Where Kestra, still forced to wear a slave collar that can induce pleasure or pain at the collar master’s whim or if she disobeys, finds Rowe at a bar after their first day of fighting in the Crucible contest.
This conversation occurs after Session 4.
At the house prepared by Kestra’s so-called master (buzzzz, crackle, pain…), or more accurately the sponsor of the team; Kestra, who had returned that evening after the first fight, sought out Rowe.
Once he had realized he was a priest of Torne, Kestra had been one of the first to openly follow him. As good or bad as the events were, they had a reason behind them. Torne had a reason for the spate of ill luck Kestra had suffered, she understood that now. She had even begun cooperating with the ‘sponsor’ istead of defying him constantly, at least so far this evening. But she had questions about this, and an earlier dream that still was strong in her thoughts.
Rowe was sitting quietly at the bar writing in what looked to be a new journal, with an ale at his elbow right next to a bottle of ink for his quill. He was so absorbed in writing, dabbing the quill in the ink and then removing the excess on a soft little pad next to the ink bottle, and then continuing to write, he didn’t notice Kestra standing there at first.
A glint of light off her slave collar caught his eye then, and he looked up. The huge cleric smiled in recognition. Dressed in gleaming chain mail armor with a pair of massive war hammers at his belt, the six and a half foot tall human was a huge, wide-chested man. Aside from an incident in Xyas, no one ever picked a fight with him in a bar; he looked strong enough to snap necks with a single blow.
But Kestra knew him as a young man with a ready smile and kind disposition. He always had the backs of his fellow party members, and like any good cleric, was there to pick up the pieces whenever things went south. Given his size, he typically was the last to fall in such situations; a distinct advantage for a team that had a war cleric like Rowe. Come to think of it, Kestra had never seen him fall personally in any battle. His self-named title, Rowe the Lucky, seemed rather accurate from that perspective.
“You’re back,” he said with a pleased smile. He turned and ordered a red wine for her from the bartender, then turned his attention back to her. “Good job with the succubus team today. Sorry I had to jog your head a bit. That was a pretty tough situation.”
The “situation” he spoke of was that the succubus had, at various points in the battle, several members of the team dancing on her seductive strings. Kestra had been manipulated worst of all; she had been forced to defend the team’s enemy. None held that against her; she had no more control over what she did then, than she had over the slave collar her kidnappers put on her.
“For a moment, I had thought I killed you,” Rowe continued. He shook his head with a rueful grin. What had actually happened was that he’d lined up a killing blow on the Succubus, and Kestra, under the demon- woman’s influence, had thrown herself in the way of his whirling hammers. The righteous blow meant to end the battle had instead nearly ended Kestra’s life, but for the fact that Rowe had bound magic into his strike. When the hammer struck, it released deadly power into the blow, but it had also released healing power which he’d already directed to Kestra. Thus, with the same strike, he nearly killed her and then healed her at the same time.
“I hope you’re not mad,” Rowe said.
The bartender had finished filling the glass with wine and Rowe placed half a gold on the bar top for him. Then he presented the drink to Kestra as a peace offering.
“No. Not at you at least,” she replied, “It was a situation out of my control, which seems to be a trend lately.” She laughed a bit to herself, trying to contain the seeming hopelessness of her situation lately and embracing the optimistic hope that they just might get through this. She continued, “I just know now not to be so brazen. I should have been patient, stuck with my plan and gutted that “woman” from behind instead of trying to showboat like the crowd wanted.”
She paused to order wine and then said, “I suppose my pilgrimage hasn’t turned out quite like I wished. Strange situations, stranger dreams, and even stranger co-incidences instead just the life of a duellist I once craved; but live and let live I say.”
“Well, that pretty well defines ‘adventure’,” he said with a grin. He grew more serious as he continued, though. “Although I wouldn’t wish you present situation on anyone. May I take a look at that collar?”
She shrugged, “Sure.” She pulled her long auburn hair away from her slender neck so he could see easier.
Rowe drew her closer to him so that he could see the slender, silver band better. He touched it carefully and reached out with his senses, gently, cautiously prodding with mystic power. He turned her about in his examination so that he could look closely to see if any latch, grove or other blemish existed upon the smooth, metal surface. He found none. What he did find, disturbed, upset and frightened him.
“Merciful Primia,” he murmured. “I’ve never seen such an insidious artifact in my life. If an attempt to remove it is made, it will trigger powerful magic. Worse it looks like it does something to your mind. I guess you already told us a little about that, not being able to say or do things that would displease the master of the collar. I don’t even know that it would come off even in death.” Rowe shook his head. “This thing is old magic. Magic I haven’t seen at any rate. These things can’t be cheap to make, either.”
Rowe sighed in disappointment. “I can’t remove it for you, Kestra. I think that whoever the master of the collar is, they are the only ones who can do it, if it’s possible. I’d go after him, but here’s the catch. I worry that if he dies, then you can never remove the collar and are forced to do what everyone else wants you to do, within whatever limits he put on the collar. Whatever his game is, we’re going to have to play along and see if we can’t gain some kind of leverage on him for you. Maybe give him something he wants more than keeping you in bondage.”
He put his hand on her shoulder and clasped her firmly. “But don’t you give up, okay? We aren’t leaving this city without you. You *will* have your freedom back. You have my word.”
She let her hair down and looked up at him, “I appreciate that Rowe. Somehow, for some reason beyond companionship or friendship, I know you mean it. There is another helping me as well, I think he is the brother of the “sponsor”,” Kestra loathed the word ‘master’. “And I think one of our troupe has met him.”
“Hm. You might consider thinking of him as the master of the collar, rather than you, if it helps,” Rowe offered. “But this man and his brother, can you tell me their names?”
Kestra shook her head, “No, I’m afraid I can’t. I mean that I don’t know them and have never been told or overheard them. Naya might know the one, the brother who was kind to me; and for the record even the master of the collar has never directly hurt me. I just don’t play nice with those who try to take my freedom and so the collar does most of the hurting when I defy that. Which I have done, and often; but now maybe cooperation might be a better play – I’m not sure. Defiance led him to casting me away into the crucible and thus to find you guys again.”
“A good bit of luck, or maybe the stroke of fate,” Rowe remarked. He picked up his mug and took a long drink. When he set it back down on the bar he asked, “So you are here tonight. Does that mean he’s letting you stay with us tonight?”
“At the house provided by him, yes.” Kestra answered. “We seem to be doing well, so it makes sense he’d want us to build comradery and plan for tomorrow.”
Rowe nodded. “He’d be wise to bet on us. We are going to win the whole thing, you know.”
Kestra smiled, “I should hope so!”. She sipped her drink, “But, if we win, will he let me go? I have been given no promises. I couldn’t even kill myself or him; and I tried both several times. To be honest, part of me wanted to die this afternoon; better that than servatude forever.
But I have hope now that I didn’t have; and something more. You see, something had occured to me a few nights before my, let us say, acquisition. I had a dream, a vision really, that I cannot understand; yet seemed so real. I want to find out what it meant, but my current circumstance make that a bit hard.”
Rowe looked at Kestra. He didn’t like talk of suicide. As long as there was life, there was hope. One should never give up. But her talk of the dream distracted him from his retort. “A dream? Many of us had visions that night. What’s more, they all seem interrelated. Tell me what you saw, and maybe we can put some more pieces together.”
Kestra saw the concern in Rowe’s face as she as spoken of trying to escape and start life anew in the next world; but knowing that bothered him was a comfort to be sure. No matter what she couldn’t stay enslaved indefinately, but maybe her vision was a clue to that. She replied, “It was confusing really. But I remember it vividly, I envisioned two women walking. They are sisters I think. I approached them from behind and touched one on the shoulder, and said, Leandra. This surpri sed me as my voice and hand seemed masculine.”
Kestra continued, “This Leandra turned and said to me, ‘Yes Shivan?’ and I siad something about reports being ready; whatever that means. I guess i am seeing through the eyes of this Shivan. Later on, I don’t remember much between these scenes, but we were camping and I see some close friends or I feel that they are close friends also travelling. I (or he) seemed afraid of some kind of unfolding event or events. He (or I) was afraid of the events that were unfolding and what they meant. I called out to a young woman named Evaine. She was young, blonde and athletic. She replied, ‘yes’ or ‘yeah’ or something. We were talking about some people named Tristan and Rowan and whether they would get together and how they love each other. We ended up laughing about it.”
She looked pensive, trying to remember, “I don’t remember what came immediately after, but I do remember a, well, private time with Leandra. But not so much in-love so to speak, but a bit non-chalant; almost cavalier attitude toward such things. And Leandra didn’t seem to mind that.”
“Anyway,” Kestra continued, “I don’t really remember the making love part and couldn’t describe it to you anyway. Between being seduced by a woman today and dreaming I’m a man, I am a might confused.”
He nodded. “You have a right to be, though rest assured I have an open mind.” He broke into a grin. He couldn’t help teasing a little bit, if only to lighten the mood.
“But actually Kestra, your visions seem to be about the same people as the rest f us. Most people just had visions of themselves in a previous life as well as those closest to them. I, too, had a vision of Tristen and it has reinforced my purpose, my journey, although I also dreamed of each of five others. My name in that life was not so different; I was called Rowan. The names you speak of Leandra and Shivan who were friends and lovers, Evaine and Hayden who loved each other more than life itself, Jara was Leandra’s sister and joined us in our mission.”
Rowe paused and frowned. “Wait. You are the last one we know of. That means there is one other…” He looked at Kestra seriously. “Kestra, there are seven of us who had visions. Six of us had visions of a single lifetime in which we met. Bronwyn did not — she dreamed of her own destiny and it is personal to her. That means, there is another.” He shook his head. “One named Evaine from that lifetime. We have not met a present incarnation for her.”
Rowe cracked open the book he’d been writing in when Kestra arrived and flipped to the first few pages. There he wrote Kestra’s name next to another, that of Shivan. Kestra could see that he had names next to each one of the party members, save for Bronwyn.
She briefly watched Rowe writing and then asked, “According to my dream, I should be in some kind of informal relationship with whomever is Leandra; or must we repeat the past? Or, is their some kind of unfinished business we should be doing? As far as Hayden; if the past does repeat in some way, then whomever Haydene is today must fall in love or have some kind of emotional connection, good or bad, with today’s Evaine at some point. Right?”
“What?” Rowe looked surprised. “What are you talking about? Why would we repeat the past? What would we gain by that?” Rowe shook his head. “I’m not interested in suffering the same fate we had back then. We are shown visions of the past so we know who we once were in terms of how it shapes us today. What we are in the future is our own choice, not some doom we must repeat.”
He shrugged. “I have business I am on presently and this trip through the Crucible is a step along the way. I know it’s the correct step because we found you again and the visions hint that we are fated to work together because we have in the past. That doesn’t mean the past will repeat itself, though I suppose it will if we let it. That’s not my goal, though.”
The two turned back to their drinks and were soon joined by the rest of the crew. They both had plenty to think about.