Sarin Embersong: Visions from the Citadel

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Sarin Embersong: Visions from the Citadel

Post by Sarin on Tue Apr 26, 2016 10:15 pm

Visions from the Citadel

    The fight had been a difficult one, much more intense and alarming than the skirmishes that he had experienced during his time on his family's caravan duties. The spider creature that they found on their way further into the Lotus Dragons' hideout had been an abominable thing and moved erratically, throwing off Sarin's aim. He hadn't been helping matters with his poor shooting, much to his chagrin. He realised that what he had been experiencing with The Hand of the Citadel since their arrival at Silverspires had been a sharp departure from the routines of his previous life, like the sending off of a few motley brigands, or hunting wild boar in the forests. Another arrow left his bow and grazed the thrashing creature, but did not seem to do much real damage. The elf had looked at his companions, who were concentrating on staying alive, just like him. What had he been doing wrong?
    At a stroke of good fortune, Alovar had dispatched the malformed spider by skewering it on a spear, but it had been a close call. They had picked themselves up and ventured further into the unknown. When they had finally met the Lady herself, another tense battle had ensued, now with a large lizard-like creature which proved as difficult to put down as the Lady herself. Sarin had decided it was time to show that he had some skill with his trusted short sword given to him many moons ago, but again, his contribution to the fight was only to be in the way. His most meaningful entry to the mêlée ended up being singing encouraging elven war poems that distracted his opponents and steeled the resolve of his friends.
    Again, by the strength of arms from his companions, and maybe inspired in some small way by his musicianship, the Hand had been successful in driving off the Lady Lotus, and killing her fearsome pet. As much as it had pleased Sarin, he had also felt a certain glumness. This had not been exactly how he had felt things would be when Darion had chosen him to be part of the Hand.
   
***

    The private dining room in Johan Sturmslager's inn was in many ways better than most other such places that Sarin had visited. It boasted a fireplace, separate from the common room in the inn, as well as hardwood tables and comfortable stools lined with soft fur. Johan had even commissioned a serving table in the corner that could hold a medium sized ale keg and plenty of tankards for easy reach. The room was able to keep out much of the clamor from the busy common room due to a stout oak door, and if the party within wanted anything from the busy innkeeper, they could pull a cord on an ingenious contraption on the wall, which in turn would flip a coloured card visible behind the bar in the other room to get Johan's attention. Even with deafening noise on a busy night, Johan would be able to see that the patrons were calling, rather than the traditional setup with bells tied to a cord. It was not luxurious or glamorous by any means, but it was a good place for the Hand to get privacy to discuss their next moves. Johan had given them a good rate and even thrown in some ale with the rent of the private dining room; this was all done with a merry laugh as he told them that they would need something in the keg with the druid around
    This evening, though, Sarin was not in his usual light mood and could not enjoy the banter that the rest of the Hand was engaged in while enjoying their evening meal in the private room. It was not something that Sarin was known for, but he felt the maudlin press of "vaendin-thiil" on his shoulders, or as the Common parlance would have it, "the weight of life's dark trials" bringing him down. He thought back to Darion's last words before the Hand left for their assignment. His wizened master had looked at him over the rim of his spectacles and nodded as he said, "Remember that you are important to Occipitus and to the Hand of the Citadel. You keep the books well here, but soon you must tread the paths like Calmert and open even more doors than he."
    The old bard had said his goodbyes and left Sarin wondering what he had meant by the opening of doors. He wondered still, as he sat in the inn, days later and sore from their exertions under the city. He was about to take another sullen sip of the passable redberry wine that Johan whisked up from somewhere when he felt a sturdy grip on his shoulder. It was Dash. The sturdy rock of their companionship, the man was usually  found talking fighting tactics with his bloodbrother, Alovar, or pouring another round of ale while he recounted stories of brawls and skirmishes. His face was slightly ruddy, with Johan's premium ale making its presence felt. He was clearly in a good mood.
    "Why so grim looking, Master Elf? Come over and share a tankard of the good stuff, tell us some stories from your caravaning days. You need something stronger than that juice there," Dash pointed and looked at the delicately coloured wine like he would look at a three-copper horse merchant. He didn't trust it.
    Sarin was in two minds, part of him just wanting to brood a bit longer. However, as he noted how Dash was staring down the redberry wine like it was going to jump at him, he couldn't keep a little smile from touching his features and he gave in slightly, "Ack, I am thinking much on what happened in the lair of the Lotus Dragons. I felt, well, not very useful," Sarin sighed.
    Finally, Dash tore his gaze away from Sarin's wineglass, and a thoughtful expression crept into his features, "Feeling a bit in the dark about the bladework, eh? Happens to all of us, I suppose," he noted, while taking a good swig of his ale.
    "It's not that I don't know how to swing a sword, Dash, but the kind of things we have been doing... it feels like we are tested to the limit every time, and nothing I can do will make it better. It is like the gods are laughing when they see me in battle." Sarin slumped a bit more in his seat.
    "Let me see your sword, elf," Dash muttered in a slightly brusque manner, while he grabbed for Sarin's scabbard. With a practiced hand, he slipped out the simple short sword and did a few small cuts and swings, looking like he was taking some measure of it, either balance or weight - or both.
    Sarin decided to let Dash's forward manner pass for now, intrigued as he was about what the half-dragon was up to. As Dash lumbered a few steps while swinging the blade, Sarin added, "It's a short sword that my family let me keep when I left for Waterdeep. I guess it is nothing special, but it is well made, nonetheless."
    "Well made does not mean that it is right for you, elf," Dash did a few more swings and held the blade with a downward grip, "I think you need something else. I have noticed that you are fast. So let us make that agility work for you." He looked at Sarin again, "Let me give you a few tips. We'll cross blades once a day, do a bit of sparring - and I think you should use another blade. Like that rapier we took from the Lady Lotus," he grinned and his face had even more of a glow than before, "it's far too pretty for me to use, anyway!" He laughed his booming laughter and slapped Sarin on the back.

***

Sarin sat in his trance, the gentle undulation of the ship giving him a slight rhythmic sway. It was moondark, and eight bells had sounded just before he sat down, signaling the start of the last night watch. As he had made himself comfortable, he was sure he had heard the unmistakable stomp of one of ships mates going to the tiller.
    Now, he was deep in meditation. The years of running through the soothing melody patterns and images that constituted his mental exercise for rest and relaxation made it easy for him to reach deep trance. The first bell sounded, which he registered on an abstract level, and a floating image of a half hour of song drifted past his inner vision. Elven dreamspace would have been a curious thing for a human to observe, would they have been able to make their way in to a resting elf's trance in the first place. Peace was with him, but there was also an undertone of change in the regular beat of his meditation. Deep reflection on his soul and knowledge was being turned into a soaring melodyscape of opportunity - and challenges. As his deep thoughts churned gently, Sarin reflected on some level on the things he had seen and learned in Silverspires. Wisps of another song intermixed with his own melodies and he felt somehow that he was not alone in his meditative mindscape, although the concept of that thought made his cerebral reflections cascade a flurry confusion, before solidifying into a small vision of himself sparring with Dash. The images blurred the lines of past, present and future, he felt, and showed him something. Something important. At first, he had not been getting anywhere, but as days would pass, a change would come over him. The magical rapier, taken from the Lotus Dragon's hideout, supplementing his poise and reach, was giving Sarin a more natural extension of this fighting stance than the short sword had ever done. From the mental imagery, and from what he had been doing recently, he agreed with his minds eye and the mysterious unknown song that he was evolving, but the question was into what?

***

    Alovar looked at Sarin as if he had just swallowed a toad. "You want to know how I find the locking mechanism on every door and chest that we find? Shouldn't you just keep to strumming away on that infernal instrument, rather than poking into matters you don't understand?" He looked away from the elf and kept trying to dry the bowstring on his short bow which was not taking well to the damp conditions in the jungle.
    Standing in the hazy afternoon sun, Sarin had taken the opportunity to approach Alovar while the group was taking a rest on their way towards the mysterious ruins that the Gnomish professor was so interested in. The humidity and heat of the verdant explosion of trees and vines seemed to bother a lot of the members of the expedition, but Sarin didn't really feel it. He supposed that they were maybe not used to the climate here - or maybe it was because they were mostly all humans. Well, half-human in some cases. And the Gnome didn't seem to notice anything other than how far they were from their goal. Deciding that he would not be deterred, Sarin tried his best conciliatory smile and moved over to look at Alovar again. The diminutive rogue did look a bit uncomfortable with having to continue the conversation, but Sarin felt that he had an angle somewhere.
    "Well, you see, I am just in awe of how you do it," Sarin lowered himself down and sat in a relaxed position, "I have been known to dabble in a little trickery here and there, you know, it comes in handy on the roads and trails to be able to go places that others don't always want you to. The gods smiled on me several times when I traveled with the caravans, but sometimes, you need a bit more than a kiss from Tymora." The elf looked skyward and gave a more rueful smile, then looked back at Alovar, "Although I do think you must be one of the Smiling Lady's children, the way you always get the last arrow into our quarry!"
    Alovar couldn't help but laugh. Sarin joined in with a low, mirthful grin as well. The rogue looked him over and his expression changed to half serious for a few seconds. "I will do it, but on one condition."
    Sarin forgot his mirth for a second and said earnestly, "Of course, name it".
    Alovar leaned over and whispered, "You will write a tavern ballad about my heroic deeds to perform for suitable ladies on our travels"
    As the slightly delayed roar of laughter flung out over the jungle canopy, a flock of startled birds decided to move away from the strange and loud interlopers in their quiet kingdom, no doubt wondering how such noises could exist.

***

    Sarin was in his dreamscape again, listening to the melody of his knowledge and future. They had come far and braved dangers and creatures that he could never have imagined, but he felt like he was still in the process of crossing over a threshold; like a wanderer approaching a door to enter an unknown dwelling, but caught in a glacial-like state that did not seem to allow the door to open and the crossing to end. In a way, it seemed like he was being drawn somewhere by someone, but the who and the why had remained elusive up to this point.
    Gone was the exclusiveness of pure music and performance from the signs and symbols that danced in front of his mind's eye. In the tendays now gone since his first feeling of change and opportunity, he had been drawn into developing his physical and martial prowess, and also to see the mechanisms and construction of things that were meant to be locked, but could be teased open with the right combination of nimbleness and imagination. This knowledge swam from him, flocked together in his thought-ocean and came back as schools of fish, big silvery entities of something he could not name, a way or a path that was being spun in front of him as some astral symphony. No later had the thought occurred in this trance than a curtain seemed to pass, flicking a mental switch in his mind. As from the depths of a great, dark blue ocean came a figure slowly ascending up through his senses, a sliver of gray billowing in the ethereal water behind the apparition. Sarin had never felt anything like it, but on a level deep in his psyche, he understood that a communion was being established and that the conductor of the strange song intertwining his dreams and thoughts was here.
    Although the music of his meditation was not a palpable thing, the crescendo building in his head affected him nonetheless. As the figure came closer and the rays of enlightenment streaming down through the sea of thoughts pushed the dark depths away, he felt his pulse quicken. Silvery lances of light shot down through the mind-sea, and Sarin now felt like he was floating in that otherworldly ocean, thoughts like bubbles streaming gently from him. The robed figure was so close now, gliding towards him like a true creature of the waves, but still humanoid in appearance. The figure lifted an arm as it came closer, its swift ascension slowing as it approached. Sarin could see that it was holding something and squinted against the light coming down from above. Was that... a bunch of keys?
    The young elf had very little time to consider the circlet of colorful and many-shaped keys that was held up towards him, because he saw the face of the apparition and his mind's eye widened in surprise.
    It was his mentor and master, Darion Meroch.
    The old bard smiled as he gently bobbed in the thought-ether of his apprentice's meditation, and proffered the keys again to the startled elf. His voice rang out, as clear as if he was right there beside him, "Take them, Sarin, and know that you have started on the journey that you always wanted. Take them, and smash down the gates that bar us from real knowledge!"
    A mental thunderclap ensued and Sarin was sucked impossibly through the ocean of his mind into the present as the communion with his master came to an end.
    His eyes opened and he knew that his door, too, had also been opened.

Sarin
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