Miranis had hardly seen the party off when the young Aarakocra delegate found her in the kitchen.
“You can just call me Miranis. What is it?”
“I think there’s something that you should see,” he replied, and pointed towards the front of the tower.
She walked out of the kitchen and stopped just inside the main hall, looking around. The space was nearly empty, with just a passing servant moving through the far side of the hall. There was no sign of any soldiers, or Agatha, who Miranis felt an uneasy need to keep an eye on. And yet something felt odd, the air charged, and her skin tingling.
A ghostly orb of green light appeared in the center of the space. Miranis blinked and watched it move through the air towards her, loop around, then descend on the closed door of an office space. She and the Aarakocra walked over to the door together.
Miranis cast Detect Magic and frowned. “There’s something strange here…”
“You should follow it. I think you’re being called.” The Aarakocra nodded toward the door and stepped back. Miranis shot him a narrow look, then glanced at the door again. Green light glimmered around the handle.
“I’m supposed to be keeping an eye on the tower.”
“Well, something is happening here, and it does involve the tower.”
“Hmm. You do have a point.”
Miranis paused before touching the handle, which felt oddly warm, then opened the door.
It was the first-floor office she’d expected, and yet it wasn’t. Visible motes of light coasted through the air in thin rivulets and spangled on the edges of bookcases, brightening the dull oak to a dim radiance. The air in the room smelled mossy and damp, like the river glade near her old home. She moved towards the desk near the windows, the door drifting shut with a definitive click.
The green orb danced now in front of the largest window at the end of the room. It was wide open, curtains billowing lazily to either side, and light shivered between the frame and the wall, as if reality itself were splitting around it. The open window showed a forest suffused with green-gold light, while the smaller, closed windows to either side looked out on a rocky plateau.
Miranis stepped forward again, halting only at the frame of the window. She should probably be concerned at this clear display of enchantment, in a tower already plagued with mysterious magic and potential evil. Instead, she felt increasingly calm, a deep tranquility settling into her very bones. So she swung herself over the windowsill and into the forest.
There was a brief, brutal lurch of the world breaking and reforming in a heartbeat, and then she stood on a carpet of springy moss, already set on a gently worn footpath through the woods. Birds sang in the canopy, and the forest continued without end in all directions, tall trees with satiny silver bark, light green leaves, and small sprays of golden flowers. Miranis reached out to a trunk and found it reassuringly solid before the orb looped her hand and skated away down the path. So she followed, walking downhill for an endless moment in a dreamlike haze.
If she could have felt alarm, she would have. One moment, she was walking down the path quite alone, and the next, a woman walked beside her, her movements silent. Miranis glanced sideways. The woman was taller than her, wearing serenity like a cloak. If she was old or young, Miranis couldn’t have said, or described what she looked like. She seemed like an extension of the forest and air themselves, crowned in sunlight.
“Who are you?” Miranis asked. They were still walking, headed towards an unseen destination.
“Your mother knew me as Jannath.”
“I have been waiting to come find you for a long time, Miranis. Though last I saw you, you were called Arri Galanodel.”
Miranis pitched to a halt at that, struggling against the dreamlike state. She blinked hard and shook her head while the woman turned to watch her, patient and quiet.
“Wait, who are you?”
“I just told you, daughter. Come, there’s something that I have to show you.” And the woman reached out a gentle hand, turned her, and they began to walk again.
They emerged in the glade suddenly. Like the entire forest, it seemed to fully exist only when they reached it, opening up suddenly, ringed by towering trees with a sunrise glow drenching the space. A pool of water rippled in the center, directly below a single tree, shorter than the others, and filled with a riotous explosion of flowers. The woman led Miranis to the edge of the water and gestured towards the surface, so Miranis tilted her head and looked.
The reflection showed an aerial view of islands. “Your mother was originally from the Moonshae Isles, though she kept that quiet enough by the time she reached Belhaven. She was a sworn priestess, and engaged in important work, before she met your father. A handsome one, your father, and so very tempting. She begged me to release her from service, and I agreed, upon a condition.”
She paused, and they both watched while the scene changed, racing towards a coastline that Miranis recognized, topped by dark evergreen forests, with the white towers of Belhaven perched on the cliffs.
“The condition, of course, was that one of her children would take her place.” Miranis caught her breath, torn between looking at the pond as the image circled Belhaven, and looking at the immortal creature speaking to her.
“And that, my daughter… is why your older brother was marked as mine.”
Miranis’s eyes wrenched upwards and found the woman looking both amused and pained.
“Yes. You were not meant to be the one to take your mother’s place. Your brother was born with the correct aptitudes and inclinations. The fact that he was marked, however, and I felt his death, is the only reason that you are alive today.”
The image shifted again, darkness descending on the gleaming towers, and unnatural fires crawling up the stone, blackening it and eating it away like acid.
“The attack was merciless, planned carefully and hidden from my sight. I only knew something was wrong when I felt your mother and brother perish together. The fact that they died before you alerted me, and I was able to arrive in time to rescue you.”
Miranis stumbled a little, the revelation a heady dose in the middle of her dreamlike calm. “Are you the one who took me to Broggen?”
“I am, and left you there with an inclination to go seek out an old servant of mine, and the hope that you would grow to be someone I could use. You weren’t the descendent I intended, but you are the only one left, and use you I must.”
Indignation fought past the lassitude. “What in the bright havens are you talking about? I won’t be used by anyone!”
The woman was undisturbed, nodding back at the pool, which now showed a much younger Miranis walking with druids before flashing to her journeying across the countryside with Elizar and joining forces with her new friends at Scarlet Moon Hall.
“While I was pleased that you had learned so much with the druids, I hesitated. And then… then you were crowned.”
And there she was with Dregan, while they accepted the ancient artifacts beneath Feathergale Spire.
“The magic accepted you, and that was a promising sign. Your power has grown since then, and your quest has come more and more in line with my purpose. So here we are.”
“If you’re trying to make me calm right now, please stop,” Miranis said. Her thoughts swam, languid and sluggish.
The corners of the woman’s mouth tilted down. Her eyes flashed, and Miranis dragged in a deep breath, her mind suddenly clear.
“Where are we, and who are you?”
“You are in a temporary realm and will return safely enough. I have told you already that your mother served me as Jannath.”
Miranis frowned. “Jannath. Jannath of the Moonshae Isles.” Her mouth snapped shut, and she froze, taking in the goddess.
“More likely known to you as Chauntea. Yes. Now be still, and listen carefully.”
“I must send you back soon. Your bloodline is uniquely capable of channeling my powers, and I need to send you out now into the world carrying that power. You have seen the imbalance and destruction, and it must be stopped before there is no longer a chance for recourse. You and your companions have done well; but the time has come that I must send out envoys and interfere more directly.”
“What if I say no?”
Chauntea’s eyebrow quirked, and she cast her eyes towards the pool. Miranis looked as well, to see an image of the rest of her party, most of them frozen as stone. She bit back a groan, and involuntarily looked back through the forest, calculating how quickly she might be able to get back to the tower.
“Be still, and listen. You try my patience,” the goddess snapped, and Miranis realized that she had already started edging back towards the path. “You can do them no good as you are. But perhaps we can help each other.”
“You are not the child who was promised to my service, but I believe a deal would be beneficial to both of us. Serve as my envoy and cleric through the end of eradicating these elemental evils, and you will be free of service, if you choose to be. In return for your faithful service, I will be a faithful mistress to you. There are many players in movement, and you are just one – more important than some, and less important than many. I do not depend on you, but you hold seeds that I could use, and our purposes are not in conflict. I know why you set out on this journey – to right the illness in the land, and to perhaps find answers and justice for what happened to your family and Belhaven. "
Miranis stood still for a long moment, her mind racing. Chauntea waited.
“Only until the elemental evil is defeated? And you’ll help my friends?”
Chauntea inclined her head.
Miranis looked everywhere but at the goddess. Her head ached, filled to the brim with too much magic and too many thoughts. Her eyes flicked back to Chauntea. “Who attacked Belhaven? Who killed my family?”
“You will find the answer you seek in your quest,” Chauntea replied, and stared her down.
“Fine. A deal.”
Chauntea smiled. “Welcome, my daughter,” she murmured, and reached out to lay a hand on Miranis’s forehead. Light flared, and Miranis’s heart faltered before racing faster than ever. “You will hear from me shortly,” the goddess said, and pushed her gently towards the trail. Miranis’s legs moved her without conscious thought into a suddenly silent woods that split before her eyes, streaming colors and gravity before she fell abruptly through the office window with a bruising crash to the flagstone floor.
She groaned and sat up. Her mouth was parched, her hands tingling, her head throbbing with a splitting headache. A glance around her showed that the window once again looked out on the plateau, and the office had returned to its drab and dusty mundanity.
The door burst open, and the young Aarakocra rushed inside. “Miranis?” he asked, moving quickly to help her to her feet.
“I’m fine. I’m fine, really. How long did that take?”
“A long while. And your friends – I think your friends are in trouble.”
“Petrified, I’d say,” she replied, and let him help her out into the main tower.