Interlude: The Mantis of the Rose
Amus knocked Taipan on his rump once again into the dust, during their practice. Not only that, the aged Austere Devotee had done it without even looking at Taipan. He froze in his stance as stars faded from Taipan's sight, head throbbing.
"You're getting better," Amus said, this time not helping Taipan to his feet for another round of sparring hand-to-hand. "Boy, your debilitating blows and pressuring strikes hurt worse than any man your size has a right to," Taipan's teacher complimented. "And your mind is at peace still, you do not strike out of anger."
Taipan was about to feel good about his progress.
"Yet I still beat you," Amus reminded. "Why?" The question hung pregnant in the air, unanswered.
"Go to the hill and reflect on this," Amus, who insisted on being called such despite his high status as Mantis of the Monastery, advised his student. "It shall be important in the times ahead."
Yes, the times ahead. Knowledge, understanding, and wisdom was as necessary as being able to defend one's self.
"Look within to find your faults and strengths. Seek not glory or perishable things, but the eternal joy of light. Look to the world around you. Help call others to virtue, but do so through teaching and example, not force and fear. Show mercy when possible, but be hard when necessary. There is an order and a purpose to creation, and as long as you do not turn back on your goodness, your life shall not be in vain."
A typical theological lesson from Amus, for he was truly blessed by the Mantis of the Rose. At the time Goldmoon, Chieftain's Daughter and Hero of the Lance, rediscovered the gods by finding the Disks of Mishakal, Amus had not only spent years as a monk, but then became a true cleric of the god Majere.
Amus was gone when Taipan set out and reached the nearby top of a grassy knoll, where one could see for miles from the Monastery of the Rose in all directions.
Taipan had become a monk of The Monastery just prior to the War of the Lance that began some five years ago, won once the gold and silver dragons had joined the war, driving back the Dark Queen's Dragonarmies under the banner of the Golden General, Laurana, said to be an Elf with hair of gold. Taipan had not personally fought in the War of the Lance, though was tutored in its history by scholarly monks. In addition, from this very hilltop at the northern tip of the Dargaard Mountain chain, he had seen far more of the War of the Lance than most had ever feared too, as he'd witnessed the attack on Kalaman from afar.
As if the War of the Lance had not been bad enough, now in these times, there were more alarming threats to Ansalon, too many to name. Monks pondered to understand such things. Upon the grassy knoll, Taipan lie back to think while the mid-afternoon sun warmed the mountainside.
Taipan looked to the north. The closest town to The Monastery was the vital port town of Kalaman, that had grown around Castle Kalaman. The town contained some three to four thousand souls, many of them passing mariners. It was a thriving trade port, for it was the only major port town that existed on the long sail by sea across the Turbidus Ocean from western Ansalon - Palanthas, Solamnia, Northern & Southern Ergoth, Abanasinia, Sancrist, Kharolis, and the New Sea regions; to eastern Ansalon - Nordmaar, The Blood Sea Isles, Goodlund, Balifor, Khur, and beyond. By sea, the Turbidus Ocean was the only waterway from eastern to western Ansalon, and Kalaman was the single only port town in between for many hundreds of miles.
Taipan had once been to Kalaman, as the monks occasionally sent small groups to make the two day journey for the meager supplies The Monastery needed. Taipan had even made a friend in Kalaman. Mer-Kane Maps, one of the longest running businesses in Kalaman, had been creating and selling maps since before the Cataclysm. Located in the business district at the edge of the Open Air Market, the shop that specialized in cartography had maps both local and far flung. Having not seen much of the world in person, Taipan was fascinated. There were diagrams of historic towers of Ansalon, illustrations of mountain ranges and ancient cities, nautical charts for the influx of mariners into Kalaman and a number of other records and diagrams. The shop was so cramped, walls and even ceilings covered with maps from locations all over Ansalon, it was hard for Taipan not to accidentally bump into the most beautiful woman he'd ever lay eyes on - Shala Oakseed, a Qualinesti elf. So ancient was she, she had been a mariner during the Cataclysm. Her otherwordly grace and eternally youthful beauty enraptured Taipan. Shala was friendly, extremely knowledgeable of history and geography and Krynn's oceans, and had an especially soft spot for kender in her heart.
Things changed at the onset of the War of the Lance, and Taipan had not been to the Kalaman since, five years now. Kalaman was the first city in the war to witness the full might of the Dark Queen's flying citadels. Taipan had lain in this very glade that day, watching the shadows of dragons and the bright flashes of their breath, and the rain of thousands and thousands of draconians - the size of ants from Taipan's distance - pouring off the edges of the flying citadels, their wings allowing them to glide down into Kalaman's streets and regroup into organized units. Kalaman had been devastated with little to no fight. Kalaman was merely a test run - a staging ground for the Dragonarmies' invasion to conquer Palanthas and Solamnia, and ultimately all of Ansalon. Fortunately, the advancing Dragonarmies never noticed The Monastery of the Rose crooked away in the Dargaard Mountains forty miles south, and it went unnoticed.
Word was, Taipan received from fellow monks who made a trip one year ago to Kalaman, that the port town was rebuilding. Kalaman was so vital of a port that it couldn't. Human and minotaur mariners, hardy folk from Estwilde and the Hinterlands of Solamnia, all had helped rebuild Kalaman Harbor and were beginning to thrive again. Maritime traffic from Ergoth, Palanthas, and Nordmaar commenced, filling the coffers of Kalaman again. Most of all to Taipan's peace, Mer-Kane Maps was open for business and Shala Oakseed was alive and well, the other monks had told him. Then came the Night of the New Star.
The War of the Lance had been over for many, many months. Some of the monks began to notice the constellation of the Five-Headed Dragon had began to fade. The stars of the Dark Queen were then gone. A New Star blazed brighter than even those of Reorx and Sirrion in the night sky, precisely in the center of the void left by the colossal constellation of the Five-Headed Dragon. Taipan and many other monks fled mindlessly in panic into the mountains, anywhere. When Taipan had finally got his wits about him that night, alone as he shook off the fear of the New Star in the relative darkness, he'd noticed he'd ran in the direction of Dargaard Keep. Yes, the cursed abode of Lord Soth, Knight of the Black Rose, was also near the northern tip of the Dargaard Mountains, where it bled into the forest of Nightlund to the southwest of The Monastery. That night, some of the other, younger monks, who might have panicked longer than Taipan, never came back. Some had perhaps ran into the haunted forests of Nightlund, or even Dargaard Keep. Others might have ended up fleeing toward the swamps of Estwilde to the southeast, and got lost. Hydras were known to live there.
Magestorms and the occasional Lightstorm began to be seen from The Monastery, and studied. No Magebolt had directly stricken the Monastery of the Rose, but there had been close calls. One monk, out shepherding, had gotten caught in a Magestorm a month ago. He or his remains were never found, despite search efforts. For several months now, the monks had watched the frequency of Magestorms slowly grow, ravaging the mountains around them, and likely Kalaman to the north as well. Lightstorms were not entirely uncommon, and amidst one's cool breeze and light gold and silver rain, silent bursts of yellow light would flicker in the thick, white clouds that were low in the sky and moved preternaturally swiftly above. Silent yellow lightning bolts would hit the land, causing no thunder afterwards or devastation to the earth. Once a group of gully dwarves appeared where a light bolt struck. Most interestingly to the monks, Lightstorms left a blooming springtime in their wake, even now when the true season was autumn. Among the bursting flowers were often trails of red roses. Some monks saw this as a sign from Majere. Even Amus did not deny that it could be.
The death of Takhisis was soon confirmed by Amus, as was the ascension to godhood of a mortal wizard by the name of Raistlin Majere, who slew the Queen of Darkness. Taipan had heard of the wizard, and of his twin brother Caramon, who were heralded as Heroes of the Lance. At times, tales would speak of Raistlin in Red Robes of High Sorcery. In other times, Black Robes. At all times, he was referred to as a frail mage with a wicked cough and disturbing, golden hourglass eyes.
Months later brought the disappearance of what had traditionally always been the brightest star in Krynn's night sky (depending on who you talked to) - Sirrion, a planet, truly. The god Sirrion was the god of beauty, poetry, art, fire and passion. The Night of the Second Star came, and again, many of the monks of the Monastery of the Rose abandoned the monastery in a hysterical terror, Taipan among them.
Then came the fading and disappearance of what had also traditionally always been the brightest star in Krynn's night sky (depending on who you talked to) - Reorx, a planet in truth as well. Reorx was the god of the dwarves, industry, and creation, among other things. Amus taught that Reorx crafted the world of Krynn with his own hammer, chiseling out the mountains and oceans with every blow. The Night of the Third Star came, appearing alongside its twins. Again, that night, at the sight Taipan was overcome with an inexplicable fear. He ran and ran. And when he was done, he came back to The Monastery. A few other monks did not.
Now the remote planet that twinkled light mint green, Zivilyn - the Tree of Life and god of time, and the planet that twinkled brown and yellow, Chislev - The Beast and goddess of nature, had also vanished from Krynn's night sky. There had been no New Stars to take their place, yet. Would there be? Would it be tonight?
A strange urgency welled in Taipan as he sat upon the grassy hilltop. There were rumors among some monks of a coming apocalypse, mostly dismissed. Amus was silent on the matter. Some monks talked of making a brotherly pilgrimage to a far away place, where a monastery devoted to Zivilyn was once said to thrive, to see if it was still there, and what the monks had to say. Some monks debated that Raistlin Majere has not yet upset the Balance of good and evil, for other than Raistlin taking the Dark Queen's rule, only gods of Balance had been slain by Raistlin.
Even in the remote monastery, the hysteria was beginning to spread as gods perished and Magestorms intensified. Many had many ideas. None at The Monastery had acted. And to the god Majere's credit, to be mindful and watchful was one of the god's chief virtues and tenets.
Yet, Taipan, as he sat on the hilltop and looked to the north - where Kalaman was not far; to the east - where the bogs of Estwilde began; to the south - where Dargaard Keep stood and the Dargaard Mountains beyond were impassable; and to the west - where the haunted forest of Nightlund had expanded into the Hinterlands of Solamnia since the first New Star, decided it was time to act.
After much soul searching, it was time. A Magestorm was ravaging Estwilde in the distance, blue lightning bolts pounding the swamps into deeper devastation, and killing any nomadic humans living there. Taipan could take no more.
Taipan decided, after much calm thought, it was time to leave The Monastery.
Hey, Hey, Hey!
I see you have two trained knowledge skills - religion & history - assuming a take 10 for an 18 on both for the results/knowledge in this post, feel free to roll for better numbers and more specific info...
just seeing how you "did"...
Night of the First Star Will save vs fear d20+10= nat 1. was panicked for 18 minutes
Night of the Second Star Will save vs fear d20+10= 15, fail. was panicked for 36 minutes
Night of the Third Star Will save vs fear d20+10= 20, fail. was panicked for 32 minutes