A beautiful oil painting of my new pet!
Guess what? We discovered the Mambir people, and they're SO awesome! But we had to fight through hordes of mosquitos and swap monsters and magical traps to get to their village - it was a miracle we survived. AND I found a new friend - I think I'll call him Scáthfile. (Skaw-fee-leh: “Shadow Poet”) I'm glad I don't have to ask Da if I can keep him - he'll be terribly dangerous when he's a full grown panther! Purchased Animal Companion: 15 XP
Well, the last thing I wrote to you was about the wolf attack, and that still bothers me; it bothers me more now than it did a few days ago. I have been hearing voices all around me - tiny tidbits of emotions and impressions; the perspective of the forest. I think Maimeó's wisdom is settling into my bones (or maybe my ears). I never truly understood her words before now.
The next morning we packed up, I played a cheerful work tune, but the others didn't really catch on to the rhythm - Sharn was trying to dance while building the raft, or hammer in time to the music, but I think it was too distracting…
The raft ended up being a bit weak in the middle when the crazy swamp monsters attacked us after we entered the swamp. Vicious, scaly beasts with rows of daggers in their horrifically extended jaws, flaming eyes, and scourging tails ambushed our unsuspecting raft and ripped it apart!
Serendipity was with us, though, and our supplies managed to stay above water. I didn't - my hair was a complete mess - full of cattail fluff and swampy muck. That may have helped me avoid the monsters at first - they thought Sharn looked the tastiest, probably because she's so tall she wasn't covered in filth from the raft disaster.
While she was busy bashing them on the head El and I swam for the closest floating bit of raft and desperately tried to get on, but I couldn't get a grip on the muddy edges. I could hear some awful thrashing and gnashing of teeth, when one of the beasts bit me on the shoulder! I admit, I screamed like a banshee!
I felt massive arms pick me up, and then gently place me on the raft - thank you, Sharn! As luck would have it, I spotted a paddle stuck in some reeds (better than our pole we used before - I guess we weren't the first unlucky travelers here), and I whacked the monster on the head and then paddled for shore with El beside me on the raft.
I was bleeding something fierce, and El was, too, so I quickly unwrapped my lute and started singing a healing song. It was very noticeable, but in the thick of battle (and all the muck flying everywhere) I'm not sure anyone noticed our fresh wounds knitting themselves together. I'm sure Firia would be fine with understanding Spellsong, but I get the distinct sense that magic is not acceptable on this continent, at least not with the orcs. Sharn seems open-minded, but it's better if we save each others' lives a few more times. Shouldn't take long at this rate to become best friends…
The battle was a blur to me, and I'm afraid I didn't contribute much. I got so angry I just screamed as loud as I could, “Bad Crocodile, or Alligator, or whatever you are! Go Home!” I'm not sure it was as effective as I'd hoped, but they didn't come close to me and just disappeared beneath the murky waters.
We were all exhausted, so we quickly found a mossy patch (or did Firia make it grow? I'm not sure…), and tried to clean up our soggy supplies and wash our muddy clothes. I asked Firia to help me comb out the tangled mess of my hair - catpeople are wonderful groomers - and it wasn't long before we were all huddled around a cheerful fire, drying out.
We must have all fallen asleep - it was a peaceful spot. I woke up first, and noticed some movement at the edge of the clearing. It was a small, dark boy in tattered clothes. This was curious, and I decided to talk to him quietly since my friends were still sleeping, and they needed the rest (they all did a lot more in the battle than I did). The boy slipped further in, cautious, and so I thought back to all the things that kids love, and I decided to play hide and seek with him to make a connection. I was feeling rather playful and rested up, and needed something different to get my mind off the swamp monsters.
This child was weird - he didn't want to play. I decided to sit on a stump and play a peaceful song with the lute to try to get him to come to me - I wasn't going to chase some kid around an unknown forest. He wasn't at all interested in dancing and just slipped away into the forest. It was so odd, that I decided to check on my friends, but when I returned to camp, the camp wasn't there. At first I thought I must have gotten turned around, but I hadn't really gone *that* far.
Instead, I found a little cottage in a clearing, smoke gently rising from a chimney. I peeked in through the window, and, Daideó, it was amazing! Beautiful carved artwork, fabulous oil paintings, lush furs, rich food, and best of all, a magnificent harp sitting by the fireplace! No one was around, so I rushed in to investigate. It did seem strange, that on an island in the middle of nowhere there would be such extravagance, but I couldn't resist playing the ornamented harp. It was completely in tune, which seemed even stranger - the humid swamp air makes me have to re-tune my lute every day.
My suspicions reminded me of folk tales - witches' houses in the woods, mysterious spells and illusions that were really traps. Internalized 1 Rank Lore training: 5 XP I wondered if some Desire Monster had cast a spell on me, so I thought I'd play a Dispel song on the harp. Daideó, my fingers fumbled, even on a perfect instrument. It threw me off; when I learned after that it was all actually an illusion, it made perfect sense - like those nightmares where nothing goes right.
During the messed up song, an old, dapper gnome walked in and sat down, motioning me to keep playing. He seemed to be enjoying my performance, and I'm certain I played flawlessly once he had entered.
After I end the song with a flourish, he smiles and I asked him his name. Tomas. And he asked me if I knew Deidre, apparently some great gnomish minstrel. He had the nerve to say that I wasn't as good as her since *she* never missed any notes. And then he insulted all gnomekind, pretending like we're less than others because we're small - he called us all “inconsequential”! Well, you know how I get, Daideó, and I may have been slightly violent. Something was clearly wrong, and my spellsong wasn't working, so I threw a large object at Tomas' head, and the vision ended instantly.
I woke up around the campfire with El and Sharn and Firia; we discussed the vision, and apparently I wasn't the worst offender - Sharn somehow burnt down the cottage in her dream. El & I scouted the water's edge, and discovered some rune markings, a boundary spell of some sort that appeared to keep the crocodiles away. When we returned to the camp, Sharn was missing, so we followed her tracks (which wasn't hard - she's rather large) to… the same cottage from our dreams.
Sharn is about to enter it, and while El ran towards her, I drew my lute and began to play the Dispel (maybe it didn't work the first time since I was using an imaginary harp that wasn't actually there…). As the shimmery notes sounded in the clearing, the trees around me started dripping away as if I was dripping thinner on a painting. Daideó, it was a whole village! The spell was hiding a multitude of huts and people!
It was the Mambir people, and they are sooo cool! Apparently the orcs tried to come through here, but the vision fooled them, and they were eaten by the swamp monsters after running from the vision. I wonder if the vision is almost like a test of character or something - and I caused a bit of a stir by Dispelling the vision - I don't think that had happened before.
They were all quite nice to us, and I became acquainted a bit with the Shantese, their leader. She asked me quite a bit about my music, and seemed to know a tiny bit about spellsinging, but it was a very indirect conversation so I'm not actually sure. Even regular music has power, so it's all kind of metaphorical to most folks.
We decided to stay and recover for a few days, since the shortcut will be a lot faster now that we have some help. I played in the evenings, songs of peace and healing and tales of adventure. They loved it so much, they gave me a beautiful hand-woven cloak in return. I even wrote a new song about a group of heroic women, so powerful they were not deceived by illusions - starring the Maiden Maebh, of course. I heard a few little girls in the village singing the chorus later:
The Maiden Maebh is wondrous fair
The sunshine sings in her violet hair
All evil quakes, and runs to hide
The Women of Pow'r they can't abide.
I can see you laughing and shaking your head, but you always told me that inspiring role models were the key to raising a generation who would pursue peace and justice. I still haven't come up with a great name for our team. “Women of Power” seems okay, better than “Teen Girl Squad” anyway (that was my first instinct, since most of us are young, though no one knows how old El is - she's probably a teen equivalent for elves).
One early morning, I decided to take a walk by myself, to get away from the noise of the village, and listen to the trees. I thought I heard a little wren call out, “Danger!” or something to that effect, but I couldn't see anything wrong. A few minutes later, as I neared the shore, I heard some animal cries, thrashing and splashing, and a giant roar. Purchased 1 Rank in Vigilance: 5 XP - Maebh becomes more in tune with the sights and sounds around her.
This sounded fascinating, and since I was safely on the right side of the protective boundary, I ran towards the chaos. A giant swamp monster was locked in mortal combat with a beautiful ebony panther - she was trying to protect her cub! I admit, I was afraid at first, but my senses sharpened, and I could feel their emotions, Daideó. The vicious lizard beast was full of hatred, hunger, and twisted pain; the panther was emanating a fierce mother's protection. Her lifeblood was running out but she still kept fighting, and managed to get a massive claw wedged in behind its skull, causing a further frenzy of thrashing.
The cub had a long scratch along his side, and was growling at the vile fiend, but his paw swipes couldn't penetrate the scaly hide. The panther mother screamed as the monster snapped, and the light went out of her eyes and became limp. But her claw was stuck deep behind its skull, and it kept thrashing for another minute before it, too, collapsed, with blood bubbling from its wounds.
The young panther pawed at his mother, and I could feel his fear and sadness, and my heart broke. I left the safety of the island and waded towards the carnage, singing gently, a soothing lullaby. The cub looked up at me and whimpered, and curled up against his fallen mother.
I crept close and started stroking his thick fur, and he started to relax under the gentle melody. We stayed with his mother for a while, but then I heard a splash farther into the swamp, and knew that more danger was coming. My song changed, and I tried to let the cub know danger was coming, but it didn't seem effective, but when I gathered him up in my arms, he didn't resist. Even a panther cub is heavy! He let me drag him towards the shore, not having the energy to fight. The little guy had tried to fight the brute, too, and had tired himself out.
I could see the eyes of another 3 beasts swimming towards us, and I strained against the cub's weight, dragging him onto shore, and collapsed on the other side of the line of protection. Hoping it was enough, I got a stick and re-drew a continuation of the pattern that we had muddied up, and watched the beasts approach, too exhausted to do more than wait. They snarled as they swam near the shore, snorted, twitched, and then turned back in disgust. Filthy creatures.
We rested together in a patch of sunlight, and the cub fell asleep. I laid my head against his side and could feel the deep rumbling of a purr, and his fur was sooo soft, and I knew I was utterly in love. This poor kitten needs a mother, and I am determined to raise him!
After a good rest, I shared some of my water with him, and managed to sing a rabbit towards him, close enough that he could pounce on it. That felt a bit like cheating, but the poor thing was hungry and I hate how rabbits eat my veggies back home. Really, I was just helping to keep the Mambir gardens safe.
We walked together back along the forest trails, and I noticed how he almost seemed to disappear in the shadowed areas; his footsteps almost danced, so elegant and graceful. Like poetry in motion. I think Scáthfile is a perfect name for him. Purchased Rank 1 in Second Wind: all this walking is helping Maebh's endurance!
The villagers weren't too happy about Scáthfile, but they respected me too much to say anything to my face. Panthers typically avoid humans, anyway, unlike those wretched leviathans. It looks like El also earned a gift - a branch from a ancient tree growing in the village. It feels magical, an energy rises from it. If I didn't already have my willow lute, I'd be tempted to ask for some wood, too, but I wouldn't want to appear greedy.
Shantese offered us a guide from the village to help us on our way, and we gladly took her up on her offer. They helped us build a new raft, too (big enough for Scáthfile to join us). Purchased 1 Rank Geography: 5 XP - the guide will teach Maebh a bit about the continent and the land
My heart is light and singing, and I have a LOT of exuberance for the path ahead. Who knows what amazing adventures we'll have next? The Maiden Maebh will carve out an ornate story of heroism with the valiant Scáthfile at her side, and her amazing fighting companions will become mythological heroes!
Okay, okay, Daideó, I hear you laughing. Your right eyebrow is raised up, I'm sure, trying not to encourage my bubbling enthusiasm. “Pride'll go a'fore y'fall, lass” - you've said it a million times. That said, I know we are special, and I am determined to make a difference - gnomes are NOT inconsequential.
The Maiden Maebh