So our adventure begins just like so many others. Boy meets snake girl. Boy rescues snake girl. Snake girl decides not to eat boy. They meet some strangers and head off on an adventure. Boy slips into a coma and dies. Girl moves on.
Ok, maybe I glanced over some details so I’ll start once again.
Is our journey any more or less sweet when our destination is unknown? Or is it our sense of wonderment at the possibilities that lie ahead. When we leave behind our homes and those we hold dear or when we have no home to which we may return. The journey of a thousand miles still begins with a single step…
Our story begins with a decision, as all great stories do. It is said that a boy only truly becomes a man the day his father dies. No one knows this better than Eldak, gamekeeper of the southern forest of Fort St. Anne. His father, Graendithas, served as master warden for the Governor for nearly 25 years. Upon his death, Eldak assumed his father’s role as warden. On a day like any other, when the morning dew sparkled in the sunlight like so many astral diamonds, something was out of place. Silence. The forest is never truly silent. Eldak gathered his weapons and sought the source of disquiet. Sadistic laughter. The hiss. Eldak crept closer to the sound. The Drow! Legends and stories passed from father to son flooded his memory. Dark elves, evil denizens of the underworld. In his forest. His forest! Two of them. Young. One sitting on a log. One poking a large cage on a cart. “Oh what a handsome reward you’ll fetch!” Eldak maneuvered to get a better view. To his amazement, the cage contained a beast unlike any he’d ever seen! Clearly a female, head and torso of a woman, but the lower half a snake! His first instinct, to kill the dark elves where they stood. His second to rescue the tormented creature. And so the decision was made. Eldak waited patiently, maneuvering closer to the cage. Remembering his father’s teachings, he carefully concealed his presence from the adolescent elves. He waited for them to fall into slumber but they only sat facing away from the cage. Ah, yes, they don’t actually sleep at all. Some sort of a trance and…oh yes, they are aware! Ilyssa was furious. Oh, of course she wanted nothing more than to tear these insolent children to pieces but the source of her fury was herself. To be captured was embarrassing enough but by these two buffoons…and that sadistic bastard with the stick. She knew too well what she wanted to do with that stick. “I’ll take it from him and shove it so far up his…” HEAT!…careful not to alert her captors, Ilyssa observed the stranger. “He’s patient.” One hour turned into three. Human…but not as clumsy as most. Still, she thought, if he stalked me that way he’d be dead by now. Eldak felt the tiny serpent cross his boot. Up his leg, to his wrist, up his arm. And in draconic “the key is on the front of the cart”. Ilyssa could respect a patient hunter but being in this Merrshaulk forsaken cage was humiliating beyond description. Eldak handed the key to Ilyssa and signaled readiness to attack. Ilyssa slowly turned the key. “Click” Eldak fired his arrow into the first elf. With a look of disbelief at the arrow protruding from his throat and with the slurpy wet gurgling that replaced his breath the last vestige of life drained from his eyes as he slumped to the ground. In the next instant, the elf with the stick took flight. A second arrow from Eldak sliced his ear. Ilyssa sprang from the cage. Eldak was momentarily distracted by the speed and power as she propelled herself from the cage. Eldak began to pursue.
All the anger and frustration at being a prisoner, at having lost her freedom, at having failed to protect herself exploded in the lunge. The dark elf was knocked off his feet. Tumbling over and looking up into the slitted eyes of the furious yuan-ti half blood proceeded proceeded to cry. “Pathetic” she thought. Ilyssa wrapped herself around the boy. And then it began. Just uncomfortable at first. Then tighter. Seconds later, breathing is difficult. Cannot draw a breath. The gaze. Ilyssa looking into his eyes and relishing the end of his life. Slipping slowly into unconsciousness, Ilyssa suddenly put every ounce of her immense strength into the squeeze. Eldak could hear the ribs snap like twigs and with a subtle twist, the spine gave way like a heavy branch under the wet spring snow. As Ilyssa released her grip on her captor, she turned a wary eye toward Eldak. An arrow knocked, Ilyssa studied her rescuer. He rescued her. Cautious but still, he isn’t looking at me like the others have. Being alone is dangerous. Too dangerous even for her. There is safety in numbers, even human numbers. A shudder ran through her as the words left her mouth. “Thank you”. Eldak spoke “You can come back to my home tonight”. They searched he bodies. Ilyssa recovered her weapons, two finely crafted fighting fans. Eldak found a small parchment written in elven. They began the trip back to Eldak’s cabin.
Tesla Holt arrived shortly after Eldak left that morning. He had departed two days prior, intending to travel to Kaath, a small kobold village to the west of Ft. St. Anne. When he awoke on the first morning, he was startled to find three Drow staring at him. Surprise quickly morphed into terror as his brain registered that these heads had no bodies. Blood dripped from several trees surrounding the clearing. A large tree trunk not 15 feet away from where he slumbered peacefully was obviously where the worst of the butchery took place. How could he have slept through this? Why did his alarms not sound? The only item besides the lifeless heads was a scroll possessing the seal of the head Logician of the Scholarium of Arcana. It read simply “Return to Eldak.”
As Tesla showed Eldak the scroll, a faint ringing could be heard. It seemed to come from all around them. This was followed a slight vibration. The scroll, they began to glow. The scroll became as a wisp of bright smoke, and drifted towards the room center. As the smoke began to coalesce, Eldak saw the form of a beautiful woman appear. After a moment, she spoke. Eldak heard her say “Not since the dark time has our world faced a threat like that which we face now. But only in darkness can the light of our souls truly shine.” Tesla stared as he heard his master’s strong words continue “This is the path to true knowledge and power. You will write your destiny as you travel forth. “ Ilyssa stared with wonder as Alasster continued “protect yourself in numbers. When your moment of greatness arrives, you will know when it is time to fulfill your purpose and redeem yourself.” And the final instruction: “Travel to the woods north of Perle de Magie, to the shrine of Ceates. There you will meet a man. This is where your future begins. Where it ends cannot be seen.” With the last word, the apparition fades into darkness. “In the morning, we travel.”