A Talkative Aura

8 Mirtul 1368

Seeking to deliver another of Bartleby’s letters, we enter the home of Firebead. Inside we find him with his nose in a book. It takes a second before he realises he has company, and he looks up at us.

Aegon: I believe this missive is for you, sir.

Firebead Elvenhair: What’s this? Ah, a happy coincidence, I see. “I am not patient; I am not kind”… that is true. “Execrable character,” eh? Ha! I have eyes of my own, my dear…

“But”, what does she mean by this “but”…

Oh, Mayyasah!

You… must excuse me, my friend. I- I need a moment to compose myself.

We decide to take a look around Firebeads home while he does so. We wander upstairs, and I do what I used to do best in the Keep: I rummage.

I find a jade ring and a book in one of Firebead’s drawers. Aura says she’ll hold on to the ring, and then proceeds to feed it to her metal squirrel. At least, I think that’s what she did. I don’t know how that thing works.

The book contains a poem, the Song to Celia.

The spine of this book seems thicker, like the others that Camryn… I check it and another of his letters fall out!

Firebead must have asked Camryn to copy the poem, and the Scribe hid yet another note within. To think one of his letters was carried out of the Keep by Firebead! I have two of these now. Perhaps we will find Tamah and I can deliver these to her.

After we head back down, Aura takes the chance to express how grateful she is to be travelling with us.

Aegon: Don’t worry. I’m as new to the adventuring life as you.

Aura: You are? Oh, I didn’t know. You seem so much more skilled, more experienced that I am, so I assumed…

If… if you don’t mind me asking, where have you come from? Were you born in the Sword Coast? Or… elsewhere?

Aegon: Why do you ask?

Aura: I was curious. Ooh, never mind. I just… don’t really know what to talk about. I’m not great with people… the things I talk to usually don’t talk back to me, you know?

So, um…

Aegon: If you still want to know. Candlekeep was where I was raised. It’s not far from here.

Aura: Ooh, Candlekeep? The famous library? I’ve wanted to visit it ever since I heard about it. They say the payment for entry’s huge though, and I barely have two coppers to spend on my own, so…

Um, sorry. I was about to start babbling. I hope you weren’t bothered.

Aegon: Not at all. I think it’s quite endearing when you’re confident.

Aura: Um… thanks, Aegon.

Her question threw me a little. I actually don’t know where I was born. Father never told me. At least I don’t remember him telling me. My parents are obviously elves, but… did he keep that from me on purpose?

Perhaps I should introduce Aura to Firebead properly. She may enjoy meeting someone else who’s been to the Great Library. She seems a little too distracted for introductions, however.

Aegon: Who are you talking to, Aura?

Aura: Stop! Get out of the electrum jar! Hey, come out of my bag this instant! I- eeek!

M-muffy, behave! S-stop… a-haha, that tickles, stop crawling all over me!

Aegon: Uh, is there anything I can do to help?

Aura: Ha! Gotcha! Now, stop moving and let me open you up, you’ve got one of my tools in your tummy… there you go, good Muffy.

Sorry about that, Aegon. He always runs about when I need to take something out of him.

Aegon: This… squirrel’s your pet, I take it?

Aura: E-hehe… Muffy’s been my friend for years now. I made his body myself, out of clockwork and bronze and other metals. He’s cute, isn’t he?

Aegon: How did you make it… him… so lifelike, Aura? I’ve never seen a construct act like this.

Aura: Uh… that’s a secret. I’m not supposed to tell you how that works. Sorry.

Look at how happy he is to see you, Aegon. He likes meeting new people. I don’t suppose you’ve anything to feed him?

Aegon: I have some trail nuts, but I doubt that’s what you mean…

Aura: Muffy likes having his belly filled. He loves gems especially. Put something small in him and you can be sure it’ll be safe. Getting it out later might be a hassle though.

Oh no, he’s trying to run away again. Stop! Get back here!

The squirrel scurries around Firebead’s home as Aura chases after it. I talk to Firebead once more. He reminisces about our time in the Keep.

He still sees me as an errand boy, of course. It’s only been a few days since I was running chores in the Keep. On hearing or conversation, Aura has some questions.

Aegon: That’s right. What of it?

Aura: I just wanted to know if it’s really as big and as full of knowledge as I’ve heard. It’s supposed to be the greatest library in the Realms, isn’t it?

Aegon: I don’t know about ‘greatest’, but it’s big alright. Plenty of dusty old tomes too.

Aura: Back in Lantan, the biggest institute of knowledge we had was the Wondrous Archives in Sambar, the capital city. It was the biggest library I’ve ever seen. There were so many books there, halls were built both over and underground.

I’d be amazed beyond words if I ever saw a library bigger than that. Do you think I’d ever have a chance to see Candlekeep for myself?

Aegon: They won’t even let me back in. I doubt it, unless you have a book worth 10,000 gold hidden somewhere.

She sighs.

Aura: That’s too bad… but I can still hope, can’t I?

Hope. I guess I can hold onto hope that I can return home one day as well. We start picking up our things to head over to Feldepost’s, but Aura distracts herself again.

These conversations just keep coming at me. Aura’s timer seems to be a little off.

Aegon: What are you painting, Aura?

Aura: I was just trying to bring back my memories of a certain place in Kozakura… it’s been some months since I left for the Sword Coast, but I can still remember how beautiful the land was as though it was yesterday.

Aegon: Is this painting also a Kozakuran style? It’s not like any form of art I’ve seen.

Aura: Yep… it’s a style using ink instead of oil paint, so it needs patience and a delicate hand… in Kozakura, it’s called ‘sumi-e’, ink painting.

It took me a lot of practice to get it right, even after all the drawing I’ve done while studying at the Lantanese colleges. But when it comes to capturing the Kozakuran landscape, I don’t think there’s any other style that matches it.

Aegon: What about this place you’re painting? Is it some kind of valley?

Aura: It’s a place called Sakura Mist Valley. It’s full of sakura trees, and it rains for most of the year there… and so the valley is always filled with mist.

During the time where the cherry blossoms bloom, giving the valley its name, it’s the most beautiful place in Kozakura. I was lucky enough to have seen the place at the peak of its beauty, and I’ve slowly been reproducing that beauty for a long time with this painting, from the pink blossoms to the hills…

Aegon: Come to think of it, you never talked much about why you were in Kozakura.

Aura: I don’t talk about it much… even though I don’t regret the three years I spent living and learning among the people of Kozakura, the way I was introduced to it was… not pleasant.

While I was still in Lantan, I used to venture across the entire island looking for secrets and lost knowledge. My peers use to call me “Aura the Explorer” as a way to make fun of me, but I liked it… I always wanted to find things that weren’t catalogued in the old archives and libraries of home.

Even then I wasn’t satisfied. I always wanted to see the world. I wasn’t happy with how isolated my people were, and I wanted to see and share experiences with the rest of the Realms. So when I felt I couldn’t resist the urge, I begged my parents to let me join the crew of a trade ship so that I could travel.

I travelled for a few years, from Maztica to Waterdeep, learning local customs and making a living from my inventions. Then, when my ship was travelling by sea across the Golden Way…

Aegon: You looked a little scared for a second. What happened then?

She shivers.

Aura: It scares me to even think about it. There was a storm, and… it pursued us. It was made from magic, I was certain of it at the time. We couldn’t escape it.

The ship was torn to shreds. The last thing I remember before I lost consciousness was the feeling of drowning…

When I woke up… I was in a strange house in a Kozakuran village. Somehow I had ended up on a shore on one of the islands of Kozakura. It was a priestess that had taken me in and cared for me… my mentor and guardian, Reika-san.

Thanks to her, I survived, but… I had lost most of my memory from the disaster. I couldn’t remember where I came from, where I’d been, or even my name…

It wasn’t until two years had passed and I recovered the last of my memory, but… during that time, I had seen and learned so many new things that I didn’t miss them.

Aegon: What about your former home? Your family? Didn’t you ever miss them?

Aura: I couldn’t remember them until after several months, and even then I couldn’t picture their faces… of course I missed them once I remembered everything, but by then… I had a happy life. I didn’t want to leave, so all I could do was send a letter every year so they knew I was safe.

I would’ve lived in Kozakura for many more years if I had the choice. I felt indebted to the people for accepting and caring for me, and I loved Reika-san as a mother. It was as much home to me as Lantan was.

But… I had three things I needed to do, and so long as I stayed, none of them would be accomplished. So I left…

Aegon: Three things? What are they?

Aura: You know about one of them already, Aegon. I mentioned when we met that I was looking for someone I knew from Kozakura. But as for the other two… I’m sorry but I can’t talk about them. Not yet.

We’ve talked for a long time now. I hope I haven’t bored you with my own tale.

Aegon: Not at all. You’ve lived a rather interesting life so far, Aura.

Aura: Hee hee. I guess I have. Yours is shaping up to be just as interesting though. So… shall we see what comes next?

We leave Firebead’s home, and Emily asks if we can talk for a while. I wonder if she’s jealous of the time I’m spending with Aura?

Aegon: I am from Candlekeep.

Emily: Candlekeep? That place with the monks and books? What was it like growing up there?

Aegon: It was quaint, and peaceful. Removed from the troubles of the world, for the most part.

Emily: Ooh. That sounds nice, in small batches. I’d think it get boring through just…stuck in a small space, and you couldn’t easily return if you wanted to wander. Not very ideal.

Aegon: What about you? What was your home like?

Emily: My home was… quaint. Too quaint. We were never allowed to leave the estate grounds or see much of the outside world. But the estate itself was beautiful. The trees in the garden were gorgeous, and art decorated every room.

I like travelling a lot, but I do miss home sometimes. I can’t go back right now, but I do miss it.

Aegon: Why are you not able to go back home?

Emily: Well, I physically can, but, it’s… tense right now. Father is… getting older, and wants to pass his responsibilities on. But only one sibling can be the heir of the estate, and make all the important calls.

Let’s just say neither me nor my brother are the most liked options by friends and servants? You either have me, the bastard rumoured to be born out of wedlock to the woman he didn’t marry, or the selfish entitled brat, my brother.

Aegon: Leadership isn’t given to those who think they deserve it, but by those who act like leaders.

Emily: That’s what I think, Aegon. For now, I like this freedom, being away from home for the first time in my life. But I know how things will be if my brother takes control. I’ll have to face it eventually.

Aegon: I can’t help you with this, but you will figure it out. Have faith.

Emily: I hope so, Aegon.

Before we can cross the street, a very excited Aura comes running out of Firebead’s home with her painting in hand.

Aegon: I’d love to see it.

Aura: Here it is… the Sakura Mist Valley. It’s beautiful… but it’s not as beautiful as the real thing. Even if I painted everything exactly as I remembered it, I still can’t replicate the falling of the sakura petals… or the way the mist rises…. or the feel of the rain…

I- I’m sorry, I’m slipping into nostalgia again, Aegon. Would you like to see another painting I made from my memories of home? I mean… my birthplace, Lantan.

Aegon: Of course.

Aura: This one’s not a landscape painting. It’s people… people very close to me. My family. I haven’t seen them since I left Lantan, so I painted this in Kozakura when my memories of home returned to me. Out of all my paintings, this one’s my favourite.

That’s my mother Gillian, and my father Kairos next to her. The rest are all my siblings. My two older sisters… Juno’s the eldest, the one with the turquoise hair. The one with purple hair’s Luna… and my little brother Eridanus. The smallest ones are the twins, Filo and Lita.

Aegon: Looks like most of your family’s got unusual-coloured hair. Is there some story behind that?

Aura: I suppose, depending on what you think counts as a story… our family, the Glimmershines, have always been born with pale blonde hair. It’s unusual amongst gnomes, so we like to dye our hair into our favourite colours to distinguish ourselves. That way, people can always tell which one of us is which just by looking at us.

It’s not required, obviously, but most of us like the idea of it. The twins hadn’t chosen a colour yet, they’re too young. Eridanus, my brother, only chose his colour – blue – less than a year before I left Lantan.

Is there anything else you’re curious about? Or do you think it’s time to keep moving?

Aegon: Tell me about your eldest sister, Juno.

Aura: Juno’s brave, strong and dependable. She’s just as good at fighting as she is at inventing, but when she’s at home she’s like a second mother to us sometimes.

Sometimes when Luna was in a bad mood she’d bully me, pinch me or pull my hair, but Juno would never let her while she was around. The both of us look up to her, but she’s stationed as a mechanic away from home, so we saw less and less of her as the years passed.

But… I miss her the most. She was always there since the day I was born, and she taught me how to write, sketch, use a bow…

Is there anything else you’re curious about? Or do you think it’s time to keep moving?

Aegon: Tell me about your older sister, Luna.

Aura: I remember Luna was always the prettiest sister. She liked to make fun of me, saying my nose wasn’t big enough for a gnome and my forehead was too big for a girl. ‘No-Nose Big-Brow Aura’ she’d call me, when we studied at the Colleges together.

She’s a very bossy person, but I think she’s still very kind deep inside. When I was feeling down, she’d sometimes take me to her room to brush my hair and paint my eyebrows. I thought it was sill then, but now, I kind of miss it.

Is there anything else you’re curious about? Or do you think it’s time to keep moving?

Aegon: Tell me about your brother, Eridanus.

Aura: Eri’s incredible. He was born with magic at his fingertips, so even though he’s small and gets ill easily, no one ever picks on him. He couldn’t handle the exhausting work he’d have to go through at the Colleges, so our parents apprenticed him to my uncle Marius instead, who’s one of the few trained mages in Lantan, so he could develop his magical talents instead.

I studied a little bit under my uncle myself… it’s where I picked up my knowledge of how to make runes and graft them onto stone and metal. But Eri is far better than I will ever be. I’m a little envious of him sometimes.

Is there anything else you’re curious about? Or do you think it’s time to keep moving?

Aegon: Tell me about the twins.

Aura: Hee hee, the twins… aren’t they just the cutest? When we heard that our mother was bearing children again, we worked day and night to take care of her and build a room in our home for the newest members of our family. When I was leaving Lantan to travel across the Realms, they were tugging at my clothes and making me promise to bring back all kinds of gifts.

She sighs.

If it weren’t for that storm, I’d have been able to keep that promise. Now all I have to give them is this painting…

Is there anything else you’re curious about? Or do you think it’s time to keep moving?

Aegon: I’ve learned all that I’ve wanted to. Let’s move on.

Aura: Oh… you’re right, we probably should get going. Go on ahead, I’ll be right behind you in a bit.

We cross to Feldepost’s Inn. Aegon the Errand Boy has another chore to complete! We also need a good meal, a bath, and a nice room for the night before we head south again.

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