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April 10, 2004

Roses from Rosorc

Theona's Journal

Kythorn 29, 1373, The City of Doors

The trouble with endeavoring to look sure of yourself in an extraordinary situation is that you may be sending the wrong signals to your friends as well.

First, we really needed to find an inn— we were just exhausted from our entire visit to Avernus. Our first attempt to find a place to rest brought us to a flophouse— no food, no bath! Determined not to look too lost, we were never the less attracting seedy individuals— a shifty-looking gnome offered to show us the way to an inn— we need only follow him into a dark alley first. We decided to stick to this main “road” we were on. We also passed a very ominous arachnid-shaped building, all of us in agreement that it likely was not an inn.

We soon came to a signpost that we had to decide whether to read or attack— it was an actual zombie with scraps of paper nailed to it! My friends, other than Rosorc, decided to keep their distance, but I wanted to read the notices in case we could find a bill for an inn. There were personal notes and job postings— one for someone who was good at “finding things” to apply for work at the “Brainless Dretch,” and another seeking magic items with an address of “31 Darkbane Alley.” I figured there must be more to this zombie than being a board for bills, so I asked directions to a good inn. The zombie groaned and pointed straight up at the rooftops above us. That’s right, they were directly above us! Poor Deitricha was already getting sick from staring at the skyline from this odd angle; we suggested she look down, but not before we all saw something that looked like a cross between and ooze and a mephit fly past carrying a scrollcase.

I got my last flask of ale out and passed it around, and tossed the remainder to a voice from an alley asking for what was left. Feeling a bit more fortified, we hardly reacted to the large red scaly creature that exited a door onto the street beside us and just kept walking.

The area we were passing through eventually became even hazier and the sounds of a foundry drifted to us— we were obviously in the factory ward now. Needing fresher air, we continued on.

Things finally started to look cleaner after we’d walked for an hour or more. The area seemed safer too— guards in red spiked armor watched us, alert for trouble, as we passed by. We came to a door with a sign above it: “The Alabaster Mermaid”— an inn at last! Better still, it had rooms, food, and baths available. Areon generously offered to pay for our accommodations and bought three rooms and access to the bath area. There were three baths, labeled for male, female, and “other.” Tassar and Deitricha headed into the one marked for females, and Rosorc was already walking towards “males” so I took the chance the “other” would be empty and headed in. I’m not sure how they were piping the warm water through the baths, but it was one of the nicest experiences— and I needed a bath badly! My clothes were still sticky from the River of Blood, so I scrubbed them as well.

Feeling better, but hungry, I headed back to the common room of the inn. We couldn’t make heads or tails out of their menu, so we just ordered one of everything. Some of it was a bit scary-looking, but there was plenty of ale to wash it down, thankfully!

Things were a bit more awkward when it was time to grab rooms. Areon had only purchased three, and of course Tassar and Deitricha ran in one immediately. William and Rosorc took the next, so Areon and I got the last. I’m not entirely sure Areon is aware of the soul bond we have formed— he knows things have changed between us, but it was so gradual that I’m not sure myself when I became conscious of it. It is there and that is enough for now.

Of course, since elves don’t sleep, we just mediated as normal, and then I suggested we find a marketplace to sell our extra loot at— we could collect the money and take our friends back to the market when they awoke. I know Areon likes to be outdoors as much as possible, and even though there is not much “nature” to be found in this haze-shrouded city, I figured he’d like it better than sitting in an inn. We got directions to the Great Bazaar and headed off. I would say that the sun was coming up, but honestly, it was more like a lightening of the haze.

I was able to get my clothing magically cleaned, which saved me the expense of buying new, and we got 2000gp for all the extra stuff we’d been hauling around. Areon has been looking for an animal companion for some time, so it was ironic that he was able to buy an animal that is surely native to our world— a tressym, or flying cat, that he calls Nianque, with fur and feathers that are a good color match to my own hair. We were both pleased to be able to let the poor thing stretch its wings outside of a cage. Several hours had passed by this time, so we hurried back to the inn to find our friends finishing up breakfast. After handing out the remaining shares of coin, we took them back to the market ward so they could shop for themselves.

While shopping, we also found information on portals, or rather, where to find information on them, so we could more easily return home. As nice as this City of Doors (called Sigil by the natives) is, even I am longing to see some greenery and real sunshine.

What happened next is all a blur— I think I have made a grave error with my newest friend. A young human lad ran up to me, hailing me as Lady Theona, and presented me with some red roses and a beautiful mithril chain. Attached was a thank you note “from a friend.” Wondering how Areon had managed to orchestrate this when he hadn’t left my sight hardly at all, I stood there confused until Rosorc, seeing my bewilderment, took the chain and wove it into my hair with a rose. I absentmindedly thanked him as Areon led us back to the Clerk’s Ward to get the information we needed for the portal home.

We eventually arrived at a huge marble building called the Hall of Records and met with a creature that looked like a cross between a goat and a human (I’ve since discovered that they are called bauriar). He instructed us to go elsewhere, and with our new instructions, we eventually made our way to the Office of Portal Registry. Rosorc thoughtfully held the doors for me all the way through— dwarves are much more polite than I had ever realized!

We met with a short human called Marxel who insisted that we fill out a huge stack of forms before he could give us information on the portal we needed. Areon got to work filling them out while I attempted to bribe the clerk. Areon and my friends finished filling out the forms before I was able to successfully bribe Marxel, but not, I’m afraid, before the office had closed for the day. Marxel took the forms and bade us come back in the morning.

I was still pondering the gift I’d received in the Market Ward when we arrived back at the Alabaster Mermaid. I was surprised to see the dining area completely transformed— a table for two with candles, red roses and several ales and wines was set. Rosorc led me to one seat and— Areon went up the steps to our room and closed the door.

I noticed, at this point, that Rosorc had something woven through his beard— a mithril chain that matched the one in my hair!

Already seated, I grabbed the nearest flagon and took a big gulp of a very strong alcoholic beverage. I needed it! I am ashamed to say that I panicked when I realized that I was the object of Rosorc’s affection, and as the meal was served and a privacy screen set in place, I had to excuse myself from the table and bolted out the door of the inn.

Between the drink I had consumed and my mounting anxiety I had lost any rational thought I’d had. Knowing Areon would help me from an awkward situation, I grabbed a handful of pebbles from the alley and threw them at (what I hoped) was our window. He lifted the sash, but I could see by the hurt look on his face that he thought I had returned the dwarf’s affection by accepting the gift. He did not throw me a rope to climb up the vine-choked wall of the inn, and I did not want to yell up to explain the misunderstanding, so I attempted to scale the wall myself— and was blinded by pain. I apparently went back into the inn, sat back down with Rosorc, and drank myself unconscious, but I don’t remember it.

I became conscious hours later, on a bed in a room that I did not recognize, but alone. Right then, a tray was delivered to the room, with breakfast, more roses, and a note saying “With thanks for a divine evening— Ro.” What had I done? I now noticed that I was absolutely covered in little puncture wounds on my hands and arms (all that I could see at the moment), though it was obvious that most had been tended to. With a feeling of uncertainty that I’m not used to, I snuck down to the baths to clean the wounds and clear my head.

I sat there for an hour before one of my companions came looking for me. Deitricha, without Tassar, came into the room where my bath was. Determined to hide my shame, I let myself sink to the bottom of the basin, hoping she’d think I’d left, but she spotted me and hauled me out. There was no way I could hide the wounds from her, so I unburdened myself with what I assumed I had done the night before. She laughed when I told her that I’d stuck myself on Rosorc’s spiked armor during a romance I could not remember, and assured me that I’d cut myself to ribbons trying to climb to my bedchamber up a wall covered in razorvine. Relieved that I hadn’t broken my promise to Areon, but sad that I had likely ruined my friendship with Rosorc, I put the mithril chain around my neck instead— a reminder of a good comrade if nothing else. Deitricha assured me that I had told Rosorc that, “elves and dwarves don’t mix,” though he may have believed me to be referring to the two types of spirits I’d drunk together the prior night before sliding unconscious under our table.

I was unable to make eye contact with any of our friends (though Tassar winked at me, I swear!), as we went back to the Office of the Portal Registry. Another clerk called Gelvik attended us, but thankfully had looked over our paperwork and found a portal to our home. There was only one active portal they could find, and it only opened once every 32 days. Today was the day, so we didn’t have time to spare. We needed a black rose to activate it, and, unfortunately, it was in the catacombs below the Hive district— near where we’d arrived. The portal was accessible because apparently the stewards of the city had moved a wall, thereby allowing traffic to it. Rosorc was able to obtain a black rose quickly enough, and with a lightboy named Bob to guide us, we rushed off to the Hive.

Bob stopped short of a hole in a wall near where three white-haired, blue humanoids floated, hammering away and making repairs to the structure. The boy pointed to the stairs down, indicating we were on our own from this point on. We made our way quickly, not yet having to choose a fork, for the path was fairly direct, when suddenly we saw four shapes shambling towards us. Zombies— this time without ads! Rosorc ran forward to hack two to pieces, while I shot one and Tassar slew another— had the passage been wider, my other comrades would have been able to better fight them as well. Strangely, I find comfort in fighting undead— it is the one thing I’ve done so far today that I am sure is right for my friends.

Posted by Kristin at 02:10 | Theona’s Journal

A chance to rest…

Tassar's Journal

After a bit of wandering through this odd town, by the way, how do they know what is down town, if every part is down from another? I was concerning my time with helping Deitricha who had become greatly bothered by the city. I held her hand and kept telling her not to look up. I think it was too much of challenge to her senses though.

Me, I found this place amazing. If I didn’t know better, I would say it was built by a quirky Gnome named Eldrek, or Gadgets as my father called him. Gadgets seemed to make everything upside down. Not that his creations didn’t work proper, they just seemed completely built upside down. Well, Gadgets was a fine person indeed, and I would sneak over to visit him some nights. He had things that had lights and whistles and moved in so many odd ways. He would always show me his newest attempts, then we would sit down and share some of his finest Gnomish weed. Come to think of it, maybe that is why I always snuck over to visit him.

Well, the party tried to lead us to an inn. It took a while, but eventually we found a signpost. Now, I had to try my hardest to look disgusted by it, but inside, I was laughing my guts out. In this strange place, which I have yet to hear a name for, hmm… I will call it Gadgets. Well here in Gadgets they make signposts out of mummies. Deitricha wanted to stomp it out of existence; I did my best to hold her back. After all, how could let her destroy a part of Gadgets, especially a part that was so odd it would seem if old Gadgets made it personally. Eventually two of the party went to read the thing, I was quite busy holding Deitricha back, and they found directions to a nice inn. Here is the kicker; I looked up in time to see the mummy point out the direction to go. I love this place.

The pointing was all she could take; I think we moved on just to calm Deitricha down more than to find the inn. We took a path that we thought most promising and passed many, many, many more oddities. Gadgets is a great place!

Finally we found an inn and the ladies were exited to find that it had baths. I followed Deitricha in to one room and did my best to clean her clothes and items for her, between getting her new bars of soap. She was trying to rub her skin off to get the feeling of blood off of her. I had to keep telling her that it was all gone, but she continued to clean. Eventually I cleaned up too, although I don’t take the pleasure in a bath as humans seem too. I have heard that elves are worse, but I have never seen that in person. I can only imagine the Dwarf, Rosorc, is probably trying to rub some foundry dust into his skin rather than rub it out.

Well, Areon had purchased the rooms and we got some food and went up to get some rest. The inn was very nice; I think it may be the nicest inn I have ever been in. The food! Oh, blessed by the gods in my opinion. Yes, it was the finest meal, seconds and thirds, which I have ever had. For a while I think my mind was wandering, we had all gone to some places to find a portal, which meant we needed to negotiate and fill out forms. Now, why any society needs so much paperwork I can’t imagine. I let my mind wander most of the day, well maybe the entire day.

To me, it felt as if I have changed a little, as if Tempus is smiling upon me. I feel energized and maybe even a little bit hardened by the trip to the Nine Hells. Perhaps Tempus is showing me that I don’t have to kill every foe I meet. Or maybe he is happy that I have survived the trip. I don’t know, but I do feel … stronger.

I think we were at a market; I was just enjoying my company and the wonderful city of Gadgets. The rest of the party seemed to be having a good time. I noticed for some reason, that Rosorc kept looking at Theona. If I didn’t know better I would think he was in love. But, he is a Dwarf, how do they show love? Do they hit their prospective mate with a hammer? Do they five them an Orc head? I have to admit that this will be very curious to witness. Oh, I almost forgot, Areon likes her too. This will be good.

Finally we were back at the inn, Areon had told me the name of the place, but to me it is still Gadgets. After another night of a comfortable bed, in which I am ashamed to admit I really enjoyed, I got up early to get some breakfast. I have to get up early; it takes a little time to get some breakfast in before the party usually gets up to join me, for more breakfast. Today I found Rosorc already eating. He called me over for some food and a talk. I could see by his uncomfortable body motion that he wanting to talk about some personal thoughts. Now first Dwarves don’t talk about their personal feelings to anyone, and having a guess of what the talk would be about, I was more amazed that he wanted to talk to me.

If you don’t know, Dwarves in particular are the most mischievous race in all the Realms. I didn’t know that until I moved to Silverymoon, where I met many a Dwarf. Now what a Dwarf does is plays games with others. Their favorite game is to play stupid. Oh the joys I have witnessed watching a Dwarf in a bar. For instance, one may come up to the bar and take someone’s ale, drink it down in one gulp, and wander away as if it was no big deal. Usually it is done to humans for humans think themselves so smart. Well, after a bit of astonishment passes and the human realizes that someone drank his ale, he will get up and confront the Dwarf. Now the Dwarf first will act like he does not know what the human is talking about. And let me tell you, a Dwarf can keep a straight face. And if the human makes a strong enough case for the deed, the Dwarf will change his method to looking confused and telling the human that it was either his ale to drink, or better yet, he will tell the human that he had offered it to the Dwarf. After a while the human gets tired of beating his head against a stone wall or believes the Dwarf. In any way it goes, the Dwarf always gets the drink for free and the human is convinced that the Dwarf is the stupid one.

Now knowing this, it was time to play a game on a Dwarf. After all, they think themselves smarter than anyone else. So when Rosorc asked how Deitricha and I get along, I smiled greatly and made some mentions of how to be in the right position of to use leverage. After his initial shock wore off, he stopped me and stated that he meant since we were of different races. With an even bigger smile I started to explain that all the races in our realm seem to have ‘boy parts and girl parts.’ And before he could stop me again I began the stupid birds and the bees speech my father gave to me. I was having so much fun; I thought I might stain my shorts.

Rosorc stopped me again and with a quite a bit of effort to ask me in unmistakable terms how it was for me to date a person of another race, in the way of personal feelings and if it was strange to be with one that was different from myself. It was hard to not laugh out with all of my being, but by some means I kept a straight face. I then began to tell him how to protect a person of another race in battle. Always making sure not to mention Theona’s name, instead I used “loved one of another race and other gender.” Each time I used the “other gender” phrase he seemed to wince, I was not saying that his hammer swung the other way, no just picking on him. For in all of his trouble he never mentioned that it was a woman that he was interested in. Oh, the looks on his face that day will stay with me forever.

Eventually he was saved from more confusion as other members of our party started filtering in to get some breakfast. Deitricha was the only one to notice my smile, I told her that I would tell her later. And I did, when no one was around to hear her laughter, she nearly fell to the ground when I explained the looks the Rosorc was giving me.

After some more breakfast we headed out to finish the paperwork. Some time, which I had little concept to the time in this place, we finally got directions. I was pleased to have a feeling of direction or goal. We went to the market again to find a black rose for the portal. I wonder if it just had to be a black thing, like the orb I carried. That is still bothering me too.

Anyway, blessed Tempus was upon us for he gave us a chance for a little battle before we leave. A couple of meager undead. Not a real challenge, but it got our muscles into use, and that felt good.

Posted by Jim at 11:10 | Tassar’s Journal