After what seems like ages pass as I fill out enough forms to recreate a small forest I am finally allowed into the city records. I lose all sense of time as I search the town census for the past 85 years… till I reach for another of the large tomes on the shelf and see my companions on the other side.
I wearily wipe my eyes and realize that I’m not hallucinating like I originally thought.
“…this place is a LOT bigger than I thought.” I reply as I flip open the next book onto a nearby table. “Have you all had any luck?” I mutter as I flop down in the chair and begin to scan the long lists of names.
“Not much… we…”
Their voices fade and my eyes widen as I discover some interesting ship manifestos. “Bast bless me, I think I found him! A trace of him, at least.”
“Excellent! What is the information?” Ef Utan asks as he leans over the table. Disinterested in such things, Sapphira grabs a clerk and makes inquiries to local inns as the day has gone.
“It seems that 70 years ago he took passage on a ship from Waterdeep to the south east. If we’re lucky, he went to my home of Gheldeneth since it’s such a large seaport. If we’re not… he might have gone to Unther or Thay. I shudder at the thought of the people we’ve been at war with for ages and the red robed mage-slavers of our north. Please Goddess… let him just have gone to Gheldeneth.
“Sounds like that’s our next step then, and we’ve already got our guide.” Ef Utan turns to Sapphira and shakes his head. “No inns here, I’m afraid… we should be getting back to the Fool’s Errand so that we can pick up Vedis.”
I follow the rest of them in a bit of a daze as we make our way through the portals back to our ship. Home… when I think about it I really haven’t been away for that long… but it feels like forever. Is time the same through portal travel? Will things have changed? I know I certainly have.
After a thankfully non-eventful night on the ship we make our way back to Sigil and through a portal activated by thrown sand. I take a deep breath and close my eyes as I step through, and smile as I feel the heat and warmth of the sun on my fur once again. Gods… I have missed this, at least.
I do my best to hide a smile as everyone but Sapphira mutters about the heat. Give me this over damp and dank perpetual gloominess any day, I say. I’ve had my fill of soulless places like Ravenloft and Sigil.
I open my eyes to take in the white marble walls and have just enough time to notice the three palm trees that mark our exit before I am unceremoniously tackled by Mulhorandi children. As the dust clears and the giggling settles I realize they are Ka and Bet, two children who are also servants of Bast in the temple. They’re harmless… but it’s hard to forget all the tail and ear pulling and begging for “rides on the kitty” when you’re trying to practice your temple rituals.
“Hang on just a moment; I’ve got just the thing for you both!” I say with a smile as I kneel down and open up my backpack. With feigned reverence I pull out one of my Thunderstones cupped in both hands. “This is a very special stone that can create amazing things when you use it… but you can’t let anyone know you’re using it or else the magic doesn’t work!” I try not to smirk as their eyes widen in rapt attention. “Once you figured out the best place, you have to throw it and then quickly run away so no one can tell; I suggest the Library.” I just know this is going to end up with me stuck in another library as punishment soon enough, but I can’t resist. They smile in glee and quickly run down the street with their new treasure. Gods I am such a stinker, sometimes.
I get my bearings once again and lead my friends towards the port harbormaster in hopes that we can find some information about Kavalox. Being home, however… it isn’t long before Ef Utan starts to notice we’re being followed by a group of kids. He signals me and with a nod I duck around a sandstone wall and quickly blend into the scenery so I can try and see what they are up to. Chances are they are just the usual cutpurses, but it pays to be sure.
It isn’t long before one of them targets the richly dressed Sapphira. Ef Utan holds up to his reputation, however, and quickly grabs the thief before he takes off.
“Excuse me, sir,” he asks a vendor in a nearby stall as he holds up the child by his hand, “but what is the punishment for thieves here?”
The vendor holds up his hand and draws it back into the sleeve of his robe. “We cut off their hands, of course!” The child gulps and I wince in sympathy; my father threatened to cut off my tail quite a few times when I was young for the things I did.
Thankfully Ef Utan just wanted to scare the child, or else I might’ve had to have stepped in. Considering my choice occupation, I can’t blame these kids for doing what they’re doing. It’s a hard life living on the streets… and if it wasn’t for Bast’s favor, I would’ve been there too.
Doesn’t mean I can’t put a little fear into them though… they need to learn to pick their targets better before they get themselves killed. Without a sound I sneak up behind one of the pick-pocketing children and grab him by the collar of his tunic as I mutter in a gruff voice, “I’ve seen you kids around here before, and I know where you live. Spread the word that you’re all to leave me and my friends alone or you ‘re going to go home to find I’ve taken your favorite toy, understand?”
The child nods vigorously as he shakes in my grasp and I let him go to gather his companions. I hope I didn’t overdo it…
Now where were we? Ah yes… more research. I rejoin my friends as we all share a laugh at the pint-sized rogues and continue our trek to the Harbormaster.
Thankfully the red tape of home is something I am used to… so when the clerk tells us that we need to go see the records stored uptown, I don’t miss a beat as I let my friends know where we need to go.
Fate, however… has a funny way of interfering with your plans sometimes.
As we step out the door of the Harbormaster’s office, I barely get the chance to point my friends in the right direction before I am once again tackled to the ground. Did I miss something? Is it “Tackle a Catfolk” day in Gheldeneth?
As I get my bearings and my breath back I have to wonder if I got a concussion this time… because I swear I am hearing my father’s voice as I brush fur out of my face. Wait a minute… fur?
“KENARI! WE FINALLY FOUND YOU!” a voice above me exclaims. As my eyes refocus I see to my amazement that it came from another female Catfolk… though her coloring is different than mine.
She kindly backs up off of me and crouches in front of me with an excited grin as another older Catfolk male reaches out his hand to me. “Praise the Gods that we finally found you, niece.”
What? Who? Niece? My mind reels as I try to absorb the fact that I’ve suddenly discovered that not only am I not the only Catfolk in Gheldaneth anymore… but I have family that I never knew of.
“Um…hello…Uncle?” I manage to stammer as he pulls me up from the ground with a grin and envelops me in a warm embrace.
“We have been searching far and wide for others of our clan as we journeyed from the Steppes of Wa. We were ready to give up hope till we heard sailors tell tales of the strange feline duo who appeared in Mulhorand. I am pleased to say that I am your Uncle Tabak, and this is your cousin, Mree.”
He steps back and gestures to the crouching girl, and we both start grinning like schoolgirls.
“I had no idea… goddess bless, this is wonderful!”
“Tell me, niece… where is my brother that I may chide him for staying away so long?”
My grin falls and I bite my lower lip as I turn to my Uncle. “Father… he… I was going to go see him actually after I helped my friends here. He doesn’t talk back much anymore though…“ My head bows as I kick at the sand, “he’s too busy serving the Goddess directly these days.”
Sad understanding crosses their faces as they each place a hand on my shoulder. “It saddens me that we arrived too late to say our goodbyes; we would be honored if we could all go see him together,” Tabak replies in a gruff voice tinged with sadness.
I turn to Lenotta and she nods in sympathy. “Go with your family, and we can meet up with you later.”
“Thank you… just follow the streets north until you see an unusually clean building with statues to Seshet and Thoth outside of it; you can’t miss it.”
“We’ll ask for directions,” Ef Utan replies practically. “Meet us there when you’re done.”
May history forgive me, but what was said between me and my newly discovered family was for us alone. Needless to say… I still had a quest to accomplish with my new companions, and Tabak and Mree needed to return to their homeland. Not wanting to remain out of touch, however… I gave Uncle Tabak one of my favorite beads from my braid so that they may find me again.
After a few hours I say my goodbyes to my new family and make my way to the Hall of Records with a lighter heart, knowing that in this world that has recently become infinitely larger to me, I am not alone.
Eventually I make my way to through the racks upon racks of scrolls in the hall to find my friends once again huddled around dusty pages.
“Find anything?” I ask distractedly as I think about what it would be like to visit Wa someday.
Ef Utan looks up and fills me in. “It seems that Kavalox died in a magical mishap many years ago here, There are some scribbled notations of note on the scroll, but they are hard to decipher. Sapphira was going to cast a spell to decipher them, but now that you’re here perhaps you should try first.”
I raise an eyebrow in surprise at the request. While the Goddess saw fit to have me educated, I am not one of the Thothian scholars who love to fill their beaks with dead languages. Heh… only reason I am studying any at all right now is to earn some brownie points with the Seekers. I’m the closest they’ve got to a native, though… so…
“Sure, I’ll give it a shot. Let me see the scroll.”
After some perusal and much ear scratching I think I’ve managed to pick out a few words. The script is very old… but thankfully hasn’t changed completely. “Far as I can tell, Kavalox had worked with the Temple of Isis and there’s something about a greenhouse.” I shrug my shoulders and hand the scroll back. “I seem to recall something a few years back about a greenhouse that was causing a stir between them and the Osirans over harvest jurisdictions, but that’s all I really know. We could always go ask them; while the priestesses there are dedicated to their magic, they are generally of good intent and not like the dark followers of Set.”
“Sounds like a plan then,” Ef Utan said as he clapped his hands together in satisfaction. “We’ll head over to their temple, and Kenari can ask them about his work.”
I look at him doubtfully with a raised eyebrow.
“Out of all of us, you have the most experience dealing with the clergy around here,” he replies simply. “Now shall we?”
Hmmn… technically I guess he has a point; we’ll just keep out the fact that I’ve never really stepped into one of their temples before. Considering the priestess and their love of decadent decorations, they were always a bit wary of me. Suits me fine… Isis hasn’t exactly done anything for me, either.
When we entered the Temple of Isis I thankfully didn’t get much more than a passing glance this time; guess it helps to come with friends. As I take in the domed ceilings, gold statuary and rich brocaded tapestries on the wall, though… I can see why they might have worried. Not wanting to disappoint the others expectations of me, I gesture them to visitor benches in the back as I kneel on one of the prayer cushions and genuflect to the statue of the winged and bejeweled goddess. What do you say to a Goddess you’ve never really talked to before?
Mystic and powerful Isis… I know we haven’t really talked, but a humble servant of your husband’s protector beseeches you to not look unfavorably upon me and my friends. I don’t know what’s going on with your followers… but if you could let them know we’re not trying to get in the way that would be great. Thanks to you, Lady.
Well that got their attention. I notice one of the priestesses walking towards me and try not to let my grin show as I make my way back to my friends.
“How may the Temple of Isis be of assistance to you today, gentle travelers?” the priestess says in a melodic voice as she spreads out her arms in welcome.
I clasp my hands together and bow before the priestess. “Sage ones, we wish merely information regarding one Kavalox who long ago helped the Temple with his skills. We are on a holy journey of our own, and would consider ourselves blessed if you would see fit to aid us.”
“Indeed. If you would so kindly wait here, I will discuss your request with the head priestess and return with our answer.”
As soon as the priestess disappears through an alcove we all immediately start looking for anything strange, and are soon rewarded with eyes peeking through one of the mosaics on the wall. It seems that we’ve now got another group interested in us to add to the list.
A thought strikes me and I reach into my sash for the moonstone given to me by the priestess I met on the streets of Sigil. Didn’t she say she was a priestess of Isis? Where was she from again… Alhamut? I must ask the temple some day and see if they know of her or her homeland.
After what I am sure was a rather heated discussion, the priestess of Isis returned and gestured us to follow her. We walk through what seems like endless passageways before we come to a large domed room surrounded by statuary of large guardian warriors all looking down upon a strange archway in the middle of the room. Something catches Sapphira and Lenotta’s eye about it so I take a closer look… and can just make out a strange shimmer around it. Could this be another portal, perhaps?
As we look and ponder, a vague image forms in the haze of the gate and suddenly shows us a strange scrubby landscape with a swirling sky. Understanding seems to cross Sapphira’s face as she stands back from the portal and nods to the priestess.
“That’s quite a creative way to cut out the middleman in the agricultural business.”
What does she mean that…oh… I think I get it. No wonder the Osirans were peeved; the followers of Isis were using magic to make their own crops!
“Crafty,” I say as I step back from the portal, “but definitely not what we’re looking for.”
“While I commend your temple’s actions in this endeavor, we seek not to help or hinder your clandestine business practices,” Sapphira says to the priestess who guided us. “We are looking for any information regarding what other activities Kavalox might have been involved in, however; particularly activities of his past before he came here.”
“I shall have to make some inquiries as to your request. This may take some time… where will you be staying?”
I’m about to pipe up about the Temple of Bast when Sapphira continues, “That depends… what’s the best Inn in the city?”
Hmmph… must be nice, that’s all I’ve got to say. Besides… the cats probably wouldn’t care for the smell of ash and sulphur, anyway.
Once again we find ourselves playing the waiting game, and I spend the next day visiting with my friends at the Temple of Bast while the others go touring the bazaar.
Finally a message is sent from a priestess named Beniti. It seems that a journal of Kavalox’s mentions how he was in the Dalelands when he discovered news of hieroglyphs he found regarding the Spelljammers appearance here in Mulhorand. ‘The coming of the Spelljammer during the time of Gods thrown down to walk amongst Men.’ Hmmn… it seems that the Spelljammer is living up to expectations as a bringer of bad tidings. What power it must have, though… to be able to bring about such things. But why would it want to have anything to do with us?
When my friends return it seems that they have purchased goods to continue our trade side business. I wonder if the rooms of the inns of Braal have ever been graced with Mulhorandi linen?
After our usual detours we make our way back to the ship and I go to take a much needed nap in my room. Hopefully we can have a quiet trip back to Braal for once.
…or not. It seems that Ef Utan has decided to wake us up in the middle of the night. I hope it’s good, whatever it is.
Illustration by Syreene