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Chapter Twenty: A Turn of the World

Captain Hesperus Captain Hesperus jaydude jaydude Kaerri Kaerri Psychie Psychie Sherwood Sherwood Silanon Silanon

(Part 1 of 2)

Once every so often, Sharseyans both near and abroad all know that the laws and boundaries that seem to govern the world they live in can change at any moment. Sometimes these are little shifts in people's lives; sometimes they are great waves that change the destinies of entire nations. But they are rare and impossible to foresee beyond a few moments.

Yes, even for humble hobbit seers. =)

These sudden transformations are considered by most to be just another special little something that everyone on Sharseya lives with. A reality shared. People agree - it is not a matter of if it will happen in your lifetime, but when, and to what magnitude. All beings who call Sharseya home breathe the same air, live their lives upon the same physical laws, and know on some level that the Sharseya that they came into and the Sharseya they depart from are going to be a little different.

Maybe even a lot different.

The names given to these lifechanging events vary widely across the vast continent of Averlund whereupon Highwind is proudly perched. Inside their shelters and churches, those who depend upon the divine refer to these events as "The Games Gods Play." The mysterious masters and mistresses of the arcane from their craggy keeps and creaky towers dub it, "The Great Transmogrifications." Not to be outdone, royals and nobles sipping wine surrounded by finery chose to title these, "The Signs of the Ages."

But the term that caught on the fastest and has stayed the longest came from the most grounded people of all - farmers - who simply name each of these events, "A Turn of the World." This how most refer to it today.

So it is that the most sensitive of creatures are the first to detect these cosmic changes. The empaths, the nurturers, those that dare to care from their very souls, are oft times the first warned of these often life-changing events. But only by a few moments. Just enough time to perhaps say, "Get ready. It's here." Not that any being, great or small, could be ready for such a thing.

So is it any surprise that among the Wayward Wanderers in their Wayward Wagon, that the smallest of your number, Aldrin the White-haired of Highwind, is the very first to sense this great series of oncoming transformations like a charge of power rippling through the air?

Just one more undoubtable, unmistakable, Turn of the World?
 
(A Turn of the World - Part 2 of 2)

It happens. Right there inside the comforts of the Wayward Wagon while all of you are conversing or wondering or simply eating hot and fresh pizza with over 50 polite and grateful little kobolds surrounding the gleaming waters of the Grand Pool.

50-plus little kobolds, from the youngest to their chieftain, suddenly shine, each with a bright and beautiful silvery glow. Their collected luminescence brightens the entire Grand Pool like the coming of a silvery sun.

The leader of your band, Oreleth the Arcane Archer, is seemingly struck by some ungodly arrow the size of a Felane and out of nowhere becomes surrounded by a great shroud of brilliant forest leaves, all glowing the colors of a golden-red autumn. Singing birds unknown to humans and hobbits alike but common enough in a certain Elven realm appear and flutter about her.

Aldrin of Highwind, hobbit seer, is blanketed by rainbow winds of sorceries unknown to all who stand before you. His hair rises up and becomes perfectly white, whiter than the fullest moon. And then it settles. Aldrin knows - from this day forth, he will never again have to dye his hair white. It is now as sure and bold as any ancient - a crown of cloud atop his handsome head.

Otiorin, scion of the paladin of dragons, Charmsring the Mighty, flashes a brilliant and nigh-blinding blast of purest silver accompanied by biting cold. For a moment, he is covered from head to toe in frost-covered scales, his half-elven eyes glow like stars in a clear night sky. From who knows where, a patch of soft sunlight touches his feet.

Luna immolates. Right there in the Grand Pool. She simply catches on fire, Sparkle, spellbook, and all. Great orange-red flames of sweltering heat contrast with Otiorin's bone-shaking cold, but inside this living bonfire, Luna and Sparkle seem completely unharmed. Inside the flames, you can see pair of eyes - strange and peeking, inhuman and watching. A great force of undeniable magical power shakes the air around her.

Alisa of Mielikki is momentarily surrounded by forest creatures of incredible vitality and animal expression, some mundane, some magical. All around Alisa, animals appear and touch her with some form of heartfelt affection. A pair of bears give a low roar and nuzzle her, pretty songbirds tease at her hair, white-fanged wolves push their foreheads against her fingertips while above and behind her, a pair of incredibly-beautiful unicorns cross their golden horns and touch her brow.

Kaerri of the Forest Eternal vanishes, shadow and all, as if she has always been some unreal figment of your imaginations only to reappear as a dancing shadow with rainbow eyes. All is dark and mysterious about her. Not threatening nor fear-inducing, but soft and shady, cool and ever-mysterious. All other radiance flees before her, or does it simply make way for the shadows?

Bria of the Ko is lifted off of the floor, held aloft by wings of the holiest of angels. All about The Last Healer, you can feel the very power of life pulsing with your every heartbeat. Powerpaw of Bastet's white and black fur darken to the color of fresh blood while strange chants of throngs unseen chant his name from realms unknown. Mamapaw, also called Sabrefang of Shamballah, becomes covered with the embrace of the forest itself as shade and branch, berries and trickling water, all appear about her while a lightning bolt appears in one paw with a whirling dervish billowing forth in her other paw.

Stewart at this time has retired to see his lady, Beatrice. As they are in the other parts of the Wayward Wagon, what happens to them is unknown to you. But there is one creature you have never until recently seen before on Averlund nor heard of any tale. The Felane-sized turtle-like creature Bria adoringly and reverently calls "The Endless One" or simply "Master Auri." Unlike all of you, his kindly features do not appear to change in the slightest. No supernatural waterfalls splash forth upon him, no cosmic power erupts between his ancient and gentle hands. No. Auri the Insatiable simply watches all of you with a pleased grin on his reptilian face.

The Turn of the World fades. With it go all of the clearly and undoubtable magical effects that have touched each of you save for Aldrin's permanently white hair. Every being, small or large, has been changed, altered, transformed, or so it appears. Auri, ever the ally of the Ko Monks according to one very startled Bria, is the first to speak. His strong and old voice seems to fill the room, breaking the heavy silence that looms now that these momentary magical changes have gone. Now they are but memories for you to hold as long as you will.

"Well now," The Endless One's unhurried tone carries with it a soothing sense of wonder. "The universe... has spoken! Change... is here! Each of us should come to embrace what we can... and be at peace with the rest. But first," he taps the floor with his dragon-headed cane, "we must come to discover the changes themselves. That... is the best part of such a rare event as this! A Turn of the World indeed!"
 
"A Turn of the World, hmm?" Alisa asked, the holy warrior sounding mesmerized as she turned to look at Auri. "I've heard of such phenomena. I can't say I ever imagined being a subject of one though."

She looked around at the others, curious to see how they had been affected.
 
"That makes two of us, Alisa!" Bria stares at her open empty hands, her expression filled with awe and wonder.

Carefully putting her own lunch aside, she rises from sitting position and approaches Powerpaw. The huge and brutish Felane clearly dwarfs her, but old friends that they are, they share deep look to each other's eyes.

Bria bows meaningfully to Powerpaw. Her bow begins from her waist, her open hands by her sides. She looks up at him sharing his intense curiosity as to what has just taken place. Powerpaw emits this guttural growl from the back of his throat.

"Hey... I know dat look." He glares at one of his oldest friends. "You wanna spar, don'tcha?"

"How better to discover what we have become, Fuzzy Goof?" the Ko monk offers with her naturally kind smile.

Powerpaw returns her bow with a pounding clenched fist over his heart - his own gladiatorial salute. Together they go off into a corner of the Grand Pool and cross hands.

Mamapaw the Druidess tromps toward Alisa, her faithful spear in one hand, her round shield in the other, but there is no hint of violence in her body language or tone. "My fellow Mielikkian, I find myself bestowed with abilities and powers that have names, but with little meaning! I have spells which I have never cast, Druidic wonders I have never witnessed. They replace nearly all that I have known!" With a look of motherly concern, Mamapaw droops her head down to get a better look at Alisa the Paladin. "How, pray tell, are you feeling?"
 
A single, deep breath. That's all he managed between foresight and... change. Perhaps, there would have been room for a warning. But what for? To brace yourself for the inevitable, like it's actually something one could prepare for - prepare for the change of an entire world? No. Some things are better embraced the way they naturally come. A million and more fates, changed. Realigned. Disturbed, some might say, but that feels like the wrong word. It implies that things should not be the way they are, but they certainly should. Fates changed, but they were right both before, and after. Like his hair. Painted before, natural now. Both the way they should be, then and in the presence.

But what else is right, now? Others pose the same question. But other than them, he does not speak out in search for answers. Instead, he listens. Seeks the fine strands of the upcoming future, seeks a guided path ahead like he so often did. Tries to call forth magic as before, not a specific spell but any spell that the future holds in store for himself. If there is still magic answering his call, that is. Maybe his source, unknown, has run dry. Maybe the deities themselves have changed. Who knows. Time will tell. In Aldrin's specific case more than in others.
 
"The Dark Crystal Theme"

Instead, he listens. Seeks the fine strands of the upcoming future, seeks a guided path ahead like he so often did. Tries to call forth magic as before, not a specific spell but any spell that the future holds in store for himself. If there is still magic answering his call, that is. Maybe his source, unknown, has run dry. Maybe the deities themselves have changed. Who knows. Time will tell. In Aldrin's specific case more than in others.
Captain Hesperus Captain Hesperus Kaerri Kaerri jaydude jaydude Psychie Psychie Sherwood Sherwood Silanon Silanon

Anyone who is good at anything can tell you - practice makes perfect. Well, at least as perfect as people get really. You see it in Powerpaw and Bria sparring together. Mamapaw meditating, her huge paws folded, her mind serene and deep in prayer with not one but two deities.

But then there's Aldrin. Like Bria of the Ko, he answers his curiosity not in the manners of studious clerics and pious druids, but in his own way. The white-haired seer begins not from outside his own being, but from within. It takes what initially feels like long, long moments, but in less than a minute, Aldrin takes his focused mind and spirit away from the hustle and bustle of the Grand Pool to... What Lies Beyond.

Aldrin dives not into the magic on the surface of his very being but into sorcery far deeper. "Oracle." That is the name of this particular spell - this comes to him as he draws upon his inner strength to bring this eldritch power to bear.

Some things are better embraced the way they naturally come.
His mind's eye leaves the Wayward Wagon entirely. His senses do not go far, yet they proceed farther than they ever have before the Turn of the World.

He hears the gentle swooshing of wind between branches, touching trees, moving leaves, and blowing across someone's cloth garments. Aldrin sees the soft crunching down of a cane along with two human-like feet, bare and dirty. They come to a stop at a great and colorful explosion of wildflowers that spread out across a forest floor that perhaps is Shandra's Evergreen?

Then he sees more closely as that cane and those feet step toward the wildflowers and then above them - as if traveling upon unseen steps carved into the air. Slowly, those feet trod. Not a single beautiful flower is disturbed. They are touched only by the caress of the autumn afternoon wind.

Aldrin hears the soft clacking of a cane tapping something rather unflower-like. It is a massive claw, stone-like, animal-like - a great and green combination of the two. And yet, that cane taps against a strong black talon impatiently as if prodding it to move and be gone. But the talon does not move.

So the two dirty feet and cane step onward not making a single sound now as they climb, step by step, up the unseen path that takes them higher and higher. Aldrin sees it then. A large piece of supremely-fashioned leather harness. A small emblem with the green and white hippogriff - the standard of proud Highwind. It is an emblem the hobbit has seen before. Right outside among the jade hippogriffs that pull this wagon through the very skies of Sharseya.

Without a shade of a doubt, Aldrin alone knows and knows for certain - the Wayward Wanderers are about to have company. =)

Aldrin finds himself returned to his natural senses. He feels the draw of power taken from him as all spells have their price and Oracle's has taken its share. All about him, dozens of kobolds are speaking in Common and Draconic asking many a question amongst themselves. Some prod the Wayward Wanderers and yet Aldrin is left alone - perhaps out of respect for his meditation. Now he is back and able to proceed if he so chooses.

How Aldrin proceeds now is up solely up to him. =)
 
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How does one react to the unbelievable, witnessed first-hand? To one's own mind traveling off, beyond one's own control? There is not a clear answer. There's no routine, no getting-used-to-it, when faced with the deities' revelations. The halfling slumps down in place as a wave of fatigue washes over him; he takes a deep breath and steadies himself, regaining control over a body he left behind in some unexplainable sense. And then he speaks, with a hoarse voice as if he left parts of the words behind along his mental journey.

"A visitor."

He coughs to clear his throat, then speaks.

"Bare-footed. A cane, walking through the thin air over flowers unharmed." Another cough; more words. "Rings a bell, by any chance? The colors of Highwind. Like on the wagon. An oversized, motionless claw. Makes me wonder where we set down, exactly. Anyhow - someone might want to attend to the door. It's not a guest's place to welcome yet another stranger."

With that, he leans back. A turn of the world, perhaps, surely with old and new flaws. But still with those who entrust him with a spark of their power. A gift, one that he will never get used to; and perhaps the key to bring less evil along when the world, inevitably, turns again, one day.
 
With the change in the world around them, Luna feels both at ease and disturbed by the events, both at the strange alterations and at the way it all feels right. She bolts to her feet and looks around at the room, then down at her own self. Suddenly, her glamored robe changes to show some writing on her shoulder, saying the phrase, "Kiss Me, I'm Fire-ish!" in glittering gold text on her bright red blouse.

In the face of so many strange thoughts and feelings, Luna can't help herself and she starts to giggle. Softly at first, then it escalates into full on laughter bordering on the hysterical.

It is after a bit of supreme will that the fire mage is able to pull herself together. Seeing the looks that she's getting from the others, Luna does her best to reassure everyone. "I'm ok. No, really, I am. It is all different, but in the right way, and if I didn't start laughing, I would have gone off screaming. I think I chose right. Look at me. I'm babbling and I don't normally babble. Is that normal? I don't know anymore. Oh! A visitor? How remarkable! I'll go see to the door now. Perhaps it's someone that will help us and not be some bad person that I have to light on fire."

She smooths out a few nearly invisible wrinkles from her dress without even noticing that her hands were doing so, the tremors betraying the level of tension in her right now.

With that, Luna heads over to the entrance to the Grand Wagon and waits for someone to knock.
 
Oreleth is not nearly as young as the hot-headed fire mage, so she is able to accept the strange sensations coursing through her as the world as she knew it changes at the strange, capricious whims of the gods. She slowly rises, stretches and looks around the room at the others. "I think our dear Luna is experiencing a bit of an emotional shock at the moment. She should be fine, but I'll see if I can keep her from torching any guests that might be welcomed in. Wish me luck."

She strides over to where the other woman is fidgeting by the door and gives Luna a smile. "It's ok, Luna. Everything is as it is supposed to be. Just be calm and see what the gods have gifted us with."
 
One moment, she'd been speaking with Aldrin, Oreleth, and Shalin about Loviatar's bridges of ice; the next the world... well, Turned. The half-elf felt something within her shift -- change -- evolve -- settle. Shadows flowed around her, embracing her like dear friends that haven't seen each other for a long time. Or, even more oddly, like people who had formed a close friendship entirely by letter, and now were meeting for the first time, but without any of the awkwardness of a first meeting. A strange familiarity; a familiar strangeness. She somehow felt the shadows now were not only around her, but in her, part of her very being, in much the way spellcasters felt magic within them. She drew the shadows close around her, or perhaps herself close to them.

And then the moment passed, and she saw the Turn expressing itself through the others in the room. Luna, Otiorin, and Bria were the most attention-getting (aside from the combined effect of 50+ kobolds suddenly shining like a silver sun), but each of her companions seemed touched by the Turn, in his or her own unique way. She listened quietly as Auri explained what had happened, letting her own inner alterations settle into their new natural shape.

"A Turn of the World, hmm?" Alisa asked, the holy warrior sounding mesmerized as she turned to look at Auri. "I've heard of such phenomena. I can't say I ever imagined being a subject of one though."
"I have," Kaerri replied, her voice rather hushed, though anyone who cared to listen can still hear her well enough. "Been through this before, I mean, a Turn or two. Some are, well, more involved than others. Affects different people differently, too. This one feels like a big one, to me." She falls silent again, shifting her attention within herself once more. The shadow at her feet seems to flicker, perhaps to turn and move, in a pattern not dictated by the lights in the room. Not unusual before the Turn, that; her shadow was, after all, her companion Eris, and Eris could move on her own. But Eris was still in the kitchen, helping with the cheese. A subtle thing, at any rate, with the others' attention seemingly elsewhere at the moment.

Aldrin's voice called Kaerri's attention outwards once more. She listened to his description of their incoming visitor. "Be an interesting coincidence if it was this Miss Mary we were wanting to talk to anyway. Speaking of which, did we find that cup we're hoping she wants?"

Then the usual mischief began to creep back into her rainbow-colored eyes and voice, as Luna bubbled over with words. "You're still you, whatever else has changed," the shadowdancer told her with a grin. "Maybe more you than you were before, even. I think I am."

She nodded at Oreleth. "People react differently, just as they're affected differently. Might be some out there didn't change much at all. Might even be some that didn't even notice." She paused, then saw Luna waiting inside the doorway. "You might want to go out there to meet whoever-it-is," she advised. "Remember, if they're calling to us, we won't be able to hear from in here."

Another thought caught at her attention, and she picked up the crystal ball they'd been talking to Oscar and Shalin through. She peered into it, wondering if the Turn had broken the connection.
 
Captain Hesperus Captain Hesperus jaydude jaydude Kaerri Kaerri Psychie Psychie Sherwood Sherwood Silanon Silanon
(Part 1 of 2 - Replies)
"A visitor."

He coughs to clear his throat, then speaks.

"Bare-footed. A cane, walking through the thin air over flowers unharmed." Another cough; more words.
"Oh dear!" Bria's feet are moving toward Aldrin before she's finished her brief phrase - it is almost as if she cannot help herself. Hustling to him with feet awfully swift for a human, she makes it to his sides. Bria sits on her haunches to bring herself more equal to her level. Her well-traveled waterskin presented before him, the Ko Healer pours a cup into the lid that serves as such.

"Water for your cough, friend?" Her offer sounds like it comes straight from the heart.

In the face of so many strange thoughts and feelings, Luna can't help herself and she starts to giggle. Softly at first, then it escalates into full on laughter bordering on the hysterical.
When this takes place, every kobold near her straightens in shock and looks up at Luna. As her laughter gains a more maniacal flavor, every last one of them moves away either by their own feet or get carried along by their brethren.

"Has she flippded her lidded? Clonked her bonkers?"

"Fire an' crazy! Not a good mix!"

"Mebbe the Turn left her mind behind?"

Oreleth is not nearly as young as the hot-headed fire mage, so she is able to accept the strange sensations coursing through her as the world as she knew it changes at the strange, capricious whims of the gods. She slowly rises, stretches and looks around the room at the others. "I think our dear Luna is experiencing a bit of an emotional shock at the moment. She should be fine, but I'll see if I can keep her from torching any guests that might be welcomed in. Wish me luck."
Between Luna's own attempt at comforting words (spoken with a Wizard's charisma) and Oreleth's more level-headed approach, the Kobolds of the Silver Sun noticeably lose their worry, but most still watch the young arcanist with cautious interest.

Aldrin's voice called Kaerri's attention outwards once more. She listened to his description of their incoming visitor. "Be an interesting coincidence if it was this Miss Mary we were wanting to talk to anyway. Speaking of which, did we find that cup we're hoping she wants?"
Mamapaw's feline ears flip up as the Druidess hears this. "No, we most certainly did not!" says the annoyed Felane. "Is it too late to come by whatever it is now? It was not just any ordinary cup, was it?" She says this as she puts her wooden mug down - a huge thing that would take a large human both hands to grasp firmly.

Another thought caught at her attention, and she picked up the crystal ball they'd been talking to Oscar and Shalin through. She peered into it, wondering if the Turn had broken the connection.
Indeed, Oscar's Crystal Ball is now a clouded and silent affair of pristine glass and sparkling reflections from the Grand Pool's waters.
 
(Part 2 of 2)

As Oreleth is on her way to join Luna at the only physical door in or out of the magical and unique Wayward Wagon, they see the purple pots beside the portal... and the purple clouds of mist they ceaselessly produce. This mist has been there ever since the Wayward Wanderers found themselves the prisoner of Bilal the Rich. This mist remains, wafting toward the ceiling where it disappears.

Somehow, not a single bug, raindrop, piece of road debris, leaf, or anything else that often crowds the doorways of mundane wagons has made it past the purple mist...

Miss Mary Madberry!.jpg
(Image: Pinterest because I can't find the artist!)

With ugly shoeless brown feet, the old crone hobbles her way into the Wayward Wagon like one unbothered by things like giant jade stone golems in the shape of Highwindian hippogriffs, strange opaque purple mists that cloud doorways, or the sense-shaking discovery of entering an extra-dimensional space - the Grand Pool - which is far, far larger on the inside than the wagon is on the outside!

She hobbles past Luna. "Warlock of the Old Flame," she mutters to herself. "Sting-tail lady of a dragoness on her left shoulder." And it is true.

"Lady Paladin of the Forest Maiden," she aims her acorn-colored gaze into Alisa's own if she dares to meet it while using Alisa's earned title as statement. How she knows it is beyond normal reasoning for normal people cannot tell just by looking.

She takes one glance at Mamapaw the Felane and gives a little grin. "Melshaef of the Thousand Faces." Like her previous statements, it is not said in greeting. Mamapaw's red eyes almost glow with wide surprise.

The tall round shape of Auri the Insatiable, Bria's honored turtle-friend, is for the moment nowhere to be seen.

What few Kobolds of the Silver Sun are near the front door part faster than mist before the dawn to get out of the way of that unhurried gait. With a presence that seems to command without a crown, the old lady walks straight to Oreleth unless someone makes some attempt to stop her.

If you intend to stop her, let me know in the Adventurers' Table and I'll rewrite the scene from this point on. I don't imagine anyone would, but I'm not the Players here - you are. Thus, I could be wrong and I want you to have the option. =)

There, the crone called Miss Mary Madberry stares up at the younger-looking woman, her narrowed eyes like those of a bear whose home cave has been nearly trespassed. She looks Oreleth directly in her eyes. There is zero fear there. Instead, there is something resembling annoyance and no small amount of resolve.

"Haiya lass," states she observes aloud in the language of the wood elves.

Oreleth, Kaerri, and Otiorin know this to be an elvish phrase that, as far as you know, only the elves use. It means "far leaf." "Far leaf" is what the wood elves call their own who have traveled long and far outside the Forest Eternal - like Oreleth most definitely did decades before she became an adventurer.

Her voice croaks like an aged toad's but holds the confidence of a wolf's hunting howl. Her speaking cadence is like that of a natural storyteller but her tone is like etching on a freshly-bloodied stone - deep and not easy to be in the presence of.

"Listen well to be wise. A golden songbird bid me a tale this hour. Sang to me a song she did. A cold wintry song. By Baadjr's white beard, t'was. A song tellin' me the Wayward Wanderers wantin' t' drive away the likes of Loviatar from the 'Green. From Averlund. Maybe from all'a Sharseya.

"If this be so, methinks you an' I are of a different mind. Y'see... I don't want Loviatar gone..." she sniffs, her teeth turning into a deathly-serious snarl.

"... I want that frigid bitch dead in th' ground."

Then Miss Mary Madberry looks calmly about the room as if the sights within the Grand Pool are nothing at all unusual to her.

Settling upon the strong branch she uses as a cane, she resets her stormy gaze on Oreleth - Oreleth sees that is the kind of gaze so unearthly, so haunting, that it might frighten even mighty trolls into fleeing for the hills. From her mouth comes a foreboding growl.

"What say you t' that, haiya lass?"
 
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While Oreleth does not immediately know who this woman is, there is a certain power to her, along with knowledge far beyond that of her own, that radiates from the old crone. With hardly a thought behind it, the elf bows deep to the woman and holds it for many a moment before standing upright once more.

Using carefully measured words, Oreleth says, "Honored Grandmother, you speak of killing a Goddess. I know little of such things, but I do know that it is far easier to say than it is to do. Causing a divinity to be destroyed would cause many ripples in the still pond of eternity that mere mortal minds like my own can only catch glimpses of."

"But with that being said, not only would I not shed a tear at Loviatar's demise, I am more than ready to raise my bow to the cause of ending that cold-hearted bitch's life and then dance over her grave in celebration, and let the dice fall where they will. Is that a sufficiently clear and concise response for you, honored elder?"
 
Otiorin, scion of the paladin of dragons, Charmsring the Mighty, flashes a brilliant and nigh-blinding blast of purest silver accompanied by biting cold. For a moment, he is covered from head to toe in frost-covered scales, his half-elven eyes glow like stars in a clear night sky. From who knows where, a patch of soft sunlight touches his feet.
Before
Otiorin sat with the Kobolds, regaling them with the tales of Charmsring. Some tales were remembered from his own grandmother, some more fanciful imaginings of his own, but either way he had the rapt attention of every scaly adherent to his grandsire within earshot.

Then the World Turned.

As the change swept through him and over him, he could see with Dragon's Eyes that the change had passed across not just his companions, but the Kobolds too. The same silvery light that had touched him had rushed over them also. As he Changed, he felt the biting cold and he could taste the cool fresh air that only existed where the pinnacles of the highest mountains caressed the very loins of the heavens. The sensation was worrying, but liberating at the same time. It was not the rush of power that came with his dragon-gifted magic, nor the ticklish change that came with the Fairy gift of strength, but it was a more subtly obvious change, like cleaning the tarnish from fine silver jewelry.

Once the change died down, and the marks of his heritage faded back, he rose to his feet and looked around. Bria and Powerpaw had immediately started testing their own changes in their manner, in light-hearted but earnest sparring, Aldrin, the cheerful hobbit who was now as blonde as a Grey Elf from the mountains, sat cross-legged and in deep meditation. Oreleth was more mobile, stretching and testing her body's mobility, while Alisa watched over her fellows alongside Mamapaw. Luna appeared to be animated in manic fashion, her voice a flurry of words like flames licking along a dry log. Kaerri's melodic voice gave evidence that events such as this had happened to her before.

Oti knew his fellows were safe and well, so he turned his attention to their charges. He knelt and got on eye level with the closest Kobolds.
"Are all of you alright? No one harmed or afraid?"

The Present
Otiorin heard Aldrin's prophetic words and frowned.
"A visitor? Here at the Wayward Wagon?", he asked incredulously since, to his knowledge, the wagon remained high above the world, borne aloft by the gift of magical jade hippogryphs.
Yet, a visitor there was. A withered bent old woman, who radiated comfort and menace in equal measure. She could be someone's beloved great-aunt or the wicked witch of the woods or both at the same time. She was conversant in Elven, of the Wood Elf tongue, and addressed Oreleth directly. And her words both chilled and thrilled him. She wanted to see the ultimate end of Loviatar!
"Len suilannon*, honored elder, and we welcome you to our hearth and home. Any enemy of Loviatar is a friend of ours. Come, come within and take your ease. Can I offer you something to eat or drink?"

*Elven translation: "I give greetings to you" (formal)
 
Everyone who so much as glanced at Alisa would see her tense up a little at the arrival of the newcomer - or rather, the arrival of Miss Mary Madberry. Those who wielded any form of great power were always to be tread carefully around.

Well, I suppose we WERE hoping to get in contact with her anyway, Alisa thought to herself.

"Whether Loviatar is permanently driven from here or outright killed matters not to me," she said to the witch. "The important thing is that Loviatar be forever denied a means to cause further pain and suffering."

She wanted to ask why Mary felt the need to seek their party out in regards to this matter. For now though, she decided to wait and let the witch answer the other questions put to her.
 
Captain Hesperus Captain Hesperus jaydude jaydude Kaerri Kaerri Psychie Psychie Sherwood Sherwood Silanon Silanon

(Part 1 of 2)

Oti knew his fellows were safe and well, so he turned his attention to their charges. He knelt and got on eye level with the closest Kobolds.
"Are all of you alright? No one harmed or afraid?"
The Kobolds of the Silver Sun all begin staring at each other and checking themselves. One by one, they report. The Wayward Wanderers hear squeaky reptilian comments like...

"All body parts 'r still attached!"

"I feel all tingly an'... good-like!"

"Me too!"

"You too? I thought I wuz da only one!"

"I'm... I'm skeered of da old human lady wit' da face like a dried raisin!"

"Shaddap, ya pebble-brain! Can't ya see da Wayward Wanderers iz treatin' her all kindly-like? She mus' be a big shot or sumthin'! Mind yer manners!"

"Yessir! Sorries!"

"A visitor? Here at the Wayward Wagon?", he asked incredulously since, to his knowledge, the wagon remained high above the world, borne aloft by the gift of magical jade hippogryphs.
Bria folds her soft hands and answers her favorite adventurer with her ready smile. "We've only been landed for a short time. Some place Alisa guided us to; I'm sure it's somewhere safe. I just hope it's pretty!"

"But with that being said, not only would I not shed a tear at Loviatar's demise, I am more than ready to raise my bow to the cause of ending that cold-hearted bitch's life and then dance over her grave in celebration, and let the dice fall where they will. Is that a sufficiently clear and concise response for you, honored elder?"
"Len suilannon*, honored elder, and we welcome you to our hearth and home. Any enemy of Loviatar is a friend of ours. Come, come within and take your ease. Can I offer you something to eat or drink?"
"'Honored elder,' izzit? Absolutely! Give meee..." she ponders but a moment, "... something that kicks like a Highwind minotaur!"

Bria, her barmaid training kicking in, hears this and offers. With the tone of someone serving a guest at some crowded retreat, she says, "I know just the thing, ma'am! Continue to enjoy the atmosphere and I'll be right back!" Bria speeds off toward the kitchen with the combination of Ko monk swiftness and the enchanted sandals upon her cute little feet.

"The important thing is that Loviatar be forever denied a means to cause further pain and suffering."
"That..." the cane-carrying crone seethes like a hungry mountain lion, "...might be a fate worse than death for the likes of the empty-hearted Maiden of Pain." A wide grin crosses her wrinkled face at the thought offered by Alisa.

Then another thought seems to strike the crone like a mild blow. "What now?" She stares accusingly - first at Luna, then at Alisa, and then especially at Mamapaw who cannot help but give a little cringe at that fiery stare.

"Is no one going to introduce me then? Izzit.... izzit possible that nunya know my name?" She glances at Luna something wrathful. "Wittle miss Warlock, is it not in your studies then?" Then at white-haired Aldrin. "Have you failed to divine it?" Then at Kaerri. "Have your shadows told you nothing then?"

Before another word can be uttered, she raises a hand with claw-like nails and scribes a strange evergreen sigil in the air, a sigil that seems to come alive and writhe about like tiny roots hanging in the air.

"Well now!" she cackles, baring strong yellow teeth with a hint of fangs. "Let's have ourselves a little hint, shall we?"
 
(Part 2 of 2)

The crone but snaps her hard-skinned fingers... and the evergreen sigil vanishes! She stares... right at Otiorin with a facial expression that says it all - she is confused, perhaps even mystified, at the sight of him. It is as if, unlike some of the other Wayward Wanderers, she cannot place who Otiorin is. Or perhaps more - what he is.

All that happens next happens with a quickly-moving scene that is as astounding as it is unusual!

All around Otiorin's handsome roguish face, tiny dancing rootlings appear, light-brown and twitching madly. They grow, with miraculously rapidity, until in a span less than a dozen songbird's heartbeats, they blossom into little bulbous yellow pods. Immediately, they burst! An orange and sunny gas is momentarily all around Otiorin's face. These begin to fade and are soon gone.

Right then... Otorin Tale-treader coughs. Once. A hard cough to be sure.

From that single cough comes a single cloud - icy, beautiful, and lined with a silvery bright light!

That cloud speedily darts to kobold nearest to Otiorin - Nitwit. Then it multiplies! Four more clouds touching four more kobolds!

Then in a matter of seconds, the icy silvery clouds are racing all through the tribe, dozens of clouds for dozens of kobolds, moving crazily until they appear to have touched them all! Along with this, a bunch of these clouds race through the air with the speed of singing arrows - in the direction of kitchen.

Then the clouds too vanish as quickly as they came. There is a moment of brief silence as curious eyes from all around the room look and ears perk to listen.

Something... is about... to take place!

It happens to little Nitwit first.

Nitwit the Ranger, holding his silvery pendant with both hands, jerks, spasms, then uncontrollably - coughs! Something white shoots from his mouth and strikes the wooden floor of the Wayward Wagon! Dozens of eyes peer. What do they see? A small mound of innocent white - a tiny pile... of icy snow!

"Heh, heh, heh," the crone backs away from the crowd of kobolds... and watches.

Another kobold - the chieftain himself - coughs. That cough sends a snowball right into the eye of his wife! Seething, she stares back and coughs a snowball at him. It misses as he ducks and it plows into the next kobold right in the back of his head! Dozens of little reptilians begin coughing either at each other or into their cupped claws to produce a snowball...

... and out of nowhere begins... the very first snowball fight in the Wayward Wagon! All becomes bedlam!

Vintage Snow GIF by US National Archives
Wisconsin Badgers Snow GIF by uwmadison
There are no sides! There are few allies and everyone else is considered a target! Powerpaw is pelted and returns fire as best he can! Mamapaw is snowily mauled, desperately looking for cover and finding none! There are snowballs coming at each of you too!

Right then, Bria appears at the doorway from the kitchen, a fine mug in hand. She stops in total surprise and incomprehension. Her mouth opens with a soft gasp. Unconsciously, the Ko monk shakes her head in disbelief. Somewhere in the mad melee and white din of delirious chaos, her soft sigh can be heard as she says:

"I leave you guys for a single moment... and this is what happens? Next time, I'm asking Fuzzy Goof to get the drink."

"ME?!" yowls battling Powerpaw in mock dismay.

No one dares throw a ball in the direction of the old crone. She is chuckling, rubbing her hands together, and greatly enjoying the mayhem. "Ha haaa! Kobolds, are you? Perhaps we should be callin' you 'cold-bolds' from now on! Can any of you come up with my name now? Hee hee!"

What do the Wayward Wanderers do?
 
Alisa stuck her head out from underneath a pile of snow that had been formed near the old woman shortly after the start of the impromptu snowball fight. "You're Miss Mary Madberry, aren't you?" she asked, her dry tone making clear that she wasn't surprised by such behaviour from her.
 
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Alisa stuck her head out from underneath a pile of snow that had been formed near the old woman shortly after the start of the impromptu snowball fight. "You're Miss Mary Madberry, aren't you?" she asked, her dry tone making clear that she wasn't surprised by such behaviour from her.
The energetic crone raises her eyebrows and opens one hand in surprise (mock surprise?).

"Aye! Aye, I am! Does the sound of my name finally come to mind? Does it carry only suspicion e'en to the ears of Mielikki's Own? Mine, whose name once ago outweighed the very name of the ogres and giants alike?" For one long moment, she stoops and with her branch of a cane traces something in the light snow gathering at her feet while the snowball fight wages on. Her mood seems to descend into something darker, lonelier.

"There... was a time... when no evil dared set foot in these parts. Every ogre, every giant, every orc - they stayed far, far away... when Tapio the Fair walked these woods."

Tapio is a name well-known to all Mielikkians, many Highwindians, some scholars who have a care for the north, and parties like yourselves - but the way Miss Mary Madberry says it? Somehow, coming out of her mouth, the name Tapio does not sound like the name of some far-off god of ages past, nor the mythical beloved of Mielikki herself, no. The way she speaks now? It is as if she is remembering some old, old friend. Not some being born of words in a musty book, but someone all too real to her. Someone she misses.

Her gaze falls to the snow and the drawing at her feet. Then she looks up to Alisa who recognized her.

Suddenly, she straightens and looks Alisa in the eyes - and Miss Mary Madberry's gaze now is wild as the animals. Her stare at the young Paladin is now as free and bright as the sun.

She shouts out. "I am here for your kobolds! Or... cold-bolds as I have named them! Hee hee! Mielikki told me all I need. Won't you allow them to come with me?"
 
The Kobolds of the Silver Sun are far too involved in their laughing, shrieking, and snowball-filled escapades to have noticed this exchange. =)
 
She shouts out. "I am here for your kobolds! Or... cold-bolds as I have named them! Hee hee! Mielikki told me all I need. Won't you allow them to come with me?"
"I would...say that's up to them," Alisa replied, before turning to see if any of her non-kobold companions had been able to pay attention in the midst of all the chaotic happenings.
 

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