Sundered Empires Session Report 40-Wonders of the Valanorn

Read the previous play report

Fragments of Kaenan-Tal’s journal…as discovered many centuries later.  It was an interesting experiment by the player to change up how he recorded the events of the session.  This was one of those roleplaying heavy sessions where no one rolled any dice but instead they spent a lot of time… frolicking.

… in short, my deepest apologies concerning the fragmentary nature of this portion of the ‘Tal journals that I have appended, Your Excellency. Though the original writings were said to have provided an in depth insight into the near mythical Valanorn homeland, numerous unexplained accidents and “unfortunate events” over the centuries have left us with nothing but these scraps of your ancestor’s original body of work.

University research has determined that these writings cover a period of nearly a month where the legendary Sentinels of the Borderlands dwelt amongst the Valanorn themselves. All effort has been taken to arrange the fragments in chronological order.

I remain, Head Scribe Cantallus III, Pursuant to My Lady’s will.

Ave Talia

… seem that though our Amber bracelets render our speech into the common tongue of this world and vice-versa, the Valanorn do not speak this language, favoring instead a local equivalent of Tryshallan (and indeed, our Tryshallan speaking brethren can interpret for us).

Perhaps their long enforced solitude (it has since been explained to me that we are the first successful visitors in 500 years) has led to their linguistic isolation. Long Tom’s helm is as usual an invaluable tool for communicating directly with our hosts due to its …

… reason why we do not encounter many Valanorn at ground level. They seem able to propel themselves from crystal tower to crystal tower with arcane might alone, a use of magical talent that would have exhausted an archmage, but here it seems such feats are mundane. Perhaps the entire area has standing enchantments to enable…

… local wildlife. It would seem there is no such thing. All brute beasts in the forests are subject to the will of Princess Isethial and by extension the wishes of her servants. The modulation of the behaviour of the animals seems to be linked to the other enchantments that I had mentioned in my previous journal entry, with every Valanorn citizen able to literally coax the birds off the trees.

I have seen snow-white panthers, responding to a Valnorn summon, running alongside giant elk and wild boar, so obviously the will of their masters overrides the predatory instinct. These animal companions are of great help in…

…becoming extremely popular. Once the initial awkwardness of our presence wore off, a veritable procession of Valanorn worthies (though I have yet to detect any stratification in their society, they each hold themselves with a presence that would make a king look drab) came to have an audience with us.

It would seem that there is some cultural force at play because it is mostly female Valanorn who were talking to Lucian, Lairn and Long Tom and male Valanorn who were talking to Hannah, Jayna and Lillith. Several Valanorn maidens tried to start a conversation with me, but as I was unable to understand their language (and had no one to help me interpret, all other parties having retired to their chambers to continue their discussions in private) I wasn’t able to communicate with them, and presently, they left me to find the others…

… in particular Long Tom seems to have regained some of his previous joie-de-vivre. It would seem that our sojourn through the Valanorn lands was just the panacea for his spiritual malaise.

He agreed to accompany me to look for healing supplies that we desperately needed to replenish after our weeks in the harsh wilderness. After some quick inquires with the trio of Valanorn maidens who were following him around, we were directed to a Coa’alin, roughly translated meaning House of Healing or House of Gathering Life. We were told we would recognize it by the singing.

Sure enough, as we headed in the direction indicated, a voice as clear and soaring as the crystalline towers of the city led us right to it. As it turned out, “House” was a bit of a misnomer for a walled garden the size of a keep.

Inside were row upon row of strong smelling herbs (the best way to tell if something might have medicinal properties, Master Gaius always said), separated by lines of what looked to be regular crystal growths. In the centre of this pharmacopeia, was a Valanorn woman dressed in flowing white robes, singing a song that would have shamed angels (blasphemy, I know, but I was raised to tell the truth, Talia forgive).  For the span of ten heartbeats, I literally could not draw breath.

She started in surprise and halted mid-melody when she noticed our presence, and I recall immediately blushing when her gaze met mine. Long Tom called out a greeting to her, as did her Valanorn sisters. Leth’alas they named her, I feel it is a name I shall not soon forget…

… true kindred spirit, I have never known anyone (save Master Gaius) who was as dedicated to the art of healing as she was. After spending a morning translating our discussion concerning the relative value of long term care versus magical remediation, Long Tom abruptly took off his helm, jammed it on my head, winked at me and with a whispered Good Luck, left with his trio of Valnorn ladies in tow. I appreciate his sentiment, but even I could tell that Leth’alas was winning this particular debate…

… spent the afternoon discussing  all manner of subjects. Her name Leth’alas, for example, is also that of the Valanorn sacred herb that was given to them by the “Great Mother”, the Valanorn creator deity of growth and healing. She expressed interest in the world I was from, Ahlyen, and smiled as I tried to satisfy her curiosity with my sadly provincial knowledge.

Her expression saddened, however, as I related to her the various wars between the factions of law and chaos. I learnt that for the Valanorn, serving diametrically opposed deities was not an invitation to slaughter, but to dialogue. I found myself agreeing with the wisdom of her people, as if the seed of some idea had been planted in my heart.

She was also intrigued by my descriptions of the various medicinal herbs of home, Woundwort, Comfrey and Goldenrod, a kind response, given that a single application of Leth’alas duplicates all of their effects. When I told her as much and expressed an admiration for the miraculous qualities of her namesake, she insisted on my taking a sapling with me.

To alleviate the suffering of the peoples of your world.

I could have wept in gratitude, in all my travels I have not encountered compassion such as this. I cast about desperately in my pockets for a reciprocal gift, and, Talia be praised, found an emerald I was admiring earlier this morning. With trembling hands I proffered it to her, a more unequal exchange I have never known. To my surprise, she laughed with delight and graciously took it out of my palms.

When she held it up to the light I noticed that even the deep, radiant green of the gem paled in comparison to the viridian splendour of her eyes…

… with a heavy heart that I take up my pen. In conversation with Leth’alas today, I learnt of the sad truth that since the final conflict, not a single child has been born to the Valanorn race. These proud peoples have lived the last 500 years under a curse, the origin of which is unknown to them, but is probably linked with the hateful activity of the Inexorable Kings.

In my naivety I had misconstrued their nocturnal visits to my friend’s quarters as friendly companionship, but in truth they were searching for comfort from a sorrow deeper than any I have known, and the opportunity to sire a new generation in the arms of my companions. Though the precepts of my faith say I should condemn this behaviour outside of marriage, I cannot, with a clear conscience begrudge them this respite.

What I can do is condemn myself. I am an ignorant country bumpkin, not suited for the company of man nor beast, and certainly not worthy of… worthy of…

I must commit these words to paper quickly, lest my feelings distort the truth.

After she had revealed these truths to me, Leth’alas asked me if I would offer her the same comfort that my friends had rendered onto her race.  In my ensuing confusion, I blurted out the first thing that came to mind, the proscription of my faith against intimate relationships outside of wedlock.

Then let us be wed, if it pleases you?

Dear Talia, I have never felt temptation like this.

But as I stood to answer her, I saw, in her eyes, the sorrow of the Valnorn people, of 500 years of barrenness and desperation, and like a fool, I started to weep.

I do not remember much of what happened next, save that I made my stuttering apologies and fled into the night. I would not blame her if she never wants to hear the name Kaenan’Tal ever again…

… summoned to meet with Princess Isethial. Our entire group was ushered into the heart of the city, where the thrumming of arcane currents came to a surging crescendo. Soon we were in the presence of The Palace, a structure so magnificent as to render all of us mute in awe. It was as high above the most magnificent edifice in Ahlyen as our crystal dwellings were above peat and mud huts. Klangor has taken it especially hard, it has been hours since he has moved from the corner of his room, silently muttering to himself.

We were announced, one by one into the throne room. Even magically insensitive individuals such as myself could see the arcane web stretching out from here to all four corners of the city, for our mages, it must have been blinding. The beating heart of the web was also an individual, Princess Isethial, ruler of the Valanorn host and last of her line. My (admittedly shallow) well of superlatives fails me at this juncture. Beauteous, majestic, wise, glorious, these are just inadequate words to describe her, pray let us leave it at that, or these pages themselves will protest at the injustice my description has rendered.

Though I was straining at the bit, I remembered my promise to Long Tom to hold my peace. I should not have worried, Princess Isethial immediately divined our purpose and stated that the price for her help would be safe passage for her race to our world. Such relief flooded me at that moment, it felt as if a boulder had been lifted from my shoulders.  Confronted with this, my friends quickly agreed to her terms.

In answer to Lillith, and her rallying cry to defeat the Inexorable Kings before they reached our world as well, Princess Isethial replied that the Kings and the dread powers they served were more akin to a disease than a conquering force. A malaise, that not treated, grew from strength to strength, eating away at the world from the inside. Their world had already died, and the only way to protect fair Ahlyen was to recognize the signs of infection, and put an end to them.

Over the course of our conversation, Princess Isethial expressed interest in the history of our world, specifically the event known as the “Sundering”. Lucian’s companion related a story I had never heard before, that the “Sundering” was the work of the humans, a catastrophe meant to cut off the Tryshallan from their power. I was taught differently, that it was chaos that was the cause, but after all that I’ve experienced, I get the impression that neither answers are right. Or that both explanations might only hold part of the truth, not all of it.

To test our resolve (and earn the right to wield The Sword of Sylere), we were given a task. A former ally of the Valanorn had become twisted by the nihilism of the Inexorable Kings, and we were to put an end to his suffering, as the Valanorn were sworn not to harm him. The ally in question was an Ancient Gold Wyrm…

… knew only that I must make things right.

Begging the use of Long Tom’s helm, I rushed  to the House of Healing, half expecting the doors to be barred against me. To my surprise, they were not, and from the sad, beautiful song coming from within, I knew that she was there.

With a boldness I did not know I possessed (surely Talia must have reached across the void and granted me strength in her purpose), I closed the distance between us and took her delicate hands in my own rough ones.

Surprise and confusion was written clearly on her face, but before she could ask her questions, I told her of the audience, of Princess Isethial’s plan to transport her peoples to a new world, my world, Ahlyen. To rid them of their curse. To bring them hope.

And then (the temerity of it still makes me shudder), I said these words:

Once we have travelled to my world, if it is still your desire, I would be honoured if you would ask me that question again.

Leth’alas…

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