Phadian Gess: Half-elf cleric of Ehlonna (a nature Goddess), best friend of Artok Hortence, despite a phobia of Artoks alternate forms.
Artok Hortence: Natural-born human werewolf; fighter class. As per the D&D universe, capable of taking on both wolf and hybrid (wolf-man) forms in addition to a normal-appearing human form.
Leoric: Human arcane sorcerer with unclear motives much of the time. Always suspected, rarely implicated.
-Being an excerpt from the personal diaries of Phadian Gess
(As transcribed by Adam Wester)
...but no; that bloody fool had to cast it. I tried to warn him, Ehlonna knows I tried. He is, hands down, the most irresponsible sorcerer to ever practice the art.
No sooner did that bloody fool utter the last syllable, that the crash of thunder (why must it *always* be thunder with these arcane types?) rang in the air and rattled our skulls. When the smoke cleared (literally), he went to one of his shelves and took down a case, containing a scroll.
“Bugger.” was all he said, his brow furrowed.
“What now?” my occasional nightmare, Artok, asked.
“I think something went slightly wrong.” when Artok gestured impatiently, he went on, “I can't read this.”
“What do you mean, you can't?” Artok asked.
A grim reality was beginning to dawn on me. The fool didn't answer Artok, so I opened up my pack and removed a scroll containing a prayer to Ehlonna I'd recently learned.
It was pure gibberish.
“You idiot!” I yelled, diving on top of him. Bare-fisted, I pounded his face. Artok had to pull me off of him. In my own defense, it didn't take much for him to do it. My oft-furry friend does possess a certain physical prowess.
“What the hell are you doing?” he yelled at me.
“Ask him.” I said simply, breathing hard and trying to recompose myself.
Artok turned to Leoric, not saying a word.
“Ah well, we seem to, that is, well, we've been slightly...demoted.”
“Demoted?” I growled, “DEMOTED?” I turned toward Artok and told him the horrid truth. “His spell backfired and sent us all back, not in age, but in knowledge.” Leoric started to object, but Artok shot him a glance that silenced him, and terrified me. Artok is my closest friend, and I'd never seen him this angry before. He said nothing, the look on his face was more than enough to express his true feelings.
Artok silently (which is to say, he spoke not a word, though it is difficult to be truly silent half garbed in plate armor) walked to the other side of Leoric's chamber and took off his breastplate. I turned to run out of the chamber, but Artok said “Stay.” in no uncertain terms.
Against my desire, I stayed.
He continued to quietly remove his armor, then his clothing. When he had stripped down to his undergarments, he turned to face the two of us. He growled as if in pain, looking us both in the eye. He doubled over, his undergarments starting to audibly tear as his body changed shape. His head turned up in a grotesque display of elongating and widening. Hair sprouted from every inch of his body, a course blend of brown, black, and gray. He dropped to the floor, his legs no longer a shape that would easily support a bipedal stance. His tail, as it grew outward, pushed the last of the tattered rags that had only moments before been his undergarments off of his now fully transformed body.
The wolf that was Artok shook himself off as though he had just walked in from the rain. He then proceeded to look himself over, which, had I not been at the very least moderately in fear for life and limb, would have appeared somewhat humorous. Satisfied in his appearance, he sat down on his haunches, fixing the two of us with a steady gaze.
“Why would you not be able to change?” Leoric asked, apparently amused with himself.
Artok pulled his lips back, displaying his rather formidable teeth.
“Your innate lycanthropy would not have been affected, as you are a natural-born werewolf, Artok.” I reminded my friend. “Things you learned recently, though...” This reminded me of something, I turned back to Leoric. “Just how much have we lost?”
“That does seem to be the question of the moment, doesn't it.” he said, half to himself. “The bottom line, is that at the moment, I do not know.” He stepped around Artok, who pulled his tail out of the way just in time to avoid having it stepped on. Reaching up to a shelf, he pulled down another case. Upon glancing at the scroll inside, he heaved a sigh of relief. “That's something, I suppose.” he said.
“You can read that?” I asked. When he simply nodded, I asked, “When did you learn it?”
“Too long ago. This was one of the first spells I'd learned.” He looked at me almost apologetically, “We are going to have to see where we are in terms of our own knowledge, it seems.” He reached into Artok's pack, pulling out a set of undergarments. Tossing them toward the wolf that was my friend (who was at the moment busily chewing a burr out of his tail), he said, “Meet us outside, this could take some time.” Before Artok could change back, Leoric led me out of his chamber, to the courtyard of his keep.
“I suppose I owe you some thanks.” I said to him, on the way out.
“You know bloody well what for. Seeing him change makes me want to pass out.”
“Ah, it doesn't do much for me either. Though, as I recall, it has done more than just make you want to pass out, in the past.”
“And there's the rub. Must you?”
“But of course.” He said, chuckling. “Must be the Elven blood, glorious constitution and what have you.”
“I'm half-elf, and you'd be best to not bring my lineage into this.”
“Somehow I rather doubt I have much to fear from a cleric of Ehlonna.”
“Boys, I'd say that's about enough.” Artok said from behind us. He was dressed, and carried his armor in his pack. “We aren't getting anywhere bickering with each other. What's done is done, now let's see what we can do to fix it.”
Have you ever been so blind-sided by simple logic that you find it to be one of the most intelligent things you've ever heard?
“Huzzah for stating the obvious, furball.” Leoric said, “Now then, can we get on with this?”
We walked to the open area in his courtyard and Artok dropped his pack. It made a rather decent clatter as it hit the ground. I never want to have to carry that load. Come to think of it, I don't even know if I could carry that load.
We spent the next several days there, practicing, seeing what we'd lost and what we hadn't. Leoric spent his time conjuring things to attempt to harm, I spent my time banishing them (filthy undead, absolutely disgusting), and Artok spent his time inventing new words for raw, physical pain on them. In the end, we determined that we had lost roughly half of our knowledge, a fact Leoric found particularly depressing.
“There has to be a way to reverse it!” He burst, in the middle of reading a text. “Phadian!” he exclaimed, “You could ask Ehlonna to restore us!”
“Not hardly, Leoric.” I've done things that would make holy Ehlonna less than happy to acquiesce to such a request. Besides which, would you be particularly willing to convert to the service of divine Ehlonna?” Artok, would you?
“Point taken.” Leoric said. Artok just shrugged.
That night, I decided I might as well just tell Artok what I thought was going to have to happen. I found him in the courtyard, in hybrid form, staring off into the night sky. Sensing my fear, he changed back and quickly garbed himself while I was turned around, not looking.
“It's okay, Phadian.” my friend laughed.
I turned around and found him putting his tunic on. “You know what is going to have to happen, don't you?” I said, sensing he had to have some idea.
“Yeah, looking like we'll have to relearn it all in time, huh?” Artok can be much more perceptive than he lets on to be.
“That is what I'm thinking as well. Tonight I'll ask Ehlonna for guidance, but I'm thinking there has to be a reason for what happened.”
“So, tell Leoric in the morning, than?”
“Yes, that seems to be the best way.” I said. “You should try to get some sleep too, my friend. I get the feeling tomorrow may be interesting.”
“Aye. Goodnight Phadian.” he said, as he walked back inside. “See you in the morning.” he called back over his shoulder.
That night, I found myself in a glorious, ancient forest, in a clearing at a pond. The most beautiful Elven woman I have ever seen approached me. I dropped to my knees, “Divine Ehlonna, forgive me for offending you.”
“You have done nothing to offend me, noble Phadian Gess; please rise. Her voice rang with a musical undertone. When I stood before her, she smiled at me and said, “You and your friends have been granted a chance to redo certain things. I cannot tell you why, but there is a reason for all things. Know this.”
“What then, shall you have us do, most holy Goddess?”
“The town of Kerth is to be under attack. A group of adventurers, not unlike yourselves, has begun the trip there, though as yet they know this not.” Her face grew serious. “You must know, noble Phadian, that this task is far different from any you have faced before. You will find yourself questioning everything you know to be true.”
“Why us, though?”
“Because, noble Phadian, this task is part of your own destiny, and cannot be ignored. I know you shall succeed, though the task be perilous.” Her glorious face grew calm once again. “Now though, you will need to prepare. Sleep, noble Phadian, for the journey awaits.”
She shimmered for a moment, then in her place was white unicorn. It looked at me momentarily, then turned and trotted off into the forest.
I awoke the next morning, knowing what I had to tell the others. I went to the common room where we normally met in the mornings, and found them. “Divine Ehlonna visited me last night.” I announced.
“She'll restore us?” Leoric asked.
“Not quite.” I said. “We have been set this way for a reason.”
“And that would be...?”
“None of our business, Leoric.” Artok said. “It just confirms what we've all been thinking, that there is no other way to get back than to do it over again.” He looked at me. “Did she say anything else?”
“Yes, we are to prepare to travel. We are going to a place called Kerth, though I admit that I am not familiar with its location.”
“It's a ways away. We'll need to pack pretty heavily if we are going there.” Leoric said. “Might as well get started.
We spent the next day packing and going into town to buy horses and further supplies. Tomorrow we leave, hopefully holy Ehlonna will grant me the fortitude to survive this, as well as my friends. But if we do not, I hope that we will have made some difference, and served Ehlonna as best we could.