#2219

Tal’reth, are you finally coming to stay with me? Will we be together now, forever and ever?

“TAL’RETH, NO! TALRETH!”

The paladin revives with a gasp as the health potion jumpstarts his heart and his empty lungs spasm for air. For just a second it seems like the whole world is paused; where he lays collapsed in the mud he can see a dark sky filled with suspended raindrops, their glittering forms lit by a strange white light. Then the moment bursts, the light winks out, and the rain resumes in an abrupt downpour.

“Tal’reth!” Sani runs up out of the darkness and throws herself at Tal’reth, giant toddler tears running down her cheeks. “I thought you were gone! I thought you were gone forever like Mommy!” Despite the fact that he’s muddy, wet, and in quite a bit of pain even with the potion, Tal’reth gathers the little avatar into his arms and holds her tightly against his lightning-scorched chest. If she can feel his hammering heartbeat, he figures she’ll assume it’s just from the fright of his near-death experience. “It’s okay,” he reassures her with a voice less steady than usual. “It’s okay, it’s okay. I’m not going anywhere, I promise.”

Keeping Sani cradled in one arm, Tal’reth slowly climbs to his feet with a stifled groan, muttering, “I’m getting getting too old for this,” under his breath as he does so. He surveys the little clearing. The hag’s limp body lays crumpled in the mud, her head a few feet away. His companions seem to have handled the attack in his brief absence; Loch is awake once more, no thanks to Galas and his ill-timed misfire, and looking as if she feels about the same as Tal’reth. She flashes him a wry smile and slaps him on the shoulder. “Walk it off,” she advises in her thick Skovan accent. “You’re fine.” He’s curious about her own near meeting with the Raven Queen, or whatever will come for the warlock in the end, but he wouldn’t be open to telling his own story in return and so he says nothing.

“You,” Loch points at Galas, who still looks as petrified as he did when the hag was alive. “Take watch.” With that she limps toward the tent, and Tal’reth follows stiffly after. He eases himself gently onto his cot and curls up, Sani still cradled against his chest. As he drifts off, Tal’reth just catches the soft voice which whispers close in his ear, It’s okay, Tal’reth, we’ll be together soon. He shudders involuntarily and holds Sani a little tighter.

#2202

The fur on Tal’reth’s back prickled as he sat at the bar counter. Someone was watching him, and not in the surreptitious manner of spies or thieves; this was a frank, pointed stare that felt more curious than threatening. Curiosity could be a good thing or a bad thing, though, especially when it was aimed at a leonine tabaxi almost eight feet tall. Nodding casually to the barkeep, Tal’reth took his ale and moved to a table near the back of the tavern where anyone who wanted to watch him would have to expend more effort to do so. There he nursed his drink and waited for whomever found him so interesting to act.

He didn’t have long to wait. After a few moments a young aasimar woman on the other side of the room stood and wound between the tables toward him. She wore a fine black traveling gown edged with black lace and a small silver bird skull at her throat tied with a black velvet ribbon. A follower of the Raven Queen, he guessed, maybe an initiate or newly made priestess. It was always hard to tell age with aasimar; she could be as old as him and not look a day over eighteen. Her features were especially hard to judge as her hair was a shining white and her eyes such a pale blue they seemed to belong to a specter. Tal’reth knew ghosts, though, and this girl was vibrantly alive in comparison.

“Can I help you?” he asked as she stopped before his table. The aasimar stared at him for a moment, her brow creased as if what she saw in him concerned her greatly, and then she replied, “Have you sought forgiveness for your crimes?” Tal’reth managed not to roll his eyes; instead, he said with as little irritation as possible, “I’m not in the market for a religion, but thanks anyway.” He then pointedly turned his focus back to his ale in the hopes the woman would accept the polite dismissal. Instead, she sat down across from him and asked, “Who is she?”

Tal’reth’s hand clenched around the tankard. He wanted to bare his teeth but settled for a curl of his lip. “None of your business,” he growled. “That’s who she is.” Normally even his slightest ‘don’t fuck with me’ expression got someone to back off, yet the aasimar only responded to his hostility with a sad shake of her head. “You’re on a very dark path,” she sighed. “There’s much death behind you and only more death ahead you if you keep to it. I can help you if–”

“I’m not in the market for free advice, either,” He stood abruptly and glared down at the young woman. “I think we’re done here.” With that Tal’reth turned toward the stairway to his rented room. As he walked away he caught the aasimar say softly, “I will pray you learn to set down your burdens.” He shook his head and muttered, “Fucking oracles”.

#2181

Tal’reth doesn’t sleep that night. He rarely does the night before battle; his dreams are always troubled on these eves, especially if the situation involves children. And these two half-elf siblings are children still, even if they have seen enough horror to age them beyond their years. As he sits up in the small cabin’s main room, sharpening his sword and checking his gear, the tabaxi reviews the conversation he had with the older sister Peri. Since taking up work with Graymalkin he’s met dozens of children with stories like hers – loved ones lost to war or pointless brutality, homes destroyed by greed, futures endangered by people with too much corrupted power. That these two teenagers bear the burden of protecting their god’s holy land against an empire set out to destroy “false” religions just means their cause is that much closer to his heart. In the end, though, they’re kids who have just lost their father and have nowhere else to turn. Of course he’s going to help in any way he can.

Assuming everything goes just fine, Gray won’t take issue with a slight detour in the greater plan; he knows full well where Tal’reth’s priorities and loyalties lay, after all. The others, however… well, Tal’reth suspects his companions won’t be happy when they wake in the morning to find out he’s agreed not only to destroy the crownsguard watchtower nearby, but also to help get the siblings to their remaining family. If they refuse to take part, though, that’s fine. The warlock and ranger can continue down the road and he’ll catch up with them once he’s confident Peri and her brother are safe. He refuses to entertain any alternatives while the memory of their father’s butchered body weighs so heavily on his mind. What if the crownsguard decide the poor dead man’s children are next? Surely it’s the will of the gods that Tal’reth found the teens first, before someone more malicious did. Certainly they would have received no help from his party members if he wasn’t there. If he won’t protect these kids, who will?

Movement at the edge of his vision catches Tal’reth’s attention and he whips his head up, right hand dropping the whetstone and gripping the hilt of his sword. But it’s just shadows moving, or maybe the candlelight playing tricks on his eyes, or he’s just more tired than he thought. Yes, that must be it; he hasn’t slept all night, save for a brief catnap before Peri and her brother appeared in their camp. Half-convinced, Tal’reth returns to his work once more – though he shifts slightly so the dark corners of the room aren’t visible at all as he focuses on the sword’s keen blade. If the shadows in one corner seem to move independently of the fire’s dancing glow, he would rather not see.

#2175

So my current DnD PC Selene, the siren trapped in a semi-human body, has broken the curse placed on her by a gross incel wizard and can finally go home. I didn’t write much about her, it’s true, but that’s because all she ended up doing was smashing stuff and eating everything in sight; entertaining for sure, yet not quite worth bragging about. SHE WAS SUPER FUN TO PLAY, though, and I will miss her, but now she has returned to her ocean home and is happily wrecking ships and devouring sailors once more. And no, she didn’t learn any lesson from the experience except maybe that if you’re going to eat someone who has potentially vengeful family members, try to eat them too before they put a fucking curse on you. Failing that, break their legs and see if that helps.

My party members will now be meeting up with my new character Tal’reth (or Giant Cat Dad if you like) and I am super stoked to play him. He’s a good guy trying to make up for a dark past and should be a very frustratingly justice-aligned counterpoint to my wife’s chaotic neutral/evil aasimar warlock. (We didn’t plan it that way but BOY IS IT GONNA BE INTERESTING.) I’m going to keep his one big secret under wraps for now so my party members don’t catch on, so here’s what I’ve got so far:

Name: Tal’reth
Race: Tabaxi
Age: 45
Gender: Male
Class: Paladin
Paladin Oath: Vengeance; this oath includes the tenets “Fight the Greater Evil”, “No Mercy for the Wicked”, “By Any Means Necessary”, and “Restitution”.
Alignment: Chaotic good
Intelligence: High
General physical description: Large lion tabaxi with pale fur and blue eyes, approximately 8 feet tall (though the mane probably makes him look taller), bears quite a few scars.
Dress style: Mostly loose breeches and a sleeveless tunic top. He doesn’t wear anything that reveals him to be a paladin as he often travels in places where foreign gods aren’t tolerated. If anyone asks his trade he says he’s a bard and carries a penny whistle to prove it. If anyone questions that (he doesn’t exactly fit the bard stereotype), well… not many do. He’s very intimidating and doesn’t particularly like answering personal questions.
Fighting style: Great weapon fighting, grappling, probably some mauling if necessary
Weapons/armor: Great sword, shield, dagger, being a giant lion
Hobbies: He’s actually pretty good on the penny whistle, and he uses his claws to make wood carvings. In general he doesn’t have a ton of hobbies though, being focused as he is on his mission.
Positive personality traits: He’s very protective of women and children, and very opposed to people in positions of power who use their authority to take advantage of others (like corrupt officials, priests, royalty, etc).
Negative personality traits: He might mean well, but his methods can be quite brutal. Also, for much of his life he was a not-so-very-good person. He’s making up for that now, though.
Sense of humor: Dry sarcasm (and maybe puns if I can pull it off).
How other people see him: “Big motherfucker” is the usual descriptive phrase used. He’s very obviously someone you don’t want to mess with. Children, however, may feel instinctively safe with him.
Religion: Tal’reth is sworn to Kodkod, a chaotic good deity whose domains include life, innocence, and childhood. She may or may not have cursed him after he killed a young girl in service to his last mercenary patron, and after this he became devoted to Kodkod and ridding the world of evil. He’s not like most of Kodkod’s paladins, though, as she tends to attract lighthearted types who retain the wonder and innocence of childhood. Tal’reth is a tough guy all the way through, but he does important work for Kodkod that her other paladins might find… too gruesome.
Background: For most of his life Tal’reth has been a mercenary, most recently aligned with a powerful warlord who desired control over neighboring lands. After the incident with Kodkod (which involves the secret I’ll probably spill before I mean to), he had a change of heart and has become a champion for good. Chaotic good, though; he’s retained his brutal ways, he just uses them against bad guys now instead of just against whomever couldn’t pay him enough to leave them alone.
Reason for adventuring: Restitution for his past sins.
Philosophy of life: Those who can fight should fight for those who cannot.
Most important thing to know about this character: He takes the tenets of his oath very seriously and will not hesitate to do what he thinks is right, regardless of whether this is seen as “right” in the eyes of others or the law. He isn’t a religious zealot by any means but he is driven by the need to make things right and to protect the innocent.
Other random facts: He’s immune to disease; he can detect the presence of undead, celestial, and fiendish creatures within 60 feet; and he can summon a spirit steed (warhorse) with which he is bonded. This creature can understand him and fight with him. Considering how big he is, it’s probably one big motherfucker too.

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I love me some fuckin moodboards, okay?

#2144

“Therefore, the ecocatastrophe caused by the second Witch Queen War has a much farther-reaching impact on–” As Professor Nbat’shi stood at the front of the lecture hall scribbling indecipherable notes on the chalkboard the side door flew open and a halfling in a pirate hat popped her head in. “PSST!” she stage-whispered to the tiefling. “Remr! REMR!”

“Oh, hello friends!” Remr threw down her chalk and hurried over to where Tarcella and Never stood just outside the room. Her students, used to Professor Nbat’shi’s wandering attention and abrupt pauses, merely waited. “What’s up?”

“We’re gonna go save the world again,” Tarcella waved one hand vaguely and explained, “Something about stopping an evil god or a cult or something on Clairavoya. Should be pretty cool. You in?”

“Totally! Just a sec,” Remr leaned through the doorway and shouted back to her students,”Hey everyone, I guess the world’s in danger again, class is cancelled until whenever I get back.” She turned to her companions. “Okay, I’m good.”

“That’s it?” Never glanced skeptically into the lecture hall where a hundred students stared back at them in confusion. Remr smacked her palm to her forehead. “Oh! Of course, you’re right.” She leaned into the room again and added, “Read chapters five through thirty-six in Clemmings’ Compendium and someone tell the dean I’m leaving; okay, have fun, bye!”

As she and her friends hurried down the hallway Remr pulled out her Quall’s feather token. “Should we take Bao’ru to get there faster?” she asked, indicating the giant blue budgie which had flown them to and from so many other exploits. Tarcella shrugged carelessly. “Nah, it’ll be fine, my ship’s plenty fast. I’m sure we won’t miss anything.”

– – –

Several days and several hundreds of miles later, the three hurried up the steep path to the summit on the island of Clairavoya where it was rumored the dread god Bezos would appear. Tarcella, sitting on Never’s broad shoulders, first spotted the familiar group of adventurers standing in front of the cave mouth up ahead and jumped down. “Ah man,” she kicked angrily at the ground as she eyed Ro, Ilkan, and Dhashi’s expressions of stunned, exhausted triumph, as well as their battered armor and various bruises. “Did we miss all the fun?” She jumped so that she could elbow Never in the side. “Why’d you make us take my ship, huh?”

They merely sighed.

#2141

Coins rain down amid bursts of shocked laughter and startled, delighted gasps. The crowd has long forgotten the other market vendors at this chance to flirt with danger, to see something so rare and vicious here in their tiny provincial town. Humans love to feel a little fear when they know there is no actual risk and the townsfolk have thus blindly put their faith in the greasy man who gathers up their coins with one greedy hand while the other prods through the cage with a stick.

The creature in the cage can technically speak Common and should therefore be able to plead with her captor, or at least for sympathy from the crowd, but rage clouds her mind too much for her to do anything other than howl and launch herself at the bars. No one stands close enough to grab with her long claws yet still she tries, lashing her arm back and forth in the hopes of drawing blood. Her blue-gray skin bleeds where she has rubbed herself raw on the metal.

“Yep, wrestled this little bitch right out of the sea itself!” the man brags, jabbing her side with the stick. “She almost had me, too, but I was too strong for her! Not a man alive has ever caught one of these!” His words are lies; this oaf wasn’t even the one who cursed her into a human form, only a lucky idiot who stumbled across her while she was still dazed from the transformation. A feminine creature with long black hair and shark-like skin and teeth? He’d known exactly what she was and how much people would pay to see a monster like her up close.

“A real siren, incredible!” someone cries, while another asks with obvious concern, “Can’t they put a spell on you with their singing? Are we in danger?” The man scoffs at the question and, despite not actually knowing why she no longer has that trademark ability, uses it to his advantage. Kicking the cage, he laughs, “Yeah, but she won’t try anything funny on me. She knows who’s the boss here. Besides, I’ve been starving her down, she’s no match for me.”

Amid the tumult of voices and the siren’s furious snarling, someone whispers an unlocking spell. Even through her frenzy the siren senses this burst of magic and her keen ears catch the sound of the lock slowly turning. This time when she hurls herself against the cage the door bursts open and with a predator’s speed she leaps for her oblivious captor, howling in triumph. The impact sends him crashing to the ground and by the time he lands she’s already tearing at his throat with rows of serrated teeth. The humans who just moments ago had laughed and stared at her flee in terror, not a single one brave enough to attempt to contain her again.

Hunger partially sated, the siren tears off one of the man’s arms for further snacking and climbs to her feet. While she’s still unsteady on these strange human legs, used as she is to gliding through the water with her long, sinuous tail, she’ll adapt. With a little food in her belly she can finally think clearly for the first time since the awful spell that took her from her home was cast. Her thoughts burn hard and bright in their brute simplicity: Find the wizard. Make him reverse the curse. Eat him. Go home. Chewing on a meaty finger bone, the siren picks a direction and starts walking. She has no idea who this wizard is, where to find him, or how she’ll get him to lift the curse, but she’s not a creature of any particularly deep or complex thoughts and so this doesn’t much concern her. She can hunt and she can kill, and that’s good enough for her.

#2103

Our current DnD campaign isn’t over yet but I’m already working on my next character because ideas! Her name is Selene and she is a siren (ie killer mermaid) cursed to remain trapped in a human-shaped body, thus preventing her from being with her kin in the ocean. She has none of her siren powers, but she makes up for that by basically being an anthropomorphic shark. I LOVE HER ALREADY.

Name: Selene (in Common)
Race: Siren (homebrew based on water genasi stats)
Age: Sub-adult
Gender: Female
Orientation: Hella gay, just so so gay for pretty ladies
Class: Barbarian
Primal Path: Berserker
Alignment: Chaotic neutral
Intelligence: Mid-low
General physical description: About 5’4″, very slim but well muscled, body somewhat “androgynous” (not very curvy, kinda flat-chested), blueish-gray skin similar to shark skin, completely black eyes, long straight black hair, teeth shaped and in rows like a shark’s, pointed ears
Dress style: Selene is used to being naked and therefore doesn’t like to feel confined by clothing, so she wears as little as possible and what she does wear is very open and flowing; she doesn’t wear shoes or anything else restricting, nor does she need to given her tough skin; she does bear lots of gold and silver piercings in her ears/lips/nose/eyebrows/etc because sirens like shiny things
Weapons: Teeth, claws, shark tooth club that slings across her back, barnuckles (brass knuckles made out of barnacles)
Hobbies: Sinking ships, eating people, playing with her sisters and other sea creatures, sunning on rocks, exploring shipwrecks
Positive personality traits: Curious, brave, headstrong, physically affectionate, easily attached to people or things, open-minded and accepting in a semi-oblivious way
Negative personality traits: Petulant, vengeful, short-sighted, self-centered, spicy but short-lived temper
Sense of humor: Dark; siren humor is like “haha, look, you thought we were pretty ladies but we’re actually scary monsters who are gonna drown you!”
How other people see her: Like a literal monster most of the time since she doesn’t have very good manners and is basically a land shark, or maybe as just a particularly weird water jenasi; she doesn’t easily endear herself to others since she’s more wild creature than human being
Opinion of herself: Generally high; sirens aren’t big on self-reflection
Religion: None – though sirens do respect the sea goddess Umberleigh (aka The Bitch Queen), as it was she who first created them in her bitchy likeness
Background: Selene was just a typical young siren, singing songs and sinking ships, until she sank the wrong ship and the brother of one of the dead sailors cursed her to remain trapped in a semi-human form; until she breaks the curse she can’t return to her home and has none of her siren powers, hence why she has to depend on her body’s physical attributes (strength, dexterity, sharp teeth, etc) when fighting
Reason for adventuring: To find the wizard who cursed her and eat him make him remove the curse, then eat him
Philosophy of life: Eat or be eaten; also, finder’s keepers, losers weepers
Most important thing to know about this character: Although she’s a chaotic monster who literally eats humans, she’s also a young creature away from her home and family in a totally unfamiliar world
Other random facts: She’s good at mimicking sounds; she has little fear of creatures larger than herself; she’s basically always hungry, and will eat almost anything; she’s very distrustful of men; when she gets really worked up she has a harder time speaking Common; she has absolutely no qualms about lying
Other belongings: Her only real belongings of value are all of her piercings, since most of those are gold or silver; she did steal a pack from someone who tried to capture her and therefore also has a waterproof pipe tobacco set, a whittling set, a guilded dragon tooth, something called “the captain’s ring”, a jar of breathe fire, ever-ready tinder, a mini machinists chest, a lake iron hunting knife, an ironwood club, and something called “kindred crow call”

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#2077

I can’t believe I haven’t talked about all the fun (ie terrible) things Mage has done in our recent DnD sessions! As you may recall, our DM and I killed off my magical girl warlock Dhashi and resurrected my psychopathic villain Mage into her body. Mage is theoretically there to help the others complete their quest to defeat the evil god Bezos, but that doesn’t mean she can’t have some fun (and irritate her party members workplace associates) on the way. For example…

  • While fighting a horde of zombies, she ripped the arm off of one and used it to beat its head into a pulp
  • She has used Shatter and Eldritch Blast several times to make enemies explode
  • When the group found themselves trapped by a thieves guild, she used Misty Step to teleport behind their leader and cut her throat (specifically in such a manner as to incapacitate the woman but ensure she died a slow and extremely painful death, which my wife was happy to describe in great medical detail*)
  • She beguiled two guards into leading the group to a secret catacomb entrance, then forced the guards to come along in case they needed someone to “test” the traps and wards
  • After one of the guards burned to death doing just this, she cut his arm off and used it to continue safely triggering traps
  • She also might have looted a locket from him with pictures of his kids inside; too bad, so sad
  • She tried to fight another PC who is waaaay above her level and immediately lost, but got a sick sidecut in the bargain so no hard feelings there
  • She convinced the goddess of the ocean to defeat some enemies for them and in return told the goddess she could destroy a town full of innocent people
  • She bought a jug that can produce anything; she used it to produce BEES and then set them free in a tavern for funzies (and before you ask, it wasn’t even that many bees, thirty is not a lot of bees, please tell my DnD group that)

*Yes, I asked my wife the best way to cut someone’s throat and she answered immediately because she’s AMAZING

#2074

“You wanted to see us, ma’am?” Mage and Mercer stood before the Raven Queen’s throne, the gunslinger with his hands clasped respectfully behind his back and the witch using one of her smaller throwing knives to pick something from her teeth. The goddess nodded and gestured to the nearby scrying bowl. Its surface rippled and revealed three travelers: a goliath, a fire jenasi,and an aasimar in a hideously frilly dress. “Yes. I have assignments for you both. Bezos grows far too bold and I find his antics distasteful. I have seen that he will slay one of the cursed ones, the girl, and while I cannot stop this action I can at least counter it with one of my own. Mage, once the deed is done I shall place you temporarily in her body to act as my Champion on the mortal plane until Mercer has finished training her to take your place.”

“NICE,” Mage pumped the air with her knife and grinned triumphantly at Mercer. “Suck it, I get a body again.” Mercer rolled his eyes and retorted, “I didn’t say nothin’, did I?” and then more softly under his breath, “Be nice to have a little peace ‘n quiet ’round here anyhow.”

“Mercer,” the Raven Queen interrupted before the conversation completely derailed, “are you prepared to guide another through the training? And quickly?” The gunslinger touched the brim of his hat. “Yes ma’am.”

“Good. And Mage…” The goddess hesitated, considered the fact that Mage wouldn’t follow 99% of the rules and precautions given her anyway, then said only, “Just keep them alive until she’s ready. And try not to murder too many people while you do it, please. The paperwork is horrendous.”

“Murder everyone,” The witch flashed double fingerguns and a wicked smile. “Can do, boss lady.”

“You’re dismissed,” The Raven Queen waved them away and as her two Champions disappeared down the twisting corridor beyond her throne room, their bickering voices growing fainter, she rested her chin on her hand with a weary sigh. “Sometimes I wonder at the souls I choose to surround myself with,” she muttered under her breath. “This is a gamble, to be sure.”

.

T̷̗̪͈̻̈́̎͛́̀͆̇̚h̵̘͕́̓̔͝e̸̡̲͎̪͇̹̖͂ņ̸̼̠̦̣͚͂̐̎͗͒̔̾̋̀̆͂͑ ̶̛͈̣̙̱̦̘̩͚̺͚̒̾͆ͅw̴̢͍̮̜̞̖͙̦̠̦͚͓͗͋̈́̂̏͝͠h̸̢̧̥̫̣͈̪̦̝͉̘͈͙͂́̃̍̉̌̔̑y̴̛͎̬̬͌̀̔͛̾̂͑̑͊͐̎͑̕ ̵̢̧̘̪͇͋̏̊͒̕͝͝n̸̩͓͎̮͙͕̩̮̤͖͉̱̓ȍ̷̬͕͇̖̮͉͍̜̊͑̾́͌͑̔͐͗͋̑̍͘͝ẗ̴̟̻̹̳̝̩͉̖̩̤̽̂́̍͜ ̸̱̣̺͉̖̣͓͉͝͠s̴̠̟̝͗̈́̿̈͐̌̓̌̿̉̕̕͠͠͝e̴̛̼̲̔͆̃͊̕̕n̸͔̤͔̣̭͂͊̃̾̏͛̌̌͑̎͝d̸̤̝͔͍̲̯͒ ̵̡̨̪͕̯̠̹͕̘͙̰̲͙̲̻̿͊̒̉̈́̂̅͗͘͠m̴̠̈͊̈̀́̌͑͗ę̵̛̱̜̫̦̟̹̞̦̯̩́͑̌̽̂̄̊͒̈́̈͛͘͠?̶̡̛̛̥͙̖͚̙̭͇͖͓̺̈́͒͑̀̕͘͜͠ ̶͚̲̙͎͙̦͚̓̋I̸̗̣̣̖̺̙̣͚̤̙̱͒̔̍̓̋͐̈ͅ ̶̜̫̀̽͗̃͌͛̄̎̍̒̚c̸̡͖͓̙͖̱̺͇̳̯̩̰̈̃̌̓͐́̈́̆͘̚̚͝o̶̺͉̬̞͕͠ṵ̴̺͇͌̏̄͌͒̏̀͘͝͠l̸̪̋d̶̡̡͍͖̲͔̱̘͍̣̹̣̗̗̊̐̓͆̈̀̉̓́̈́̚ ̷̘̍̽̃͌͑̈́̏͝h̴̛̫̥͖̙̤͙̲̪̣͊͌̒̊̔̄a̷̯̮͙̪͋́̏̾̌̋͌͒̋͂͛̆̈́̕͠v̵̨̡̲̪̩͚̲̥̩͉͈͊̍̔̍͋͊͆̏͐̕͘͝ẽ̶̡̧̡̢̨̜̰̝̯̝͓͎͓͐͠ͅͅ ̷͇̝̺͎͚͇̫͔̻̱̥̯̾̿̍ͅţ̶̧̨͍͔͉̼͇͚̟̞̥͛h̸̨̨͍̟͍͇͔̥͚̳͖̙̳̬̖̃̃̌̐̎̂̈́̉͝͠e̸̻̮̙̗͓̥͉̣̿̒ͅ ̸̡̢̭̫̥͓̯͚̘̱̰̞̦̩̊͂̋̈̔̄͜t̸̨̫̲̙̼̼̜̮͈̓̈́̅͌͒̎̍̐̂͆͠h̵̡͓̜̳̞̹͐̀̊̐̂͑̽͛͘͜į̵̞̯̙̝̰̮̬͓̦̄̽̓͌ņ̴̢̡̛̪̜̠̥͖͉̬́͝ǧ̶̡̢̧̛̣͕̪͉͔͈̰̞̝̳̾̔̑̐ ̷͔̲̻́̒̑̄͝d̵̰̠̦̱̼̟͈͔̯̃͐͘ö̸̳̻͎͖͙͍͖́͋̀̑̾̐̂͂̅͌̾̔͠͝͝ņ̶̛͙͉͍̟̭̲̱͚̖̜̯̀̋̿͊̓́́̒̕͜͝ë̶̢͉̮̱̝̬͖̹̥͎̣̈̔̓̍̓̓̆̏̓̅̔̕͠ ̷̛̳̬͉͚͕̼̰̘͕̑̿́͊̐̄̉̚ͅį̴̘͗̍̽ń̷̠̪̖͚̮̆̔̒̊̃͑̒̿̿̀͘̚͝ ̸̡̩̼̖͓͎̞̣̠͒̐́̂̽̈́͗͘a̵̡͕̗͛͜ ̵̨̞͕͙͔̰̫̺͖̥̮̞̃͐͂̄̂̌͗̓̋̊̚̕͝h̶̢̞̬̫̘̪̙̙͑͗͂̋̂̒̍̐͜e̶͚͉͎͕̠̱̟̪̣̰̘͓̐͐͒͒̓̀̑̂͊͛́͗̍͝͝ͅä̵̮̞̦̥̖̗̻̭̼̣̞̮́̈́̔͑̊͗̽͋r̶̢̛͕̦̝̽̔̃͒̊̈́̃̍̚̕̚t̵̡̢̛̹̱̬̥̞̖̱͇̬̜̽̿͐̓̂͌͂̕͠b̵̡̨̗̠̦̥͇̞̬̥̹̮̮͛͐͌͛͊ͅͅḝ̶̦̲̙̠̱̰̹̇̓͋͊̌̏̇̉̏͘̚͘ͅa̷̟̰̮̺̓̆̊̍̓͒͠t̶̢̛̮̖͓̳̪̜̙͕̱͓̭̠̄̽̌̉̄̏̔̕͝ͅ.̸͙̖̟̱̪͙͈͖̲͉͗̈́̀͒̊̒́͆̔́̑͂̎͒̈͜
.

The voice isn’t audible in the chamber, nor is it spoken into the Raven Queen’s mind; she hears it on some other, deeper level, and it makes her go cold. Her eyes flicker to the sealed door beyond which rests the locked, warded, and thrice-blessed coffin. “You know I’m not fool enough to set you free for such a simple task,” she replies to the empty air, feigning the same casual manner in which she spoke with the other Champions. “If they fail and Bezos is victorious… perhaps. Until then, you stay put.”

.

F̴̯̟̗̼̻͇̄̋͑̏͆̐̌̑̒͘̚͠͝ơ̸͔͙͉̖̦̅́͐̏̀̓͝r̵͓̤̱͎̺̥͎̘͙̲͚̪͔̹̈́̐̑̌̿̂̕ ̷̛͙͓͈̮͇͓̿̈́̀̾͆͐̐̆̾́̈́̀͜͠ņ̵͈̳̣̻̫̺͖̎̀̚͝ơ̷̡̡͖̼͚̗̈͛͛́̽̽̃̓͝w̵̖͋͆.̴̧͔͎̫̥̺̌͗̓
.

#2072

[ This follows the scene with Dhashi and the scrying bowl ]

“Hey there, little one. Yer Dhashi, right?”

“Oh!” Dhashi, kneeling on the cold stone floor, lifted her head from her hands and wiped at the steadily falling tears. In the doorway stood a tall man wearing the usual uniform of a gunslinger, complete with brimmed hat and sarape. If Overwatch existed in this universe, Dhashi would have noticed he looked extremely similar to McCree; but it doesn’t, so she didn’t. “Y-yes,” she replied, getting unsteadily to her feet. “Who are you? Where’s the Raven Queen?”

“The name’s Mercer. She sent me to show you around, get you settled and stuff,” He took a step into the room, figuring the girl had had enough scares for one day and not wanting to alarm or overwhelm her. “That okay?” Dhashi glanced back at the basin, her only link to the world she had just been ripped from. “But… my friends…” Mercer came a few steps closer and laid a hand lightly on her shoulder. “It’s okay, you can come back here any time you want.” The touch calmed her a little, and Dhashi managed a braver smile than she felt. She nodded for him to lead on and he steered her back out into the long, columned hallway, an arm resting around her shoulders.

“So this is the Raven Queen’s home?” Dhashi glanced up as they walked, eyeing the dark stone arches and the weak light filtering in from windows set high in the walls. “It’s so… spooky.” She shivered as a spider skittered across the marble floor. “And dark.” Beside her, Mercer shrugged. “It ain’t so bad once you get used to it. And you won’t be here often once you become a Champion.”

“Oh,” Dhashi’s feet seemed to stop of their own accord as her stomach flip-flopped. “Right. That.” Mercer stopped as well and knelt down so they could talk on level, his hand never leaving her shoulder. “Don’t worry, kid, you’ll do great.” He gave the aasimar a conspiratorial wink. “You have the best in the business to teach you.”

“You’re one of the Raven Queen’s Champions?” Dhashi’s look of surprise changed to one of suspicion and she eyed him as if he would transform into a monster at any moment. “But you’re not all scary and mean like the other one.” Her comment made Mercer throw back his head and laugh, and the atmosphere between them relaxed once more. “I assume you mean Mage. Yeah, she’s… intense, that’s fer sure. We’re not all like her, though. Think of us like special tools – you need the right tool fer the job, whether that’s somethin’ small and delicate,” he pointed at Dhashi, “or big and strong,” he pointed at himself, “or utterly terrifyin’ and almost certainly insane.” He laughed again, not noticing how wide Dhashi’s eyes had gone. “Are my friends going to be okay with her?” she asked.

“Oh yeah, they’ll prob’ly be fine,” Mercer climbed to his feet, then finally noticed the tears welling in the girl’s eyes. “Oh jeeze, wait, don’t start cryin’ again,” he pleaded, but it was too late. The tears fell in waterfalls. “Dangit,” he muttered, “I’m terrible at this mentorin’ thing. Uhh,” he glanced around desperately for a distraction, “look, birds! Look at the nice birds.” He steered Dhashi toward the nearby rookery, pointing up at the ravens of all sizes and ages that roosted or hopped from perch to perch in the airy room. He had no way of knowing how much Dhashi missed her own animal companion, Charlie, but either way he breathed a sigh of infinite relief as her tears ceased and her smile reappeared.

– – –

“Going well?” The Raven Queen appeared at Mercer’s side as he leaned against the open doorway. He nodded to where Dhashi sat on the rookery floor, birds already nestled among the folds of her dress, perched on her arms, and grooming her long, golden hair with their sharp beaks. She murmured to them as she smoothed their glossy feathers, and the ravens burbled and croaked in reply. “She’s got a big heart,” Mercer conceded. “And she’s braver than she realizes. Dunno if that’ll be enough, though.”

“It will have to be,” The goddess clapped him on the shoulder, then disappeared. Mercer stood watching Dhashi for a moment more, then went to join her. She smiled up at him as if they were old friends and began telling him the birds’ names.

#2071

“You can talk to her, if you want.”

This was it; they had finally arrived. After traveling south from the ruins of Lunanoff,sailing across the Bay of Pitch, laboring their way through the mountains beyond Dull, and fighting their way through the undead keepers of the Raven Queen’s temple, Ro and Ilkan and their new companion workplace associate Mage finally stood before the infamous goddess herself. However, their hope to be reunited with Dhashi, and subsequently rid of Mage, was not to be fulfilled; the goddess explained that Dhashi wasn’t yet ready to return to the mortal world, that she needed more time to train before she could act as the Raven Queen’s champion. They would all be together again soon, she promised, but not yet. Disappointment weighed on Ro and Ilkan, two battle-hardened warriors who would never have guessed the absence of one irritating, hyper-optimistic teenager could hurt them so. The Raven Queen understood, of course. The Raven Queen had dealt in death and loss since the beginning of time.

“You can talk to her, if you want,” The Raven Queen, who towered over the three cursed companions as she sat on her throne, motioned toward the scrying bowl at her feet. Mage, bored now that the killing was over, picked her nails with a knife. Ro resolutely shook her head, eschewing anything the goddess of death might offer and holding fast to her raging grief. But Ilkan nodded and moved toward the bowl. “I’d like to,” he said, voice uncharacteristically thin. The Raven Queen held her hand over the bowl and the mirror-clear surface shimmered, then stilled again. Instead of Ilkan’s reflection, the water showed a man garbed in the brimmed hat and sarape of a gunslinger. “Mercer,” she said, “put Dhashi on.”

“Got it,” The gunslinger tipped his hat to the goddess and then turned to someone beyond the mirror’s edge. “Dhashi!” he yelled. “Dhashi, the boss wants you! …Dhashi, c’mere! Stop paintin’ the ravens’ claws and–” Behind him, a mass of black wings and pink glitter shot past. “DHASHI GET YER BUTT OVER HERE.” Mercer disappeared, replaced by a Dhashi who looked fairly unchanged, albeit paler and a little diminished in some essential way. She waved hesitantly and managed a fairly good approximation of her usual smile. “Hi Ilkan…”

“Hey,” The goliath waved one giant hand in return. He was already fighting back tears. “How are you?”

“I’m okay,” Dhashi shrugged a little, suddenly shy for all that she had been longing to speak with her friends again. “It’s not so bad here. Mercer’s nice. How are you?”

“I’m.. we’re…” Ilkan glanced over to Ro’s stiff back and shrugged as well. “You know.”

“Yeah,” Dhashi wiped at her eyes, then managed a truer smile. “You guys are doing really well, though. I’ve been watching.” A moment of silence passed, strained with all the things that could be, but were not, said, and then Dhashi brightened a little. “Can I say hi to Charlie?” Ilkan managed an honest chuckle at the eagerness on the aasimar’s face and nodded. “I was just about to get him out,” he said, pulling the little glass bowl out from where he had stored it in his pack before the battles in the temple. He held it over the scrying bowl and the little fish inside swam around in its usual unhurried manner. “He misses you.”

“Hi Charlie!” Dhashi wiggled her fingers at the fish, who didn’t seem to notice at all, and wiped away more tears as they continued to fall. “Thank you for taking care of him, Ilkan. I miss you guys so much. I’m trying really hard so I can come back soon.” She turned her head to look at something or someone beyond the scrying bowl’s surface, then looked back at Ilkan with a bittersweet smile. “I should go. Say hi to Ro for me, okay?” Ilkan nodded. “Okay.”

The mirror’s surface shivered and cleared, once again reflecting only the Raven Queen’s temple and Ilkan’s tear-streaked face as he turned away. As he carefully returned Charlie to the relative safety of his pack, he caught the sound of a surreptitious sniff from Ro’s direction. When the party gathered back together, though, she had her emotions under their usual tight rein.

#2070

“A Candlenights celebration? We have to go! Please please please?” In the tavern common room, Dhashi turned her wide blue eyes back and forth between Ilkan and Ro, bouncing eagerly on the balls of her feet as she did. Candlenights was her favorite holiday and she absolutely couldn’t miss a chance to celebrate it in the big city. She was sad that she couldn’t spend the holiday with her fathers, of course, but this would totally make up for it.

“Will there be food?” Ilkan asked, and Dhashi knew she had him. “Lots!” she replied. “And most of it fried.” The goliath shrugged. “I’m in.” They turned their attention to Ro, who scowled over her tankard and jerked her head in her version of an eye-roll. “Fine,” she muttered. “I suppose we could use a break from saving the world anyway.”

“Ohmygosh yay!” Dhashi dashed up to their rooms in a blur of ribbons and glitter to change into a more holiday-appropriate outfit.

– – –

“Oh my gosh, everything’s so beautiful!” Dhashi’s eyes glimmered with the reflection of the colorful lanterns bobbing in the air above the festival. Her outfit, a monstrosity of red and green ribbons, white lace, and little bells that tinkled every time she moved, blended in so well with the festival’s decorations that several passersby assumed she was one of the performers. As Ro and Ilkan stared dubiously into the packed crowd, the assimar danced back and forth to a tune only she could hear, apparently, and tried to catch snowflakes on her tongue. But then a chance gap in the crowd revealed the rows and rows of game booths, the giant prizes caught Dhashi’s attention, and she went bolting into the crowd with a trailing, “Ooh, games!”

“Aaaaaand there she goes,” Ro sighed, wondering how they would ever track Dhashi down in the chaos. “Bloody hell.” She turned to her companion, who already had his nose in the air sniffing out the direction of the food vendors. “Shall we hunt down some of that promised fried food first?” she suggested, and would have lost Ilkan in the crowd as well as he ran off, had he not stood several heads above everyone else. Ro followed after at a more sedate pace, using her swinging cane to clear a decent path through the crowd and begrudgingly admiring how fast Ilkan could move when food was involved.

– – –

Stuffed animals, lanterns, charms, dolls, there were so many prizes to choose from that Dhashi couldn’t pick which game to play first – until she reached the last stall and stopped short, staring up at its rows and rows of glass bowls, each with a goldfish or betta fish swimming lazy circles inside. Her eyes somehow managed to get even wider and she hurried up to the counter. “Oh my gosh,” she asked the bored teenager running the booth, “how do I win one of those fish?”

“You gotta knock three statues down,” The teenager mumbled around her mouthful of gum, raising one lazy finger to point at the setup. “It’s five gold for three balls.”

“Okay, I’ll play!” Dhashi threw down her gold, collected the balls, and tossed them with zero skill at the wood statues stationed in rows. One of the balls managed to hit, knocking one statue down, but the other two flew too wide. The teenager yawned and tossed a floppy lock of dyed black hair out of her eyes. “Too bad,” she said woodenly. “Want to go again?” Dhashi pursed her lips and slammed down another five gold. “Yes!”

Miss. Miss. Hit? No, miss. Miss. Miss. Dhashi exhaled furiously, glaring at the traitorous, clearly rigged game. Still, she set down another five gold, and then another, and then yet another after that. As before, she missed most of the time and failed to knock down three statues even when she did hit. After each attempt the teenager would repeat in the same disaffected tone, “So close. Want to try again?” and Dhashi would throw down her next five gold. She went to do this a final time… and found her wallet empty. Her eyes filled with disappointed tears. Her bottom lip trembled entirely of its own accord. All she wanted was one little fish… She’d never had a pet before…

“Oh good lord,” Ro, fried dough in hand, had been watching this pitiful display for some time. The tears were too much even for her, though, and she dug out five gold. “Here, take it, just… don’t cry.” She set the gold on the booth’s counter and Dhashi wiped away her tears, gazing up at the jenasi with awe. “Really?” she asked, sure this must be a trick of some kind; Dhashi knew she wasn’t exactly Ro’s favorite person, and certainly not high enough in her esteem to warrant such a gesture. But Ro waved at the proffered gold and went back to eating her fried dough. “Yes, really.” Dhashi stared at the game uncertainly, then shook her head. “I’m too nervous!” She grabbed Ro’s free arm and tugged her forward. “Will you do it? I keep missing.”

“What? Oh, bloody hell,” Ro transferred her dough to her other hand, picked up one of the balls, and tossed it at the game in one fluid, careless motion. She hit one of the statues dead on, and as it tumbled down it took two others with it. Dhashi squeaked in triumph; the teenager clapped slowly, snapping her gum. “Congrats,” she sighed. “Which one do you want?”

“Um…” Dhashi stared up at all the bowls, unable to decide which fish she liked most. Then she knew. “The saddest one, please,” she requested, knowing the prettier, flashier fish would all find homes before the end of the festival. The teenager rolled her eyes but did bend down to pull out a dusty bowl. Inside a betta fish swam in idle circles, its scales a dull brownish-green that matched the algae growing on the inside of the glass. It was, admittedly, not a very lovely or lively fish; yet Dhashi accepted the proffered bowl like it was filled with gold, hugging it to her chest. “I’ll name you… Charlie!” She beamed up at Ro. “Thank you thank you thank you thank you!”

And that is the story of how Dhashi the magical girl warlock aasimar found her familiar, Charlie the depressingly bland betta fish.

#2065

“Goodbye, friends!” Remr, standing on the stage where Never would soon play, waved to Dhashi, Row, and Ilkan as they disappeared into the Candlenights crowd. “They were nice,” she commented when Never came up behind her carrying an awkwardly shaped instrument. “I hope they get uncursed and… stuff…” Her voice trailed away.

“Uh, Remr,” Never shifted the heavy object in their grip, “can you move please? I kinda need to put this right where you’re standing.” But the Tiefling didn’t seem to hear them; she was staring into the milling crowd of revelers, frowning as if something there puzzled her. Never was about to ask what she was looking at when she shouted, “Wait!” and jumped into the throng of people. Never, who was honestly pretty used to Remr running off in pursuit of something science-related, set down the instrument and continued to prep for the show as if nothing had happened.

– – –

“Wait!” Remr pushed through the knots of slow moving people, using her Tiefling height to her advantage. Somewhere ahead of her, glimpsed briefly every few seconds between a gap in the crowd, a flash of lavender skin or white hair revealed her quarry. They played cat and mouse in this way through the brightly lit streets, past games and food vendors, performers and fortune tellers, all the way though the Candlenights celebration and into the dark city streets beyond.

Now that they were away from the crowd it was easier for Remr to see her still fleeing target. It was definitely another Tiefling with lavender colored skin and long white hair. The Tiefling dashed down a side street and Remr followed right on their heels, breathless but determined to continue the chase as long as she could. Luckily for her, the street down which her prey ran was a dead end and as she skidded around the corner she found the other Tiefling trapped by a high wall. Face to face, Remr was positive now of the other’s identity and they both stared across the distance between them for a tense second.

“I knew it was you,” Remr took a hesitant step into the alley. “La’lua, what happened? Why did you stop answering my letters? I thought…” She shook her head. “I didn’t know what to think. What are you doing here?”

“Remr…” The other Tiefling grimaced, her tail darting back and forth anxiously. “I’m sorry, I wanted to reply, I did, but there was no way…” She backed up a step. “I can’t explain. Just forget I was here, okay?” La’lua’s eyes flickered to the rooftops above and Remr knew what would happen. “Lua, wait!” Remr broke into a run, but before she could close the distance La’lua bent her knees and leaped high into the air, catching the edge of a rooftop and disappearing over the adjacent wall. Remr slid to a stop and caught her breath, dashing away the tears of frustration as they fell.

– – –

Remr reappeared during one of the band’s breaks, wandering backstage with an aimless expression as she searched for her bag. Never looked up from retuning their lute and asked idly, “Who were you harassing for a sample of their skin this time?” Remr didn’t answer. An uncharacteristic frown tugged at her mouth and her eyes were unusually distant. “Remr? Hello?” Never waved a hand in front of her face. “You okay?”

“Huh?” Remr blinked as if waking from hypnosis. “Uh… yeah. Totally. I just thought I saw the… churro cart. But, uh… they were out.” She managed a poor imitation of her usual smile to cap off the obvious lie. “Bummer, right?” Ignoring Never’s perplexed stare, Remr grabbed her bag and backed up. “Anyway, um, I should probably go do… science… stuff.” She flashed very half-hearted fingerguns at her friend. “Catch ya later.” Never watched her go, then went back to tuning the lute with a shake of their head, muttering, “She gets weirder every day.”

#2062

“You can watch them. But you can’t help.”

Dhashi leans over the Raven Queen’s stone basin, hands gripping the sides. Tears roll down her cheeks and splash into the water below, sending ripples through the image displayed on the surface. “Row…” she sobs, “Ilkan…”

Through the basin she watches her friends struggle to grasp what has happened. In the living world there is nothing left of her, only a smear of black ash, her staff, and Charlie the betta fish in his little glass bowl. Row kneels over the ashes, nearly hysterical with guilt and disbelief; Ilkan, tears even leaking from his own eyes, gently scoops up the fish bowl and cradles it in his giant calloused hands.

She watches Row smear a palmful of ashes onto the knitted scarf Dhashi made her. She watches as Ilkan and the priestess Solenna try to resurrect her, not knowing they will summon someone else into the aasimar’s body. A champion, the Raven Queen had said, sent as a ringer to ensure the party’s success against Bezos. Mage, the champion is called. But this Mage is a cruel soul, mocking and arrogant, and her presence only serves to rub salt in the wounds of Dhashi’s friends.

She watches as the trio travels on to the next temple, even more eager now to see this awful quest done. She watches Row try to drown herself in drink, in battle, in anything that makes her feel differently or not at all. She watches Ilkan shoulder Row’s grief and carry it silently with his own, just as he carries the little fish bowl with such care. She watches a stranger parade around in her body, someone far stronger and cleverer than she, and Dhashi wonders – just for a brief, lonely second – if her friends are better off with someone more useful than her.

Dhashi watches but can do nothing to comfort her friends, to let them know that she is okay, if not… okay. She can only hope they find the strength in their grief to keep fighting, to complete the quest for which she died. They do not trust the creature that inhabits her body and she does not either, but she knows she must trust the Raven Queen. The goddess is not unkind, after all; she told Dhashi she had done well by her friends, and Dhashi knows it was not the Raven Queen who made Row use the curse. Plus, she has already told Dhashi that she might return to the living world, albeit in the goddess’ service as another of her champions. The girl agreed without hesitation or question. She must go back as soon as possible. What will her friends do without her?

Eventually her tears are too many and she must turn away for a moment. But she will continue to watch. She will be with her friends even if they cannot see or hear her. She will become the Raven Queen’s champion, no matter what this means, and she will return to her friends. She will tell Row it wasn’t her fault. She will tell Ilkan he’s not as unfeeling as he pretends to be. They’ll keep traveling together and do good deeds and save the world again, maybe. Everything will be okay.

It has to be.

#2060

Dhashi dreams of a lightless corridor. Even her highly sensitive aasimar eyes can detect no light, and only her outstretched hands touching dry, flat stone tell her she is hemmed in on two sides. The hairs on her neck tingle and she walks carefully forward, hoping to find an intersecting wall against which to put her vulnerable back. The walls seem to curve slightly as she walks and around the bend she begins to detect a faint orange glow. Foreboding settles heavy and cold in her stomach at the sight; she freezes, heart hammering in her chest and temples, but a sound like chains rattling behind her drives her forward again. She sprints down the dim corridor, one hand trailing against the stone wall, and with another turn suddenly bursts out into a fierce red light.

“Pop… Dad… no!”

The corridor is gone. Dhashi stands in a clearing lit red by the flames consuming the nearby farmhouse and, farther back, the fields of crops. At her feet lay her fathers, their throats cut and torsos impaled. The wide pool of blood seems to flicker and ripple in the firelight. Tears stream down Dhashi’s cheeks at the sight but terror holds her in place, unable to move either toward her slain family or away from the carnage. She can only sob, horrified, and urge herself to wake up.

The hot, dry wind carries the sound of a low chuckle to Dhashi and she finally tears her gaze away to find its source. A figure stands on the deck of the farmhouse, apparently unbothered by the surrounding inferno. It wears heavy black robes which obscure its figure, as well as thick bandages across its face. Seeing Dhashi’s attention, it smiles through a gap in the bandages, a wide gash of a grin with a mouth full of needle-like teeth, and speaks in a rasping, sibilant voice the girl cannot understand. Through other gaps in the bandages red eyes begin to open and focus on Dhashi, slitted pupils blown wide as they bulge.

The figure raises a hand and a crushing weight closes around Dhashi’s slim body as if an invisible fist has gripped her. Its arm lifts and she mirrors the motion, rising into the air as the grip tightens. She kicks desperately, unable to breathe with her chest so constricted, her vision darkening at the edges. Somewhere, distantly, a raven crows.

Dhashi woke with a cry, her cheeks and collar soaked with tears. Beside her, Row also jerked awake, hand moving automatically for her staff. From the jenasi’s unsteady breathing and jumpy nerves, it was easy to see she had been visited by a nightmare of her own as well.

#2059

Dhashi stared down at the tea the proprietress of the roadside tavern had set in front of her; while she wasn’t normally a suspicious person, and firmly believed in consuming whatever your host shares with you, even she was doubtful of the tea’s contents. She sipped it to be polite, though, covering the reflexive grimace at its bitterness with her tried and true smile. As she pretended to wait for the tea to cool she glanced around the tavern. This far from any established towns the tavern’s patrons were the usual mix of drifters, desperate travelers, and bandits slyly tracking anyone who might carry gold. In her bright pink traveling dress, complete with matching hair bow, the aasimar girl definitely stood out – but not as much as the goliath who had already put away half of the tavern’s ale.

Dhashi saw the inevitable collision too late to call out a warning. The goliath, leaving his seat to order another ale at the bar, bumped into a blind fire jenasi who was making her way from the bar to a table, a mug in one hand and her walking staff in the other. It wasn’t a particularly dramatic collision; neither fell down and only a few drops of ale splashed from the mug. All might have been forgiven if the goliath, not even bothering to glance back at the jenasi, had not muttered, “Watch where you’re going,” under his breath as he passed by. “Excuse me?” Despite the cloth covering her sightless eyes, the jenasi seemed quite capable of taking care of herself. Setting down her mug on the nearest table, she turned to face the goliath with her head held high. “What did you say?”

“You heard me, lady,” the goliath rumbled, his attention focused on his new drink. The jenasi snorted. “I think you’re the one who ought to watch where he’s walking, you bloody oaf.” This definitely got his attention. The goliath turned, glaring down at her. “You got a lot of attitude for someone who can’t even see.” The jenasi grinned and held one arm out toward the door. “Want to test that theory outside this charming establishment?”

“Yeah, sure, I’ve got two minutes,” The goliath downed the rest of his ale in one giant gulp. As if not to be outdone, the jenasi finished her own drink in a long swallow, then tossed down her mug and headed for the door. As the two disappeared into the yard beyond the wind carried in her smug reply, “I doubt you’ll be feeling so confident when I’ve shoved those axes so far up your anus that you can pick your disgusting teeth with them.”

“Um, is anybody going to…” Dhashi glanced around the room, expecting someone to step in and deescalate the situation, but none of the patrons seemed to have even noticed the exchange. She frowned in moral disappointment. “No? Okay… guess it’s up to me.” She took a deep breath to steady her nerves and followed the ruffians outside. “I hope you’re going easy on me,” the jenasi was laughing as she dodged one of the goliath’s hand axes, “or this is just depressing!” The two seemed evenly matched, speed versus strength, and if Dhashi had paused to assess the situation she might have suspected they were both enjoying themselves. She didn’t, however, because fighting isn’t the proper way to solve a disagreement and she felt honor-bound to bring things to a peaceful conclusion.

“Excuse me-” Dhashi tried to get their attention but her voice barely carried above the sounds of the scuffle and their casual banter. “Excuse me, sir, miss-” She stepped closer, one hand raised in a half-wave. “Excuse– HEY EXCUSE ME!” This time they heard her; every animal within a two mile radius did. The jenasi, her hearing unfortunately quite acute, staggered at the sound. “Am I experiencing an auditory hallucination,” she asked her opponent, “or is there a chipmunk yelling at us?” The goliath shook his head and eyed the tiny girl. “No,” he grunted, “just some kid wearing about ten pounds of ribbons.”

“Excuse me,” Dhashi approached them now that the dust had settled, hands on her hips and wearing her best Disappointed face, “why are you fighting?” The opponents looked at each other, then shrugged and answered simultaneously, “Why not?”

“Why n–” Dhashi huffed. “Because you shouldn’t, that’s why! What if you hurt each other? Or cause damage to public property?” Now her finger was out, pointing and jabbing for the full lecture experience. “Can’t you just settle your argument using feeling words to communicate your emotions in a non-accusatory manner and come to a mutually beneficial solution?”

“Do you have emotions?” the goliath muttered to the jenasi. “‘Cause I don’t have emotions.” She shook her head. “Nope. Can’t say that I do.”

“Of course you do!” Dhashi let out an exasperated sigh. “Come on, we’ll all sit down with a cup of milk and discuss things rationally.” She reached out and grabbed their hands – or at least in the case of the goliath, a finger. He tried to yank his hand back but couldn’t seem to break the aasimar’s enthusiastic grip. “I…” He tried again without success. She simply wouldn’t budge. “I can’t pull my hand away.” On the other side the jenasi tried as well. “Neither can I; how is she this strong?”

“Oh,” Dhashi grinned as she dragged then back toward the tavern, “and my name is Dhashimri but you can call me Dhashi! It’s so nice to meet you, I know we’re going to be great friends!”

#2055

The Power of ~*~ Friendship ~*~

“I need your help!”

Dhashi would have helped the pretty dryad no matter what, because helping people in need is the right thing to do, but the compulsion spell convinced Ilkan and Row faster than her puppy-dog eyes would have alone. The three therefore set out to retrieve the magical item which would help Mali the (apparently kind of careless) dryad heal her dying tree. As they walked down the forest path, they passed signs of the tree’s effects; everywhere plants grew brown and stunted, and black pitch oozed down the trunks of many trees. The cute woodland animals who had flocked to Dhashi earlier were nowhere to be seen now, and the only bird calls heard were those of distant crows.

Finally, they reached a set of worn stone stairs which lead to a sparse hilltop. There they found the three intersecting fairy rings, just as the dryad had said, with the rune-covered stones standing in each. The first stone bore the word ‘book’, the second ‘shield’, and the third ‘sword’. Where the circles intersected were three smaller stones, almost like altars. These bore the rune for ‘friendship’. In the center of all three sat an even smaller stone with the rune for ‘flower’.

“So,” Row tapped her staff on the ground as they stared at the stones, “what now?”

“Um…” Dhashi shrugged hesitantly and nodded toward the book stone. “I guess we could try… putting a book on it?” She reached into her pack and produced one of the diaries taken from the followers of Bezos. Standing on her tip toes, she just managed to set it on top of the stone. The runes began to glow faintly. “Okay, progress!” She turned to the next stone and set her shield atop it, but nothing happened. “Maybe it’s a metaphorical shield?” she hazarded. “Something that protects?” Row’s hand went to the pendant of the goddess Selune hanging around her neck. Wordlessly, she removed the necklace and set it on the stone. The runes glowed brighter. Row’s scimatar then lit the runes of the ‘sword’ stone and a possibly magical breeze drifted over the hill. Dhashi clapped and bounced in place. “Yay teamwork! Okay, what’s next?”

The party turned to considering the smaller stones which bore the ‘friendship’ rune. “Maybe they represent us,” Row suggested. “Ilkan, you’re certainly not a book. You could be the friendship of sword and shield. Dhashi, you could be book and shield, and that would make me… book and sword.” Each stepped into their respective intersection; the wind increased and the air tasted of ozone. Dhashi gave a victorious bounce. “Yes! We are so gonna save this forest!”

With six stones down, the final one seemed easy. They gathered mountain wildflowers growing at the edge of the hill and placed them on the middle stone. The magical wind picked up again, but this time to gently blow the flowers off the stone. “Okay,” Dhashi frowned. “Maybe it’s a different kind. Can anyone make a folded paper flower?” Row grimaced but nodded. “I can try…” Dhashi handed her a piece of Hello Kitty themed parchment and the jenasi folded it into a little pink petaled flower. This time the wind didn’t knock it off – a little blue flame burst from the stone and turned the paper flower to ash. Row pursed her lips. “Well fine.” The party returned to considering the fickle stone. And considered. And considered. And considered.

“Bloody hell,” Unable to roll her eyes, Row gestured derisively to emphasize her frustration. “We probably have to hold hands or something disgusting like that.”

“OOH!” Before Row could take it back, Dhashi reached across to grab her companions’ hands in a surprisingly strong grip. “Go on!” she urged. “Hold hands, just try it!” Equally uncomfortable, Ilkan and Row grudgingly took hold of as little of each other’s hands as possible. To Row’s eternal chagrin, the definitely magical wind swirled even faster around the center stone and the three adventurers felt a massive pulse of magic sweep through them. With a burst the pressure and wind died away, leaving in their place a single white jasmine flower laying atop the stone.

“OH MY GOSH. We did it! Our friendship solved the puzzle!” Dhashi pointed to the flower. “I bet that’s what the dryad needs to heal her tree!” As she carefully collected the faintly glowing flower, Row and Ilkan remained silent, each desperately pretending nothing had happened. The endeavor was to be pointless, however, because Dhashi would never let them forget that friendship and teamwork had saved the day.

The end!!

#2051

“Dhashi, breakfast!” At the foot of the stairs, Joe listened for his daughter’s reply but met only silence. Stepping onto the first riser, the halfling called again, “Dhashi, breakfast!” with what he was sure was a much sterner tone. The teenager still didn’t stir. Finally, his husband Paul pushed him out of the way and bellowed up the stairs, “Dhashimri, you get your butt down here or you’ll be having dried turnips for breakfast instead of waffles!”

“Coming, Dad, coming!” Rapid footsteps heralded Dhashi’s graceless arrival in the kitchen, hair unbrushed and pajamas still askew. Neither father could blame her, though; of course she would want to sleep in on her last morning at home, especially when she’d be sleeping on the cold, hard ground tonight. Waffles, however, especially those served with extra strawberries and whipping creme to mark the occasion, could always be relied upon to get Dhashi out of bed. As could the threat of turnips.

“So are you nervous, sweetheart?” Paul asked as they ate, watching his daughter add sprinkles, powdered sugar, butter, and syrup to her waffles. “No,” she replied between giant bites, “just excited!” She went back to attacking her plate as if she hadn’t sneaked down to the kitchen for a midnight snack just hours before. “Because I was going to say,” her father continued as if she hadn’t spoken, “if you are, there’s no shame in waiting a few more days… or months…” Dhashi’s head shot up with a look of horror and she swallowed her current bite. “No, Pop! It has to be today! The oracle said the morning of the first new moon after my sixteenth birthday. If I don’t leave today, I might miss my magical destiny!” Her bright blue eyes wavered with unshed tears, and despite caring for the aasimar girl for almost all of her sixteen years neither father could tell if she was faking them or not.

“Joe,” Paul set his hand over his husband’s, giving it a sympathetic squeeze, “we talked about this…” Joe sighed and gave his husband an equally watery smile. “I know, I know. It just feels like I blinked and now she’s all grown up! The house will be so empty without her.”

“Our pantry won’t be,” Paul winked at his daughter as she loaded another waffle onto her plate, and even Joe managed to laugh.

– – –

“Do you have everything?”

“Yes, Pop,”

“You have your waterproof cloak?”

“Yes, Pop,”

“And extra socks?”

“Yes, Pop,”

“And parchment to write to us?”

“Yes, Pop, yes! I have everything!” Dhashi slumped in exasperation, almost capsizing herself with the weight of her pack. “Look at the sun – at this rate it’s going to be noon before I leave!” Joe chuckled and pocketed the extensive packing list; he had checked her bag three times already anyway. “Okay, okay,” he conceded. “If you’re not too grown up, can you give your old pop one last kiss?”

“I won’t be gone forever,” The girl rolled her eyes with a teenager’s self-conscious smile, but dutifully bent down to give her father a kiss and a hug. After he had nearly squeezed her in half, despite being half her size, she turned to Paul. “Here’s a snack for the road,” he said, depositing a cloth wrapped package into her expectant hands. “Be safe, okay? And remember, not everyone’s so nice as the folks around here.” Dhashi gave him another eye roll, fidgeting with eagerness to be off. “I knoooow, I know.” They hugged, Paul slipped a few extra gold pieces into Dhashi’s dress pocket, and she stepped back with a quick wipe of her eyes.

“Okay,” Dhashi took a deep breath and turned toward the waiting road. “This is it: the first step of my new adventure!” She waved one last time to her adoptive parents, grasped her staff, and started down the path to fulfill her magical girl destiny.

#2048

In which a familiar face returns…

Our new Dnd characters are in trouble, folks. We have Ilkan the goliath, Ro the blind fire jenasi, and Dhashi my magical girl aasimar. During their first big quest the trio got themselves cursed by an evil god trying to come back into the world. To break the curse they need to obtain blessings from all the other gods. They started with Amaunator, who required a special stone be returned to him before he would give his blessing. According to Amaunator, the stone was being studied by the local university, so our fearless heroes went to check out the geology department. They stopped by the first open office they found, but no one was inside.

The Great DM in The Sky: You see a name plaque with a very long, incomprehensible name on it. It appears to be in the tiefling language, which none of you can read.

Me: YESSSSSS.

My wife: Oh no…

A door on the back wall opened and a young tiefling woman popped her head in. Remr, true to form, looked completely frazzled yet unfailingly cheerful as she spotted her guests. “Oh!” She smiled at the strangers. “Hi! I didn’t know you were waiting! Um.” She glanced back into the lab beyond, where dark smoke was starting to drift out the door. “Let me just deal with this one little thing and then I’ll be with you!” She disappeared back into the lab, followed by several loud crashing sounds. Quietly to Ilkan, Ro asked, “Does she look as ridiculous as she sounds?” Ilkan nodded. Dhashi, ever on the lookout to help someone in need, called out, “Do you need assistance?”

“Oh, yes, that would be lovely!” Appearing back in the doorway, Remr gestured into the lab. “So, uh, you,” she pointed to Dhashi, “put out the fire. And watch for the rats, they’re venomous. But don’t hurt them! I’m studying them.” As Dhashi moved to put out the fire, Remr spotted Ilkan and pointed to him. “Tall! Rats. They might not kill you. Or maybe just more slowly. Actually, if you do get bitten, let me know; I want to study the venom’s effects on you. Could I possibly have a sample of your skin?” Ilkan wisely stayed quiet but did assist. Ro did nothing, unless you count muttering sarcastically under her breath. That appears to be her superpower.

After the fire had been stamped out and at least most of the venomous rats returned to their cages, Remr focused back on her guests. “So! Hi! Great to meet you all. What can I do for you?” Dhashi explained the situation and Remr, again true to form, agreed to help without questioning any part of their story. “But,” she added, “I don’t actually work in this department. I’m just sort of borrowing this office for now.” When she received three varying looks of distrust and confusion, she added, “I just, you know, sometimes I need to borrow an office so I just bring my name plate with me and it’s fine, no one minds. It’s cool.

“…Do you even work here?” Ro asked, half certain the tiefling was some random crazy person who had wandered into the university from the streets. Remr laughed, clearly not catching the intended insult. “Of course! Come on, let’s find your fancy rock.” She led them to the main lab, where they found the stone resting on a velvet cushion inside a glass case. Without hesitation, she took hold of the glass case, tossed it on the floor with an explosion of glass, and handed the stone over to Dhashi with a grin. “Here you go! Good luck on your quest, and do come visit sometime!”

“She was nice,” Dhashi said with a smile as they made their way back to the temple. If Ro had had eyes, she would have rolled them.

#2035

I’m starting another DnD session and so I wanted to create another character, that way I don’t mix story lines up. I am therefore pleased to present to you… Dhashi, my anime magical girl aasimar warlock! She is a precious bundle of joy whom the real world is probably going to crush. I’m so excited.

Name: Dhashimri (“Dhashi”)
Age: 16
Gender: Female
Race: Aasimar
Class: Warlock
Alignment: Lawful good
Level: 1
General physical description: About 5’6″, slim and slightly muscular (from helping on her parents’ farm), long silver-blond hair, pale skin, bright blue eyes (which may indicate she’s of a solar aasimar line)
Dress style: Whatever the DnD version of pastel lolita would look like, so sugary sweet and really not very practical for an adventurer, probably; also, she has a staff that transforms her into her magical girl outfit for fighting bad guys, the outfit being blue and white with white wings (she can’t use them to fly, though, they’re just pretty anime wings)
Religion: Like many aasimar, she follows the Mulhorandi pantheon (which just so happens to be based on Kemeticism, HOW COINCIDENTAL UNIVERSE), with Ma’at as her otherworldly patron
Weapon of choice: She uses a staff called the Staff of Justice, which was given to her by Ma’at; the staff can be used to transform into her magical girl outfit, as a staff, or as a kind of bow
Hobbies: Thwarting evildoers, making friends, helping people, being positive, baking
Random skills: Can cry on command, knows a lot about farming, is good with animals and kids
Strongest positive personality trait: She remains positive and solution-oriented in nearly any situation, and is happy to do whatever is needed of her to get the task done; she’s also a very loyal and protective friend
Strongest negative personality trait: She takes people at face value without questioning their motives or being otherwise suspicious of people who seem overly nice, and has a hard time accepting betrayal
Sense of humor: She laughs often and about many things, and enjoys puns; she does not approve of “dirty” humor, though, especially if it’s degrading to a group of people or done at the expense of someone’s feelings
Temper: She’s very hard to truly anger, and when betrayed or otherwise tricked she tends to get more sad and disappointed than angry
Consideration for others: She assumes the best of most people and is always ready to lend a helping hand, be it to rescue someone from a dragon’s lair or help an old lady safely cross the street
How other people see her: It depends on your own personality; jaded or cruel people will find her annoyingly optimistic and cutesy, but more generous people will think she’s very sweet and admire her dedication to doing good in the world
Opinion of herself: She strongly believes her destiny is to defeat evil wherever she finds it, but her conviction doesn’t make her arrogant or otherwise full of herself; she just honestly believes she will triumph over evil because she is kind-hearted and believes in the essential goodness of the world
Background: Something happened to her parents when she was an infant, and she was taken in by a same-sex halfling couple (tiny gay dads!) who raised her on their farm; they didn’t know at the time that she was an aasimar, but when her heritage became obvious they made sure to raise her knowing who and what she was, and encouraged her to seek her destiny beyond their tiny farm
Philosophy of life: Good will always triumph over evil if you try hard and have faith!
Most important thing to know about this character: She may be young and childish in some ways, but she is definitely serious about her destiny and will go to great lengths to accomplish her goals

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Other boring info for me to remember
Charisma: +2
Wisdom: +1
Armor: Light leather
Weapons: Besides her staff, two daggers and 20 “bolts” for her staff-turned-bow
Other items: Component pouch (for spell stuff), scholar’s pack (Book of Lore, bottle of ink, pen, parchment, bag of sand, small knife); also a piece of parchment which, when you draw someone on it and roll dexterity, can reveal the person’s deepest secret
Cantrips: true strike, sword burst
Spells: unseen servant, comprehend languages
Skills: Religion, Investigation
Vision: See 60 feet in dim light as if daylight, and in darkness as if dim light
Resistance: Necrotic and radiant damage
Languages: Common, Celestial, Halfling
Hit Dice: 1d8 per level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 8 + Constitution modifier

#2031

I’m starting another DnD campaign, so I decided to design my new character based on a character creation tarot spread from Tarot Sybarite. The reading ended up matching the character I was considering anyway, which I took as a sign that I should definitely use her. So I’ll be playing an aasimar warlock “magical girl” whose pact is with a celestial being. Think Cardcaptor Sakura meets DnD meets my need to create irritating but loveable characters. Personality details below, as per the reading:

Character archetype
The card: The Hanged Man
Interpretation: This character is on a journey to expand her worldview, and she is willing to put herself in uncomfortable or dangerous situations to do so. She seeks knowledge of the world, both good and bad, and is prepared to change and grow as necessary from these experiences. She has thus far lived a sheltered life, and has much to learn about the realities of the world.

Best personality trait
The card: The Page of Swords
Interpretation: This character is unfailingly honest and values truthfulness and kindness. She strives to be analytical and flexible in order to make the right decisions, but she does not fear or hide her emotions either. She feels confident that she is on the right path, and this confidence makes her a very direct, forthright person. Part of this honesty is her youthful, idyllic worldview, though, which may change as she comes to understand life is full of gray areas.

Worst personality trait
The card: 4 of Swords
Interpretation: This character never rests, as she feels she must always be acting to do right and correct wrongs. She doesn’t recharge her batteries or give herself time to meditate on the experiences she’s had and the lessons she’s learned. This can obviously be harmful to her, as she only has so much energy, but it can also be harmful to her party – or just make her really irritating to be around!

Motivation
The card: 2 of Pentacles
Interpretation: This character needs to learn to balance multiple obligations. She wants to help everyone and fix everything, but that isn’t always possible. Trying to do so stretches her too thin and causes her to neglect herself or put her party in danger. She’ll have to prioritize her ideals, which will cause a lot to internal conflict.

Goal
The card: Death
Interpretation: This character hopes to enact radical positive change in the world. Right now her worldview is very black and white, and she believes good can triumph permanently over evil. She’ll seek that goal until her experiences teach her otherwise. This radical change to her worldview and morality will be another outcome of the Death card as well.