As the others converse with the Djinn at the top of the tower, Ioz stares in wonder at the marvelous brew before him. He has heard of Ghost Ale before, but has never tasted it. Licking his lips, he unstoppers the flask and takes a delicate sniff. The nose is rich and earthy with a hint of flowers. Brightstar flowers unless he missed his guess and he was rarely wrong when it came to alcohol.
‘What wonders might this reveal? I’ve oft pondered my heritage as I never knew my family.’ He thinks to himself. Unable to resist, he takes a deep drink. Images flicker before his vision and he finds himself sitting around a low stone table. Six forms appear, sitting in chairs identical to his. Although he hasn’t ever seen them before he instinctively knows them to be blood relations.
“I am your grandfather twice removed. I am Storgar Wyrmslayer of the Caverstorm Clan.” One of the figures said with an inclination of its head.
“I am your grandmother twice removed. I am Brenlena Greatblade of the Deepdelver Clan.”
“I am your grandfather. I am Durrak Diamondthrone of the Caverstorm Clan.”
“I am your grandmother. I am Belladin Herbweaver.” Ioz started at this, for this person was a human, not a Dwarf.
“I am your mother. I am Noranna Bitterbrew.” A sweet voice that hovered between the rich registers of a Dwarf and the sweet timbre of a human said. “Oh my dear little gemstone what have they done to you?”
“I am your father. I am Chara the Hammer of the Brightforge clan.” A gruff and rumbling Dwarven voice said. “You bear the marks of power, the sigils of pain and the scars of battle. You do your ancestors proud, or at least you begin to my son.”
“I – I am unworthy of any praise.” Ioz said, “Anything I have accomplished has been by accident. Any accolades you give me are not earned but are mere happenstance.”
“And yet you have been chosen by The Lady of the Lost Ones.” His great grandfather said, leaning forward to give him a bushy eyebrow. “Don’t you think perhaps she might know better than you?”
“Don’t be so hasty to trust the Gods.” Durrak said, his voice severe and morbid, “The do not care for you in particular, only their games and their own power struggle. What they want from you may not be in your best interests. They might even be lying to you about what you are doing or why they want you to do it.”
“I don’t really even know what I’m doing or why though.” Ioz said, a bit chagrined. “I honestly thought I was going to have more time to figure that out. Wait, gods lie? Wait, that kobold was a god?”
“Don’t judge everything based on Durrak.” Noranna said, “He is still angry at Moradin for what he did to us, even though those actions may well have saved the world.”
“Beware of the warnings given by any Oracle.” Said Storgar, “Even when they prophecy your success they rarely encompass all that should be taken into account. Follow your own instincts.”
Ioz barked a laugh, “My instincts tend to tell me to drink whatever I can and pummel things into submission afterword. While that’s gotten me this far, I think the stakes have been raised slightly now don’t you? Besides, it was my instincts that got my friends killed.”
“No.” Belladin said in calm reproof. “You did not kill them. You were but a child, how could you be expected to defend them and yourself? Your memory is judging you harshly for things beyond your control.”
“I could have-“ Ioz began.
“The fault of the killing rests solely with the killer.” His father said in his basso rumble, “You tried, fought with everything you had and failed. We all fail, but do not allow your failure to mold who you are. Instead you must grow from your failures, and I can see that you have grown from them.”
“You have the tools you need.” His mother said in a voice that brought back dim memories of warm arms circling protectively about him. “Now you must gain the understanding of who is convincing you to employ them and to what end. Your companions seem trustworthy enough, however simple talk of a balancing act and the promise of a good fight shouldn’t be sufficient for you to risk yourself thus. None of us realizes how precious life is until it has slipped through our fingers.”
“You’re a good lad.” Brenlena said, speaking for the first time since introducing herself. “Don’t allow your pride to interfere with your duty. My pride was my undoing, led the destruction of our ancestral home and was nearly the undoing of the world.”
“Small chance of that.” Ioz muttered.
“Fare well. Our time grows short.” They said in unison, “Find your Purpose, complete your Quest.”
“Wait… I feel like I should be asking something more.” Ioz protested, not sure what he wanted to say, but wishing the encounter to continue just a few moments longer.
“You have forged yourself into a weapon child, just as your destiny dictated you would.” Chara said, “Remember that you are meant for more than destruction. We will speak again; this I promise you.”
The last sensation was his mother’s arms holding him in a warm embrace. Then Ioz was unceremoniously deposited back into reality once more, surrounded by his companions on the Seventh Floor of the Tower of Mineral. The sparkling blue words on his forearms twinkled mockingly at him; their runic for “Purpose” and “Quest” an ironic reminder. What had possessed him to attempt to assimilate that thrice cursed weapon crystal?
With a sigh, Ioz took a large drink from his mug, thankful that at least one thing was constant. His cup was ever full.