Greyhawk 636 CY: The Rise of Asmodeus

The Saga of Villius Bluesteel, Goodmonth 15, 636 CY

Goodmonth 15, 636 CY

As Written In the Notes of Edward Prester Bard of the South Lands

I had wondered why Baldrun was rising each morning before dawn and walking the Village. It is not that people told me this; no one would report on her movements or find it their place to care or note them. I happened upon the fact one morning three weeks ago when I was returning to my tent after an ill advised drinking contest. So, shorter on funds and pride, I saw her moving through the village in thought. I could be wrong, it could have been the early hour, or the fact that my brain was surviving mostly on mead and not blood…but I thought she looked sad: Even whimsical. In my mind I thought I understood what she was doing, but it seemed too impossible to believe. So I pushed it aside and thought to ask her at some point if an opportunity presented itself.

This morning that opportunity became a reality. I woke with the moons still high in the night sky but morning making the threat of her appearance. Ever since the lack of the Sun a few days ago, I found myself waking near or at dawn to greet it. Again, I saw Baldrun moving through the streets. Our eyes met and she motioned for me to come and speak with her.

“How goes your saga, man of the South Lands?”

I shrugged, “Well enough, I need to know of any recent events at some point. I am waiting for the Watchers of the Coming Sunset to send word from Sir Christopher. But I understand they have been active. I mean, the Sun did go out and return. I assume they are not uninvolved.”

“Indeed,” she smiled, “Have you ever wondered what they look like up close?” she asked gesturing to the moons Celene and Luna.

I accepted the seemingly inane digression in stride, “I am sure all poets have.”

“My son has just returned from Luna.”

“Is there any other impossible news you would like me to know?”

“Parts of Greyhawk City lay in ashes from an attack from Asmodeus. The Circle of Eight are dead, dying or missing. Pelor was captured and freed and the party has just left Castle Greyhawk.”

I stood silent. The Watchers had foreseen this possibility but it lay on a road of time that was least likely. So much was averted to get to this point. “So..” I asked, “That means they will head to fight the dragon soon. Then the Pirate Lord’s decision. But the dragon will come soon.”

“Or that it already has,” she said, “Time is not a precise friend.”

“Or one at all,” I offered.

“Or one at all,” she agreed.

Silence stayed between us for a time. “Do you ever feel guilty? Not telling them some of what we know: Me from the Watchers and the Last Tapestry and you from being an Oracle of Time. We could help them.”

“No,” she said without hesitation, “I am not as weak as that. The secrets of time are not to be common knowledge.”

“Even to those in the path of it’s hurricanes?”

“Especially to them. Their part must be played without foreknowledge…except for that which must be.”

“Ever feel we are really arbitrary on what bits those are?”

We had been watching the moon. But she turned her eyes to me and I reluctantly turned mine to hers. I expected a look of distain. But I saw a look of compassion.

“You do not have the wisdom of an Oracle to guide you child. I would suppose it must seem that way to you.”

I nodded. “I notice you do not age anymore.”

With that I had managed to shock her for the first, and possibly last time, in our time of knowing each other.

“How could you see that, bard? Time moves slowly; And the absence of it even slower.”

“For good or ill, I am a poet who was once in love. That means I know the changes, no matter how small, in the faces of women: Or the lack of change as the case may be. You have not aged in months. Maybe since before your son’s wedding. Maybe since before I met you. I don’t know. I am not an instrument of precision. I am a poet.”

“I would say I have underestimated you, Bard, but that would be a lie. I never took you for an idiot. Just a bit too tied to your angst.”

“And has that become contagious…or do you walk the dark hours before dawn, committing your home to one last set of memories out of a kind of alien Northern joy we in the South do not understand.”

She smiled. “I had thought you saw me more than this time. But I assumed your drunken state would prevent the memory.”

I laughed. “No disrespect,” I said quickly in answer to her scowl, “But again, I am a poet…I can remember the number of stars on a night a decade past when I have whiskey in me…and forget my name on a full breakfast.”

“So,” she said, “you drink to remember what you would rather forget? Seems an odd choice.”

I met her eyes again. “I suppose I make up for the drinking that did not happen on my wedding day.”

“I will not judge your pain on this morning, south lander.”

“That would be a welcomed change, Lady.”

She smiled. “You are correct. I walk the streets to remember both the good and the bad. And to see it as it is.”

“Before what, exactly, happens…? To change what it is that you see or make you unable to see it? I am the only other person here who knows that time is fluid, and dangerous and inevitable and unpredictable at the same time. My entire order is based on those contradictions. We prevent the ends of worlds that are destined since the dawn of time. Over and over again. But I do not know what will happen here.”

“They did not tell you because you are involved in it once you are here.”

“That’s my guess. So will you tell me?"

“Why?”

“Because sometimes speaking the inevitable out loud makes it seem like it can be changed.”

“I am a woman of inevitable facts, my dear bard, I will not speak foolishly out of fear.”

“You walk the streets to remember your village: Either because it will soon change radically, you will no longer be here to see it or both. Which is it?”

She was silent for a time and then sighed, “My son returns on Harvester 16th by your calendar. I will send the message and bring him here…there will be an incident. Something he needs to face. It is hardly world ending, so perhaps your people did not pay attention. Let the business of our people be our business. Perhaps the worst is caused by your involvement.”

“Or it is avoided. I am no simple barbarian like most of this village. Good people, to be sure. But I can not be deterred by cryptic vagaries. I could make it worse or better. But I smell it in the morning air, Lady Baldrun: There will be death. One or many, I cannot say. I know it is not your son, but other than that I have no idea.”

“How do you know it is not my son?”

“Because you are sending the message for him to come home, and although you would invite him to your own death or the deaths of all his people…you would not invite him to his own.”

She smiled, “Very true. I would kill his death with my bare hands at any cost.”

The morning wind grew colder.

“Ah.” I said.

“Indeed, my bard. There will be much for you to write.” She turned, oblivious to the cold and wind. “My women will be wondering where I am. You have delayed me beyond my normal time.”

“I am glad I could inject a moment of unforeseen randomness into your morning,” I said with a not inconsiderable smirk as she left.

As I finished one of her women came up the hill with a cup of tea. I expected it to be handed to Lady Baldrun, but she continued past her and gave it to me. Indeed it was my favorite, and a kind not easily made or found in the frozen north. I looked at the woman with my question unspoken.

“My lady told me to trade for this tea a month ago and to brew you it for this morning and bring it at this day and time.”

I sighed and thanked her. If I could I would have not enjoyed the cup. It showed I knew only what she wanted me to know and when she wanted me to know it. This tea represented that everything was prearranged…down to my enjoyment of it. But she was surprised by some of my comments. The meeting may have been arranged but the outcome…perhaps not. I drank my tea while there was still heat in it.

I said softly into the wind, “He will not thank you for this.”

She did not need to be there for me to know her answer would be a cold northern reply that children are seldom thankful.

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