The Coming of the Astar Uln, Part 12

She wished she could count the rain drops. They came through the air in an ever increasing rate, causing a beautiful anxiety to well up in her stomach. Gwenich was anticipating something, though what it was she did not know. There was something in the very air itself that she couldn’t quantify. It was like the charged electricity before a storm but different. It was softer and more deadly. It felt like whatever waited behind it all could tear the world apart.

The thought made her quiver. She wrapped her freckled arms around her torso, letting them come to rest beneath the bulge of her stomach. She wasn’t really afraid, though. Not really. This thing was big, perhaps larger than anything she’d ever known, but it was no more dangerous than an ocean or the dark of night. These things were above intention, ill or good. The Mirlethian long ago stopped trying to put human meanings to such things.

Gwenich had seen seventeen summers in her native Mirlethia. She would be hard pressed to describe her parents, her memories of them being vague shapes and names. The sound of her mother’s voice was very distinctive in her thoughts, though she couldn’t remember a singular conversation they had. She was in her fourth year when they were killed by Dezeldenian raiders from across the river. Gwenich herself had been left tied among the carrion, an offering to whatever animals might come along.

Ingdol found her first, however. The ranger was traveling alone through the area. He was drawn by the smoke of her burning village. While she could not much remember her parents, her recollection of Ingdol constructing a great pyre and burning the bodies of the fallen was incredibly clear. She could still feel the heat of the fire and smell the sickening scent as nearly 200 of her kinsman we’re burnt in the great conflagration. She did not feel a sadness, however. Gwenich had cried during the raid, and continued to do so when they tied her to the remains of her home. When Ingdol found her and cut her bonds, she immediately ceased.

She had never cried since.

A loud crack of thunder punctuated the sudden strong gust of wind. She put her head down against it, her red curls streaming around her face and clinging there, soaked from the unrelenting rain. She could hear yells from inside the cave, but she did not care. They would not notice she was gone. Aside form Ingdol, they did not notice if she was there. At times she wondered if she was a ghost.

Ingdol had raised her ever since he took her away from that great pyre. When Vjorn Germain had ordered him on this scouting expedition, he had accepted and requested that Gwenich come with him. The Vjorn didn’t care either way, and so it was that she rode on the long ship that took them to the Elven shores.

When they brought the elf back to the cave, Gwenich could not help but watch him when no one was looking. He had pointed ears and was so slight! Even at 17, her heavy frame dwarfed his. There was a certain chaos about him as well, something she felt more than saw. He had a number of tics as he spoke and would often trail off or rapidly switch topics. Before Qua’ Jon, she had only heard tales of elves. They had not prepared her for the reality.

She was also there the first time Eernon commanded him to do magic. How wonderful it was! Gwenich watched as he pulled power from the midst of Samsarras itself. It was not like it was coming from the soil; it was more like the Samsarras she usually saw was the hides covering a door. The Elf had simply reached behind the door and pulled something marvelous from with in.

The storm that raged around her now was somehow like the Elf, but it wasn’t his doing. She could tell. He was waiting for whatever was behind the hides as well. They’d part when they were ready, but it seemed like the tension just built every moment until it it couldn’t possibly continue. Each lighting bolt was destined to be the one she waited for, every thunder clap was the one that would announce the climax. It hadn’t happened yet, however. The rain continued to fall harder, the thunder became louder, and the wind blew faster. It now came so fast that her fur lined cloak flew behind her, snapping like a whip.

Gwenich could barely see, so offensive was the down pour. The sound and fury isolated her from everything else, leaving her to dwell completely within herself. She thought of fires and clouds. She thought of ravens and Ingdol’s dogs that he left behind. She closed her eyes and thought about how small Mirlethia seemed. Not just Mirlethia, no; all of Samsarras was like a pebble on the beech. For a moment, she felt indistinct, as if she were the rain and the wind. More so, it was if everything was the rain and the wind.

She opened her eyes again, her mouth dropping into an “O”. Gwenich’s eyes widened impossibly as she confronted the sight in front of her. Each rain drop was a distinct color now, falling so slowly that she could count the seconds as each one made its way to the ground in front of her eyes. Everything had slowed, the wind still violently pushing the trees around her, but their now leafless branches waved at a snails pace. As each drop hit the ground, it exploded into a fiery slow motion prism.  The flashes threatened to blind her.

The Mirlethian’s head turned with deliberateness, matching the pace of everything around her. She gazed back toward the cave now, somehow seeing it despite it being 30 paces away. Qua’Jon stood in the mouth of it, child like joy splayed across his face. Their gazes locked for a moment and he was all she could see. Every angle of his face filled Gwenich’s vision and he almost looked fake, like some great facade a God pasted over a star so it would look real.

Then came the jagged bolt of lightning from the heavens, followed closely by the boom that deafened them all. The light that followed was blinding and complete. The world faded from view to be replaced by a clear brightness the likes of which she would never see again.

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Digging in the Sand

Bones. So many bones. How many people have been buried here?

You find a rusty long sword and a small, golden vulture head worth 250 gp.

Red Sand

The sand here on the edge of the sacrificial ground is loose and looks recently churned.

Vulture Priest

The Vulture Priests are the enemy of knowledge and enlightenment. They seek to bring the eternal silence, the end of all things. Decay and obedience is their only god.

Armor Class 6 [13]
Hit Dice 1 (4hp)
Attacks 1 × Beak (1d4 or by weapon)
THAC0 19 [0]
Movement 120’ (40’)
Saving Throws D12 W13 P14 B15 S16 (1)
Morale 8 (11 when at their temple)
Alignment Lawful
XP 10 
Number Appearing 2d4 (1d6 × 10)
Treasure Type D
Immune to the Divine: The spells and powers of clerics and paladins have no effect on them.
Weapons: They frequently use wickedly curved daggers, which they use for sacrificial purposes.
Soul Clouders: There is a 10% chance that any Vulture Priest can use the sleep spell once per day. The targets are still awake, but they are beset by such a deep depression that it has the same effect as sleep. They may only watch what unfurls around them.