Their first stop upon returning to Ironclaw was, on Alderick's insistence, brother Tobias. Tobias wore the plain brown robes and smooth head of your standard monk, and Noman always felt somewhat our of place around regular monks. Officially, of course, the was also a monk. The Iron Order was a religious one, devoted to the gods. Specifically it was devoted to the goddess Airea, a deity who's aspects included night, winter and, to a lesser extent, death. Its members just happened to wear armor, carry swords, and kill demons for a living. He'd never quite been able to reconcile that, and always felt more like a soldier than anything else.
"Oh," Tobias said, answering the door to his study with raised eyebrows. "Good morning. What can I do for you, brothers?"
"You know about the star that fell from the sky this morning?" Alderick asked.
"Of course," the monk said, stepping aside and allowing the two to enter. "Ah, you're the two who went to investigate, yes?"
"That's right," Alderick confirmed.
"And you found something?" Tobias sounded as if he already knew the answer to that question.
Noman took his cue and dug the stone from his pocket. "We found this," he said, holding it out for Tobias to look at.
"I was expecting to find some decent sky iron," Alderick added. "But all that was in the hole were bits of broken rock and that."
"May I?" Tobias asked, indicating the stone. When Noman nodded he took it in both hands and walked over to the window. Turning it over in his hands he watched as the morning sun caught it's many facets. Occasionally he used the sleeve of his robe to brush at a dirty spot. "Hmm," he made a thoughtful sound. At last he seemed satisfied and set the stone on a nearby table. "Which one of you found this?" he asked.
"I did," Noman said, for some reason feeling like he was admitting to some sort of theft.
"Aside from the falling star itself, did you happen to notice any other signs or portents this morning?" Tobias asked.
"There was a raven watching as we left the woods," Alderick recalled. "It flew east when we saw it." He looked at Noman expectantly.
"I've been having dreams," Noman told Tobias. "Nightmares," he clarified. "I see things... terrible monsters. Demons, maybe. And this morning I thought I heard a voice talking to me."
"How long have you had these dreams?"
Noman sighed and thought about it. "A week or so," he said at last.
"And the voice, what does it tell you?"
"If I remember it speaking to me at all I can't remember what it says," Noman said. "But this morning was different. This morning it told me to wake up."
"Just in time for the star to fall," Alderick observed.
Tobias regarded the stone where it sat on the table. "I need to consult with some of the other brothers," he told them. "Observe the portents, see if the gods have anything else to add. Come and see me this evening. I'll have more for you then."
Noman followed Alderick out into the monastery's courtyard. "Well," Alderick said, patting Noman on the shoulder, "This old man needs a nap. If I'm not up when you go to see Tobias again you wake me up. I want to know what they have in store for you."
"Why so interested?" Noman asked.
"The gods paint with a broad brush, lad," he told Noman. "I was there with you when the star fell, and I was there when you found that stone. If you have something interesting coming your way I want to know so I can avoid it."
"What, you don't want to have a part in some grand plan of the gods?" Noman teased.
"Hmm. Did I say brush?" Alderick asked. "What I meant to say was they wield a rather large hammer, and if they intend to hit you with it I'd rather not get squished by accident."
"It sounds a lot less exciting when you put it that way," Noman pointed out.
"Just get me when you go back," Alderick laughed. "Who knows? It might be something good!"
"Something good," Noman repeated as the elder knight set off for his room. "Not with nightmares like mine." A growl from his stomach reminded him that he hadn't had a chance to eat this morning, and it was closing in on lunch time. He thought about visiting Ironclaw's kitchen but decided to head down to the village instead. The walk would be good, and it was always nice to talk to the people he was charged with protecting. Especially Ella, who worked at her father's bakery.
"Good morning, sir knight," she greeted him with a smile.
"More like an interesting morning," Noman told her.
"Oh yes, the falling star," she nodded, " The whole village has been talking about it. They say some of the Order went to have a look at where it fell."
"That we did," he admitted. He looked over the loaves of bread that were on offer in the store. He settled on one and dug the appropriate amount of coins from the pouch on his belt.
"And?" shed asked, accepting the payment. "What did you find?"
"Alderick was hoping for sky iron," Noman said. "Instead we found... something else."
"Oh, a mysterious something else," Ella feigned awe. "What sort of something else? No, wait, don't tell me. It waaaas... a magic sword!"
"That would have been much more interesting," he told her, chewing on a piece of bread.
"So something not interesting," she narrowed her eyes. "A magic shoe, then?"
"No, no, nothing like that," Noman said. "Truth be told we're not quite sure what it is yet. Some sort of rock, I guess. Mostly clear, but when you catch the light just right it has a green tint to it."
"A magic rock? You're right, that's not exciting."
"Why must it be magic?" Noman wanted to know.
"The gods tossed it down here for us to find, didn't they? They wouldn't send just any old rock. So... magic. Stands to reason." She nodded affirmatively.
"This bread could stand some cheese," he said, changing the subject. "Do you think your father would mind if you kept me company while I went to find some?"
"Of course not," she told him. "He likes you, after all."
The search for cheese turned into the search for some smoked meats, which in turn became the great quest for something to drink (that wasn't water didn't taste like piss), and before Noman knew it they had more food than he could eat on his own. Luckily Ella volunteered to help, and they found a spot in a fallow field to spend the time.
"That's odd," Ella said as they were finishing. "I could have sworn your eyes were brown."
"They are," Noman said, raising his eyebrows.
"Not today," she told him. "Today they're green."
They gathered was was left and walked back to the bakery. "Wish me luck," he told her as he prepared to head back to Ironclaw.
"Why?" she asked.
"Tobias is going to tell me what the gods have in store for me. According to Alderick it'll either be a paintbrush or a hammer."
"Let's hope for the brush," she said. They said goodbye and Noman started up the road towards the monastery.
Tobias looked less cheerful than he had when they'd first brought him the stone. "Brothers," he greeted them. Sitting at his desk the monk picked up the stone and turned it over in his hands. "When you came to me this morning I feared that this was a bad omen," he admitted. "Now it seems to be more of a mixed blessing. Have either of you heard about the signs the gods have been sending their followers for the last year?"
Noman and Alderick exchanged confused looks. "I don't think I follow," Alderick said.
"Nor I," Noman added.
"I'm not surprised. It's something we've tried to keep quiet," Tobias explained, "partly because the implications are so worrying."
"What implications are those?" Alderick asked.
"That some of the gods are focusing closely on specific people, or very small groups of people. And that the rest of them are going to be silent for awhile. Until now we weren't sure what Airea intended. Now we know."
"We do?" Noman asked, though he thought he already knew the answer.
"Yes," Tobias said. He stood, crossing the distance between them. "She's focusing on you." He handed the stone back to Noman. "Possibly both of you," he added with a look at Alderick.
"Focusing on us?" Noman asked. "What does that even mean?"
"Truth be told I'm not really sure," Tobias admitted. "And it could be that it's not just you, but all of the Order here at Ironclaw. But make no mistake, the goddess' eyes are upon us. For better or worse."
"So the gods are watching. What are they watching for? What are we supposed to do?" Alderick wanted to know.
"Do your duty as you always have," Tobias told them. "Tell me of any other signs you come across. Any other dreams," he added with a look at Noman. "I'll continue to read the auguries and portents. In time, we may more fully understand what Airea has in store for us."
"And this?" Noman asked, holding up the stone.
"A token from the gods," Tobias said. "I asked Mordin to have a look at it. He said he could detect some latent magical energy in the stone, but nothing major. So for now just keep it close. You'll know what to do with it when the time comes."
Noman regarded the stone. Mordin was the Order's resident mage, so if he said it was safe... "Ok," Noman agreed. "But I have a bad feeling about this."