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Synopsis - Book 2

A chapter-by-chapter synopsis of the story so far, for those who have read the comic and want to get back up to speed, or want to find where in the story something happened. Spoilers abound, obviously.   You can click a chapter title graphic to jump to that chapter on the comic site.
If you haven't read the comic, may we direct you here.  

Book 2

In which the party make their escape and are charged with a desperate mission.   Kip flees up the stairs when the creature attacks, but Nashua does not want to leave without knowing what happened to Varony. So Kip reluctantly returns to the platform as a cat and attempts to call the creature's bluff by purring it into submission and reaching out to it with Morphus telepathy. Her plan works - the creature is a transformed Varony, who gives in and agrees to come with them now that his secret is revealed. Nashua identifies the creature as a lastre anduatha: fierce, tree-dwelling predators that live deep in the Old Wood near his home.   The stairs lead them to a room full of palace guards, whom Varony makes grisly short work of. Afterward they are met by Mistress Lana and her assistant Padrias, who tell them that Inikan sorcerers are attacking the palace - their warning to the Patriarch came too late. Lana has come at Patriarch Leius's behest to help the group escape the city and to charge them with a task. As she leads them into the tunnels that run beneath Namridia, Varony says he must stay and search the palace for something extremely important, but he is prevented from leaving the group when Padrias brings word that sorcerers closing in.   Lana hurries them into the tunnels, relating her account of the Inikans' attack on the palace. After a while she turns back to ensure that they are not followed, sending the group on alone with a letter from the Patriarch. The letter charges them with escorting a messenger who bears a petition for aid against the Inikans to King Rehahdeshan of Atriand, the neighboring country and Tamuran's ally. Before they leave the tunnels Kip insists on returning to her apartment, regardless of the danger or cost, to retrieve her companion Cathrine's book of medical notes, but Varony dissuades her, reminding her that he had to leave something important to him too.   They reach the end of the tunnels. Varony leaves to hunt and guard their trail, while a spell infused in the Patriarch's letter leads Nashua and Kip to the waiting messenger, who is startled and reacts by aiming his bow at them.  
In which the party gains a new member and sets off into the forest.   Nashua tries to defuse the situation, but Kip, recognizing the messenger to be Prince Ranon in disguise, decides to take the standoff into her own hands. She dives at him in hawk form and gets grazed by an arrow. Changing back to human form, she demands that he identify himself, but he refuses to compromise his disguise and pretends not to know her. Kip is frustrated and upset at the sudden upending of her life, but after a brief riding lesson from Nashua she gets moving with the rest of the group.   On the road, Talather returns and reports that a suspicious falcon is following them. Nashua shoots it down, and Kip confirms it to be a Morphus. They change course into the woods to avoid encountering any other spies.   As evening comes and rain starts to fall, they make camp. Varony returns, still in creature-form, and has an awkward introduction with the messenger, who calls himself Slade. Kip makes herself comfortable as a greyhound, but her antics are met with less than universal amusement. Varony changes back into a human at sunset, and the party sleeps until the rain stops and Nashua wakes them to travel on.   Later, they stop again to sleep for the rest of the night. Kip turns into a cat and makes herself comfortable in the lap of an already-passed-out Varony. Ranon takes the first watch, but the weight of the day's events crashes in to overwhelm him, and he retrieves Kip-cat to hold onto during his watch.  
In which Varony tells the truth, and foes begin to close in.   The next day the party wakes to pheasant stew prepared by Nashua. Kip employs her cute cat charms to beg for early access to the food, to Nashua's irritation. Over breakfast, Varony re-introduces himself to a very curious Slade. As they prepare to get back on the road, Kip and Ranon briefly discuss consent, and Varony is surprised to discover that the little vine-covered box he carries has opened - which means that at some point in the last day it came near to the mysterious object he's supposed to put inside it. On the road, Varony agrees to stop being evasive and finally tell the "long story" of his past.   He admits that while the version of his past that he told Nashua WAS the story the Travelers told about finding him, he never lost his memories - he is really the lastre anduatha he'd changed into the day before. He tells how six years ago a Genisai - a guardian spirit of the forests - approached him as he was exploring the edges of the wood. She offered to give him the means to explore farther, surpassing his current limitations to learn more about the world beyond the forest and the "nofurs" that so intrigued him. In exchange, he would have to retrieve something that had been stolen from her - an object that fit inside the box she gave him and would be found in the royal palace in Namridia. He agreed, and without warning she changed him into a human and left him unconscious where a Traveler caravan would be likely to find him and take him in. Later he found that each month at the new moon he would regain his original form for 24 hours - to remind him of his task, he presumes.   After hearing his story the party reassures him of their acceptance, though Nashua doesn't appreciate having been lied to and asks whether Varony could ever become a threat to them. The conversation is interrupted by a Seyelive scout in the branches overhead. Nashua sends Talather to investigate, but Kip turns into an owl and flies after it, too. She tries to distract it from calling in more of its brethren, but it attacks and tries to rip her wing off before being shot down by Nashua. He re-sets her dislocated shoulder, and the group hurries on.   At the palace, Prince Johlan's guard discover that the late Patriarch Leius has played them: the boy they took to be Prince Ranon and killed was actually a servant under an illusion spell. Captain Owings orders a search for Ranon, sending word throughout the kingdom that the Prince has been kidnapped and calling in mercenaries to track him down.   The party continues traveling west, fighting increasing numbers of Seyelive each night, until one evening their battle is interrupted by something crashing through the forest, which scares off the Seyelive and spooks their horses.  
In which history and magic collide with the present, an Elven village is besieged, and a shaman delivers a message and a gift.   The intruders are a family of forest wyrms: a mother and three hungry young, which have eaten the horses. Kip telepathically addresses the mother wyrm, who luckily is old enough to be sapient and speaks Atrandial. The wyrms have been driven from their home to find food as the Seyelive have emptied the forest of game. The mother agrees to spare the party and escort them to the nearest city after Kip tells her that the Inikans, returned from banishment, are responsible for the plague of Seyelive; the mother also cites the presence of an old magic around Varony and Ranon.   They travel with the wyrms until they draw near to the Singing Lake and Hiancea. Nashua leaves the party to check on a nearby Elven village, promising to rejoin them the next day. When the party camps that night, a discussion of the mother wyrm's talk of old magic leads to Slade and Kip telling Varony about the Dragons - the deities worshipped in the realm. The Black Dragon oversees worldly matters and ambition, the White Dragon is concerned with spirituality and transcendence of the physical world, and the Red Dragon protects the balance between the two and sees to the everyday needs of ordinary people. They also discuss the three magical Guardian Races. Kip extols the virtues of the Tu Naul and their efforts to oversee the mortal realm, but has harsh words for the vanished Kaelon, who had immense power and oversaw the continent's system of magic gates, until their last-ditch defense against the Inikans in the Battle of Souls 900 years ago resulted in the destruction of Atriand City, the gates, and many of the Kaelon themselves, and did severe damage to the Tu Naul's home pocket plane of Kalanthilas. The Daunovin, elemental mages, physically severed the defeated country of Inikis from the continent and sealed the resulting island inside a magic barrier. However, the Daunovin then disappeared or were killed along with the remaining Kaelon amidst the anti-magic hostility that grew after the war. The party discusses how the loss of the Daunovin has likely resulted in the eroding of the seal containing Inikis over time, and wonder about the Inikans' strategy in overthrowing small, insignificant Tamuran.   Later that night, Varony wakes from unsettling dreams to the smell of smoke and follows it to the Elven village Nashua had left the party to find. The village has been attacked by relentless hordes of Seyelive, which let Varony pass unharmed. Nashua fills him in on the attacks and reaffirms his determination to travel with the party escorting the Patriarch's messenger as the best path toward finding his family. Varony tells him that the Genisai has let him know she is near and expecting her payment. Another wave of Seyelive attack, and they help the elves to fight them back. As the elves prepare for the next wave, the village's shaman requests to speak with Nashua and Varony.   The shaman thanks them for their aid and delivers some prophetic words of wisdom. To Varony he says that a choice must soon be made; the young messenger carries the item Varony is bound to retrieve but would sooner kill him than give it up. The shaman gives Varony a crystal infused with a hypnotic sort of magic that he may use to escape his plight. The shaman then tells Nashua that a scarlet-eyed man would be the key to saving his family. He bids them good night, and they stay the night in the village.   In the morning, Ranon and Kip awake to find themselves bound with vines and the wyrm family nowhere to be found. A voice addresses Ranon as Patriarch, saying, "I have come to claim what is mine."  
In which Ranon and Varony have difficult choices to make when the Genisai demands her due.   In the Elven village, Varony wakes from troubled dreams and runs for the camp where they left Kip and Ranon. Nashua follows.   Back at the camp, the voice - the Genisai, Ranon realizes - demands that Ranon return her stolen item, which he denies any knowledge of. Kip fights back but is easily subdued by the Genisai's vines. At Ranon's urging Kip transforms into a bird to try to escape and find Nashua and Varony, but the Genisai snags and traps her. She threatens to kill Kip if Ranon does not give up her item.   Meanwhile, Varony and Nashua hurry through the forest but are stopped by a wall of solid mist. The wall will not let Nashua through, but it parts for a terrified Varony, who pulls Nashua along. They make it back to Ranon and Kip in the midst of their confrontation. Nashua tries to shoot at the vines confining Kip, but more vines snatch the arrow out of the air. The Genisai reveals herself and orders Varony to fulfill his bargain, showing him that Ranon has her item on a chain around his neck. When Varony equivocates, she subdues him using the pain of his human-to-creature transformation. She reveals "Slade"'s identity as the Patriarch, decrying his lies and willingness to sacrifice his friends, and urges Varony to use the power of the artifact the Elven shaman gave him to make Ranon give up her item, which cannot be taken from him by force. Ranon, desperate, says he can't give up the item because his people need it. Varony refuses to help the Genisai, so she retaliates by violently changing him back and forth between his two forms, before declaring that for his betrayal she'll trap him permanently as a human. He manages to pull out the Elven crystal, which puts her into a trance, and she disappears with it back into the ground, leaving him in human shape.   Nashua sends Ranon and an angry Kip ahead on the trail while Varony recovers from what's happened. Varony apologizes to the absent Genisai but declares his need to help both the forest and the nofurs. He tries to invoke the 'escape clause' in their original bargain that would allow him to end the Genisai's spell and return to his real form, but it doesn't work. Nashua promises to help him end the curse keeping him human, and they follow after Ranon and Kip.   Feeling terrible, Ranon apologizes to the group and thanks them for standing with him. He explains that the item the Genisai wanted is the Cazrimar, the Patriarch's signet, which has magical abilites and is key to Tamuran's protection and natural resources. It has been handed down by the rulers of Tamuran for hundreds of years or more. Ranon's companions reaffirm their support for him and for their mission, and they continue toward Hiancea.
Continue to Book 3

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