I've written this story to aid in my own character development and have had it posted in my guild website - I thought I would share it here.
Life is like a box of treasure – you never know what you are going to get.
My beginnings were truly humble. I grew up on a small farm in an unremarkable farming community known simply as Bob. My parents told me that the town had once had the much longer name of Bob’s Land but the townsfolk, being a simple people, preferred a simpler name. Ironically, my name, Klattuu Barada Nikto, was very long considering where I come from but my Mom explained to me that I was named after an ancient incantation to ward off evil. My neighbors took to calling me ‘Klat’ anyway. I was very well liked by the town. I was a hard worker, very charismatic, and a decent hunter, but not very smart or wise. Being overly smart or wise is something my neighbors would have regarded with suspicion anyway so it worked well for me. I was affectionately called the local "Forest Gump", presumably a nick-name referring to the local woods, but I never really understood what they meant.
As I grew up, I was raised with the knowledge of how to raise chickens and goats and how to make wheat grow tall and our lives were pretty good. Unfortunately Bob's prosperity called attention to ourselves and we had inadvertently invited an occasional Hobgoblin raid. They started small, a loss of a chicken or pig every week or so, but after several months the raids grew in size and ferocity.
Then one night, everything changed.
It was a clear night with the light of a full moon when a large group of hobgoblins entered our village. This was not a typical raid as these were armed and armored – they came to pillage our town. As the first farms on the edge were taken to torch, the villagers were roused and those of us that could hunt grabbed our meager weapons to repel the invasion. I was one of the few that actually had a crossbow and I was able to cause some damage to our foe taking out two from a distance. Of course this singled me out as their number one threat and the hobgoblins began to swarm in my direction. Without a sword, I was defenseless as they grew closer. I ran and they gave chase but soon I was cornered. Death was certain as I had three surround me; teeth bared and rage in their eyes. Instead of cowering, as probably a man with better intelligence might have done, I stared deeply into the eyes of the hobgoblin in front of me. The moonlight reflecting in his red eyes reminded me of fire and I thought about how much I wanted the fire in his eyes to spread and consume him. And strange enough, it happened. Fire emanated from my fingertips and set him ablaze. His eyes went from rage to shock as he howled from the searing pain. His two companions froze seemingly to contemplate what they just witnessed and whether to attack or run. I spun and stared at my next target and once again fire burst forth from my hands and a second howl of pain was heard through the night. I turned to the third and saw he was beginning to run away. Having dropped my crossbow, I saw what would have been the perfect opportunity to volley a few shots as he running away from me. I imagined pelting the back of my would-be attacker’s head with a crossbow bolt when what felt like a charge of energy burst forth from my fingertip and strike him squarely in the back of the head and making him fall down. I turned back to the other two as they were rolling on the ground attempting to put out the flames. I picked up one of their discarded, crudely-made swords and proceeded to finish them off. I was filled with bloodlust and turned to finish off the third but he was gone, probably back into the woods.
The deep moan of a crudely-made horn blared from the woods and the remaining hobgoblins turned and retreated back.
I felt exhilarated! I was the hero of the town! There were six hobgoblins dispatched and four of those kills were mine! The village was teetering on the edge of extinction but we only lost three farms! I lost eight of my neighbors that night, including 2 children, but the rest of the town I had saved!
The simple folk of Bob did not see it that way. As the weeks past, we mourned our losses; we rebuilt what could be rebuilt; we tried to get on with life again. Looking back I guess it was strange but I did not give those unusual happenings much thought. That night had seemed so surreal and it all felt like something out of a dream - but the townsfolk eyed me with suspicion. Some had seen me cast fire and stone from my fingers and as the rumors grew, they grew anxious about my new-found powers. Had I been infected by some demon? Was I a danger to them and their children? Could I be trusted? I was crushed when I accidentally happened upon a meeting of the elders discussing whether I should be asked to leave town.
With my head low, I left a note to my parents and went quietly into the night.
Never having been very far from the town I was born in, I really had no concept how big, wondrous, and dangerous the world was. As naïve as a newborn, I set out into the world. I had few possessions, little money, no direction, and basically no clue about what the world would offer. I soaked in every new experience not with fear but with a wide-eyed child’s enthusiasm (the type of natural inquisitiveness that is quickly quashed from the children of my neigh…I mean ex-neighbors).
Away from prying eyes, I attempted to try my fire and stone making powers but I just could not figure out how to make it happen. It had been now two months since I burned a pair of hobgoblins just by imagining it. Maybe it was a fluke, a trick of the moment, a memory out of a dream. Maybe I’m missing something, some hidden detail that I just can’t quite grasp, some…quickly I snapped out of my mind and back into the world. Lost in thought as I was walking, I almost walked directly into a man standing square in the center of the road. His face was well worn and scarred but he had a pleasant smile which gave me the impression he was very happy to see me. He held his arms crossed over his chest partially covering a set of leather armor that was a slight bit more worn than his face and at his side he had sword sheathed. At that moment I had no idea how much danger I was in.
He greeted me with, “Hello.”
“Hello,” I replied.
“I would like to thank you for using Aga’s toll road. If you would please leave your toll here on the ground, you may continue on.”
Now I was confused. I had no idea I was on a toll road or even knew what a toll road was for that matter. “I’m sorry,” I replied, “I had no idea I was on anyone’s road. I’ll just turn back and take a different route.”
The grin left his face. “Alright, smart guy (Wow – no one ever called me smart before), pay up now or you will know what it is like to be a pin cushion.”
Again I was confused. Obviously he was referring to my fragile body being the target of an arrow or bolt but this man did not have a bow or crossbow. Then a realization hit me and I peered around. Behind him was a short, stocky man hiding in a bush with a crossbow pointed straight at me. Sweat began to bead on my forehead. Then I noticed a tall, lanky man in a tree with an arrow pointed also at me. Below the tree was a small box.
Nervous, I pulled my coin purse out, poured a few coppers I had earned doing odd jobs in various villages on my travels into my hand, and counted them. “OK…how much is the, um, toll?”
“Well, that crossbow slung on your back is a nice start. Then whatever is in your pack as well as what coin you have. Your boots and cloak will do nicely as well.”
The look of shock on my face must have been quite amusing as his smile returned.
That smile…that smug smile. My eyes concentrated on that smile as the anger welled up in me and then, in the blink of an eye, his smile left as his armor caught fire and his screams of pain pierced the air.
Then I felt a sharp pain strike my right shoulder and I fell back on the ground. An arrow was firmly embedded into my flesh and I knew it was only a matter of time before a bolt struck me as well. I was not about to lay down and die. I gathered my strength to face my attackers when I noticed the short man with the crossbow was holding his face.
“AHHHH…I CAN’T SEE!!!”
I looked over at the tall man in the tree who was notching another arrow when he became surrounded by a blue light and froze in place. From off to my right, somewhere in the brush, a volley of glowing purple stones struck the man in the tree and he fell with a thud. Another volley struck the short man and he fell backward emitting a low gurgling noise. A third volley struck my smiling friend rolling around on the ground and he fell silent, body still burning.
From out of the brush, a very short woman, wearing a beautifully sewn green robe appeared and walked over to me.
“Be calm, I’m here to help,” she said.
She reached into her robe and pulled out a short stick and waved it at me. It made a popping noise. She waved it and again another pop. She began to look agitated. She waved it a third time and then a bright light emanated from it and engulfed my body. Immediately the pain subsided and I watch as my shoulder began to heal up and the arrow was being pushed out.
“Bard wands are as flighty as bards some days,” she bemused looking down at me. “By the way, my name is Neeka.”
I was staring at my shoulder. There was a hole in my cloak and shirt, some blood staining, but the wound and the pain were gone! The arrow was on the ground at my feet! I was truly astonished.
“Wow! Thank you very much. I think I owe you a tremendous debt. How can I ever repay you?”
“Well, you can first offer me some basic courtesy and tell me your name,” she replied.
Embarrassed I said, “Oh…um…sorry. My name is Kla…” I looked up and noticed with surprise that my savior was no ordinary woman. She was very short, lean, and had a youthful face but not childlike. I had heard of dwarves in stories of my childhood but I thought they were stocky creatures with ugly faces. Neeka was anything but ugly. She was very beautiful in fact.
She seemed amused at my gaze. “Well, Kla, do you usually stare at people you just met or are you under some weird side-effect of the healing wand?”
I could feel my cheeks redden. “Um…actually the name is Klattuu. It is just that I have never met a dwarf before.”
The smile left her face. There was irritation in her eyes and her face reddened a bit. Then she took a deep breath and calmed down. “Don’t get off the farm much, do you? First piece of advice: Never tell a Halfling she looks like a Dwarf.” She points toward the corpse of the short man in the bush, “That is a Dwarf and over there is an Elf.”
Out of morbid curiosity, I got up and walked over and examined the corpses.
“Be sure to examine the bodies for anything of value.”
Eventually we moved to bodies off the road and gathered everything we could collect into a pile. I was beginning to wonder how we were going to move it all when she waved her hands in the air. The chest, weapons, and armor we collected began to float on what looked like a translucent disk. As she walked away, the disk and all of its cargo followed.
“Come with me,” she beckoned.
I followed her through the brush.
She was quiet and seemed lost in thought for several minutes. And then she spoke. “This is the way I see it. I saved your life and you owe me a life debt. Do you know what that is, Klattuu? It is an old notion based on the ancient Code of Honor. Basically your life is now mine until you either save my life or I release you. But likewise, your life is now my responsibility and I am bound to protect your life as if it were my very own. I have no real power over you. A man of honor would stay. A man lacking of honor would not.”
“I had been stalking those bandits for the last few hours now looking for an opportunity to remove them from my land when you showed up and offered the perfect distraction. I was pleasantly surprised when you cast burning hands on our friends back there as I would not have taken you for a spell caster.”
“By that perplexed look on your face, I see this comes as a surprise to you as well. Was this the first time you made something happen with just your mind?”
I shook my head.
“I’m willing to bet that you are having difficulty with controlling your powers.”
“I did too when I first started. Sorcery takes hard work and training to master. I think I’m beginning to see why the gods brought us together. It looks like I am charged by fate to be your Mentor and you shall be my apprentice – assuming you don’t leave.”
A Sorcerer’s Apprentice – I had a vision of a mouse making a broom carry buckets of water for some strange reason. I shook my head clear. I must be feeling the effects of being robbed, shot, healed, and overwhelmed with all the things I have just learned – like I am going to be living with a beautiful woman who casts magik and want to mentor me to do the same.
Walking just a bit further, we came to a place where the air seemed to dance. When Neeka walked into the shimmering air, she and the items on the disc disappeared from view. Curious I followed and there before us, materializing from out of nowhere, was a small keep with a tower.
“Well, Klattuu, welcome home.”
I was always taught that books were things not meant to be trusted. From my earliest memories there are always legends of Wizards tearing up the countryside with armies or orcs and undead, Evil witches locking beautiful damsels in towers or poisoning them with apples, undead creatures looking to unleash evil upon the world – and the one central theme of all those stories was there was some book involved. So growing up, books were things of lore and legend and I had never actually seen one…until now.
My first day in Neeka’s keep began with a tour of the place I was to call home. The place was more lavish that I could have ever imagined (looking back the place was quite modest compared to many places I have seen since then but at the time it was quite impressive to me). The first stops were to the main hall with a large fireplace, a cooking and food storage area, several rooms for personal quarters, a room set up for weapons practice, an armory a weapon locker, and what looked to be an old shrine room.
“This is sure a lot here for one person. Are there others here?” I inquired.
“No. It is just me here…and you now. This used to be a Paladin’s keep a long time ago but I found it abandoned and claimed it as my own,” responded Neeka. “Now if you will come with me, I want to show you something very special. I have been working for many, many years on it and I hope you find it as exciting as I do.”
She seemed as excited as a little girl as she took my hand and led me to a heavy wooden door and opened it. Ahead of us was a staircase that went up to the tower. We followed the stairs up until we came to a door at the top. As she opened the door, I found myself in a beautifully decorated room. Colors and lights filled the walls and ceiling. From a large open balcony you could see miles of countryside. In the center of the room was a large canopied bed the likes of which I had never seen before and I was simply awed. I stopped and stared at the bed for what seemed like several minutes. I began to get a bit nervous when a thought came to my head and I realized why I was brought here to her bedroom. Then I heard Neeka clearing her throat.
I looked over at her and she was smiling.
I looked back at the bed.
I looked back at Neeka and she was looking back at me with a perplexed look on her face.
I looked back at the bed.
I looked back at Neeka and now she looked somewhat annoyed. Then I notice she had been standing next to a door with her hand on the latch.
“Are you coming?” she said with a hint of annoyance in her voice.
I hustled over to her and followed her through the door to another set of stairs taking us further up the tower. When we got to the door at the top of this staircase, she didn’t pull out any key but leaned toward the latch and whispered something to the door. A second later there was the click of a lock opening and the door creaked open.
She beamed proudly and simply said, “After you.”
I walked through the door and I felt the blood drain from my face. There in front of me was not one or two of those things that fit the description of what I thought a book would look like, but an entire room filled with shelves of them.
I think Neeka misinterpreted my reaction.
“Amazing isn’t it? I’ve spent years collecting them. I have more than many village libraries.”
“A-a-a-re th-th-those b-b-books?”
She looked at me with a very confused look on her face but continued on. “Yes. And you are going to be spending a lot of time up here as part of your training! Doesn’t that excite you!?!”
Maybe it was the culmination of an overly adventurous day and an overly active imagination. I had never been shown anything in my entire life that I was ever afraid of before and my reaction was equally unique. Lately when I have been met with a threat, it ended up catching on fire. I’m sure if I had thought about it, the room would have gone up in a blaze but my mind was blank with fear. I turned, ran down the stairs, out to the balcony, and threw up over the edge of the railing.
Later I found out that Neeka had the exact same thought as I did at that moment, “This training is going to be very interesting indeed.”
Control. That word is the mantra of the Sorcerer. It was also the word that referred to the discipline I needed to learn.
The months had passed and I learned to control my fear of books as Neeka taught me how to read. In her library I found many texts relating to history, legends, the art of combat, the art of magik, all of which I found fascinating. One of my favorites was a legend of a giant talking cat that would talk in rhyme and mess with children. I hadn’t known my parents to be wrong on much but on the subject of books they were way off.
I also learned to control my powers as well. I could call upon my ability to cast missiles and fiery hands at will. It took a lot of concentration and I would find myself very tired mentally after a session. Neeka showed me the many abilities she had discovered she had over the course of her training and I was quite impressed – the balls of fire spell was the one that caught my attention the most and I wondered if I would ever be able to do that as well.
One major point of contention though was Neeka’s ‘live’ exercises. As with the first day we met, highway banditry was quite common on the road near the old keep. It was with these villains that Neeka presented the coldest aspect of her heart. In good conscious I could not bring myself to kill anyone that did not threaten me directly and chose to try to scare off the perpetrators. Neeka on the other hand would give no such allowance and preferred to snuff the life out of them – painfully if the opportunity arose for such. It became almost a game between us but she was far better at killing them than I was at scaring them away.
For several months my training went incredibly smooth. Our efficiency working together as a team was quite amazing – and our makeshift cemetery was growing proof of that.
I didn’t realize it at the time but one of the reasons for our efficiency was the fact that our victims always presented us with a predictable pattern. There was always a human confronter, an elf hiding in a tree and a dwarf hiding in a bush. I guess I assumed at the time that this was a natural highwayman tactic. It was much later that I realized that this was a classic highwayman tactic based on training. It was inevitable that eventually our activities were going to attract the attention of the trainers.
The seasons were beginning to turn cool. That morning was foggy and the air was brisk but I was up early to gather firewood as the nights were getting cold. Neeka appeared out of the mist with eyes aglow.
“Come with me to the road, Klattuu. We have visitors again!”
Making our way to the road we were greeted with the familiar site of a human sitting by the side of the road, and elf in a tree, and a dwarf in a bush – all armed and armored. The temptation for Neeka was always to dispatch them immediately on sight but I had successfully argued with her some time ago that they at least deserved the benefit of the doubt and waited for them to attempt to commit a crime. This of course meant sitting in the brush observing, sometimes for hours, and waiting for the highway to produce a potential victim.
The fog was beginning to burn off as the sun rose higher. We heard the sounds of a horse pulling what sounded like a cart of some kind. The bandits heard it as well and they assumed their positions. The human stood in the middle of the road with his sword drawn, blade resting on his shoulder. Neeka could barely control herself. Once again I saw her face change to an expression of near fury, hands absentmindedly toying with some rolled up balls of bat guano and sulfur in her pocket.
We saw through the mist a covered wagon drawn by a single horse driven by a single rider, hooded and cloaked. He slowed then stopped in front of the human in the road.
As if on queue from our well practiced routine, Neeka took aim at the elf in the tree and let loose with a ball of fire. I let loose with my modest missile volley at the dwarf. The tree burst into flames but the elf seemed to show no signs of being on fire. My missiles just bounced off the dwarf. After the shock had worn off from our surprise attack, there were four sets of eyes upon us. The man in the wagon brushed aside his cloak to reveal an elegant robe and staff. The tables had turned – our ambush was being ambushed! In less than a second Neeka and I were bathed in a thick green fog and within seconds my skin felt like it was on fire and my lungs burned when I tried to breathe in. Eyes watering and in pain I grabbed Neeka’s arm and pulled her into the direction of the keep. We got out of the green fog and ran as arrows and bolts flew past us missing us by inches. I chanced a look back and noticed two very large and heavily armed creatures exiting the wagon and begin to advance on us. I had read about them but this is not the way I wanted to meet a warforged, let along two.
Even out of the green fog, my skin was still burning as if I was covered in acid.
Six of them – two of us. We knew our only chance was to reach the hidden keep. We ran as fast as we could, stopping only to cast spells at our pursuers to try and weaken them as much as possible. Neeka would rain shards of ice down on the warforged, which would make them fall, and I would throw the occasional missile at them.
Exhausted, in pain, and out of breath we got passed the illusion wall and into the keep, locking the doors up tight. Observing them though the tower window, they were systematically searching the brush for us. It was only a matter of time before they discovered our hidden home…and us.
There was not much time for us to work. I was about to drink a health draught when Neeka stopped me, “That stuff works great but it will make you very drowsy. Save it for later.” I put the potion in my pocket as Neeka burned out one of our last two heal wands putting us back together and went back to the window to check on our attackers. I raced down to the armory to gather my crossbow and as many bolts I could carry and breathlessly made my way into the tower to assume a position.
I had been concentrating of the warforge’s systematic and methodical search for us as they edged closer and closer to the illusion wall when Neeka startled me as she came up behind me. “Klattuu, when they get close, drink this.” She hands me a vial with a strange icon etched into the glass. “It is a shield potion. For a short period of time it will protect you from missiles. Use it well as it is our only one.”
She sits down next to me and assumes a defensive position as well.
“No weapon?” I inquire.
“Have you ever seen me use a weapon? No, I will serve us much better with these.” She opens her cloak and shows me a pocket of various wands. Grinning, she draws one and readies it in her hand.
“Those big ones down there…those are warforged. Built for war they are pretty tough to take out and have a lot of natural resistances – but we can use that against them.”
As the green warforged got closer, Neeka waved the wand in its direction making a popping noise. The warforged stopped, shook its head like it was trying to clear a thought, looked around and noticed the nearby elf, raised its sword and charged the elf.
Neeka smiled at me, “Charm spell.”
We watched as the warforged advanced on a surprised elf. Arrows flying into the warforge’s torso did not slow it down as it closed in on its target. The yelps of the elf of course attracted the attention of the rest of the attack party and they all began to converge.
Swipe, dodge, swipe, dodge, slice, splatter, crossbow bolt, magic missile, slice, thrust, magic missile…within a few seconds, a dead warforged and a dead elf better evened the field at four against two.
“Stand ready, fools! They are nearby,” commanded the Wizard.
The Wizard then waved his hands tossing a black powder into the air and spoke an incantation I have never heard before. The look of surprise on his face would have been priceless if it did not mean that our hideout had been discovered. Examining the grounds, he notices our makeshift graveyard near the base of the keep wall…and grins.
Another hand gesture and another spoken incantation later, the ground in the cemetery begins to turn over unearthing the once-buried dead.
Neeka’s eyes grow wide, “Gods, now we are in trouble.”
Out of the ground, three of our previous victims arose and are directed to start clawing at the door.
I drink my shield potion and start shooting my crossbow and Neeka pulls out another wand and starts letting loose with lightning bolts – the epic battle begins.
Slowly over time, and another timely use of the charm wand, we were able to kill the other warforged, the human fighter and the dwarf, but the Wizard remained. For every undead we were able to, I guess one could say, make re-dead, two more would rise up, and they were slowly making their way through the door. As the door finally breaks open, Neeka lets loose with fireball and reduced several of the undead to ashes. But their way to us is now unbarred.
As the undead start making their way up the stairs, I shoot bolt after bolt alternating with magic missiles while Neeka casts fireballs at the relentlessly approaching undead hoard. The keep is now on fire but we are turning the tide of the battle.
Exhausted, I was able to cast one more missile at the final target in the stairwell and the last undead collapses to the ground.
With defeating the last undead we breathe a sigh of relief but at that moment the Wizard rounds the corner raising his hands and bringing forth a lightning bolt which strikes Neeka square in the chest throwing her across the room. I also get thrown across the room in a different direction from the concussion of the lightning bolt dropping my crossbow in the process.
I’m able to scurry finding a hiding place behind a shelf but I know it is only a matter of time before I am discovered.
No wands. No power. There is one of the scattered crossbow bolts at my feet but not much I can do with it without the crossbow. I search my cloak pockets looking for anything that might be of help – a few pieces of lint and the health draught.
Then, as with every other time I have been threatened with immanent death, my mind focused and I knew what to do. Slowly I reached down and picked up the bolt. As silently as possible, I opened the health draught and dipped the tip of the bolt into the thick liquid soaking the wood and metal careful not to touch the sides of the bottle to avoid any noise.
“Where are you, you spineless troll? You have been an annoyance to us for far too long. I am absolutely going to enjoy hearing the sounds of your final scream and gasp of breathe as I watch the life ebb from your eyes.”
We both hear it at the same time. Neeka makes a weak groan from the other side of the room. As he turns away from me, I launch on him and I am able to stick the tip of the bolt into the Wizard’s shoulder. Howling in pain his arm comes around and slams into me tossing me across the room – his strength surprises me as that is not an easy feat for a man my size.
He rounds and glares at me, reaches back and pulls the bolt from his shoulder. Not noticing that the wound is already beginning to heal, he pulls out a wand he aims it at his shoulder, casting a healing spell, and replacing the wand in his cloak.
“Is that the best you can do? Has the little Sorcerer been rendered powerless to even defend himself against me? Your story has ended here, you pathetic worm.”
Beginning his incantation, his eyes begin to droop and he loses his balance – the lightning bolt just barely missing me, striking the wall behind me. He falls to one knee and casts another lightning bolt missing me by an even wider mark. On his third attempt, he falls to the floor and begins to snore.
I search his prone body and find a small dagger. With the dagger in hand, I listened to his final breathe. I picked up my crossbow and his staff then run to Neeka’s prone body and carried her from the keep as the flames spread.
Here I was on a dock waiting for the next ship observing a sunset over the water that was one of the most beautiful I had seen in many years.
After the attack at the keep, it would have been suicidal to stay anywhere nearby. The local thieves’ guild would no doubt hunt me down and exact revenge and I was uncertain how far their reach was. So I gathered up whatever I could find and salvage from the burned out husk of my second home and loaded it all in the late Wizard’s wagon. After two weeks, I was able to make it to some port city, sell most of everything I had, and booked passage for the first ship that was heading out.
Quite frankly I didn’t care where I went as long as it was somewhere far away. My heart had been heavy since the day I buried Neeka. The site I chose was peaceful and the view of the sunsets there was just as spectacular as the one I was currently witnessing. It was a lonely grave without the benefit of a cleric’s ritualistic cleansing. It was the best I could do under the circumstance but I knew Neeka would understand. I had only found one book from the library that had survived the fire. Fortunately the book was one of her favorites as it was about a Halfling and a Sorcerer that went with a group of Dwarves to steal a dragon’s treasure. I buried it with her.
So here I was in this dirty little hole called Smuggler’s Rest. Smuggler’s Rest pretty much consisted of a couple of docks, a hole-in-the-wall tavern called Rook’s Gambit, a handful of small buildings offering survival training, and an impressive woman named Euphonia Teles running the whole show.
Euphonia was probably the most generous person I have ever met. Having arrived in Smuggler’s Rest with no money, I needed to find some work to earn some money for food and eventually get passage off this rock. The locals all directed me to Euphonia who for payment of running a simple obstacle course, gave me a few gold pieces, paid for some training lessons, bought me a new sword, and paid for passage to some frontier town called Stormreach on the edge of some far-away land called Xen’drik.
It was on this dock where the shroud of darkness on my heart began to lift.
It was growing dark but a crowd was gathering on the dock that were all waiting for the ship to come in. A bonfire was lit and torches gave light to pass the night. Then the darkness was pierced with the sounds of a mandolin playing a lively tune. I was off by myself in the darkness as I was not in the mood to socialize but I watched the crowd as men and woman of quite an array of races began to dance. Peering through the crowd of dancing Humans, Halfings, Elves, and Dwarves (the Warforged seemed to prefer the solitude of the darkness), I saw her. The one playing the mandolin was a silver haired Halfling with a beautiful smile and a bounty of energy. She of course reminded me a lot of Neeka but this woman was lovelier as she seemed to not have the deep emotional scarring that had worn into Neeka’s face. This woman was mesmerizing and through her music I felt lighter than I had in a long time. She seemed to have the same effect on the rest of the crowd as well. Peering through the crowd, our eyes met. I smiled. She smiled at me for a brief moment but turned her attention back to the crowd.
For the next hour or so, she continued to play and the crowd continued to dance. Not long afterward, the ship slinked silently out of the darkness of the night and pulled into the dock. A group of dock workers moored the ship to the dock securing it. I expected to help carry on ship’s provisions for the trip but Euphonia had paid for dock workers to do that as well so there was little left for me to do but join the crowd and board the ship.
Three weeks on a boat to the safety of Stormreach.
Staring out at the open water, I had spent the last week on the ship alone with my thoughts lamenting my losses and not really caring much about the future.
I turned my head to find that same beautiful, silver-haired Halfling I had seen on the dock standing next to me.
"May I sit here with you?"
I smiled and nodded.
"I've noticed your sad face and I just wanted to see if I could cheer you up. By the way my name is Willoe."