Legends of Moonsong City

Arabella Deals with Frill
And Nicholas starts to talk...

The anger radiating from Arabella spiked as Frill sat down. With a flick of her wrist, she sent the two potion bottles she’d recovered from Kilhgarrah tumbling across the tabletop. Frill stopped one with his right hand. The other slowly rolled in a circle, it’s oily contents sloshing gently inside.
“Don’t you ever put my team in danger like that again.” Arabella hissed. Her hand shook almost imperceptibly. She took a deep drag on her cigarette.
Frill recovered quickly. “I hate him.”
“I don’t care, " Arabella replied, blowing smoke at him. “He’s part of my team. Your stunt could have gotten him and my whole team killed. You ever do that again there will be consequences.”
“Do you even know what he is?” Frill asked, his voice tinged with disbelief.
“Of course I do,” Arabella returned, perhaps too quickly.
“Have you seen what color he is?” Frill’s anger was apparent. His words hung in the air accusingly.
Arabella leaned back. She took a second long pull on her cigarette, held in the smoke for a breath as if considering something, then let it drain slowly from her lungs.
“I don’t care” she repeated softly this time. She leaned forward over the table to catch Frill’s gaze over the tops of her darkly tinted lenses. “What you are doesn’t dictate you who you are.” She paused and sat back. “If anything, I am proof of that.”
Frill glared at her. The awkward silence stretched on.
Finally Arabella sighed and shifted the topic. "So, do you want to know what my team learned about this so-called “master” in the Descent?"
-—————————————————
A couple of hours, a few bottles of wine and many cigarettes later, Arabella slipped out of the bar and with a quick spell into the guise of a toothless old crone. She made her way home through the sometimes dangerous streets of the Flats. Thanks to her disguise, she was largely ignored. That was good since she was lost in thought. As was her habit when in such moods, she started talking to me. I guess she felt that was better than talking to herself.

“It was a near thing in the Descent….Max was basically dead, and Sven and I were not far behind. If Narni hadn’t gotten a hold of that magical rod, we might have all died down there.” She took a deep breath. “You know what Nicholas?”
“What?” I replied, poking my head out of her sleeve.
She stopped dead in her tracks.
“What?” she echoed incredulously, staring at me.
“Chicken butt!” I snickered. “Gotcha good that time. Hissss…”
“You talk?” she said again, ignoring my admittedly juvenile joke. Her eyes widened behind her glasses.
I paused. She’d understood me? This was new.
“Uh…I guess so…”, I ventured. “You never understood me before…”
“All you ever did before was hiss and stick out your tongue occasionally”, she replied. “Now, you’re forming full sentences…”
If I’d had shoulders, I would have shrugged. “What can I say, maybe you’re just finally listening to me.”
We stared at each other for a bit, absorbing this new development in our relationship. Finally, I broke the silence. “You were saying…something about almost dying?”
She shook her head. Then resumed walking. And talking…
“Yeah…I guess, I realized I think of the horde, moronic as they can be, almost like they were part of my real family.”
“I suppose after all you’ve been through with them they kind of are, aren’t they? Kind of like Corris,” I paused, waiting. “Or me, right?” I paused again.
“Of course! Yeah…you, Corris, yeah. I just never thought of them like that before. It surprised me.”
“Hiss. So now what?”
“Well, you heard Frill. Now that I’ve told him everything we learned about the master, he’s agreed to get us a guide to Giles’ hide out. We really need to end that guy.”
“Hiss. No argument here. Rats give me the creeps. They don’t even taste that good. Mice taste better any day…”
“Yeah…and hopefully with some of the cash we recovered I can help the team be better prepared for whatever we are going to face. Giles has been amassing power for a while, so it certainly won’t be easy.”
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” I reminded her helpfully.
“Yeah…you’re right,” she said. “I need to have a talk with Kilhgarrah.”
“I gotta say, hiss, it is pretty cool that he is turning into a dragon, even if it is a green.”
“Assuming that’s what’s happening, yeah.”
“What do you mean? It sounded like you knew…”
Arabella grinned at me. I was glad the disguise didn’t include smell…with that many rotten teeth her breath would have been awful.
“I knew something was up with him…but I’ve been busy and haven’t tracked down the details yet. I couldn’t let Frill know that though could I?”
“I suppose not,” I said. “So how do we find out what’s really going on?”
“Ask him I guess. If he doesn’t know or doesn’t want to share then we figure it out on our own…probably have to do some research…”
“Who do we know at the library?” I asked.
“Nobody yet…guess I’d better get on that…”

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Recap for the Legends.MSP group

Three sessions ago, Lady Charity sent word that she needed help in the hamlet of Kirin. Undead has been rising over the old prison and she needed help to investigate and stop the attacks. They party investigated and discovered that a pair of sisters had been trying to summon a demon as a lark, thinking they were playing a child’s game. They were not, and one of the sisters was consumed by the undead spirit and had been raising additional undead warriors over the prison. The team investigated and with a commando style attack managed to destroy the summoned demon and escape…. barely.

Two sessions ago, a man named Breen got the team’s attention in the Drunken Priest and told them that he had poisoned most of the townsfolk who had come to the tavern for a nice night out. He did however tell them where they could find the antidote. So off our heroes rode to fetch it. When they returned sooner than Breen had wanted he rode out to stop them. He failed. When the party returned, they found this note left by him.

Welcome home Milo.
By now you’ve realized that the antidote is a fake. Your kind is always so easy to manipulate. Save the innocent, do the righteous deed, blah, blah, blah.
Anyway, you’ll be happy to know that my master was able to complete his work while you were out. Thanks again for that.
As for us, I figure we still have some unfinished business. Maybe that’s something you’ll want to resolve. I’ll be waiting.

They rode out to his town and took on the undead and wererats that inhabited it, destroying a stronghold for Breen’s allies.

One session ago, the heroes discovered that they were no longer welcome at the Drunken Priest. The ill luck that seemed to follow the team had caught up with them. The people, especially after the poisoning at the tavern had turned, and really just wanted the heroes away from them. Once on the street, they lived up to their reputation. A giant zombie muttering “”/characters/po-3" class=“wiki-content-link”>Arnie… Arnie…. Arnie" was coming down the street, commoners frozen in fear were killed in a single giant blow and raised as zombies soon afterwards. Once defeated, the zombie decayed quickly into a mess of what looked like corpses with a small doll at the center that looked a lot like Arnie.

The heroes went below the city to try to ferret out the source, after hearing that most of the elves of the still pond had been killed a couple of days previous. While the exploring was generally successful, they didn’t learn anything of real value. They did encounter the watchmen of the lower annex, but did not try to engage them.

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Death in the Dark

You confronted by a band of wererats who asked you to clear out their enemy, the elementals who have been ravaging the undercity. You planned a clever betrayal, but they only sent a pack of rats to lead you, so you ended up at the lair of the firelord to do the rat’s bidding.

Properly prepared for battle with beings from the elemental plane of fire thanks to some timely protection magics, you cleared out the lair, killed the three goblin slaves working there, took the treasure, studied the map and then got tempted by the runes that promised a cold death from the master if you descended on the winch.

Well, that sounded like fun, so down you went. Only it was cold, dark, and silent. A wight attacked in the darkness and after some initial fun with communication problems and rope cutting, you managed to escape with only a couple of level drains. After reading that those are sadly temporary unless the wight gets all of the levels, you sighed and decided that maybe you’d head to the surface.

XP: Killing the firelord’s minions and cleansing the lair was worth 9600xp. Divided by all of you (Arabella, Arnie, Kihlgarrah, Maximus, Milo, Narni, Sven, and Tifa) comes out to 1200xp each.

The treasure you recovered, (since your sturdy treasurer is out this week) was
Masterwork Chainmail (300gp)
Masterwork Spear (300gp)
Aquamarine 425gp
White Opal 600gp
Bracelet 125gp
23 Agates 1gp each
6 Turquoise 5gp each
Potion of Hide from Undead x4 (Two of these were consumed as I remember)

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Log Entry for 3-Jan-2015
Milo

The party’s virtual frolick underneath Moonsong came to a sobering end when Maximus was killed by a large fire elemental named Jil’jin. They debated the economics of paying for his resurrection versus just finding a new cleric, but Arabella has become quite fond of Max and convinced the group to stick by their narcissistic fellow. Milo was able to negotiate with the Temple of Bahamut for Max’s full resurrection and restoration. The priests even took pity on the group and threw in a magical longbow for the little paladin.

Encountering Jil’jin confirmed and explained the rumors of fiery men wandering the Moonsong slums. But the group has uncovered a much bigger mystery. While exploring an ancient temple of Erathis they discovered a hidden room inhabited by strange ensouled constructs. The constructs seemed to be barely more than automatons dutifully parroting “All praise, Erathis” in ancient Common anytime the name of their god was mentioned. Their leader was another story. His body is the same as the constructs, but his head is a helmed, glowing skull. Milo was skeptical that this creature was actually a servant of the God of Civilization. His Detect Evil divination said the creature was good, but the spell left him with a queasy feeling. Arabella spent quite a bit of time talking with this creature, who refused to provide a name. Much of the discussion was spent convincing the creature our group didn’t need to be killed, but after a time he divulged that he had previously encountered another band of explorers. The creature claimed to have sent this other group on a quest to kill a tarnished silver dragon named Mountain Breeze, which will somehow give him access to a vast library inside the ancient temple. Arabella insisted that our group could help the other group. The creature would provide no information except that the other group’s spokesperson was a loquacious elf named Haloisi.

Frankly Milo thinks the whole thing is malarckey. Erathis obviously has a good reason for her temple to remain hidden under Moonsong after centuries. If anything they should work to keep the temple hidden and toward redeeming Mountain Breeze. Also Milo will be utterly flabbergasted if the glowing skull creature does not turn out to be a lying, murderous traitor. But Arabella is fixated on gaining access to the library, and Arabella holds great sway with the direction of the group. So it looks like they will be trying to locate Haloisi and her companions to help open up a library.

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Dawn Breaks

Dawn broke over the city, leaving it in a hush as all of its residents fell into a routine of quiet meditation. Thelonius had been welcomed to join a small sect of Pelor monks as they worked through their morning exercises.

The exercises took place on a dais raised above the city on the tower of the first light. It offered a commanding view of both the city and the desolation beyond. As first rays of sunshine slowly crept across the floor, each monk would start their exercises as the light slowly illuminated their area. The monks and the dais were structured such that the exercises fell into what might be considered a round if it were a song, but instead as a graceful dance. Each monk in a different place of the same exercise but perfectly complementing the rest at the same time.

Thelonius, though invited, was new to the routines and as such had a spot towards the end, where he would have time to observe, study, and hopefully repeat the beautiful movements.

At the coda of each movement, there would be a flash of light emanating from the monk, as they seemed to bend the sunlight itself, causing it to burst out in all directions at once in a blinding finale to the movements. Thelonius was mildly surprised to see that he had followed the movements well enough, that he too, for a brief moment was able to bend the light around him too, into a startling blast of light all around him.

When they had finished, the eldest of the monks motioned Thelonius over. “My son,” He began, speaking slowly and quietly as a dove cooed soothingly on the railing. “A messenger of his glory, Pelor, has given to me what is to be your blessing. Our exercise this morning is not the prescribed one. Nor is it what we would normally share with an outsider. You are to mediate on this exercise, and particularly the power of the coda. It is to be the gift of the great god Pelor to you. Do not misuse or mistreat his gift, or you may find yourself without not only its benefits, but the light you need to guide you.”

With a barely perceptible nod, the old monk dismissed Thelonius. The next morning the exercise was the same, and the morning after that. Thelonius found himself flowing with the power of the movement, and becomes confident he can call upon it in battle.

Pelor’s Flash of Light: (su, swift action) Costs 1 Ki point per use. If the monk is targeted by an attack which will hit, he can cause a blast of light to give him the benefit of a blur spell (20% miss chance) for the purpose of that attack. Requires there be some sort of natural daylight. The attack needs to target the monk directly, not as part of an area of affect.

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The Forbidden Story

In the waning days of autumn, the fire that the lizard folk built out of peat moss burnt low and hot. The lizard folk stretched out appreciatively to soak in the warmth. As the night began to deepen, and one by one the lizard folk dropped off to sleep, the stories they told of their tribe and it’s history began to both lose coherency and gain in size and scope. By the time that dawn was a promise on the horizon, most were sleeping.

Except two. Lyra had enjoyed the lizard folk more than she ever would have imagined. They were so different from the dwarves, humans, and halflings of her northern village. If those people could see her now!

The second was Dorila. She edged closer to Lyra and spoke in a drunken sort of whisper. “Would you like to hear the real story of how my people were freed from the twilight land?” she slurred.

“Yes.” Lyra snapped her attention to the drunk tiefling. “Very much, yes.”

And so Dorila told Lyra the story she had been forbidden to tell by her elders. The one whispered around tiefling fires late at night and in whispered tones. The story of those who had had eternal hope and the golden heroes who had saved them.

“Way back, in the time forgotten, my people were cursed by the gods for not staying true to their worship. You might think we’d be angry, but no, we were deserving of the scorn of blessed Pelor and wish only now to bring glory to him through our changed and righteous state.”

“The leaders of our people had abandoned the sun god, blessed forever be the name of Pelor, and his companion Erathis. We had built a mighty civilization and the people were well off and happy. But then our leaders sought to channel our righteous devotion to themselves and take a place with the mighty pantheon of gods.”

“They were, of course, fools to think such a thing was possible eh?” Dorila’s head starts to sag to one side and she begins to drift off to a drunken slumber. A quick kick from a lightning fast Lyra, followed by a friendly smile brought Dorila back to her senses.

“Ah, oh yes, Fools, Fools!” She continued.

“They were successful in channeling our devotion to them. And it did increase their powers, but the gods were not so stupid as to not notice, and they cursed them and through them; us for betraying their mighty and good protections. (Blessed forever be the name of Pelor!)”

“For our part in not having sufficient dedication to understand what the changes in prayers had meant, we were marked throughout the generations as a sign to always remember he for whom light is a gift given daily; Pelor, blessed be his name forever.”

“And for their part,” Dorila continued darkly, “a worse fate. They had decided that if they would not be gods, they would at least be immortal, and they used their combined new found power to strip the living flesh from themselves and then use the life force of their most dedicated followers to power their ascension into the realm of the unliving as it’s kings and queens.”

“The horrible thing happened then. Families at meals watched as some of their loved ones began to wither before their eyes, crying out in pain and suffering as their flesh was stripped of its health, and their souls were trapped to fuel the abomination that was being rendered in the dark city of Nu’Herm.”

“It was horrible, Lyra.” Dorila leaned in to whisper. “Horrible. Can you imagine the families who had to watch as their husbands or wives or fathers or mothers were forced to endure a withering right before them? No. It is too much. But it was not the end.”

“The ones who were taken, then attacked their families, seeking out in hate for what had been done to them. The city nearly died that night.”

Now Dorila smiles a little. “But even in the darkest night, at the foulest hour, Pelor, may his name be blessed, had mercy on those who had not abandoned him. In the city there were a few families who had not spoken the new prayers and had not given the new offerings, and within these families there was no death, no destruction.”

“They cried out to Pelor, the blessed one, and he sent to them his protector. To the dark city, the fair one went. But it was too late for the city. The place was blackened by the evil that had been done in it. And Pelor (blessed Pelor) and his friend Erathis were forced to send the entire city to the twilight realms.”

“They sent the whole of the city, its walls, its buildings, its people and its abominations to the realm of twilight. The place of the whispering madness.” Dorila shudders.

Dorila looks from Lyra back to the smoldering fire. “It is the forbidden story, Lyra. The part even we whisper. So that the city may never again be visited upon this world or its evils again infest the hearts of good peoples.”

“But it was found. Found, Lyra!” Dorila exclaims in a shouted whisper. “Found by the Golden Heroes, who, blessed by the name of Pelor and his loyal servant, the First Light entered the twilight city and there, they rescued the descendants of the devout.”

“They saved them all.” Dorila is fading fast now, and only the occasional kicks and prods from an ever smiling Lyra are keeping her awake. “It was in the twilight city that they had to avoid the machine men. It was in the twilight city that they had to find the guardian and rescue the devout. It was in the twilight city that Poe smote down the captain of the Sworn Everlasting. And it was in the twilight city that one escaped.”

“Then the blessed of the light, the Ron, he opened the portal and he tracked the evil back. With his friends, the Ron confronted the evil one in a hidden lair that had been prepared for such an escape they destroyed him. Forcing him to reform back in the cursed twilight city.”

No amount of prodding was able to keep Dorlia from laying her head down on the large lizard folk that had snuggled behind her. “Do you know why they call it the forbidden story, my friend?” Lyra shook her smiling head no. “Because… because….”

And with that Dorila dropped into a drunken slumber, Lyra unable to wake her again.

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Saving the Children!
Milo

When Milo heard the rumors of child kidnappings by strange creatures coming from the sewers, there was no question he would investigate. He was surprised it took the specific plea of Helen, whose daughter, Ellie, was missing, to convince his companions to venture below the city. Contrary to the grumblings of the others, Milo enjoyed exploring the unnavigable catacombs beneath Moonsong. Milo had never been any place so interesting and exciting. There were evil creatures to vanquish, ancient wonders to discover, and frightened children to rescue. Finding piles of child bones was discouraging, but Milo would not believe their search was futile. If nothing else, ridding the world of a few goblins was worthwhile.

Milo praised Tamara the Merciful when, after two days of searching, they found Cathy, a little girl so near death that she couldn’t speak. The exhausted party decided it prudent to take her to an orphanage and spend the night above ground. In the morning Milo could not believe that the other adventurers felt it was pointless to continue the search for Helen’s daughter. Only after he started out on his own did they reluctantly accompany him back to the catacombs.

Wandering for hours, rediscovering places they had been over and over did nothing to lessen their complaints, but Milo vowed to continue until he was convinced they had thoroughly explored every nook and cranny. He couldn’t help but feel vindicated when they finally stumbled upon a practically hidden passage leading to a room containing several bugbears and goblins, and a tiny, blonde child. The evil creatures did not stand a chance against the pent up frustration of the adventurers. As Milo ran up to the little girl and confirmed she was Ellie, he physically felt Bahamut congratulate him for his determination and fidelity to the Ptarian Code. Milo is beginning to appreciate how wise his mentor, Leovin, was to send him to Moonsong.

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What Goes Bump in the Night

Having arrived back in Moonsong City and it’s comforts, you quickly find the food better, the wine more sweet, and the people more beautiful than the tiny hamlet of Kirin. On the second night in however, there is a restlessness about the Drunken Priest. One of the families visiting from an outlying farm has found a bloody and small hand of what would seem to be a child at the threshold to the common room.

At the discovery, one mother shrieks in fear. Her daughter has gone missing. The atmosphere of the tavern takes a decided turn for the worse, and most of the patrons clear out. The City Watch is called, but they seem uninterested in these sorts of events on the Flats and sadly tell the woman that they have some other pressing business.

The next morning, there is a bundle of hair on the doorstep. Mixed in is a bloody green ribbon, the type a young girl might wear in her hair….

Desperate, and without any way to find any other help, the frantic mother turns to you.

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Haloisi's Evening
Haloisi

Haloisi perks up a bit at the mention of libraries, but then her hopes fall again as she recalls how futile her efforts were in the last library the party had discovered. She listened for a while, and tried to remain interested, but any tale as told through the filter of a religious fanatic was never a good source of fact. Thelonius seemed interested, of course, but Haloisi was not terribly. She excused herself as if to get a drink and allowed the others to get what information they could. Even if the woman had firsthand account of the ruins she spoke of, it seemed doubtful that she studied them in any meaningful way.

The celebrations were still going strong. Haloisi tried not to think about what the lizard and menfolk were eating around the fires. She had tried the dragon meat out of sheer powerful curiosity, but as to the origins of the the baser meats and questionable fermented beverages passed among the fires she had the opposite of curiosity.

Elven cloak up, Haloisi stealthily worked her way among the crude huts toward the one designated for her and Lyra, who seemed to be Halosi’s permanent bunk-mate. Of course, if Haloisi had to choose among the party, Lyra is who she would pick every time. The girl certainly knew well of discretion from her apparently larcenous background. Haloisi returned the favor easily and naturally by not disclosing what she had pieced together about the girl. Some knowledge was not meant for others, which was only reasonable, but all knowledge must be known by Haloisi herself, and had best dare not attempt to escape her.

Haloisi slipped into the hut and collapsed to her knees, rapidly casting Alter Self upon her features and concentrating to change her skin hue. As soon as she was satisfied, she summoned the diary from her bag of holding. She brushed back her hair to keep it from falling in front of her and blocking the light. The light was poor in this hut, barely enough to read by from ambient firelight around the camp, but she did not cast dancing lights. If the book were subject to enemy scrying, she did not want to so much as give them the fact that she could use magic.

The diary opened to the same page once more, a passage about lizardfolk and their place in the ancient Crystal Empire. As fascinating as that was the first two times she studied the passage, she could not see any reason to continue to read it. Haloisi approached the book methodically, which is her way.

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Almost unconsciously, she detected magic on the book once more to try to learn the nature of its wardings. The person who created the book clearly had been evil, and his or her creation was a reflection of its maker. Haloisi felt it in the magical resonance, which made study uncomfortable, but did nothing to lessen her passion for doing so. Otherwise, she was having just about as much success discovering its nature as she had in the weeks she had spent studying the spear she had discovered in the Old City, seemingly aware of its surroundings in the presence of evil, but steadfast in its refusal to reveal to Haloisi just how aware it was.

It was difficult to concentrate on the study for other reasons as well. Haloisi’s seemingly sentient spear, now called Tooth after having been reforged with a dragon tooth spearhead, had misgivings about the book’s presence. It fed Haloisi’s own unease with the artifact with an occasional inarticulate murmur that was clearly a warning. Haloisi did not require the spear’s indications to know that the knowledge was dangerous, but forbidden knowledge was always the best kind. She swept her hair back once more and held it there, but needed both hands to turn pages and pry at the book so it just swept forward again.

Time and futility wore on her as she pressed on without results. Under normal study conditions, such a protracted battle would have been a joy, but holding a book sought by very powerful beings actively seeking it and, incidentally, her demise, stuck out here in the stagnant salt swamp that was the first water she had ever encountered that she did not like, pressed for time… Her patience was wearing fast.

Fatigue from detecting magic, watching everywhere at once to ensure no one, not even Lyra, was privy to her research, maintaining her disguise, knowing that every moment she had the book outside of her bag of holding increased its chances of being discovered by divination… Frustration was not quite the word for what she felt.

After an hour of reading the same damned passage no matter how many pages she turned, attempting different ways of holding the book, detecting magic, seeking secret ways to unlock or activate it fully, Tooth buzzing its displeasure at her study and the thousandth time sweeping her hair back from her eyes to keep it from blocking what little light she had, Haloisi was so primed with frustration that she was ready to burn the book. And tear out her hair. But of course Haloisi would never take out her anger on a book.

Haloisi slammed the diary shut and shoved it back into her bag of holding. Snatching her silver dagger, Haloisi measured out a proper length of hair with one hand, concentrating against the foe she could defeat. She cut through as precisely as she could with a sharp silver dagger at night in a lizardman hut.

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Her obsessive concentration given a new task, she methodically worked her way around her blue hair and cut it exactly and with as much perfection she could manage. It was strangely therapudic. Her mind slowly unloaded all thoughts of the book, tooth, the salt marshes, the insects, and instead she lost herself in the process of crafting her hair.

She lit a Dancing Light then, brushing her hair out with her fingers and using the dagger as a silvered mirror to judge her work. It seemed well, but even with the bright light and her masterfully crafted dagger, it was an impression at best. But she got the impression she had done well. Haloisi sighed, still beset by mild frustration, and it was building again now that her task was done.

She undressed and washed with summoned water. How long had it been since she was able to fully swim in clean water? To fully submerge and enjoy the oneness of the life aquatic, moving with and against the currents, waves and eddies? Haloisi dressed dejectedly and wandered from the hut. She moved away from the fires toward the swamp. Surely not all of the marsh was fetid and poisonous? But she knew better, and discovered as much.

The marshes were familiar. Haloisi’s childhood home of Bydune was separated from land by an expanse of salt marshes, but those were clean sea water marshes regularly exchanged with the tides, fresh water from land, and rains. She had hidden in those marshes once, long ago, as a child on the run from home. It was where she discovered…

Haloisi stashed her clothes and quickly waded into the foul waters, Tooth in hand, wearing naught but her chain belt and bag of holding. Then Haloisi began to dance. She preferred to dance with her spear and trident these days; they added flourish and embellishment to her dance and aided her concentration. Moreover, of late it seemed she was in battle more times than not when she found an opportunity to waterdance. The waters roiled and tumbled, splashed and fountained upward. She tried to remove the filth from the cursed marsh and return the fresh water, or at least clean salt water, but no matter how passionately she sang and danced, it was far beyond her power. Her freshly cleaned skin felt the foulness keenly. But Haloisi was determined. She was distracted by Tooth buzzing in her head again. Of course!

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Haloisi held the spear aloft and it began to glow softly, matching the moonlit wisps of ethereal fog that rose from the marshes away from the areas that Haloisi had violently disturbed moments ago. She turned slowly at first, singing at as strong and deep a murmur as she could manage. The marsh water followed after her as if being slowly spun around her dancing form like a skirt. Faster she turned, creating a vortex that pulled the heaviest and most foul water to the center.

The water hole she danced in became entirely engulfed in a whirlpool in the quiet moonlight. It was quiet, Haloisi thought distantly. The night creatures silenced earlier when she had caused so much noise with her earlier attempts. She put the distant thought out of her mind and concentrated fully on the vortex. The rush of the water now was not so much loud as it was powerful in sound as the waters rushed to keep up with Haloisi’s rapid spinning. She thrust the spear down into the water and its glow intensified. The water took on the glow. She felt clean water separate from the filth and go flying outward, replaced by more filth which was then cleaned in turn.

Haloisi lost track of time as the progressively cleaner waters surged around her, separating faster as Tooth glowed brighter. After an immeasurable moment of time, only clean water surrounded her. Haloisi ended the dance abruptly, causing the vortex to collapse violently as she plunged victoriously under the water.

She danced gently to maintain her place under the water as the former salt marsh water calmed. With Tooth in her hand, she had no need to breath under the water, another miraculous property. She floated out of thought and time. A weariness she had not felt came over her, but the comfort and contentment of being submerged in good, clean water overcame the feeling. In some ways, the fatigue added to the satisfaction.

The meditation was complete and total. Haloisi’s mind and body were one. She had been unaware of how out of synch she had become, but she was now firmly centered. It felt absolutely fabulous. If she were not currently under water, she would sigh in perfect happiness. Haloisi knew she needed sleep soon. It would not do to fall asleep here and lose grasp on Tooth as she slept.

Haloisi cast Water Walk on herself, surging to the surface that was now four feet overhead from where she sat meditating on the bottom. She felt so good that she danced as she rose twirling atop of the water with Tooth held in her hands over her head, spinning on her toes. Her new hair flew out behind her, and she water danced herself dry.

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She marveled at how this water hole had changed from her dance. The former filth had built the area up into a pool surrounded by a perfectly circular mound thirty feet in diameter. This pool of fresh water would remain. Her satisfaction grew. She heard a whimper and sharply jerked her chin toward the sound.

Lyra sat hugging herself around the knees, rocking back and forth. Oddly, the child’s boots were off beside her. Her wide, wet eyes were large in the moonlight. Her face went through a montage of emotion, beginning with deep sorrow and loss, transitioning into a very brief flash of relief, then settling on anger. Very clear anger, and very clearly directed in Haloisi’s general direction. Haloisi knew she must look as puzzled as she felt. She smiled at Lyra, whose scowl deepened.

“Oh, hello child. Did you see the dance? Look at what it made!” Haloisi said proudly, gesturing to her sides and smiling. Her smile slipped a bit as Lyra’s face became more angry. It made no sense whatsoever. Of course the child was hydrophobic, but Haloisi had not invited Lyra to come here, nor forced Lyra to watch her beautifully violent and graceful acts of hydroforming.

“It’s perfectly all right, child. See? This pool is filled with clean water now.” Haloisi tried. Lyra’s face was stone. There was a long moment of awkward silence on Haloisi’s part as she waited for Lyra to say something, do something besides glower at her angrily, and she fidgeted as she levitated nakedly a few inches above the water. Haloisi couldn’t help but think that she had done something wrong, but for the life of her she could not figure it out.

“I, um, I cut my hair. Do you like it?” Haloisi tried nervously, touching her waves of blue locks to make sure it had dried in the correct place. She barely ducked Lyra’s first boot, which landed with a splash. “Lyra!”

“You were underwater for ten minutes. TEN MINUTES!” Lyra shouted, her face contorted in pain, her eyes full of wet rage.

“Lyra, I…” Haloisi was at a loss.

“I thought you were drowning. I took off my boots…” Lyra threw her other boot, which Haloisi deflected numbly. Then she sat back down and sobbed. In between Haloisi made out words, “I couldn’t come after you. It would have been my fault if you…”

“Oh, child, I am so sorry.” Haloisi said, understanding Lyra’s meaning, and she meant it earnestly. “I wouldn’t fault you, of course with your irrational phobia you couldn’t possibly be expected to be capable of…”

“Just fetch my boots and bring them back to the hut. Leave them outside because I won’t be there. I’ll find somewhere else to sleep tonight.” Lyra snapped. And with that Lyra stalked off, breaking into a sprint before Haloisi could reach the shore.

Haloisi stood stunned. She was unaware that she mattered this much to Lyra. Of course, their entire party had become close, and were becoming closer than Haloisi would generally care for purely as a matter of effort involved in personal relationships and their inherent distractions from important study. But for whatever reason, Lyra had seemed to latch on to Haloisi and Lorran, of all people, the most tightly. Haloisi did not spend much time studying psychology other than to learn to become a better negotiator and, when necessary, manipulator, but she could see how an urchin of the streets would have such a need. Were she and Lorran become Lyra’s placebo for her missing parents? She shuddered at the thought. While Lyra had chosen her female influence expertly, her choice of male role model was sharply lacking.

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