The window burns to light the way back home,
a light that warms no matter where they’ve gone.
They’re off to find the hero of the day—
But what if they should fall by someone’s wicked way?
16 Calistril, 4711 AR
I knew I was dreaming, but it was more than that, some magic or witchery I have not before now seen. I spoke with a woman, and she was not a figment of my dream. I felt her kiss on my cheek, so familiar. Her voice was poison, and cure. We stood upon a plain of cratered white rock, devoid of ornament—the stars stood as pinpricks of fire, and the soft blue glow of Golarion bathed us like angels. I was on the moon.
I did not see her for true, for she appeared as many figures, all women. At once she turned her head and locks of white cascaded down, and she looked at me with the pitiless gaze of Pharasma, the Lady of Graves, but a moment later she held her fingers aloft with songbirds resting on them, and appeared as the seductress Quintessa Maray. Languidly she transfixed me with her words and morphed through slow turns into any woman I might know, from Yelenya to Baba Migori.
She did not speak but smiled, drinking in my wonder, waiting for me to do more than gaze in awe.
At length I smiled back, as one does, and opened my mouth to speak. “Who—”
“Are you,” she finished. Her voice was as soft and cool as mist. She pursed her lips.
“Do you not know me, Sayd?” she said. Except she did not say “Sayd.” She called me by my birth name.
I nearly became angered with surprise, when I realized that I did know her. She swayed slightly in front of a promontory of white rock.
“You are…Phoebe,” I said. “The priestess of Calistria. Phoebe Kissingdeath. You saved my life.”
She smiled sweetly, beaming at the recognition, and before my eyes she assumed her true form—a svelte young halfling woman with purple and black hair, shining green eyes and a playful smattering of freckles on her cheeks.
“Tis your true form,” I marveled. “Why did you not show me before?”
“I walk in many guises, dear one,” she said. “But Sayd, I fear I must press on to the reason for my…visit.”
“Go on,” I urged. Looking about the blasted landscape, I wondered if I could control the stuff of my own dreams. With effort I caused an ornate table and two chairs to appear. On the table was a tea set and a rose in a vase. She seemed impressed and we sat down, laughing to ourselves at the absurdity of having tea on the moon, in a dreamscape. I poured us each a cup.
“Sayd, when I saved you from the Maghrattan’s poison before, I told you a story,” she said. “Do you remember?”
“You told me I was special to Calistria,” I said.
“Yes,” she fretted, twisting her napkin. “That was true, in a sense. But also a lie. I said I had read your past, that you were born as a pawn in a fued between followers of Nocticula and Lamashtu, both Demon Lord of the Abyss. That is indeed what I saw in my vision. And that you were rescued by a knight loyal to Calistria…here, look—”
She spread her hand and an image appeared in the air of a yellow desert in far southern lands. In the background, a massive temple sunk into the earth. In the foreground, a weathered knight in a brown robe, a massive sword slung across his back, carried a baby away from the wreckage. A blond baby, with a tiny horn and tail.
“That man, his name was Bonn Meridyth. No greater swordsman ever lived, nor fiercer drunk—or so they say. He named you on the day of your birth. He carried you across the sea.”
“Phoebe,” I said, “I’m literally all ears, and I find this endlessly fascinating, but perhaps you’d tell me why this is so suddenly and vitally important that you would use sorcery to cross the leagues and tell me of it.”
“You do not wish to know this,” she sighed.
“I am who I am, dear,” I said softly. “Knowing the past will not change that. I knew the people who raised me in Kaer Maga.”
“Then I will not tell you,” she said. “What’s important is this: you have a benefactor among the priesthood of Calistria. This person calls upon me for favors in watching over you, because I am close by and they are far, far away….” she paused. She look up at me, her finger rimming the edge of the teacup, and her eyes grew greener, her smile more sly, and she laughed.
“I am sorry, but I can’t keep doing this,” she said, barely containing the gales of laughter. She collected herself, but one look at the apparent consternation on my face set her off again.
“Oh Sayd,” she said. “In truth, I have not come to warn you of anything.” She licked her lips.
“You’re not Phoebe,” I said.
“You know exactly who I am,” she said. My blood turned to ice in my veins.
“You….you are not her,” I said. “This is impossible.”
“Mmmm,” she laughed, “perhaps I am just her servant, then. Perhaps she is too busy for ego-stroking whelps like you.”
“Why are you in my head?” I demanded.
“I came to touch you,” she said, smiling. And slipping across the table faster than I could move, she put her hand into my chest and broke something I didn’t know was there.
I was back on Golarion, in a misty thicket. I was watching myself. There I was, and Wally, and Teret, and only us. We stood before a white statue of a beautiful maiden, a shining red apple in her cupped hands. I watched myself reach out and take it while the others hesitated.
And I could see it for what it was.
It was all the stolen wilds, the still water and the raging water, the hurricane and the flower petal, the claws of the beast and its fury, the mountain’s fall and the inky black of the abyss condensed into a single glistening dewdrop. I watched myself bite it. I watched Sayd throw my head back, savoring the taste of the fruity flesh, and no one who lived was ever more beautiful.
You can’t stop it now, fool she whispered, this time invisible. This time inside me. You INVITED us in. She laughed, waves of fluttering ecstasy filling me. Don’t you know why your kind calls them the Stolen Lands, dummy? Because they are full of the stolen. And now they’ve stolen you, too. You just couldn’t help it, you HAD to have that apple. Do you know why it tasted so good? Because the gardens of the First World are BEYOND PEER, you joke. All you needed was a little touch, blond baby. Your blood is strong to protect you, but not strong enough.
When I woke up, I could smell them all—my friends, the horses, the shrews. I could hear water dropping from a branch across the meadow. I felt so hot, so fevered. I saw my image in a dark puddle, so hot with living. I knew then that Sayd Krynn of Kaer Maga would never leave this place. I would stand at a clear pool’s edge and he would stare at me from the waters, trapped, a prisoner of the world.
It is the 16th day of Calistril, 4711 AR.
I have been Stolen, ne’er to return, and the thought makes me smile from my soul, and my eyes shine with pale fire.
The night hath been to me a more familiar face than that of man; and in her starry shade of dim and solitary loveliness, I learned the language of another world.
- George Gordon Lord Byron