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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Tell me my love...Part two

“He was there?  He was alive?”  Tresha gasped when Aelar had finished his explanation of how he, Murook and Boucher had all met Fredregar inside the labyrinth under the Dragonspire Mountains.

“Well, alive is not exactly correct.  As I said, he was one of the undead.  A lich, I believe that’s the term.”  Aelar said as he searched for a better way to relate this very strange set of circumstances. 

“LICH!  Those are horrid, evil creatures, yes?”  The young half elf maiden blurted out.

“Well, yes.  Normally, you’d be right, but Fredregar… well, Fredregar is… different.”  Aelar shrugged, having no other idea of how to say it.

Tresha stared back at him, her expression one of fascination and horror all at once.  She could not believe what she was hearing and began to understand why Aelar was reluctant to open up to her until now.  She could scarcely believe all he had been through in such a short time.  It was no wonder that the Oak Father had led him to her.  If anyone needed her special gifts it was Aelar, a lost elf in the great wood.

“Yes, yes I know.  It’s a lot to take in.”  Aelar continued.  “Sometimes I don’t believe it all myself, and I was there.”  Aelar shrugged not knowing what else he could say.  He decided to continue and explain it as best he could.

Aelar told Tresha of the magic orb called Traveler and how the sentient artifact had appeared to them as Thaelioth and set them on a quest to find the Boxes of Fredregar.  He recounted how they learned the Cult of the Dragon had been behind the attack at the Academy to steal Traveler or so they had thought.  It was later revealed to them that the cult’s real objective was to steal one of the boxes that were sealed within the keep.  Traveler used the distraction, and Aelar and his friends, to be free of the prison which Thaelioth had created to hide the artifact.

“Traveler is, perhaps, the most powerful artifact of magic ever created, and many powerful beings would lay waste to entire kingdoms just to possess it.”  Aelar paused to collect his thoughts for a moment.

“So, it was Traveler that was there the day of the attack at the Academy and not Thaelioth?”  Tresha trying desperately to follow the winding tale asked as she got out of bed and threw on her earthen colored clothes that hung near the fireplace.

“No.  They were both there.  Thaelioth had been the one that fought the ancient blue dragon, but she apparently was gone by the time we made our way back to the keep to see if anyone survived.”  Aelar scratched his chin as he spoke and Tresha could see that he was working out what exactly had happened that day for himself.

“It was this day when Mandlebrot and Archelios left us to do research about the boxes and the orb to try and make some sense of what we should do next.”  Aelar said.

“And that’s when you went to Fredregar’s lair, yes?”  Tresha asked as she finished putting on her warm clothes and sat down near the fire and stared up at him curiously.

“Yes, but it’s a lab, not a lair.”  Aelar corrected her.

“Oh.  Right.”  Tresha said raising her eyebrow and grinning slightly.

Tresha sat there for a long while listening to Aelar tell the tale of how they escaped Fredregar’s lab with the first box.  When they exited the lab they set out for the city of Phlan, located close by on the north shores of the Moonsea.  On their way there they met a curious harpy named Tierna Whisperwind.  Tierna’s story would prove to be very difficult to explain indeed, so Aelar took a gulp of water from the drinking barrel and tried to gather his thoughts.

He explained how the harpy had come from the future to locate Boucher and warn him about the Fomorians that would be coming for the orb soon.  Boucher apparently was the forbearer of some great general fighting the cyclopsian armies of the Fomorian Empire.  The war had been raging for nearly a thousand years without end and had all but destroyed the surface of Faerun, driving most races to the Underdark.

“Dear Oak Father!”  Tresha gasped in a whispered tone.  “How did you carry this burden alone my love?”  She moved closer to him and wrapped her arms around his waist and laid her head in his lap.

“In truth, I didn’t believe most of it, until Traveler took Murook, Boucher and I there and we saw it with our own eyes.”  Aelar stroked Tresha’s hair as he spoke but was interrupted when she snapped her head up to look at him when he finished.

“The future?”  Tresha was staring at him in disbelief.

Aelar stared back at her and said, “Traveler can take you any place at any time you wish.  As I told you, it’s perhaps the most powerful art…”

“…artifact ever created.”  Tresha finished his thought perfectly.  “You’ve been to the future?  And there’s nothing but war.”  Her voice trailed off as that realization sunk in deeply.

“Only one possibility, or at least that’s how the people there tried to explain it.  They were attempting to end the war before it began, which is why they sent Tierna back to warn us.”  Aelar averted his gaze back down to the dirt floor of their hovel as he spoke not really knowing what else he could say at that moment.

“Oak Father protect us.”  Tresha whispered as she got up from the floor and staggered back to the bed and sat down facing Aelar not knowing anything else to do but listen to rest of his story.  In truth, she was no longer sure she wanted to hear the rest, but she trusted him enough to listen.

Aelar continued telling Tresha about rescuing Headmistress Tyranna from the Cult of the Dragon in the Orsraun Mountains, south of Sembia.  Boucher and Murook had learned from Fredregar that the cult wanted the boxes to use them in their dark rituals involving the dragons, and they kept the two boxes that they had acquired in the same compound where they held mistress Tyranna.  They hatched a cunning rescue mission that involved potions of mimicry and much running and lots of fighting to grab the boxes and rescue the Headmistress all at once.  With a little help from Fredregar, the plan was a success, eventually.  They had all escaped using Traveler to instantly teleport them to safety.

Afterwards, the three of them traveled, by way of the sentient orb, to the kingdom of Yinnamarr to retrieve the fourth and final box.  Aelar recounted the tale of how the three of them breached the castle of Lord Devronn Crumley and found it full of shades in service to the lord of the undead, Szass Tam.  As they entered the keep to locate the box, they discovered that it was being stolen by a female thief clad in black leather armor.  A thief they later discovered belonged to an organization called, The Tashas.  They took the box from the thief and left her to the shades and then made their way back to Fredregar’s lab with the last of the four boxes.

“Fredregar later told us that Szass Tam was the Red Wizard that had polymorphed him.  The lord of the undead is Fredregar’s former master.”  Aelar stated and then looked up from the floor toward Tresha who was sitting on the bed blankly staring at the fire.

“Now you understand why I was reluctant to open up to you.”  Aelar sighed.

After long moments of silence, Tresha cleared her throat and spoke.  “What you’ve been through, how you’ve survived I couldn’t begin to understand.”  She said softly.  “The Cult of the Dragon, the Undead Lord and an organization of thieves, not to mention the Fomorian Empire and Silvanus knows who else is after these boxes and this orb that calls itself Traveler.”  She said shaking her head more vigorously with every word.

“There’s more.”  Aelar dared to add

Without a word the half elf woman sat on the bed and nodded to him to continue his tale.  Aelar knew she was having a difficult time reconciling the enormous forces arrayed against him and his friends.  He could not blame her.  As he heard himself telling the tale, he grew more and more unsure about what he should do.

Aelar explained how they made Fredregar’s lab their base and gathered a sizable contingent of troops to help defend it against the Fomorians.  Many harpies came to serve Tierna and they had liberated the lost dwarven city of Dimmenstein from the clutches of a mind flayer.  The dwarves joined them and brought many others with them, including halflings, deep gnomes, some elves and even a few drow.  Their coalition was taking shape, and they managed to fight off a cyclops attack with the help of The Tashas, who pledged their support shortly after.  They had built a small army dedicated to protecting the Boxes of Fredregar and stopping the Fomorian threat.

Fredregar used the boxes in a ritual to transform himself back to his natural form and promptly took the boxes to the newly ordained goddess of time and travel, Thaelioth.  It was decided the boxes would be safer inside her realm, the Desert of Time.  Traveler disappeared after Thaelioth decided the orb must be destroyed in order to ensure the balance of power.

Boucher, Murook and Aelar were reunited with Mandlebrot and discovered that the enigmatic gnome had been in contact with Traveler for a long time.  He had been leading a team that was creating a mechanical body that the orb could merge with.  The three of them also realized that the gnome had changed somehow and was now on his own crusade and seemed to be allied with the sentient artifact.

Aelar paused and stared at Tresha for a long while until she turned to look back at him.  Her expression was solemn and tears filled each of her dark brown eyes.  At that moment he knew that he had made a mistake in telling her.  What right did he have to lay this upon her shoulders.  Gone was the cocked eyebrow and flirtatious smirk she always wore when she looked at him.  The beautiful half elfs face was now sorrowful, much like his own he imagined.

“The war will still begin, yes?”  Tresha asked nearly choking on the words.

“It has already begun.”  Aelar could not bear to look into her eyes any longer and dropped his head toward the floor as he prepared to tell her the final part of his tale.

“We told the Fomorians where the boxes were to save ourselves.”  Aelar finished still sitting motionless by the fire.

He heard Tresha get up from the bed and start to sob as she walked out of the hovel.  He moved toward her but she threw up her hand to stop him and continued outside.  Aelar sat back down and put his head in his hands.

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