Harm the Tiefling sat in the darkness of her room at Wrafton’s Inn cutting herself. By the moonlight filtering in through the window, she painstakingly carved the latest chapter of her life into her tail. For those who could read Draconic characters, her history was there to read, starting at the tip of her tail, then spiraling around and up. Her mentor, Donaar, had gravely suggested it as a compromise when he discovered her secret. He seemed to know her compulsion for self-mutilation would not ease and this would give her a focus. And it did. Her history was carved in blood and emblazoned in her scars.
She was now finishing with her more recent exploits in Winterhaven, describing her new companions: the feisty, half-elf Rogue, Nixie; the drunken Cleric, Casual Friday; the stuffy Eladrin Wizard, Valyn; and a Fighter dwarf, Kildrek. Earlier they had vanquished numerous kobolds and rescued the dwarf’s mentor, but Harm was feeling very dissatisfied with her performance. All in all, she had only taken down two of the enemies. Granted, she had been swarmed, and nearly killed, as well as being unconscious a good part of the time, but she still was quite put out.
With a sigh, she finished the last of the characters and realized she had used up much of the space with this last adventure. Her tail was running out. She frowned. No matter, she could start next time on a leg; she just needed to remember to make the characters smaller.
The next morning, the dwarf was gone and Harm gathered with the rest of her companions for the morning meal. The Ranger elf Ninaran was back again, sitting by herself at one of the tables. Thinking that perhaps she had more information, Cas and Harm approached her. The Tiefling came away from that encounter with a more favorable impression of Valyn and some tidbits on where to look for occultists.
While discussing the options with her companions, they were approached by a small armored man. After introductions they learned that it was not a small armored man, but an armored woman, a human Paladin called Arneth. Like all those goody-goodies, she was looking for a Quest to join and as her companions were eager for the Paladin to lend her sword, Harm had no choice but to graciously welcome her to their company. The males in the group fell to whispering among themselves about her pretty human face and wondering what she looked like under her armor. Overall, everyone seemed very impressed with her, calling her a “Thank.” Harm felt more than a little disgruntled at that. Didn’t her companions trust HER to keep them safe? Must they put their thanks into an untried human girl?
They set off looking for the occultists when a young dwarf came thundering down the road towards them. His father was fighting off kobolds and needed their help! Of course, they all ran willy nilly off to the rescue, leaving Harm to bring up the rear.
The fight went off rather well and Harm was proud of her band for working so well together. The Dwarf was rescued (although Harm could see if it weren’t for his concern over his son, he might have demolished the kobolds) and the party escorted him back to town. The dwarf, Terrik, explained that although now he was a simple farmer, at one time he was part of the Iridescent Guard, a faction of powerful dwarven Knights. He offered up his weapon, a Resounding Warhammer, in gratitude for the group’s help. As this weapon could only be wielded by the Paladin or Harm, there was some polite discussion as to who should get it. Arneth gravely pressed Harm to take it and Harm just as gravely accepted.
The Tiefling kept her exhilaration to herself (Ha Ha, Sucker! the hammer’s mine now!) and subtly admired her new toy. A weapon of the Iridescent Guard! Very hard to come by! Frowning slightly, she glanced at the ex-Knight. Wasn’t there something about protective curses that dwarves put on their elite weapons? No, she decided, if there was a curse surely the fact that it was given freely would cancel it.
It was not yet noon, so they set off again and by mid afternoon they had found a clearing by a stream filled with kobolds. Because their newest member had all the subtlety of a giant in church, the kobolds were quickly onto them. Harm and Arneth charged to meet the obvious leader just outside a ring of stones.
“Harm!” someone yelled. “Let the Thank have that position!”
What? Let that little upstart take HER position fighting the opposition’s leader? No THANK you!
Harm hammered away at the Kobold leader who had fallen to the ground. She ignored the minions who were chipping away at her reserves, intent on her prize. Ironically, someone else ended up with his head and Harm took care of the minions. A cry went up as two of the kobolds broke off and started running toward a waterfall upstream. Arrows and magic were flung at them and took them down before they could raise an alarm.
‘Huh?’ thought Harm. ‘Where did that elf Ranger come from?’
As they made plans to have Nixie and their new elf friend scout around the waterfall, Harm realized with a sinking heart that her resources were seriously depleted. She should have fallen back and let the more heavily armored Paladin have her position. She had let her pride and jealousy bring her to this point.
Nixie and the elf brought back news that the entrance to the kobold lair was through the waterfall. The layout of the lair and enemy positions were discussed and plans for a surprise attack were laid. As they crept up to the curtain of water, Harm tested the weight of the Warhammer and glanced off to the side. There on a dead tree at the side of the stream sat a huge black raven. It shook its wings and turned its head to the side to eye the Tiefling. Harm felt a tingling at the back of her neck. That was not a good omen.
It’s a good thing she didn’t believe in omens.
After they sprang their attack, things happened rather quickly. The minions in the first room were overcome quite easily; Harm took out two with her sling. More poured out from side rooms and still the Dragonshields hung back. Harm, mindful of her depleted reserves, resisted the urge to run to the front and took up a position to support Arneth’s charge. But Arneth was unable to make her position and Harm found herself facing the Dragonshields and a huge Goblinoid thing. The Dragonshields went down under Valyn’s sleep spell and Harm took them out. She fought back and forth with the Goblinoid who was laboring under a Daze spell but as her strength drained, Harm was not too proud to retreat. The Kobold Priest then stepped forward stepped forward, blocking her way.
She knew she couldn’t take another hit, but surrounded as she was, there was no escape. ‘Better to face death then have it overtake you,’ she thought. She heard the rustle of wings and felt their breeze against her cheek as she raised the hammer against the Goblinoid one last time. Her blow was ineffective, but his knocked her to the ground and into oblivion.
She had been knocked unconscious in battle before and felt and saw nothing until she had been revived. This time however, she was acutely aware of the sounds and sights around her. She saw the battle around her, saw her body lying prone below her. She saw the Goblinoid slam his axe into her limp body and saw it shudder, blood foaming on her lips.
In her dream self, Harm winced and ran the back of her hand across her mouth and saw it come away stained with blood. The battle muted in color and sound, fading from the plane of her existence, but the blood on her hands stood out vividly. It dripped from her armor and her mouth filled with the metallic taste of it. Her chest hurt; it felt as if each beat of her heart was pushing against her armor, squeezing her blood through the scales. With a frightened gasp, she dropped to her knees, mutely holding out her bloodied hands. Is this what it was to die? Alone? Frightened?
Hundreds of birds appeared before her en masse, black ravens that were made of light regardless. Her ears were filled with the sound of their wings and cries. Then their harsh clamor softened and became music unlike anything Harm had ever heard. The birds glowed and reformed into a beautiful woman with raven wings.
“Harmony.” She opened her wings wide and smiled.
Harm blinked, her torment forgotten. “You are the Raven Queen?”
The woman nodded. “I am.”
Harm caught her breath. “I am dead?”
The Raven Queen smiled joyously. “You are.”
She gestured with a wing and Harm’s wounds healed, the blood disappeared from her hands and she was whole again.
“You did well.” The Queen closed her eyes, elation glowing from her face. “This is a Good Death.”
Harm was confused. “But I failed my friends.”
“You died bravely. For your friends.” The Raven Queen opened her eyes and focused her brilliance on Harm. “Cannot you feel it? Harmony?”
It took a moment for Harm to realize what she meant, but then she felt it: Peace. The peace with what she was, what she had become, and what she would be. “Harmony,” she breathed.
“Come with me,” said the Raven Queen, opening her wings wide once again. “It is your time.”
Harmony nodded and she stepped forward into the bright embrace of the Raven Queen.
And they flew away.