This is one of the Paragon Path stories I wrote for my Dungeons and Dragons group. Enjoy!
Kali stood in the confusion of the city. In a way, ruined as it was, it felt more comfortable to her; instead of stone formed into buildings and walls, it was more like the hillsides of her childhood, rough and unformed.
She rubbed her shoulders at that thought, feeling the roughness of her own skin. It was still odd to her; she’d grown used to the small slices and nicks, the little pieces of skin that grew back harder than scars should, but the final battle against the Lich had been devastating in more ways than one. Hundreds had died, an entire city fallen into a pit, friends and travelling companions blasted into nothingness. In the darkness and heat of the cavern under Ortmund, revealed at last, they had battled the Lich and emerged victorious. She flexed her hands, remembering the freezing cold and biting pain that had stung them as she had grabbed at whatever was inside its armour, holding it in place so that Toofi could deliver the death blow. The backlash of energy had flayed her torso open, revealing a rougher layer beneath the skin that ached still.
She wandered out of the city. A few children waved at her in passing, and she smiled and waved back. The road sloped gently downwards towards the grassy plain to the south of Fjornik, and Kali lengthened her stride. As she walked, she scanned the horizon.
“Aunty Moonie,” she whispered to herself. “If you’re out here, I could really use some help.”
The wind shushed gently over the grass, a lonely bird tweeting off in the distance. Kali sat down cross-legged and prepared to wait, her pack on one side, her axe on the other.
With a soft implosion of air, a large house appeared in front of her.
It was looking a little the worse for wear. Some of the windowsills had burnmarks on them, and a few windows had been boarded up. The door was open, though, and Kali stood up, grabbed her things, walked up the steps and through the door.
The house smelled of metal and burning, a hive of activity. She saw Goliaths scurrying to and fro; her cousin Eagle and niece Summerchild carrying a large tin bathtub full of water between them, heading into the back room; Grandmother Cloudweaver bustling around the rough kitchen that had been set up on one side, filling up pots with water from a larger jar. Out of the back room stumbled three figures, coated in soot, accompanied by a cloud of smoke, two of them supporting the third. Kali took three long strides over to them, but they waved her off. She squinted against the pall of smoke that filled the room.
“Uncle? Bear?” Then she peered closer at the middle figure. “Sholtar?”
“Ah, yes,” the old tiefling said, coughing. “Got a bit of a situation here-“
“Kali? Is that you?” It was her aunt’s voice, slightly shrill, coming from the back room. “Grab a bucket of water and bring it in here, would you dear? Quickly, please!”
The fire was a small one, it turned out, blackening the bottom of one of the larger crystals that were probably something to do with the house being able to move. Something had spilled, and, whatever it was, it burned quickly and violently. It was some minutes before they were able to step back and take stock.
Aunt Quietmoon looked radiant, if anything, despite her coating of black soot. She smiled at Kali.
“Well now,” she said brightly. “I suppose we’d better get cleaned up.”
Later, they sat around the campfire that burned in the centre of the kitchen area. It was odd, Kali thought, to see a campfire inside. Then she caught herself and tutted. Too much time spent around humans, she thought. You’re starting to think like them.
Aunt Quietmoon passed her a bowl of stew. The smell, thick and earthy, brought back memories of childhood, and Kali smiled appreciatively.
“Now, then, young lady,” Quietmoon said, sitting down opposite her. “Tell me all about it.”
Beginning with the last time they were in Varikause, Kali began to tell her tale. Vampires, Elves, the Lich; the ruin at Loknir, and the stalwart defense of Ortmund.
“I don’t feel the same anymore, Aunt Moonie,” she finished. “Physically, I mean.” She was quiet for a moment, then looked into her Aunt’s eyes. “What’s happening to me?”
Quietmoon took her hand in hers and patted it. “Do you remember, when you were young, being told the story of Konor, the Stoneblessed?”
Kali nodded. “He freed his tribe from slavery to the Frost Giants of the north,” she said. Realisation struck her. “You think I might be-“
“Stoneblessed? Yes.” Quietmoon looked around the circle of firelight; the whole family had come to sit down, to hear the tale, and they were all looking at Kali with a mixture of awe and pride. “There is a common thread that runs through Goliaths, Kali. We are hewn from the same rock, you might say, and we have felt the rise of something... special. We made the decision to guide the house to where we sensed the ‘something special’, with Master Sholtar’s assistance.” She smiled. “And here you are.”
Kali ran her fingers over some of her scars. “What... what will happen to me?”
It was Grandmother Cloudweaver that replied, her voice quiet but strong. “You are an ambassador now, young one. First among Goliaths, but more than that. You represent the health of the land, the very rocks and soil we come from, and to which we return. Over time, your body will take on a new form, becoming a sort of avatar of stones and rocks.” She nodded. “It has already begun, and will continue throughout your entire life.”
Kali stared into the crackling fire, and was quiet for a minute. “What do I do?” she asked finally.
Quietmoon put a hand on her shoulder. “What do you think you should do?”
“I need to find my parents,” Kali replied. “The Stranger told me they were in Koru.” Her eyes narrowed. “The woman, with the spurs; I’ll find her, and make her pay.” Then she sighed. “Although I don’t know where to start once I get there.”
“The old fable tells,” Cloudweaver said, “that Konor was able to read the land, much like when you track a beast. That through the small differences in the layers of rock, through the vibrations of the very stone beneath his feet, he could tell much about a landscape. When great battles had been fought, or where caves and caverns lay.”
“He was at the height of his power, though,” Kali said, but her grandmother was already shaking her head.
“Everyone starts somewhere, child.”
Kali looked around again, meeting every pair of eyes. “Are you comfortable here?”
“The beds are too soft,” Summerchild piped up. Kali smiled.
“We have adapted,” Quietmoon said, “though not without some discomfort. Sholtar has been very good to us, allowing us to attune the crystals to reunite our family.”
Kali frowned. “Are there other Goliaths? Not on this continent. Further away?”
“Perhaps,” Quietmoon said. “But finding them would be harder, without the family tie.”
“It shouldn’t be,” Kali said with conviction. “I worry for our kind, sometimes. We’ve been nomads a long time, and that has been good to us. We’ve had freedom, the sky above us, the rock beneath us. But without structure, without roots, we are weaker.” She looked towards the wall, thinking beyond it to where Ortmund had lain. “The humans, the dwarves, they live in larger groups, in one place. They’re strong, able to defend themselves and each other.” She shrugged. “I don’t agree with everything they do, but perhaps there’s something in having one place to be. A base to work from.”
“Bringing the Goliath tribes together would be a feat indeed,” Cloudweaver said quietly. “Something only a leader could do.”
There didn’t seem to be anything Kali could say in response to that, and the comforting sound of the fire, as it hissed and spat, filled the room.
In the days that followed, Kali found herself falling back into old habits. There was water to be drawn, wood to be chopped, foraging to be done, and Kali dived into the chores with relish.
Finally, the evening before she was due back in Fjornik, she was sat on the steps watching the sun set. A single candle, dug out of one of the cupboards, sat by her more for comfort than light. Quietmoon came out as if to sit next to her, then paused behind her. Kali turned to greet her.
“Wait,” her aunt said. “Turn your head back.”
Kali did, and felt Quietmoon begin to tease at strands of her hair. It was comforting to feel strong fingers sorting through the nest of hair beneath her headdress.
“Your hair is beginning to grow out stiff,” Quietmoon said finally. “Not brittle. It bends, like your skin, but it’s rough and hard. It’s pushing your headdress out, though.”
Kali reached up and took off the feathered hat as her aunt came to sit next to her. Then she ran her fingers through her hair, shaking her head, and smoothed it down.
Quietmoon took a small crystal out of her pocket. “This is for you. It’s the summoning crystal you gave me, the one that calls the house.” Kali took it, turning the faceted stone over in her hands. “Sholtar tells me we can move the house back into something he calls the Astral Plane, where we’ll be safe.” Quietmoon shook her head. “Though I’ve never seen a plain like it. No herds, no trees, no tall grasses. Very strange.”
Kali nodded. A hundred things passed through her mind, things to say, things to ask. Will you think of me the same way... will you be ok... will I be ok... where are the... what is... why...
Then her aunt’s arm came around her shoulder, and Kali hugged her close, and none of it mattered.
They stayed out there all night, talking quietly. Near the dawn, Kali stood up, holding her headdress.
“This is a symbol,” she said. “A tally of hunts past, a mark of my prowess among Goliaths. But the Kali that this belonged to is gone, burned away in the heat of a battle larger than anything we could have imagined.” She squeezed her hand together, bending some of the feathers. “Besides,” she said heavily, “There’s a good chance I won’t see those I was seeking to impress.” She lay the headdress down on the grass and took up the candle. Then, with no more ceremony than that, she brought the two together.
The feathers caught almost immediately, twisting and crackling as they burned, and Kali felt a weight lift from her as she watched.
The next morning, Kali stood and watched as preparations were made to move the house. She shouldered her pack and axe, and hugged each of her family in turn.
“Kali the Stoneblessed,” Aunt Moonie said, hands on Kali’s shoulders. “It has a nice ring to it. May the stone ever be solid beneath your feet.”
“And the wind be at your back,” Kali said around the lump in her throat. She turned and walked out of the house, a few paces into the grass, and then stopped to watch them leave.
There was no fanfare, no special effect; one moment the house was there, and the next it had vanished. A square of dead grass was the only thing that marked where it had been.
Without a backward glance, Kali began the walk back to Fjornik.