Power. Only Tiffanie knew the name of the last bearer of this Axe. She was also very aware of the potential bloodlust of Khord and that his will make the Axe more deadly, more accurate and stiffened her own will against weakness. Khord’s price – kill, and kill again. Kill all your enemies and let their blood soak the ground and let the gods hear you kill them.
In her dreams Tiffanie heard the echo of Khord’s voice from the past, battling through legions of gnolls, goblins, and even humans and elves. Khord’s anger and pain ran deep. Tiffanie sensed that Khord’s pain, was akin to her pain.
“Tiffanie,” asked Jocelyn, waking her from a nap, “I have an option for you to consider. I can arrange free passage for you and I to Thalassa if we leave today from Breven. I know the others want to carry on to meet with one of Elemix’s wizard friends a few days ride from here. But if we leave now – with their blessing of course – we can get free passage and hopefully learn what if anything can be done about the curse.”
Tiffanie stretched and gave a yawn, “Free travel you say. I’m willing to leave early if I don’t need to pay. What do we need to do in order to secure our travel?”
Jocelyn answered, “nothing except to show up at high tide, which is around 11 this morning. As a priestess and acolyte of the temple since my adolescence, I have some pull here in Breven. I’ll have to bless the journey and conduct services, but I’d do that anyway. My only worry is that Elemix and Emmeline will insist on remaining behind. That attacker from yesterday is still on the loose.”
Tiffanie felt anger at letting an enemy escape, “Yes I don’t like the thought of him out on the loose.”
Without noticing, Tiffianie had her axe in her hand and was pacing the room.
“We will just have to try and talk Elemix into us taking the artifact with us, or at least part of it. Keep it separated from itself. So we don’t get caught with it all in one place and make our enemies come and search for all the pieces.”
‘Yes,’ Tiffanie thought, ‘let us draw our enemies in so we can eliminate them all at once.’
Seeming to come out of her thoughts, Tiffanie asked, “How much time do we have till high tide? It shouldn’t take me much to get my things packed and ready to leave.”
Jocelyn noted with a bit of worry on her face Tiffanie’s pacing, “it is around 9 now. We have some time, but should be on board by quarter to 11.”
“As you pack, I can make the case with Elemix to give us part of the artifact. Though he theorized whatever part was largest would eventually reform. Frankly, I doubt the enemy would be able to get onto our ship, but worst case we could throw it overboard.”
As she turned to leave, she asked, “Tiffanie, you want these relic hunters to find
us? So we can deal with them. Right?”
Tiffanie stopped her pacing and looked at Jocelyn, “Yes I would like for them to find us. That way we can deal with them, or draw them away from Elemix and Emmeline. And if we are lucky, we can question them and hope they give us the answers we seek. An answer that can lead us to their
leader and end the threat.”
Tiffanie grabbed her pack, set it on the bed, then proceeded to pack up her things. With a look up from her pack, Tiffanie said, “I will be ready within half an hour.”
“I’ve changed my mind. I’ll come get you. We should present to them our idea together,” Jocelyn said.
Returning after Tiffanie had packed, the two of them discussed the idea of breaking up the aquila for safety. After Jocelyn noted that they could be a decoy for them, and Tiffanie added that it would be a good thing if they did attack, then we could capture them and find out once and for all what these killers wanted, Elemix and Emmeline agreed.
Jocelyn and TIffanie departed and made their way to the ship, not truly trying to hide themselves. The ship, the Grey Gull, was a two-masted lanteen-rigged small caravel under Captain Lequois. The captain greeted them and had given his first mate’s cabin to the pair.
No one attacked, and every member of the crew was known to the Captain. The ship slipped away on its week-long trip to Thalassa. As the evening turned into night, Tiffanie slept. A dream came upon her and she, as he, once again stood before the frozen, mummified body of Khord. A voice, felt more than heard, entered Tiffanie’s dreaming mind. “Who are you? Why do you awaken my rage?”
Tiffanie stared at the body of Khord, “I am Typhon-Ne’, and I did not realize that I awoken your rage. I only wished to understand more of the axe that I carry and use. I don’t know if it was fate that I found your body and this axe, or if it was pure luck.”
“There is no such thing as luck,” said the Voice. “the Axe chose you. As it chose me. It is the right hand of vengeance, its price is blood. Avenge me and you shall open the door to avenging yourself, for that which inflicted your pain, inflicted mine; and that which made you strong, made me strong…”
A bear shadow rolled over Typhon-ni from behind and the roar deafened him, drowning out the Voice, and awakening Tiffanie with a start. One hand on the Axe and the other on her beating heart.
Jocelyn was nowhere to be seen for a moment, then she was suddenly in sight, like Tiffanie’s sight was blurred. She held up her holy symbol and was praying softly, eyes fixed on Tiffanie.
Tiffanie looked to the axe in her hand, then to Jocelyn. “What is going on? I need to… the pain, blood spilt, vengeance needs to be met. The rage is strong, it makes me strong… I must avenge the wrongs that have happened to me… to HIM.”
Realizing her suspicions were accurate, Jocelyn took Tiffanie’s hand and said, “my friend, let your mind be free – if but a moment.” She uttered words in the Old Common (or Eterian) tongue, and the rage Tiffanie had been feeling and now was consumed by melted away. Tiffanie was herself as she was before attuning with the Axe. Jocelyn, for her part looked pained, clawing her hands into the wood as she
quickly let go of Tiffanie. A moment later, the pain seemed to pass as blood dripped from her fingernails onto the floor.
Catching her breath, she asked quietly, “how do you feel?”
“I feel fine, the anger has gone,” Tiffanie said. “What about you? What were you doing just now?”
“I asked Aarith to remove the curse from the Axe and prayed the removal wouldn’t also rebound your other curse on others. I think it worked, but in exchange I took the pain, rage and the normal curse’s agony briefly upon myself. It has passed. Whatever is in that Axe, it is angry about something. I’m okay though.” A moment later Jocelyn’s wounds disappeared. “Who is ‘He’?”
“He would be Khord Baradun,” Tiffanie said. “He was the last owner of the axe that I carry. Not sure on what drove him, but I did pick up from attuning to the axe, that he was driven to bloodlust over
obtaining vengeance for something that happened to him. It did feel similar to what happened to me, in regards to what happened to my family.”
Jocelyn replied, “I remember your story to the Baron. How did you get the Axe then? Did occur after your brother left you to die?”
“Yes, it was after I was left to die,” Tiffanie said. “I made my way west thru the mountains. I was high up, in a blinding snowstorm, when I came across a cave and took shelter.
“While I was trying to stay warm, I found the frozen mummified corpse of a dwarf. I scavenged what I could, taking the axe and bone flute, and waited out the storm. I didn’t know his name then, but was always curious how he ended up there in that cave.”
Tiffanie paused as she thought about that cave, then said,”It took a couple of days, but enough of the storm passed to where I could leave. Sometimes I think I should go back, and bring his body down from that cave. So I can take him back to his people for a proper burial.”
“That would be honorable, and you may learn more. By the way, that’s dragon bone,” Jocelyn noted pointing at the flute, “my mother once had some. Likely from a wing spur from a younger one.”
“Dragon bone, interesting,” Tiffanie said. “Someday I should decipher the runes on it. That may lead to more of the story of Khord Baradun.”
“So am I now down to just having one curse?,” Tiffanie asked.
“Or blessing. Depends on your point of view. I think that you, having been a woman for a short time now, may get a sense of wisdom that few in this world ever know. When we finally cure you, which I am dedicated to helping with, you’ll know both sides. This will give you insight that today you might not grasp, but it may serve you in the future,” replied Jocelyn.
“That’s true,” Tiffanie said, “I think I have a little more insight into women than I had before. You keep saying that this is a blessing instead of a curse. Why do you believe that?”
Jocelyn replied, “I like who I have become. Woman or man, running into you and getting cursed while trying to help you was the best thing that ever happened to me. I have broken the shackles of complacency and gained rare knowledge and insight on how the experience of the other half lives – I wish to continue that journey. I mean, I was content being a priest in Uzec. I thought I had accomplished my goals,
but now I know that was hollow. It is hard to explain, but for the first time in my life I am excited to be a priest. Aarith has, through you, given me a new purpose. However, unlike Emmeline, I do not think you should remain a woman forever. You have a destiny.”
“I will think upon what you have said. I wish you luck with your future, you do seem to be happy with what has happened to you,” Tiffanie said.
“Do you think I should wait till we land in Thalassa to re-attune with the axe, or will it be safe to do that while we are sailing?” asked Tiffanie.
“Why would you want to do that,” Jocelyn asked?
“Re-attuning with the axe will grant a strength that will aid me in combat,” Tiffanie said. “If what you did earlier removed the curse that must have been on the axe. My attuning with it, should not incur the
bloodlust that was Khord’s will.”
Tiffanie was thoughtful for a few moments, then said, “I believe that when I attune this time, my actions will be more positive and greater power can be attained with the axe.”
Jocelyn answered, “I do not think I have the power to permanently remove the curse from the Axe. Free you, yes, but free the will of this Khord from the Axe, I’m less certain. Last time you nearly destroyed an inn room. If there is a curse, you need to find out what is causing it – sadly even that would require you attuning with it. The will within the Axe seemed to have affected your dreams, perhaps if you can wait until we get to Thalassa, we can find a place you can attune safely and then contact that will. I trust you Tiffanie, but I do not trust that Axe – and we are on a boat…”
“Very well Jocyelyn,” Tiffanie replied. “I think I would like to wait till I’m on solid ground again to try re-attuning with the axe. Do you have sweat lodges in Thalasa?”