Rise of Nations

Story of the Old Beldame
A strange tale of a death deferred

The old woman’s prickly manner softens and her faded eyes grow distant with the fog of memory.

“My story? Hmpf… it is long in the telling, but I have not told it in an age and I suppose it would do no harm to share it in remembrance of those I have outlived.

When I was a young woman, this region was part of the Taldor frontier. I settled here with my husband Arturus, a handsome military man, after deciding we would jump on the opportunity to make our own place out here. We had a daughter, a lovely girl we named Annaliese. The meaning of love was not truly known to me until I held her in my arms. Soon after, my husband was called away for a military campaign against the centuar tribes. He never returned.

When my daughter was 5 years of age, we had a very harsh winter, and she became gravely ill. I rode north for 2 days through a blinding blizzard, trying to reach the town where now the ruins of the old fortress still dwell by the lakeside. We sheltered in a wooded grove, in a circle of great ash trees, where a small spring flowed. I was lost, she was burning with fever, and we were both bitten by the frost. I wept there in the snow, holding my girl, and cried out to the gods, to the sky, to the very trees and the soil. I swore I would give anything if my child could be saved. I swore to the wind, and felt a desperation I had not ever known. But there was no answer. My strength waned, and I fell asleep from exhaustion.

When I awoke, I was in a sunlit glade, and it was as if it were a warm fall day. Of the snow, there was no sign, and the air was now filled with a drift of bright autumn leaves falling from the treetops above. There, in the clearing before an immense tree, I met the wood lady. She told me that she heard my pleas for help, and had taken pity on me. She told me that a great curse had been placed upon her by Bramble-Heart. The curse was a blight that would kill her tree. She explained to me that her kind, the dryads, are mostly creatures of spirit and require another to sustain them. In ages forgotten, the first of her kin had made a pact with the first of the great trees. The essence of these powerful beings are ever renewing, ever growing, gaining life from the very earth and the light of the sun, and so in exchange for protection and companionship from the dryads, they would bind their souls as one, so that each may benefit and thrive.

Her tree was now dying, a creeping black mold of some corruptive nature clung upon it, and it rotted from within. She explained that without her tree, she too would die. She proposed a compact, and I listened raptly, for I was in no place to negotiate terms. She told me she could save my daughter, but that I would have to save her in exchange. I agreed, not knowing the cost, nor caring.

She spoke to her tree softly then, in the glade, and cried. Where her tears landed on the trunk, a branch began to grow, and I gasped to look upon it. From the branch, a marvelous fruit took shape, golden as the sunrise on a warm summer morning. She whispered to the tree, plucked the fruit, and we both watched as the tree withered, rotted, and died. She grew so pale and pallid that I wondered if she were already a ghost. The glade darkened, and I could feel a chill breeze blowing. The birds had fled, and there was only the cold wind and the sound of the dryad weeping. She gave me the fruit and said, “Your daughter must eat the flesh of this fruit, but not the pit. You must swallow the pit and in so doing, it shall bind our souls as one. Within you I shall sleep and my spirit will burn low so that I do not drink too deeply of your essence, for if I should awaken, you would burn as a dry leaf in a forest fire. You will live until such time that a great mortal practitioner of magic shall come to you. I have foreseen his coming in the pool of time. He is mighty and will know how to reawaken me. Do this, and save your daughter, for you have made a pact with me and of your word there is no undoing.”

And so, I knelt quickly, dividing the fruit with my teeth and placing it into my daughter’s mouth, carefully, one piece at a time. In between each bite, I gave her a sip of water from the spring, and slowly she consumed it all. It felt like an eternity. I shook like a leaf and I had to keep myself from hurrying. Afterwards, I waited and looked to the dryad but she merely glared at me until I realized I still held the pit. I forced it down, a rough and pulpy thing, and once it was swallowed, I pitched again into darkness.

I awoke within the snow-covered ash circle I had fallen asleep in. My daughter was crying over me, her warm tears pattering down upon my face as she shook me. She kept calling for me to awake. I sat up, and felt renewed. My energy had returned, as had my daughter’s. Her fever was gone. We hugged and returned home, overjoyed to have each other.

Over time, we found that we could speak with animals, call to the spirits and fey of the forest, and other stranger things. Our skin changed to the greenish hue you see now, no doubt a sign of the dryad’s power which had saved us.

For many years, we lived happily together in the forest. The land provided for us, and our powers grew with each passing season. Eventually, she met a woodsman, a kind man whom she married. They moved to the city and were happy for many years. She wrote letters to me often. One year, I received a letter from her eldest son that an inquisitor had found her guilty of witchcraft and burned her and her daughters at the stake. Her husband was killed trying to save them from the flames.

The years have been long and lonely since. I stopped measuring them a long time ago. After Aroden’s death, I fell into a deep despair for prophecies became uncertain and I feared that the dryad’s vision would never come to pass. But still, I wait. I have simply lived from season to season, with very few visitors or news from the outside world. I have nothing to look forward to, save the day that I can finally fulfill my promise."

Her cracked voice falls silent and she looks frail and wizened. She leans heavily on her staff and gingerly levers herself out of her seat. “Now go away,” she says with a touch of asperity, but there is no force behind it. “I have told you my story and I am tired. Leave an old woman be.”

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The Ballad of the Ferocious Foursome
A Special Song Sung By Billy the Bard, Bastard Son of Benny or Bob (Mom's not quite sure)

Fin rode into Oleg’s in the wee hours of the morn.
To find that it had been attacked by bandits evil born.
He gathered up his band of men to rush right out to find,
and slay the bastards that would cause destruction of this kind.
Ring ding dittle ittle eye dio
Ring die ditle ee eye oh
and slay the bastards that would cause destruction of this kind.

His band included Pavel, a Half-Elf as tough as nails.
His punch was like a Dwarven hammer breaking dragon scales.
He swore an oath and he declared, “They’ll get what they deserve!”
I had no doubt, with Pavel there, that justice would be served.
Ring ding dittle ittle eye dio
Ring die ditle ee eye oh
I had no doubt, with Pavel there, that justice would be served.

The Pilgrim is the meanest Halfling that you’ll ever meet.
He went with them ‘cause killing bandits sounded like a treat.
His blade is sharp, his aim is true, to cross him is to die.
He’ll gut you while you watch him with a twinkle in his eye.
Ring ding dittle ittle eye dio
Ring die ditle ee eye oh
He’ll gut you while you watch him with a twinkle in his eye.

Yohannes is the secret weapon, and he tagged along.
He’s been known to blow up mighty dragons with his bombs.
With steady hand he lets them fly and he takes much care
To make sure that your blood and guts are spattered everywhere
Ring ding dittle ittle eye dio
Ring die ditle ee eye oh
To make sure that your blood and guts are spattered everywhere

With Father Jubal for support, they took the Staglord’s head.
They brought it back with them when they returned to Oleg’s.
They all rejoiced and threw a feast in honor of these men.
The bravest, baddest fighting force that there has ever been.
Ring ding dittle ittle eye dio
Ring die ditle ee eye oh
The bravest, baddest fighting force that there has ever been.

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Johannes Remembers the Valley of Fire
Missing Names on a Wall

“There you are Nikolaj. We must speak.”

Nikolaj and Alexia were going through their morning sword routine in preparation for the upcoming battle while Johannes was preparing his alchemy concoctions.

“Dear brother,” said Nikolaj, “a good morning to you. Would you care for some muesli?”

“Nikolaj, I have rechecked the portents. They are bad. We must…”

Nikolaj cut Mikkel off, “We must crush this Iobarian would-be tyrant and not prostrate our mewling selves like those honor-less Issian pirates.” The irritation in Nikolaj’s voice softened, “Mikkel, I spoke with Estruan about your worries. The scouts have checked and re-checked. They are just some raiders, there is nothing special, there is no devilry about. We are the Swordlords and we will defend Rostland as we always have.”

“You and Estruan both underestimate Choral. Your pride will grant precious little armor against that which assails you today.” Mikkel crossed his arms and looked coldly at his older brother.

Nikolaj walked over and faced his brother in silence. After a moment they embraced.

“Very well. I shall go prepare to lend what aid that I can.” Mikkel turned and walked away, but stopped after a moment and turned back and spoke with an unusual sadness in his voice, “Goodbye dear brother.”

As Mikkel started to take his final leave, Johannes ran up, “Wait father.”

Catching up to Mikkel, Johannes asked, “Why do you think we will not win this day? Estruan has summoned the might of the Swordlords here today! You alone could defeat an army with your magic! I do not understand how it is that you think us doomed to defeat?”

“Johannes, do not be naive. The Swordlords can barely be considered an army and no amount of preening on their part will change the fact that they do not know how to fight together. And if my magic were to ever be able to defeat an army, it would not be through the explosions you are so fond of. If I were truly skilled in the art, I would be able to grant wisdom to fools and those fools would heed portents! But no, it comes back to the short game pitted against the long game and Mikkel only plays the short game. No doubt why he gets along so well with the humans. Now I must go and do what I can to keep as many of you fools alive as I am able on this day of ill omen. Do try to not be overly foolish today, boy.”

Alexia walked up to Johannes and put her arm around his shoulders and his father walked briskly away. “That is perhaps the foulest mood I have ever seen him in,” she said.

“Yes,” said Johannes. “He is often disapproving of Uncle, but never like this. It worries me that he has so little faith in us.”

“Now, love, don’t you go worrying like your father. It’ll ruin your looks and I won’t stand for that. Here, take this. Just whisper my name and it’ll lead you to where you need to go.”

Johannes admired the fine compass Alexia had gifted to him. Wherever you go, there you are. -Love A. was engraved on the back. Johannes opened the case and saw the delicate compass point directing to the north. He looked at Alexia and smiled, whispering, “Alexia” and the compass point turned, pointing at his Uncle’s protege. Alexia winked at him.

Nikolaj ran up, putting his arms around the two of them. “Now, now, my favorites. There will be plenty of time for that later. Time to get to our places. I look forward to being regaled by your acts of heroism and skill this evening.”

As Nikolaj and Alexia departed to join their brigade, Alexia turned and called out to Johannes, “Hey, Weird Johannes, try not to hit any of our guys with your bombs!”

“It’s called ‘splash damage’ you crybabies. Suck it up and go whine to the cleric!” called back Johannes.

Johannes’ unit was waiting in reserve when it happened, when the world exploded into fear and flame. Reports had been that the Swordlords had the upper-hand. The Rostlanders were not delivering the trouncing they had expected, but were definitely besting the Iobarians. And then the roars from the sky echoed across the valley shaking the bones of the mountains. Panic gripped Johannes and his unit and warriors fled in every direction. Screams of fear and pain were everywhere as fire rained down from above. Choral’s dragons had arrived and they brought chaos and death unto the Rostlanders.

But this was a blur to Johannes as dragon fear gripped him and he ran blindly, barely registering his wounds or those of his fellow soldiers. It was not until Johannes had made it well into the Gronzi forest that the enchantment faded and he regained his senses. He could still hear screams in the distance, but it was hard to tell which direction and how far. With shaking hands he withdrew his compass and whispered, “Alexia.” As the compass point started to move from the northerly direction, Johannes’ heart leapt to his throat. But the compass point did not stop, it just slowly spun around, directionless. “No, no, no,” Johannes wept. Eventually the compass point returned to its northerly direction. “Nikolaj.” The compass did not move. “Mikkel, father.” Again the compass did not move.

Johannes staggered up, bracing against a tree. I must find allies, he thought. I must find father. It is now the long game.

Now it really is a long game. But is it the same game as when I started out?

“Were one of these soldiers a relative?” asked a half-elven woman.

Johannes had been lost in memory staring at the Battle of the Valley of Flame memorial in Restov.

“I, erm. Yes. Nikolaj Bronsted is, er, was. I, uh, am Johannes Bronsted.”

The woman’s eyes widened, “You’re related to Nikolaj Silas Bronsted? The elven swordlord?! I did not realize Sir Bronsted had sired any offspring. I am Taissa Aldori and it is an honor to meet one of his descendants,” she said as she bowed.

“Oh, uh, I, the honor is mine, Swordlord,” Johannes replied as he bowed in respect, but also in a manner that was no longer much in use.

The Swordlord contemplated Johannes curiously.

“Uh, he was my uncle, er side. That is to say, I’m from his brother’s side of the family. Mikkel Bronsted. Nikolaj’s brother. I, uh, don’t suppose you have heard about Mikkel? I noticed his name isn’t on the memorial.” Johannes was struggling to find the words he wanted without having to explain his unusual history. Clerisaana had advised him on prudence and he took her advice to heart.

“No,” Taissa responded slowly. “I have not heard of Sir Bronsted’s brother, Mikkel. Everyone who fought for Rostland at the Battle of the Valley of Flame perished. We gathered these names from the records of all those that were supposed to be there. If Mikkel was there, his name would have been engraved here.”

Johannes looked at where both his and his father’s names should have been. Only his uncle was listed. Johannes replied, “I’m sorry, I must be in error. Rostland is very different from when last I was here.”

Taissa corrected him, “You mean Brevoy? Since last you were in Brevoy?”

“Ah, yes, Brevoy.” Johannes agreed, not quite pronouncing it the same way as Taissa.

“Well, Johannes Bronsted, it has been an honor to meet you,” said Taissa and after a moment of contemplation added, “The mayor’s office is offering charters in support of exploring the Greenbelt to our south. If you are interested, I would encourage you to apply.”

“Oh? Thank you. Perhaps I will.”

As Taissa walked away, Johannes turned back to the memorial and brushed his finger across Alexia’s name and sighed. Thank you for the time we had, my love_, he thought, and now I must figure out for once, how to play the long game._

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Accounting 101
Pavel should have paid better attention in school

Pavel shook his head, violently crumpled the paper he was working on and tossed the wadded ledger into a pile of similar wadded ledgers in the corner of the room. A collective groan rose from the rest of the room.

“Come, Pavel,” Johannes implored, “take a rest and get some food…”

“No!” the frustrated monk answered without looking up, “I can do this.”

Johannes glanced over at Finn, who shrugged, then at Rallo whose thoughts seemed elsewhere. Pavel continued scribbling fervently and mumbling…

“…twelve, carry the two…”

“Pavel?” Johannes pleaded.

“Almost…there…,” he mumbled, then announced triumphantly “Got it!”

“By my calculations,” he stood, obviously pleased with himself, “Finn gets…”

The young monk stopped in mid-sentence and slumped back into his chair, frowning.

“…three times as much treasure as the rest of us?”

“Well done, lad!” Finn injected quickly, standing, “Looks like we’re done here, eh?”

Pavel continued staring at the ledger, looking for an error. The older elf rubbed his forehead, feeling a headache coming on. He motioned for Finn to sit back down.

Suddenly, Rallo stood up and walked over to the table. He studied the document for a few seconds, then a dagger slid into his hand from his sleeve and stabbed it down into the desk, pinning the ledger to the table. He looked right into Pavel’s eyes-

“Economic profit is the difference between the revenue received from the sale of an output and the opportunity costs of the inputs used, minus expenses that are directly due to the volume of business done,” he stated, matter-of-factly.

Rallo whirled and strode out the door. As he cleared the doorway he yelled back:

“…the dagger marks your mistake. You can keep it.”

Finn got to his feet and followed the halfling out the door.

“G’luck lad.”

Pavel let his forehead drop to the desktop with a painful-sounding thump. Johannes moved up behind the youngster and put a hand on his shoulder.

In his most fatherly tone, Johannes asked “Why do we make mistakes, Pavel?”

Without lifting his head, Pavel mumbled under his breath-

“So we can see the wisdom in having servants to do this stuff?”

Johannes smiled at the joke, but gave Pavel no verbal indication that he thought the topic was comical. He answered his own question.

“We make mistakes so that we can learn from them. We need to learn some additional skills or a settlement out here will not survive.”

“I have skills,” Pavel argued, holding up his fists.

Johannes took a deep breath.

“Out here, fending off starvation is every bit as important as fending off bandits,” the elf exhorted, “and poverty is a much bigger enemy than any we have faced.”

He could see the words sinking into the young monk like a summer rain sinks into the dry soil.

“I have much to learn,” Pavel confessed, solemly.

“As do we all.” the elf agreed, and motioned out the door, “and soon, the lives of an entire settlement may depend on how well we learn our lessons.”

Pavel nodded and drew a fresh piece of parchment.

Editor’s note: This obviously will take place after the return to Olegs, but I thought it appropriate to post it now, as my lack of accounting accumen becomes apparent. ;)

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Pavel's Epiphany
A letter to mother.

Greetings Mother

I hope all is well in the forest of Gronzi and that this letter finds you in good health and spirits.

Life here is much different than I imagined. The worries of the frontier are far removed from the court I grew up in. My worries were always which clothing to wear and the proper etiquette for dinner. Those who choose a life in the Green Belt are simple folk and the peril has removed all but life’s oldest purpose- tomorrow’s survival.

Entering this world safely or leaving it peacefully are not assured out here and these people have a need for the guidance of Pharasma beyond the intellectual curiosity I displayed as you taught me about her. I will bring the light of the Lady of Graves to this place.

It is time for me to set aside my grief and embrace this new, greater purpose. I still vow revenge upon the foul being who took my father from me, but his fate is not the only one I wish to touch in my travels. There is much good I can do here.

In this package, I have included my fine funeral tunic. Please store it away for I will have no further need of it until my time for Pharasma’s judgement comes. I will accept the Stolen Lands as my new home and the simple ways of these people as my own. There is no court in this place but one day, the name Papivanovich will be uttered here- not to address lord or master, but simply as a name associated with great deeds and benevolence.

My first task will be to create a simple shrine to Pharasma in the graveyard. I have enclosed some gold. Please send me the following materials if you can. I would like a dagger with Pharasma’s symbol and a copy of her tome: The Bones Land in a Spiral. The rest of the gold is for you, I will send more when I am able.

Sincerely, your son,

Pavel

p.s. Johannes sends his kind, platonic regards.

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Some things are more important than fear
Mikmek grows a pair

As the unlikely group of sootscale and larger humanoids made their way back toward the shaman, Mikmek’s hands were visibly shaking as they gripped his spear. He swallowed hard and looked up at Pavel.

“Mikmek scared-” he whispered, “not got big courage, like Poggle.”

The monk ignored the mispronunciation. He pulled the tiny reptilian aside and squatted down next to him.

“Mikmek- I’m scared too,” Pavel confided, “but remember- courage is not the absence of fear, just the realization that something else is more important.”

Mikmek looked confused.

“We are scared,” the monk continued, “but our friends and family are more important- so we go anyway. That’s what being brave is all about.”

A toothy smile signalled that the Kobold understood.

“Mikmek be brave for tribe!” he said, tightening his grip on his spear. Baring his teeth, he growled and began stomping off down the hall with new confidence.

Pavel made a mental note to keep a watchful eye out for his new sidekick, hoping his pep talk wouldn’t prompt the kobold to foolishness, or worse- get him killed.

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And then there were Four
Fen and Pavel go nuts...

Pavel stowed the ring is his tunic pocket for now, making a mental note to repair the cord later and the three prepared to leave the tavern when the silence was broken by a loud burst of laughter, It seemed to come from a hulking figure in the shadows a few tables away. Having already lost a perfectly good leather cord and one of his most cherished secrets in the last few moments, it seemed that his dignity was about to follow.

“Something funny?” Pavel asked, turning toward the laughter, barely concealing his annoyment.

“Sure,” a deep voice bellowed, apparently quite amused, “…that little guy just just kicked yer butt, no mistake!”

Rallo, smiled ever so slightly but stayed silent, curious as to where the conversation would travel to.

Pavel began to stomp off toward the table to confront his accuser but Johannes’ hand on his shoulder slowed his pace and gave him a moment to regain composure. Getting the hint about curbing his temper, Pavel swallowed once, then spoke slowly, calmly-

“Had I sensed any peril in his strike, I would not have let his rapier near me.”

“Yeah,” the stranger smiled, “…righhhhhht…,” and then in a mocking tone, trying to copy Pavel’s accent-

“Had I sensed this much bullshit in you, I would not have let your comment near me.”

This time Rallo and Johannes both stifled a snicker. The seated human took a long swig from his tankard and popped a few nuts in his mouth from a bowl on the table. Pavel got the feeling he would have wiped the foam from his chin with a sleeve…if he had been wearing a shirt. Instead, an elaborate set of tribal tattoos covered his chest.

“Apparently the sign by the door that says ‘No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service’ is a bit beyond your reading level,” Pavel snorted.

“I read just fine, " the human answered, rising and grabbing his axe handle, “it’s just that anyone here acquainted with me knows not to make anything of it.”

The bartender put his palms up and shook his head rapidly back and forth, apparently not interested in enforcing the dress code at the moment. The hulking human, set his axe back down.

Pavel was still fuming and Johannes sensed the young monk was about to do something very stupid. The elf smiled and quickly stepped forward, offering his hand to the newcomer and defended the young monk.

“I dunno, Pavel’s got quick hands, it might have been a close contest. My name’s Johannes…”

“Fen. Nice to meet you, lad,” the barbarian answered, taking Johannes offered hand, “Let’s see, just how quick this youngster really is-”

He grabbed a handful of walnuts from the table and tossed them at Pavel’s head. What happened next suprised everyone- including Pavel. Reacting instinctively, Pavel’s limbs became a blur, and the first two walnuts were slapped aside, redirected toward Johannes satchel and the halfling’s hat, which he now held in his hand. Pavel caught the third and fourth walnut, one in each hand. With a squeeze and a loud crunch Pavel cracked them, dumped the fragments into one palm, then began picking out the edible parts to pop into his mouth. He tried hard not to look too surprised and instead behaved like that was exactly the outcome he expected.

Fen burst out laughing again, this time nodding his head at Johannes.

“You’ve got speed and pluck,” he smiled, “I’ll give you that! Yer little group is only missin one thing-”

“What’s that?” Johannes asked.

“Me.” Fen smiled.

“Funny, Johannes answered, “I was just thinking the same thing.”

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Johannes and Pavel meet Rallo
An elf and a half-elf walk into a bar...

Johannes and Pavel began peeling off their soggy cloaks as they soon as they exited the rain shower into the tavern. The room was dark and quiet but for the murmured conversations at a few scattered tables.

Walking up to the bar, Johannes leaned across the bar and whispered his request in the bartender’s ear.

“The Pilgrim?,” returned the bartender, expressionless. Turning his attention back to the tankard he was rinsing, he pointed toward a dark corner of the tavern where a small humanoid sat alone on the edge of a large, oak chair. He seemed to be studying a dagger, turning it over carefully in his hands as cold eyes squinted at it from beneath the wide brim of the hat pulled down low over his forehead. He hadn’t been there long- rain still dripped from his cloak and hat, forming a puddle on the floor.

Sensing a pair of strangers approaching, the halfling swung around in his chair to face them and the dagger mysteriously vanished somewhere beneath his cloak as he dropped off the tall chair to his feet.

Pavel cast a concerned glance at his elven companion before turning his attention to the rain-soaked halfling.

You are Rallo the Pilgrim?!?” Pavel queried,, peering incredulously at the diminutive rogue.

Almost faster than the eye could follow, the stocky halfling’s sword was unsheathed and it’s tip parted Pavel’s tunic and sliced the leather cord beneath it with one deft motion. With his free hand he caught the falling silver ring that had been suspended from the cord. The sword skillfully shifted position in the halfling’s hand and was thrust into the floor next to him with a satisfying ‘thunk’.

He peered at the signet curiously, raising an eyebrow as he looked up at the tall half-elf.

“And you are Pavel, Monk of the Whispering Wind?”, he smiled, flipping the ring back to Pavel, “…it would seem there is more to both of us than the names we hide behind.”

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The Stony Prison
Clerisaana and Pavel make a new friend.

The graceful elven woman stopped near a particularly dense copse of trees at the edge of the river bank and pointed to something stuck in the embankment. Looking closer, Pavel could make out what looked to be a sculpture of an elf, part of it buried beneath the moist soil at the rivers edge, the rest mostly obscured by thick leaves. He cleared away the ivy with his hand and turned back to his mother.

“This old thing?” Pavel asked, tapping the half-buried statue with his shovel?

“Yes- isn’t he handsome?” Clerisaana smiled, rubbing her hands in anticipation of the revealing.

Pavel shrugged, nodded and began digging, tossing earth carelessly aside and absently humming a tune he had heard at the monastery while stopping occasionally to wipe his sweaty hands on his tunic. His mother waited patiently, quietly speaking the required incantations as she began cleaning the exposed head and upper torso of the statue with a simple spell.

Suddenly, Pavel stopped digging. He tossed the spade aside and reached down into the dirt to retrieve a small object. Studying it carefully he brushed off the dirt, then offered the tiny device to his mother.

“Mother- I don’t think that this thing is a statue…,” Pavel said, tentatively, “…he was holding this in his hand.”

Clerisaana gently turned the object around in her hand and stared at it intently for a moment, murmuring a cantrip.

“It is a compass, Pavel. It has a magic upon it that keeps it pointing North,” she whispered sadly, “…a magic that must have protected it from whatever fate turned this poor elf to stone.”

“Can you bring him back to life, mother?”

“Pavel, he is alive,” she responded, “…even now he watches us with the hope that we can free him from this stony prison-”

The elven matron knelt down and put a warm hand on his cold, unresponsive brow.

“By the morrow you will breathe the air with us and feel the warmth of the sun- I swear it!”

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