PROLOGUE - Neria.   Posted by Dungeon Master.Group: 0
Dungeon Master
 GM, 17 posts
Sat 8 May 2021
at 09:44
PROLOGUE - Neria
PROLOGUE
Break the Spell

Neria sat in High Priestess Janissa's study. It was an older room in the temple and smelled of paper and dust even though there was not a speck anywhere. Janissa was meticulously clean, beyond the standards of reasonable people. The door opened and the elderly High Priestess entered. She wore her usual robes, as gaudy as the Eveningstar Temple itself she was dressed in a deep green gown with a golden sash and golden epaulets on the shoulders. A large gold brooch beset with red and yellow gems sat on her breast; the holy icon of The Morninglord. She walked around the desk and sat down opposite Neria. The High Priestess looked her in the eyes and shook her head sadly. "You misunderstand us child. You misunderstand me." Her eyes were sad, "It was never our intent to deceive you, only protect you until you were ready. It is a great responsibility and all of the clergy and paladins agreed that it was in your best interests that you did not know."

The sadness faded from her eyes and they grew firm, "We were trying to avoid the exact position you are putting us in now. Putting yourself in!" She picked up a tome Neria remembered well, a book of ancient language. She places it on the desk in front of her and crosses her arms over it. "Who is to say if the ancient texts are correct? The language was lost to this world ages passed and it is only through the scholarly endeavours of this priesthood that we have any semblance of translation at all. You will not find what you seek outside of this temple. With patience comes understanding."

Neria opened her mouth and was about to speak but the High Priestess continued, "Head Paladin Tramil has kept us well abreast of your training. Your martial skill is undeniable, although he begrudgingly admits you are ready to leave the temple he has also stated he believes you could do with a few more years training." She huffs, the High Priestess and Head Paladin saw eye to eye on most matters, however Neria's training was not one of them. "Your knowledge and studies on the matters of faith are another issue entirely. If it was up to me I would cloister you here for the next ten years until you had memorised every holy text in the temple." She frowned but still managed to look grandmotherly.

She waited, raising an eyebrow expectantly. "Well girl? Spit it out. You look like you've gone and swallowed a lemon."
Neria
 player, 5 posts
 Human Paladin
Sat 8 May 2021
at 19:32
PROLOGUE - Neria
Somehow, nothing involving the High Priestess ever seemed to work out as planned.

Just a few minutes ago, Neria's path had seemed absolutely clear.  Not simple, certainly, but she had known what she needed to do, and however difficult it might be she was determined to do it.  Learning about the prophecy had been the shock of her life at first, leaving her confused and angry, angrier than she'd ever been.  Then those feelings had slowly been joined by something almost like relief.  Suddenly she had a goal, a destiny, waiting for her -- possibly a fatal destiny, that wasn't clear, but one that would change the world for the better.  All she had to do was find it.

And now, with this relatively short but deeply uncomfortable speech, Janissa had managed to strike her protégé speechless, leaving Neria once more at a loss.  Jannissa had always been able to do that.

Taking a deep breath, Neria sat up a little straighter in her chair, smoothing out her plain off-white tunic with one hand while the other fiddled ceaselessly with the amulet that had been wrapped in the blanket with her when she had been found as an infant.  It was an unremarkable item, only a silver disc engraved with what looked like decorative patterns to the untrained eye.  But it was now changing everything.

"I understand that the translation might not be entirely correct," she began, hesitantly but gathering courage.  "But it's clearly a prophesy, and it's clearly important, very important!  How could you expect me to be ready to fulfill it if I didn't even know that I needed to be ready?"

She shifted uneasily in her chair, then stood, only just stopping herself from pacing.  As usual, she felt drab and disheveled next to the woman who had raised her -- Neria's hair was pulled back tightly into a ponytail as it often was, but strands of straight, medium brown hair were still escaping and drifting across her face, and she brushed them back in frustration.  "How can you say you want to keep me here for ten more years so calmly?  What if waiting will ruin everything?  Master Tramil thinks I'm ready to leave, why won't you listen to him?" she added, conveniently forgetting Master Tramil's preference for more martial training as well.

"Please.  Mother."  This was a word seldom used between them, and Neria pronounced it with slight awkwardness now, all too aware of the tension in the room.  It was as much a reference to Janissa's position of authority, her role as the mother of all the acolytes, as it was a description of their own relationship.  "This is the most important thing in my life.  I must know what it means.  Why won't you let me seek out the truth?"
Dungeon Master
 GM, 27 posts
Sun 9 May 2021
at 03:12
PROLOGUE - Neria
As Neria responded the High Priestess was silent. She had leaned forward on her elbows, fingers tented above as she studied Neria carefully. Her eyes soften the longer Neria talked but her face was straight and serious. She nodded once Neria finished.  Whatever mildness was in her eyes while Neria spoke was gone again when she replied, "We knew you needed to be ready, and are you not? Surely you feel so otherwise you would not be thinking of leaving." She frowned, "If your future was destined and you waited here ten more years then that would have been you fate. But I am not about to argue otherwise, I can see your mind is already firm on the matter."

At the invocation of the word Mother Janissa sighed but continued softer, affectionately. "Neria, it is not my place to hold you here.  Know that my love for you is greater than that of a priest to an acolyte." She smiled sadly, "We took you in as a babe, I raised you from a babe. You are as dear to me as my own children. You were ever free to leave but if you do so on these terms then it will be without my blessing."

She stood up and turned to a small chest behind her. She retrieved an item from it and placed it on top of the tome. It was a small pendant mirroring the High Priestess' brooch only painted in mimicry and not adorned with the valuable gems Janissa's brooch held. She pushed the tome across the desk, offering it to Neria. "Take these, the tome may help you work things out and the amulet is a gift from me."

She motioned for Neria to stand, "I understand you want to leave and I also understand your excitement for destiny. I will not stop you." She walked around the desk as Neria stood and embraced her before standing back and straightening her robe. "Be careful, and if it ever becomes too much you are ever welcome here."

She smiled and flicked her hands forward, as though shooing Neria out. "Alright. Get going before you change your mind, but make sure you stop by Master Tramil before you leave. I'm sure he's in the training grounds waiting."
Neria
 player, 8 posts
 Human Paladin
Sun 9 May 2021
at 16:16
PROLOGUE - Neria
It will be without my blessing.  Those words shook her more than she had expected, and as Janissa turned away Neria quickly blinked back tears.  For a moment all she wanted was to forget about destiny and the rest of the world, and throw herself on the mercy of the only parent she had ever known, begging forgiveness for ever having thought seriously of leaving.

But she realized that she was not entirely bereft, as Janissa offered up the two items from the chest as parting gifts and spoke of Neria's return someday.  All was well, at least reasonably so, and she began to find her resolve again.  It was true, it was impossible to know exactly how the prophesy would be fulfilled, and she could not spend all her time thinking and rethinking, second-guessing every decision.  She had to learn to trust that all would happen as it should now that her quest had truly begun.

The pendant was familiar, of course, bearing the bright, hopeful sign of the Morninglord, and she accepted it gratefully, putting it around her neck with her own pendant.  As for the tome, she could only assume it contained some information about the prophecy or the language it was written in, and she longed to look through the book.  But this was not the time, even she realized that, and she simply took the items with murmured thanks, holding the book tightly to her chest.

As Janissa continued, Neria again felt the longing to stay, and wondered how long that yearning would continue.  It would be ridiculous, someone going off in search of a grand destiny and yet still being plagued by homesickness... though in such cases she supposed everyone must have some pangs and regrets for whatever they left behind.  No matter how wondrous and beautiful the world might be, however important the journey, home was still home, and had a magic all its own.

"Master Tramil," she echoed, for a moment not quite understanding the words.  "Of course, yes, Master Tramil."  Another painful goodbye so soon after the first hardly seemed bearable, but the last thing she could do would be to show weakness or indecision in front of the warrior who had trained her all these years.  She would simply have to bear it.  "Thank you, Mother," she said again, and turned slowly to leave.

After only a few steps, however, she turned and hurried back to the High Priestess, still with a faint, sad smile lingering on her face, and the girl stretched up to kiss the lined cheek.  "Thank you," she whispered, and only then did she finally hasten from the room, unable to look back.

She walked blindly towards the training grounds at first, her steps automatic, then paused for a moment in the shadow of the dormitory to collect herself.  It wasn't that she was crying, not exactly, but she couldn't let anyone see her looking like she might have been.  After scrubbing a hand over her face and taking a few deep breaths, she felt a little calmer, and resumed her walk, still clutching the book.

Master Tramil was observing four of his younger students engaged in sparring practice when she approached, though it was an older student who was actually guiding them, Tramil only using their presence as a distraction while he waited.  Neria slowed as she drew near, again dreading this new farewell and forcing a small, shaky smile to try to hide the feeling.  "Master Tramil," she began, easily enough, then forgot all the things she had meant to say.  "I've just come from the High Priestess," she finished, though of course he must know that, and she sighed inwardly.  But had never had to take her leave of anyone before, not like this, so it was only natural that she wasn't yet very good at it.

This message was last edited by the player at 17:01, Sun 09 May.

Dungeon Master
 GM, 32 posts
Mon 10 May 2021
at 00:42
PROLOGUE - Neria
Neria left the High Priestess in her study, not looking back she did not notice the sad smile Janissa gave as she left. The woman was overbearing and stubborn, but she was right, she had treated Neria as one of her own children. As gentle or as harsh as that had been at the time. Still, she had ever been fair to everyone even with her strongly voiced opinions.

Janus Tramil was a renown paladin in his own rights back in the day but since his semi-retirement he had settled in with the Eveningstar Temple and trained the young paladins in their martial arts. He was likely pushing 70 and while his thin, wiry frame held muscle he always lamented at how slow he now moved. As much as he complained about his fitness there was not another in the temple who had beaten him in sparring, the knowledge and experience he had was clearly hard won. If Janissa had been the equivalent of Neria's mother then the older paladin had been her doting grandfather. It was no secret within the temple that Neria was his favourite but there was never any jealousy from the other students. They all regarded his care for Neria with fondness, as well as a bit of appreciation as the wizened man never seemed to yell when Neria was present.

This was again in demonstration today as Neria heard Master Tramil vigorously instructing one student in the mistakes he was making in his swordsmanship. Although when Neria entered the courtyard he lowered his voice and smiled to her. "Simon, continue their drills."

He walked over as Neria greeted him and kissed her on the forehead, "Morninglord bless you child." He pulled back and grinned, "So, today's the day huh?" He motioned with one hand, "Follow me."

He walked through the courtyard, talking as he went. "Then you have already spoken to the High Priestess?" He gave a knowing, gentle smile. "Oh, we butt heads however usually come to terms. Well, that seems to be in all matters excepting you. As much as I would love to keep you here, more for my own selfish reasons of good company than anything else, I have told her that you are ready to leave. I intend to ensure you are as capable and equipped as possible."

He waved down any questions as he stopped in front of the stables. "Let me have this moment." Opening the doors he called for the stableboy who brought a grey mare, saddled and with a heavy mace strapped across its cantle. One you recognise as Master Tramil's. "She's yours!" He gave a wide smile, "Both of them. The mare, her name is simply Dawn, and you no doubt recognise my weapon." He put a hand on Neria's shoulder, "I would not have you leave ill equipped, if there is anything else you need let me know."
Neria
 player, 9 posts
 Human Paladin
Mon 10 May 2021
at 22:04
PROLOGUE - Neria
"Thank you, Master Tramil," Neria managed as she followed after him, though again she felt a wave of conflicting emotions that made speech difficult.  She had never thought herself easily struck speechless -- well, at least not by anyone except Janissa -- but today, at least, she was beginning to feel perpetually at a loss for words.  "For believing in me, that is," she added.  "Not that the High Priestess doesn't, but -- she talked about my staying for another ten years," she said, not quite able to keep the indignation out of her voice.  "I know she only wants to protect me, but..."

Then Tramil presented his offerings, she bit her lip.  She did of course recognize the weapon at once, and her astonishment at the meaning of these gifts was overwhelming.  "Oh," was all she could say at first, and again had to take a deep breath to steady herself.  "Oh, it's -- it's too much.  It's wonderful of you to -- "

She reached out with a hand that trembled ever so slightly, patting the horse's flank.  "Hello, Dawn," she murmured, thinking of how glad she would be to have a loyal companion such as this on her journey.  It might be a very long journey indeed, and the mare would be a steady, comforting presence, a living reminder that she had a home where her return would be welcomed.

Turning back to the Head Paladin, she smiled, sadly but with genuine, quiet happiness.  "I won't disappoint you.  I promise."
Dungeon Master
 GM, 40 posts
Tue 11 May 2021
at 05:27
PROLOGUE - Neria
Master Tramil waves Neria's concern's away. "Nonsense, it is not too much. Dawn is a gift from the entire temple, and I have many more weapons in my quarters."

He smiled as Neria greeted the horse. "She's been a fair horse for riding training but is getting on in years. She does shy from the noise and commotion of combat, so I'd advise you keep her well away from any trouble you run into."

"Now, before you leave. Do you need to collect anything from your room or say your goodbyes?" He grinned and gave Neria a wink, "If that's done, perhaps you could humour me one last time with a quick sparring session."

Neria had a decision to make. It was early in the morning and she had just finished breaking fast before her meeting with the High Priestess. If she decided to depart immediately then the direction needed to be chosen. Eveningstar sat on a single road which ran east to west. To the east, about half a day on horseback, was Arabel. A small, predominantly human, sociable community of wine makers. To the west was a rough journey through The Stormhorns, a mountain path that was well patrolled by Cormyran guards and saw little trouble. Small villages would be passed through the mountain however the next main town, Proskur, was about two days away on horseback.

This message was last edited by the GM at 11:17, Tue 11 May.

Neria
 player, 12 posts
 Human Paladin
Wed 12 May 2021
at 00:05
PROLOGUE - Neria
Master Tramil suggested a sparring session, and for a moment, everything was normal again.  Neria even smiled, genuinely and without reservation, a smile that seemed to light everything around.  "I would be honored, sir, for one more lesson," she said, dropping a mock curtsy.  "Perhaps you can try fighting against your own weapon?" she added, nodding to the mace upon the saddle.

Reality soon intruded, for this was only the briefest postponement of her departure, but it still felt right, to fall into the old steps and patterns of combat and forget the other difficult decisions yet to come.  The first, of course, was to decide where she was going, both immediately and in the longer term.  Perhaps I should toss a coin, she thought, dryly.  Prophecies were all very well, but few of them had enough detail to be useful in any practical sense, and this one was no exception.  Even with only two real options before her, she was at a loss.

Still, she could at least forget that particular worry while the session lasted, and for that she was even more grateful to her mentor.  Whatever else happened, she would have to make him proud of her.

Even up to the moment she left the compound, her few belongings carefully stowed upon her new horse, she was not entirely sure which direction she would take.  At last, unwilling to be seen to be hesitant, she simply turned west, for the simple reason that she had never gone in that direction.  Not that she had often gone the other way, either, but west seemed more adventurous, and it was as good a direction as any.
Dungeon Master
 GM, 45 posts
Wed 12 May 2021
at 01:52
PROLOGUE - Neria


Master Tramil chuckled and nodded, "Alright. First to three hits." He walked to the edge of the courtyard and picked up a club, a practice weapon shaped in the form of a mace. "Don't go easy on me now. I intend this to be a lesson you'll remember." There was no malice in his words, only a bit of light-hearted banter.

Toe to toe Neria and Master Tramil squared off at the centre of the courtyard. The other student had ceased their training to watch, all gathered around the roped off ring.

Neria and Master Tramil slowly circled, each waiting for the other to strike. It was Neria who took the initiative, feinting an overhead swing before dropping to a knee; her mace swung wide of the attempted parry by Mater Tramil and as she lunged forward her mace struck him square in the ribs. He took a step back and gave an impressed nod, the crowd gasped and began whispering amongst themselves.

Again, Neria took the attack however this time Mater Tramil was ready and as Neria took her swing Master Tramil stepped towards her, knocking her back with his shoulder. As she stumbled, he swung his club, striking Neria on her left thigh, causing her to fall to a knee. He stepped back, nodding respectfully.

The third round was to break the tie, the whispers continued in the crowd and even a few of the clergy had come out to see what all the commotion was. Neria and Mater Tramil again circled each other but this time it was the older man who struck forward. With lightning speed belying his age he thrusted forward with his club, Neria managed to parry at the last moment. Neria anticipated what was to come next as Master Tramil charged forward as a part of the thrust, trying to knock the young woman down again. Neria lifted her shield and stepped back, causing her mentor a moments confusion as he was shunted off and to the side. Neria attempted to strike back but the wiry man dodged deftly out of the way. He spun and crouched, striking out with his club he connected with Neria's right calf. It was a stinging hit but would do no lasting damage.

By now the crowd number over two dozen, clergy, students and paladins alike were watching the sparring match unfold. Master Tramil was one strike up on Neria and needed one more to end the duel. The combatants continued their circling however this time Master Tramil was entirely too swift for Neria. After one extremely heavy strike on her shield Master Tramil took fast advantage of Neria's momentarily imbalance and snuck a second thrust immediately under the shield, hitting Neria in the stomach and taking with wind out of her.

The crowd erupted in cheers and Master Tramil offered his hand. "Had me worried there for a moment Neria. That was some mighty fancy mace work." He smiled as he picked Neria up. "Well, I have no doubt you're ready and able to take care of yourself. Just remember to work on your endurance and patience."

The crowd disbursed and Master Tramil walked Neria back to Dawn. With another kiss on her forehead he bowed slightly before her, "Morninglord guide you Neria. If you ever need anything you need only ask."

The road west took Neria through the town of Eveningstar, the temple being on its eastern border. It was only for twenty minutes she had been travelling when she saw a scene out the front of the bakery. Three youths were accosting a white-haired girl who was standing out the front of the bakery door, a small loaf of bread in her hands.

As Neria got close she caught the tail end of the conversation, a girl standing behind the larger boy laughed and taunted the white-haired girl, "What you gonna do Devilgirl?"
Neria
 player, 14 posts
 Human Paladin
Wed 12 May 2021
at 22:04
PROLOGUE - Neria
It was odd, and perhaps a bit disappointing, that nothing seemed different.  Despite the fact that she was now on a quest, the town and the landscape were just as usual. Of course there was no reason why they should have changed so quickly, but shouldn't they at least seem different to her eyes, now that her life had altered so much?  She was the possessor of a horse, a fine mace, and a prophesy; she should have a completely new outlook on life to go along with those things.  But she was still the same, uncertain and hopeful and impatient.

Then there was something different after all, she realized as she drew near the bakery and began to hear the commotion.  Remembering Master Tramil's warning, she reined Dawn in before they got too close, and Neria slipped down from the saddle.  The 'devil girl' was talking to the three accosting her -- and she was a devil, Neria realized, a Tiefling.  There were some Tieflings in the area, she knew, mostly itinerant farmhands and laborers, and while they might technically be evil they were generally law-abiding... but they were also one of the many worldly things that Janissa had always tried to shield her charge from, which of course meant that Neria was wildly curious about them.

Then two words in the Tiefling's speech caught Neria's complete attention: High Priestess.  This could be no one but Janissa, and for a moment Neria could not make sense of it.  The girl sounded for all the world as though she was in the habit of speaking with the High Priestess often, yet Neria was sure she'd never seen this particular Tiefling before. Then it struck her, and she blushed.  The girl was bluffing, of course, trying to persuade the three young ruffians of her importance -- almost certainly in hopes of avoiding a beating, since none of the group looked at all friendly.  Neria thought she recognized one or two of them as known troublemakers in the town.

And technically evil or not, any fight that involved three against one could hardly be called fair.  Neria took a few steps closer, making no effort to hide her presence, and cleared her throat.  Any of the young toughs who turned in her direction would get a chilly smile and a nod, as though she, too, was taking note of their names.
Dungeon Master
 GM, 54 posts
Thu 13 May 2021
at 00:30
PROLOGUE - Neria
Please continue in the PROLOGUE - Neria & Tone thread.