Asphodel asked Zerak to please not tell anyone, even Zola, before she will continue.
Zerak nods. "Not even Jobi."
She tells him okay and the relays some of the events that have been regularly occurring during the last downtime:
Asphodel sat looking out the window. She sighed. Perhaps she wasn’t cut out for the life of a prominent noble woman. She cast a glance from the corner of her eye toward Donamira Talbot. The halfling dragon disciple had been extremely helpful over the past months. She wasn’t sure that she could have managed everything all this time with her dear cohort. However, at the same time whenever she was home the woman hardly gave her a free minute to herself. It had been weeks since she had any real “free time”, and the beast in the back of her mind was stirring.
Asphodel’s musings were cut short when Sir Oakley spoke up. She had almost forgotten that the aged paladin of Bahamut was in this meeting. He was talking about the requirements for the sacred “what-cha-ma-call-its” that the new temple would need. She really couldn’t care less what the exact net weight of the gold or platinum “do hickies” needed to be to qualify. To her, all he needed to do was place the order them and then give Donamira the bill. She would much prefer to be talking about dragons with him. Sometimes, even Donamira got involved in the discussions, but she usually had to cut it short to go handle some issue that just couldn’t wait until tomorrow.
Asphodel would be the first to admit that she knew very little about how to run a castle, much less a growing village. Before she was gifted the castle by the Deck of Many Things, she had never dreamed that she would own any land at all. The only life she had ever known was one that was constantly on the move. She suddenly shook her head violently to try and stop the bad memories from coming up.
Donamira and Sir Oakley noticed the young halfling’s sudden action and turned their attention toward her in confusion. Asphodel quickly mumbled an excuse stating that she got a chill. Deep inside her, the beast was stirring awake. She tried to swallow it down and rose to her feet and excused herself owing to the need to warm up a bit. The two others rose with her and nodded their understanding as she strode from the meeting room.
As the door closed after her, Sir Oakley watched in silence for several minutes. “She’s still deeply troubled,” the old paladin whispered. If he was truthful with himself, one of the main reasons he agreed to take up this position was to try and help the girl. When they first met, the summoner seemed so strong and focused on what she wanted. But lately, she seemed almost helpless at times. The only time she seemed to perk up anymore was when they discussed dragon lore, and even then she would still get this strange, distant look in her eyes. It was almost like she was two different people.
Donamira nodded slightly. She knew that it wasn’t a topic that her mistress preferred to discuss, but she could tell when something was weighing on her mind. Honestly, she didn’t know if she really wanted to know the terror that kept her mistress up at night. She had seen Asphodel in battle and the sheer power of her eidolon’s might both awed and frightened her at the same time. She is fiercely loyal to her and looked upon her almost like a little sister, but it was getting harder to penetrate her defenses.
* * * * * * *
Asphodel quickly walked from the meeting room. She wasn’t really cold, but she needed to give them some excuse. She quickly walked toward her private chambers. She need to get out of sight quickly, she didn’t know how much longer she could hold it in. She saw Zola moving across the courtyard as she oversaw the training of the new guards. The aasimar was very good at what she did and the soldiers were all the better for the effort she put into it.
Asphodel darted up the nearest staircase in the great hall. The last thing she needed now was to worry Zola. Reaching the balcony, she nearly broke into a run. She skidded to a stop at the corner when she overheard voices up ahead. Peering around the edge, she spotted Jobi and Zarak talking. Pressing her back against the wall, she forced herself to calm down. Lately, the two of them had been almost constantly in the other’s company. With all her remaining will, she struggled to hold the beastto hold off just a few minutes more. As ready as she could be, she continued on in what she hoped was a nonchalant manner.
Arriving at her door, Asphodel entered and immediately barred the door behind her. Neither one of the two said anything, so, she believed they didn’t see her. Not wasting any time, she dashed over to the secret panel and threw it open as quickly as she could manage. The Inside of the secret room was filled with the flickering light of an everburning torch glinted off the piles of coins and treasures that she had secreted away. She had layers many dark tapestries all along the walls to give the room a more “cave-like” look and feel.
Some time ago, Asphodel had learned from Sir Oakley that dragons like to sleep upon great mounds of the precious metals inside their private lairs. She had used her bag of holding to place over a thousand gold in coins and various gemstones in the chamber so that she could try it out personally. However, it was so uncomfortable to her fragile halfling body that she resorted to pulling an oversized pillow from her bed into the chamber to sleep upon. All that said, she did discover that the sight of the treasure had an almost therapeutic effect on her inner beast.
Once the door clicked shut behind her, Asphodel threw the latch and collapsed heavily onto the pillow. She started to shake uncontrollably. The beast was raging inside her even now. She hadn’t called upon its power since they had secreted Telliann away from the city. At first, she didn’t notice its presence at all. After all, she had so much to do at her new castle. Donamira had worked wonders during her absence, but several things needed her direct input. It wasn’t but a few days later that Sir Oakley arrived and then the temple construction began.
Though, as the days stretched on in a weeks, Asphodel could feel the beast stirring deep within her gut. It almost whispered of promises of power and strength. However, she remembered Zerak’s kind words of comfort and had so far managed to stave off the near primal urges. ‘Had I really become so dependent upon the eidolon’s might that I forgot how to exist on my own?’ she had asked herself many times over the last several days. Granted the life of an adventurer necessitated the near constant use of it, but as time went by it seemed to get more and more insistent. Before long, she was always using it, even while simply walking around town.
Things really came to a head back in Gardmore Abbey, when Asphodel lost control of the eidolon and it attacked Kel. Ever since then, the beast had been stronger. Apparently, now that it had “tasted” the princess’s blood the raging eidolon seemed eager to get more of it. This fact disturbed her greatly. Kel had been nothing but nice to her, but now she was almost afraid to be around her for fear of the beast’s rage.
Asphodel muffled a scream of anguish into the pillow as the beast unleashed its inexhaustible rage upon her psyche. All of her muscles seemed to contract and expand at the same time as she balled her small body up. She could feel it, and itwanted free. Like a caged animal banging at the walls of its prison, it wanted to “be” again.
Asphodel fought hard against the urge to give in. She knew that the feeling would eventually fade, or she would pass out. The eidolon had become like a drug to her. Like a drug addict, she was going through the pains of withdrawals. Sometime later, the near endless pains died down and all that remained was a dull ache not too dissimilar from a migraine. Asphodel rolled over onto her back and stared up at the canvas covered ceiling. The young halfling girl’s body was absolutely drenched in sweat as she laid there in the steady flickering of the everburning light. Weakly, she propped herself up and started to peel the wet clothes from her body. After a long stretch of effort, she managed to shed the last of her soaked garments and collapse back onto the pillow. Before she was aware of anything else, sleep finally claimed her.
It was near the middle of the night when Asphodel awoke with a start. She had had the nightmares again. Nightmares in which she gave in to the beast’s rage and power, and it rained death down upon those who would be her friends. Staring at the pile of golden treasure, she wondered if Zola, Jobi, and the rest would be able to kill the beast that she was slowly turning into before the worst happened. She knew it was only a matter of time before they would be heading out again. To adventure again would mean that she would need to embrace her eidolon once more. The fact that she both dreaded and longed for it at the same time caused her no end of grief. Asphodel lay motionless for a long time as she thought. She hadn’t seen Kel in a number of days. The errant princess was supposedly working on the particulars of her inn or weigh station, or whatever it was called. A familiar twinge in her gut quickly convinced her to think about something else.
The same could be said for Blackwell. Asphodel had overheard a rumor that the former werewolf was hanging up the black powder weapons in favor of a bow. Honestly, the man’s choice to take up the noisy, imprecise weapons never made much sense to her in the first place. She had always thought that his type would favor stealth and speed, ‘maybe it’s a werewolf thing.’ Either way, for all indications, his gypsy camp was growing nicely as well. Perhaps there was something to be said for the semi-permanent feel of the caravans. She could remember a time long ago when she and her mother stayed with a caravan group for time.
Eventually Asphodel rose from the pillow and walked across the room to leave the treasure chamber. As the secret door side silently open, the cool air instantly reminded her that she had undressed. Hurrying over to her dresser, she snatched up a wool robe and wrapped it around herself. As she stood there rubbing her arms, she caught sight of her reflection in the mirror. She looked rough. Her hair was sticking up at odd angles and she her face was red and tearstained. Her skin also felt tacky from all the dried sweat. Turning away from the mirror, she headed toward the bathing chamber.
At this time of night, the hallways of her castle were virtually empty. This suited her just fine as she walked down the stairs and headed down the next hall. The door to the bath chamber was closed and the light was shuttered. ‘Good’ she thought to herself and she entered and closed the door behind her. When she had willed this castle into being, she had specifically wished for an exceptional bathing room and she wasn’t disappointed. She had modeled it after one that she remembered visiting with her mother when she was a little child.
As she filled the oversized tub with fresh steaming hot water, she noted how vivid some memories were compared to other ones. She could remember almost everything about that bathhouse from the color of the tile walls to the smell of the floral soaps. Yet, she could scarcely remember her own mother’s face. Of course, she had other memories that she would just as soon forget as well.
Throwing in a dash of lilac oil, Asphodel cast her robe aside. As she slid into the water, the hot water stung her skin and soothed away the day’s soreness. Washing herself, she internally commented that she would definitely miss this when they decided to venture out again. Yawning heavily, she didn’t realize how tired she was until she climbed into the water, and she could barely keep her eyes open. It is possible that she would have fallen asleep in the bath had Donamira not chosen that moment to enter.
“Oh, sorry my lady, I didn’t know you were in here,” the older halfling quickly apologized.
Truthfully, Asphodel should have latched the door, or at least turned on the light. However, neither idea had seemed important enough at the time.
“Don’t worry about it,” she offered without even opening her eyes. “Just come on in. We’re both girls after all.”
Donamira thanked her and entered. Asphodel noted that she heard the click of the latch. She heard the halfling woman walk over to the benches and then a ruffle of clothing as she prepared to bathe as well. Seconds later, Donamira winced. Asphodel’s eyes shot open at the sudden noise.
Donamira was gently easing her body into the steaming water. “Sorry, it’s just a little hot,” she offered.
“Yeah,” Asphodel said with a nod, “that’s the way I like it.” After a moment’s thought she added, “But I guess as a dragon disciple of ice you prefer a bit colder water, right?”
Donamira smiled slight as she finally got both her legs fully submerged and was starting to sit down. “Yes, but this is okay. Back home we didn’t have baths such as this. All we did to clean ourselves was to take a trip down to the nearby creek.” She let out a long sigh when she got seated.
“Hmm, I see. So you grew up in a village then?” Asphodel asked cocking her head to the right.
Donamira nodded. “A small farming village quite a ways south of here. Ha. You’d never know it was there if you didn’t walk off the road and into the hills.”
Asphodel listened as the other halfling spoke about her village and family. Apparently, she was the middle of five children, and the only girl. Unlike her siblings, she wasn’t content to live the quiet life of a farmer. To make matters even more strenuous, her arcane powers manifested during her fourteenth year. With no one around to teach her anything about magic, she did the best she could and taught herself. Within six years, Donamira knew that she was not meant for the live on the farm and bid farewell to her family. While she hasn’t returned, she still sends letters and some money to her parents every month.
Internally, Asphodel was a bit jealous of Donamira for her family. The only family she ever had was her mother and she was dead now. She didn’t even have any who her father was to know if he was still around. She could feel her blood pumping in her ears with that, but she managed to push the feeling aside. It wouldn’t do to get herself all worked up again. Plus the feel of the hot water was just too soothing that she didn’t want to make a fuss here.
“My Lady, please forgive my asking, but are you alright?”
Donamira’s sudden question instantly brought up Asphodel’s defenses. “I’m fine!” she a little too quickly and harshly. The other halfling cringed slightly at the sharpness in her tone.
“S…sorry for asking…,” Donamira stuttered.
Asphodel sighed, “No, I’m sorry. Sometimes I just…get carried away with things.” She cast a sideways glance at the other woman. She was looking down at the bottom of the tub. “I guess I still not used to having people that I can rely on. It’s an unfortunate side effect of growing up while constantly on the move.”
“If I may be so bold, ma’am, you aren’t alone anymore. You have Miss Zola, Miss Jobi, Master Zerak, and even Sir Oakley here with you.” She said looking up at once again. “And…you have me to my lady,” her voice tapered off slightly as if she were thinking about something intensely. “Do you remember the events in that happened in Neverwinter’s market square?” she asked.
Asphodel looked at her with her head cocked trying to remember. So much had happened in the past year that it was hard to keep up with it all at times. “Do you mean the time that the spell-plagued flumphs and the mind control thugs attacked?” she ventured in confusion.
“Yes!” she said happily, “that’s the one!” Taking a breath to calm herself, she continued, “You probably won’t remember me, but that was the first time I saw you. I was on the other side of the market when that strange very long whining-screech happened. I saw you all, I watched as you took out three of the thugs by yourself and devised a plan to grab up the pair of strange creatures and hurl them at the ground from mid air.” Stopping to take a breath, she added softly, “it was the most amazing thing I ever saw.”
Asphodel didn’t know what to say. She hadn’t been really planning anything. It was just the only way that she could think to stop the rampant creatures.
Before Asphodel could add anything, Donamira continued, “After that, I knew that I wanted to learn the lore of the dragons. I also listened for all the stories about you in Winterhaven and old Gardmore Abbey, and anyplace else you’ve been.” Looking a little sheepishly now, “I wanted to impress you and be worthy to follow you.”
Asphodel could feel her cheeks warming up and it wasn’t from the heat of the water. She never realized that her cohort had been around the city for that long. “I see,” she replied for lack of a better response. Looking back forward, she stared across the large tub as she processed the other’s confession. ‘Did it make a difference? Not really,’ she answered internally, ‘it was just curious that anyone would want to be like her.’ Not feeling very comfortable with the direction that the conversation was taking, Asphodel dunked her head under the water once more before standing up to climb out. As she reached for a towel to dry off with, she glanced toward Donamira out of the corner of her eye. The other halfling had settled into washing herself when she had stop talking. ‘Perhaps she sensed that she might have said to much?’ Shaking her head slightly, Asphodel quickly toweled herself mostly dry and redressed in her wool robe.
“Please sleep well, my lady. I will see you in the morn,” she heard Donamira speak again as she was almost to the door.
Asphodel stopped and uttered a soft, “you too,” before she opened the door and stepped into the hallway beyond. Once the door to the bathing chamber was closed again, she wasted no time in returning to her quarters. Pressing the door closed quietly behind her, she looked across the expanse of her bedroom before looking back toward the secret treasure room. As she debated on where she wanted to sleep, she felt the pain in the back of her mind flare up again. The beast was restless again.
Suddenly a little weak in the knees, Asphodel limped across the room to stare out her window. “It won’t be long now…” she whispered aloud to the beast inside her. “Just a few more days and I’ll have no choice but to let you out.” With that, the hungry feeling in the back of her mind seemed to lighten up a bit. A single tear formed in the corner of her right eye and started running down her cheek. “Just please…don’t hurt my…friends…” she whispered in a voice that was nearly lost in the sounds of the wind against the outer walls of the castle.
Zerak takes awhile to respond. His eyes are closed, deep in thought.
"I read a story as such once. A story of dualities, of a man of some alchemical and magical ability, who fought an internal battle within what he felt were basic sapient natures of good and evil. He sought to create a way to isolate the evil as its own creation and thus leave him as only good. Unfortunately, man is unable to achieve such purity. However, in his other persona he fully embraced depravities and wickedness darker than the worst actions of the worst demons of the abyss. Eventually the man tried to stop the transformations, but he discovered he was addicted. He no longer controlled the transformations, it controlled him."
Zerak pauses, looking up towards the sky.
"I know that is not encouraging, but there is a difference. The... Beast... as you call him... is not you. It is a seperate being, one that you have been bonded with. It is inside you, but it is not you."
Zerak bows his head, thinking deeply.
"The question before you now... You obviously do not want to be consumed. There is your current internal battle now."
"Is seperation an option?
...after a long measured look at her hands folded in her lap, she finally says "I don't know...My mother's amulet won't come off my neck."
"I don't know if this has anything to do with it. I feel a very strong connection to it...almost like it is a part of me."
"...but if I don't have my eidolon...would I be of any use to the...group?"
Zerak gives one of his smiles. There's a glint in his eyes. A twinkle of his asymmetrical reasoning.
"Remember. You are talking to someone who used to carry around a necromantic doll. I know how these kinds of things go. And between being around Kel and have to deal with my own walk on the line, I can definately tell you this: destiny is not so set in stone that you can't carve your own path. One might have to travel from Neverwinter to Waterdeep, but the means of transport is what you can do."
"And I know magic and magical potential. There is far more to than your extra dimensional symboite. More than you realize. You have arcane potential you haven't tapped yet."
Zerak pulls out a sheet of paper and scribbles something on it. He folds it and hands it to Adphodel.
"We best be getting back to the others before they get into trouble. But know I am here to talk whenever you need it. But for now... I know it's not much... But hopefully this helps."
She nods her ascent that they should catch back up with the others.
As she turns to follow you out she looks at the paper.
"You are Asphodel."