Friday, April 24, 2009

Alassë, Alassë

We had been waiting for some time: Lotheryn was studying the terellor that she continued to carry, Anca was relaxing in silence (we soon realized that while Anca was given some of the attributes of elves during his transformation, he retained the powers of speech of a wolf; he could understand our speech, but Lotheryn was the only one who could understand his bestial language), and I was getting bored. Sariel appeared content to wait quietly, sometimes entering into a lively, one-sided conversation with her god, Garl. I left to pick up my flail from the smith and when I returned, I saw a half-elf woman talking to my companions.

I walked up to the group, “So, who is our new friend?”

The half-elf introduced herself, “I am Alassë, daughter and cleric of Torm the Lawmaker. I was just discussing some matters of faith with your friends. You must be Taran,” she smiled warmly as she touched her cheek in a manner of greeting.

“I am,” I said, as I felt a tug on my arm. It was Lotheryn.

“Taran, can I speak with you a minute in private?” She said as she practically dragged me away.

“What is it?” I asked. The druid had a very uncharacteristic look of annoyance on her face.

“Well, this cleric approached us and began giving us her spiel on her god. She seems very nice and respectful, but I can’t say I’m particularly in the mood for preaching at the moment. Meanwhile, our new 'adventuring partner,'" she cast a sidelong glance at Sariel, "is trying to convince Alassë that she needs to join our group, as mandated by Greg Gordglitter or whatever her god’s name is. Since then, it’s just been a lot of theological debate. I’ve been trying to mediate between the two, but this is beyond me.” Lotheryn said, exasperated.

“Alright,” I said as I patter her on the shoulder. “I’ll see if I can extract us from this so we can be on our way.”

Just as we were heading back to the group, we heard a rider approaching. It appeared to be a dwarf woman on a pony, riding at breakneck speed (well, breakneck for a dwarf on a pony – it was actually rather comical to see, a feeling I felt bad about a minute later). The dwarf woman rode up to us and stopped suddenly, out of breath and looking distraught. Apparently my day hadn’t been strange enough.

“Kardra?!?” Alassë exclaimed, lending a hand to the dwarf as she dismounted. “What brings you here?”

Kardra caught her breath. “It’s Bolgar! I…I waited as long as I thought was appropriate, but I had to tell someone.”

Something rang a bell. Bolgar…Bolgar...where had I heard that name? I listened as the woman continued, speaking directly to Alassë. “I didn’t tell you this when you left the church last week, but Bolgar sent word several weeks ago that he was almost home. He was stopping to see a friend in Winterhaven…”

“Wait!” I interjected. “Bolgar? Is he a cleric of Torm? Was he travelling in the Northern Reaches about a year ago?”

Now it was someone else’s turn to look confused for once. Alassë looked at me, perplexed, and asked, “How did you know that?”

I exchanged glances with Lotheryn and Anca. “Well, let’s just say that’s a longer story than we have time for. I’ll give you the condensed version. We happened across your friend while we were involved in our own expedition in the Northern Reaches. He was chronicling the history of the area as some sort of mission his god had put him on. He travelled with us for some time before we parted ways. Nice guy.” I left out the part about him being almost unbearably righteous, but the rest was true.

“Well, he’s missing!” Kardra blurted. Alassë looked stunned. The dwarf woman continued, “I didn’t tell you earlier, Alassë, because Bolgar didn’t want you interrupting your work to wait for his return. His message said that he was going to stop in Winterhaven and see how a friend there was getting along before he came home. I thought it was strange when he didn’t send word after a couple of weeks, but I knew something was wrong when his friend showed up at the church yesterday and told me he’d never seen Bolgar! I came here as fast as I could.”

Alassë sat down and put her head in her hands. This was obviously hitting her hard. She looked up finally. “I have to go find him,” she said determinedly. She got to her feet and clasped her hands around Kardra’s. “I will leave at once. Do not worry. With Torm’s blessing, I will return him safely to you and the church.”

“We are coming with you!” Sariel said, rather unexpectedly.

“What was that?” Alassë said, looking at the eladrin.

“What was that?” I asked, also looking quizzically at Sariel.

Sariel laughed and shook her head. “I knew you still didn’t believe me. I told you we had a quest we were waiting for. Garl revealed it to me. This is our quest. We must find this man. It is right that we do so.”

This is crazy, I thought. A new flail, a strange gnome-elf-woman from faerie land, a pious half-elf cleric, a distraught dwarf woman, and now a random quest I was supposed to embark on. I needed a large mug of ale. Badly.

I was thinking about which bar I should go to first, when Lotheryn spoke up. “Anca and I will go.” She looked at me. “Anca told me that he felt the urge to do this. I feel the same way. It IS right that we go. The man was very kind to us on our journey. We should find him.”

“Well, I guess I need to break in this new flail sometime, and I’m sure this will give me the opportunity. Let’s get to it then,” I said, secretly lamenting that I wasn’t going to get any ale. I wasn’t sure about Torm and Garl, but I trusted Lotheryn and Anca. If their instincts said it was right, then it wasn’t my place to argue.

The cleric looked shocked at our offer to help. She fell to her knees, closed her eyes and appeared to be praying. When she opened them, she looked at each of us and said, “What Torm has provided, it is not in my place to refuse. I thank you for your commitment.” She rose and turned to Kardra, who was still looking fairly pale. “This is a sign from Torm. He will bless our search. Keep yourself safe, and we will return.”

With that, we left the dwarf and made our way onto the road out of town. We began the journey to Winterhaven. As we travelled, Alassë shared with us her “testimony,” as she called it.

She grew up in a modest home with her elven father, half-elf mother, and six older brothers. She had travelled quite a bit as a child; her parents had been disciples of Torm and took the children with them on their mission trips. When she turned 12, she was enrolled in school at the local church, just as her brothers had done. Each of her brothers, save the one closest to her in age, had become paladins of Torm, and protected missionaries on their travels. The other brother, Aelar, nearest to her in both age and in personality, became disillusioned with the church. He had become increasingly contentious in his classes, until Alassë confronted him about it. Aelar revealed that he felt that Torm’s teachings were weak and created a mindless devotion to law and justice. He felt that he was being pushed, against his will, into subservience to a powerless god. The day after this conversation, Aelar’s 18th birthday, Alassë found that her brother was gone. He had taken all of his possessions and left the church for good. The family had not had contact with him since. I could hear the sadness in the cleric’s voice as she spoke of him. It was obvious that they had been very close.

Alassë, however, took to the church’s teachings with complete enthusiasm. She excelled in her religion and history courses. The half-elf loved to study the tenets of justice and law that were the main doctrines of Torm. She performed so well in her classes that one of the high priests, the aforementioned Bolgar, took her under his wing and trained her personally. He even taught her the language of the dwarves – a rare thing, since dwarves guard their native tongue closely. His hope was that she would become a cleric and a missionary for Torm, surpassing even her parents in service to the church, and possibly even spreading Torm’s message to secluded dwarven kingdoms. Bolgar became like a second father to her.

As her brothers before her, she also had a passion and a skill for melee combat. Almost impossibly, she worked just as diligently on her combat tactics as she did on her apologetics courses. By the time she was 18, she could recite entire chapters from the Torm’s Holy Book of Law while she was knocking down paladins twice her size with a morningstar. She was initiated on her 18th birthday as a cleric of Torm's church. Soon after, she began her missionary work. She alternated between travelling to regional dwarven clans to evangelize for Torm, and performing consulting work for local townships and colonies, helping them with their legal structure. (This last part sounded about as exciting to me as reading a book about the germination of fir trees, which I have already checked off my list of things to do before I die, as you may recall). She had been making these trips for the last 10 years. Three of those years were spent on an extended journey across the Olarian Sea, sailing from island to island, teaching the clans of humans that she found there, and helping reveal to them what she referred to as the Light of Torm.

As diligent and successful as Alassë was in her work throughout these years, she noticed that Bolgar seemed less and less content every time she returned to her home church. The dwarf, normally jovial, was often brooding and spoke gruffly to those who approached him. On her homeward journey from a mission, roughly a year and a half ago, the half-elf decided that she needed to find out what was at the root of the old cleric’s issues. When she arrived, she found that Bolgar was gone. He had left her a note:

Dearest Alassë,

I am so proud of the work you are doing in the name of Torm. If the rest of us had half your determination, this world would never know injustice again. I apologize for my attitude in recent times. Without a pupil like you into whom I can pour my knowledge, I have not felt at peace. I feel that Torm has a new calling for me. He is asking me to travel to a distant land called the Northern Reaches. I do not know His purpose (who ever really does?), but possibly He means it as a scouting expedition for beginning a new church there. Pray that I may complete His task and return safely.

I will be gone for some time. See that Kardra is well taken care of and spend time with her when you can.

In Torm’s Law,

Alassë was saddened by her mentor’s departure, but she knew that Torm’s will was not something to be questioned. She praised her god for his wisdom and continued with her work. She was in the middle of a consulting trip to the city when she found us.

And so here we were, five travellers on our way to a town called Winterhaven - Anca, Lotheryn, Sariel, Alassë, and I. A mute shapeshifter, a nature-obsessed druid, a lighthearted religious faerie warrior, a pious half-elf cleric, and me, ranger of the wilds, hunter of orcs, and lover of fine ales. (Also a damned fine writer, if I did say so myself.) This was an eclectic group, to be sure.

It could be worse, I thought as we continued down the road. I could still be with that crazy gnome...

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