It was a bright and cloudless day in Otemshire, but inside the dingy tavern, you could barely see. “Dark, like my soul,” thought Ash. Anger welled up inside Ash and he smashed his fist against the table, not for the first time that day. A tavern maid walked by and raised an eyebrow but said nothing, having become accustomed to the tempermental, ale-sipping erstwhile holy man.
“Some holy man,” mused Ash, taking another sip. “More like a barbarian.” Ash thought back to his family. The trip to Hriflindr had reminded Ash of the snowy wastes of his youth. He’s joined a monastery at a young age as an acolyte of Lathandar. He’d left behind his prior life, forsaking the company of uncouth savages.
Now Ash was the savage.
Ash morosely swirled the ale around in his mug and took another sip. Ash and his colleagues had stayed mostly out of trouble for several weeks, and were enjoying some free time in the city. Ash, however, had sought solitude at each opportunity. He needed time to think. Time to determine what to do.
Ash weighed his options.
In Wenshire, the cursed Fish-people remained without a cure. But Ash knew how to save them. Venture to the queen of the fish-people and find her egg. With it’s yolk, and a year and a half of cleansing rituals, he could absorb the curse into himself. And maybe die in the process. Death didn’t scare Ash. What did scare Ash was the inability to acquire a complement of acolytes to assist with the nearly two year process. How could he recruit followers of Lathandar to help him when he could not even keep the faith himself? Ash grumbled in a tone that would have been a curse were he a cursing man.
Wenshire wasn’t the only calling though. Ash thought of Amon’s canopic jar — one of the four phylacteries of the Sand Master. If he and his companions could gather all the jars and destroy them — it could stave off a terrible evil from entering the world.
And Myles had been missing for several weeks, lost in some different plane, a result of the effects of the Archmage’s crystal. Barundar had sold a similar crystal in Otemshire, not knowing it’s worth. Could tracking down this crystal give them clues to saving Myles from his ethereal exile?
But there was a another thing that niggled at Ash’s mind, like a bit of rock in your boot that bites at you with every move.
Ash unfastened a pouch and produced a well-worn missive he’d received by falcon. Well-worn because Ash had read it time and again. He read over the chastisement from Br. Ambrose who called Ash to recant of his recent faithlessness. It was a call to return to his faith, and — if he were to undertake a certain penance — a return to his recently abandoned vocation. Ash read the part about the penance:
“…Br. Lochs, an old acquaintance of mine from the seminary, has recently contacted me seeking aide in his mission far to the South on the island of Dassaria. He communicates that the land is newly colonized and the tribal natives are abundant, and in the infancy of their journey towards the Light. In addition to the missionary work, he communicates that a band of formerly peaceful pygmies have destroyed an entire missionary outpost — killing all of those from the church to establish a presence on the island, save for Br. Lochs.
If you wish to continue your service to Lathander, please seek Br. Lochs out in the tribal village of Kalistia, on the Northern shore of Dasarria. The journey will not be easy, but it will surely prove that the fire that burns within your chest burns in service to Lathander.
May the Light shine forth and guide your journey,
Ash folded the parchment and returned it to its pouch. He thought about the common thread: the forces of Chaos. It was the Chaos Cult that was behind the terrible plight of Wenshire. And the dark forces behind the canopic jar of the Sand Master — was this not just another form of the forces of Chaos? And now, a missionary outpost to the south was in peril, with untold death. Chaos. The forces of darkness. The thought made Ash begin to seeth.
He stood and folded his hands into fists, feeling the anger coming back to the surface. He narrowed his eyes. It was a trembling rage, something he had long suppressed during the spiritual formation of this youth. But now, Ash did not seek to suppress it. He sought to control it. Focus it. Turn the anger to power.
Ash tossed a coin to the table to pay for his drinks. “Back tomorrow?” asked the bar maid who whisked in to clean the table.
Ash shook his head. “Off to Dasarria,” he said, leaving the darkness, squinting as he entered the light of the noon sun.