woman, who looked as if she had fainted, and she was gaunt with hunger. Ariel fed the fruit to her and roused her, healing her.
The woman was a dawn spirit. Aurora saw Ariel's cap and suggested that they might trade and that Aurora might deal with the trickster. Ariel traded the trickster's cap for an aura of soft woven gray. She then thanked the star for the star beams that were its rune gift and promised that it would be remembered, even if the gift worked in secret among the people. The Star heard her and spoke back its secret name and her mind was enlightened. Her fingernails and toenails turned white. Then she was awash with the light of the star and rode its beams down to the mountain top where she had left the oread.
She wanted to relax, but something warned her, and as she stepped back on the meadow, she was attacked by the familiar of the Couranth she had slain. It was a scaled creature armed with magic (protection 6, iron claw 6, chaos taint +6 to damage, +6 to armor, special taint, wounds it inflicts are not healable from outside or by normal magic -- special taint is able to overcome on a POW v. POW roll, the dragon's claw up to three points)(otherwise a spider gecko). She blasted it, but was sore wounded. She reached into the basket and took one of the three star beams that she had brought back and its magic healed her from the inside, breaking the power of the taint.
This star rune gives regeneration as the star power. 1-3 points of regeneration, depending on the number of points of POW sacrificed (1-3). The hidden skill is heal others, using the regeneration power. If the user makes the skill roll, then for as long as they touch the target, the target is healed as if regenerating at the same depth and strength as the skilled one has the ability. Those with the link to the star are marked with white fingernails and white toenails.
Possession of the rune limits points of healing spells learned to 1 point per point of pow in gift (so that if a person has one point in the rune, then they cannot use more than healing 1, even if they have more points in the healing spells, in order to use more points they need more points in the rune/star) and prohibits fire/heat magic use (fire/light is ok). The rune is to be used in secret, and requires gift giving in secret (preferably healing)
She left the Oread one of the runes /beams at the top of the mountain, where the oread built a shrine, protecting her mountain top meadow and the sky gate with the shrine's boundaries, and Ariel returned with the third star fragment to the city, as a gift for the City Spirit. That shrine was used by many of the hrythgr to fill a gap their inner nature as nature spirits and formed the hidden heart of the city.
Her family is interesting.
What a way to put it Amber! You are one to talk <g>, but is that any way to talk about the crush you had on my brother?
She'll kill me when she reads this. If she reads this .... algathi. Peace.
The earlier background for Ariel, her brother, her mom and her dad reflects people dedicated to making peace and resolving conflict and healing others. Both her mom and dad have consulted for some pretty strange groups. They are aware that this is a time of change (ever since a large volcano exploded in the pacific northwest, there have been magical forces in movement from what was unleashed) and each is attempting to do their part at a critical time. Her father is the target, from time to time, of those who would not want to see peace, and he has learned to protect himself and those he loves. Seeing more than there is is part of the family heritage, an awareness of the magical world and the ability to work in it as well as the mundane.
Ariel's parents trust Amber's parents, and they are aware that their daughter is touched by the magical world, though they are not aware that Amber's parents are (very, very carefully) playing for high stakes (saving the weakest sept of the shadow vampires and transforming them, bringing light to the One Eyed King, revitalizing the city spirit that was almost destroyed by hostile arcane forces) in the only paths available while avoiding entanglement.
Ariel's mom is the person who forged the current open heart of the city, a great display of fire and light caught in crystal (everyone thinks it is an eternal flame, magnified by optical illusion. In reality, it is a crystal construct where a greater salamander lives) overlooking and casting light into a plaza that is surrounded by small shops and kiosks and where people shop and talk and meet -- a warm and happy place that centers the city. It was part of saving the city when its prior hrythgr was destroyed and the city almost broken. Had things gone just a little differently, the city would be filled with ghouls and shadow vampires, a hideous ghost town of ruin.
Ariel's family has a history of the mission of bringing peace and of harmonizing magic with the world, helping each group in the world to fit with the other groups. She has just gotten an earlier and more dramatic start in the family business.
Who knows what other adventures she might have.
That is an understatement. Though now, who knows. I wish I did. Darn, I'm getting depressed again, here in the dark.
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and Heather N. Marsh
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