It has been 3 years now since I left home and began wandering Temauir, picking up the odd tale and story for my memoirs. I was only picking up the usual stories of friendly deities helping frightened mundanes live their humble lives, but I held out hope that someday I would hear a truly amazing story. I had just recently arrived in Mileth and was adjusting to the fast pace of the swarms of Aislings when I happened upon a story that I truly felt belonged.
It had been a long day sitting out by the fountain near the temple of choosing and watching the many Aislings enter and leave on their errands, when I decided to wander over to the tavern for a drink. I figured that Id take the time to listen to the chatter in there as the old man told yet another group of young Aislings about the terrors that live in the crypt and haunt his sleep. It was as I walked in that I realized that tonight something was different.
I had walked in to a rather quiet tavern. The usual mundane crowd was there, but the only Aisling in the place was a young woman with long hair wearing a lotus bodice that had been tailored in the Loures style. As I watched she drained a tankard of rum in a single swallow and then threw the tankard against the wall hard enough to break it. At first I thought that she would be escorted out, but she calmly placed a small pile of coins on the counter and said. "Sorry for the mess. Now I need something stronger"
Aingeal raised an eyebrow, but reached under the counter and brought out a bottle that contained a clear liquid I didnt recognize. I didnt hear the price she quoted, but the monk simply pulled a finished ruby out of her pouch and placed it on the counter. With a smile, Aingeal pulled the ruby from the counter, leaving a small glass. I will never know why I did it, but I pulled up a stool and sat next to the obviously troubled woman.
"Greetings," I said, although I shall forever be mortified that I opened this conversation in such a bland manner. "Mind if I sit next to you?"
The lady didnt even look at me. "Sit where you like, but Im not good company tonight."
"Let me be the judge of that," I said with a smile that was only partly forced. Up close the lady was rather attractive, with the hard muscles and firm lines that make men stop and look twice. "My name is Corim Treldar, Im a man wandering this land looking for stories to write."
She turned an eye my way and she pulled the cork from the bottle. "Oh. I see, you cant live the life of an Aisling yourself, so you want to find out what its like by talking to one."
I was a bit surprised to hear her say that, but managed to smile calmly. "I like to think that Im going to record the wisdom of Aislings for future generations, perhaps you have a story that might help others. Like how you came to be here right now."
She gave a snort as she started to pour a clear liquid from the bottle that she had spent a princely sum for. I was surprised when she pushed the glass my way and then signaled Aingeal for another glass.
"Well then, if you insist on being company, take a drink, and Ill tell you why Kivrin Shandel drinks alone in the tavern. And of the horror that haunts her life forever more."
I didnt manage to pull my scrolls out and start writing, but the story that she told is one that I will never forget.
It was when I was only 6 years old that the events I will tell about happened. But I shall begin by telling you a little of who that little girl was. I was born in Undine, the second daughter of Torim Shandel and Kitra Wist. Torim was a soldier with the Loures occupation forces. He had come from Piet, although he has since left the Loures army and now owns a small shop in Undine that sells food and dry goods. My mother is from a long line of distinguished monks. It was her ancestors who developed many of the great techniques that monks today use, and also have created the greatest evil that any monk ever performed, but thats another story. I had a sister, Katya, who was 3 years older, and who I adored. By the time she was 5 she had begun mimicking my mother during her daily exercises, and everyone in the village had high hopes for her. Today I drink to celebrate the 20th birthday that she will never see.
As I said I was only 6 years old when it happened. As you know there is a constant problem with kobolds and goblins raiding Undine and kidnapping children in order to sacrifice them to Caroun. It is their belief that if they sacrifice enough children they will wake Caroun from his slumber and allow them to dominate over the humans they despise. Katya and I were playing out by the fountain on the eastside of Undine, away from the usual paths taken by the kobolds in their raids. We thought that we were safe, as did all the children who played in that area, but the kobolds had different plans in their raid that day. Instead of coming straight down the road from Astrid they had gone to the coast, and in a sudden charge past the Temple to Cail, they broke in and started grabbing children.
Katya saw the kobolds coming, and pushed me into the fountain hard. I fell in and was so stunned that I nearly forgot to get my head above the water before I took a breath. I have no doubt that she saved my life with that push. The kobolds had slaughtered the guards that stood their ground, and before the Loures soldiers could regroup to repulse them, grabbed up several children and headed to the north. Katya was one of the children they grabbed.
I should have run home. Perhaps my father could have done something. Im sure my mother could have, but she was visiting a friend down in Suomi. With the foolish thought that perhaps I could save Katya I followed the kobolds as they left the village and then turned west to circle the village and return to the mountains that they call home.
Perhaps it is best that I could not understand their crude language. But, If I had I might have cried out and revealed that someone was following them. All I can say is that it seems that Glioca or Cail smiled on me that day. No kobold saw me, and as if I was in the white bat stance of an experienced monk, I followed them as they passed the strange summoning circle in Astrid and continued to their crude altars and totems hidden deep in the mountains.
The kobolds had been surprisingly gentle with the captive children up to this point, and I think that I was hoping that they might let them go. But once they reached the altars, they wasted no time in tying a child against the altar and summoning a hideously ugly goblin shaman to begin a ritual. I could understand nothing, but my eyes were searching desperately for my sister, Katya. I saw the goblin shaman plunge a stone knife into the heart of the struggling child in the corner of my eye as I looked at the 5 other children huddling in a frightened group. Katya was comforting the others and trying to keep them quiet.
She looked at me for a moment, and her eyes widened. My heart stopped, but she merely gave a quiet and sad shake of her head. I snuck a peek behind me, but my luck had held. No kobold seemed to realize that I was there. I still hoped to save my sister, but in the next moment, that hope was dashed forever.
With a loud growl, the goblin shaman pointed to Katya, and she was pulled apart from the group of still terrified children and thrown with brutal force against the side of the altar. She tried to kick out at the shaman like she was practicing one of moms moves, but the goblin simply reached out and with a move I could barely see, cut my sisters throat from ear to ear.
How it is that my scream of horror went unheard still baffles me. I do know that I blacked out at that point. When I awoke I was home and in bed. When I got up and staggered into the common room, Katyas body was laid out on the floor. It looked like she was sleeping, but a quick look at her throat showed that she would never wake. My father asked what I remembered. I told him pretty much what Ive told you, and he said I had walked into Undine about 12 hours after the raid, carrying Katyas body.
A week later my parents sent me to live with my fathers brother in Piet. It was a year before I laughed again, but slowly Ive managed to rebuild my life, but I cannot forget my sister, who saved me, but died on that fateful day.
So that is why I drink here tonight. If Katya was still alive we would be celebrating her 20th birthday, but instead I have 11 years of wondering what it might have been like. To grow up with a sister that I loved more than I have loved any person before or since.
With that she knocked back the last of the liquid from that so expensive bottle and then turned to the door.
"Good night, Corim Treldar," she said as she walked to the door. "Perhaps another night we can talk of happier things." But Ill tell you now. Ill never forget the sad anguished look on her face as she turned to leave the tavern and return to the inn to sleep.