Return To Dal Marrow

As the party is carried aloft on the surreal wings of the enormous paper crane, a perpetual sunset wreathed in black clouds of soot smolders to the northwest. Even from the outskirts of Dal T'Nor the newborn volcano can be seen. Everywhere townsfolk stand and gawk at the spectacle.

Your gossamer mount sails silently over the Outer Sanctum, over the gates of Dal Marrow and into the courtyard of the Halls of Serenity, where it comes to rest in an intricately arranged rock garden.

Brother Bennith sits quietly behind a large flat stone in the center of the garden. With slow precise movements he decants tea into four cups and sets them on the stone. “Welcome, brothers- and some new brothers, I see”. He quickly produces two more cups from a nearby tray and gracefully fills them with the fragrant steaming liquid.

“I am brother Bennith”, he intones warmingly, bowing in turn to Cowl, Yachak and Skruff. He is a small elderly human with a failing hairline and kind wrinkled eyes. He is adorned in a brown homespun robe secured with a worn length of silk rope. A wooden three-part-circle that marks the Order of the Way hangs about his neck.

"I am Yachak, and this here is my good friend and brother Skruff. Thank you for this lovely brew. I believe our friends are safe now" he says as he motions towards his furry friend.

"Come. Sit and be refreshed.” Brother Bennith motions to several smaller stones set about the larger one being used as a table. “I am so relieved you have returned safely. Tell me of your travels. What news of Velnori?”

Geezbik approaches, bows, and sits before and to the left of Bennith. "Ul-Bennith, I greet you in the three ways that are one. Velnori was lost, but Velnorinesti is on the path toward healing. We met these others who had been seeking answers there as well."

"I sensed the truth of your telling when the Vale shook. The burning sky in the northwest concurs. Such is the existence on the great wheel. Thankfully, the refugees from Velnori have arrived safely and the orphanage is abuzz with the newly-arrived youths. You have done well, brother Geezbik."

Vargus grunts, scratches himself, and fishes his ever-present toothpick out of his mouth. Stabbing it toward Bennith, he adds, "We ended up havin' to desecrate one of yer ancient holy sites and bury it under a buncha lava, too. Hope ya don't mind."

"Your concern moves me, Vargus. There are legends of such sites scattered across the Vale; last lines of defense against that which lies without. Although the loss of our sacred heritage saddens me, I sense that you were fulfilling the temple's purpose in allowing it to be destroyed."

Kingu lowers himself to a warm stone without fanfare. Soon Theli emerges, tests the air with her tongue and takes up the heat of the stone at his side. The tiefling sniffs the offered liquid carefully and then takes it in one swallow. "Trouble is, safe ain't real, if it ever was. Devilshined sand and scorpions coming soon, from beyond the peaks."

"You speak truth, Kingu. All is illusion. And the cost of safety is vigilance; Vigilance you have gifted to our people."

"After such an ordeal, one should take time to contemplate what has transpired and hone oneself in the shape of the future. Rooms have been arranged for you. You are free to roam about the public spaces of Dal Marrow and stay as long as you like."

"Brother Geezbik and any of you that would like to assist, please meet with Ul Quiora, Ul Sharil and myself to discuss the details of your travails. We need to understand the threat beyond our borders. And hopefully some of the heritage once preserved at this temple can be recorded."

"Is there anything else of which you have need or desire?"

"I thank you for your kindness and hospitality. I-" Yachak looks up at Skruff "-we will not stay more than a two nights before we must head out and attend to some personal matters. We will return as soon as possible to help with anything that we can."

Vargus sniffs disdainfully, his eyes falling on Scruff. "Yeah, well, just make sure you take Lunchmeat there with ya when you go do your crappy vision quest or whatever. I don't want him hanging around here, crampin' my style."

Cowl arches an eyebrow at the strange manner in which brother Bennith performs the tea ceremony before checking himself and smoothing his features. Careful not to let his sleeves slip and reveal the scars, he accepts his tea and drinks in the subtly different fashion to which he is accustomed, watching Bennith from the corner of his eye. "I thank you for your hospitality Ul-Bennith. You may call me Cowl. I'm afraid I haven't the time to meet with you and yours and discuss. There are matters to which I must attend. Please accept my apologies for my hasty departure. Kingu, Vargus, Geezbik, Yachak, I will meet you back here as soon as I am able."

With that, Cowl gracefully rises, turns, and Heads on foot for the cloister of the Wakers.

Brother Bennith nods understandingly, his eyes lingering but a moment on the cuff of Cowl's sleeve. "Of course, brother. May the path unfold at your feet. And, Cowl." He pauses. "You will be welcomed at your return."

Shortly after Cowl exits the garden through a stone arch, a burly outline of a man fills the archway. He stands nearly seven feet tall with a massive frame draped in plain monk's robes. His feral features belying the serene gaze emminating from beneath bushy eyebrows. "Kingu, Vargus, Yachak. Brother Brahams here will show you to your rooms. The council will convene in the high tower in exactly two weeks at sunsdown."