House of the Beast: LoF Session XXVI
No …cough… No …cough… No there is a limit, an end to the Baraka of the Raqs Nar. At some point it must burn, consume to survive and grow stronger …cough… If all it ever does is exist it will cease to exist. Perhaps we should rest for a moment …cough… Come sit and I will tell you a story.
You remember the House of the Beast, our flight, and the gnolls that attacked, yes? Good, well the seemingly never ending sea of the fowl jackals broke against us and we turned them back. Killing most while a few lived, too fast on their beastly mounts to catch, and fled like the honorless cowards they are. The belt I had been given gave me some measure of strength, but it could not stop the pain only bolster my body and keep the exhaustion at bay. Despite that I was tired and the hour was growing late. During the fight I spotted a single fire down one of the side paths that exited the small canyon. It had seemed odd at the time, but I had ignored since we were deep in gnoll fur. With night upon us I thought it might be worth a look and my new companions agreed so we made our way toward the lonely flame. After only a few moments Khatovar heard what sounded like hooves hitting the stone and whirls to see what is coming from behind. To all of our surprises we saw a lone donkey approach.
This donkey you see was no ordinary donkey and most of us could tell at first glance. If I had to pick one thing that was most odd about him it would be his eyes and the way he looked at us. I had never had an animal look me directly in the eye the way this donkey did, and I was pondering that when the gnome started to hee-yah and grunt to the donkey …cough… There was a growing suspicion within me that the battle with the Carrion King had broken the poor small ones mind and that did nothing to assuage my fear. Knowing there would be no help from my new companions, as they seemed content to believe the gnome could truly speak to a donkey, I turned to investigate the fire. So you can understand my shock when the donkey started to talk to us in Kelish …cough…cough…
With the intelligence and diplomatic grace I did not think a donkey could produce, even one that could speak Kelish, the donkey told us his name was Left and invited us to join him and his companion for the evening. He, or at least I believe it was male …cough… he further noted that the lands were not safe to entice us to stay and join him. How a donkey planned to protect us was a mystery to me, but I will admit I was curious to find out and so too were my companions. There was a good chance it was due to his companion who he called Al Hakawari, which as you may know from your studies is an interesting play on the word meaning the Storyteller. We decided to follow the donkey and as we walk the gnome shared with us that he believed the donkey Left was under some sort magic that allowed him to communicate with all things …cough…cough…cough… In truth he said much more than this, but that was the substance of it and a powerful magic it seemed to me at the time. Khatovar merely grunted as if it were all perfectly normal and perhaps it was when you have a gnome around. For me, I was still not yet convinced the Gnome was not just mad.
Al Hakawari was not what I expected. I am not sure what I was expecting, but the small plump man sitting next to the fire smoking pesh was not it. Nearby were two garishly decorated wagons, which I only mention to you because I am still not sure how he maneuvered them there in such rough terrain. Things such as that seem unimportant, but it wise to be observant and use these facts to draw conclusion just in case the round man decided to attack. You may tell me later what such a feat might imply about a man especially when he is accompanied by two intelligent talking donkeys. Oh yes I forgot to mention there were two donkeys as there were two wagons. As I am sure you can guess the other donkey’s name was Right, but that is of little import to the lesson at hand so let me continue.
Where was I …cough… yes …cough… the stout gay man smoking pesh. Al Hakawari was a gracious host and he greeted us fondly with food, drink, and of course pesh. The latter of which the Gnome indulged in readily so my concerns of a crazy Gnome were pushed further to pesh addict. Despite this the fire was warm and the atmosphere relaxing so we sat and spoke for some time with this collector of stories, as he put it. At first there did not seem to be much that he did not already know of us, especially Khatovar. However, it turned out he was after the story of the Carrion King’s death. One for sure I thought a man with such seemingly extensive knowledge would have already possessed. In truth all he knew was of the light that had shown down apon us as we left that foul place of the beast. He had seen the light and thought it could mean only one thing. As it turned out he was correct and to the Dawnflower’s everlasting grace, the Carrion King was dead.
That information was already surmised by Al Hakawari so Khatovar pulled out his journal and enlighten Al Hakawari as to the events that led to the Gnoll’s death. You may be surprised to know that Khatovar used his hand and skull for more than carnage and actually kept a very detailed accounting of everything he experienced. The Gnome you will be unsurprised to know then proceeded to fire off question after question at Al Hakawari. He was not the only one though, as there were several questions both Khatovar and I wished to have answered. Al Hakawari was hesitant and circumspect in many of his answers. This did not appear to be by choice as he explained to us he was bound by rules and he could not break them no more than he was free to leave “here”. Despite being very old and perhaps an implication of once great power, collecting stories and perhaps some other tasks was his job. As to what those rules were, how they were placed on him, where "here’ was, and a myriad of other questions, he did not decide to enlighten us.
The hour had grown late and perhaps he felt remorse for not sharing more with us so he offered us a single story of our choosing. Khatovar and the Gnome seeming undecided, I asked Al Hakawari what story he believed we needed to hear. What story he believed would be needed to push men in the right direction from the deeds of past heroes …cough…cough… During the course of our conversation the topic of the Firebleater, one of Rovagug’s spawn as you should know, had been discussed several times. Al Hakawari was under the impression, despite the fact that my new found companions had tread on its bones within the House of the Beast, that the Firebleater was very much alive. He even mentioned that it was almost successfully resurrected over 400 years ago so it came as little surprise when he decided to tell us the story of the Firebleater, and the 100 heroes known as the Legion of Wands that almost destroyed it.
I will tell you honestly the story left me cold and shivering. To think such a powerful force only succeeded in sealing the Firebleater, but I suppose what should one suspect from the spawn of a god. With the story done I felt wary sleeping under the shadow of the Firebleater with all its potential and hunger for destruction …cough… Despite this ill omen I slept soundly and well within Al Hakawari’s camp. All of us awoke the next morning to find ourselves feeling refreshed and alone. Al Hakawari and his camp were gone and it was hard not to wonder if it had not all been a dream. However, where the fire had once burned soothingly there was a book and and a crystal vial resting on a silk pillow. Ce-tan almost immediately took possession of the silk pillow as the man had a never ending hunger for finery. The crystal vial contained some unknown magical elixir that none of us wished to sample and neither the Gnome nor Ce-tan were able to identify. Examining the book it turned out to be a collection of the songs of Shazatherad with a note contained within asking us to return it to its owner. Who its owner was or how were to find them, the note did not explain …cough… What we could tell was the book itself seemed to possess several enchantments, many of which protected it from harm.
Surprised by the complete disappearance of Al Hakawari and his two companions it was sometime before any of us noticed the greatest of his boons. I do not remember who became aware of it first, but during the night we had somehow completed several days worth of travel. No longer were we within the heights of the mountains. Seeing the Obelisk Trail in the distance we surmised we were about a half days travel from Kelmarane. The feat seemed impossible, but the undeniable presence of the black obelisk gleaming in the distance made it true. Kneeling, I gave a blessing to the wonder and glory of the Dawnflower. I praised her patience, her understanding, and above all else her forgiveness. For the last time I knelt on the hard rock of the Brazen Peaks and thanked the goddess for my freedom. I was not sure what need she had of the unyielding hand of the Saif Al-Nur, but I swore I would be worthy of it. It was done and I will tell you there was a wound within me that day that finally healed. It was an wound so deep and old I had not even known it was there until it had been taken away. An ache born of hatred, anger, fear, pain and above all shame. There are on that stone I let it all go, the woes of almost a decade of my life, I sacrificed them to the Healing Light and she took them. In the end I rose and we made our way to Kelmarane.
Now the tale is done …cough… Let us speak of what we have learned. Do you understand that Raqs Nar is not a state of being, it is a state of consuming? You remember the gnoll shaman I killed while I left the other former slaves unprotected and how you asked me why, yes? A Saif Al-Nur is not created to protect by defending, a Saif Al-Nur is created to scour away the rotten and festering flesh of this world so that the wound may heal. In that healing countless souls are protected. Yes I could have stayed and protected those men directly and perhaps they would not have been injured, but in the end they did survive. Ask yourself which was the greater accomplishment; their survival or the death of a fowl follower of the destroyer who had the blood of countless innocents on his hands? Ask yourself if there is a chance the shaman could have escaped like many of his other mounted companions and how many deaths were averted and innocents protected by severing that possibility and his head?
You do not wait for the enemy to come to you, you determine the biggest threat and end it. You do not dance around your enemy merely content to evade and exist. You strike him down, burn him from existence and continue growing stronger. The Raqs Nar can be used to protect one’s self and others, but its purpose is to destroy evil whose only hope for atonement is death. The Baraka is meant to keep you alive long enough to complete your purpose, but it cannot be maintained indefinitely. You must harden yourself and learn to strike …cough…cough… You must refocus what you have been taught and understand you cannot fight every battle nor protect everyone. Within the Raqs Nar there is a single purpose and it will forge you to that end and that end alone.
Yes I can see why you might think that is heartless and goes against the Dawnflower’s teachings. The aspect of destruction is nothing like that of the Rough Beast for it is a controlled fire. Why do you think she offers such powers to her most devout followers. You must be strong in your discipline less you lose control and true destruction is born within you. It is a thin line to tread, which is why many do not succeed. However, if you use her tenants as a guide and the focused discipline of the Raqs Nar there is much good you can accomplish. Do not worry too much if you do not understand just yet, you will, for that is the purpose of master and student.
…chuckle…cough…cough… You are correct, my lesson has very little to do with the tale I just told you. Good…good, think on my final words of the tale and tell me what wisdom do you believe can be gained?