The campfire cracks and pops quietly as the cool night air hands silent around the party. Cliff wipes the blade of his axe with a rag while Alek leans against a fallen tree trunk, working her flute to no melody but the one floating through her head. The remains of the Orc encampment they have recently put an end to are off in the distance. There is a sense of relaxed elation among the party that comes with another victory.
Kashlia finishes repacking her gear after the evening meal and moves forward to poke the fire. A shower of sparks erupts upwards into the air and embers float lazily to the ground like fireflies. “I have never lied to you.” She says firmly. Breaking the silence. Alek stops her flute, Cliff looks up from his ask, even Leshanna breaks her trance to look in sudden confusion.
“What happened in the Feywild…” Kashlia continues. “I promised you an explanation. I would tell it now, if you would hear. I warn you however, it is not a short tale.”
The same image flashes through all their minds. Kashlia, then Reagan, staring down the demon general. Hate and fire in her eyes. Proclaiming her name and calling for vengeance. They all share a look. No one says anything, but several slight nods reply in stereo.
“Many tales,” Kashlia begins, "Have several endings. More have many parts of a journey before they are concluded. This story is unique, as it has two beginnings. I shall tell you of the one I know. The one I recall the most. The second beginning. And I shall tell you the other in time.
I awoke coming on six months ago, although I cannot say exactly how long, in the care of the Sisters of Enlightenment. They are a small sect far from here. I had spent many months before that in their care, though I do not know how long. For they better part of a year, or so they told me, I was in their keeping. I fear in that time I was not as hospitable a guest as they were hosts. Many times I tried to escape, fleeing at nights into the frigid darkness only to be found the next day huddled next to some animal for warmth. More than one of the sisters was injured by me as I lay bedridden and feverish.
When at last I woke I had no recollection of who I was nor what I had been through. Brief flashes of memory would appear, but I had no sense of what they might mean. One of their order took me as her charge at that point. For many days I was not allowed to leave my room. Given what I have heard about my previous jaunts about their cloister I cannot say I blame them. However, sister Bernadette took me in despite the fact I had broken her arm some months before in one of my fevered frenzies."
Ksahlia paused at this moment, and Jonn dropped another branch on the fire. As the night grew slightly less dim, she continued.
“Bernadette told me all there was to know about me at that time. I had been found injured, delirious, nearly to the point of starvation by one of their Paladins on the side of a road several wheels away. At first he had taken me for dead until he lifted me and was shocked to hear my breathing. He had brought me to the sisters for care.
As I grew slightly healthier, my illness became more pronounced. The discoloration in my face, the fever in my mind, and the breaks in my bones would not pass not heal. Their healers tried many spells all of which failed. There was fear of contagion, and greater fear that this was some evil, demonic illness which I had been cursed with. However despite some of their number arguing strongly for it, they did not throw me out on my own.
Then the escapes attempts and attacks started. I would pound on my door for hours on end shrieking and wailing. Other times I would wait for the food to arrive and capture the sister who fed me, forcing her to let me loose. This continued for weeks.
I was terrified and ashamed to have heard all of these things. The monster I assumed I was! What life could I have lived before to have inherited such cruelty? Such viciousness?
Bernadette in time showed me that I was not a monster and the things I was afraid of had uses. It was she that gave me the name Reagan, for at the time I had none. Reagan had been the name of her younger sister, who had died of the pox when she was young. I began to help out around the monastery and my strength began to return quickly at that point. Soon I was doing the work of four or five of the regular sisters, and it was clear I had a prowess with precision and weapons that frightened them. The first time they suggested I go with one of their Paladin’s to hunt the week’s meat, I had slain the beast before the the Paladin beside me even caught it’s scent.
I became a hunter, and the sister’s claimed they had not eaten so well in all their time. I felt pride and was pleased to be giving back to my benefactors. However, there were pieces of my heart and mind that would not let go of the lingering question as to who I was. I would take longer rides when I would go on hunts, and explore more of the world around. I began to go for days at a time – riding out in one direction as far as my horse would go before darkfall and then ride back the next day.
Nothing jogged my memory. As I grew more adjusted to life with the Order I began to get fewer and fewer flashes of the life I’d had.
I grew desperate. One day I took a horse and rode nearly a week until our water ran out. We stopped near a small group of trees where I had a feeling we would find a stream to refill our skins. I had barely dismounted before my horse was felled by an ambush. I managed to dispatch the assailants – a scouting party of the red creatures – Deamons one of the sisters called them – had set upon us as they crested a nearby hill. It was when I laid eyes upon the first of them lying dead before disappearing into thin air, that I lost consciousness. I awoke to find I was uninjured, but the dreams I had had … … … I awoke with no recollection of the dream but simply with a knowledge that a part of me had awoken. A part that knew there was a great task I must undertake, and little time to do it.
I spoke to the sister’s about it upon my return and there was a great bustle of activity in the days that followed. Many closed door councils were held with the Paladins and the elders of the orders. For a fortnight there were messengers and officials coming and going at all hours.
Finally, the Mother Superior called a meeting between myself and the Paladins. All of us attended the banquet hall and the solemnity of the occasion was impressive. The order had convened with members of other churches, councils, and elders of many of the surrounding towns and settlements. My findings were not unique. Livestock and children had been going missing, strange tracks had been spotted getting closer to villages, and caravans had been waylaid and wiped out altogether. The signs of a great cataclysm coming were there – or so their read told them – and they felt a fear that a great force was about to come upon them with all the force of an avalanche. Half the Paladins were tasked to stay, begin preparing the village defenses, mentor the youth and able bodied in the use of blade and bow. The rest, of whom I was included, were sent to different compass points in search of strong warriors to assist.
I was sent the farthest East. I traveled by horse over a month to the great city of Hammerfast. It was mere days after my arrival I heard of the great contest of strength. I had heard in the Eastern towns of your party, and decided to see for myself your strength in battle. While you were not as mighty as rumors foretold, I could tell their was great potential there. And so, I joined you to see if that was correct, and find out if I could find the truth of myself whilst deciding if you would be the ones that might make a difference in the coming storm.
This brings us to the second half of my tale, the FIRST beginning… I will explain after we get back and this quest is completed. For once you hear it, I will ask you to make a choice that will result in great peril or our parting. Until then, I will accompany you and assist you with the rest of this quest you are on. However, I would see it done quickly, for the grains of sand in time’s hourglass grow ever fewer.