Freebie Mondays: Pieces of the Past – Goldril and Eldrigo’s Test

Freebie Mondays: Pieces of the Past – Goldril and Eldrigo’s Test

My husband runs a Dungeons and Dragons game on Twitch every Tuesday that has come to be known as Winds of Chaos. Due to my work schedule (and load), I’ve been unable to participate as a regular player (though I have done a cameo and hope to do more in the future). As a writer, I can, however, participate in other ways! I decided to help the players in the campaign (who are all good friends of mine) bring key moments in their characters’ past to life. As an added bonus, it makes a great writing exercise for me!

The first story featured Kiona, the party’s wild magic sorceress. The second centered around Mazrah, who is a half-orc rogue. The third installment featured the party’s ranger/fighter, Foodle. There’s also a small interlude featuring my guest character – Yfema (the wood witch)!

This time around, we’re looking at the party’s final full-time member: Goldril, a dragonborn monk! Goldril is played by NKAxLeader, who decided to leave this composition entirely up to me and the campaign’s DM. I hope he likes the results!
. . .

As the gentle sound of running water struck his ears, Goldril willed his body to relax. The young dragonborn had passed through these doors many times; indeed, he found peace and tranquility in the heart of the monastery’s sanctuary, even on his hardest days. But this was the first time he would participate in one of the tests that regularly took place here.

Success was the final barrier to completing the first stage of his training.

Goldril’s serpentine tongue flicked across his leathery lips, attempting to restore moisture to all the sudden dry patches. He had been diligent in his studies, especially where combat was involved. But Master Klotar had made it clear that it was not enough merely to hone his muscles and techniques. He also needed to train in matters of the mind.

That was the sort of test he would face today.

She was waiting for him near the far side of the room. The waterfall cascaded behind her, spilling down a wall of rough, slick rocks to pool in the greenery crowded at its base. A trio of koi spun lazy circles in the ripples at the base of the fall, their luxurious fins fanning in their wake. On other days, Goldril might have settled on the small observation rock and watched their dance while he performed his meditations.

Today he had eyes only for Master Klotar. She stood with her hands folded into the folds of her robe’s long sleeves. Her chin was lifted and tilted at just the right angle to make her look both regal and wise, as if she understood all the universe’s secrets as well as the method to seeking them. She could be curt and strict, but she also possessed a deep well of patience.

Goldril swallowed against a throat that had once again turned to sandpaper. He did not want to disappoint his teacher. Not today.

“Approach, Newt,” Master Klotar commanded, motioning to the three strangers that sat to one side of the room. Each wore the robe of a different order – all familiar sights among visitors – but Goldril couldn’t tell from a glance what ranks they bore.

Perhaps that was part of the test.

Careful to straighten his back and resisting the constant urge to slouch, Goldril strode boldly forward, pausing a mere three feet in front of his teacher. He wanted to turn his head and examine the three strangers in greater detail, but he dared not make it seem as though his mind wandered from his task.

He met his teacher’s expectant gaze, and he thought he caught a glimmer of approval in her aged eyes.

“Very good,” Klotar said curtly, then she turned and motioned again to the strangers. “Your task awaits. We call this test two truths and a lie.”

When she paused, Goldril’s fingers twitched at his sides. He resisted the urge to curl his hands into fists and nodded instead, though he didn’t yet understand his task. As his teacher was fond of saying, it wasn’t all about kicking down doors and punching through boards. Those tests he had already passed, just yesterday in fact. But this test made him far more nervous since it wasn’t the sort he could easily practice.

“As you well know, Eldrigo is the god of truth. Which makes it the quest of his servants to determine truth wherever they roam. Each of our visitors wishes to tell you a story. Two of those stories are true. We wish you to determine which is the lie.”

A light tingle wormed its way into Goldril’s fingers, and he shook them gently to dispel the sensation. Monks were often called upon to be arbiters of disputes during their travels, especially monks who served the god of truth. Investigation and knowledge were chief among their tenants. One must always note in order to learn – and one must always learn if they wished to find strength and enlightenment.

Goldril was not entirely sure he was ready to perform this task. Yet he nodded to show his understanding; Master Klotar would accept nothing less.

Again, his teacher tilted her head. The thin, secondary lids that sometimes shielded a dragonborn’s eyes from heavy sunlight slid narrow across her dark eyes – a warning, perhaps, that she expected him to do well. Then she said, “You have one hour,” and strode to the far side of the room.

Rather than turning to watch her leave, Goldril turned his focus to the three strangers. Two of them were about to speak truth and one was about to lie.

How could he catch the liar?

The first speaker was an elven woman, tall and lithe of form with long hair the green of vines and eyes as blue as the sky on a sunny day. She spoke in a lilting tone, as if every word of the common tongue were part of a song Goldril had never really heard until now. She told a story about a wedding beneath vaulted arches in a nearby wood. The tone was bright and cheerful, and her descriptions were vivid. Had he closed his eyes, Goldril might have been able to picture the white banners swaying from the tree branches and the grinning faces of the wedding party as they strode beneath streaming flower petals.

The second speaker was a dwarf, short and staunch with a beard of deepest red. He tugged at the long strands of his facial hair as he spoke, as if it helped him to recall the details. His tale was of a funeral, a dim day from the distant past when a friend from his childhood was laid to rest. It was the opposite in every way of the elf’s tale, and spoken in a tone as somber as the last had been joyful.

The last speaker was human. It was hard to tell much about the stranger at a glance. Their head was shaved and their robes were baggy, concealing much of their form. Their voice was neither high nor deep, neither emotional nor lyrical. And yet it was strangely soothing to listen to their tale, which featured a name day ceremony celebrated for the child of a sibling.

When all three of the speakers finished speaking, they turned expectant gazes on Goldril, who shuffled nervously from foot to foot.

Was he supposed to be able to lift a finger and point directly at the liar without so much as batting an eye? Was he supposed to experience some divine inspiration from the god he had devoted his life to? Was that how this worked?

No, of course not. The test was not of fealty, but of intelligence. He most certainly should not guess; he needed to deduce.

He took a moment to review each of the speakers and recall their tale. He would find nothing in their races or cultures that would indicate a tendency to lie; Master Klotar taught that all cultures valued honesty equally. It was individuals who chose to weave deceit.

Perhaps he could find something in their body language. The dwarf, for example, had been tugging at his beard the entire time, as if he was nervous about trying to remember all the assigned details.

But while both of the other speakers had been perfectly relaxed, their stances had been completely different. The elf had spoken in a breezy manner, casual and without care. But the human had kept their hands folded behind their back and their eyes straight ahead, as if they were trying to recall some memorized script.

Perhaps that was an unfair assessment, however. It was possible all three of the strangers had been instructed what to say. And even if that were not the case, some people were more at ease speaking with strangers than others. Nerves could not be mistaken for guilt; that was another lesson his teacher had often driven home.

Where, then, would he find his pretender? He would have to ask questions; that was surely the key. But which questions?

He straightened his back, set his shoulders and strode in front of the elf. “Can you tell me more about the day of the wedding?” he asked. “What was the weather like?”

He started there, though he prodded about as many details as he could think of. What had the bride and groom eaten for their wedding feast? What song had been playing when they danced? What type of flowers had the bride and her maids carried down the aisle? What color was the groom wearing?

The elf answered with the same breezy air she had spoken her tale, casually comfortable with all the details she recited.

Goldril shot an eye toward the sundial set near the center of the room, and quickly moved on to the dwarf, asking similar questions about the funeral. Had it been a particularly dreary day? Had the entire party turned out in black? Did anyone cry during the ceremony? Did the dwarf decide to speak about their deceased friend?

Often the dwarf paused the tugging at his beard while he considered the questions. His answers came more halting and slower than the elf’s, but always that tell-tale tug came back.

So perhaps it was just an absent habit, or an indication of anxiety.

Goldril hurried along, questioning the human. Had they brought a gift to this nameday ceremony? Did they remember what kind of refreshments were served? How long did the guests linger? Had there been any celebratory traditions?

As before, the human held a perfect stance as they spoke, arms locked behind their back, eyes forward as if they were reading their answers from some distant memory. But a script couldn’t possibly have anticipated every variable he threw into his questions, could it?

Perhaps this was just a normal manner.

There had been contradictions, of course, little inconsistencies that cropped into each of the stories. Goldril quickly doubled back and pressed each speaker about these sudden changes in weather or the same words flowing from several different parties’ mouths.

Memories were fickle creatures. It was possible that even someone speaking the truth might stumble over a tiny detail, or remember it completely inaccurately. It was also possible to misspeak even if someone had a perfect memory. Moments were as slippery as memories, after all, and they weren’t exactly forgiving.

The elf offered the most consistent details with the most ease. But perhaps that only indicated practice and familiarity with the performance of their deceit. The human, on the other hand, offered the most inconsistent details, but they were also speaking of the most distant memory.

Goldril glanced at the sundial. The bright orb’s position was shifting, which meant his time was burning away. He could cram as many questioned as he liked into the time period, provided he and the strangers spoke quickly enough to answer them all. But quantity clearly would not help him.

He needed to ask the right questions.

What would reveal the lie?

Panic threaded through his chest, causing his heart to race and his throat to constrict. If he had to guess, he would have only a one in three chance of answering correctly. He didn’t want to gamble. Especially since this was meant to simulate a real world situation. If he ever guessed when a life was on the line, he might condemn an innocent.

He drew a deep breath, causing his nostrils to flair. He counted the seconds as he breathed out, then in again, slowly willing his heart to calm.

Clarity could only be found when the mind was peaceful. Paralyzing his ability to think would only cripple him.

Perhaps he was going about this all wrong. Perhaps it didn’t matter what a person remembered seeing or hearing. Knowing a person well enough might reveal the body language that unveiled their lies, but he didn’t have time to get to know his guests that well.

Perhaps the key, then, was in a different sort of memory. Not intellectual memory, not in facts and figures, but in emotional memory.

With one last deep breath, Goldril repeated his ritual of questioning. But this time, he focused on how each memory made the speaker feel.

This time, his interviews were brief, but far more enlightening. Each of the speakers paused, considered the question a long moment, then adopted an expression. The human’s indicated fondness. The dwarf’s sadness. And the elf simply smiled.

But there was something profoundly different about the way the speakers answered this question, something that seemed to resonate in the depths of Goldril’s chest.

This was truth, the very essence of the god he served. So it made sense that it would resonate with his finely trained mind.

Only one of the answers sent a tingle of uncertainty through his limbs this time. And so it was with confidence that he turned to his teacher, cleared his throat and announced, “Here is you liar.”

His finger pointed to the elf. Her story had been fanciful and vivid. But if she had any lingering joy for the occasion she spoke of, none of it crept into her face or voice when she was asked to speak of it.

Of course, there was a small possibility she resented someone who participated in the celebration. But then even if she had attended, she would have been lying about something.

A dreadful moment of silence passed during which Master Klotar returned to Goldril’s side. She moved with speed and grace, and her passage made no sound. It seemed as if the entire world was holding its breath, waiting to reveal the results of his test.

But Goldril’s finger never so much as wavered. If truth hadn’t touched him just now, then he did not understand enough of Eldrigo’s teachings to deserve the escalation of his studies.

The moment passed and a knowing smile touched Master Klotar’s lips. It grew just wide enough that he caught a hint of sharp teeth gleaming behind her lips.

“Very good, Newt,” his teacher announced, her voice seeming to ring through the sanctuary. “Details are not always the indication of truth. You have done well.”

Goldri allowed himself to grin – but only for a moment. His chest practically buzzed with pride, but he didn’t dare let it go to his head. Praise from Master Klotar was a rare thing indeed, never to be taken for granted; she had the highest of standards.

But he had passed. He understood what Eldrigo wanted him to do. He was ready to take the first step forward.

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