Auryn, in the grips of winter, is a beautiful place.
Especially so, the wizard mused, from a distance. One could survey the beauty and glory of the land without experiencing for oneself the chilling discomfort of actually being there. Of course the feeling wasn't quite the same, of course, but he'd always felt beauty was best surveyed from the warmth and security of his own domain.
Unfortunately, his domain, his tower to be precise, was dark, damp, and cold. The fireplace had not been lit in slightly over a century, and many of the scrolls he'd left on the weathered workbench had rotted and mildewed. He had fully intended to pack them away, fully intended to return and pack them away, fully intended to study them at some point in time. Time was something that wriggled and slipped like a serpent, always escaping him at critical moments.
"Well, that might be a little overdramatic," He voiced his thought to the cold stones, and idly stroked the sleeping grey cat nestled on his lap. Staring out into the blizzard always relaxed him, and helped especially with the stress of nigh-constant travel throughout Alyria and her outlying planes. Frankly, it was tough work being a privvy to knowledge few mortals knew, and fewer still understood. It involved a lot of rushing around fixing other people's mistakes for them, and generally consisted of alternatively running from and killing beasts of titantic proportion and power.
So, he felt rather entitled to his brief periods of rest and relaxation, even if they were spent in a cold, dark, tower.
However, it simply wasn't to be, as this quiet winter was to change his life, and indeed, many lives. And that change was staggering on unsteady, exhausted legs through the blizzard in the general direction of Sigil. The change was a priestess of the Vandyne order on a pilgramige of sorts to the city of magic. She had lost her travelling companions to brigands near the Emperor's Crossroads and had fled into the countryside seeking shelter - and shelter, indeed, is a blanket of snow, although quite often proven to be just as lethal as any pursuit one might be trying to escape.
He wasn't quite sure what gripped him, whether it was the guiding hand of the Powers or some repressed moral duty that had finally burst through to the surface. Gently placing the unhappy cat on his chair, the wizard frowned for a moment, recalling the precise words of the spell, and with a brief utterance, a step through the open window and a rather unpleasant falling sensation, his transformation into a falcon was complete. Spreading his wings, he soared down over the Temple of the Earth and out into the fields.
Past the circle of ancient Druidic stones, threading past the craggy peaks of the mountains and down onto their slopes, where the change struggled onwards, desperate to escape the drow brigands whose dark skin and clothing contrasted sharply with the pure snow they slogged through, laughing and shouting crudely to the priestess as she stumbled and fell into a drift, and lay nearly still - her only movement a shiver, brought on by both the cruel environment and the fear running through her veins.
The brigands were simply that, untrained mercenaries looking for some entertainment, and if that came from ravaging defenseless priestesses (and in this case it did), then so be it. Such thrillseekers had neither the discipline or the courage of, say, the Emperor's elite castle wizards, or perhaps Tristan or Midian. The sight of a falcon screeching down at them like a thunderbolt, transforming into a middle-aged man in mid-flight, who promptly plumetted the remaining six or so feet to land waist-deep in the snow, cursing and spluttering, did not bring them fear, or terror, as would be the appropriate reaction should be if a astoundingly powerful archmage did the above. Instead, they laughed, finding something amusing about the situation as a whole.
The wizard muttered darkly as he struggled out of the hole and faced the brigands, and the curses he spouted would have turned any of those who understood them to tears and pleas of repentence, to quivering masses of flesh covering in the nearest available dark corner, begging for mercy. He was not an imposing man, however. He looked like a wizard, but wizards who aren't surrounded by hordes of minions, elementals, auras of malignant evil forces, and small thermonuclear devices are generally considered harmless at best and eccentric at worst.
"Nice trick, old man. Now shift into a tree and leave." The first brigand growled, menacingly raising his blade. He never got a chance to finish his threat, action, movement, or thought. A roaring fireball consumed him in a blazing inferno, and the smell of charred drow spread over the area, as well as the brigands increasingly high-pitched squeals of agony. His companion lunged for the wizard, who deftly sidestepped, barely brushing against the brigands side as he thrust past.
The drow blinked for a moment, making sure he wasn't seeing things, and took a moment to survey his surroundings. He looked about the bleak snowfields, and blinked. He looked at the still cowering priestess, and blinked. He turned around and looked at the wizard, who smiled and waved to him, helpfully. He looked down at the silver dagger thrust into his heart, blinked once more, then toppled over into the snow, a confused scowl on his face.
With a nod to the fallen, the wizard approached the change and with the least amount of pomp and ceremony he could must, poked her in the ribs with the tip of one well-worn leather boot.
"Please don't kill me!" She screamed, attempting to burrow deeper into the snow.
He sighed. It was the general reaction he got from most women.
"Dearest lady, unless you wish a cold, slow, and painful death here in lower Auryn, I suggest you take my offer of assistance. I happen to have a residence nearby, which you may find more fitting company than out here in the wilds."
She turned and looked up at him, and for a moment, they appraised eachother. She was dressed in a plain white robe, with no additional markings of any kind. Her hair was rich, long, and brown, and at an estimation, he assumed it would reach the small of her back when untangled and brushed appropriately. She wore simple leather boots, but her distinguishing feature, he noted, was definately her eyes. Piercing greens that made him nervous to look at them, which was rather difficult to avoid, as she was blatantly staring at him in exactly the same manner. Dressed in a very similar grey robe and boots, his blonde hair tied back in a ponytail, he unconciously rubbed a hand over the developing beard which he couldn't recall shaving off in the first place.
She looked at him with suspicion, then finally gave up, and reached out to him. He helped her to her feet with as much dignity as possible, and with a mental slap on the wrist, recalled a small amount of etiquette.
"And who may you be?"
"My name is Katherine. And who are you?"
He thought for a moment. Already she was pressuring him with difficult questions.
"Mel will be fine." He answered after a short pause.
"Mel?" She blinked at him, tilting her head to the side. "That's a girls name."
A typical response. He rolled his eyes at her, and with a brief incantation of the [Blink] spell, they were suddenly standing before:
Gateway To The Keep - N -
(-------------------------------------------------) - <---(M)---> -
- S -
Lightning crashes above you, flickering from the dark, ominous clouds swirling far above the spires of the keep, casting the entire area into shadow. Two colossal oak doors stand before you, braced with thick iron and banded with tempered steel, securely hinged to the enormous walls that block exit to the east and west and wrap extend far into the distance. What you can make out of the surrounding terrain is foreign and unfamiliar to you, with no landmarks or distinguishable features. There appears to be no way to return, and no way to leave. Your only choices are to venture north into the shadows of the mansion, or south, out into void.
"Lady Katherine, welcome to my humble abode." He smiled to her, with an extravagent bow.
An introduction that'll never go any further.
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