Baer is quivering under the cloak and Fabian is bleeding out quite heavily. The atmosphere in the room is heavy and the sound of sobbing and heavy breathing comes from the remaining two crew members of the Dragunship.
“Get to your feet, cur!” Grash yells at Fabian, who is lying semi-conscious on the floor and bleeding from several wounds. After a brief moment, and a few wails from the mortal crew, Grash walks over to Fabian and bends over him, staring at his shaking form.
“I said…get..to…your…feet..” and with that Grash remembered the rum that Fabian had. He reached down, grabbed the bottle and realised it was fused to Fabians hand, likely from the lava and fire of the Fire Plane. He took out a knife and dispassionately removed Fabians hand from his wrist and opened the bottle and took a swig.
“Don’t hide my rum from me, boy.” he said whilst turning away.
Vuvu and Jalana were busy making sure everyone was okay, magic of several variations pouring from them and aiding their efforts. Shun came to, and after a brief moment of confusion found his feet and scanned the room. He saw a human crew in disarray, his companions doing their best to lessen their wounds, and Baer slowly getting to his feet, with Grash staring at him from a short distance away taking long drinks from a bottle in his hand…with…another hand on it.
Baer eventually comes to, out of his momentary lapse in sanity, and surges to his feet, wobbly but okay. ’What…where…" he mumbles as he looks around.
“You!” yells Jalana as she sees him getting up, “How dare you threaten me!” and lunges at him.
“No.” says Grash, stepping in the way. “He was not himself. Leave him be, he is okay now.”
Baer looks at Grash, “Remember who you are brother, no matter how much of you is lost.”
Grash says nothing and walks away.
Jalana stops, confused that Grash would tell her what to do but even more so that he would stop someone from committing violence.
The group starts getting themselves organised and ready to leave the cave. As everyone is going about gathering their things Baer is standing next to the machine that he supposed was responsible for their little trip through dimensions.
“Hmm” he mused, whilst scratching his chin, he reached out a tentative hand to the machine, curious as to what would happen if he forced the lever again.
“Stay your hand, human.” a voice from nearby. “I think you should leave the machine to someone with more….credentials.”
Bear turned and saw Shun standing there, with his humming staff in his hands and his serious face on.
Baer shrugged and dropped his hand, “Well, what do you make of it? Should we bring it with us?”
This sparked a lengthy discussion and eventually they agreed that it was best for the machine to be in their inventory than someone else’.
With Jalana shaping herself into an Ox and tying the great machine onto a makeshift trolley, the group makes their way out of the underground temple.
As they exit the cave they see beyond them a figure of a Badger-Wolf. As they realise that they know this certain badger-wolf they watch a small leaf fall from a nearby tree and flutters across their vision.
“Hello, friends.” a voice from behind them.
Behind them atop the temple entrance is Leaf, standing with one leg and using his bow as a walking stick.
Leaf explains that as his doom was coming to him in the shape of a great green dragon he prayed to the All-Mother to save him. He explains that he heard, for the first time in his life she replied to him. In return for his life she wanted a piece of him, so he cut off his leg, and she laughed at him in the prayer and said “I suppose that’ll do”.
Leaf jumps on the badger-wolf and takes off after telling them to follow him. He trusts them now and wants them to get to a place of relative safety. Leaf tells them he will take them to The Commune of Sefīd, one of the oldest and holiest towns in Datura. “It is, however, abandoned long ago.” he adds.
As Leaf and Baer run through the forest, ahead of the others, they find that they can keep up with each other and Leaf gains a new respect for Baer.
On the way they come across a giant smouldering swathe of forest with a small indentation in the middle of the clearing. About two kilometres from one side to the other. Several members of the group make their way to the centre and find an almost dead Halfling wizard in it, magical energies crackling across her body as she twitches.
The Halfling woman is clothed in robes smouldering at the hems. The woman seems to be in incredible pain, and is muttering under her breath. Vuvu kneels down beside her and gets closer to her to hear what she is saying.
“I almost…made it..” she whispers just loud enough for Vuvu to hear.
’Where? Where did you almost make it?" asked Vuvu, taking the womans hand and trying to flood her with healing magics.
The woman, shaking slightly less, and with a slightly clearer look in her wild eyes looks directly at the open sky above them. She raises her other hand and points. “There!” Vuvu follows where she is pointing and sees the enormous rock in the sky.
Suddenly the burning fire starts to spread and before anyone can do anything it consumes the screaming Halfling and as she turns to ash. Immediately Vuvu has a look around for some clue as to what happened, and sees the mages pack, in which she finds the Wand of Wonder.
The group, shaken but mainly intrigued, move on and eventually get back to the river and brought out the DragunShip and loaded the machine onto the ship with with Grashs’ newfound Levitation magic.
They get to the Commune of Sefīd, however just as Leaf mentioned, there are no signs of Halflings anywhere, only lots of monkey-squirrels. The commune seems to have been abandoned for some time, and the group spread out slightly, encouraged by Leaf’s very relaxed nature. Baer wanders off into an area where the previous occupants had an armoury of sorts. He left the building with an exciting addition to his own armoury.
The group meet up near an abandoned Inn, Leaf makes a small fire and everyone begins setting up camp. Baer goes to forage for a nice salad for everyone, doing his best to not find any poisonous flora. Leaf goes and catches a few of the money-squirrels and begins to roast them on the crackling hearth.
As they begin to relax and catch their breath, Jalana gets a little claustrophobic and goes outside for a walk. She sees one of the monkey-squirrels sitting nearby and watching her.
“Hello little one,” she whispers to it with her beast speech, “what have you got there?”
The squirrel cocks it’s head at her and looks at the small nut in it’s hands “A nut.” and it goes to leave.
“Wait! Stay a moment and speak with me.” Jalana implored the monkey-squirrel as she found a small comfortable spot on the ground to sit on.
The little creature looked behind Jalana towards the Inn, and with a nervous twitch when it heard Baers booming laugh after another of Vuvu’s jokes.
“How was your day? What do you do here?” Jalana asked the furry little rodent.
“Are you happy here?”
“Happy….no I am not happy.”
Jalana got a strange feeling from the monkey-squirrel.
“Why are you not happy, little woodland creature? What would make you happy?”
The tiny beast looked up at her with a face that showed more emotion than it should.
“I want to be a Halfling again.”
Jalana leapt to her feet, and looked around her. She saw dozens of the creatures, perched on rooftops, stranding in the street, and realised where the previous occupants were.
Shifting her form into that of a monkey-squirrel she leapt and climbed her way back to the others as fast as her tiny feet could take her.
Vuvu sat on a small wooden chair, humming and tuning her lute. Shun sat with his eyes closed, meditating or thinking about something. Bear sat on the floor sharpening Giant Slayer and enjoying the smell of the roasting meat. Grash sat, as best he could, on a chair with his back to the wall and watching the entrance, with his daggers hanging loosely at his belt.
Leaf took one of the skewers of meat off the fire and began eating it, getting meat juices on his face. As he began offering it to others Grash stood up abruptly with the Mermaid singing out of it’s sheathe bathed in the light of his mage hand. The group followed his gaze to the entrance and they all saw a small monkey-squirrel running as fast as it could towards them and just before it made the entryway it began to twist and turn into a large, dark figure swathed in dreadlocks and matted hair. Jalana grabbed the edges of the entrance and yelled towards Leaf “STOP EATING THEM!”
A few minutes later the group was digesting the knowledge of what Jalana had told them, and Leaf was sitting in the corner, ashen faced and eating the salad that Bear had made.
“But why? I mean, who? Who could turn an entire Commune of Halflings into animals? That is some serious level magic, I have never seen anything like it.” said Vuvu.
“The monkey-I mean the Halflings, say that it happened recently, only in the last two years, about the same time that Leaf showed up…and started eating them…” said Jalana with a sidelong glance at the ranger, sitting on the floor.
He looked up at her, uncomprehending seeing as they were speaking in common, but he did know that she was speaking of him as he knew the word for ‘eat’. Leaf looked like he was going to be sick.
“Well, this changes nothing, and there is nothing we can do for them now. If there are no elders here for us to give the Anahata to, then we need to move on.” said Grash, taking another sip of the strange fermented juice that they’d found behind the bar.
As Grash spoke, Leaf’s ears perked up at the mention of the Anahata. He leapt to his feet and hurried to the door. He stood, lined by the light of the giant rock in the sky, and mumbled in Halfling to himself whilst looking off across the lake in the middle of the commune towards a particularly large tree at the other side.
The group looked at him, and then at each other, then at Shun, the only fluent in Halfling.
Shun sighs, and begins to translate “He says that the All-Mother has done this to them, they are her children, and they are her captors. The Anahata will return to the Spire of Heroes, and the people will be restored. This Halfling is speaking with what I can only presume is hope rather than conviction.”
The group looks at Shun a little longer. He looks back to them and shrugs, “Just a lot of superstitious dribble, really.”
Leaf turns around and raises his hands and his voice “Now! We go! Anahata!” and runs from the building. The others follow him out of the Inn and watch as he leaps onto the back of his badger-wolf and flies through the town, circling around and towards the Spire of Heroes.
“His is a funny little one, isn’t he?” mused Baer, re-sheathing Giant Slayer. “Well, I guess we best follow.” and takes off on a loping run after Leaf.
Jalana turns to look at Shun, knowing that there might be need for an interpreter “Jump on.” He looks at her with a confused look, then she turns into a horse.
“Ah, right.” he mumbles as he leaps deftly onto her back and she takes off at break-neck speed.
Grash and Vuvu look at them go, then turning to each other, they both shrug. “I’ve seen weirder” Vuvu says as they begin the long walk after them.
“I know.” replied Grash.
Jalana tries to catch up to Leaf but cannot, the uneven terrain hindering her horse form but she does arrive only minutes after him and shifts back into her human form as Shun slides from her turning back. She looks up the tree and sees a winding naturally formed ramp going up the sides of the hundred foot tree, with Leaf disappearing into an opening at the top.
“Coming?” asked Jalana turning to Shun.
He looked back to the others, still struggling to catch up. “I think we should wait for the others.” he replied.
“Suite yourself.” Jalana said, and began jogging up the staircase.
As she neared the top she saw the amazing view over the rest of the beautiful Commune. When she arrived at the entryway she found a very simple room, seemingly tunnelled out of the middle of the tree, with a dozen chairs all facing a single raised bowl in the middle of the room. She could see, by the light of the celestial rock, Leaf standing by the bowl and looking at her.
“Leaf, where are we? What is this place for?” asked Jalana slowly, so he could understand.
Leaf looked about the room, and then back at the bowl in front of him.
“Anahata. Here. All-Mother want.”
“I’m sorry Leaf, I don’t understand. The All-Mother is here? Is this where we give her the Anahata?”
“Anahata, yes.” he said, pointing at the bowl.
Jalana looked confused, then had an idea, and shaped her words to that of the beasts, speaking to him in the language of the monkey-squirrel.
His ears perked up and he replied in the same language.
“Girl, you must listen to me for I have much to say and not a long time to say it, before your companions arrive. A long time ago, the All-Mother gave us the Dark Heart of the Forest, the Anahata, and gave us the ability to make great heroes, champions of our people. Our last Hero was Arryn and, as you say, he was imprisoned by the darkness that he was sent to destroy. We need the power of the Anahata to make things right again, return it to the Spire of Heroes and our people can choose another hero! A hero great and powerful enough to avenge Arryn and slay the escaped darkness!”
Jalana saw the wildness in his eyes as he advanced on her, shadows in the room flickering and matching the shadows in his eyes, he implored her.
“Please! Put the Anahata in the bowl! Why do you wait?” he begged her.
“I think I should wait for my friends.” she said simply, hesitation poisoning her.
Leaf’s shoulders slumped, knowing her couldn’t force her to do it, and dropped to the ground in a sitting position.
As the others all came up the ramp and caught up to them they came to find Jalana standing next to the bowl with Leaf sitting idly in the corner.
“Hey guys, Leaf says I need to put the heart in this bowl to restore the power of their Hero making thing, so that they can avenge Arryn, and some other stuff. Thought I’d check with you guys first.”
The others all piled in and looked about, “I mean,” said Vuvu, “isn’t that why we came here? Why wouldn’t we agree? I mean, thanks for waiting for us and everything, though.”
Jalana looked at them all nod at each other, “Okay, I’ll pop it in the bowl then.”
With no ceremony at all besides Leaf standing at her side with a look of awe on his face, Jalana took the beating heart from her bag and plopped it into the bowl.
They all held their breath, and exhaled as one as the heart stopped beating.
“How disapp-” started Vuvu.
A large throbbing noise pulsed through the tree and they all felt it reverberate down the enormous trunk and, as they all watched, the heart began to beat faster, and with each throb more and more energy pulsed down the tree and into the Commune below. They went to the entrance and watched as every tree, every vine and every flower burst into life and bloom in waves leaving the Spire of Heroes. Leaf leapt into the air and yelled in a cross between joy and fear, and as they all saw what he saw they realised why. All the monkey-squirrels were popping back into their Halfling selves. The life and energy that had returned to the Commune was very evident, lights began to flicker on as candles were lit and magical hanging globes appeared about the Commune. Cries of alarm as some of the Monkey-Squirrels were sleeping in trees fell to the ground in their Halfling bodies. Cries of happiness were more common as family members, friends and lovers were reunited in their natural forms.
The group made their way back to the ground floor, leaving the Heart in its resting place. The were surrounded by Halfings of many different vocations, some were obviously labourers, some were in the robes of scholars and some in vicious looking armour and weaponry. All were happy to be back in their own bodies, and hugged each other with great abandon.
Leaf ran about, seemingly looking for someone, but as they caught up to him they saw him on the floor being repeatedly punched in the face and body by an older and tougher looking Halfling.
“That was my wife you son of a bitch!” the older halfling cried as he beat on Leaf.
The group pulled Leaf away from the older Halfling as other Halflings helped to separate them, and with tears in his eyes Leaf was yelling back “I’m sorry! I didn’t know!”.
As the Commune was getting itself back together an official group of the locals came to and surrounded them. One particularly old looking Halfling came up to the group and spoke to them.
“We of the Commune of Sefid thank you, strangers, and you are welcome here at any time for any reason. You have returned to us the Anahata and we can begin a new chapter in our lives. But first, we will celebrate!” he cried in a voice that was magically amplified to carry across the entire Commune. This was followed by the entire place cheering and the group stood, surrounded by the locals cheering and crying out the praise of the newcomers.
Later in the evening, they were all drinking and cheering and swapping stories as best they could in a large and official looking building. The room was filled with the leaders and heroes of Sefid, Halflings with robes made of nothing but light, some with giant spears, taller than Baer and with barbed and moving tips, some that they didn’t notice were even there until half way through the night.
After many speeches and explanations the locals were ready to forgive, if not forget, the actions of Leaf and his hungry hungry belly. After a few drinks Leaf made a long speech of how he met DragunShip Suddenly! and vowed to forever from this point on eat nothing but that which grows and not that bleeds. This was met with some polite clapping, but a few furrowed brows.
“You will need to give us a speech, oh mighty ones, tell us of how you got the Anahata and brought it back to us!” called one of the Commune’s leaders to the group.
“I am not giving a speech to these ones, I would not know what to say.” said Jalana, sipping at a small tea that they had given her, it smelled of earth, she liked it.
“Grash, you will tell them, you were there when we….um…obtained the heart, but be careful with your words.” said Vuvu, quietly.
Grash stood, downed the cup of fermented leaf water that they were handing out, it’s water taste masking the high levels of alcohol in it.
“Good people of Sefid”, he began, seeing all their faces turn to him as he stood, limbs missing, scarred face and burning mage hand carrying a fresh mug of leaf juice. All of a sudden he felt more than the eyes of the crowd on him but something else.
“Good people of..” he started again.
He looked around, seeing the faces of the Halflings staring at him. He kept looking, past Baers smiling face, past Shun, who was not looking at him but was reading a book in the corner, sipping his tea, past Vuvu and Jalanas concerned faces.
“We came here with….” he tried to begin again.
He saw her…sitting at a table towards the back…she was alone…sitting and looking at him, sadness on her face. A look of sadness that he shared with her.
The room went quiet, he could not hear their chattering, he could not see the faces looking at him and each other with confusion. He saw only her.
She pulled a lock of her curly red hair from her face and whispered to him across the room.
“I’m sorry, Grash.”
Grash felt it leave his body, the strangest feeling, but no pain, just darkness.
Vuvu yelled and the sound came crashing back to the room as she leapt to Grash’s prone form, Jalana close behind. Bear roared and ripped Giant Slayer from its sheathe looking for an enemy to put it into. He saw none, the rest of the crowd was on their feet also, looking about. Many waving blurred lines and shells of protective magic flared in anticipation of violence. A small group of what seemed to be clerics were muttering under their breath at the back of the room.
“Grash! Can you hear me!” called Jalana, as she slapped his face. She lay her hands on him and channelled the power of the forest around them, flooding his body with a green and earthly magic. She closed her eyes and searched for what was wring with his body.
“Oh gods. His heart.” she whispered.
“What? What’s wrong with his heart?” asked Vuvu beside her.
“What?! What do you mean it’s gone?” cried Vuvu, adding her chords to the chorus of music flooding Grash, and she saw what Jalana meant. Grash was dead.
Shun came to them, and over the increased muttering of the clerics behind him, he said “Listen to them.”
They listened, still distracted by Grashs sudden death.
Anahata…Michi’ini….Anahata…Michi’ini the crowd was gathering voices and many were kneeling and facing Grash, some with their heads to the floor. Some looking positively terrified.
“What they fuck are they on about?” called Baer, still standing in a very provocative battle stance and scanning the room.
“They are saying that their God was here, and she did this.” Shun pointed a finger at Grash’s corpse.
Jalana looked up from his body and looked to Vuvu.
“The Anahata” she breathed…
…and Vuvu nodded, “Get it, girl, as fast as you can” Vuvu whispered back.
Jalana stood and threw herself out the nearest window to the cries of several nearby Halflings. As they watched they saw a giant Hawk soar into the skies across the lake towards the Spire of Heroes.
As she landed she reached a giant clawed hand out and carefully, as carefully as she could, grabbed the heart from it’s bowl and threw herself back into the sky back towards Grash’s cooling form.
She burst back into the window, shaping herself back to her true form as she landed, with the heart in her hands.
Many cries from the Halflings in the room were ignored by her, and the chanting grew louder by the clerics and those that chanted with them.
“I…I have no idea what to do now” said Jalana through the tears in her eyes.
“I have some knowledge of the Dragunborne anatomy, I can guide you. We will need much magic and a lot of luck if this is to work.” said Shun, rolling up his sleeves and a light coming from his eyes as he approached. Vuvu, began to hum and sing, her voice calming all those around and magics learned long ago flooding Grash’s body and Jalana struck her dagger into her friends chest, just as she had done with Arryn, only this time she was putting a heart inside, rather than taking one out.
An hour past, with much sweat and many cries of alarm, blood was everywhere and the smell of it pervaded the room. The Halflings did not disturb their work, even though their magics would have helped, they dared not interfere with such divine action.
They sat, exhausted and lathed in sweat, as the last incision was stitched up by Shuns still hand.
“What…what now?” asked Jalana.
“I do not know.” admitted Shun.
Vuvu, still kneeling by Grashs body, with his head in her hands was quietly humming a tune that her and Grash would sing on long voyages across the Boiling Sea.
not long now, son, till we arrive
to the lands we once called home
to reap and kill, leave none alive
in the lands we once did roam
but father, why? the son did ask
what crimes should fit this bill?
the father scowled as his son spoke
and set his gaze afar
my poor boy, you know them not
these folk we once called friends
they broke my heart and threw us out
and we will make amends
Grash pulled in a ragged breath and sat up, Vuvu yelped and stood, Jalana and Bear yelled with excitement and fear, with Shun standing passively watching and writing in his book.
“What? Where am I…” Grash managed to gasp.
“You’re okay! You’re alive!” Jalana yelled as she knelt down beside him and wrapped her arms around him with Vuvu joining. Baer got down and wrapped them all in his arms, “I knew you’d be alright, mate.” he yelled, his eyes glassy.
Grash sat there, looking about himself and felt very confused. He also felt an enourmous amount of pain in his chest and lay back down, blacking out for a short time as they administered more medicine and magic to him.
As the night wore on, many of the Halflings, especially the noble types and the heroes, began paying a lot of attention to the group. They begged questions of them, often through Shun, asking where they got the heart and how it brought the local population back to their Halfling forms. The group had little information for them.
The Halflings, wow’d by the spectacle of the heart being put into Grash, explain that the All-Mother, Michi’ini, hasn’t been missing for a few years, she is missing for a few thousand years. It’s only that that last few years they have found that her prison has been acting strangely. As her imprisonment began to waver the Halflings began to see a lapse in their power, almost like the God herself being free would strip them of some of their power. On one hand they want her to be freed because they love her, but they are also a little scared of the repercussions (she knows they have kept her imprisoned).
She is kept in the Rolling Blight; a sort of prison that they found her in and are then keeping her in as they are getting more powers since she’s been imprisoned. The village heroes vow to take them to the Rolling Blight to show them the prison of their God. A rolling and moving dying part of the forest, it’s very large, very steep and seems to be dying off. They all get there on ships that seem to be born of the trees themselves surrounding the port of Sefid.
As they get closer to the area that the Rolling Blight was passing through, some 48 hours later, they found that the other ships, very similar to theirs, began a ritual that seemed to be getting their ships ready to see their god. Their Mages started setting themselves up at little wooden bowls and start cutting themselves and allowing their blood to pour into small bowls afixed to the captains deck of the ships.
As they watched many of the ships began converging on the horizon of the river where it met the sky and across the breeze they could hear the commands of the ship captains, Heroes just like them; “May-roh”
And their ships disappear, like they were being sucked into a black hole. Grash watches, through pained eyes and broken limbs, as he realises that the ships of the Halfling people are one and the same as his. He looks about him, sees Jalana above the runed bronze bowl, cutting herself with a dagger and letting the blood fill the bottom of the bowl. As she completed the ritual she looked to him and nodded. The sails were furled and Vuvu stood beside him.
“Ready?” he asked her, without taking his eyes off the horizon.
Vuvu looked around her, shrugged and replied, “Always.”
The world fell away from around them and the void expanded from them in all directions.
Emotions and thoughts screamed at the border of the field projected by the runed bronze bowl and, unlike the last time they were in this expanse of nothingness, the screams did not seem to be paralysing them.
In the void they see a great swirling madness ahead of them. They see intertwined dragons of green and red, not corporeal but some kind of spirit version. As they all stand on the deck with mouths hanging slack and staring into infinity they see an Ancient Green Dragon fly by them and go towards the swirling mass of ethereal dragons. They see that the colossal creature has something shiny and blue in its clutches.
They make their way then to the prison of Michi’ini,along with the other ships, which seem to stop at some distance away. They steer their ship closer to one of the others and began calling across “Ho! What are we waiting for? Let’s go see this God of yours!” calls Vuvu across the gap.
The Halflings bicker and squabble amongst themselves, and they catch some voices across the winds
no, we cannot let her out, she will kill us all!
we must let her free, if she finds out that we tried to keep her imprisoned we’re done for!
“It would seem,” translated Shun, “That these creatures are a little apprehensive of letting their God out of her prison.”
The group digested this information and as they did so they could see many of the ships nearby twinkling out of the void and back into the material realm. More whispers of the rumours of the guardian that held her circulated, but this information did not phase them. They had stared down armies and dragons and giants. What was one more being in the path on the way to their goals?
They started up their ship again, with Jalana the Navigator focusing on the bowl of blood, with some of her own blood leaking from her eyes from the strain. Their ship drifted, if that could define what it was doing, through the void.
As they got closer they thought that maybe the dragons were real, somehow they seemed to get mightier and more…solid. Before they could think a little more about it all of a sudden a speck in the distance moved towards them at such astonishing speeds that all onboard felt the rush and boom of super-sonic ‘air’ collapsing around them. The human crew fell to the floor and the rest armed themselves immediately, sensing a threat.
You are not welcome here, leave
The being, twice as tall as Baer, hung ahead of their ship sitting in the infinity of the void, twenty or so feet from the bow. A sword, as simple as it was terrible, was held in it’s hands the same light green as the rest of it’s body, it’s white wings spread out from it’s back. The image was impressive even to the rest of the group, and they hesitated.
“Get the fuck out of our way!” he cried at the bow of the Dragunship, Giant Slayer in his hands, a reflection of the Angel ahead of him. The Angel a vision of grace and Baer vision of recklessness.
I tell you, mortals, none shall disturb the one that is held here, she will stay until the one that commanded me to keep her here commands otherwise
Grash limped to the front of the ship, no hands to hold anything of merit and gasping as he climbed the steps to the bow to join Baer. Grash missed his left lung, he realised now why most species were born with two.
“I’m going to see her.” Grash said, as he got to the front of the ship and leaned against the railing, beside Baer.
The angel looked down at them for the first time, seeing Grash and seeming to sweep his eyes across them in a fraction of a second and leaving his eyes rest on Grash and his deformities.
Grash heard in his mind a whisper, although the angels mouth didn’t move.
And in less time than it took for them to blink the mighty heavenly sword that was sweeping to Grash’s neck was intercepted by Baer’s heroic parry.
“RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!” cried Baer as be began to rain blows upon the impenetrable defence of the glowing being. The others, overcoming the immense power radiating from the angelic being, immediately began throwing spells and weapons at the being ahead of them.
The void rang with violence and magic. As members of the group were downed by the vicious swings of the Angels sword and wing tips the others ran immediately to their assistance to bring them back to the fight.
After some time the Angel was overwhelmed by the staggering display of violence and power that was Dragunship Suddenly! and was defeated, with Bear cutting it’s wings from it’s back and flinging them across the railings into the void, and the body floating in the void behind them as they headed closer to Mich’ini’s prison.
As they get closer to the swirling void of Dragons, they see that the beasts part before them and they fly through the gap into the swirling and writhing mess.
They find themselves in a dark place, similar but very much not the same as the outside void. This area seemed to be bigger, with the walls that were barely visible in the distance somehow giving the place a dimension beyond the normal.
Looking ahead Grash, at the bow of the ship, sees her. Somehow he knew that the being ahead of them sitting on a throne made seemingly of pure sapphire and wrapped in an ancient green dragon. They docked with what was the only physical footing on the place made of pure light and energy, they saw that her legs were up on the opposite armrest that her back was leaning against. The being was twiddling with a strand of red hair and turned her gaze to them, seeming to see them for the first time, and she jumped to her tiny feet.
“Grash, you found me.” Michi’ini said with a smile.
The group stood back, and Grash approached her. He said nothing, but looked at the throne behind her.
Michi’ini glanced behind her, seeing the Sapphire Throne and shrugging.
“Oh, that old thing. They took my Arryn, so I sent Nimhe (she gestures at the Ancient Green Dragon behind her) here to burn their city and take it.” she laughed.
Grash stood, trying to look comfortable albeit having no arms, one leg, one eye, and one lung. He was in pain, not all of it physical.
Michi’ini looked him over, and there was, Grash would later swear, a look of sadness in her eyes.
“Who put you here?” Grash asked, uncomfortable with speaking to a god, and not sure if she was going to kill him of help him.
Michi’ini looked at the floor, and back up at Grash.
“He of the Ever-Watching, The First Breaker of the Gates of Horn and Ivory, The God Slayer.” she whispered, looking Grash dead in the eye.
Grash looked at her, wanting to look back at the others, wanting some kind of guidance, but for some reason he couldn’t break his gaze with the goddess.
“I…don’t understand…why…you…” he began, about to ask why she took so much from him, but he couldn’t form the right words.
Michi’ini was standing but for some unexplained reason the group forgets she’s there and only sees the Nimhe behind her now extended to its full height. It brims with anger and hatred, and just as it started it disappears with the light laughter of a Halfling girl.
“Hahaha! Oh Grash, you’re so serious all the time, you silly. I can tell you why I took so much from you, but do you have the patience? Oh! Do you need to sit down, does your leg hurt?” she asked, giggling into her hand and gesturing to the throne.
Grash looked down at his one remaining leg, then back up to her. “I’m fine, explain your imprisonment….please.”
“Okay!" stared Michi’ini, leaping upon the seat of the throne for dramatic effect. "I can tell you the story of my beautiful home where I was born, and it was a beautiful place, I can still remember my mothers face as she found me in the void and gave me a face and a name. Ah! But that’s for another time; anyway, we were safe there in our heavenly kingdom but the peace was not to last. There, in that wondrous city we called home, a solitary man cracked the gates of heaven. Through dark magic he had stolen a piece of the universal song, but in doing so, he shattered creation. He had sought to join the gods, but instead he had betrayed them. We battled with this man, and he smote our ruin across our dead city. We fled, we abandoned our home. All the Gods fled to what sanctuary they could find.
With the Gates of Horn and Ivory broken, it wasn’t long before others came, climbing their dreadful Pillars to join in the desecration of our once beautiful home. They came as warriors, poets and weavers of light and darkness. Great Heroes of their worlds.
And so amidst the smoking ruin of heaven they gathered, these interlopers, and began to rebuild our great works. They crafted their own angels and forged their own godly weapons, but they are not gods themselves. They were content to play house, living in broken enlightenment and coaxing secrets from the universe. Secrets that they stole. It was a great time for them, and they grew fat. But, as with all things, it was not to last.
The thing that brought them so high was the same thing that would bring them low; the lust for power. They began to fight amongst themselves and so there was another war in heaven.
In the turmoil the First Breaker and Desecrater abandoned heaven, and since then, well, nobody knows where he is."
Michi’ini also explains that she set the Halflings against each other a long time ago as a joke, but then was imprisoned along with all the other trickster gods and was unable to remove her little prank. The group learns that Michi and Ini are two halves of the same God.
“Oh Grash, I almost forgot, I should probably give you all your..bits…back.” Michi’ini said, “But I ask you one thing….I mean if you don’t mind.”
Grash looked at her, with the rest of the group now feeling more comfortable to gather around him and Michi’ini as they spoke. He looked at his ravaged body and then at his friends, apprehensive looks on their face. He remembered all the power he had found since he first found the first memory of a dead god in Marsala with Jalana, the day he lost his first hand. The things he could do now with her help, things he would have never dreamed of.
He looked back up at her from his stump, “Anything.”
Michi’ini laughed and spun around on the spot “I knew you wouldn’t be angry! Okay so don’t answer straight away, but I want to keep…well…I want your hand and your heart. You know? Like in marriage. Now you don’t have to say i-”
“No!” cried Jalana, stepping forward and raising her hand, pointing at Michi’ini accusingly. “You’ve taken enough from him! Give him back everything you’ve taken, he needs nothing from you and-” as she spoke Grash put his stump on her shoulder and she looked at him, pleading in her eyes. He shook his head and looked back to Michi’ini.
“-Done.” interrupted Grash.
Michi’ini stopped and clasped her hands in front her and squealed, “Oh Grash! I’m so happy! I didn’t ever think this day would come. Wow, wait till my friends hear! I…actually wonder where they are…BUT! Haha, you better not upset me Grash, or I’ll KILL YOU!”
Michi’ini roared and the group all fell to the floor in abject terror as the Ancient Green Dragon unravelled from a point behind Michi’ini and flame poured over their forms, melting the skin from their flesh and pouring their souls into the void behind them.
The giggling of Michi’ini brought the group from their cowering. Looking about they could see that they were intact and only Grash and Michi’ini were still standing.
“I’ll be sure to uphold my end of the bargain.” the group heard Grash say.
The Goddess clapped and replied, “Fantastic, now. Where are you all off to? I can put you anywhere, and I have a lot of work to do. I need to go speak with these little troublemaker Halflings and see why they haven’t tried to get me out of here before now..”
The group mulled over the possibilities and agreed that they should take the opportunity to return to Dharma to see Marjora’s coronation.
They wrapped everything up, collapsed the boat and paid their apprehensive respects to Michi’ini, the Emerald Destroyer and All-Mother of the Daturan and Mokshan Halflings.
As they were standing, resplendent in their grimy and battered armour Michi’ini perked up, “Oh! One last thing,” she said smiling at Jalana, “Don’t ever speak to me like that again.”
As Jalana looked into the eyes of the now-free God she saw terrible power and she died.
Yells from the other members of the group were drowned out as the world around them fell away and they were flung into the void.