I found the small band of Iron Shield adventurers in a place they should not have been able to reach: in the Feygate, between the worlds.
I was told I would be expected, and so perhaps I did not make my introduction wisely. I simply announced that I was assigned to join their party, offering no pretext. For the war-forged Resolute that would have been enough. The others are more prone to doubt, less eager to trust authority. Even for the dragonborn, faith in others does not come easily. I think I would have been more welcome had I offered some venal reason why I wanted to join them in their quest, and demonstrated how useful I might be to them. Make it a commercial exchange. That is something I'll remember about them, in the future.
Even after a thousand thousand lifetimes, mortals still surprise.
Nonetheless, the party had succeeded in gaining the trust of the guardian of that place, and three – Inwe, Martha, and Wednesday – had been offered special gifts. For Resolute there was also a small token. Only the dragonborn was scorned.
The guardian had also prepared for them three potions that would assist them in seeking the Oathband of Etrius, allow them to see what ordinarily cannot be seen.
For that, it seems, is why they had come to that holy place: to seek the Oathband. It was immediately obvious to me that my presence was more than accidental. Surely if the Oathband was to be retrieved, the relic of the founder of my house, then it was meant that I should help in its recovery.
Our journey took us down a hidden path in the fey land, to a cliffside. Before us was a tree greater than any that grows in the forests of men. Its roots were far away in the deep soil, its branches in the heavens; and it could not be reached but by faith and trust in comradeship. The bridge reaching from our cliffside perch to the trunk of the tree was invisible, and spanned a great distance of empty air. Martha swallowed the potion prepared for her, and was able to see the bridge. The rest of us followed walking on the appearance of emptiness.
Thus the first test, a test of Faith.
At the far side of the bridge was a room hollowed in the trunk of the vast tree. It was a huge space. At the center of the room was a pool of water, over which a canopy of trees grew; at the far side, beautiful maidens were dancing. A shaft of sunlight, the ray of Pelor, came through the ceiling, and it seemed a place of surpassing peace.
It did not last. When we entered, the maidens cried out in rage. They turned into angry woodspirits, tearing at us with claws of thorn; and there came also two whirlwinds, spirits of the storm; and besides these, a terrible creature that only Martha could see, that attacked and lashed at those near it. All that we could see were the wounds that Martha received under the force of her attack.
The battle that followed was desperate and long-drawn, fought on the ground and in the air and even on the roof of the canopy of trees. The wood spirits had the power of dissolving themselves and rematerializing in a new place; and though in time two others drank the potion and were able to see the face of our greatest enemy, all received much damage, and at times several of us lay bleeding on the ground and near to death. But all fought on without flagging.
So the second test, a test of Determination.
After much loss, we found that the tree at the center of the canopy bore a crystal wrapped in vines, and when the vines were stripped away, the light of Pelor shone through that crystal and illuminated the cave we were in; and when the guardian passed through the beam, it became visible. And so it grew vulnerable, thanks to Pelor's gift.
At the end it was Martha who destroyed the guardian of the place: she transformed herself into her wolf shape, and rose into the air using the gift of flight she had been given in the Feygate, and cast a powerful spell that destroyed the last of its power.
When the dark guardian had passed away, we approached the second crystal in the room, one that stood at the far side of the canopied pool. It was of a common type for focusing the rays of the sun, but it was not adjusted. A small rotation brought it to its proper alignment, and there was a glint of light. Then a trunk bearing the Oathband rose from the water at the center of the pond.
We had been warned that the pond must not be approached, however, by any thing that walked on two legs. Therefore Wednesday climbed on the back of Martha in her wolf form. The wolf flew across the lake, and Wednesday, leaning down, was able to lift the Oathband from its pedestal while neither touched the water.
And thus the third test, a test of Insight.
Then I thought, surely it will be my honor to carry this relic; if anyone, I am the representative of Etrius in this company. I almost stepped forward to claim it. But the relic had a will of its own, and it chose Martha for itself: Martha the libidinous wolf-woman, who barely knew the name of Etrius before this quest.
It is not wounded pride that troubles me. Well – not only wounded pride, at any rate. I am meant to be here now, that much seems clear. But why with such companions, and to what end? Resolute and Balasar serve ends that I can comprehend. But the Raven Queen looks out of Inwe's eyes, and the others have a spirit of wildness and untempered will – just what I learned to distrust, in the life before this one.
When I look at their faces, and remember the soldiers who killed my beloved and his family, I feel very cold. And then I long for another battle, so that I may be full of the certainty and the sunlight of my god.
- Menin, Watchman of Altaire