This is one of the Paragon Path stories I wrote for my Dungeons and Dragons group. Enjoy!
The bar was loud, uncomfortably so, but Toofi had found a quiet corner in which to sip her mug of ale. Fjornik was coming back to life, more so now that the threat of the undead horde was gone, and it was good to not have to watch her back all the time.
The events of the last few weeks were still large in her mind, though. Memories rose unbidden; fabulous journeys into other realms, the weird feeling of controlling a body much larger than hers, and a grinning face pressed up against crystal.
Toofi’s mouth twisted in distaste. Who was the demon (was he even a demon?) going to take his revenge on? Who were the descendants of Ragnus? Had they settled one problem only to free another, greater threat?
Slapping a couple of coppers down onto the table, Toofi stood up. Hanging around in taverns worked for trying to track down killers and thieves, but finding out about the first men who walked the earth was going to require something a little more definite.
The Temple of Ioun was almost a ruin, of course; when the upper half of the tower city had been destroyed, many of the temples had suffered catastrophic damage. The area was a flurry of workers, priority having been given to the rebuilding of the temples above anything else. Toofi raised one eyebrow at how fervently the men and women worked; religion had never been her particular crutch, but it worked for most, and she could see the sense in restoring the spiritual heart of the city.
“Can I help you?” someone said, and Toofi turned, appraising the person approaching her
It was a tall human dressed in white robes that were spattered with dust and mud. He was about fifty, but his face carried a boyish energy.
“Perhaps; I’m looking for any information on Ragnus. One of the first humans.”
The human wiped his hand off on his robe, smearing more mud, and held it out. He smiled as they shook hands. “You’re Toofi Vadu, yes? One of the Outlanders.”
“I’m Father Brahms; I’m overseeing the reconstruction of the temple right now. Now, I don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, but the Library that we had stored here would have helped you. About a week before the city fell, though, the High Priest received a message from Ioun to move the library to the King’s Palace.” He shrugged. “You’ll probably find what you’re looking for there.”
“Ioun knew that the city was going to fall, and didn’t tell anyone?”
“Well, sort of,” Brahms said, looking embarrassed. “Actually, by that point the evacuation order was being given anyway. I suppose the gods move in mysterious ways.”
“Right,” Toofi said. “Well, I’ll get down there, then. Good luck with your rebuilding!”
“Thanks,” Brahms said, and turned away.
The stairs were cleared now, and as full of people as they had ever been, and Toofi was able to gain access to the Palace easily enough. The Library was there, just as Brahms had said, housed in a converted ballroom; two acolytes dressed in white, symbol of the goddess of knowledge embroidered onto them, welcomed her, and Toofi began her research.
She barely noticed as the candles burned low and were replaced, as a boy brought her a sandwich and a mug of beer. The pile of books next to her grew and shrank as she followed lead after lead, but to no avail.
As if waking from a trance, Toofi stood and stretched her legs. The acolytes had gone, the candles were low again, and all was quiet. She began to walk along the lines of bookshelves, idly picking books up. The best that she had been able to discover thus far was that the line of Ragnus was a particularly virile one, that he had walked the planet before recorded history and that very little had been written about him. An historian named Pillicus was mentioned in several texts as a source, but there seemed to be nothing with his name on it anywhere in the racks of books.
There was a large crate in the corner, out of place in the ordered ranks, and Toofi went over to it. It was full of books, but books so damaged as to be almost useless. Covers were burned, pages ripped out, even one that looked like it had been bitten in half. On a hunch, Toofi began to sort through them, and it was towards the bottom of the crate that she found what she was searching for.
“An Historie of The Firste Men,” she read, “By Pillicus the Younger.” It was in bad shape, but she opened it up and began to read what she could. The author rambled, the book being more of a diary of his expeditions than much else, but there was some usable information there. ‘Ragnus the Red’s descendants were forever marked by-‘ she read, and turned the page, a grin forming on her face. The grin froze as she saw that the following page was a map, completely of inconsequence and indecipherable, and that every page following it was burned to a crisp.
“No!” she shouted, the word echoing in the silence. She slammed the book shut and tucked it under her arm. It was time to see a woman about a spirit.
Toofi found Tyli Iasty in the graveyard that lay outside Fjornik, off to the east. The view was impressive, out over the sea from the cliffs at the far end, and Toofi joined Tyli on the windswept edge.
“Toofi Vadu. Never thought I’d see you again.”
“Still alive,” Toofi said, and grinned. Tyli grinned back.
“Good to see my hard work getting you back into that body isn’t going to waste,” she said, and punched Toofi lightly on the shoulder. “How can I help you? I’m sure you’ve not come all the way out here to help me tend to the graves.”
“You take care of the dead?”
Tyli nodded. “Especially with the Raven Queen sealed now, it’s vitally important for the citizens’ morale that they know the dead are being cared for.” She frowned, and Toofi saw a distant pain come into her eyes. “These have been difficult times.”
“I need your help,” Toofi said after a moment. “I need to talk to Pillicus the Younger”
“Never heard of him, I’m afraid.”
“He’s dead,” Toofi said, bringing out the book. “This was his, but it’s incomplete. Parts of it are burned. I need to know something about the descendants of Ragnus the Red and maybe stop a lot of murders.”
“Sounds like a ‘you’ thing, yes,” Tyli said. “If you’d asked me this before the Raven Queen was put to sleep, I’d have been pointing you to prayer and meditation so that you could petition her yourself. Now, though, with the veil torn...” She nodded. “I think we can probably summon his spirit. That’s his book?”
“Even better. With something of his, it should be straightforward enough.”
“For you,” Toofi said. “I wouldn’t have the first idea.”
“Watch and learn, then, my young apprentice,” Tyli said, going to a gravestone where her bag lay. “Actually, we do this from time to time as a service. Fuss over a will? Not sure how dear Aunt Ruth wants to be buried? Time with someone’s spirit can be a chance to say goodbye, and we’re not like those shyster mediums you see.”
They moved up the cliffside to a patch of smooth rock, and began. The ritual circle turned out to be much more complicated than any she had seen Futch use, but Tyli moved with such efficiency that the candles, small animal bones and handfuls of dust were set up very quickly. Small runestones were placed at the cardinal points, and then a smaller circle was drawn in chalk within the larger one.
“There,” Tyli said, dusting her hands off. “Place the book within the small circle and step back.”
Toofi did so, and watched with interest as Tyli closed her eyes and began to say things. They weren’t words, as such, but with every syllable intoned the wind seemed to pick up a little and Toofi felt a shiver of power run down from her horns to the tip of her tail.
Like opening the shutters on a lamp, all at once a man was stood in the circle. He was old, bearded, and looking confused. He was also mostly see-through.
“Are you Pillicus the Younger?” Tyli said.
“I am,” the man said, then added, “I suppose. My father was Pillicus as well.” He frowned. “Is that how history remembers me? As nothing more than the child of my father?”
“You are hereby bound and abjured to answer this woman’s questions, whereupon your spirit will be freed to wander the eternal darkness of the Shadowfell once more,” Tyli said. The spirit nodded.
“I understand,” he said.
Toofi stepped forward. “You wrote this,” she said, holding the book. “It’s been damaged. I need to know how to recognise the descendants of Ragnus the Red.”
“Ah, I remember meeting Rag-nar, like it was yesterday,” Pillicus said, running ghostly hands through his beard. “We drank many a cup of mead then, heh! And the women! Such women.”
“Is Rag-nar one of the descendants of Ragnus?” Toofi asked.
“Well of course he is,” Pillicus said, a haughty tone entering his voice. “Showed me his mark and everything.”
“All descendants of Ragnus had a red ring birthmark on their fourth finger. It’s symbolic, see. Ragnus was wed to power. Certainly not to his harem, heh.”
Toofi felt her heart sink. “He had a harem?”
“Oh yes, a hundred women of all ages. He was quite prolific, you know. Children everywhere, bastards all. They all had the ring mark, though. Easy to hide, I suppose. Handy if you’re a dabbler in ancient evil.”
Toofi cast a look at Tyli, who was sweating slightly despite the cool breeze; the longer the link was open, Toofi realised, the more effort it took. “This Rag-nar, was he one of those children?”
“Good grief no, how old d’you think I am?” Pillicus said, drawing himself up. “Rag-nar was the son of Raghr, who was the son of, let me see, Haragnus, who was the son of Ragnus. There. Can I go now?”
“Last question. Did Rag-nar have children?”
“Just one, a girl called Hana.” Pillicus smiled. “Sweet young thing. Such a shame her father was such an evil tyrant. Ruled all of Koru at one point, y’know.”
Tyli stepped forward, spoke a word of command and the spirit was gone. The candles blew out and the wind dropped.
“Was that useful?”
“Some,” Toofi said, and smiled. “Thank you.”
“Not to worry,” Tyli said. “Koru hasn’t been ruled by a woman for a very long time. There’s an emperor there now. Or at least, that’s the impression I get. I think they call him the Shirei, something like that.” She frowned. “If you’re going to Koru to search for these people, take care of yourself. They sound like bad people.”
“I will. Thank you again.”
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
As Toofi walked back among the grave markers, she tapped the ruined remains of the book against her hand. A past ruler of Koru and red ring-marks on fingers; it was a start, if nothing else.