Episode 76: Sirlius And The Zu Yexa Keso
Following the path south, Ara led the party into a denser portion of the forest, marked by huge stone outcroppings and many hills, the ground growing steady beneath their feet. As the day wore on, the temperature warmed, and the snow turned to sleet and a dense fog came about them, obscuring their vision. Ara felt again that they were being watched.
Thus alerted Whisper kept one eye to the canopy, and it wasn’t long before the old ranger spied their pursuer: a figure, nearly invisible in the treetops. She called out, but the figure made no move to reveal themselves. Whisper notched an arrow and called again. When the figure still did not reveal themselves, she loosed it, striking the tree trunk just inches away from the shadowy figure. They relented, and with deft movements between the trees a young Tiefling alighted on the dense, slushy snow. He was tall and lean, with long black hair, pointed goatee, and wore fur-lined leathers and a hood of mottled brown, blending well with the forest. Most strikingly, through tailored holes in his hood the man’s horns rose from his head, not curled or twisted in the manner of most Tieflings but split, resembling newly-grown deer antlers.
Keeping his distance, the man called out to the party in Infernal, both hands resting on the pommels of twinned scimitars at his sides. Yuna and Sirlius both understood him, and Sirlius translated for the party over the residium psychic binding. He demanded to know their business; when Sirlius responded they were seeking an entrance to the Feywild he laughed and told them to begone, calling them “Ignorant cutters.” In answer, Sirlius began reciting The Stone Is Standing, the nursery rhyme that had led them through the forest to this point. Wide-eyed, the man stepped toward the party, finishing the recitation with him. His demeanor changed in an instant, the odd Tiefling introduced himself as Betroeus of the Zu Yexa Keso, and bid them follow him.
They did so, and Betroeus led the party on a cunning and circuitous route through the hills. He peppered the party with questions: of life beyond the forest; of Whisper’s ability to detect him despite his stealthiness; if Yuna’s beauty and shimmery skin meant she was a prostitute, of which he had clearly heard misinformed tales. The party found the young Tiefling embarrassingly naive but charming and did their best to answer his questions. At last, after dark and with the freezing rain finally abating, they crested a small rise whereupon Betroeus said they had arrived, indicating a dense copse of trees much like any other they had seen over the last several days of hard travel. To demonstrate, he stepped forward and disappeared. The party followed, and found themselves behind illusionary terrain and before a small hamlet with well-built fortifications and a heavy iron gate. Betroeus called out to a Tiefling woman guarding the gate from a watchtower: Nea, his sister and none too pleased to see him return early from his patrol and with strangers in tow. The two bickered, but in the end Nea fetched Konofo am Oreana, the leader of the settlement. Konofo welcomed Sirlius, naming him a lost brother who had found his way home, and his friends besides, and ushered the group inside the walls of the Outpost.
Konofo led them through the streets to a longhouse, where a relaxed but bustling communal meal was underway: two, perhaps three dozen Tieflings in all,every one of them with outlandish modified horns of intricate design. Families too,Konofo himself sported horns some two feet tall, bifurcating into delicate slivers at the tips; the effect was of two bone bonsai sprouting from his brow. The arrival of the party caused something of a sensation, but they were met with a respectful distance as they joined Konofo at a preeminent position about a large central fire.
The party spoke with Konofo for some time and learned something of the history of his people, including a wholly novel and unknown alternative history of the Tiefling people at odds with the orthodoxy Sirlius had been taught since childhood. He spoke of the Schism, a great civil war between Tieflings in a city called Sigil, many generations ago, and how the Zu Yexa Keso and Tiefling tribes like them fled the city to escape a usurper known as the Lady of Pain. Konofo and his people guard such a gate here, at the Outpost, between the Prime Material and the Feywild.
Sirlius explained the party’s need to enter the Feywild, and communicated something of the events that had occurred in the wider world in recent months. Konofo took news of stirrings in the Abyss, and attempts to breach the planes by force with gravity but refused to open the gate, saying he had shut it tight to prevent incursions by something called the Wild Hunt. This he described obliquely as a barbaric fey hunting party, consumed by madness, and lately using Tieflings for sport; Nine of the Zu Yexa Keso have failed to return from patrols in the Feywild and he suspected the Hunt was to blame. Despite their appeals, and the vocal support of both Nea and an elderly Tiefling woman called Seer T’Zaan, Konofo would not be moved.
At length Konofo and T’Zaan retired from the longhouse, and the party stayed to rest, eat, and speak the others to learn more of their history and culture. A Tiefling child of perhaps 10 years was fascinated by Sirlius’s rabbit ears, and approached. They visited briefly, and wondered why Keen and the others didn’t have horns; it was clear the girl had never seen non-Tieflings before.
The party decided to visit T’Zaan privately in the hopes of finding some way of changing Konofo’s mind. With directions from a guard they found her home, and she welcomed them despite the late hour. T’Zaan was sympathetic to their plight, and though she did not speak so aloud seemed to disagree with Konofo’s decision to keep the gate shut. Try as they might Sirlius and his friends could not convince her to speak on their behalf. They retired to makeshift beds in an unused barracks house.
During the night the party was surprised by a quiet visit from Nea. She was troubled by Konofo’s reluctance to send rescue parties into the Feywild looking for the missing Tieflings, and urged the party to raise the subject with Konofo again. Appealing to his duty to their missing kin in a public form, such as when he was handing out assignments, might be an effective strategy. At dawn they did just that. They found Konofo in the centre of the Outpost, organizing a dozen or so guardians for the day’s tasks. Sirlius spoke to Konofo asking again to be granted permission to traverse the gate into the Feywild and offered to find their missing kin and return with them if they could. Konofo would have objected again, but Nea emerged from the crowd, saying, “A guardian stands before you asking to do his duty! Would you deny him, Father?”
Thus chastised, Konofo finally relented, and led the party through the Outpost towards the gate. As they went, Magnus was stopped by a middle-aged Tiefling woman, her eyes red-ringed with sorrow, and asked if in their travels through the forest they had encountered an old woman living alone in a hut? And had she sent word for her? Yuna realized this was likely the intended recipient of the letter she had agreed to deliver for Nettie Blackfingers, and gave the woman the parchment scroll. She thanked them and turned away to read it.
The procession arrived at the edge of the Outpost, where Konofo raised his staff and dispelled an illusion of timber palisades revealing a large stone bluff, on which was etched a crude figure. Intoning a prayer to the Guardian, Knofo wrapped his staff upon the stone, and the etched figure mimed pulling away a curtain, the drawing moving across the surface of the stone. A tear in the rock wall opened, revealing a planar portal. The party thanked Konofo and made to step through, Sirlius in the lead. At that moment they were surprised by a scream, a wail of fury and madness and grief from behind them. They turned to see the woman, still clutching Nettie’s letter, barrel into Seer T’Zaan and open her throat with a dagger. Konofo’s guards restrained her too late, and she cursed T’Zaan and spat. Yuna cast Spare the Dying on T’Zaan, a moment before Konofo himself rushed to her aid. “Go!” he said, “Through the gate and return with our people or not at all.” The stunned party quickly made for the portal and found themselves standing at twilight in the Feywild, sun to the right and stars to the left.
Whisper Ranger Level: Legendary
Tiefling History Status: Revised
Hag Favours Done: 1/2
RP Rating: Awesome!