They have a small meal until Magnus can make contact with the stone’s sentience. It hadn’t been long since he started attuning so the meditation is slow, but eventually something responds. In exquisite deep speech, not that Magnus actually have an ear for the language, a voice trembles along the nerves in your arm holding the gem.
“Another tasty mind to join the others?”
(Internal Deepspeech / Undercommon) “Aren’t you a gem! Tasty mind huh?”
“And you’re nothing more than a meat popsicle. Right~~?”
(Internal Deepspeech / Undercommon) “Meat popsicle? Wait, what? Is this some kind of ice sicle joke about human flesh? Apologies, but yuck. Anything else than thinking about Thrakkus’ feeding habits, please.”
“Then you should know I’m not just a gem. Now quick before I grow bored… WHAT IS IT?”
(Internal Deepspeech / Undercommon) “Tell me the location of the missing gold dragon coins hidden within Waterdeep.”
“Of course, you and several other dozen souls who likely have fallen by each other and finally you want. What’s in it for me though?”
(Internal Deepspeech / Undercommon) “Fair question what do you want?”
“Well I want out, but that’s not going to happen any time soon and I’m patient enough to wait for someone who can. What can you give me?”
(Internal Deepspeech / Undercommon) “Well, I am imagining you’re a demon or devil trapped within this stone. Is it something like that?”
“Why is it always devils and demons with you humans. What demon so you know speaks with the rythm of the oceanic tide?”
(Internal Deepspeech / Undercommon) "Apologies, admittedly my knowledge of the worlds beyond this one is limited. How do you wish to be addressed, manners are important. "
There isn’t a response for a few dozen moments until finally, “You may call me Entider. I am an aboleth, and I am in no rush”
(Internal Deepspeech / Undercommon) “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, you’re correct that I don’t possess the power to free you at this time, however, as an outer world intelligence what do you crave that I might provide in order to learn the location I seek?” Magnus does not open his eyes but gives a quiet thumbs up from his other hand for a few moments to give Remy an indication.
“Ooh, I know. Tell me a joke.”
(Internal Deepspeech / Undercommon) “Ohh, I can do that…
Why do Paladins where chain mail, eh, eh, because its holey armor!”
“Oh I got another from a bard in the Southward: What do you call a Southern Zombie Archer? eh, eh, Walker Texas Ranger! Yeah I never got that one myself, they kept saying they had visited this Texas on another world, guess you had to be there.
Hmmm, Why did the Halfling stop dating his Warforged girlfriend? Eh? Eh? Because she was too high maintenance!”
“A halfling and I walked into a bar and I ordered a little alcohol. Wait I am sure their is a punchline but the joke is so short I forget it.”
“My uncle hates this one…
…What’s a tool that helps wizards corrects runes in their spellbooks, eh, eh, A Spell Checker!”
“And this, he hates this too:
Why do wizards like fireball so much?
It’s a well-rounded spell!
My cousin Hamael hates this one:
What is a cleric’s favorite hot drink?
“Oh Ingrid’s group will hate this one: hahahaha!
What’s rogue’s favorite armor? Hide!”
“I see” the voice says without a touch of amusement, “Neverember locked his vault away with three different keys. One of which is sunlight to touch the gate… Now, to learn the location why don’t you tell me a story.”
A pat on your shoulder comes from Remy confirming your gesture.
(Deepspeech / Undercommon)"Okay, I have been working on a romance tale where the hero is turned into a minotaur.
In the Beginning
This always feels like a funny way to begin a tale children. Nevertheless, ones as young as you all are should know the history of our small country. So, to make this interesting I will start with the Principality of Bronzewood, and end with the tragedy of the Horned Prince.
A fire crackles over two Bronzewood logs and they burn but every bit that smolders is a battle for the fire. Once it does burn the heat is twice as hot. Originally the Feywild had two great groves of trees called the Sunwood and the Moonwood. All of the fae and their folk would reside in one or the other. As the seasons would shift so would the authority of the woodland realm.
Between the Age of Divinity and the Age of Ancients a war broke out twixt the Fae Courts of the Sun and the Moon. Their wars waged in a land of immortality, the Feywild has an odd way of handling time. Many suspect the two times they were able to broker a ceasefire is why we have spring and fall.
It is often said that time heals all wounds, however, that means something, somewhere, and or someone had to be injured for such healing to take place. Such was the way with the Feywild, for they lost the elder woods in the calamity of such a war. Yet not all was lost, a Fae lord and lady from each court fled to various mortal realms and planted combined seeds of the Sun and Moon woods. They called them Bronzewoods after the golden colored metal that was cold to the touch. On our world such a grove was planted and grew into the forest we know today as the Bronzewood.
The Call of the Feywrath
That Lord and Lady of the Fae produced a line to watch over their mortal groves on each world. King Thannat is the ruler for this world’s grove, and has a treaty that exists with the Terrassian empire. As long as they stay out of the wood they may call once a decade for the Bronzewood King’s aid. King Nall’s grand-father, Terras the Triumphant, made the call during his reign and the Forest King of the Bronzewood rode forth with his great wooden sword. His wrath ended every single battle in one day and brought the enemy leaders to the Emperor to discuss terms for their inclusion into the formation of the Terrassian Empire.
The Bronzewood was expanded to twice its size and the mortal human squire that help the Forest king was named Prince Bronzewood and granted the lands outside the forest for his fiefdom. Since the founding of the Empire we have held these landlocked lands as a sovereign state within the Empire, separate yet together.
The Rot in the Bronzewood
Complacency, leads to dull swords my father always said. So can it be with virtue and valor. Our people have lived as the buffer to the mortal world and the Feywild in the Bronzewood. That vaunted position has made us sought after sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards a plenty. We have one of the finest schools systems and our arcane studies are on par with the capital of the Empire.
Somehow, children, this has made many of the lords to feel they are better than those that live under their care. It even created contempt for the very source of our prosperity, King Thannat. Our leaders began to think they no longer needed the protection and support his elven host that lived alongside him in the Bronzewood. Soon enough, Grand Prince Artaxes Bronzewood, thought he could simply ignore all the old customs and begin making new traditions. Many say he stopped believing in the Fae King. His son, Xerxses, the horned prince would show him the error of his ways and bear his shame.
The Diamond in the Rough
It would seem that many people look for what it comfortable while a few look for what is grand. Xerxses vexed his father by constantly running into the Bronzewood and playing with children regardless of social standing. His father was cautious when he found him playing with Elven children. Bristling at their use of the fable of the ‘Forest King’ to maintain trade relations. All of those tales had to be fake or exaggerated.
Because they could live nearly ten lifetimes of a human Elven goods were often a sought after commodity. A third of the teaching staff was Elven between the schools of general and arcane knowledge. Still, Grand Prince Artaxes did not like having to kneel to anyone. As far as he was concerned there was an order to things and he was the peak of that order. He was not about to let some elfish strumpet take his son away and taint their line with half-bloods!
Grand Princess Arabella, Xerxses’ mother, died when he was eight and she had taught him to be kind and follow the old ways of nobility.
Treat those beneath you as your equals,
Treat your equals as your superiors,
Treat your superiors as representatives of the Crown.
Ways his grandfather, Cyrus Bronzewood, tried to teach his son, Artaxes, and the rest of his children. Artaxes was incredibly charismatic and a amazing orator that many soon found themselves believing as he did despite Cyrus’ nudges to the contrary. So it was to his grandchildren he turned his hope of the future. He even gave Xerxses his old crown when Artaxes refused to wear it.
As children are wont to do, young Xerxses was bounding deeper and deeper into the Bronzewood. A youngling no longer he’d been given his first set of leather with steel plate reinforcements. He snuck a long sword from the armory and set out to find the creature that his father thought was behind the evil elves. Elves he had never met because all the ones he knew had been kind and about his age. Truth be told children the Elves he was playing with were truly twice to almost thrice his age.
We are a blessed people children for none of the Elves of the Forest King, Thannat, come from this world. They are Feywild born and more accurately called Eladrin. Since the great war of the Sun and Moon the Feywild is healed and King Thannat spends most of his days trying to bring the Bronzewoods back without destroying the grove he’s charged with protecting.
During his years one of his host and he fell in love. In time she gave birth to a daughter. His most precious jewel, Athanatha, half true Fae and half Eladrin Elf. She was fond of playing in the forest and had a tenacious ability to evade anyone following her. Hide and seek was her favorite game. When she found Xerxses trying to practice swordplay she was lost and enamored with when she ask why he never actually hit the tree. His explanation was that the tree was alive and couldn’t fight back so that would be unfair.
Four Year Summer
For the next four years the spring and summer in the Empire were disturbingly plentiful! Not just in our lands children, but all of the Terrasian Empire! Athanatha had aptitude for magic as most Elves are given. However, her Fae nature had a wild streak to it no one truly connected to the land’s bounty until parental concern found it and tried to tear it apart!
As her feelings for Xerxses grew so were they reciprocated. That first year all the harvests produced crops for four extra weeks! The second year the four weeks and the yield was double! The third year had the same bounty as the second only the weather was perfect the entire summer! The fourth year was a repeat and every flower picked lasted for four months before wilting!
The young boy found martial training to his liking and Athanatha taught him the fundamentals of magic. One time he got a cantrip to work but couldn’t replicate it. She just smiled and they would talk about great warriors and wizards. At the harvest festival that year they snuck off together, and as they shared their first kiss an explosion shook the woods.
When Love Burns On the Parent’s Pyre
King Thannat was made aware of his daughter’s love for a mortal and he ordered one of his trusted Eladrin generals to deal with it. This general knew of his distaste for the Principality of Bronzewood noble family. She decided to cull this issue as the line appeared tainted and Athanatha would live long enough to love as many mortals as she wished.
This general tracked a roving barbarian horde composed of a multitude of monster races. She attacked and harried them for weeks leaving clues for the trackers that humans were their foe. The trail of clues led them to the Principality of Bronzewood. The Terrassian empire experienced the wake of this horde as if cut a swath through the countryside. Bronzewood was not close to major cities but the devastation was still felt by its neighbors.
The general returned to the Feywild to inform her lord and King of her plan. Their host would ride forth after the attack had killed the family and the love sick pup. Then the humans would be reminded of whom their caretakers owe their allegiance to. King Thannat was worried about the town until it was the general that said she felt the town was as corrupt as their leaders or they would have replaced them. Trusting his general he told her to return and prepare her troops.
No one counted one the young couple having just declaring their love for each other to see the horror of the horde from the Bronzewood itself. Athanatha said their was one chance to stop them but it meant going against her father and it may kill Xerxses. The boy nodded and said anything to save all of their peoples. It was Athanatha that took him through the maze only her family knew how to navigate. There she showed him the two greatest treasures of her father. The Mooncrook, a bow made three twisted branches of Silverwood! The other was the Sunbranch, a large almost two-handed wooden sword made of Goldwood! It’s blade was crooked, wavy, not unlike flames!
The Test of Truth
King Thannat was in the Feywild knowing the culling was happening, but unaware of how much of the Terrassian Empire had been damaged in its inception. The empire had honored their word and stayed out of the Bronzewood. Were it to come to light about how the raid of the horde was orchestrated. Then King Thannat would have been guilty of breaking his oath by proxy.
When he felt the connection to the Sunbranch broken because Xerxses had successfully attuned to it! He was paralyzed in shock that his home had been violated! What of his people? His wife and child? What of the Bronzewood itself? He raced to the gateway that would allow him travel back to his chosen mortal world.
Meanwhile, Xerxses, following Athanatha’s instructions cut his left hand along the Sunbranch’s edge and was not prepared for the power that flowed through him! He was six inches taller, broad shouldered, and the left half of his body was burned and cracked! A fiery light bore through the tears in his flesh, but he held onto the wooden sword! He looked as though he was now half fae and made of burnt wood with smouldering flame inside! The right half still looked normal aside from his skin tone changing to gold and having wood-grain lines appear on it!
Athanatha could not believe he had done what only one other mortal had ever done. The only mortal her father said he had ever trusted. Cyrus the First was the mortal human squire that rode alongside the Fae King and even used Sunbranch to defend him one time though it nearly killed him to do so. Xerxses had to be a direct line descendant of Cyrus the first! It was then she noticed the Circlet of the Old King. When Thannat had given Cyrus the First the title of Prince Bronzewood he had taken his circlet and placed it upon his brow!
With two pieces of her father’s war regalia Xerxses strode forth to meet the horde and save everyone! Over the next hour upon his arrival he did just that. The Eldarin host was paralyzed thinking some champion of their King was on the field. Even the general went to seek her King seeing the Sunbranch in action. No one from the town or Elven host dare get in front of Xerxses when he sliced a foe for the wave of golden light cut down sevenfold with each stroke! In the final moments of the battle they surrounded him and he stuck the sword into the sky. A beam of light shot down seemingly from the sun itself and exploded in a circle outward! None of the horde lived!
Xerxses knew he had to get the sword back no mortal should have this kind of power!
The Race to the Pincers
Xerxses knew if he kept the sword much longer he would be consumed by its power because he was not a demigod or godling creature of such magnitude. As he tried to leave the field his father Prince Artaxes, knew of the legends surrounding Sunbranch! Only to see its power with his eyes and his son had found it. He ordered his forces to get his son before the Elves could reclaim the Goldwood blade.
It was then Xerxses saw the true power of the Sunbranch. With it he could see the heartfelt intentions of anyone he laid his eyes upon! He saw the truth of the situation involving his family as they neared him. They were the real villains in the story and he had this chance to prevent a calamity by returning the Sunbranch. He ran and caught back up with Athanatha. They ran to the Bronzewood grove. As they arrived there was King Thannat and behind was Prince Artaxes! As the two approached the King, Xerxses presented the sword in both his hands and bowed his head as he dropped to his knees. His father called out to him that he was a Traitor! His boy had the chance to become the Forest King and he bent the knee!
King Thannat took the blade back and saw how his daughter clung to the son of the man that called him a traitor for not attempting to kill the person responsible for all they had. He squeezed his hand and Fae Lord blood ran along the Goldwood blade. As it did flowers and new plant bloomed within a hundred miles!
With the Heart-seeing eyes he took in the situation. He became aware of the scope of his general’s hand in the events. He saw Xerxses and could not believe he had wielded the blade. Punishment for stealing Sunbranch or Mooncrook was death. Yet, he had done good and returned the sword to prevent evil from getting it. A debt must be paid for the transgression even if it was at the behest of his daughter.
A meeting was called for and Grand Prince Artaxes brought his court and his forces stayed a respectable distance. King Thannat called for his forces to come out and the humans of the Principality realized they had been surrounded! The only reason the humans continued to draw breath was because King Thannat wished it. Xerxses was returned to his normal form once his attunement was broken to Sunbranch. When King Thannat asked about his circlet, Cyrus the Second, his grandfather mentioned it had belong to his father, whom was the son of Cyrus the First!
King Thannat missed his friend but his laws had to be upheld. Xerxses stepped forward and said he would give his life for his tresspasses if the people could be spared. His daughter was beside herself with such grief at his offer of sacrifice when she cried one of the Bronzewood trees began to wither! Rain and snow began to fall within a mile of the meeting! The four year summer began to make sense to King Thannat and Prince Artaxes.
When King Thannat looked over all involved once more he said for the Grandfather to take Xerxses and gather his belongings. Return by dawn of the following morning and judgement would be rendered. His vassal, Prince Artaxes, would forfeit his life if his son did not return.
The Principality is on Notice
King Thannat said unto Prince Artaxes he had asked for his son to be slain to prevent him from staining his daughter. However, he believes now it would be better to test the young man and let him fail all on his own. Prince Artaxes was eloquent in expressing his disdain over such a union and if he would accept his son’s life in exchange for whatever wrongs he committed by taking the Sunbranch. Forwith, it would then be the Fae Lord’s will to do with as they saw fit.
Thannat was appalled that Artaxes’ son meant so little to him. He saw into his heart the Prince felt he could make another and this time get it right. Prince Artaxes was a black hearted beast that would bring ruin should he be allowed to survive. Xerxses had somehow survived his teachings enough that the Sunbranch had not killed him outright. He would save the boy, punish him for his crime of theft, and prove to his daughter he is not a hero worthy of her. He wins and his debt to his late friend is paid.
King Thannat informs Artaxes that If Xerxses fails to endure his punishment, then he will wipe out the town. If Xerxses does succeed and prove his atonement then he will support his son should he wish to unseat his father. Artaxes could see that all of his guard, which most had families in the town could hear that. The Bronzewood Estate was also within the town borders as well. There was no way hide this information or control its distribution. King Thannat smiled as he met the Prince’s furious gaze.
He said unto the Prince he can always do it again with the town and get it right. His daughter thought her father had switch fully to the Moon Court with such an answer. Artaxes realized that King Thannat could see his thoughts and intentions. The horror the Human prince tried to hide echoed a cold reflection in the Fae’s eyes.
Now if Prince Artaxes, himself, did not wish to die today, King Thannat told him he would explain to the Terrassian Empire his scouts battled the Horde monstrous barbarians on their land. The Principality of Bronzewood will make reparations to the Empire for any permanent loss of life or land. If they did this then a lottery would be held once a year and only the townsfolk could enter. The royal family may only be entered after everyone of their mortal populace were spared. The winners would be exempt from annihilation should Xerxses fail to atone for his crimes of trespassing and theft. It would be overseen by his daughter Athanatha.
The Horned Prince
As the glow shook the dust of night loose from the sky Xerses and his grandfather, Cyrus the Second, returned. He was wearing his armor that was to be a present on his coming, 14th birthday. He walked forward alone and in the clearing that was made he knelt in the center, set his helm upon the ground, and lifted his sword in offering to King Thannat.
The Fae Lord left him in that pose for thrice turns of an hourglass. The boy’s hand and arms were trembling from holding the sword aloft for such a length of time. Guards would not let Athanatha near her beloved paramour. When King Thannat decided to appear he robe was the night sky and filled with stars. Branches of Bronzewood grew out of six spots on his head to form a circlet crown of branches adorned in flowers that bloom in night. A crown which looked strikingly similar to the one Xerxses wore upon his brow sans flowers. Thannat’s right arm was adorned in golden plated that appeared to be made of sculpted Bronzewood! In that hand was Sunbranch glowing as a shard of sunlight in the new dawn.
When Athanatha cried a light rain fell upon the scene. As she tried to reach past the guards holding her back and line of flowers bloomed running up to Xerxses. When it reached him a single rose vine grew up and over his side until a single bud was in front of his mouth. When he pursed his lips to kiss it the bud exploded into bloom.
Thannat waved his hand with flashing eyes and the vine withered. He explained to all the only thing that is allowed to come and go within the Bronzewood without his concern was beast. Since Xerxses treated his home as such then a beast, a horned beast he would become. With his left hand gestured out to the teenage boy, the Fae Lord wrenched it up like a conductor of an orchestra. Xerxses still held the sword in both hands as everyone watched him transformed into a Minotaur! He grew to the size of a full grown man in an instant. Much of his armor burst off him, or was tweaked to barely fit his new frame!
King Thannat stepped forward and then stabbed him with Sunbranch, “Let no blade find warmth in your hands! No succor will they give you! May hilts and shafts afixed with such devices burn and freeze you!” He pulled back Sunbranch and knocked the sword loose from his hands. Hands which were now burning and smoking from touching the blade. As the freezing paralyzation wore off, Athanatha disappeared in mist and reappeared at his side professing her love. He spoke to her in Sylvan that he loved her two, but it was a price he was willing to pay so everyone would have been safe.
The Eladrin Elves repeated his words verbatim in the Common Tongue. Aye children I was among the Prince’s guards that day. The day the Horned Prince saved us all. The day he lost his love and was sent out into the world to atone to the Fae Lord for touching the power of the Gods.
(Deepspeech / Undercommon)“Well, I am not claiming to be a great author but I think its okay for an amateur.” It had not occured to Magnus to be quiet with the story so Remy heard in Undercommon what he’s been writing in his spare time. His words fade to nothing as he mentions it was okay for an amateur, going back to an internal speech only.
“It is good you are so close, the vault is located within the Brandath family crypt.”
(Spoken in Deepspeech / Undercommon Internally) “What about the other two keys Master Entider? If you prefer another honorific just let me know but it is courtesy among my people to use Master or Mistress respectively.”
“I want to see a fight.”
(Spoken in Deepspeech / Undercommon Internally) “I can arrange that, would you like to be dipped into the blood of the defeated foe?”
“Nothing so grotesque.”
(Spoken in Deepspeech / Undercommon Internally) “Alright, I will have you with me and I am going to go pick a fight. Not only will you be able to see it you’ll be in the center of the action!”
No response comes, but the sense of patience you could only hope for comes from the gem. Magnus opens his eyes and doesn’t even realize the time of day as he asks, “How was the wait?”
Remy gestures around showing it’s a little past nightfall, “Not too bad, but it’s getting pretty cold.”