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Tangled Roots Under the Moon's Shadow - A Nerian Story

Started by Kalese, May 23, 2017, 02:19:28 PM

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This is the first story and is a prelude to "Of Houses and Packs".  The original is posted in the EQ section, but beings I put "Of Houses and Packs" here I figured I should post the background story here too.  It also explains how two Teir'dal are allied to Saga, or as they call it, the House of Saga.

Tangled Roots Under the Moon's Shadows
BY: Tuppen and Kalese


The time was finally right.  Today, Tuppen would fulfill the purpose of the assignment he had been given more than a year before.  Intelligence gathered by the Guardians of the Vale was correct.  Lokar To`Biath of the Teir'Dal was, indeed, an indiscriminate drunkard with inexplicably great sway within Neriak.  Plying the dark elf with wine—any wine—had earned Tuppen the trust of the scribe and consequently, a favorable reputation within the whole of Neriak.  Tuppen had invested half a year of effort and several hundred platinum smuggling more than two thousand bottles of cheap wine into Neriak in order to cultivate his relationship with the scribe.  As a consequence he had received Lokar's endorsement and was free to wander through most of the city--so long as he was careful to avoid a select few of the Dreadguard who remained outside Lokar's sphere of influence.


PART 1: Capture

Bang. Bang. Bang. Came the rapping on the door.
"Enter." replied the Weapon's Mistress, a Teir'Dal of small stature.  Her amber eyes however, held a gaze revered by her allies and feared by her enemies.  She looked up from her desk as the door opened.
Two Teir'Dal guards dressed in the armor of the Noble House of Sel'Quar, much like hers but less ornate, dragged a Halfling by the arms between them into her office.
"A spy m' lady." stated one of the guards.
Ginizar Moonshadows looked at the Halfling with hatred and contempt. "Why is it still breathing?"
The guard immediately drew out his dagger.  "Sorry m' lady, I thought.."
The guard was interrupted by another female voice coming from a room to the side. "Mother, d... Oh, what have we here? A Halfling? In Neriak?  Hold your blade soldier."
Ginizar gave a sideways look at her daughter. "Caya, he is a Halfling and a spy, and even if he is not a spy, he is still a Halfling." She gave the guards a gesture with her hand, but they did not move.  Instead they looked to Caya, who immediately drew herself up to her full height.
"May I remind you Baroness, that I am a priestess of Innoruuk and as such, my word is that of the Matron Mother of this Noble House.  Hold your blade soldier."
Rage flared in Ginizar's eyes and her aura of fear and dread filled the room.  The guards shifted as if to flee from the room and their grip on the prisoner was all but released.  Her daughter however, appeared unaffected.
"I am your Mother! And the Matron of my own House!  You will not command me like some common servant!" Ginizar snapped.
"I could have your head for your words .. mother ..." a large grin spread across Caya's features as she watched her mother shy away.
Bowing slightly to her daughter, "Forgive me priestess.  My hatred and rage blinded me.  I had forgotten my place."
Smiling, Caya looked at the Halfling. "Now, what is your name and what information do you have?"  She asked this, not particularly to the Halfling.  It was more a question to herself.
The young, red-headed Halfling tried to regain his composure.  It wasn't fear he was feeling, as one might expect considering the circumstances of his capture, instead it was embarrassment.  Embarrassment and humiliation at being caught after so much effort had been expended to create the opportunity he had just fumbled so catastrophically.
He looked up into the eyes of the Priestess of Innoruuk and answered her question with a directness and honesty that he was certain would be unexpected and was also likely to result in his immediate execution.   
"Me name is Tuppen Tangledroots of Rivervale, yer holiness, an I were on a mission ta assassinate King Thex.   Tis regrettable that the bit of information as ta his whereabouts for this evenin', while true, were incomplete."
" I nearly got meself kilt when I entered his chambers ta find meself a witness ta obscenity like I ain't never imagined.  Made me gag out loud is what it did."  Tuppen sighed with regret, recalling his inability to control his reaction to the scene.
"Next thing I knowed, Thex were shoutin' fer the guards an I were runnin fer me life.  Accidently bumped inta this feller here after I broke inta yer fine lookin' house ta evade the King's men", Tuppen said, glancing over his shoulder and up at the Teir'Dal who continued to restrain him.
"If'n ya would be so kind as ta see yer way clear of lettin' me go so I could be on about me business, I would be most obliged, " he  said, attempting a winning smile in the hopes that he might somehow charm the Priestess into releasing him.

Caya looked in disbelief at the Halfling.  Her shock at his words lasted but a second as she quickly made up her mind, her face becoming stern and resolute.
"Your blade." she demanded from the guard to her left.  As soon as her hand gripped the hilt she swung the blade wide in an arch that, with a quickness one comes to expect from a Teir'Dal, struck the guard to her right.  Before the guard's body hit the floor, her own dagger, pulled from its hiding place on her belt, found its mark with skilled precision.  Piercing the guard to her left under his chin, she buried the dagger to the hilt.  She pulled the guard's face mere inches from her own.  An evil grin crossed her face and the murder in her eyes was absolute.
"By the Prince of Hate girl, what have you done?!" yelled Ginizar.
"What I MUST." replied her daughter. "You real-" but the rest of her sentence was drowned out by her mother.
"What you MUST?  We are on the brink of a civil war, and you shed blood of our own house?!  What you MUST?!"  Ginizar was screaming by the time she finished.
Exasperated, but her excitement building, her daughter replied, "You realize what this Halfling knows?!" She was so excited now she could no longer keep her composure, her hand was shaking uncontrollably as she pointed at Tuppen. "He is a Halfling.. who penetrated Fourth Gate!.. Into the King's chambers!..  Do you realize what this information is worth?!"  Her hands were moving as fast as her tongue.
"It isn't going to be worth anything when we are all dead." Ginizar stated flatly.  She had come out from behind her desk and was briskly making her way to her daughter.  " And what makes you think he is telling the truth?"
"He is speaking the truth, Mother." Caya's excitement was retreating and her normal cold and calculating features were returning.  "I cast an integrity spell when I first walked up to him."
Ginizar gave a smug look to her daughter and started to cast magic that could only have come from the abyss.  A chilling, boding darkness shrouded one of the dead guards and within moments it was on its feet and taking orders from its new master.

"Time is of the essence." Said Ginizar. " We will be one of the first houses they search.  We must get him out of the city."

Caya looked at her mother with renewed interest. "The magic required to create a portal is too great, the other towers sorcery would notice. We will need to use more subtle magic." Turning to her daughter who was peering through the door which stood ajar, "Jalese, go and get your father."


PART 2: Blood Pact

Jalese, a very young Teir'Dal, looking no older than a human of 13 years, pushed her long shiny white hair out of her eyes and tucked it behind her ear. "Yes, Mother.", she said as she turned on her heels and set off at a trot.
"Caya, how do you think your husband is going to help here?", asked Ginizar, whose demeanor had returned to her normal quiet, calculated self.
Caya shook her head.  Her mind was racing against time.  "For starters, he cannot stay a Halfling if he leaves the confines of our house.  As'chezel will be able to transform him into something not so noticeable, like an ogre or troll or something."
"Troll" Ginizar stated flatly. "They are stupid, so the halfling's ignorance would be masked by our expectation of that stupidity.  But that isn't telling me how you plan on getting him past 3rd Gate."

Tuppen's eyebrow quirked upward. Pretending to be a troll or ogre wasn't an endeavor he had anticipated when he had entered Neriak hours earlier.  How a three foot and some few inches tall halfling could pass as an ogre or troll would surely require some remarkable magic and the prospect was amusing to contemplate.

"I'm still working that out." Caya was pacing back and forth now, her hands were fidgeting with her dagger as she talked to herself. "They will put up wards at the river to cancel magic, water breathing spells will be useless.  They surely have warded against teleportation, nothing in or out of Neriak.  Undead at all the gates.  Mages to cancel magic at the gates." 

Tuppen nodded his head, agreeing with Caya's assessment.  "The magic wards be the reason I had ta go ta great lengths get meself trusted in yer city.  An yer right, I cannae cast any portal spells--the wards is keepin' em from workin'.  Tis the only reason I were able ta be captured by yer guards."

Caya grimaced and her expression became hard as she turned to the Halfling and pointed her dagger at him.  "You work for us now. Because of your failure, King Thex will send the Dragoons to attack your people. Your women and children will be slaughtered. So, if you refuse or do not answer our calls, we will make sure they know that the deaths of their young and loved ones are because you failed in your assassination attempt on King Thex. You will be quite popular amongst your people."

Stone-faced, with eyes on the dagger, Tuppen answered her candidly.  "Yer barkin' up the wrong tree lass.  Ya cannae threaten me.  Yer folk ain't likely ta achieve any of what yer sayin''.  I willna betray the folk of Rivervale on empty threats nor by bein' yer servant.  If'n ya couldna tell from how direct I were with ya about me mission—I will be tellin' me superiors about me own failure.   We halflin's ain't too proud to admit ta mistakes.   Mistakes is opportunity fer improvement, not shame.  They'll be prepared fer anythin ya do against 'em.

Ginizar smirked at Caya. "You should just kill it," she said as she opened the door to leave. "I am needed at 3rd Gate, for as you said, they will be assembling the army.  You need to hurry too Caya or you will be missed at the Temple."  Ginizar gave her daughter a knowing look.  "They will get suspicious and come looking if you are not there.  You need to kill it and get going."

Caya hissed at her mother, much like the cat whose tail had been pulled. Ginizar ignored her as she closed the door.  The two dead guards had left with her, the undead guard carrying the other.

Caya looked back at Tuppen, her expression anxious. "I should have realized that you care nothing about yourself.  It is your people you care about, isn't it?  Or is it?  You would rather see them attacked thinking that they can fend off the Dragoons of Neriak?  You do realize my Mother just left to join that army that will spew forth from the gates of Neriak to lay waste to your people. It is your own doing--and that of King Thex's.  You have destroyed your own people and some of mine along with them.  Your betrayal couldn't be more complete.  I cannot change what you have done, nor can I stop King Thex from attacking your people."

Tuppen stifled a chuckle at Caya's words. Believing her predictions to be outrageous and quite unlikely to occur, he bit his tongue and held his stoic expression as he listened to the Teir'dal express her concerns aloud.

Caya continued to pace and occasionally pointed her dagger at Tuppen as if to stress certain points. "And he won't stop there, his target is Felwithe, it is always Felwithe, and then on to Kelethin.  The total and complete annihilation of all that Tunare has created.  And that includes his own people--my people.  If you do not want to betray your people--If you want to protect them--then we must stop King Thex.  Lord Innoruuk is using him as his messenger.  I cannot do it alone." 

She paused and looked at Tuppen. "You have already failed.  Together, and with others, we have a chance to save our people." 

Watching Caya's behavior as she spoke so vehemently and with such fervor, Tuppen realized that Caya's plea was sincere.  Despite being a Teir'dal and supposedly full of hate, the dark elf was clearly concerned for the welfare of all of Norrath.

Little Jalese had returned, but not with her father.  Instead she carried a few potion bottles and a couple of scrolls.  She placed these on her grandmother's desk and stood silent off to the side closest to her mother.

Caya glanced at her daughter but continued to address Tuppen, "I can help your people now, we can warn them. Get the children, the elderly and those that do not fight out of Rivervale.  If they muster good defenses and know where the Dragoons of Neriak will strike, King Thex will not risk the loss of his army to the Halflings. They are not his true target.  Your people will be spared, you will have saved your people, not betrayed them.  I'll help your people now and in the future, but in return you must agree to help me save mine."  This was not a question to Tuppen, it was a statement, yet Caya continued to look at Tuppen as if expecting a quick answer.

Taking a deep breath, Tuppen replied to her expectant gaze.  "Lass, it ain't my people I'm worried about if'n yer folk attacks the Vale.  Yer underestimatin' us halflin's.  Though I doubt yer likely ta believe it, my folk would give yers a fight they wouldna soon ferget.  They ain't no point speculatin' or arguin' the matter, though. ...  Aye," he nodded decisively, "let's jest agree that alla our folks is in danger from Thex. We can surely work tagether ta ensure he ain't able ta hurt any of 'em."

Caya's eyes widen, "so you agree to work for... with me?"  Caya corrected herself quickly.

"Aye, indeedy", Tuppen nodded, letting a friendly smile stretch across his face.

"How do I know I can trust you.  How do I know you will uphold your end once I get you out of Neriak?" Caya said with deep suspicion narrowing her eyes.

Tuppen shrugged noncommittally. . "I reckon they probly ain't nothin I could do ta prove that ya can trust me.   Yer jest gonna have ta.   Course, ya could put me in a helpless way so that ya know I cain't betray ya til ya sets me free."

"Yes, perfect!  We can do this," Caya said triumphantly as she walked across the room to retrieve a spear from a coat of arms on the wall.  Using the tip of the spear, she began drawing runes on the floor around Tuppen and herself.  Sparks few from its tip as she etched the arcane symbols onto the stone floor.

Tuppen watched Caya with intense curiosity, starting to wonder what sort of magic she might be preparing to cast, worried that he might have just sold his soul to Innoruuk.

Finished with drawing the runes, Caya began to chant in the ancient magical language of the Teir'dal.  She looked at Tuppen with a solemn expression, "For as long as this pact lasts, neither of us will be able to betray the other."

His brow furrowed with worry, Tuppen stammered, "What does ya mean? What is it?  Fer as long as it lasts?  Ya mean til death?"

"A blood pact--a binding, and yes...until death or at least until we both agree to dissolve it." She said nonchalantly, as if such a ritual were an everyday occurrence. " We just need the sacrifice, then I can go to the Temple before they come for me.  You will need to stay hidden here until I return."

"Sacrifice?", Tuppen eyed Caya warily, fearful that innocents might be slaughtered. "I ain't gonna be no party ta no murder, less'un tis Thex hisself."

"You won't be committing the murder.. I will."  In one, swift motion Caya thrust the spear into her daughter's abdomen.  Eyes wide with shock, Jalese's hands wrapped around the shaft of the spear as her mother lifted her off of the floor with the strength of her strike.

Tuppen let out a strangled yelp, caught off guard by Caya's merciless and wholly unexpected betrayal of her own daughter.  "What'd ya go an do that fer?!" he yelled.  Tuppen resisted his immediate urge to aid Jalese, intuiting that Caya would only stab her again-- perhaps killing the young elf with one blow.

Caya embedded the spear head into a support beam at an angle so her daughter's blood would run down the shaft to fill in the runes and complete the blood-pact.  As the blood flowed the runes began to give off an eerie glow. Jalese struggled to keep upright, but the more she struggled the harder it became.  Each time her hands slipped she would scream until her screams became gurgled.  She began to cough, spitting blood each time she did so.  As her blood ran down the spear, her life force drained and the pact grew stronger.

"It is done." Caya could see the shock and unease on Tuppen's face.  Caya's actions did not bother her, it was part of the Teir'dal culture.  She would have to remember in the future that it was not so for the halfling.  "Innoruuk demands a sacrifice to seal the blood pact." she explained. "There is no alternative.  It is unfortunate" she looked at her daughter struggling to stay alive, "but required."  Caya turned to leave. Looking back over her shoulder, she asserted, "Neither of us can betray the other now."  She closed the door solidly behind her, signaling her resolve..

Jalese was fading in and out of consciousness.  She couldn't speak but she didn't have to.  Her eyes told her story.  She reached out to Tuppen in desperation as Innoruuk took her.

Tuppen turned from the door toward the youthful Jalese, grave concern in his eyes.  Panic in his voice, Tuppen reached out and pulled the young Teir'dal off the spear, "Yer gonna be okee, lass.  I promises ya."

Laying Jalese on the cold floor, Tuppen closed his eyes and began the incantation for one of Karana's healing spells, waving his hands in the required pattern, a green glow began to emanate from his palms.  Gently he reached forward, placing his hands on the wound.  He watched as the flow of blood ceased and the flesh began to mend itself.   Karana's magic was powerful, there was no disputing it.

Jalese's color began to improve as the magic worked its way through her body.   "How are ya feelin' now lass?," Tuppen asked Jalese with an encouraging smile.

Caya had been moving fast, she had already passed The Down Under and was making her way to the Temple when she stumbled to her knees.  Clutching her abdomen and spitting out blood with each word, she cursed the halfling. "Foul excrement of a toadstool, Innoruuk demands a sacrifice!"  Caya was a priestess of Innoruuk.  She knew it was pointless, but what else could she do?  With her eyes screwed up in pain she recited the dark incantation of Innoruuk to call forth his healing powers.  As she feared, Innoruuk demanded a sacrifice for the magic she had performed.  Her fate was sealed.  She fell sideways against the alley wall, blood flowing freely from the wound she had so recently given her own daughter.  She was losing consciousness.  Her eyes were closing.  But as the darkness took her, she could make out the outline of a figure approaching.

"It is not yet your time my child. Your work here is not finished."  It was a soft feminine voice.  Caya attempted to reply but it came out gurgled and incomprehensible. She heard the voice one last time "Sleep young priestess, sleep".


~ Caya Moonshadows <Saga> Phinigel
~ Ginizar and Caya Moonshadows <House Sel`Quar> FV
~ Malese, Jalese and Belladithana Moonshadows <Saga> FV


Part 3: Escape (a work in progress actually)

Jalese opened her eyes and looked into Tuppen's.  Her expression wasn't one of gratitude, as one would expect from someone whose life had just been saved.  Instead it was a curiosity that quickly turned to anger.  "I am Teir'dal, and yet you will allow me to live?  Why would you do this?"  Her voice grew louder with each sentence. "It was not your place to help me, it was my responsibility to help myself!" 

Eyes wide with shock at her reaction, Tuppen stared at Jalese uncomprehendingly for a few moments as he tried to understand her distorted world-view.  "I...I saved yer life," he said, nodding his head to prompt her approval even as he scratched his noggin, perplexed.

"You don't understand", she said--clearly frustrated by his confusion.  "You are not Teir'dal.  My mother cannot protect me forever, she knows this.  She used me as best she could in a last attempt for me to prove my worth to Lord Innoruuk.  One way or another, I would have saved myself, proving I had the strength and Hate to survive!"

Cocking his eyebrow upward, Tuppen guffawed in an attempt to temper her reaction.  "Ya sure looked dead ta me lass"  Tuppen tilted his head, stuck out his tongue and rolled his eyes back in their sockets, feigning a caricature of death.

Seething at his reaction, she rebuked him. "Then I would have died sealing the pact between you and my mother--serving the will of my family! You changed that outcome, against the will of Lord Innoruuk.  He would have never allowed that.  Some other deity allowed you to intervene.  Lord Innoruuk will be full of hatred and my mother will have to answer to his anger.  She is unlikely to survive his wrath! 

Tuppen abandoned his attempt to lighten the mood, his face settling into an earnest expression. "Yer mum seems the sort who can take care of herself." Employing her earlier logic, Tuppen asserted, "Yer mum is worthy of yer God.  She's got the strength an hate needed ta survive his wrath."

Eyes wide with shock at his understanding, Jalese stared at Tuppen for a few moments as she tried to understand how he could grasp the Teir'dal culture so quickly.

"Imma quick study?" Tuppen shrugged, pretending as if he really had understood.

Jalese looked around the room quickly.  "We cannot stay here. We should leave quickly.  There are potions and scrolls on the desk that my father gave me.  Perhaps there is something useful there."

Tuppen rummaged through the pile of scrolls and vials on the desk, completely clueless as to their contents, hoping Jalese would help him figure out the purpose of the various concoctions and the illegible writings.  He unstoppered one of the potions and sniffed the contents, crinkling his nose at the foul odor. "Ya donnae expects me ta drink any o' this stuffs does ya?" 

"Why not?" Answered Jalese.  She was busy trying to cover up the runes that her mother had scratched into the floor.

"It smells like a dead troll shat out a ogre it had fer breakfast!  I ain't drinkin' that one.  That's yers." He grimaced and reached for another.

Jalese stopped trying to pull the spear out of the support beam and walked over to Tuppen, "Mine?  Why would I need one?"  She picked up the bottle he had just pushed to the side.  "Ewww, I wouldn't drink this one either."  She sat the bottle back down and walked away headed toward the door she had come in from earlier.

"Ya knows what any of this stuff does, lass?  I reckon we needs ta get outta Neriak as soon as we can, an since me own magics is bein' blocked here, we're gonna have ta make use of what we gots".  He looked at the third and last vial with resignation, having decided that the second one looked too unappetizing to even contemplate sniffing it.

Jalese walked back over to Tuppen in a huff.  "Give me that, sheesh.  Stupid halfling.  Teir'dal Illusion.", she put the bottle back on the table a little harder than needed.  She picked up the first bottle again and pointed at the label looking at Tuppen. "Troll." She said this slowly as one would trying to teach a child how to pronounce words.  She picked up the last bottle and smiled slyly at Tuppen.  "This one would be good for you." She bounced away headed for the door again.  Stopping at the archway she looked over her shoulder back at Tuppen, an evil little grin on her face.

Tuppen looked at the third vial with suspicion.

Jalese put her hand to her mouth in an attempt to conceal her giggle.

Holding his freckled nose tightly shut with one forefinger and thumb, he gulped the contents of the third vial.

Jalese couldn't contain her laughter any longer, as she watched the Halflings features contort and change, she fell to the floor laughing and kicking.  Everytime she sneaked a looked at Tuppen's transformation she would laugh harder.

Tuppen stretched his arms out before him and wriggled his fingers, watching them with fascination as they danced before his eyes fleshless.  He cackled maniacally, as undead skeletons often do--a permanent death grin where his freckles once were.

"Come on, hurry!  We have to get you out of the city."  Jalese grabbed one of the skeletal hands and started leading it out of the depths of Neriak.
~ Caya Moonshadows <Saga> Phinigel
~ Ginizar and Caya Moonshadows <House Sel`Quar> FV
~ Malese, Jalese and Belladithana Moonshadows <Saga> FV