High Priestess-in-training Thalu Lham Ragoth, her hand, to the High Priest Hagadorn, concerning the Tiamat Gulag,

"Honored sir, I will attempt to relate the events of my capture by the Imperial troops and the events that followed. A week after my edge feathers gained the odd markings, I had received orders to help tend the Fifth squadron under Captain Reaga, so that they might evacuate by nightfall. We prepared to leave after sunset and were attacked by Imperial troops. To my knowledge all were either captured or killed. Baldur watched over me, for they did not recognize me for anything other than a healer priest, and I was allowed to live to work in the infirmary under a Dr. Kirkland. The Gulag itself is what we feared it would be. The harsh conditions ensure that no Avian survives longer than half a year. The T'saaur also suffer from the exposure, for there was only one present during my stay. The Kait seem to adapt as well as any prisoner might under such conditions. To be truthful I had expected to see frozen corpses lining the streets and severed heads the entrance to the mine. This was not so; the mine was run in an efficient manner. This is not to say that there were not thugs and gang lords, as well as sneaktheif opportunists. Indeed, I knew one such clever Kait opportunist, and knew him to be a trustworthy fellow. Shortly after I arrived, the T'Saaur Capsizer Harn appeared in the Gulag. He knew me for who I was and guarded my life with this secret. Three months after this, a half-wing fighter, Kelwick, also recognized me. I had expressedly avoided the imprisoned Avians for fear of their recognition; what they did not know could not be revealed to the Empire. Always, honored sir, as you have taught: my duty before myself. Only Harn and Kelwick knew me for who I was; to the rest of the Gulag I was a healer priest of Baldur, who had the misfortune to be caught.

"I do not mention Kelwick idly. He offered a plan of escape, led by himself and some of the other Avian prisoners. Kelwick knew of an undiscovered cave near the Gulag, a halfway point to an undetected Kanpeki coastal town. From there it would be possible to travel to Tarsis and, eventually, Ablach. There were complications with this plan: the collapse of a mining device and the command to relocate the Tiamat Gulag. With this news came also that the Avians who were to aid our escape had disappeared. I do not know how or why; and, while I trusted Kelwick's discretion, I feared discovery. Acting on this fear and with the knowledge that more companions were needed to ensure our success, I was indiscrete and allowed information of our escape to pass to the Gulag strongman, Thalor, who insisted his own inclusion. As trusted companions, the T'Saaur Harn, the Draiocht Kuun, and the quick-footed Kait Sparrow were to join us. Circumstances also included the willful newcomer Taybyrn. The night before the prisoners were to be force marched to the new Gulag location, a riot occurred. I was later told that the hands of Sparrow and Taybyrn were involved in the starting of the riot by burglarizing the Citadel, the main tower of the Gulag. Dr. Kirkland allowed Kelwick and I to slip away unnoticed to join the others, and I ask that he be remembered and honored as fighting against his own Empire. Taking advantage of the confusion and aided by the cunning of Kuun, we escaped through a tunnel under the outer wall. Honored sir, while I am in no wise as debilitated as some Avians are by confined spaces, I must confess I did hesitate in going through the tunnel, and I did cost us time. Harn 'aided' me through with the use of a bottle of ether. I do not mention this to trouble the T'Saaur but for what happened while I was unconscious and while the others managed our escape.

"Honored sir, you have spoken of visions given to you by Baldur, and it is in that light that I present what I saw. I was on a plain of ice, the sky above me and my primaries restored. I sought the freedom of the skies and flew among the clouds. In the distance I saw a thunderhead with a great serpent winding about it. The serpent had two small legs and was blue. It filled me with foreboding and I tried to avoid it, but I was drawn to it by the winds. It was aware of me and did spiral around me as I was pulled closer. I was presented with a fine and disquieting view of its great maw surrounded by spear-like teeth the instant before I woke. I found that we were traveling along a ridge and nearing the cave. There was some unusual uneasiness in the group regarding the reticent Taybyrn, the reason for which shall be evident soon enough, and Thalor, who had betrayed his own to escape. No sooner did I awake then we were confronted by a tattooed Kanpekian bearing a curved blade. He would not allow Taybyrn to leave with us, and Thalor was killed in demonstrating his seriousness. Honored sir, please hold your judgement until I complete my report, when I tell you that the reason he harassed Taybyrn was that Taybyrn was an Exemplar. He revealed himself to be so by using his technological magic to attack the tattooed Kanpeckian with magical lightning. In gratitude for directly making possible our escape, we defended Taybyrn. The tattooed human proved to be a fearsome foe, able to block nearly all blows, and unimpressed with the magic of the Exemplar and the Draiocht. I unleashed a minor air elemental to distract him and managed to do much more than I bargained for. He gazed at me and it will chill my heart forever that I heard his insane laughter as he did so. I feared that he knew me for who I was and would kill me, but he retreated and disappeared, instead.

"There was some consternation at Taybyrn's Exemplar status, but Kelwick wisely suggested we discuss it in the safety of the cave. We made our way unmolested to the cave. Taybyrn revealed that he was outcast from his own people, sentenced to death in the Gulag, for discovering the secret of an installation in the heart of what he called the Forbidden Zone of the Empire. At Harn's insistence he described atrocities to Baldur's gift of life, the creation of unnatural beings, and the existence of a disease that kills all life it encounters. Taybyrn trusted his life in our hands along with this fearsome news and also the means for casting his magic in Harn's. The Exemplar survived those first five minutes in the cave only by Baldur's grace and Taybyrn's eloquence. Harn allowed him to live, which indicates some understanding on his part, for I know how he rages against the Empire. In speaking with Kuun I learned that he is an ambassador from the reclusive Draiocht. While they have kept themselves apart from the war until now, it would seem that they realize the danger the Empire presents to those external to it. Honored sir, I urge you to consider his offer and present it to the Council, for the Draiocht are an ancient and powerful people; Kuun has demonstrated their peculiar magic oftentimes to my surprise. I later saw Kuun speaking with Taybyrn, undoubtedly as upset as I was to discover Taybyrn's true nature. I know Sparrow and Kelwick seem to accept Taybyrn well enough considering the extreme circumstances, but I will admit I would have rather have seen him killed by the tattooed human than have healed him and watched over him while he slept. As you have said, honored sir, I have not completed by training as a priest just yet. In retrospect I realize how sad it was to hear from Taybyrn the lies the Empire feeds to cage its own youth. It unsettled me to wonder, as I watched, whether our own Council would do the same. I suspect it was just the odd feeling I had concerning the atmosphere of our cave. As I entered, I was struck with the feeling that all was not well. I cannot explain it any more than I can the visions I have been given. That feeling was the reason I stood watch over my companions as they slept off their exhaustion, although the truth is that Harn did carry me a good distance and I felt a gratitude towards him and the others.

"There is, I believe, a good reason why most priests prefer to let warriors stand watch with them. I realized I was dozing off when the fire swam before my eyes and I dreamed of temple bells. All the more disturbing, the dream had a reality of its own, an insistence to explore the back of the cave, which I knew only led to the two abandoned Dwarven mine shafts. Since I could not wake my companions to take over my watch, I reasoned it to be a dream or a vision; and I lit my staff and ventured to the back of the cave, where I found a previously undiscovered third passageway of rough-hewn stone. It led to a chamber beyond, which was crusted with ornate rock formations, like teeth and tears, that seemed older than the mine itself. Carved on the far chamber wall was a symbol of the serpent eating its tail, the uroburos, eerily reminiscent of the dark serpent from my previous vision save for its color, which was purple, and that it sparkled. When I traced it, the cavern seemed to fall away; and a great being, seemingly a humanoid formed of raw power and shadows, arose, impossibly distant and yet still close. Dreaming or envisioning, I had severe doubts about the safety of my soul and recalled a few lectures of yours urging me to curtail my impulsive nature. However, in response to my question it said that it spoke with Baldur's grace in some forms. I imagined this was one of those forms. It referred to itself as a great secret power "of which only a few are chosen to know." At the time I could never have realized what that meant. The great being spoke to me of the secret the beats in my heart, honored sir. It offered the mantle of some undisclosed great power, a destiny of sorts, and the offer filled me with a curious mixture of dread and elation that I might fulfill what you have recognized in me. Forgive me, honored sir, for I accepted the mantle of destiny in Baldur's name. The being blurred in my vision, and I was struck in the keel by a beam of power. That is the last that I remembered."


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