The five foreigners, unsure of the reality that transpired, stared forward into the gleaming reflection pool. The waters once calm now budding upward into a flowing sphere of crystal white-blue.The waters swirled and churned softly and rhythmically as the sphere grew larger and larger. The five sets of eyes were pulled into the steady gaze of themselves as their reflections became visible; and with their reflection memories of the past sifted through the hourglass of their lives with regrets, truths, and nostalgias. As they gazed deeper and deeper into the memories within the floating waters, the memories shifted like the dunes of the desert. Events changing in subtle ways… thoughts and wishes bending the realities as if different choices were made in other lives; and their consequences. Each stared, and each left a question unto themselves.
Faharid swayed into the glasslike reflection and for a moment upon his lips he drew a breath as his heart let out a singular question to be answered. As he thought it, the memories of his savage cannibalism and imprisonment at the hands of the Carrion King, the darkest parties and lowest deeds at the hand of an addiction to pesh, and the continual hardships of brutal survival drew his own countenance; what would he have been had it not been for the corruption of the City of Katepesh.
Instantly, the swordsman fell into a body to which was own from a great height. Standing on the walls of Sulku Faharid looked down and around him and saw his tabard, though it was immaculate and gleaming with righteous fury. His comrades and looked out into the horizon and shifted, some nervously, some excitedly. As he adjusted himself, he too stared into the distance and his eyes fell on battalions of Gnolls. The war, only known to some in the tomes of history, was grueling and bloody. The images of battle skipped beat by beat, foe after foe, swing after swing of a sword like a disjointed scene of chaos. And to the end, Faharid stood amongst bodies of Gnolls he himself dispatched. His heart failed him as blood poured from cuts and punctures from wounds as his body was filled with arrows. With a glassy stare into into the horizon from where the Gnoll armies came and with enough energy turned his head to see what remained of his city, his eyes settles atop a wall still standing and with an uproar of cheers from his battle worn people. He knew they already felt like he was a hero, but to see through this war, with a final stroke, the populations of men devistated but the enemy staved… Faharid slowly blinked… slower… and slower until his eyes fell shut. His sword still in hand with chest and back filled with spear and arrow alike, he knelt on the ground body arched to the sky as the ray of dawnlight cradled his body in warmth as if it was being presented to Seranrae herself. Th echoes of cheering growing fainter as he felt himself ascending into what seemed like the heavens.
A shutter ran across Faharid’s body and with it a subdued solemnness. The words escaped his lips as they exhaled and he stared blankly into the reflective sphere, “Perhaps I have been fated to have become corrupted to be reforged…” His reflection dissipating, he turned his head and saw his companions in a similar trance.
Ce-tan’s image stared back with a fire in its eyes, a moment perhaps where it stood in grand defiance, but ultimately feel beneath the ripples of his wishful and imperious heart. As his days were filled with the reclaimation of Kelmarane and the opening of the Sultan’s Wish with his closest assistant Morganna, he drifted back to the decision to stay in such a remote location to help push the town to a new prosperity. The waters reclaimed his wish and hearts answer, instead of remaining in Kelmarane, what would have become of his life had he returned to Ketapesh – to a life he would most certainly dominate.
Ce-tan’s eyes felt heavy and closed gently. To his content, he began smelling the familiar fragrances of exotic spices and perfumes of women close by as incense swirled and lingered and wafted. The fragrant smells opening his eyes slowly to find himself lounging on a silken chaise amid a library. A bowl of fresh grapes and exotic fruits piled for his picking and a full glass with a half finished bottle of sweet wine aired and fresh from harvest. He felt his mouth open with words pouring out like honey into the air. Turning slightly, he was speaking to multiple people. Convincing studious women and men alike to work for him within the library, the interns of academia fell prey to his silver tongue, with the more charismatic to stay closer to his side. The women sifted through tome after tome and materials explaining genealogy. Uncaring of reading for himself, a few of his enthralled read aloud their findings as he learns more about those who have been touched by genie bloodlines. A promising student and magical adept in his own right came rushing back from amid the stacks with a glorious discovery. As Ce-tan sent away his female entourage to tend to further information gathering, the young adept sat pulling a table closer and pouring a glass of wine for himself. As the adept found himself engaged in the tell-tale signs of the genie-blooded, Ce-tan took a moment and fell back into memory and stark reminders. All the times he felt a nausea he was sensing the effects of wishes -disturbing twisted realities lingering or otherwise made by other genies. The tomes and piecemeal research piqued a higher interest; today would be the day to get answers.
Ce-tan and a promising young student, took to cover of night at his bidding, and built a ritual summoning circle to coax a powerful fire outsider. To their triumph, an Ifiti floated with fire and arrogance and rage. Seeing its summoners, unnatural and human sparked such venom and hatred within the elemental. Probing question after question, the adept was laughed at and cursed by the bound outsider awaiting his return. The hideous laughter was soon cut short as Ce-tan stepped forward. His voice grated in irritation as his patience with the Ifriti diminished. The Ifriti bellowed and laughed, but soon saw the glint of fire in Ce-tan’s eyes, the passion – the intensity – the trapping of an imperial. With somewhat a realization, the Ifriti’s resistance subsided and his head lowered into a deformative bow. His mouth uttering answering in the tongue of fire, what felt like treasured knowledge: the secrets of Ifriti heritage, their noble bloodlines – the purest had the ability to sense the Wishcraft, yet the most powerful were able to twist wishes made – even rewrite them as they saw fit. The Ifrit was dismissed, and Ce-tan with his young cohort fell back with more questions to answer. They walked for some time discussing the next course of action as Ce-tan casually lift his hand and retrieved wine and glass from a distance. Pouring a glass for himself and mulling over the new, and perhaps reputable information, he sent his ward to continue the research. With a turn of his heal, he lifted himself on a current of air and casually made his way through the courtyard to the women’s side of the academy to work out the days transgressions.
As the soft torchlight flickered and his mind weighed, he tipped his head with the the remained of the glass of wine, closing his eyes, and felt himself fall backwards into his own body. His eyes opened once more to find the sphere and his reflection dissipating on the surface, its red-ember glowing eyes the last to leave.
The memories bound together tightly, though unknowing of what this reflection pool was or what it was used for, Khatovar was no stranger to mediation and reflection. His reflection stood resolute and as he had normally would, each essentially watching the other for a first sign of movement. His memories of the slave arena, events in Ketapesh, and everything pronounced with Haleen and her underworld undertaking fell to the wayside. A stark reminder of how Kelmarane was founded, on the blood of a Templar of the Five Winds assaulted him; would it be any different if the daemon that affected Karswann had been killed instead of the Templar himself… With eyes open and unmoving, memories… or perhaps a future sped forth that was not his own.
Khatovar stood in a body unfamiliar. He looked forward and saw a mountain of a man, brilliant a cheerful, yet sober duty beset his eyes. Kardswan, as he was without the taint of the daemon looked healthy and fit and ravaged with scars and pox of past battles and wars and transgressions from ages past. He stood with a deference to a beautiful purple veiled woman, he eyes gleamed like jewels in the desert sun as she exuded command and desire simultaneously through gauzey linen. A love… an obesession… an adherence to duty and reverence assaulted Khatovar as he stood in unfamiliar body and partially unfamiliar compan. Vardishal’s thought’s of the Templars and of their leader Nepheshti flooded both their minds. In a somber and resolute voice, Vardishal disengages the conversation with his compatriots. As if knowning she had been talking with two people at once, the woman in the violet veil placed a tender hand on Vardishal’s shoulder. Her voice filled with soft and powerful petition, “The abomination lives Khatovar, but together… with your strength and my own will, will you join me and right the wrongs? Will you help protect the balance of the natural world?” And without realizing, his head nodded in acceptance.
His eyes left her beauty and pushed forward through time and space flowing back to Kakishon. As his trance left him, Khatovar saw his reflection dissipate with the echo of a warrior not unlike himself as a shadow within the water. Turning to his compatriots, Faharid seemed to be the next to wake, followed by Zhakmed Zahir, and then Ce-tan.
Evening had came as the trance was undone. The sphere lowered itself back into the reflection pool gently and the reliving of significant memories stayed as a haunting dream. Unsure of the time spent entranced and feeling fatigued after have mentally travelled, weary of the the physical and mental stretch of the day, the companions made camp away from the Trial of the Elements and left to again reflect.
In the pitch of night, his two hours of sleep and meditation required for focus, Khatovar slept with the trappings of the Templars and their duty. However strange, a cat stood atop the sands of a conversation Khatovar dreamt. The cat stood, charcoal and black with eyes glinting moonlight oddly from it eyes. With a look of incredulity, the cat seemed grumpy and curmudgeonly behavior as it walked and made motions to follow. Landing on a land of ice, Khatovar walked through a cave of stalactites to a glacier basin littered with stalagmites. The cat barely visible motions again to follow.
Lead to to the center of a glacier, the middle is adorned with a what seems to look like a glowing ember-colored rock-like crystal. The crystal held in place on an icy mounded alter. Like funeral pyre with the remains, a skeleton of a man scorched and charred like being too close to the sun lay as if a body was combusted without remorse and power the world has ever seen. Tip-toeing gingerly to examine the body and the glowing gem, Khatovar leans in slightly as the cat candidly looks at the dreamwalker and back to the remains of the skeleton.
Awaking abruptly, Khatovar found himself pondering the meaning behind the odd premonition, or perhaps ill-fated omen. The cat, its unexplained humaneness, the body, the island… before he lost the traces of details he and Faharid sat in the campfire toward the end of his watch. On the map of Kakishon stands an island of white. But that tale shall be for another day.
The companions continued onward toward the Mausaleum of Nex. Up the winding and graveled pathway it was lain between a fairly open wood of dead and leafless myrr and olive trees with scrubgrass and sand giving this part of the islands a particular cast. The wind moved and dry branches twitched and creaked and rattled as passersby went. Moments passed and the road lead a compulsion to contemplate the death of the trees, a reminder of what it means to be dead. These ideas spilled into their minds such that, when was the last time these trees could be remembered… what shadow would those heroes cast in death?
But thoughts of this can be fleeting. Laboring up to the crest of the mausoleum, the earth and gravel was raked ornately like a religious or ceremonial undertaking. The curls and whorl and intricate pattern of sparse and simple gardens was well manicured. Limestone columns were carved with winged beasts and when walked past, the columns compulsed passerby take awe of the workings.
In bass relief at the top of the stately structure, the entrance of Nex’s grave was adorned with massive Garundi kings wearing the mask of Nex and reliefs of his greatest triumphs. Of te statues one beared trapping of a cultural Gebite, the other for ancient Ketapeshi culture. As they called outward, “Venema Shal’dir! We seek – “, the Glory of Nex and his magics and his workings set each man awestruck and cowering and bewildered and unmoving. Such was the power of the great wizard.
As the entourage slowly came to their senses, a voices steely and flat called forth a question, “Why do the living trouble the endless sleep, the final dream?” In reply the spoke, “We seek guidance and wisdom beyond the grave.”
The steely flat voice called again and then riddled, “A worthy goal and elusive… Truth is the most terrifying and enchanting thing in the world, dare you face it? Dare you use it? Answer truthfully and enter.”
Without a second thought, Ce-tan like so many times with frivolity replies with one word simplicity “True.” Khatovar sat still measuring the weight of a riddle, however the doors unlocked and creaked and opened to the off-hand remark to a dazzling interior. The ceiling and floor tiles were decorated with beautiful gem and gem-like stones as the walls were set in relief with the endless trials and tribulations of Nex with minor motion by magic.
The mausoleum halls were vast and betrayed their size from the outside. “Venema Shal’dir! We seek your guidance and wisdom.” A whisper came from the echoes of the chamber. Pay your respects at the sarcophagus of Nex and tell him your doings here. Faharid stepped forward to the larger marbled sarcophagus, pouring out the transgressions and purpose and reason why they have made such a journey. The purpose to leave Kakishon, to stop Jhavul, though Imentesh proposal was left to the ether for fear of reprisal. As the swordsman knelt and explained and continued his telling of the tale to the grave of Nex, a shadow loomed and crawled from the otherside, a little dragon made of brass climbed over the grave atop the granite. Looking quizzically it cocked its head.
A woman’s laughter faintly errupted and filled the chamber and the little dragon shook their head. Realizing it as illusion, Ce-tan and Khatovar looked around for its creator as Faharid continued to parlay with the brass hallucination. Observing the dragon and listening to the whistling wind that shouldn’t be, Khatovar felt whatever had created the illusion may have difficulty communicating… perhaps it can’t talk or it was limited.
Unconcerned, Ce-tan casually walked around and the tiles and encyclopedia of Nex’s life that remained on display. The broken statues and dragon skull stood strangely familiar yet out of place in a hall of Nex’s doing. As the questions arose, the laughter was a ghostly effect. The dragon head swiveled around and the door behind burst open behind with wind whistling and a sound a collected voices. “Venema Shal’dir dragon friend to Nex is here. For questions…. First, time for some fun – come with me.” The skull of the dragon with a haunting and taunting smile and shining copper eyes lifts from the pedestal and flies swiftly through the doors from where we had come. Hovering in an open area of the courtyard, the dragon head rose and bobbed within the air. Fire etched and burned in a patterned succession as an arcane mark was scorched onto the ground. Ce-tan quickly recognized the sigil; duel.
In acceptance to this duel, the dragon head tilts upward like it had had chewed something and lowered its head abruptly. With surreal rapidity, at spat out pellets into the ground. Immediately the pellets turned to dark rust and earthen colored teeth jutting from the sand. The color shifting to a bone and ivory shaped as skeletons of sand and stone forming around them wearing scale mail and kopesh of ancient Osirani templars. The stone warriors continued to rise from the ground as the ground below them lifted creating a finely crafted carpet of earth to stand on.
The duel began and ended quickly. Faharid stepped forward into his swordsman’s stance, dancing freely with control and grace and panache. Ce-tan had knocked the creatures down with blasts of force, however the sorcerer had not faced these creatures yet and found they were affected little or not by fire. Khatovar, as the avatar of the blue dragon style, charged across the battlefield in every direction.
The duel was arduous. The constant barrage of the flying creatures lead to the weakening of the entire party. And all would have been lost had it not been for Ce-tan. His quickness toward opportunity found the majority of the bone and sand creatures in his trap as he formed a wall around them so hard, and so impenetrable, the dragon head seceded the duel as the single one left was dispatched. They stood, breathing heavy as the dragon head spoke through the eerie wind with whimsy and pride.