Part 3 of 3 in the story
Firelight glinted off the diamond-lined edges of the blade, casting flickering shadows across his face as he idly cleansed the blade. He never needed to edge it, but the rest of the scimitar needed regular maintenance. Especially after dancing with the likes of the frost and fire giants.
Sylvos smiled fondly, remembering the latest journey through the snow covered plains, and then the subsequent raid upon the ash-coated expanses of Muspelheim. It had been a good run, the giants were taken by surprise and the group returned relatively unscathed from their battles. Glancing down at the glittering scimitar that rested in his lap, he murmured “Another adventure completed, eh dad?”.
He didn’t expect an answer; the spirit in the blade was generally restless unless in the midst of battle, and didn’t react when spoken to. Generally. This time however the blade glittered, a spark of light slowly tracing the curved contours. Curious, the ranger wrapped his left hand around the hilt and hefted the familiar weight. For the first time that he could remember, there wasn’t just the vague restlessness of desired battle. There was something else overriding the familiar sensation.
“What is it?” Sylvos asked the blade irrationally. There were times his father’s spirit had risen from the blade to possess the son, though none in a long while. Aside from those instances, the only communication the two had was through the sensations conveyed by the spirit through the scimitar. It took a moment to sort out what the feeling was, and then Sylvos looked at his sword curiously. “Lonely? What, you need me to get another scimitar or something?” he asked, half-jokingly.
Frustration. That was something he was used to from his father’s spirit. Every time the spirit took control, it was heralded by a wave of frustration. Now he felt it again, though not as a prelude to one of his father’s blurred attack routines. It was just there, a sense of loneliness and frustration coming from the scimitar. “Alright, hold on a minute,” Sylvos muttered, sheathing the weapon and ducking into the small shelter he’d set up for himself and his wife.
Fura was inside, engrossed in her meditations as she often was. The movings of the spirit world drew her interest daily, though the ranger didn’t fully understand. But she was still aware, and smiled as her husband ducked inside. She listened as he explained his need, and her eyes narrowed as she looked at the blackened hilt that rode on Sylvos’ waist. She’d never fully trusted the spirit within; every possession of her husband was a fresh cause for concern. She gathered her herbs, even while wondering just what her father-in-law was going to demand of his son now.
They sat in front of the small fire, freshly started while the shamaness gathered her supplies. “Breathe deeply, and you’ll find yourself where you can speak with him. I’ll bring you back after a little while, ok?” Sylvos nodded his assent and Fura reached into her pouch of herbs, pausing a moment. “Syl, be careful please. Think about what he wants before you agree, please?” she asked, holding a small pouch delicately.
“I will,” he promised. “I’ll see what he has to say, but right now I’m just curious.” Fura nodded, satisfied for now and with a flick of her wrist, tossed a scoop of powder into the flames. The fire hissed and leaped, and an acrid smoke was immediately released. Fura’s rich voice began chanting rhythmically, and as the smoke drifted across the seated ranger, his vision spun abruptly.
It was a void, similar to some of the planes he’d travelled in his adventures. In the back of his mind, Sylvos could hear his wife’s chanting, a low hum that was reassuring in the featureless smoky expanse. His hand instinctively dropped to where his scimitar typically hung, but all he found was an empty scabbard.
“Handy wife you got there kid,” drawled a voice from behind him, and slowly Sylvos turned around. Crouched down on his haunches, another half-elf with long, dirty-blonde and grey hair was watching him. Slowly the other stood up, standing to a bit taller than Sylvos. He was a sturdier build, but the eyes that stared at the younger ranger matched Sylvos’, and on their left hands the raven tattoo shone in the gloom.
“Yes, she is,” Sylvos agreed, relaxing his stance. “Wonder why we haven’t tried this before.”
His father snorted. “Wasn’t any reason to. You’ve come this far without us talkin face to face, obviously it ain’t been a problem till now.” The elder stretched, glancing down at his hands curiously. “Yup, handy wife you’ve got. Good thing to have.”
“What’s bothering you now?” Sylvos asked his father, avoiding the little conversational distractions that waited. It would be nice to learn more about him, find out the details that his mother couldn’t or wouldn’t give. But Fura had said she’d bring him back after a little while, and business had to come first. “Am I not fighting enough? Not fighting the right things the right way for you? What is it?”
His father looked at him, appraisingly. “Nah, you’re doin alright kid. These days I jump in mostly to spice things up a bit for you. I ain’t got a problem with what you’ve been doin.” His voice died off and abruptly he turned, striding away. Started, Sylvos went after him, running till he caught up and then matching the older ranger’s stride. “It’s been a long time,” his father continued as they walked through the void. “You wanna know what’s botherin me, that’s it. Been a long damn time. I’m ready kid. I’m ready cause you’re ready.”
“Ready for what?” Sylvos asked, looking around for some sign of where they were going.
His father stopped, one hand clamping down on the younger’s shoulder and turning him. “Ready to rest. Almost, at least. Can’t rest till we’re back together, which I figure can happen these days.”
Sylvos looked at his father, knowing the answer but needing to ask. “Who?”
The elder Sylvos quirked a half-smile, an expression so familiar to the younger that he thought he might have mirrored it. “Rayj of course. They ripped us apart back when we were living, but the gods’ve changed their minds. Convenient of em t’do so, but I won’t turn my back on the gift.”
Sylvos sighed. “Dad, she died a long time ago,” he informed his father.
Next thing he knew, he was ducking back to avoid his father’s irritated swing. “Case you forgot, so did I kid,” the elder muttered irritably.
Sylvos rolled his eyes. “Yeah yeah, alright fine. But unlike you, she didn’t die running off to kill a drow priestess in her own temple. She died of old age dad, impressive considering the trades she plied. It’s not like I can go find something that has her spirit in it and bring you two together.”
The senior Sylvos shook his head. “You don’t understand. They ripped us apart. Yeah, your mom was an assassin. Wasn’t like she was takin contracts while we were together, hell she even left Kezzlar’s alone after we met. Wasn’t no reason for us to have to be parted, just cause she was still considered an assassin in skill if not profession. No kid, she’s still around. You don’t think I was sittin in that hilt waitin for you do you?” he asked irritably.
Thoroughly confused now, the younger ranger opened his mouth to speak, closed it again and then tried once more. “You weren’t?” he asked quietly.
His father shook his head. “Nope. I wasn’t even allowed to find out bout you kid, that’s how bad it was back then. Figured I was gonna be stuck down in that temple for all damned eternity, cause I wasn’t goin nowhere without Rayj. Then you come along and the sword reacts to you. I wasn’t bout to leave you without at least makin sure you could take care of yourself, so I’ve stuck around and helped out now and then.” Stormy coloured eyes locked onto his son’s, and the spirit ranger spoke in an intense whisper. “I couldn’t leave before. I couldn’t go on while you were still learnin. But I can leave now, if I can find her. If you can find her.”
He matched his father’s gaze, trying to process what was being said. “If I can find her?” he asked.
Sylvos Sr. nodded. “I’m still stuck in my… your sword kid. You’re gonna have to find where she’s waitin, cause I’m sure she’s still around. It’s time we both got some rest kid, and you’re good enough to manage fine on your own.”
The dreamscape abruptly blurred, even as the younger ranger opened his mouth to respond. He tried to say something, but no sound came out and his vision faded. The elder Sylvos watched his son’s disappearing form calmly, a slight half-smile curving his lips.
When he came to, he was lying on the ground with his head cushioned on his wife’s leg. She was calmly tossing leaves into the fire, producing a pleasant aromatic scent. His hand was still curled tightly around the hilt of his scimitar, and quickly Sylvos released it and sat up.
That proved to be a mistake as, with his head still woozy from the smoke, he sat up and kept going till he toppled over the other way. He groaned and pushed himself back up, while his wife watched curiously. Finally, while the ranger propped himself up she asked quietly, “Well?”
He looked over at her, unconsciously brushing the scimitar hilt with his hand. “He thinks you’re handy,” Sylvos told his wife, grinning slightly. She smiled but waited, familiar with his tendencies. Finally Sylvos elaborated. “He wants to move on, said he’s been around long enough.”
Fura nodded. “I can see that, it has been a long time. Did he say how or when he’d like to move on?” she asked. She was happy to hear he’d let himself pass on, especially as it meant her husband would stop getting partially possessed.
“Yeah, he did,” Sylvos told her with a sigh. “He’s been waiting all this time so he can be reunited with mom. ‘Training’ me was just an unexpected bonus, he hadn’t even known about me. But he figures that if he’s been waiting, then she has been too. And he’s probably right, I just hadn’t thought of it before,” he said.
His wife studied him for a long moment, wanting to ask questions but not sure that the time was right for them. Finally she nodded. “Do we need to visit my master up north again?” she asked, referring to when they’d gone looking for Sylvos’ father’s spirit.
Her husband shook his head. “No,” he said quietly, lightly touching the scimitar hilt once again. “No, I know where to look. We’ll leave in the morning,” he added, scooting over to cuddle up with Fura for awhile before sleeping for the night.
The next day found them passing through the northern gates of Waterdeep. Sylvos led them through the busy streets, around zealous salesmen and starving beggars towards the southern quarter where he’d been raised. Some of the streetwalkers called out propositions to the pair, but neither Fura nor Sylvos paid them much mind. He hadn’t lived there for years, but the streets were still very familiar. Just off the Street of Dragons they came to an old husk of a building, the interior charred by some fire.
“C’mon”, Sylvos said, stepping into the gloom. Fura followed him, noting the cats that scurried away at their approach. There were also some large bundles, which groaned in its sleep and turned over as they tread past him. She’d sheltered herself and her husband with what magics she could before they came in, though the shamaness would feel better if Elk had been with them. But the Wards of Waterdeep didn’t look kindly upon even benevolent spirits, thus Fura decided to leave hers unsummoned. She looked curiously as her husband picked through the ruin, and joined him when he crouched down by one section of the wall.
“Alright,” he muttered, running his fingers over the floorboards. “Let’s hope it’s still here.” Before Fura could ask, Sylvos hefted his hammer and crashed it down on the charred floor. There were groans of protest from the huddled piles, but nobody rose to do anything about it. Sylvos hammered down on the floor one more time, and this time the flat head pounded through. He grunted in satisfaction and pulled back, using the hammer to widen the hole. Once it was opened, he lowered himself onto his belly and stuck his head in. “Good,” he said, reaching in to pull out a small runed box.
Fura looked at it curiously. It was a nice looking box, with silver runes lining the edges and silver clasp keeping it closed. It was dusty from where it had been stored, but otherwise showed no signs of wear. “This was the last place we lived in, and that was our little hideaway. Rayj had a trick of opening it that I never learned, but the hammer works since I won’t be putting this back. I’d forgotten about it until last night, but I think this’ll work.”
She cocked her head to the side curiously. “What is it, aside from a box?”
He grinned up at her, amused that she took care to protect herself from a literal answer. “Her stiletto. One of the ones that are always on fire that the effreeti used to use. Can’t find them anymore, but she loved this one. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if dad gave it to her. The box was specially made to hold it, and she put it away when she didn’t trust to be able to defend it from thieves.” He looked at Fura for a long moment, hands lightly caressing the box. “Favored weapons seem to be the theme of this tale, let’s see if this one brings mom out of hiding.” He stood up and gently stored the box in his bag, looking around the home once more. “Let’s go see if I’m right,” he murmured as they emerged from the burned husk back onto the street.
“Where to, beloved?” Fura asked.
He glanced at her, looking up at the sun’s position. “Nearly nightfall, good. We may as well get this over with tonight. Kezzlar’s. If she had to be waiting, she’d be waiting at the gym.”
Sylvos hadn’t gone by Kezzlar’s in years. It took a bit of time to locate the old warehouse that served as a neighborhood gym, nestled back in a shadowy alley where others wouldn’t be bothered by the noise. The building itself bore simple markings, with the founder’s name over the door to indicate what was inside. The door swung open stiffly as the ranger pushed on it, and together the Winteraven’s stepped inside.
Within, a couple of men were in the midst of a wrestling match, with some admiring young women standing by to watch. They paid no attention to the newcomers, focused exclusively upon the match in the center of the room. The area was well lit, simple enchantments upon the building crossbeams shedding a calm radiance throughout the area.
Standing against the one wall, Sylvos idly gestured out at the workout area. “Mom used to talk about how she’d stalk the people who came here, practicing the skills that Kang taught her. How they managed to stay in business with an assassin regularly preying upon the clients I don’t know, but here it is.”
Fura’s eyes swept the room, not seeing the people so much as looking at the auras the infused the area. Her low, soft voice could only barely be heard above the sounds from the center of the gym. “Why do you think she’d be here?”
He shrugged. “Mom’s stories weren’t generally filled with a lot of happiness. Stories about dad were. About the Alliance, she loved to talk about that. And about the only happiness I remember about her stories from before she met Dad, were about her time here. This was where her roots were, where she first started to define herself.”
The shamaness nodded absently, still looking about the area critically. “There are a lot of aura’s here,” she whispered, reaching into her herb pouch. “Take out the weapon beloved, I need to try to see if she’s here.”
Sylvos nodded and fished the chest out of his bag, staring at it for a long moment. Then he pressed thumbs against the opposite corners, before unhooking the clasp and lifting the lid. Immediately, heat radiated out of the box and flickering shadows began to play across the ranger’s face. As the lid swung open, the fiery red glow flared briefly, before settling back down to flames dancing along the narrow length of the stiletto inside.
Sylvos reached inside and wrapped his hand around the hilt, lifting the blade clear of the enchanted box. The wrestling match had stopped, as the gym’s clients turned in surprise when they saw the flaming stiletto clenched in Sylvos’ hand. The ranger hefted the blade, grinning at the near weightlessness of the weapon. “Mom never liked to lift much,” he murmured, staring at the dancing flames.
Abruptly, the flames flared, spitting and sparking as Fura tossed a pinch of powder at the flaming stiletto. Acrid smoke drifted into the air, a strange purple haze that flowed through the room slowly. Eyes scanning, Sylvos looked on in surprise as the smoke settled near to the ground, limning a slender figure with its dull glow.
Gasps of surprise and fear came from the watching commoners, as the magical smoke illuminated the spirit that had been crouched nearby, watching. Her hands were empty, but there was no mistaking the menace in her stance as she crouched at the edge of the exercise mat, watching. Thoroughly unnerved by the bared weapon, magical smoke and spirit in their midst, the commoners fled the gym, their footfalls accompanied by the low drone of Fura’s chant.
Eyes full of disappointment, the spirit looked up at the ones who had revealed her presence. Sylvos watched, entranced, as his mother slowly stood up, rising with an easy grace and took one small, hesitant step towards him. One hand outstretched, the spiritual assassin paused, uncertainty crossing her face as she gazed across the gym.
“Go,” murmured Fura between chants, settling her body onto the floor to continue the summoning incantation. Sylvos didn’t need any further encouragement, crossing the gym quickly to go stand before his mother. One hand holding out the stiletto, while his other reflexively curled around the hilt of his scimitar. The ranger could feel his father’s presence in his mind, could sense the agitation of the elder ranger at the sight of Rayj’s spirit.
Upon reaching the exercise mat Sylvos paused, uncertain about what to do next. Rayj drifted nearer, her form intangible as she ‘stepped’ lightly across the workout area to close the last little distance. Her hands rose, trying to touch him but she was only able to cup them together around her son’s cheeks, the physical contact impossible. Sylvos couldn’t speak; he’d grown accustomed to his father’s presence, it wasn’t too troublesome for him. Rayj had been with him though, and seeing her here was a staggering blow. Her hands lowered, eyes obviously disappointed at her inability to touch.
Slowly, Sylvos lifted his hand away from his scimitar, turning so that Rayj would be able to see it. She looked down and smiled sadly, her hand gently caressing the blackened hilt. Inside his head, Sylvos could sense his father’s agitation, like he wanted to fight but it was different this time. “Mom,” he whispered, drawing her gaze back up to his own. He offered the stiletto out of instinct, holding it out for her to take. The assassin arched one eyebrow curiously, obviously confused by the gesture. In the background, Fura’s voice changed tone, increasing in pitch and intensity as Rayj’s ghostly hand closed around her old stiletto.
Eyes wide with surprise, an expression mirrored on her son’s, Rayj lifted the weapon free and held it up before her eyes. The weight left Sylvos’ hand, and he smiled when his mother grinned with remembered pleasure. The glow from the stiletto became muted as it was shifted into insubstantiality, reunited with its owner as she stepped away from her son onto the exercise mat. Tucking into a somersault, she jabbed out with the weapon, taking obvious pleasure at the feel of a weapon in her hands, even in her ghostly existence. Sylvos watched, hand clenching around his own weapon as she spun and stabbed at remembered enemies.
The agitation in his mind was as intense as any he’d ever experienced, and with a frustrated sigh Sylvos drew out the scimitar. The link between him and his father pulsed with a need that he didn’t understand. He felt like an intruder, standing at the edge of the exercise mat while his ghostly mother spun through imaginary foes, and his father’s consciousness pushed relentlessly at his own. Abruptly, one remembered phrase went through his mind, stunning him with its simplicity. “I’m still stuck in my… your sword kid. You’re gonna have to find where she’s waitin, cause I’m sure she’s still around. It’s time we both got some rest kid, and you’re good enough to manage fine on your own.”
His eyes dropped to the scimitar he held; the glittering diamond-edged blade that had sliced through countless enemies. It was en extension of him it seemed at times, as much a part of the Dance as he was. Glancing back up to where his mother had stopped, their eyes met and shared understanding passed between them. She knew. A wishful smile crossed her face as she stood, flaming stiletto held in her hand. Then she turned, looking across the gym and holding onto the stiletto tightly, shoulders slightly sagged in weariness.
“Time for a new partner,” Sylvos murmured quietly, before he raised his voice. “Rayj,” he called, drawing her attention back to him as he hefted his scimitar, walking over to the sturdy wall of the gym. The spirit stood still, watching as her son stepped up to the wall and with a powerful thrust, rammed the scimitar between the planks that made up the border of the warehouse. He looked back over his shoulder, stormy grey eyes looking first to where Fura sat, still chanting in her rich voice, maintaining the smoke that drifted throughout the room and gave Rayj’s body some distinction. Idly, his hand freed his mithril hammer from the loop on his belt, as he turned to let his gaze settle upon where his mother waited, shaking her head slightly as she watched. The ranger smiled at her, a bittersweet smile as his left hand left the hilt of his blade, eyes locked upon his mother’s orbs. He let his fingers brush the blackened hilt one last time, before he took a deep breath.
Turning on his heel, Sylvos brought his hammer around in a powerful swing. With a loud crack, the hilt broke away from the blade and spun off into the corner.
Sylvos turned, swallowing thickly as he straightened and looked at his mother. She was staring at him in disbelief, stunned by his actions even as the tinted smoke began to coalesce around another figure in the corner. In unison, Sylvos and Rayj turned to look as that figure stepped forward, his own form insubstantial in the smoke. It turned to look at Sylvos, offering a familiar half-smile as father nodded his thanks to his son. Riding upon his hip was a familiar weapon, and the younger ranger knew that there would be no hilt found in the corner of the gym.
Then the ghostly ranger offered one final nod of gratitude, before stepping up onto the exercise mat where Rayj waited, staring in disbelief. Hands trembling, she reached up with her free arm and brushed her fingers against her husband’s cheek. Although they made no sound, Sylvos could see tears on both faces as his parents realized that they were reunited. His father wrapped one arm around Rayj and stared out over her head at his son one last time. He drew his scimitar, and offered his son a final salute.
Then the smoke uncoiled itself from around their bodies, and both the spirits were gone.
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