A collection of various short stories written about my D&D character, the half-elf paladin Lady Orabell Amalithea Ivy Cornelia of House Maylanth.
Not necessarily in chronological order.
A Hole in the World
Ravenfeather Keep was dark and quiet, and almost empty except for Lady Orabell. She walked the hallway from the sitting room in silence, and ascended the stairs gently. One soft, bare foot after the other. If the stony surface was cold, she didn’t notice. A slight trail from the white, linen nightgown followed behind her steps. The only source of light came from the candle she was carrying.
Most of the servants had retired for the evening. Will had left for one of the coastal cities - Waterdeep perhaps? - to take care of some shopping, and still hadn’t returned. It wouldn’t surprise her if he’d decided to spend the night at an inn, drinking his grief away. He’d experienced loss in the past, perhaps that was his way of dealing with such things. She wouldn’t blame him if it were.
Umbra was somewhere in the forest or mountains or the gods only knew where, doing whatever he was doing. Training with his new weapon? Getting to know his newfound path as a paladin? Ignis. He called himself Ignis now, after the change. She was still trying to get used to that. He still didn’t know.
Morgrim, of course, was most likely at his blacksmith over in Bryn Shander. He didn’t dwell nearby the keep, but she had sent a bird earlier that evening, hoping he would make the journey once he read the message. Still no sign of him, no word. Had he received the message? Did he care? She honestly couldn’t tell. The old dwarf had always felt a bit detached from the rest. Still, he had brought Amber back to life once, after she died in Strahd’s realm. Perhaps he could have saved her again, had he been there?
Amber was gone. Not just dead, but gone, her body melted by fire. Orabell recalled the image of her friend getting grappled by the fiend, the fiend flying out and hovering over the lava, the fiend suddenly paralyzed, both of them falling. Falling towards the lava, first quickly, then slowly. Will had tried to help, but all he could do was prolong the inevitable. Orabell had also tried, she’d attempted to do the same thing she’d done the time before. She would leap out above the lava, grab Amber, activate her Belt of Immobility, defeat the fiend, and then teleport Amber and herself back to safety. That didn’t happen this time. She’d been grappled, held down, just as she was about to make the jump. By the time she got free, it was too late. She was too late. Too late to save her friend.
The haunting image faded as Orabell pushed open the heavy, wooden door. She had reached the top of the stairs, and had stopped in front of The Sky instead of continuing to The Grove. Amber’s room was one of the corner rooms next to Orabell’s suite, with Ignis inhabiting the other, and one of the first rooms to reach from the left staircase.
Amber hadn’t spent much time there, apart from sleeping. She’d usually be found in the sitting room with some wine, or outside overlooking the construction of her gazebo. Now there was a different explanation to her absence.
The door creaked slightly as it opened up, and Orabell gingerly stepped inside, almost holding her breath, as if treading on sacred ground. No one had been in this room since before the tragedy. It now lay dark and cold and she had never experienced a feeling of emptiness this strong before. The half-elf swallowed hard as she looked around. She looked at the bed, which was large enough to fit at least five dwarves. She looked at the wardrobe, the dresser, a chest. A few personal belongings scattered around. Her eyes were stinging. The candle flickered. A light gust of wind swept in through one of the windows, which had been left slightly ajar. Orabell walked over to it, trying not to think about how her friend would have been asleep in that bed by now.
From the window, she could see the area behind the keep, where the gazebo was in the process of being built. Amber had ordered it, to have a place of worship for her deity, the goddess Selune. Now Will and Orabell would see it finished. Milford had already received instruction regarding the details, including the plaque with Amber’s name. Amber Ungart. She would not be forgotten.
Orabell remembered the first time she had met the cleric. She’d been traveling alone, with only Dominic, Lissa and Bacon as company. She’d realised that in order to do great things, she needed companions, and Amber had been the first to join her. They’d met in a town by the coast, where Amber had recently gotten off a ship she’d been sailing with. It had been a perfect match. Orabell needed competent companions, Amber needed a new adventure. She wouldn’t have any more adventures now.
If they hadn’t met, Amber might still be alive now. If Orabell hadn’t asked her to join her, she might … No. She couldn’t think like that. What-ifs were no good. It wasn’t her fault. What had happened, it wasn’t her fault. There was nothing she could have done. It wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t. It … wasn’t.
Strength left her body, and Orabell slid down onto the floor, her back towards the wall by the window. She could feel the cold now. The cold of the floor, contrasted by the warmth of her body. The cold of the air, contrasted by the warm tears that were now streaming down her pale face. Cold and darkness. Hopelessness. She’d never felt this before. She’d never truly despaired. She’d never lost anyone close to her. It was unbearable.
She sobbed, she heaved, she choked, almost gasping for air, as the crippling sorrow took hold. Amber was gone. She was gone and she would never come back. Not like she had the last two times, or like Umbra had. Orabell would never get to see her smiling, dwarven face again, or hear her laughter, or share a meal or a drink with her. Never fight evil alongside her again. Never receive her healing power just in the nick of time. Not ever. She was no more.
As she was sitting there, tears still running, trying to calm her breathing, a line from a book came to mind. She didn’t remember which book, but she had read it at home, as part of her education. “It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.” Amber was a bright light that had gone out. She’d been a force of good in this world, a trusted companion, protector and friend. So many people owed their lives to her kindness and bravery, and most of them would never even know it. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right.
Her big, ocean blue eyes stared into the dark room, fixated upon some place far away from there. She remained still on the floor, sitting for what felt like hours, unable to think, unable to breathe. Her head was still trying to make sense of it all, while at the same time being unable to work. All it managed to do was to repeat her name. Amber. Over and over again. Amber. Amber. Amber.
The candle had nearly burned down when a soft knock could be heard from the half open door. For a brief moment she expected the dwarf to enter, but it wasn’t Amber. Dominic took a few careful steps into the room.
“M’lady, are … Are you alright?” he asked quietly. Orabell forced herself to move her gaze up towards him, but upon opening her mouth to speak, she was unable to make a sound. The tears had stopped by now, but their trail still glimmered on her cheeks.
“I heard about Amber. Milford has informed all of the staff. They’re all deeply saddened by the news.” He moved a few steps closer. “Naturally they’re not the only ones.” He stood in the middle of the room, looking helplessly at her. She could tell he wanted to help without knowing how. He’d looked out for her ever since she’d left the Maylanth lands.
She remained silent for a while, trying to find her voice again.
“I failed her, Dominic.” Her voice was almost a whisper. “I should have saved her. She was there because of me. She was here because of me. We’re all here because of me.” She swallowed hard to keep the tears from returning. It was a near success. She moved her gaze down towards the floor, where she watched Dominic move closer until he crouched down in front of her. He wasn’t wearing his armor at this late hour, just his trousers and a white linen shirt.
“Begging your pardon, m’lady, but I don’t believe that’s accurate.” He spoke gently, but firmly, in a tone that got her attention. She looked back at him, raising her eyebrows slightly, curiously. “Perhaps it was, earlier on, in the beginning. You know, back when we travelled around looking for companions to join you. But so much has happened since then. You didn’t force anyone to come up here. Everyone who are here, made their own choices. You’re not responsible for the actions of other people, so you shouldn’t blame yourself for what happened.” He paused, giving her time to process his words. She looked at him, and noticed his eyes were brown.
“Look, I’m sure you did everything you could to save her. You always do. But you can’t save everyone, m’lady. Not even gods can do that.” She wanted to argue, but held her tongue, and instead let his words sink into her head. What he said made sense. She couldn’t save everyone. Her oath bound her to protect the light and life in this world, but it didn’t demand her to always be successful, because she wouldn’t be. Couldn’t. No matter how hard she tried, there would always be evil and darkness, and there would always be someone she couldn’t save.
A memory from Ravenloft appeared. The memory of a little girl, tossed into a lake, drowned and resurrected - only to come back to life with a thirst for blood. Many others had died because of her. Another memory, of three witches in a cottage, taking children to murder and eat. Who knew how many children they had killed before Morgrim had convinced her, and the group, to look into the matter?
No, not everyone could be saved. She knew that. It was just so much harder to accept when the death belonged to one of her friends. Still, she knew Dominic made sense. He was right. She shouldn’t blame herself, and neither should Will. They had both done everything they could. No more could be asked of any mortal.
“You’re right,” she said, slowly, as if waking up from a trance. “Sometimes our best just isn’t enough. It just … Hurts.”
“Have you ever lost someone, Dominic? A friend, or a family member?” He looked at her, a mildly surprised expression on his face. There was also sorrow there. He nodded once.
“I lost friends as a soldier, m’lady,” he said. “One of them, Simeon, was one of my oldest friends. He was killed by some horrid creature that we couldn’t defeat, alongside many others from our troop. The rest of us fled. It was after that I decided to return to the village, and take up a guard position at Her Ladyship’s castle.” He paused, and Orabell waited patiently until he was ready to continue.
“I don’t even know what happened to his body. The captain sent out a small patrol later, to scout the area, but all the bodies were gone. We supposed the creature ate them.” For a while, there was silence between them. The only sounds were from owls outside in the trees.
“You never said anything about this before,” she eventually said.
“I didn’t want to dampen your good spirits, m’lady,” he replied, offering half a smile with it. Orabell couldn’t help but return the smile, if only for a moment.
“Well, I am sorry about your friend,” she said.
“I’m sorry about yours,” he replied. “Amber was the good sort.”
“She really was.” Although the pain in her chest was still raw and heavy, it felt a tiny bit more bearable now, as she reveled in silence with her squire. After a minute, he spoke again.
“May I say something else, m’lady?”
“Of course,” she said.
“It’s long past midnight, this room is freezing, and you’re shivering. Should you perhaps put some warmer clothes on, or try to get some sleep until the morrow?”
“That’s probably a good idea,” she agreed, and gracefully rose from her seated position on the floor while Dominic stood up from his crouch. Her limbs had gotten cold and stiff from the time spent locked in the same position, and it felt good to move them a little bit. By the looks of Dominic stretching, he felt the same way.
A rush of gratitude soared through her as she reflected briefly on what he had just done for her. She couldn’t possibly have asked for a more loyal squire. Perhaps she had underestimated him all this time. Without reflecting any further, she closed the gap between them and pulled him into a tight hug. It was partly out of gratitude, but also, maybe more so, for comfort. He seemed tense at first, until she felt his arms around her a few moments later. For the first time since the dreadful fight in the maze, her body softened and relaxed a little bit. She allowed herself to take a few deep breaths and enjoy the peaceful moment. He smelt of leather and stable.
“Thank you,” she whispered, before she let go and pulled away.
“Of course … I’m … Uhm … Any time.” He looked awkward and confused, which made her wonder if she’d done something wrong, though she couldn’t imagine what that would be. He was probably just tired. She certainly was, and now, she believed, she actually stood a chance at falling asleep.
“I mean it,” she said, as she picked up the candle walked towards the door. “I feel a little better now. You did that. I owe you one.” She smiled, and kept her tone light.
“Think nothing of it. Now please try to get some sleep, m’lady. You need it.”
“I will. Thank you, Dominic. Good night.” She waited by the door, waited for him to leave first, and he understood the signal immediately.
“Good night.” He made a light bow with his head, and withdrew towards the servants’ quarters.
Orabell waited until he had closed the door behind him, before she turned around and looked into The Sky one more time. The moonlight was now starting to peak in, leaving the room in an almost ghostly light. How fitting, she thought, and snuffed out the candle.
“Good night, Amber,” she said sadly into the empty room before she gently closed the door. “I won’t ever forget you.”