VI. Memories and Mythals
Onyx and Imoen were up early the next morning, wading in the warm, clear water of the beach and cleansing themselves after the previous night's bacchanalia.
Onyx looked over at his twin sister, born of the same mother as well as father, her wet pinkish hair hanging about randomly and her small frame waving back and forth in the gentle ebb of the water. Imoen smiled back at Onyx's caring gaze, reading his thoughts, which he as always happily made clear to her.
"Ya know, Onyx, it's funny," she smiled. "Even before we knew we were brother and sis - well, I think we both sorta knew." Onyx agreed mentally, as he had many times before. "We sure always acted like it."
She pressed her hand over Onyx's cheek and called into his mind shared memories.
Onyx and Imoen were eight years old. They were chasing each other energetically through a hilly field, Candlekeep and the Sea of Swords both in view. The sea winds were blowing in high and rustling the grass and Imoen's wild hair, and the sky was overcast, but the sun lit the sky through it and was cheery despite the gray.
Imoen pointed and screamed as a pair of small kobolds came around a bush. Onyx yelled and threw a large rock at one but missed. Imoen threw a smaller rock and managed to bean one across the forehead, momentarily stunning it, but the other one came charging with a crude short sword. Onyx picked a thick stick off the ground and stepped in front of Imoen, parrying the kobold's first clumsy swipe and then swatting the kobold. His stick broke on his next parry and the sword grazed his forearm. He lunged into the kobold and strangled it angrily while Imoen kept throwing rocks at the other one. Screaming with rage in a boy’s voice, Onyx broke his foe's neck and picked up the short sword as it fell to the ground. He raised it high and charged the second kobold angrily, but the creature turned and ran with a squeak. The boy caught up to it and swung the sword into the kobold's back. It fell to the ground paralyzed and Imoen watched in fright as Onyx continued to swing at it.
"Dontcha ever attack people!" Onyx cried in angry tears as he mercilessly hacked apart the helpless kobold. "Dontcha ever attack my friend Immy!" He felt the righteous determination in his blood turn to pure rage and he had strange visions, seeing himself not as a boy with a sword but as a strange grisly monster with fangs and claws, a pure slayer.
As Imoen continued to watch, she felt her initial shock turn to curiosity, her eternal curiosity, and studied her friend's slices and shouts as well as the mutilated body of the kobold. "It's dead..." she sighed, "death is...pretty." She had strange visions of herself watching a human - no, not quite a human - a man being mutilated, unable to make herself not watch.
They returned to the present. I didn't even remember that, Onyx thought to his telepathic sister, I remember killing some kobolds around Candlekeep, but I didn't remember everything.
"It's been a very long journey, brother," she sighed, the haunting look of the fallen-from-innocence Imoen coming over her, accentuating her forehead-to-cheek scar. "We've come along way. Or have we?"
Onyx showed Imoen his thoughts of how he still fought his most difficult battles with wrath and rage charging his blood. He showed Imoen his battle with Animaul, only yesterday, and how he with his own primitive urges during that fight had been as beastlike as Animaul. Not the tranquil resoluteness that the other highest paladins claimed to feel, as Keldorn had in life. Imoen pressed her hand to Onyx’s cheek again and showed him how sometimes, when she cast her most destructive spells at opponents or skewered them through with arrows or daggers, she couldn't help but look with her great curiosity at the way their bodies writhed, bled, burned, or disintegrated as they died. The looked deep into each other's eyes, wondering many things. Was this wrong? If their foes were evil? If it was what helped them fight at their best? Was it their parentage - Bhaal? Weren't they rid of his taint? What about the mother that had birthed them together? From her? Was it simply that within their own selves which can be ascribed to nothing else? What makes us us?
Onyx put his hand over Imoen's on his own cheek, and they shared their thoughts freely as one mind. Their thoughts wandered. Onyx thought of and looked down at Imoen herself.
You are so beautiful, he thought to his sister, I always thought so, why did it never strike me a certain way? Somehow we always acted like brother and sister, but how?
I know, Onyx, Imoen thought back, we were always close, closest, even after you began pursuing girls in Candlekeep. And it was never like that between us, and neither one of us even thought to wonder about that until many years later. It really is like we always knew. Imoen showed Onyx another memory.
Thirteen-year-old Onyx was fast asleep in his bedroom, as was Gorion in the next room. All was silent and dark. Then a movement in the shadows. Imoen darted into the room, resisting the urge to giggle as she looked over her unaware, sleeping friend. She knelt by the side of his bed and reached under it, feeling for something specific, which she then found. His secret chest. She pulled it out from under the bed with the painstaking slowness necessary to stay quiet. She carried it over to a nearby patch of moonlight cast by a window and set it there. She felt along the front for the lock with one hand while pulling two wires out of her pocket with the other. Then she stuck the wires in the keyhole and began manipulating them carefully. A minute later, a popping sound came from within the mechanism and Imoen briefly gritted her teeth, then exhaled in relief as she heard Onyx's rhythmic breathing continue. She opened the chest and grinned with delight as moonlight spilled over its contents. A swordfighting manual - boring. A storybook about knights and dragons - boring. A mediocre sketch of two stick figure armies having at each other - boring. A fancifully unflattering sketch of a teacher - slightly amusing. All the letters she had ever written him and passed him during lessons - sweet, but nothing new there. More letters - wait, that doesn't look like my paper folding or handwriting – forgetful Phyldia! - very interesting. I remember them. The last one - obviously concerning the breakup - sad. Another one, carefully rolled instead of folded. Hey, this is Onyx's writing! Signed it too. A sonnet? For Araschel? Looks like the ink has been dry for a week though. She looked up at her sleeping friend and grinned mischievously. I think it's time Araschel received this. First thing before lessons tomorrow.
They returned to the present.
“You know,” Onyx laughed, “as soon I found Araschel the next morning and she had my sonnet, I knew it was you, Immy. Who else could have – or would have – done that?”
“You better thank me, Ony! You two really fell in love….”
“…and then her parents took her to Kara-Tur…”
“…and there she had your son Kan, and it weren’t for him, that vile Cyran might be sitting on our father’s throne right now! Ugh – mean ol’ Cyricspawn.”
“You know, sis, you’ve been as great a force as I or anyone else on everything that’s come to pass.”
“No way, bro! You’re the one!”
“Well, sis, we’ve been beside each other the whole way.” Except when I failed to keep you out of Irenicus’s clutches…
“It’s okay, Ony,” Imoen consoled, reading his thoughts. “Hey, let’s get some breakfast! You slice, I’ll cook!” she let an amusing wisp of fire leap from her palm.
They walked back up the beach hand in hand. They noticed Minsc, passed out next to the bonfire, reeking of tequila and covered in food bits, surrounded by other revelers. Then Imoen pointed out Yoshimo and some natives hidden under the low fronds of a copse of low palm trees, in a largely similar circumstance but with less food – or clothes. Now, where were Anomen and Jade?
Onyx eagerly sliced some vegetables with his vorpal axe. “Mmm,” Imoen grinned, “vorpal blades slice open the cells, y’know, that really brings out the flavor!” Imoen shot a burning arc of fire out from her hands and started to cook the food.
When they next looked up, they noticed two other figures were now down on the beach. It was Anomen and Jade, sitting a respectable distance apart and each absorbed in respective prayers to Helm and Qotal. Onyx and Imoen peered at the footprint trails behind them through the sand, and grinned to each other when they noticed that the two parallel trails quickly grew much closer together and eventually ended at the door to Jade’s cabana.
As the smells of breakfast wafted across the camp, Anomen and Jade joined them after finishing their prayers, as did a few others after waking, but Minsc and Yoshimo were still out cold.
A scout rushed into the camp and stood before Jade, speaking to her in hurried Maztican.
“It would seem,” Jade translated for her friends, “that Yamash is sacrificing our enslaved people to summon a horde of demons!”
“We must reclaim the city immediately!” Anomen leapt up, waving his fist in the air.
“There is more,” Jade translated as the scout continued to speak, “it would seem Yamash has raised some sort of shield around the city, and this scout’s partner was slain trying to pass through. Imoen, could this be one of those magical constructs you spoke of your Farworld allies using?”
“A mythal, I think so,” Imoen hung her head, “Well, an evil one. I don’t know how we could dispel one, but I can communicate with someone who might…
Meanwhile, it was evening in Suldanesellar, and Aerie was supping with Ellisime in the queen’s dining chamber. Aerie felt a familiar tingling that she recognized as Imoen’s telepathy.
Heya Aerie, Imoen thought, things are pretty shaky here in Maztica.
Aerie thought back, things aren’t so good here. How’s Onyx?
Oh, you shoulda seen him fight yesterday! We got assaulted right on the beach and…oh sorry I should get to the point….well okay he says he loves and misses you very much, and just between you and me I haven’t caught him so much as look at any of the girls here….oh sorry there I go again. Actually, I need to talk to you and Ellisime I think, and with a priestess here, it’s…
Hmmm I’ve got an idea, Aerie interrupted her babbling sister-in-law. Jan has this great magical invention for group telepathy. Let me see if I can find him.
Hey there, Aerie! Jan Jansen thought from his turnip-shaped home as he felt Aerie divining his presence in the slums district.
Hey, Jan! So don’t you have some invention for group telepathy?
You betcha, girl! Jan grew excited that someone was actually interested in one of his inventions - must come with her being raised by a gnome. I call in Athkatla-On-Line but it works
anywhere, you know, the way I thought of it is…
Okay, great! Aerie interrupted him. I’ve got Ellisime here in Suldanesellar and Imoen over in Maztica.
Right away! Jan chirped in his head. Aerie could sense him banging around on one of his lab tables. Jan found it – a crystal ball with a bunch of buttons attached to its pedestal. He started punching them and the crystal began to glow…
“Welcome! You’ve got mail!” it sang.
***Welcome to Athkatla-On-Line. You are in “The Turnip Room”***
***JanJansenGnome has entered the thinkroom***
***AngelGirl has entered the thinkroom***
***QueenyElf has entered the thinkroom***
***LilImmy has entered the thinkroom***
JanJansenGnome: Hello everyone. This is my new invention, I call in Athkatla-On-Line and it allows us to telepathically communicate, or “telecommunicate,” with each other! Actually, my cousin Stevcase Jansen helped me invent it. He thought of it when he ran a café near Sigil University and desperately needed to find out the recipe for Flaming Turnip Crepes but his cookbook was back here with me, and he really needed the recipe because his foul-tempered tiefling brat customers were threatening to summon their parents, who were needless to say pit fiends,…
LilImmy: ::groan:: Okay, maybe I should just get to my point. btw, this is Imoen.
QueenyElf: A wise idea, Imoen. What is your concern?
LilImmy: Well, it seems there’s this really mean evil priest here called Yamash and he’s taken over the main city Temactitlan here and enslaved a bunch of people! We were going to go try and retake the city, but then he raised a mythal! And I thought you had a way of bringing them down?
QueenyElf: Normally yes, a pair of statuettes, but that brings me to the grave news we have for you as well – they have been stolen, by Sarevok’s thieves no doubt.
AngelGirl: It’s terrible! If he has them, he can bring down our mythal too on the next full moon! L
LilImmy: Oh no Aerie! That is terrible. :’(
QueenyElf: Our martial and magical defenses are still strong and we will repel Sarevok’s forces.
AngelGirl: What about Imoen’s mythal, Ellie? Do you know any other way she can bring it down?
JanJansenGnome: Actually Imoen you wouldn’t happen to have a Selune’s Tear over there would you? What about you elven beauties in Suldanesellar?
QueenyElf: Yes, we have one, but why?
AngelGirl: Oh Jan I think I remember you telling me a story about these. Are you thinking what I think you are?
LilImmy: I’ve heard of those…there’s someone here, she uses ‘pluma’ magic, who knows the local turf a lot better than me. Jan, she’s right beside me, can you pick her up?
JanJansenGnome: No prob, kiddo! Here we go!
***MazticaBabe has entered the thinkroom***
MazticaBabe: What? Where am I? Imoen, is that you in my head?
LilImmy: Hey Jade! This is an invention of my friend’s!
MazticaBabe: What will you Farworlders think up next?
JanJansenGnome: Just be glad there aren’t any spamfiends on today. When my cousin and I first started showing this off, apparently some demons from the Primarily Immaterial Plane called ‘spamfiends’ got into the system and see, these spamfiends run around blasting all these worthless messages over Athkatla-On-Line like ‘make gold FAST’ ‘XXX drow picz’ ‘higher STR in days’ ‘secrets of immortality’
QueenyElf: Jade, do you have a ‘Selune’s Tear’ over there? A gem which refracts moonlight?
MazticaBabe: Ah, I think I know of a gem like that, but sadly it was stolen by Yamash when he was banished long ago. It’s still in Chuzpatol (where the Zaltecans were hiding until their recent conquest). Why?
QueenyElf: As much as I hate to say this, Jan, could you explain?
JanJansenGnome: Why certainly miss Ellisime. You see, I have a nephew-in-law Isaac Jansnewton, who’s a brilliant illusionist by the way, and apparently he’s discovered that you can reflect certain kinds of magical energy through Selune’s Tears like a prism! I have his book ‘Optimagica’ (which I highly recommend Ellisime, since you’re immortal you might actually be able to read it cover-to-cover) and Chapter CCLXXII details their application to mythals and apparently when one gets dispelled it’s theoretically possible to use a Selune’s Tear to refract the energy to somewhere else, where another Tear could realign the weavelengths back into a dispelling that could take down another mythal!
LilImmy: But we’re half a world away, Jan! How would we get the beam from Faerun to Maztica?
JanJansenGnome: Well missy it would be possible to reflect the beam off the moon if the Selune’s Tears on each end were angled just right to send it there and then catch it. Of course, the moon would have to be up in both Faerun and Maztica, but if Sarevok attacks at dawn like he always does (I just love these by-the-book tyrants, you know I had a great-great-great-uncle Napoleon Jansen who always did that, and he finally got defeated at the Battle of Waterpoo - Smili Humpersen’s Historica Martia Gnomica, Volume XXIV - because his enemies developed an attack-him-first-five-minutes-BEFORE-dawn strategy) then the moon should be up. It’ll be round about midnight in Maztica, Immy. If you get the Tear, just hold it up to catch the moonlight and be sure to aim the point of the Tear at the mythal! Why, it’s almost as simple as making a Turnip Sandwich. Say, that gives me a craving…
LilImmy: Well getting’ that Tear from Chuzpatol sounds like thief’s work to me! Yoshi and I are on our way! J
AngelGirl: Hey Immy send me some beach-pics of Onyx!
LilImmy: LOL ok!
MazticaBabe: Perhaps the innovations of the Farworld are actually useful after all. (jk) I thank you. May Qotal bless you in your defense of Suldanesellar.
***MazticaBabe has left the thinkroom***
***AngelGirl has left the thinkroom***
***QueenyElf has left the thinkroom***
***LilImmy has left the thinkroom***
JanJansenGnome: Hmmm I wonder who else is around?
***ThayvianGenius has entered the thinkroom***
***NecromancerX has entered the thinkroom***
ThayvianGenius: Hey Xzar why aren’t there any spamfiends around today? I need my fix. (No mortal on here could possibly be worth talking to, their simian minds are too primitive).
NecromancerX: Yes yes what a rip!!!! Hey I found this great place on the World Wide Weave today…I’ll send you the link just a sec…tons of drow picz!!!
JanJansenGnome: Are there any with turnips???
Imoen and Yoshimo were running quickly through the mountains, through dense foliage, past waterfalls, and over bare patches of rocks. At last, as night began to fall, they came to an outcropping overlooking Chuzpatol. The ruins were nestled between it and another outcropping. The two thieves looked over the crumbling walls and columns of the ruins. Jaguar knights could be seen patrolling below, looking about for intruders and even smelling the air for them. Imoen pulled out her spyglass and looked across the ruins. In the darkness, she caught a glint of moonlight reflected from the middle of the ruins. She looked closer and could see a room, its ceiling long gone, with a tiny stone pyramid in the middle. The moonlight was sparkling off an object at its top.
“The Tear!” she whispered to Yoshimo, pointing. He had pulled out his spyglass and soon found it too. “Think we could get through the shadows past the guards?”
“There might be hishnashapers down there who could divine us,” Yoshimo shook his head.
“Maybe we can creep across the tops of the walls and columns?” Imoen suggested.
“That might work…or we could just sail over them completely,” he grinned and pulled a special crossbow out of his pack. He loaded it with a grappling-hook bolt and tied a rope through a loop on the rear end of the bolt. He tied the other end of the rope firmly around a boulder behind them. Aiming carefully through the crossbow’s scope, he squeezed the trigger and the crossbow fired and the bolt flew over the ruins, grappling into a fissure on the other rock outcropping. Yoshimo tied a slack-knot into the rope and adjusted it until the rope was taut. He tried pulling back with all his might but it wouldn’t budge. Satisfied, he repacked his crossbow.
Downing a potion of invisibility, Imoen wrapped herself around the rope and began to shimmy over the ruins, hanging from the rope with her hands and thighs around it. Yoshimo followed in suit. Soon Imoen was hanging over the pyramid itself, around which four jaguar knights stood, and Yoshimo was hanging over the one door to the open-air room. The two thieves exchanged knowing glances and Imoen let her hands go from the rope and hung down. She began to move her hands and chant under her breath while Yoshimo drew a small gadget from his pocket. As Imoen completed her spell, a stinking cloud descended over the room and the guards hit the ground, unconscious. Yoshimo immediately threw his device onto the ground in the doorway, and a sticky net trap immediately sprung out and blocked the only entrance to the room. Hearing the four guards fall, other jaguar knights immediately came running but soon found themselves stuck to the web in the doorway, blocking it further.
Yoshimo shimmied over to Imoen and then grabbed her ankles. Imoen unwrapped her legs and fell from the rope completely, hanging upside down from Yoshimo’s hands. Her pink hair brushed over the Selune’s Tear and she reached down and grabbed it. She tied it carefully within a pouch on her leather outfit, and then Yoshimo began to rock back and forth and she leaned to reinforce the motion. They went back and forth like a pendulum, using bodily motions to go higher and higher each time, and eventually they went high enough for Imoen the grasp the rope again. Yoshimo helped her get her legs wrapped around the rope, then grabbed it with his hands too, and then the two thieves shimmied back to their outcropping. Leaving the rope for the guards to mull over, they ran off into the mountain jungle.
Onyx was standing on the beach, idly hurling Hangard’s Axe at a palm tree over and over as it reappeared in his hand each time. Without quite intending to but also without quite being vigilant against it, he inadvertently succeeded in weakening the trunk to the point where it folded over and collapsed, sending the head crashing into the sand and a few coconuts rolling down the beach. As one reached the water, was swept up in the waves, and floated away, Onyx looked a short ways down the beach and saw Anomen waist-deep in the water, surrounded by a dozen Maztican youths.
The twelve formed a semicircle in the water around Anomen, all watching intently as he preached. Then he shouted a name and one waded forward. Anomen reached out a hand and cupped he back of his head, then chanted a few words and firmly dunked his head under the water. The youth emerged again after a few moments, shouting a joyous chant that echoed the priest’s. The other eleven each came forward in turn.
How about that, Onyx thought as he folded his arms and smiled. The Disciples of Anomen.
Sarevok watched from a high balcony of the Male Fighters Society at his forces arrayed below, prepared to march out. The banners of Zhentil Keep, Shar, and the Bloodaxe Clan were held high. Fighters, clerics, or mages; humans, elves, or dwarves; all were in formation together awaiting his commands.
“I shall never tire of leading bloodthirsty hordes across Faerun!” Sarevok laughed.
“Simpleminded male,” Viconia sneered. “Why can’t we just enjoy a few unholy ceremonies and a ritual sacrifice or two in the comfort of our own Underdark palace?”
“Conquer!! Destroy! Desecrate!!!! Blast! Burn!” Xzar babbled. “Electrocute! Dissolve! Wither! Poison! Freeze! Disintegrate! Incinerate! Annihilate!…”
“…Crush! Smash! Bash!…” Tazok added.
“Don’t count your dragons before they hatch (how many times have we been resurrected)?” Edwin muttered.
“Cheer up, ye bleedin Thay-dog!” Korgan snarled. “Asks yerself how many times theys had to ressur-whatsit whats been on Korgan’s axe! Har har! Whar’s me mead?”
“Or me hobbit-girlies?” Montaron grinned. “De elves be nothing but skin n bones! But tha Suld’ have riches fer Monty to pick, and den da half-lasses comes ta him!”
“If you were just a little taller…” Safana rolled her eyes, looking disappointed, while dabbing enchanting perfume on her wrists and blowing some in Coran’s face.
“Enough chatter!” Sarevok sighed and drew an enormous warn horn. He sounded it thrice, the front gates of Ust Natha opened, and the army began to march.
VI. Memories and Mythals
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