- Markshire PCs:
So, Sun-Ok spent months learning the warrior’s way. It was difficult—the discipline and technique so different from the skills of hiding she had developed before. And the practice was brutal—punishing both to her own slim body and those of her unfortunate but obviously evil targets: kobolds, goblins, orcs, and ogres for the most part.
There were other friendships Sun-Ok made and developed during those adventures. The mischievous Tam and her other half-sister, the melodious Ava, of course, and dear Mez, losing himself too often in drink, but always ready with a new spell to bedazzle her, a scroll to bring her back from the dead-place, and a smile for even her worst jokes.
There was Zeb, the fierce halfling, her tiger: she was eternally thankful that he preferred taller women—judging by his tireless efforts any taller woman—but grateful for his dynamic friendship nonetheless. And Sar, Faith’s husband, a bear of a man, determined and unconcerned with his own safety, either loved by Thor or hated, a mystery and a pain tied to his lost hand that she did not fully grasp. And Portales, the gnomish bard, bursting with undirected energy, who could talk so long and so fast that one’s very thoughts fell on deafened, ringing ears.
And then there was Kayla—part stern druid, part inscrutable panther, part vulnerable girl. Strangely enough, it was in Kayla’s disparate personalities that Sun-Ok discovered the closest equivalent in Markshire to the Way. For Kayla—the whole Kayla—had a harmony with nature and the woodlands that was startlingly close to the harmonious oneness of the Way, and an aversion, similar to Sun-Ok’s, to Markshire’s extremes of Law and Chaos.
They eventually moved past the burdens they each carried to become friends as well. One evening, they sat comfortably in Kayla’s grove discussing life, Sun-Ok hoping to show her friend that man and his works were not unnatural, that there was a harmony to be found between town and forest as well, and paths that reconciled them. That was plenty for one evening, Sun-Ok thought—the nature of souls and “afterlife” could wait. And it was just as Sun-Ok thought this that the world she knew as Markshire once again threw her into spiritual disarray.
For into the grove strode a hideous creature, trailing and oozing all manner of vermin. At one point, apparently, this thing had been Kayla’s father, Vastion Evergreen, and her heart went out to her friend for the pain she must know. For now, quite clearly to Sun-Ok, he was the epitome of vermin, a visitation from her own spiritworld, one of the “perfected” souls who tortured those who had failed in the Way and thus had to await reincarnation. Sun-Ok stood, alarmed, confused and paralyzed with fear.
Fortunately, the thing had come to torment its daughter, and Sun-Ok was seemingly beneath its interest. Sun-Ok felt deeply her friend’s suffering, but was too caught up in her own thoughts to understand exactly what they were saying to each other. Once the thing left, content this time to merely terrify and dishearten, both Kayla and Sun-Ok were so drained and shaken—for their very different reasons—that they merely hugged, consoled each other briefly, and parted ways.
Sun-Ok returned to Foothold alone with her thoughts—and a few scattered spiders, which she dispatched rather too violently, angry with what they represented and that they dared interrupt her struggling mind.
What was that thing from her spiritworld doing here, if her soul could only travel as far as Markshire’s Elvidnir? How had a Markshire soul even gotten to her spiritworld in the first place, let alone become perfected in the Way, even if it was a vermin’s Way? What did the appearance of this nightmare creature from her country’s legends mean? Was it a sign of some sort? What were the implications for her, for following the Way?
Spider legs and less identifiable parts littered the forest floor behind her as Sun-Ok, uninjured, at last neared Foothold’s walls. Somewhere, Vastion Lord of Vermin walked, unaware, doubtless, of the loud, scattered questions he had raised in Sun-Ok’s mind. And—just as certainly—unconcerned with the small, persistent voice of her soul, struggling to be heard in that mind, worrying about the damage his venomous words had done to her friend Kayla.