Iron and Leaves

Book 1, Chapter 2: Arriving at the Temple

A rough start, new enemies, and new friends

SUMMARY: The priestess arrives in the morning. She is warm with the twins well, but cool to the non-elves, offering to pay them for their services and send them on their way. Asger argues over the pay and offends the priestess, who freezes him for most the day. Moira tries to connect with the groundskeeper. Some visiting high elves get a racist, orthodox sermon from the priestess. Tiaga learns that the visitors are not orthodox; better yet, one is cute. On a drunken walk that night, the others bump into an apprentice of Zelu’s master (who is still looking for him). The next morning a band of halflings ask for help. The priestess refuses, but Asger and Moira go along. Tiaga and Zelu stay and convince the priestess they’re on her side and will go fetch the others. Tiaga is given a sacred relic. They also convince the priestess that the assassination attempts were real and a significant danger.

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Our heroes slept fitfully the first night at the temple. Asger had a claustrophobic dream of dimly sensed ravens pecking and flapping against closed windows. Zelu stayed up late studying his stolen spellbook and felt a pressure as if the temple itself opposed the book. Moira and Tiaga knew the morning encounter with Tiranna the head priestess was unlikely to go well.

But eventually morning came, as it always does.

Moira was up first. She found Gilan, the wood elf also up early and tending the grounds. She offered to help. He demurred, but when she insisted he shrugged and let her help. He didn’t seem to warm to her at all, but Moira was thinking of the long-term and kept helping. After about an hour of labor, GiIan straightened and told Moira to go awaken Tiaga. TIranna had arrived earlier and wanted to meet them for breakfast. Gilan would awaken the boys.

After they were all awake, they gathered in the communal dining toom where they’d eaten the night before. Gilan told them Tiranna would arrive shortly and excused himself to finish preparing breakfast.

While they waited, Tiaga gave the non-elves a brief explanation of the religious paintings on the wall, depicting the Three Sisters. They are star goddesses and central figures in the elven pantheon, especially among high elves. Tiaga and Moira are acolytes of the Three Sisters (though only Tiaga feels devotion).

After a few minutes, TIranna came into the room. The priestess was strikingly beautiful, even for a high elf. She was dressed immaculately in fine clothes and wore stunning (and expensive) high elven silver jewelry.

She glanced briefly at the human and goblin, then ignored them. Instead she reached out both hands and smiled radiantly at the elven twins.

“Moira! Tiaga! My, you’ve grown since last I saw you. I am so happy you arrived safely. I trust your trip was uneventful? The snow didn’t discomfort you?”

The four exchanged a glance. They’d decided earlier to ease into the story of the spirit assassin and the list with their names. For now, Tiaga and Moira stood and greeted Tiranna warmly in return.

When Tiranna praised their “father”, Ira Summerstar, Moira quickly corrected her that Ira was their step-father. Tiranna nodded after only a brief hesitation and continued to praise Ira as an example of piety and high elf virtues. Moira and Tiaga, who both disliked their step-father, tried to hide grimaces and resist interrupting her.

After ignoring them long enough to make her point clear, but not quite long enough to be called out for rudeness, TIranna turned to the two non-elves. She addressed them formally and without the warmth she had showed the twins.

“We thank you for your service guarding our young acolytes on their journey here. Your services are no longer required. See GIlan and he will give you your reward.”

Asger figured money is money and stood up to go find GiIan. Zelu stayed sitting, but did make a passing comment about elves being racist which Tiranna heard but deigned not to acknowledge.

Tiranna turned back to the twins and asked them if the mens’ companionship had been too tedious (she was aware that Zelu was still sitting there). Tiaga implied Asger was a harmless buffoon.

Tiranna continued talking about how wonderful their step-father is and she didn’t miss their expressions showing they didn’t share her admiration. Her smile faded a little. She informed them that after breakfast they should begin their duties.

Meanwhile in the hallway, Gilan dealt out a number of coins to Asger. Asger felt the amount was too small and left his hand out. Gilan grimaced and tried to walk away, but Asger moved to block his path. Gilan grew flustered and increasingly annoyed.

Then Tiranna walked out. Asger blocked her way next and said he deserved more money. Tiranna was furious at his impropriety and called down a miracle to freeze Asger in place. He could move his eyes, but couldn’t talk or move.

Tiranna left him like that all day.

Meanwhile, Tiaga and Moira set to their tasks. Moira did her chores, but when it came to devotional tasks, she left Tiaga to do all the work as was their habit. Both were officially acolytes of the Three Sisters, but Moira had been skipping lessons for years and had no ability to call miracles and little understanding even of basic doctrine. Because they were identical and purposefully kept the same hairstyle but wore distinct colors, Tiaga has been able to impersonate Moira for all classes, duties, and functions, leaving Moira to spend her time with their ranger grandfather with whom she had spent years secretly training as a ranger.

As soon as she was able to slip away, Moira found Gilan and again helped him with his chores. As before, he allowed her to help, but remained aloof.

Zelu checked on Asger, then retreated out of sight in his room to study,

When the sun set, Asger was freed. His muscles were stiff and full of painful cramps from not moving. He wandered out, stretching, and saw that a band of high elves had arrived and that Tiranna, Moira, and Tiaga were about to perform some sort of elven religious ceremony. Asger had no interest in that, so instead he wandered back towards his room. He was famished, so he found the food storage and began rummaging through it. He saw several barrels of wine and decided to roll one into his room, as well as several sacks full of food.

Zelu heard him and poked his head out to watch. When he saw the wine, he shrugged and followed Asger into his room. They cracked the first barrel.

Meanwhile, up in the shrine, Moira and Tiaga had been summoned to help Tiranna. Three visiting high elf dignitaries had arrived and Tiranna was eager to impress them. Moira and Tiaga were dressed in their ritual garb and were standing to either side of Tiranna. They both noticed that one of the elf visitors was very attractive and about their same age. The other two were older.

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Tiranna sang a sacred poem, which Moira and Tiaga accompanied (Moira followed Tiaga’s league, since she had only a rough familiarity with any of the poems, even after years of “stufy”). Afterwards, Tiranna gave a sermon on the meaning of the poem. Her interpretation was ultra-orthodox in tone (the type of views the twins had heard their step-father share frequently, but only with other staunch orthodox high elves). Not only were the views racist against non-elves, they also belittled the wood elves and dark elves. Moira and Tiaga were very uncomfortable, but chose not to make a scene.

The three visitors also looked surprised and uncomfortable, though Tiranna didn’t seem to notice.

After the ceremony, Moira and Tiaga were dismissed back to their rooms. On the way they saw Asger and Zelu already on their way to being drunk. Moira joined them, drawing herself a cup from the barrel. Tiaga wandered back to her room alone.

Moira, Asger, and Zelu decided they needed to get out for a bit. They decided to go for a walk in the hills. THey brought plenty of wine with them and kept drinking.

Tiaga heard the high elf visitors come into a room near hers. She knocked on their door and asked if they would like company. They let her in. One of the older two elves made a disapproving comment about the sermon. Emboldened, Tiaga shared her own opinions as well. The younger elf said he found the growing high elf orthodoxy troubling. He smiled at Tiaga, clearly interested, and introduced himself as Sedril. The three elves were visiting from Morthil, a small elven city in the Queen’s Wood. Sedril proudly told her it was one of the few true elven woods left, with high elves, wood elves, and dark elves all living together.

Outside, the three drunk friends came up to the top of a hill and saw a single lantern coming towards them. The only details they could make out about the traveler is that it was a humanoid figure of human or elven height riding on a donkey or pony. The figure was coming up the trail that would lead straight to the shrine.

They called out to the figure and the figure answered. It was a young woman. Zelu recognized the voice, but it was too late to hide or move away. It was Coryn, the apprentice of his previous master, Katerina. Zelu had always liked Coryn, who was friendly and kind (though not particularly talented), but he definitely wanted to avoid the attention of his old master, especially since he had stolen a spellbook from her before running away

“Zelu? Is that you? Gods, it’s good to see you! How are you? Are you alright? We were all so worried about you!”

She jumped right into catching up. She had left her apprenticeship, having achieved the lowest level of membership in her Sorcery School (effectively guilds) that would allow her to take on simple jobs. She knew she didn’t have any particular talent and was content to make a comfortable living. She was traveling

Zelu deflected many of her questions, ensuring her that he was fine and that he had sent several letters to Katerina. When Coryn said Katerina hadn’t received them, Zelu pretended to be surprised and said he’d send another that very night. (He was trying to keep her from telling Katerina where he was for as long as possible to make sure he could be far away).

It was late and she was tired, so they invited her to the shrine guesthouse. They knew Tiranna would not be amused, but that was an added bonus.

Coryn drank with them as they walked and by the time they got back she was laughing and swaying. They climbed in through Asger’s window, then remembered the donkey. They went back out and brought it into the hallway.

Tiaga heard them return, of course. Embarrassed, she excused herself. Sedril invited her to visit him in Morthil when she had a chance. She agreed, though she knew it likely wouldn’t be soon.

She found the others and did what she could to keep them quieter and get them settled to bed as soon as possible.


The next morning, they were awoken by arguing outside. A band of halflings, along with an old human merchant (Master Rankins), had arrived. The leader of the band (Arzin) was arguing with Tiranna. He was asking her for help, saying that a huge bear had come into their village and dragged off some halflings. Tiranna asked him why any of this was her concern and told them to turn to their own officials.

Asger had had more than enough of Tiranna by this point. He climbed on Coryn’s donkey and rode it out of the guest house.

“We’ll help you!” he called. The halflings backed away from the giant with bed hair and groggy eyes, but as he smiled at them and continued, they were quickly charmed.

TIranna told him this was none of his concern and that he wasn’t welcome there anymore. Asger started laying into her, saying she was a terrible priestess and a racist. She sputtered, but the three visiting high elves had wandered out, too, so she kept her temper.

Then Moira said she was going, too. TIranna ordered her to back down and made it clear that if she left she’d be stripped of her priesthood. Moira ignored her and talked to the halflings instead.

Then one of the older visiting elves told Tiranna she ought to be ashamed of herself.

Tiranna stood there, sputtering, while Asger and Moira gathered their stuff and left with the halflings. The three elves left shortly after (Sedril smiled at Tiaga again). Tiranna stormed into her room.

Tiranna still had the list of their names, which might be their only lead. Tiaga and Moira had a mental link they had shared since birth and Tiaga let her know she and Zelu were going to try to get the note. Tiaga didn’t know yet what she’d do after that. Unlike Moira, being a priestess was her calling. Even if she despised the orthodox elements like her step-father and Tiranna, she loved the goddesses and the miracles that let her help others.

They waited a few hours until Tiranna came out, went into the dining hall and poured herself a glass of brandy. She was staring at the painting on the wall when Tiaga and Zelu came quietly into the room.

Tiranna glared at them, but Tiaga immediately jumped in with sympathetic words and consolations. Tiranna was suspicious at first, then she relaxed and began venting. It was helped along by Zelu making sure her glass was always full of brandy.

After Tiranna had warmed up to her again, Tiaga brought up the blizzard. For the first time, Tiranna listened close enough to realize what she was actually saying. The blizzard should have been impossible. It had broken through the Archmage’s wards and then traveled over the ancient magics of the Oldwall. She said that she would alert the Queen immediately. She also said that if they were part of it, then clearly they were important. She gave the note back to Tiaga and told her it was imperative that she catch up with her sister and “the human barbarian” and keep them still until good high elf warriors and priests could reach them and figure more out.

Then Tiranna told them to wait. She left and came back with a delicate silver wrought orb. Tiaga’s breath caught when she recognized it as Ariada’s Tear, a relic of Ariada, the Star of Spring, one of the Three Sisters. Ariada had gifted it to her Chosen many Ages ago. It was more precious and holy than anything Tiaga had ever held herself.

Tiranna put it reverently into Tiaga’s hands. She told Tiaga that she had been prompted to give it to her and made her swear to keep it safe, to which a wide-eyed Tiaga agreed.

By the time Tiaga and Zelu gathered their belongings and left, they were half a day behind the others. They hurried to catch up. They should have no trouble catching up before the band reached Old Town, since they were traveling with wagons and the two of them were less burdened.

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