The Sea of Fallen Stars
(11th of Elesias, 1491 Dalereckoning)
It only took about a day to gather the necessary things, when finally she had the courage to do so. With a final, fond farewell to the woman who’d been like a mother to her, Kaileena departed her home, for the very distant shores of a place she once called her home.
From Suzail’s port they booked passage to Westgate, careful to retain as much distance as possible from the Sembian border to the north. Their ship, a lithe Cormyrean schooner, sped through the sea, coasting the gentle waves of the Dragon Coast with ease.
The crew, at first uncomfortable with their unusual passengers, had acclimated easily enough. Thankfully, Kaileena had found no need to use her sorcery, though a man had fallen from the crow’s nest when a stray gust of wind had upended him. Skullscorned, she’d offered him the healing touch of Sune lest he slip into a coma and die from it.
A priestess warranted more trust among seafarers, it seemed.
From Westgate, after staying the night in a dockside inn, they moved on, skirting the coast of Gulthandor and then Turmish, before moving to a long distance charter across the Sea of Fallen Stars to Aglarond, boarded in a heavier and more defensible caravel due to the proximity of an island catering to pirates.
Veltalar loomed on the horizon for several hours before they made their final approach to drop anchor.
Their ship passed between a massive naval dock, housing dozens of warships. A particular specimen; a mountain of wood and iron framework, boasted dozens of Gondish cannons, which burned black powder to launch iron balls into an enemy ship.
Just the sight of it unnerved her.
Along the trade port, massive pulley systems called cargo cranes hoisted crates and tied bundles of barrels, powered by teams of humans and other races leading teams of oxen and mules. The waterfront, ramshackle but practical, featured numerous small warehouses for this cargo, whatever it may be.
Further inland, she’d heard, lay Old Velprintalar, where the shoreline had originally been. The receding waters had left it a slum, as the mercant class had moved outward to form a new port.
“North by boat to Telflamm.” Kaileena said softly, considering, “Then Northeast by caravan along The Golden Way, through Thesk until we reach Citadel Rashemar. Hopefully, the Rashemi won’t mind us trekking through their lands so long as we swear we will pass quickly.”
After that, they would pass east along the road, before turning north through the Tuigan Hordelands to the Great Ice Sea. From there, they would locate or make a raft, and she would pull them by magic to the southern edge of Teikoku, precisely the manner in which she’d come to Faerûn proper in the first place. The trick would be not to encounter trouble along the way; hopefully, two travelers could pass without notice. But between her magic and Zolin’s steel, they would cope if it came to that.
“I still think it would have been easier to hire a Wizard to transport.” Zolin noted, righting his cloak and brigandine with a grunt, “Pity Cormyr doesn’t trade with Thay; it would have cut the journey in half.”
“Never will I pass Thayan soil.” Kaileena replied simply, and that was that.
Down the gangplank and onto the pier, Kaileena righted her own cloak, which she would need when they moved north, as well as a bedroll and traveler’s pack strapped to her back. Their food she could continue to conjure by priestly spell; a gift from Sune for their journey. It wasn’t quite as satisfying as proper nourishment, but it would sustain them until they reached her brother.
Beneath the cloak, she was garbed in a button-corseted top that hung from her neck, the inner layer a fine while linen. She also wore a long pleated skirt of brown linen, which reached to her calves, and a pair of tied leather sandals. The clothing contrasted her skin and feathers, but at least she’d dyed the latter from pink to a soft violet and copper that terminated into white inner stalks. Her claws, too, she’d painted a slightly more neutral color.
Still, her passage didn’t go unnoticed by any measure. Humans, Half-Elves, and beings far stranger eyed her incredulously as they made their way into the city proper, passing shouting and cursing teamsters. She even observed a few Tieflings; Devilborn humanoids with red or golden skin, curled horns, and implacable golden eyes. They were likely refugees fleeing from Thay, for Devilkin were very common there.
She didn’t avert her gaze, particularly with the latter; Tieflings had become a fashion in her trade in Cormyr; a Tiefling had even visited Teneth’s the night the explosion occurred. She knew how difficult it was to live with one’s heritage, something out of your control that others would judge you by.
Beyond the docks, the streets were paved cobblestone, lined with market stalls and street peddlers brandishing their wares from knitted, tasseled carpets. The people wore bright colored tunics and trousers embroidered with black thread. The wealthier stock also wore bracelets, circlets, rings, necklaces, and earrings, all made from bronze or silver. It gave the throng a wild, festive look, possibly adopted from their pirating neighbors in the isles.
“I’ll find us a room.” Zolin said idly, eyeing the crowd for pickpockets, not like they would close on such an unusual pair anyway, “Be careful.”
Yawning, for she was quite weary and a proper bed sounded wonderful, Kaileena nodded, and eyed the road leading uphill, further inland. Back in Old Velprintalar, there was a palace used by the Simbarch Council, situated on a hill that overlooked the city in general. A beautiful thing, they said, of rich green stone and bronze imported from Mulhorand, once occupied by the Queen Simbul, one of the legendary Seven Sisters of Mystra.
She wanted very much to lay her eyes upon that place before they moved on, having read extensively of the many wonders along their path. But first, she would need to see if she could secure passage on a schooner. The lightweight, fleet vessel would shelter them from most threats as it sailed across a channel only just skirting the open sea.
“I’ll be at the pier when I’m finished.” she said to him, offering a light peck on the lips, before he turned towards the larger buildings further in, “Hopefully, there will be a ship here willing to take on passengers. I’ll let it slip that I know magic and healing arts; something useful in a pinch, no doubt.”
Zolin avoided the dockside taverns, seeking a more quality establishment. It had been an arduous trek thus far, and they were both tired, unused to maritime travel.
Though honestly, he figured that of the two of them, she was managing better; she worked her body harder at Teneth's than he ever had for the Purple Dragons. Just watching her dance was exhausting.
Most of the inns were full to capacity, and a few turned him away by his livery alone. Aglarond was a strange place; ruled by wizards and warlords and peopled by cousins to raiders and pirates. Formerly ruled by one of the Seven Sisters, albeit an unruly, temperamental one, Veltalar looked like a mix of frontier, military fortress, and pirate cove.
His mirth, then, when he found a place called The New Paladin Inn situated at an interior corner between side streets. It was a roomy, two story affair, with shuttered windows, a shingled roof, and reinforced doors with brass knobs stylized to appear like lion heads.
“A ray of light among the shadows.” he mused, chortling. He opened the doors to find a lively serving area, the patrons well dressed, several accompanied by burly sellswords. Serving wenches carried heavy bronze platters of drink and bowls of fruit, or lounged on the laps of their customers, and a pair of minstrels set the mood with a viol and flute.
It seemed, for all the world, like a less open, more defensible version of Teneth’s. He was greeted almost immediately.
“An ale for the weary traveler?” a wench asked, taking stock of his coat of mail, only partially concealed by his cloak and tabard.
“A room, actually.” he replied, then, more inquisitively, “The New Paladin Inn?”
“Remake of a quality inn from Old Velprintalar.” she explained, “And we have a few rooms available yet.”
“One room. One bed, for two.”
Her brow inclined curiously, “Got a special friend, hmm? No company, then? Four Gold.”
Exorbitant, but Kaileena had made plenty of money from her trade, far more than him, certainly. The place looked secure. Probably had nice beds that weren’t riddled with lice. They could rest easy, and gods knew they needed it.
“I’ll take it.” he replied, “Thank you. We won’t need a meal, but I could go for an ale when I return.”
“You aren’t staying?” she asked, lonesome. An act, certainly.
“It’s been a few hours.” he explained, “Should be ready to retire soon. The key, please?”
With her task complete, she waited for Zolin at the pier, watching the ships setting sail or dropping anchor. She sat at a bench, her tail curled around one of its legs and her hands resting in her lap. The wind picked up, smelling of salt and brine, rustling her crest of hair feathers, which had lengthened and thickened into more of a mane, reaching down her neck to the base of her shoulders.
She yawned, displaying her teeth, which made a deckhand curse and drop his burden. Ignoring the second curse, to which he intentionally sent her way, for she found herself more irritated than worried by such things these days, Kaileena rifled through her pack, and withdrew her new holy symbol. Dusk was the lady's time, and thus the best time to request spells, but more importantly Kaileena wanted to rekindle the closeness she felt with her goddess.
She could tell almost immediately that her prayers were being heard; a warmth filled her, and she could smell roses. She was privy to another, a presence of such enormity that she could only perceive partial details. A vision of lustrous green eyes impressed upon her, and a woman’s gentle cooing.
Opening her own eyes, Kaileena tasted the air, alarmed, then relaxed, setting aside the holy symbol as Zolin took a seat beside her. The communion left her jittery; a tingling sensation passed through her skin, but she eased against him, his warmth drawing out another unintentional yawn. It was only then she noticed he was handing her a length of wood; a thin stake tipped with a trio of round, yellowy balls.
“Honey-nut.” he explained, “Roasted, rolled, and candied. I thought you might like it.”
Sniffing the sweetmeat, she snapped one off. Her mouth wasn’t designed for chewing, but she let it linger and melt before swallowing.
Perking up immediately, she nibbled at the second, “I love it. Reminds me of Kuri Dango.”
He blinked, considerate, “I remember Dango. Sweet dumpling, right?”
"Hai. Father made it from rice flour. Dipped it in a chestnut paste, which thickened and became syrupy. I made a seed cake with the leftovers the next night. It wasn’t quite as good.”
She looked back to the ocean, thoughtful, “That was Gatsuyu’s tenth nameday. I’d caught a hare, and we chopped and steamed it and put it in the rice. Really not the right meat for that; it came out so chewy, but he ate it anyway.”
Her smile faded. At once, that memory led to many others.
“So much time has passed. It feels like a lifetime. A lifetime away from my family.”
She looked down, “My family...”
“Hey.” Zolin said, gently shaking her back to the present, “It’s alright. You’re going to see your brother. This is a happy moment.”
“But what if he blames me for what happened? How could I face him if-”
She stilled, and he tilted her head by the chin, so their eyes met, “You are his only family too. He would never abandon you, and never hold you to account for what happened. It wasn’t your fault.”
He smiled, rubbing noses, letting his lips linger over hers.
“...and even then, it wouldn’t matter.”
He always seemed to know what she was feeling. He was her family. Suzail was her family.
She leaned back into him, abashed, offering him the last treat. He, in turn, plucked it from the stick, and placed it in her mouth instead.
"Dou itashi mashite." he replied instantly. You’re welcome.
At his insistence, she’d taught him a little Nihongo over the last four years. Once he’d figured out that the subject was almost always at the end of a sentence instead of at the beginning, he’d made a little progress. It made her feel more comfortable in Suzail with someone to practice her birth language with.
Content to watch the sea as evening settled in, the dockworkers returning to homes or inns, eyeing them incredulously all the while, Kaileena offered a weary smile. She might be leaving the home she had made, but she’d managed to take the very best part of Cormyr with her...