Fond Farewell (via chat with Veshenga’s Player)

Taeva was at it again, dancing in the drapes of red copper fire light, mixed with the silver gaze of the starry patchwork above the active swamp. Ever since the earlier reunion, the swamp had turned, and Veshenga had been spirited away with all the light and merriment. She slipped away from the group after a while, leaving the party behind her. She walked among the trees and along the dark bank, admired stars and occasionally drew on the flask of spirits she had plucked from her belt. There was only a night before they moved on again and she wanted to find one of the Rangers even if it was to say good bye. Her eyes wandered for Vale.

She soon found him. He was leaning against a silver-barked oak. The Shoanti ranger toyed fitfully with a half-emptied glass of some kind of faerie mead, apparently paying little attention to the party. There were more shadows this way, the only light occasional brushing fingertips of the celebration’s light. Veshenga ducked out of view, moved among the trees.

As the mead tipped back and forth in his glass, there was a slight hiss in the brances above him. The leaves rustled, a low branch gave a minor tremor. “Psst,” and Veshenga draped down, her legs hooked to the branch. Dark hair tumbled, a curtain of braids and loose locks. Her face was upside down, tilted like a curious owl. “Not really your scene, eh?” She asked with a welcoming smile, even playful.

Vale’s eyes focused on the girl in the tree from wherever he had been thinking. He smiled back, “No, I’m not usually one for parties even when I know where I’m standing. The swamp makes me uneasy.”

“Mm,” she nodded, watched his face in the semi-dark. She glanced back to the party, the brilliance cast from the fire at the center momentarily painted her cheeks orange and yellow before she focused on Vale once more. “It’s unlike any swamp I’ve ever seen, this much is true. Why do you not like the swamps? You know with Taeva, it is because of grinning crocodiles,” she chuckled as she let her arms hang.

“Too soft. Squishy. It’ll take your boot as soon as support your weight. Give me a good solid castle, then maybe I’d feel like dancing,” he grinned.

“A castle,” she was interrupted with her own laughter. “A castle? My, but I would build it brick by brick if it meant a jig from you,” she giggled and curled up to grip the branch, unfurling her legs to drop beside him. She leaned her head back, brushing hair away that had fallen over her face. “You must be happy for Tessa. I’ve never seen someone more deserving of their station. She fought hard, she went through so much.” Her voice tread softly off, and she cleared her throat. “So, what is your path after tonight? What happens to you and Tessa now?”

“That’s what I’ve been thinking about. I spent the last couple of weeks waiting to die like my friends. Then the last few days I was expecting the Commander to come back in with a plan. He’s a gnome, now. Weird. I don’t think the Captain… the new Commander… knows what we’re going to do either. I guess we staff back up and fix the damage. Thanks to you guys, we’ve got some breathing room to do it before the ogres reorganize. You heading back to Magnimar?”

She shook her head gently, and rest her shoulders against the tall oak. “Sandpoint,” she confessed, and took another small drag on her flask. It was refastened, her fingers seemed to work at a distracted, slow rhythm. A sheepish smile spread, and she took her eyes off him to take in the revelry just beyond their little place here under the oak leaves. “I like you, Vale, I think knowing you under different circumstances would have been more ideal, but I still like you.”

“And I, you, Veshenga. Even if you do believe there is any such thing as an ideal circumstance,” he added with a broad smile. “In my experience, ideal is the dream that keeps you from reality. It’d be ideal if I could live amongst my people without having to live in a tent. It’d be ideal if you could save the world from Fort Rannick.”

He listened to another chuckle, a sad smile. She would not trade a minute of traveling with her companions, but when it was time to move onto the next adventure, there were times when she would have to leave someone who had really move her. In his own silent way, Vale had done just that. There was a peace and seriousness to him that she greatly admired and gravitated to, one that did not threaten to paint disturbing pictures of her or watch her unblinking as she slept. In fact, since he had acknowledged his own likening to her, she had moved closer. “Knowing you in a world like this, beyond dreams and real enough to touch, makes such reality just that much more interesting.” Veshenga reached for him, touched his face in a thoughtful caress. “I am proud to know you, it was an honor to serve beside you.”

“You as well. You’ve got a great ways to go before you’re ready to settle down, I’m sure, but I hope you’ll consider the Black Arrows a home. I almost feel like your Erastil and Desna are sporting with you… one makes you a perfect place, the other makes sure you’ve got miles and years to go before you can stop there.”

“Then this place will be much more of a reward one day, I am sure. It is nice to know I have a home with the Black Arrows, though.” She smiled up at him, her hand dropped from his face to lightly take his hand. “If Desna and Erastil wish to sport with me, then I am game. That they pay such attention to me? Well, shouldn’t I be honored then?” A boasting beam, probably to cover up the damn truth of the irony presented. They both knew he was right. He would feel a light pull on his hand. “Stay with me tonight, and we will go our ways tomorrow.”

Vale looked at her for a moment, his eyes standing out clearly against the darkness, thinking. Then, there was a flash of white teeth, “As you wish… I guess there’s one benefit to being in a place where everything is soft. But watch where you place your feet.”

Veshenga burst into laughter, and pulled him to her. She clasped the back of his neck to keep him close for a kiss humming with stifled giggles. She broke from this, her brow leaned against his forehead. “Well, Vale, at least I did not ask for a dance.” She took both of his hands. Her grin was a small crescent along the shadows and brief moments of light across her face, and drew him from the shade to find a private place away from the dancing party.

Questions (via chat with Balekh’s Player)

The morning light scattered across the willow bower, mist… or possibly marsh gas… giving the air an opalescent sheen. Moisture beaded on Balekh’s clothing as he trod into the clearing of the faerie wood. Starting towards the willow where he last saw the lady, he was startled by her voice emerging quietly from the wood to his right, “My love sleeps, still.” Clothed in fine fabrics that resembled the fog-bound forest itself, the beautiful woman became suddenly distinct from the background, barely an arm’s length from the theurge. “Of what did you wish to speak?”

“We rescued your love’s soul from a fate not of his own making,” Balehk began, “There is irony in this, because I may need help doing the same for my own love.” Balehk stared across the grove and waters, watching something only he could see. “Shayliss gains her power, as far as I can tell, from an infernal pact enacted by her forbearers. The pact, and the powers it grants her, have threatened to consume her.

“Power sought is often more dangerous than power gifted.”

Balehk nods, “True. It would be foolish to try to alter a pact I know little-to-nothing about. But there may come a time when we need to enact changes to save her. I will be prepared for that eventuality.”

The nymph arched a perfect eyebrow, bemused, “You have not asked a question.”

Balehk grinned, but it was the grin of a man burying his fear. “Trades always come with a price. If I find a way to shift the source of Shayliss’ power to the fae wilds, what might that price be? How might such a shift be enacted? These are my questions.”

Eyes the color of the morning dawn pierced deep into his, “You try to divert a river to put out a hearthfire that is out of your control. Is the flood better than the inferno? And have you asked the opinion of the holder?”

“I’ll take no action, one way or another, without her informed consent and blessing, but if there’s no hope for what I’m considering, I’ll not burden her with that dangled carrot.

“The contracts of Hell are in some ways similar to the oaths of the fey, ‘tis true,” she said. “They bind and transfer power, both explicit and implicit, and can follow blood even after the terms are fulfilled. Your friend does not labor under a pact unfinished, but draws upon the latent remnants of one bound to her line. Power taken is an oath implied. The source of the power determines the debt inferred. Her debts are not mine to forgive.”

“Then I will find those binding. I will find them, and I will do what must be done to keep Shayliss safe. But power such as hers, cut loose from it’s moorings, doesn’t simply dissipate. If the time comes, would you be able to act as a patron for her to the Fae powers? Would you be willing to?”

She shook her head, sadly, “Offer me not a lien on a soul. You see that we are fair, and believe we are just. For the debt I owe you, I will not tempt you into moving hell only to sell your love back into slavery. All power has a price. Yours is paid by long effort and by a god. Hers is paid by a less loving patron. But for all that, it is a source that respects bargains. What does it mean that she doesn’t have one? Would she be better off with a written deal than a handshake? Is it so important to you that she wield the powers of the weave that you would choose patronage and power over freedom and impotence? These are questions I cannot answer.”

Balehk was stunned, “The wisdom of your words shame me. Sometimes my thirst for understanding, and codifying, blinds my patience and faith. Thank you for your kind advice, I will stay my hand, and see what comes.” Balehk turned to walk back across the faerie bog to where his companions celebrated, “Rest assured though, I will remain vigilant. If my love wishes to be free of her ties, I will make it so. Thank you for your hospitality, my lady.”

Her words followed him, “There are answers for you in the infernal halls, be they the mortals that she hails from or Hell itself. Should you seek greater knowledge, these places, both dangerous, should be your goal.” As he turned, there was only mist and silence within the bower.