Aldrial shifts in her seat for the third time in two minutes. She is very proud of her calm elven demeanor yet the girl of just sixteen across from her is somehow unnerving. Through her travels and experiences, she has met princess and princesses, warlords and warriors, but never one quite like Elena Goodright. She continues…
Aldrial: “So, Elena, where were we?”
Elena: You were prattling on about how you thought these people are figments of my imagination.
Aldrial: Well, Elena, you have gone through a lot of terrible things recently. Being held for ransom by those thugs who then attacked your father must have been just awful. Awful. And now you must take care of your ailing father during his convalescence. This is a lot for a young girl to handle, don’t you think?
Elena: Yes, it was so terrible. I hate her. I hate them.
Aldrial: You speak of the sorceress again?
Elena: I don’t even know her name, but she was the one who blasted me with her wicked sorcery, throwing me down into the pit. I was so scared!
At this point Elena begins to sob and Aldrial, an experienced counselor for those in the town of Fallcrest and surrounding villages, hands Elena a fine silk handkerchief with which to dry her big, doe eyes. The girl is exceptionally beautiful and Aldrial cannot help but be drawn to her plight. Yet there is a maturity and cleverness about the girl which is alarming and sometimes even frightening. Elena continues to sob and as she does, Aldrial updates her notes:
Elena’s obsession with this sorceress is most concerning. Although she claims that this person is real, it is hard to verify. There are numerous stories about the murderous thugs, with some claiming that two beautiful spell casters were part of the gang, but this does not make sense. It is known that a cleric attacked her father, who still struggles to overcome his injuries and fears. Elena tirelessly takes care of him. Such a burden. Luckily her uncle has come to assist Elena and her father. I will continue to explore Elena’s fantasies, for I believe that the characters in them are manifestations of her personality and hence reflections of herself. Only through understanding of these dimensions of Elena can true healing come.
If Aldrial had been paying more attention, she would have noticed frequent glances from behind that silk handkerchief, checking to see the reaction of the audience. Now, it had been too long and Elena let Aldrial know it:
Elena: Hey, stupid, stop writing! Aren’t you supposed to give your attention to me rather than that dumb notebook? I’m paying you the hard earned money of my dear father, may he recover soon.
Aldrial: I’m sorry Elena. Let’s continue where we left off last session. Where were we?
Elena: The elf joined them.
Aldrial: Who is this elf? I have not heard of him before.
Elena: I don’t know his name. I can only see them, but he is a devilishly handsome rogue, sent on a mission of great importance, to be sure. I hope the thugs do not kill him off.
Aldrial: Interesting, and you have a fondness for this rogue? I though it was another “devilishly handsome rogue”, the one with the fedora and whip, who was part of the gang who held you for ransom. I should think that you despise rogues.
Elena: Oh. Yes. I despise rogues. Terrible. Taking people’s valuables. But this elf is so handsome!
Elena’s cheeks glow. Her cute little smile and teenage innocence soften Aldrial’s suspicions and concern for Elena’s emotional state. She is but a young girl who’s mind is still forming as she grows into adulthood.
Elena: Well, the elven rogue caught up to the thugs after they tricked their way past the ogre. How clever they are. (Elena’s eyebrows grow closer together for emphasis.) So now the there were six thugs in all: the elven rogue, a big ugly dragonborn, a short ugly dwarf, a dashing ranger – oh, the muscles on him! – a wizard, and lustful, gorgeous sorceress. Sigh!
Aldrial: Do you think the sorceress represents you?
Elena: What? Stop with that you worn-out whore! Just because you lost your looks so many moons ago doesn’t mean I’m like you, imagining I’m pretty. I know I’m beautiful. I don’t need to imagine it. Maybe it’s you who wants to be like me! You give yourself to any man with power. Men with power give themselves to me!
With this outburst Aldrial is quite taken aback. The stunning criticism is actually all too accurate as there have many dalliances and schemes. Aldrial’s mind spins with the realization that Elena may know more than teenage gossip. Many things had been done to gain wealth and importance and Aldrial had done her best to keep them secret, but all secrets are shared, somehow. Her husband, home and clothes speak of nobility but her deeds are much less. Eyes cast down, Aldrial throws her best professional voice and tells Elena to continue.
Elena: (Returning to a sweet voice.) The thieves crept into the barracks of the noxious troglodytes. The odor was so horrible that getting near them would cause the thugs’ eyes to sting and their lungs to burn. The mighty ranger’s arrow slew the first one. Went straight through the trot’s eye and out the back! (Elena’s face shows her excitement with the gory detail.) Then the handsome rogue stabbed a sleeping troglodyte right through the heart! (Elena’s voice reveals her thrill in this.) The obnoxious wizard burned one. You know, that wizard could be really hot if she just got some manners and sense. So, like, totally a spa! Now, the sorceress, she’s got it all together. Hot body. Long, thin legs. Gorgeous face and flaming red hair. Oh, to die for, not to mention an absolutely killer attack on her enemy’s mind. Took one of those nasty trogs out too.
Aldrial: You don’t have to compare yourself to anyone. You are a charming young lady…
Elena: Okay, if this continues maybe I’ll talk to your husband about some of your indiscretions. Is the mayor up for reelection?
Elena: So, the battle seemed to be going well for the thieving thugs, but the little troglodyte with the bodacious skull mask was a mean little bastard curse chanter. His staff would release this poison and one time it hit the wizard. So wicked, but not like the stuff you slip into someone’s drink. It weakened her. The dragonborn had this cool trick, some kind of spirit companion that he’d unleash on the troglodytes. Sometimes they took on the form of panthers. I need a pair of those. Let’s see those thugs come after daddy again when those are around!
Aldrial: Speaking of your father, what ever happened to the man who attacked him? Why is he not in these visions you have?
Elena: Oh, him. I don’t know. I’ll bet he got greedy and wasn’t smart enough to steal from his buddies without getting caught. The sorceress probably killed him as he slept. You know, no honor among thieves.
Elena: (Rolling her eyes.) Anyway… The wizard shook off that necrotic poison. The long black veins that ran from her nose and mouth down her neck to her chest slowly receded and vanished. She was really ticked off, let me tell you, but not like that pugnacious little dwarf. So awesome – his axe sliced the little enchanter’s head clean off. Clean off! Blood was spurting everywhere. Walls. Floors. Oh, you should have seen it! My sorceress helped finish off the battle with a thunderous blast. I could only see it, but it was like this powerful little blast that blew chunks of flesh off of the troglodyte.
All the while Elena was describing the battle, complete with disturbing visions of blood and gore, Aldrial takes notes:
Elena persists in the reality of her visions. Does she posses the gift of arcane vision? Is she inhabited by spirits? Despite my elven powers of observation, her mask is too hard to penetrate. Perhaps she is but a simple human girl who has learned the skills of negotiation and leverage from her crafty, merchant father. I have tried to befriend her as a mother figure, for her influence is growing, yet I have gained little ground.
Elena: After the troglodytes, the thugs broke into this room when the cute elven rogue broke this arcane lock on the door. Very impressive. There were books and stuff and body parts laid out on a long table. Dried blood everywhere. They didn’t care much for the dismembered arms and heads, but went straight for the stuff they could fence. The hunky ranger pocketed a bunch of gold while the others broke into the owner’s chest, boxes and personal stuff. They couldn’t have been all that good at thieving since they took for-ever, ya know? Snagged some vials and components for making magic. They grabbed some cloak that was super interesting – made the wearer hard to see. Good for when you have to make a quick getaway. I guess. Guess that’s what you’d use it for if you were a thief. At least they were smart enough to toss the stupid robes with some kind of symbol to some kind of stupid god on them.
Aldrial: Very interesting. Tell me more.
Elena: (Looking disgustedly at Aldrial.) The thieves then snuck on down this long corridor, descending deeper and deeper into the earth. Past some catacombs of what looked to be tiefling burial beds.
Realizing that her patronizing comment had been noticed by Elena, Aldrial tries to recover but only makes it worse.
Aldrial: This story is fascinating. You tell it very well. Just how do these visions come to you?
Elena: Yes, I tell it very well and just why do you want to know how I get these visions? Maybe you’re jealous? Maybe I know a lot about you. Maybe I know about you, the Duke and his wife. Maybe I know that their son really isn’t the true heir. For an elf, you are quite plain. Plain, yet of some importance to this little town. Wealthy too. Just how did you acquire this wealth? Why would a prominent, wealthy elf take an interest in me, a mere human of no nobility, daughter of a man who worked his way up from the streets?
Elena stops as she realized that her little tirade may show too much of herself.
Elena: I’m not done with my story. Perhaps you have seen the great arched gateways of Baelmirth? Well I have. His greatest chambers lie hidden far beneath the surface in realms that the brave little elves seldom venture. This is where the story that I tell so well continues.
After a long pause and stare, Elena continues in her sweet voice as if nothing had happened.
Elena: So, after descending deep into the earth the thugs came to the most amazing arch that framed the entrance to a huge cavern. Within the chamber, immense arches bowed high up and across the ceiling. What riches had once been expended to construct this? What greater riches must it have held? My thieves could only guess. Tombs lay before them with most plundered and desecrated. The greatest of these tombs lay beyond the swift currents of a river that flowed through the chamber, filling it with echoing sound and heavy air. On this greatest of the tombs were carvings of dwarves in chains, sneering at their tiefling overlords. This tomb also bore the markings of Asmodeous and commemorations of the tiefling victory over the dwarves. I asked my uncle about the tiefling and dwarf battle and he mentioned Laarn, greatest emperor of the tiefling empires. The tomb was for Laarn. This was chamber the Hold of Hammerfell. Oh, the riches that it must have held!
With this, Elena’s voice grows giddy with excitement. She continues to recollect her vision.
Elena: The party of thieves and thugs moved through the chamber, pausing briefly near the bridge that lead to Laarn’s tomb. It’s almost as if my sorceress was being called to it, but the dwarf threw a little fit and insisted that they continue on past a mound of dirt. Sounds so boring, but it wasn’t. They passed torn-up zombie corpses to a place where the dirt had been excavated. After entering this dug-out tunnel, they came to a door and the dwarf actually had something very interesting. A magical key. When placed upon the door the key transformed into a golden handle and the door opened! Inside was a shimmering figure of a stupid dwarf woman, hammering away her anvil, making some kind of dagger. She must not have been very good because she threw it back into her pool of lava, or whatever it was, and started all over. Anyway, the thieves took refuge there, which was good because they had no idea what was coming next!
Aldrial finally regains her courage to speak and the temptation is too strong.
Aldrial: This chamber, do you know where it is?
Elena: (With a wry grin.) And why would you wish to know? Isn’t it but a figment of my imagination?
Aldrial: Elena, we are exploring your trauma. I know you don’t respect me, but I have experience with these things and you have serious issues since your captivity. You came to me seeking my help. I am here for you.
Elena: (Almost mocking.) Yes, you are indeed here to help me. Oh, and to my upcoming masquerade ball, I wish you to invite the Duke and is lovely wife. I’m sure you know of a way to persuade him to come. You will be there too, with your husband. The nobility. The high society. It will be a night to remember.
Aldrial: Thank you. I will personally relay your invitation to the Duke.
Elena: Good. Back to the Hold of Hammerfell. It is said that this anvil was one of the greatest treasures of the dwarves, used to make the shield and axe of Bonderstrong. The shield was stolen by Laarn and then shattered during the battle between the dwarves and the tieflings. Split in two, it was, by a great fire from Laarn. I was most surprised when my sorceress pulled the smaller half out of her magic bag. Oh, she is a clever one! I wish I knew how she acquired it. Such skill. As told by my uncle, the shield’s larger half was entombed with Laarn. So, on the verge of possibly reuniting the two halves, the thieves took sanctuary in this chamber, sleeping long and restfully.
Elena turns her head away, nose a bit in the air, stopping to savor the scent of Aldrial’s fine elven wine. After a long sip, she turns her eyes to look upon her now emotionally battered elder. The elf’s expression is of submission and the ends of Elena’s lips curl up slighting into something of a grin. Taking her time, Elena sips some more, slowly puts the crystal glass down and continues with her story which she absolutely relishes telling.
Elena: The thieves’ troubles were really just about to begin. After their long rest, they crossed the bridge, apparently tugged on by the sorceress’ amulet which lay upon her chest. This amulet is most interesting to me and I wish one day to know its powers. Anyway, sneaking around behind one of the tombs the ranger ran into this ghastly, purple creature that had been sucking on a bone. It seem to delight in this and it’s eyes grew larger with the sight of fresh bones. I could tell that it liked my sorceress and wizard the most just the way it looked at them. Horrible creature. After some kind of discussion, it conjured many more of itself and their leathery wings carried them up high and then down amongst the thieves. The battle started, but with every attack by the thugs on the original creature, the blows would do it no harm. The nasty, purple creature would transfer the blows upon itself to its copies. Using his powerful magic, the dragonborn created some kind of earthquake and stones began to fall from the ceiling. And then…
At this point, Elena is interrupted by the menacing presence of a man who had entered the room without Elena nor Aldrial’s notice. Aldrial sat rigid and utterly startled in her chair. The man stands somewhat shorter than normal, a bit stooped, wiry and weathered. His clothes are of the richest materials yet fit poorly and are well worn. The man’s hair is unkempt and white. His teeth are long. Aldrial’s gaze is transfixed upon his face which bares a most interesting mark. From the inside corner of his left eye runs a scar down upon his cheek, tracing the path that a tear might fall.
Uncle: It is time to go.
With this command, Elena immediately stands. Placing his strong hand on the nape of her neck the man guides her out of Aldrial’s counseling chamber, down the two flights of stairs and out into the street below. It is with some pity for Elena that Aldrial spies from her window and with her tall elven ears hears the man admonishing the pretty girl.
Uncle: If you use the orb again, I will snap your neck.
What Elena saw in the orb: