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The Chronicle of Aldencia: Saving the Kingdom

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1-22-10: I love you, I hate you, I can’t live without you, and now I’m done with you [Jan. 29th, 2010|04:58 pm]
The Chronicle of Aldencia: Saving the Kingdom

mendeia
[Tags|]

The journey from Stone Cove back to Aldencia was largely uneventful, to everyone’s relief. Due to their assistance to Red Wolf, the rebel group was able to broker passage for themselves (including their new recruits and horses) on a ship that dropped them, not at Cath or Mendoza, given the military situation in each city, but rather somewhat closer to Romdas. Heading overland, then, the party made their way back to their base of operations. Other than a few “heated” evenings between Bendigar and Nahla, everything seemed to be quiet. One evening, while on watch, Nahla noticed a band of soldiers dressed as regular travelers making their way through the area in almost pitch-blackness. Though the group did not notice the rebel camp not far from their position, their presence intrigued both Matthias and Nahla. But nothing seemed to come of it.

After several days of overland travel, the party arrived at Romdas, greeted, as always, by a force of sentries. They found all to be much as they’d left it, with the troops now drilling in various forms of “storming the castle” and siege techniques along with the usual training. General Connor, gratified to see Matthias alive, since both had feared he would not return from Irenia a second time, immediately caught the monk up on recent developments. Bendigar and Theodor, both impressed with the drills around them, immediately took up their positions to assist in the training. Nahla sought out her buddies amongst the various troops and recruits, happy to put Irenia behind her once more. Dora, met by Oertan, went to check on Elara. Unfortunately, the situation was not good. As skilled a healer as she was, Dora could not help but notice that Elara’s body was beginning to show signs of malnutrition. Despite the best efforts of all, her long unconsciousness was taking its toll – in effect, she was wasting away, starving to death as she slept. Dora put on a brave face for Oertan, but when Matthias appeared, she could not help but tell him the truth. Elara had but a few weeks left before they would not save her even with her soul returned. Matthias, the news hardening his will, set his plans into action.

Meanwhile, Keleroth had been researching, at Matthias’s request, spells for invisibility. Knowing there were none that he could see in the library at Romdas, he borrowed Elara’s spell-books. In one, there was a spell for invisibility, which, though difficult, seemed to work. Matthias met Keleroth in the latter’s room to test it, and they found that Keleroth could mostly cause the ring to vanish to the naked eye, an ability they hoped would be augmented by the ritual taught by Rumor if cast within the chapel in the castle. Thus, Matthias laid out his plans, bringing in his allies one at a time. Knowing full well that Lady Dahlia was likely already within Romdas, Matthias arranged for a few agents, Nahla included, to hide within the chapel before dawn. Then he would have Keleroth cast the spell and hide as well, though not as thoroughly. With Theodor and another guard flanking him, Matthias would wait for Dahlia to approach him. Outside, Bendigar and a trusted squad of officers and warriors would be ready to burst in at the slightest sign of danger. Dora would also be on hand for any medical emergencies. Matthias gave orders that his safety was not to be considered – that the first priority was to get the ring on Dahlia’s finger at any cost, even his own life. Though he admitted it to no one, Matthias assumed this would be his last stand, and that, successful or not, he would not live to see morning. Everyone had a restless sleep, knowing that more than one life might hang in the balance of the following day.

Before dawn, everyone was in place. Nahla hid within easy sprinting distance of Matthias while Keleroth worked his magic to make the ring invisible before retreating to a “hiding” place that was vaguely better than standing in the middle of the room. Matthias waited patiently, in prayer, until Dahlia appeared – she descended from the rafters with an unearthly grace. The two traded words back and forth, setting the terms of negotiation warily. Matthias tried to bargain that he would only give her the information on Andrew Wellin’s location after he had Elara’s soul, and that Dahlia would harm none under his protection, but this she refused. The eternal one seemed well-pleased to play with Matthias alternately taunting him with the hints of knowledge and threatening him with what they both knew could be an effortless attempt on his life. She commented on how infrequently she found men amusing and considered leaving the situation such that Matthias could continue to amuse and interest her for a while longer, which he declined as firmly as possible. The tension was thicker and colder than a glacier. But business was business, and Dahlia had more than one matter to lay to rest, so she eventually stepped within striking range to make the exchange.

The moment of truth arrived. Matthias waited to accept Elara’s soul, while skillfully running a double-game against Dahlia. In one hand he “attempted” to keep hidden the wooden ring he had been practicing with, and in the other he carried the true one. Dahlia spotted the false ring and slashed it away from him with her dagger, but failed to notice the other. As she drew a small sphere from a bag that clinked, holding it over his hands, Matthias struck, using every ounce of his fortitude and skill to catch her off-guard.

For an instant, time seemed to stand still. Then everything happened at once.

Dahlia began to scream, the ring seeming to burn through its invisibility with an unholy light. The sphere containing presumably Elara’s soul slipped through Matthias’s hands to roll on the ground, Dahlia herself a fraction of a moment behind as she crumpled to the ground. When she fell, the bag she carried spilled, and many similar spheres spilled across the floor. Matthias jumped back, careful not to crush any of them, and Nahla raced forward, able to see that Dahlia’s hand was perilously close to slipping from the ring. She jammed the instrument of destruction back onto the eternal one’s hand, and the screaming continued until it stopped suddenly.

Bendigar and his group burst into the room. Matthias halted him with his voice, fearing that the men might disrupt what was happening to Dahlia or step on the precious sphere that held Elara’s soul. A voice rang out and Rumor, like his counterpart, dropped from the rafters with easy grace. He eyed the fallen body and confirmed that the ring had succeeded – her soul was banished. Asking Matthias what sort of eternity awaited her, the monk replied that he had sent Dahlia to a place that was peaceful and beautiful, and entirely empty. There she would either find redemption or hell, depending on how she approached it. Rumor agreed, and removed the ring from the body’s finger, encouraging Matthias to see it burned with no one touching her (he said there were dozens of poisons on her and her weapons and they would do well to remember it).

Turning to leave, Rumor gave Matthias and his people one last opportunity to ask him questions. Nahla held up a shirt full of tiny spheres, all similar, with no way to know which was Elara’s. Matthias asked the obvious question, but Rumor called in the favor he had done Keleroth and refused to answer. His reasoning was twofold – firstly, he would be better served by Matthias continuing on the path before him, a path that led to Andrew Wellin, who would be able to help them identify the sphere that was Elara’s. And secondly, Rumor admitted that Elara possessed knowledge he did not yet want released into the world – that of his true identity.

He explained that, on occasion, knowledge could not and would not be known until it was asked of him, but never before had there been something he simply could not know. Yet Elara, somehow, knew the truth of Rumor, “who he really was” as he said, and this was terrifying. Rumor preferred to let that knowledge lay dormant for a while yet, and so would not assist. Though the others tried, they could not get him to help them further. Strangely, before taking his leave, Rumor kissed Dahlia’s forehead, then bid them farewell. He assured them that if all went well, they would never lay eyes on him again.

All in all, 37 spheres had been collected, which Matthias asked Dora to protect. In the meantime, he arranged for them to depart immediately to the northern lands where they could seek out Andrew Wellin. Matthias arranged for Elara’s body to come along on the trip in a cart, guarded by Oertan, and they rapidly explained their actions to Connor while preparing to leave. Dahlia’s body was burned as instructed (Keleroth got not a little pleasure out of the doing), and before the sun had even fully risen, the party was making the best time possible northwards to save Elara and Aldencia.
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10-23-09: There is no one to blame, we’re leaving ground, will things ever be the same again? [Jan. 22nd, 2010|05:27 pm]
The Chronicle of Aldencia: Saving the Kingdom

mendeia
[Tags|]

Though fire and battle rage outside, the shrine was strangely quiet now that Crom is dead. Everyone took a moment to survey the results of their efforts – a very great evil has been extinguished, and a woman in torment is gone forever, as is the light heart of the Ojaluche. But there was no time to contemplate the lives and deaths that had been changed in this cavern. At once, everyone sprang back into action.

Matthias led a charge back along the narrow corridor of the cave, shouting loudly and with great pride that Crom is dead – which resulted in a hearty cheer and a few flagging spirits finding themselves renewed. As they pushed their way back to the entrance to the cave, partaking in battle only as needed, they found that many of Crom’s previous soldiers, and sheep, had taken up arms against their comrades and would-be killers. A clearing was made at the mouth of the cave, and after a quick negotiation, Keleroth used his fire magic to allow himself to pass beyond his firestorm and into the night to see what has transpired beyond.

As he climbed a bit up the rock-face, the firemage was able to establish that two different battles were still raging, one just beyond the flames, and another at the base of the mountain. Though he could not make out much in the way of details of the farther altercation, the nearer one seemed equally balanced, and thus, in need of help. Reporting his findings to Matthias, a plan was hatched for all able-bodied who could be spared from within the cave to leave through a doorway Keleroth would make in the flames themselves to join their companions. Though treacherous, a few dozen brave souls walk between walls of fire to support Red Wolf’s forces, while Keleroth and Dora remain in the cave itself to see to the wounded.

With his usual efficiency, Matthias led Nahla, Bendigar, Theodor, and his newly-acquired men to assist in defeating Crom’s men still trying vainly to control the sacrifices they had brought to the cave. But the death of Crom, shouted wildly in triumph, did much to quell the enthusiasm of his supporters, and rather quickly, the battle turned. Regrouping, Matthias encouraged his group to ride the feel of victory and race to the larger battle below, whooping almost maniacally as they went. The force formed a push at a single point, breaking the formation of Crom’s army and weakening its structure from within. Though the military skill was fierce, Red Wolf’s numerous forces, along with the traitors and turned of the army itself, were seized with enough fury to almost equal the forces allied against them.

Not long into the battle, Jakal and Matthias found one another, and Matthias was at last able to relate the sad news of Red Wolf’s death. Though her successor had no time to mourn, he was obviously troubled. He also pointed out to Matthias that their forces were not going to win ultimately against Crom’s army – there were reinforcements coming and the rebels would be crushed between the mountain and the fire in the cave if they did not engineer an escape and quickly. However, with the fire-wall still blocking many survivors and soldiers in the cave, extracting them in time might prove to be a problem.

Meanwhile, Keleroth and Dora were doing as much as they could for the wounded in the cave while Keleroth attempted to give his strength the chance to return before dousing the flames that held them. Almost as one, they made their way back to the inner chamber, where they found Rumor doing…something. Again Keleroth noted the precise power of the place, his scholarly instinct to study it distracting him from the raging blaze that had them effectively sealed in. But Rumor unexpectedly offered the pair something invaluable – in return for an agreement that he would be free to refuse to answer 2 questions posed by Matthias and/or his group at any time and without explanation, the secret one offered to teach the firemage how to strengthen himself. Though they felt somewhat concerned about making such a deal without Matthias, ultimately they accepted the offer. Rumor painstakingly laid out a complex ritual on the floor of the chamber, one which Keleroth felt he could likely replicate as needed, which apparently would serve to use the power of the holy ground to give strength to the spell.

Keleroth gathered himself and attempted to extinguish the fire at the front of the cave – the spell worked, almost too well; it smothered the firestorm and every torch in the vicinity, including in the battle raging below. Taking the opportunity, those still in the cave fled, grabbing horses and running with the rest of Red Wolf’s people, while Matthias’s fighting force made up a rear-guard to extract them from the battle. It was long, long into the night by the time Crom’s army gave up pursuit, so long that even Matthias had fallen asleep in the saddle and had to be carefully carried with the others to safety. Jakal led his people to a blind canyon to sleep for a few hours and arranged a make-shift camp with those not too injured or exhausted.

In the morning, after breakfast, Matthias and his council found Rumor sitting somewhat off by himself, quite pleased with their work of the day before. Perhaps surprisingly, Rumor seemed willing to talk, to share some of his secrets about his uncommon knowledge, but the party asked few questions. The one they did ask, of course, related to the whereabouts of Andrew Wellin, and Rumor provided the name of the town where he would be found – it was, incidentally, not far from Bendigar’s family’s lands and Nahla’s ancestral home. He also hinted that, while Edward was alive, he would be difficult to find, but far moreso to involve in the rebellion; the secret one hinted that Prince Edward knew more than almost anyone about what had truly happened to the king. He also advised Matthias to be very careful – Dahlia would know he had this knowledge, and she would be waiting for him to keep his side of their bargain.

Matthias thanked Rumor, and was told that likely they would see each other once more before the end of things, and that Rumor would be available to them if or when they needed him. The party then prepared to head straight back to Stone Cove, while Jakal worked to organize his people and find a way of capitalizing on their gains (and mourn their losses). Of the men turned from Crom’s army to the rebel side, many offered to stay with Matthias, and he was willing to accept their loyalty and their help, so with new strength and a new direction, Matthias led the way to Stone Cove.
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9-26-09: There’s not enough room in this world for my pain; signals cross and love gets lost [Oct. 23rd, 2009|05:40 pm]
The Chronicle of Aldencia: Saving the Kingdom

mendeia
[Tags|]

The party set out from Stone Cove to ride for about week through the land of Irenia. Everyone was understandably tense given both the interesting company and the dangerous situation ahead. Though Red Wolf’s people set a watch and regularly patrolled their camps, Matthias established his own watch just in case. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred on the trip to the shrine in the mountain save one night when a rider left the party apparently on orders one night, except for Matthias’s dreams. For every night he slept in the open, he dreamed of Crom, of seeing the monster do his work again and again, from behind the general’s very eyes. Matthias grew focused and angry as he lived horrors night after night, knowing very well what Crom was answerable to, and who had helped him.

Their haste was rewarded in that the rebels were first to the shrine, beating Crom’s advance party by some margin. This gave them the chance to explore the deep cavern, complete with its potently holy center at the back of the cave. A tall statue of the Goddess, somewhat different from how the Aldencian clergy depicted her, dominated the scene, and through her arms flowed a natural spring that passed through the cave into the floor. The cavern was high, and its walls were carved with designs worn almost smooth over time, studded with crystals that resembled quartz. The statue stood upon a dais that was also crowned with large crystals, and the entire chamber was held up by pillars that seemed to have been stalagmites and stalactites that grew together. With this backdrop, the rebel party laid the trap for Crom’s advance guard. Most of Red Wolf’s people took up hidden positions outside the cave along with Bendigar, while a few, including Red Wolf herself, joined the party in the shrine proper, either hiding or pretending to be simple worshipers. The wait to be attacked was a strain on more than a few of the individuals inside, and even Keleroth found himself caught up in Matthias’s prayers hoping for some comfort.

At last the party arrived, a group of 12 or so with a mage in tow. They entered the cave and immediately attempted to take the “peasants” hostage to wait for Crom’s arrival. However, the waiting trap was sprung and the lot of them were dealt with rather quickly and with little difficulty, especially after Red Wolf helpfully removed the mage’s arm in one swing. Outside, Bendigar held the cavern against any who might retreat and Jakal chased down and captured a scout, so the success was complete. While Red Wolf commanded her people to clean the shrine thoroughly (noting that where blood had been spilled there seemed to be a negative effect on the otherwise palpable holiness of the space) and Matthias’s people took the chance to breathe and reflect, Red Wolf and Matthias themselves interrogated the few left alive until they had all the information they wanted. It was a savage, bloody interrogation that lasted far longer than strictly necessary, and more than one of Matthias’s friends chose to look away at several gory moments. Matthias struggled, but nonetheless he did not prevent Red Wolf from her work and when they were executed in the end, he bore witness to it as best he could.

With only a few hours to ready themselves, the party worked quickly to set the scene. Dora, Red Wolf, and Theodor hid in the shrine itself near the entrance, where they would accost Crom directly when he arrived. Bendigar and Keleroth hid at the very mouth of the cave, pretending to be either dead or dying soldiers of Crom’s. Matthias and Nahla disguised themselves quite brutally as murdered soldiers as well, lying in plain sight in the middle of the cave path to the shrine. Red Wolf’s people hid where they could, took up the form of killed ambushers, and prepared themselves. The ensuing wait was excruciating in its length and tenseness – this game must be won, or none would leave the cave alive.

Minutes or hours crawled by before at last a sentry reported that Crom was approaching. Surprisingly, he had brought most of his army to the very base of the mountain, but had only one or two hundred with him, and these seemed to be almost evenly split between his fiercest, angriest warriors and the most green and frightened of his recruits. One of Red Wolf’s men who had infiltrated the army prior served to deliver the report of the situation, which went unquestioned. Crom himself, wearing no shirt or armor to display thousands of scars from those he’d killed, gave orders that he should enter alone with his four most trusted men keeping the shrine to his own use (complete with a few “sheep” that would serve for the opening ritual) before his men would push the young soldiers in to do their part. The soldiers who were now sheep themselves were swiftly relieved of their weapons and forced forward into the cave after their general. When Crom had reached the point marked by Matthias, it was time. With an almost inhuman fury, Matthias stood and spoke, stating eerily that he would return from the grave to confront and destroy the monster that was Crom before shouting the signal to the others.

Many things began to happen at once. Keleroth lit the fire that would cut the cave off from the rest of Crom’s army, roasting a few soldiers and a few sheep in the process. Red Wolf’s men leapt into the fray, striking at soldiers wherever they could. Those designated for sacrifice took their chance to shrink to the side or attempt to flee. Meanwhile, Crom barreled forward into the shrine, determined to begin his ritual with all the blood flowing around him, receiving a fireball in the back from Keleroth on the way.. And there he met Red Wolf. She challenged him, but shook before him, her eyes growing blank. All at once, Dora and Theodor understood what she had meant when she said she would become “incapacitated;” she was under his command. Crom ordered Red Wolf to attack Theodor, which she did, and though he evaded her smartly, he stood no chance of beating her. Seeing this, Dora gathered her courage and darted to the evil general’s side, crashing the Ojaluche over his head with all her might. The butterfly within sank into his body like light into water and vanished.

A bright light momentarily filled the cavern and every one of Matthias’s people knew that Dora’s power had been released. As Matthias and Nahla and Bendigar and Keleroth all attempted to make their way past the remaining guards and into the shrine, Red Wolf’s mind snapped back to her and she unleashed all her anger and hate on the object of so much pain. Theodor, attempting to help, was smashed into a wall where he fell down senseless. But Crom’s attention was on Dora, and he began chasing her through the cavern, ignoring Red Wolf’s repeated blows on his body. Rumor appeared from out of nowhere and drew Dora to the dais where he bade her hide behind the statue, which she did. Meanwhile, Red Wolf continued attacking while Nahla and Matthias and Bendigar and Keleroth and the now-awake Theodor all appeared, joining in the fight. Crom only began to fight back when he felt that he could not catch his quarry – turning to Red Wolf and in a fit of absolute rage and hate striking her head from her shoulders where she stood. As her blood (and head) rolled into the stream, Bendigar and Matthias both struck Crom in the head, one at each eye, blinding him and dropping him in a stroke of true irony.

The group stood over Crom’s prone body, and even Dora came from behind the statue to see. Rumor looked at the fallen general and bid him a comfortable farewell, and directed Matthias’s people to kill him. As one, they struck at him, and within moments the horror that had been Vardek Crom was gone.

A light seemed to sigh in relief in the air, and everyone felt the voice of the Ojaluche thanking them for their help. Even Matthias could see the warm butterfly as it fluttered with a careless freedom that signaled a release from something more than the prison of crystal in which it had remained for so long. Turning to Dora, the Ojaluche told her to pray to the Goddess under the waterfall to re-purify the shrine, polluted with flesh and blood. “She” will cleanse it, the Ojaluche said, and though at first Dora thought it meant the Goddess, she realized all at once that instead, the Ojaluche spoke of her daughter. She turned to the water while a moment of peace settled over the shrine.
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9-4-09: What raging fire shall flood the soul? What rich desire unlocks its door? [Sep. 17th, 2009|09:10 pm]
The Chronicle of Aldencia: Saving the Kingdom

mendeia
[Tags|]

In the morning, the party woke to an invitation for an audience with Red Wolf. After breakfast in a private space in the inn, a pair of escorts walked the group through Stone Cove, very obviously attempting to conceal the location of the meeting, though a few of Matthias’s people were able to trace the route. They arrived in a ramshackle house that appeared to have been long abandoned and only recently re-occupied. In an upstairs room, after a tense wait, Red Wolf herself joined the rest, accompanied by Jakal and Rumor.

The conversation began rather stilted, but soon matters of business were flowing freely. Red Wolf stated that Rumor had made it clear to her that this group, part of the leadership of the rebel force in Aldencia according to Matthias, had an interest in assisting her in destroying Crom, her ultimate goal. Red Wolf’s abject and cold hatred for Crom was palpable – the name of this hated enemy so riled the young leader that she nearly drew a blade upon hearing his name. She confirmed all of what Rumor had already told them about Crom’s blood magic power; indeed, Red Wolf went a step further and told how Crom could continue to draw power from those who survived his rituals, including herself. Also, she stated vaguely that she could not defeat him alone as something in the evil magic that bound them would leave her incapacitated. She explained that she understood his group had a unique ability that would permit them to destroy the blood-mage as no one else could, which seemed to anger her. Matthias was very careful to make it known that the method by which they could accomplish this was more than simply an item, but rather an inborn ability that could not be separated.

Matthias and Red Wolf negotiated on the terms of the assistance he and his team would provide – given that his own goals were contingent upon destroying Crom, he was disposed to offer as much as he could to her in return for her resources and participation. In the end, Matthias guaranteed to Red Wolf that, if he were to be successful in changing the current rulership of Aldencia, he would strongly advise whomever he put on the throne to grant independence to Irenia. Skeptical that he could deliver upon such a promise, Red Wolf nonetheless accepted his pledge and in turn offered as many of her men and supplies as he would need; she had made it known that it would have to be Matthias in charge of the attack as her own situation would render her beyond the abilities of command, and Jakal was no tactician.

The plan began to develop as Matthias worked his way through Red Wolf’s available resources. They already knew that Crom’s army was making for a particular site – a shrine deep in a cave of a mountainside, perhaps one of the most ancient such places in Irenia. The cave was wide enough for a dozen men or so across at the entrance, narrower at the shrine itself. Since Crom would have to enter the cave himself and penetrate to the very shrine, it was the perfect place to set up an ambush. As he was considering, Matthais had brilliant stroke of genius as to how to surprise the incoming force, which was, of course, many, many times larger than their own. Crom would of course send an advance guard to secure the cave – if they were to meet bandits or rebels, they would likely emerge somewhat battered but victorious, but with many bodies strewn across the entrance to the cave. Matthias intended to defeat this advance guard utterly, kill most of them, and use their bodies as cover to hide some very much alive warriors as well as the replaced guard. This way, they could hide their people in plain sight and provide a clever way of ensuring their position in the cave against Crom’s army.

Red Wolf approved of the plan, a bit savagely in fact, and agreed to the pact between them. Matthias stood and offered her a hand in confirming the agreement, but before anyone could react, Red Wolf had drawn a dagger, slashed open his palm and her own, and pressed their blood together. While everyone else felt the tension in the room escalate, Matthias experienced a tendril of magic snake into him, and he suddenly had the sense of Crom that Red Wolf did: thousands of bleeding scars screaming, pulling him in a particular direction. When he indicated so, Red Wolf silently corrected him to the precise direction to find Crom; this, it appeared, was a side-effect of the magic he had used on her long ago. Red Wolf was somewhat vague on what precisely this second-degree blood-bond would do to Matthias, but she little seemed to care. A few of Matthias’s more sharp-eyed companions noticed that, when Red Wolf took her bloody hand from his, she seemed to collect the blood in a handkerchief as well as sliding along the blade of one of her swords. She declared the deal binding.

As the conversation drew to a close, Red Wolf pointed out that Dora should not accompany them due to her inability to be disguised as either a soldier of Crom or a likely rebel given her appearance. When Matthias confirmed that Dora must be in attendance, Red Wolf understood that it was this young woman who held the key to Crom’s undoing. The plan therefore largely prepared, Red Wolf ordered Jakal to ready the 40 fighters who were on site to prepare to depart – they had to beat Crom’s army to the cave and have sufficient time to set up their attack. She then turned and essentially commanded Dora to come and speak with her privately. Dora agreed only when Theodor was selected as an escort for her, though Red Wolf promised no harm would come to the healer. Somewhat nervous, the two followed Red Wolf to her private quarters while the others remained behind to plan.

In a much smaller room down the hall, it was apparent that Red Wolf had set up her own strategic center of command: maps were everywhere, along with many drawn pictures of Crom and his associates, many marked with bloody daggers and other gruesome evidences of their defeat. Dora also noticed a shelf with several colored vials on it, which was Red Wolf’s immediate destination; the Irenian woman took the bloody cloth with blood from herself as well as Matthias and carefully collected it in a blue vial, setting it next to others that looked much older, yet the blood was still fresh. Then, with very little preamble, Red Wolf asked Dora about the method by which she would destroy Crom. Dora did her best to keep the Ojaluche a secret, confirming Matthias’s version of the situation that it was an item combined with an inborn ability of hers that made it possible. Red Wolf pushed for details, making it clear that she wished to be the one to end Crom’s life, which Dora did not dispute in the slightest. Red Wolf also stated that she felt that Dora had been more like herself the first time they had met rather than now, and Dora tried to use the opportunity to soften the damaged woman. However, Red Wolf’s keen eyes did not miss the pouch at Dora’s hip that contained the Ojaluche, and though she did not touch it, she asked about it and was rewarded to know that indeed it held the item, and that it was Dora’s “innocence” that allowed her to use it. Red Wolf declared therefore that Dora would be at her side in the cave no matter what Matthias said so that she could ensure the defeat of Crom was absolute, though she commented that Dora’s refusal to explain how it worked made it more difficult for her to prepare herself for the moment. Red Wolf also asked Dora if she trusted Theodor, and when she answered in the affirmative, ordered Theodor to protect her at all costs in this venture, to which he agreed. Then the Irenian woman dismissed them back to their companions.

As they were leaving, the Ojaluche spoke to Dora, warning her that she was near someone tainted by the evil one’s blood, and it stirred a bit, knowing soon it would be time to fly. Dora settled it, but could sense its unrest in her heart.

Meanwhile, Matthias, Nahla, Keleroth, and Bendigar had been doing a bit of their own planning. The four agreed that Theodor should be assigned to protect Dora, given Red Wolf’s obvious greed for her abilities not to mention the abject danger of Dora’s likely proximity to Crom. They also speculated about whether or not Red Wolf herself was a blood mage, and given what they had seen of her causing Matthias to bond in blood to her and then maintaining the mixed blood herself, they were somewhat convinced that she was. Keleroth searched his memory for anything he might know about blood magic, or about what Crom might intend in the cave, and came up with little. He was certain, however, that whatever magics Crom might employ, would be unpredictable, and probably dependent upon more spilled blood in the moment. Also, Matthias and Keleroth readied a plan to have the firemage take the task of keeping Crom’s army out of the cave after he had entered it, and then move in as final assurance that Crom was destroyed; the thinking was that, if Red Wolf could not defeat the blood-mage, that he was the next best swordsman and, that with his fire, made him the most likely to destroy Crom in combat. Nahla affirmed that she and Bendigar would take up direct defense of Matthias, who would have to be within the cave himself.

Upon Dora and Theodor returning, they shared what they had seen and what had been said, and Matthias concurred that Theodor should protect Dora above all else. They also speculated as to what exactly might happen to Red Wolf in Crom’s presence, whether she would fall faint on the ground or would fall into an uncontrolled berserker’s rage. Either way, Matthias asked Theodor and Dora to be ready for any eventuality. Again the Ojaluche spoke to Dora, and it seemed to be clearer, more in the world than flighty in its existence. It voiced concern for Dora’s safety, both in close proximity to one tainted by the evil it sought to eradicate, and in the upcoming encounter. The Ojaluche pointed out that Dora was in more danger than any other present due to being with child – the power Crom could draw from ending not just one life but one in the creation of another was immense, and the Ojaluche hinted that he might sense as much. It promised to sing to her unborn baby for as long as they had together, but it felt their time was drawing short.

And so it was, for shortly thereafter Jakal appeared and announced that it was time to go. The party joined Red Wolf’s 40 riders, all of them dedicated and likely a bit insane in the same way as their mistress, and mounted. Their horses and supplies had been brought in full, so there was no need to hesitate – following one of the most savage individuals they had met in the course of this long fight, the party rode out of Stone Cove.
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8-1-09: Fasten up your earthly burdens, released from circles guarded tight, you have just begun [Aug. 7th, 2009|04:50 pm]
The Chronicle of Aldencia: Saving the Kingdom

mendeia
[Tags|]

With the fast-approaching ship no longer in the distance, Matthias asked Captain Vartain what he and his people could do to help. Besides the possible need for fighters, which was obvious, both men immediately saw the usefulness of Keleroth’s special abilities. While Matthias took cover below, guarded by Nahla and Theodor, Keleroth took up a position at the bow to cast some of his fire magic. A series of explosive fireballs later, the advancing ship was in significantly worse shape than before. An exploded barrel of pitch sent fiery, long-burning blobs everywhere, and the deck was burning, along with some crewpeople. Keleroth also whipped a jet of flame from one end of the ship to the other, causing yet more damage and chaos. Meanwhile, Dora bent her energies to calling animal help; she was rewarded by the appearance of a pod of dolphins, who were happy to help rescue anyone who might fall overboard. She too, retreated with Matthias.

After the onslaught of Keleroth’s fire, Crom’s ship retaliated with a shot from their ballista, which impacted the side of the ship and caught fire. Below, Matthias and Dora rushed to the site, and, after summoning Nahla, Theodor, and a few others for help, worked on putting out the fire by baling water over the splattered pitch. Dora asked the dolphins to help, which they did cheerfully, drenching her in the process. Above, Keleroth took out the ballista to prevent a second shot, but the ship was then close enough for the archers to engage. Both sides shot at each other, causing more chaos and the first blood on Vartain’s ship, including wounding Keleroth with a burning arrow, and then the vessels were close enough for hand-to-hand combat. Keleroth and Bendigar leapt into the fray, trading blows skillfully against multiple opponents, though both took some hits. At the same time, the keen-sighted Dora, Nahla, and the man in the crow’s nest announced that something else was on the horizon approaching fast, and after some initial confusion, it was recognized as a ship flying the banner of Red Wolf. At this, Matthias made his way to the deck to try to manage the situation before the ruthless Irenian forces arrived, knowing they would summarily execute every man of Crom’s.

As Matthias and Nahla emerged into the fight, they too were set upon, and while Bendigar and Keleroth may have intended to assist, Keleroth took a terrible blow to the area of his eyes and was blinded; Bendigar attempted to protect him and get him out of the fight. However, it was obvious that Vartain’s men were winning, so he and Matthias began calling for surrender – it was Matthias’s words that were heard and many of Crom’s men dropped their weapons for him. Moments later, the new ship on the scene arrived and a bright flash temporarily blinded everyone not already blind or not on deck. A man emerged, one Nahla recognized as Red Wolf’s right-hand man, who ordered a surrender of all forces. Matthias quickly made his way over, and an argument began regarding what would be done with the score or so of prisoners.

Matthias argued for sparing their lives, but the man seemed unwilling to budge, finally admitting that his orders were to let none live as they had very nearly discovered Stone Cove. However, the man was willing to listen to Matthias given the behavior of his people on their previous journey to Irenia. A compromise, then, was reached: Matthias would send his men with the prisoners to take them back to Romdas – thus, no life was lost and no one would be able to report to Crom on their location. Trevor Vartain agreed to ferry the prisoners and Matthias’s men back to Aldencia at the cost of looting and maintaining the somewhat blackened ship. The man, understanding from Rumor that Matthias and his group were on their way to speak with him, offered them passage on his own ship, which Matthias accepted. Meanwhile, Dora busied herself with the many wounded, including Keleroth and Bendigar.

Now aboard Red Wolf’s ship, or, at least, a ship flying her colors, Matthias and the others waited in a space next to the captain’s quarters for the Irenians to unload their supplies from Vartain and stow them onboard before returning to Stone Cove. The man, finally introducing himself as Jakal he called all of the Aldencian rebels into his stateroom, asked them several questions about their presence, what they sought of Rumor, and the situation in Aldencia. Matthias answered a few of these, but left the rest somewhat vague as he did not want to give away the personal nature of their inquiries to anyone. Jakal explained a bit of the current events in Irenia and Red Wolf’s readiness to attack Crom, but left the discussion with the understanding that they would converse more after Matthais had seen Rumor. With that, the rest of the voyage to Stone Cove was uneventful.

Upon arriving in the hidden town that was still Red Wolf’s base, the party was escorted by Jakal’s own men to a private house where Rumor waited. There, the group began to ask the many questions they had for the man who seemed to know everything. What they learned was somewhat expected, somewhat astonishing. Rumor admitted openly to being the secret one, counterpoint to Dahlia. He also had detailed knowledge of all that had already transpired, including the state of Elara and their goals to rescue her. Rumor confirmed that the only way to revive her was to acquire the small sphere that Dahlia held. He also explained the ring Matthias had received from Mother Wood – it carried the final spell of the priestess and would cast the same condition upon whomever donned it, thus offering a method of removing Dahlia from the world without recourse. Also, Rumor explained that the spell, both the one used by Dahlia on Elara and the one held in the ring, was shaped by the will of the weilder – the condition of that person’s mind and intentions would determine what the soul so banished would experience; thus, Elara was suffering under Dahlia’s imprisonment, and it was Matthias who would determine the fate of Dahlia if and when the moment came.

Asked about Crom and the Ojaluche, Rumor explained that Crom, a dangerous blood-mage, was a threat to Dahlia’s plans, and as such, she intended to have him eliminated, which she could not do herself, but Matthias’s group could. The Ojaluche was designed to shatter at the appropriate moment, though it would likely attempt to shatter itself somewhat sooner than intended once it was within range, and would neutralize all of Crom’s powers long enough for him to be killed. Rumor believed that Crom had to be removed as quickly as possible, and this was his price for Matthias’s remaining query – the identity and location of Andrew Wellin. The secret one refused to answer any questions around that information until Matthias and his people had assisted Red Wolf in destroying Crom. Rumor finally surprised the whole party by saying that, when asked by Red Wolf for Matthias’s true identity, he would lie. He explained that he, like Dahlia, had his own immortal goals, and he needed Matthias for them, though he would not disclose them.

The conversation ended, Jakal’s men arrived to escort Matthias’s group to an inn where their belongings and horses had been brought. While Dora and Theodor, as well as Nahla and Bendigar, reacted with a variety of anger and confusion and determination to all they had heard, Keleroth and Matthias spoke long about Rumor’s true intentions. Neither considered him to be a “good guy,” but as he was the one player in the game not out to end the world or kill countless people, he was a cautious ally. Matthias and Nahla both began practicing the arts of sleight-of-hand and other such tricks, ironically one of Elara’s little-used skills; they both needed to be ready to steal Elara’s soul back and slip the ring onto Dahlia’s finger when that one opportunity finally arrived.
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7-17-09: Our lives are made in these small hours, these little wonders, these twists & turns of fate [Jul. 21st, 2009|05:14 pm]
The Chronicle of Aldencia: Saving the Kingdom

mendeia
[Tags|]

In the morning, while Bendigar and Nahla prepped for the upcoming journey to Irenia and Keleroth went back to research, Dora, Oertan, and Matthias returned to Romdas after their night in the gypsy camp, each checking on Elara. While Oertan remained with her, and Matthias went off to do his administrative work, Dora went in search of Theodor, who was also seeking her. The woodsman apologized for not being there for Dora with what had happened to her sister, and after explaining her feelings, Dora forgave him. Then, with great pleasure, she shared the truth – she and Theodor were going to have a baby. Though the shock took a few minutes to sink in, shortly Theodor was overwhelmed. The morning passed quickly after that as both began rearranging their thoughts with this new little reality peeking through. Dora also spoke to the Ojaluche about her child, and the sphere replied simply that it was singing to the unborn baby and sharing a little of its own light and joy.

Over lunch, the secret began spilling out slowly. Dora’s glow was telling enough for Bendigar and Nahla to pick up on the joyous news, but Matthias, without the benefit of sight, could only conclude that Theodor and Dora had had a very “pleasant” morning. Keleroth, his head still buried in centuries-old research, misinterpreted the couple’s joy entirely, instead fearing that another curse had been laid on Romdas. Unfortunately, Nahla, sitting beside him, chose not to illuminate him to the true state of things, instead barely suppressing her laughter at his confusion. At the end of the meal, Matthias pulled Keleroth aside, trying to set the firemage’s mind at ease; with this hint from Matthias, Keleroth at last understood the true state of things, and then unknowingly notified Matthias of the pregnancy as well.

The afternoon was spent in mostly lighter spirits than usual for the group, though Matthias continued his usual duties without much extra happiness. Dora and Theodor made a visit to the gypsy camp to share their news. They also made it clear to the Menderskin that, though they intended to marry, and very possibly reside with the clan after the end of the war, they would not hold the ceremony until Elara was well, for it was she they wished to bind them. Meanwhile, Keleroth had resolved to make up for his mistake over lunch by crafting the couple a gift – a congratulatory, illuminated manuscript. However, such an endeavor was quite complicated, including one disastrous incident with ink all over the library, and he made slow progress. Sometime during the afternoon, Bendigar and Nahla joined him, seeking maps. The two had been discussing their own futures, given the news at lunch, and had come upon an interesting possibility. A map of the northern lands confirmed it – the valley in which Nahla’s family lived was part of the estate that would be Bendigar’s upon his father’s death. Tempting as it was to lord over her own family who had treated her so ill some years prior, Nahla and Bendigar both preferred to travel, calling upon his barding skills and largely ignoring the noble lifestyle.

Just before dinner, Keleroth gave his congratulations to Theodor and Dora, presenting his gift with as much heartfelt flourish as he could, and both warmly appreciated it. Theodor also began planning to frame it. The evening meal was a cheerful one, though the talk of children and life after the war became difficult for Matthias and he excused himself early to sit with Oertan and tell the boy stories. While Dora, Nahla, and Theodor remained at the table to talk, Keleroth and Bendigar decided to go into the courtyard to spar – it had been several days since either had been particularly active. However, while trying a new attack, Bendigar failed to parry a blow, taking a great smashing hit to his unprotected head. Bendigar dropped, and Keleroth was at a loss for what to do – he was no healer, there was no one about, and his friend was hurt. Rushing as fast as he could in search of Dora, he finally located her with the others in the dining hall (after a false stop in Elara’s room), leading them out to Bendigar. Nahla and Theodor carried the wounded man to his bed while Dora did what she could to make him comfortable – the blow, though severe, was not fatal; he would likely be fine when he woke up. Keleroth reported the accident to Matthias, and was strictly lectured, before making himself scarce for the night. Matthias checked on Bendigar, but certain that he was in good hands, returned to Elara’s room. Dora and Nahla agreed to watch over Bendigar, both grateful when he at last woke some hours later, and if Nahla slept very little, Dora slept not at all having not woken her friend for a shared night watch.

Meanwhile, Oertan asked Matthias again if he could accompany the group, having overheard in Matthias’s lecture to Keleroth of their destination. Matthias, concerned on so many levels, told Oertan the story of a son whose father could not protect him, and explained how much he and Elara would hurt if something happened to the boy. Oertan correctly guessed that Matthias was speaking of his own son, and agreed to remain behind to protect Elara and to live for all their sakes, but only as long as Matthias would promise to come back. The boy argued that it wouldn’t be fair to anyone if Matthias wasn’t there when Elara finally opened her eyes. Matthias promised. As Oertan hugged him, his boyish heart as fond of Matthias as he was of any other adopted parent, he shook slightly. Explaining that, like his mother, Oertan was touched with a bit of prophecy, the boy said that he felt scary things ahead for Matthias, things that they would probably survive as long as he was there, and that a butterfly was important. Matthias soothed the boy, tucking him in beside his mother and sitting with him until he fell asleep. That night, Matthias dreamed of the conversation, now able to watch the emotions play across the boy’s face, and woke glad that Oertan had agreed to remain behind. However, he did ask Oertan to keep Elara’s other earring so they could find one another if anything went wrong in Matthias’s absence.

With these goodbyes, Matthias’s group and 6 guards rode for Mendoza, escorted by a small group of gypsies. With gypsy saddles and cloaks, they were indistinguishable from outriders from a clan from a distance. The journey took 5 days, during which Bendigar fully recovered from his head injury and everyone else had time to reacquaint themselves with the fine art of long-distance riding. However, upon arrival at Mendoza, they learned that the city had barred its gates against “bandits;” the riders Matthias had sent ahead confirmed that the city had closed itself off in fear of the army and was only permitting its own fishing boats out and back from the harbor. However, a nearby cove was serving for those still shipping (aka smuggling), and among the ships moored there was one belonging to Captain Trevor Vartain. The captain was willing to accept these passengers once again to Stone Cove in Irenia, though he lamented that Elara was not present for flirting. Matthias spent several days in a sharp-witted debate with Vartain, both enjoying the sparring as long as it did not turn to Elara. Vartain did possess some useful information on the situation in Irenia, mostly regarding Red Wolf’s increasing military strength and Crom’s seemingly random push towards the interior of Irenia, heading in a definite straight line but for what goal he could only speculate.

The journey was meant to be relatively easy, though longer than the previous one – given the warships in the area, Vartain was taking a rather roundabout route to the Cove. On the third day at sea, Theodor became extremely ill from some bad water, but Dora was able to set him to rights. On the fourth day, before making the Cove at low tide at midnight, a sail was sighted. After a few anxious moments, Vartain ordered anyone with the appropriate skills to deck and the others below: approaching fast was a warship of Crom’s army, and a battle was therefore unavoidable.
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7-11-09: Comin' down the world turned over, angels fall without you there; I go on as you get colder [Jul. 17th, 2009|06:20 pm]
The Chronicle of Aldencia: Saving the Kingdom

mendeia
[Tags|]

Night came quickly to Romdas, though it was a restless one for many. Oertan and Dora slept little and fitfully, as did Matthias. Theodor, well sated with drink, slept soundly and woke comfortably. Nahla, however, was left with Bendigar who needed to be reminded of the location of a convenient basin more than once over the course of the night due to his heavy sympathizing with Theodor that evening. Early in the morning, Dora woke, met a bleary-eyed Bendigar for breakfast (and helpfully made him some tea), and went to sit with Oertan and Elara. Matthias, after his own morning meal, set about gathering information. First, he located Myalin, a gypsy woman with knowledge of the occult. Though she could tell him nothing about the person named Andrew Wellin, she did know a bit more about the eternal and hidden ones, that they were everlasting individuals in the world, seemingly reborn each generation, and forever at odds with one another. The eternal one was said to be incredibly, incredibly dangerous, while the hidden one was not what she would deem “good,” but certainly not evil. Matthias also asked Myalin about the magic that had been used on Elara, if there was any record of it, and though she had not heard of it before, she mentioned that if it were a new kind of magic it wouldn’t be within her cope of understanding; in parting, Myalin mentioned how useful that magic might be against one such as the eternal one.

Next, Matthias met with Keleroth to speak with a local historian; the firemage was happy to accompany him due to his own research being periodically quite frustrating. The historian had been based out of Cath and focused primarily on very ancient history and lore. He knew in general terms of the eternal one and the hidden one, saying that they had been commonly spoken of in ancient times but somewhat lost after a sharp change in Aldencia’s civilization, perhaps due to their direct will. Of magic he knew nothing, but upon mentioning the name Andrew Wellin, the historian was much more helpful. He stated that the Wellin family was a very old one going right back to Lornam’s City, one of the favored families of the gods. He explained that when the gods cast men out of the City, some families were remembered well, and the Wellin was one of those, along with a handful of other known noble families (interestingly including the Vane family). Matthias speculated that Andrew Wellin might be in some way connected to Lornam’s City, or might have special, gods-given knowledge of it, and might therefore be a target for Dahlia. The historian also pointed out that the Wellin name was often used as a pseudonym due to its meaningful roots, and could therefore simply be a false name.

On their way back to Romdas, Matthias stopped again at the gypsy camp to ask Myalin if she knew anything about Lornam’s City, but she confessed that the truest knowledge of the City among the gypsies at all was with Elara, who had studied it intensely. However, Myalin thought she might have passed some of that information down to Oertan. Therefore, Matthias made his way to Elara’s room where he met both Oertan and Dora, alternately telling the comatose Elara stories. Dora, quite cold to Matthias after what she had perceived as his intention to sacrifice Elara to save Aldencia, listened stiffly as he asked Oertan what stories Elara had told of Lornam’s City. Oertan gave Matthias as much as he could, including the knowledge that the City could not be found but with a purpose, and not just the desire of one human heart. He also described how it was covered, each wall and stone and floor and ceiling, in the wisdom and knowledge of the gods, and therefore more precious than any other place in the world. Oertan asked if he might be able to join the party in whatever they did to help Elara, but neither adult in the room seemed in favor. Matthias spoke gently to Elara before setting out to find Bendigar, his next source of information.

Bendigar, having spent the entire morning sitting on his backside and drinking the restorative tea Dora had made, could shed a little more light on Lornam’s City. He knew, which Oertan had not, approximately where it was located – somewhere on the far eastern coast of the continent between the northern and southern mountain ranges. He also knew that more than once in history a criminal had been sentenced to journey to the City and return with proof – as it was tantamount to a death sentence – resulting in several missing criminals and one who had returned completely mad. This information combined, Matthias felt more and more that a trip to Lornam’s City was a part of the answer, possibly the key to either thwarting Dahlia, saving Elara, or finding Andrew Wellin. Therefore, the ex-general called a meeting, sending Nahla around for the usual party as well as Connor and Gentford, to discuss what he had learned. While Dora was on the way to the meeting, reluctantly, as she was still uncomfortable with Matthias, she was handed a message to be delivered to the ex-monk directly.

The first order of business was to investigate the message, which turned out to be from Rumor himself, stating that he would do business with Matthias but only face-to-face in Irenia. Matthias realized that Rumor must be operating either through magic or with some other aerial form of transferring information to have gotten a response to him so quickly. Thus, it appeared there were two competing courses of possible action: journeying to the east and the Holy City, or journeying to the west to Irenia to speak with Rumor. The group debated back and forth, eventually deciding that, while the Holy City might hold answers to some questions, Rumor was more likely to be able to provide greater information on several different issues more quickly. Matthias asked for volunteers for the trip to Irenia, and Theodor, Keleroth, Nahla, and Bendigar spoke up. Dora, however, looked upset about something, which both Keleroth and Nahla noticed. After the meeting, while Matthias spoke with Connor and Gentford about the state of the army, determining when they would be prepared for a full assault on Adzoral (and preparing the two in case Matthias were not to return from this mission), Bendigar and Theodor went to spar with one another, Keleroth took a nap, and Nahla went to speak with Dora privately.

At Nahla’s interest, Dora explained her conversation the previous evening with Matthias and her disgust with her continued presence within the rebellion. She had not yet made it known, but fully intended to leave the group and simply stay with Oertan and look after Elara until such time as her sister was restored. Nahla argued vehemently that Dora’s aims of protecting Elara could be much better served beside Matthias – only there would she have the power and opportunity to influence the ex-general’s thinking and encourage him not to sacrifice her if the situation arose. Dora left the conversation troubled, and took a walk to gather her thoughts. There, she realized that she, as the only one who could bear the Ojaluche, had no real choice but to continue down this path and hope Nahla was right in that her power to sway Matthias would be sufficient. She also stopped by the Menderskin camp to determine when they would vote on whether or not to take this attack on Elara as a call to arms themselves and join the rebellion; Baska confirmed that the vote would be that very evening and asked Dora to invite Matthias to join Oertan and herself, Oertan to vote in Elara’s absence, Matthias as a prospective member of the clan. Meanwhile, Nahla dropped in on Oertan and Elara, and promised the boy that she would send Bendigar in sometime soon to tell him some stories that the boy could repeat while they were gone.

Around dinner time, Keleroth sought Matthias out and mentioned that Dora had seemed upset during the meeting. They subsequently met her in the hall on the way to the evening meal, and Keleroth made his polite escape to let them talk. Dora explained her frustrations and was able to get some clarification from the monk as to his true intentions. In a whisper, Matthias confessed that he fully intended to get Elara’s soul back from Dahlia without revealing the information she desired, and that he knew such a course of action would probably lead to his death. Dora told Matthias that his solution, while admirable, was certainly not the only, or even the best one, and that Elara would be hurt to learn she was given back life only because he had lost his. However, they both felt better about the truth and were able to continue on to dinner more comfortably.

After the meal, while Bendigar and Nahla went to bed early for some time together, Keleroth spent a few hours reading the end of the book he had picked up in the labyrinth under Cath. To his surprise, he learned that the mage had met the eternal one, a man he said was incredibly, chillingly dangerous, and from whom he was very glad to hide the Ojaluche. Meanwhile, Matthias joined Dora and Oertan on the way to the gypsy camp. There, Baska pulled Matthias aside to discuss the upcoming vote, not only its significance to the clan, but the invitation to let the monk vote as well – Baska explained that he made this offer to Matthias as one close to Elara, whom Elara had evidently loved deeply, and that it was not meant as a political maneuver, but rather an invitation to join a family he might potentially be offered to join. Matthias, touched by the reminder of Elara’s love and also by the willingness of the closest man to her father there had ever been to invite him to a status so close to kin, accepted. The vote was taken after Baska’s explanation of what was at stake, what risks might stand, and what he felt, and it was very nearly unanimous, with Matthias, Dora, and Oertan all voting in favor for their own reasons. The Menderskin decided that, when Matthias went to war, they would join. The clan sent messengers out to the other clans to proclaim their intentions, and they settled into celebrate for the evening.
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7-5-09: I'm going under, drowning in you; I'm falling forever, I've got to break through [Jul. 16th, 2009|07:00 pm]
The Chronicle of Aldencia: Saving the Kingdom

mendeia
[Tags|]

Returning to the city house after seeing Madame Rhea, the group dispersed to gather more information. Nahla dropped into the seedier areas of the city to leave word that they were looking to barter with Rumor for information, before joining Dora to see what they could learn from her guard friend of Mother Wood. The gypsy, attempting to subtly flirt with the guardsman, was not so subtle as she had hoped. However, she was able to learn that those who were brought to the palace under circumstances like those that had surrounded the priestess’s abduction very rarely left it well – they were either transferred to other locations outside of Adzoral, killed, or they disappeared and even he did not know where they went. The guardsman expressed some concern for Dora, glad to learn that she did not know anyone “like those clergy-people,” i.e. strong users of magic. Thus, with their hopes for Mother Woods’s safety entirely dashed, the women returned to the house. In the meantime, Bendigar and Theodor had been following the trail of the rumored Edward, dropping into taverns to ask after the man who had eaten no bread. They were able to establish his pattern of staying a few nights before leaving, and that in no place but the most recent had he had any contact with anyone; at the last inn, he spent dinner with a person who wore the cloak of a guardsman. Unsure how to proceed, the men also returned to the house. Meanwhile, Keleroth and Matthias had spent the afternoon playing chess, with several hard-fought battles between them, though Keleroth was ultimately the winner.

Upon reporting their various findings to Matthias, the ex-general sent Nahla into the streets to see if she could locate the young guardsman who had been following Dora and Theodor and who was probably the same individual seen with the Edward-like visitor to the taverns. Matthias intended for Nahla to locate him, as they anticipated he would be watching the house, and bring word of his position back so they could detain and question him. However, things did not quite go according to plan. Nahla did spot a young guardsman that fit the description given by Theodor and Dora, and upon following him, witnessed him in conversation with a cloaked and hooded figure. She decided to follow the unknown figure, but as she turned a corner she was struck from behind and fell unconscious. Back at the city house, Matthias became nervous at how long their spy had been gone, so he sent Dora and Keleroth to find her, and Bendigar and Theodor to find the guardsman and bring him back by whatever means necessary. It was Keleroth and Dora, however, who spotted the guardsman heading towards the city house, and let the others back to their own doorstep. Meanwhile, a knock on the door had resulted in finding Nahla unconscious on the step with no one else in sight. Matthias, in his worry, feared for a moment that she had been killed, but she had simply taken a bad blow to the head. On her wrist was a note, which was a cordial invitation requesting the party’s presence at Romdas. Matthias ordered a quick packing for everyone and within the hour they had left the city (with the guardsman seeing them out from a distance) and were on the road heading south as quickly as possible. The first night spent on the road, after having stopped late into the night, Matthias had another dream, one that woke him out of a deep sleep.

Five days later, the party arrived at Romdas to find nothing out of place. Nahla had the odd feeling that something was indeed amiss, but she couldn’t quite place it. The whole group checked in with Gentford and Connor, but neither knew of anything that had transpired other than a message that the Menderskin were on their way to the fort. While everyone went to rest and clean up before dinner, on edge waiting for they knew not what, Matthias went alone to the chapel. While there, he became aware that he was not alone, and soon found himself drawn into conversation with Lady Dahlia herself. Off in a sheltered corner, the deadly assassin offered the ex-general a job of sorts: she was looking for information that she claimed only he and his people could retrieve, and she would pay for it with something she said he wanted very much. Though on high-alert in the presence of Dahlia, and extremely suspicious of exactly what she thought he wanted, Matthias listened politely to her request for the location of an individual named Andrew Wellin. Dahla told him she would find him when he had the information for her, and in exchange would give him something she pressed into his palm – it felt small and round and slightly warm. As the monk came into contact with the assassin, he fingered the ring from Mother Wood, which had become quite cold, but he was not sure what to do with it, so he simply ended the conversation, rather glad to still be alive after such an encounter.

Over dinner, Matthias casually asked if anyone knew of an Andrew Wellin, but refused to share where he had gotten that name from. Instead, he intended to keep his meeting with Dahlia private until the next morning; however, Nahla, as she was falling asleep, realized what had been nagging at the back of her mind all day – when they had ridden up to Romdas, she had noticed that Matthias’s window was open, an obvious breach of security. Suddenly panicked, she and Bendigar made for Matthias’s room at top speed. However, Matthias had already noticed the window and checked for anyone in his room, but there was no one readily apparent. After some worried questioning by Nahla, Matthias at last explained his encounter with Dahlia, and his rationale that no one would rest comfortably if they knew what had occurred, which turned out to be accurate; though he and Bendigar slept well that night, Nahla kept seeing shadows at every turn and barely slept.

In the morning, after breakfast, Matthias called a council meeting of his group, not including the leadership of Romdas, where he told everyone of Dahlia’s request and her proposed payment. There was much speculation of who “Andrew Wellin” might be, from the hidden one to Rumor himself. On a whim, Dora asked the Ojaluche about the hidden one and the eternal one, and the Ojaluche, to her surprise, told her that Dahlia was indeed the eternal one, and quite evil. As Matthias began issuing orders to begin searching for Andrew Wellin, a gypsy whistle sounded announcing the arrival of the Menderskin. After the initial whistle, however, a second one echoed, calling for the leadership to gather for an emergency. Dora dashed off with a brief explanation, everyone else at her heels. By the time she reached the ground and was at the gates of Romdas, a wagon had already pulled in, covered in darkened colors. Oertan appeared, his young face deeply troubled, and he presented a letter from Elara to Matthias, saying that something bad had happened. The letter read thusly:

Elara's letter...Collapse )
 
Oertan explained that Elara was asleep and could not be woken. The gypsies in attendance unloaded her still form from the wagon and Matthias had her carried into a room in Romdas, pulling Dora and Oertan in. Questioning the child steadily elicited his story – he had been taken from the fields by a strange woman, who did something to him that left him unable to move or speak. At moonrise, his mother came for him, when he was given an antidote that slowly freed his movement. At the same time, the strange woman cast a complicated ritual around Elara, which made her scream in agony until she fell weirdly silent. Something small had dropped into the woman’s hand, and after examining her work, the strange person had left. Oertan also told Matthias that Elara loved him very much and had missed him terribly. Matthias told the boy he had been very brave and that he would now be called upon to help look after Elara while they did whatever they could to save her. Meanwhile, Theodor and Bendigar held an improvised “wake” for Elara, drinking themselves a little silly and preparing for what they would have to do to help, Nahla vented her frustrations in the forest against an unsuspecting tree, and Keleroth began doing what he could to look up anything on Andrew Wellin, the hidden one, the secret one, or the magics Dahlia had used to bring Elara down. Matthias, after leaving Oertan with Elara and sending someone to help them, spoke briefly with Dora. His sorrow had been profound, but now it was evaporating to fury and he was determined to save Elara or see her life ended and her soul freed from Dahlia one way or another. In consultation with Keleroth, however, the firemage confirmed that killing the body might not save the soul – it seemed they were bound by Dahlia, for now, at least.
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6-5:09: Should I just give up or should I keep chasing pavements even if it leads nowhere? [Jul. 5th, 2009|03:15 pm]
The Chronicle of Aldencia: Saving the Kingdom

mendeia
[Tags|]

In the morning, over breakfast, the group discussed their plans for their time in the city. It was decided that everyone would split into pairs to gather what information they could. Keleroth and Bendigar went into the city square to pick up whatever information they could. Coming upon a commotion, the two found themselves witnesses to a public execution. The word among the people and the posted declarations both spoke of treason as the reason for the beheadings, but surprisingly, Keleroth and Bendigar saw the captain of the guards who had been at the cathedral the night prior as the chief indicted traitor. Between the crowd and a later gathering at a tavern, Keleroth and Bendigar learned that such contradictory orders were becoming more and more commonplace – individuals praised by the king were condemned within hours. The people were confused, though afraid to voice any true suspicions.

Meanwhile, Matthias and Nahla made their way to the Kass household to meet with Alfred. In spite of their working together, Matthias and Alfred had spoken face to face prior to this. It readily became apparent that some messages had not been making it from Alfred to the group at Romdas, in that the rumors of Edward’s location had been sent much earlier than they were received. Alfred explained that these rumors seemed to have much of a ring of truth to them. The individual in question appeared to be spending some time in quiet inns, then disappearing for a few nights, and resurfacing later. But the piece that spoke most of its veracity was that the prince had a very little-known condition, an apparent allergy to wheat, and this stranger never ate wheat or took any beverage that had been wheat-brewed. Either it was the true Edward, or a clever, clever imposter. The only other message Alfred had to share was one from Mother Wood – a letter and an enclosed ring that were addressed to Elara. The letter itself appeared genuine, and had been sent something approaching several weeks prior. If there was a message in the letter, it was meant only to be understood by Elara, as the wording meant little to Matthias. Taking the chance to visit with Wilfred Kass, Matthias was pleased to learn that the young nobleman, due to his “illness,” had taken up a new habit – birding. Wilfred had been keeping a large number of pigeons on the roof of the family estate, and training them for messages. Though they were not quite at the level he desired yet, he assured the monk that by the time they were needed as a method of communication, they would be ready for his use. Matthias arranged to pick up one pigeon before leaving the city so that it would know the way to Romdas, and left.

Dora and Theodor, taking the route of “shopping,” got into conversation with several merchants. These individuals were little involving themselves in the political matters, not concerned if orders from the palace made great or no sense, as long as they could continue to do business unmolested. Disappointed with their little information, Dora and Theodor were about to end their trip when they noticed someone, dressed as a guardsman, who seemed to be following them. Dora attempted to read him with her ring, but it responded only with blank, the dormant color. Unable to lose him in the streets, Theodor and Dora took refuge in an inn, buying a room for themselves and hiding out for the afternoon. When they departed much later, there was no sign of the young man and they safely retreated to the city house.

After each group had reported their findings to the others, Matthias decided to take Keleroth back to the cathedral to see what they could learn from Mother Wood, and what else they could discover about the odd attack the previous night. Posing as wandering monks from another village, Keleroth allowed Matthias to take lead, actively asking after Mother Wood, while he contemplated the situation in the garden and kept an eye on the ex-general. Through Matthias’s skilled use of his own disability and confusion and the ability to make allies in the unsuspecting, he learned that another raid of the clergy had taken place some weeks prior, placing it just a night after the letter and ring had been dispatched by Mother Wood to Alfred. Both attacks had two things in common – they had targeted ranking members of the clergy who were removed from the cathedral and not seen again, and the only members of the priesthood who were taken were strong users of magic. Higher ranking priests and priestesses were left untroubled while powerful healers, defensive magic-users, and those of particular skills were taken. And the news was not surprising that Mother Wood had been among the first to disappear in the raids. More troubled than ever, Matthias and Keleroth returned to the house and decided that the following day would be spent trying to locate the seer Madame Rhea, in the hopes that she might shed some light on all that was transpiring.

In the morning, the party of six set out for the old part of Adzoral, hoping they would find their way to the more unusual quarters. After wandering in circles for a while, the streets around them seemed to change, and then the group was before Madame Rhea’s door once more, not even sure how they had found it. The inside was a bit changed from their prior visit. Still stuffed of items and odd smells, the whole space seemed thinner, as though some of its substance was fading. The seeress appeared, and though she looked the same, her bearing and behavior showed much greater power than before – she accepted their presence and their questions without either payment or the traditional taking of herbs. She spoke of many things in that mysterious way of those touched by prophecy, knowing already that those present had been touched by one of her “sisters,” and hearing the questions in their minds before they had even been voiced. Throughout the course of the conversation, the place around them slipped closer and farther from the group, items and smells becoming more and less defined, as though the very space was not quite present always. The pieces of information Rhea gave in her own time and way included:

1.) The ring from Mother Wood was a weapon, a dangerous one, meant to be used against someone the seeress referred to as “the eternal one.” She advised that Matthias keep it close and not don it himself, and that he would know what to do with it when the time came.
2.) Upon questions of the eternal one, Rhea told that the eternal one had existed always, working in particular ways for aims that were always sinister and unseen until it was too late. The only force that could begin to match the eternal one was the secret one, who would also act in ways whose motivations were unclear until the end. She also hinted that some in the room had already encountered both the eternal one and the hidden one.
3.) The rumored Edward in Adzoral was not the one the party was seeking, but rather an agent of forces at play.
4.) The Ojaluche and the Madame Rhea had a silent conversation themselves which neither shared with the others present, but Rhea appeared pleased that the Ojaluche was present.
5.) In answer to some questions by Matthias, Rhea confirmed some of his fears that the times ahead would be difficult, and he may be called upon to sacrifice much for the right. Matthias was not surprised to hear that he might be himself in danger, as he had long suspected he would not survive this endeavor, but Rhea warned that his death was not inevitable, though much more likely if he lost sight of his aims.
6.) Upon Bendigar wondering if his wife could be pregnant, Rhea simply replied, “someday.”
7.) Looking at Dora, with the same question in her mind, the seeress smiled warmly, confirming all Dora needed to know.
8.) Dora and Nahla, both for their own reasons, were thinking of Elara, and how she should be present for these events. Madame Rhea responded to these unspoken thoughts with a chilling warning that, though it gave little of substance, made it clear that Elara’s part in events was not over, but that she might well not be present at the end of them, and that it might already be too late to save her.

These words and warnings in their minds, Madame Rhea dismissed the group, who, upon finding themselves once more on the street, were struck to quiet with all they had heard as they returned to the house.
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5-25-09: You make me sick, got me lit like a candlestick [Jun. 6th, 2009|05:25 pm]
The Chronicle of Aldencia: Saving the Kingdom

mendeia
[Tags|]

The remainder of the trip to Romdas was largely uneventful, though both Dora and Nahla appeared to be somewhat under the weather, perhaps due to all they had so recently survived. Romdas met them in apparently fine form – the fort itself was alive with training and well-appointed activity. Immediately the party split up for their various goals. Matthias ascertained that all was indeed well, learning that, though Connor’s forces combined with the rebel army and Romdas’s own compliment were a formidable force, they were not yet ready for a major altercation. With Keleroth in tow, Matthias reviewed the messages that had come in from Aldencia. One, through the network that had been established, spoke of a “mutual friend who was much sought” who was rumored to be back within the city, obviously referring to Prince Edward. Another letter was included in the pack, addressed to Elara, but the men read it anyway, learning that Mother Wood was safe and well, and that the pressure on the clergy had apparently lessened significantly. Meanwhile, Theodor shared with his companions the joyful news of his proposal to Dora, which swept the men, particularly Bendigar, into the planning of a bachelor’s party to beat all others, including invitations to Matthias and Keleroth, the former of which declined but the latter prepared some spectacular fire magic for the occasion. Similarly, Dora and Nahla sat with Cynthia, who, upon learning of Dora’s engagement, rejoiced as only a noblewoman still young enough to squeal could – she set about planning the date, colors, ceremony, and all the details until Perenahl was nearly beside herself with stifled laughter.

Dinner continued much of the same train until Matthias put an end to the marriage fuss, instead turning conversation to anything else. Following the meal, he pulled his officers and the leadership of Romdas together for a council. With the army nearly ready for a major engagement, he felt it was time for him to set out the various plans and preparations for the inevitable attack in case he was not present himself when the time came to use them. General Connor was named as his successor, but all parties agreed that Prince Edward must be found if possible, as no military force should seize the throne. Thus, the tantalizing rumor that the prince was in Adzoral was debated at length, until at last it was decided for Matthias to lead a very small group to the city to investigate. The rest of the evening was lost to strategy for the militarily-inclined, and grateful rest for the others.

In the morning, however, it became quickly clear that all plans would have to wait. An illness seemed to have swept through the fort like a wildfire, striking one man in twenty with violent vomiting, fever, weakness, and other such symptoms. Dora and Nahla began running around as best they could to lend relief, but whatever had struck seemed resistant to everything Dora knew. The worst cases were Keleroth and Lord Warren, and later, Theodor, as the day wore on and more men fell ill. Matthias began investigating the cause of the affliction, until even he began to feel weak and had to rest. With the situation getting desperate, Keleroth (who had cleverly put a skull-and-crossbones sign on his door) began to wonder if this could be a magical construct, and more to the point, if it was something the Ojaluche could help with, so, when not actively wanting to die, he began pouring through the book taken from the labyrinth in Cath. Dora was beginning to wonder the same thing, though she had a difficult time posing her query to the Ojaluche in a way it could understand. Meeting in the middle, Keleroth laid his hand on the sphere, feeling his pain wash away, though the illness itself remained; the Ojaluche commented about something bad in the mage that was not of the world, affirming the suspicions of magical tampering. However, the experience, and his readings, combined with Dora’s persistent questioning, led the two to try setting the Ojaluche in water. Upon sipping a dipper of this water, Keleroth felt immediately better, the affliction falling from him in mere moments. Dora and Nahla spent the rest of the day delivering this cure to the other ill men, seeing near-miraculous recoveries in all cases. Meeting at the end of the day, the women took some water themselves, just in case, wondering about the earlier weakness they had felt before returning to Romdas. On a whim, Dora asked Nahla if she thought pregnancy might be possible, and though neither could know for sure, the possibility followed them the rest of the evening. Meanwhile, Matthias learned that the day prior 13 bushels of potatoes had been delivered to Romdas, but only 12 had been ordered and 12 had been supplied by the townsman. No one could account for the extra potatoes, but many suspicions circled around what might have been in that sack and what its intent had been.

Now forced to depart Romdas a few days later than expected, Matthias and his group spent their time recovering, preparing, and also experiencing Theodor’s party, one which would likely be remembered for years after Keleroth’s flaming entertainment. At last, though, Matthias, Dora, Theodor, Bendigar, Keleroth, and Nahla set off for Adzoral, making as much haste as they could manage. As they approached the city, the party encountered posted proclamations repeating what Mother Wood’s letter had communicated to Elara – the clergy and priesthood were now sacrosanct and protected beyond reproach by anyone. The group split into pairs to enter the city undetected, planning to meet at the city house they had acquired some time before. While the other two groups met nothing out of the ordinary, Matthias and Keleroth went towards the cathedral, dressed as they were as monks, and had an odd experience. Since it was near dusk and the curfew there were few people on the streets, but there, bold as can be, was a military group apparently taking some action against some members of the priesthood. When Matthias and Keleroth drew near for a better look, they could see that a fight had broken out in one of the buildings where the more senior clergy lived. A nearby sentry prevented their entrance, and though he could offer very little in the way of explanation for what was occurring, he did confirm that the order to attack had come from his superior, whom, he believed, had heard it straight from those closest to the king. Afraid of any discipline should someone learn that their activities had been seen, the guard encouraged Matthias and Keleroth to leave and spend the night elsewhere, telling no one what had transpired. There was little else they could do besides observe several individuals carted off by the royal guards. Meeting up with the others at the house, Keleroth and Matthias shared what they had seen, feeling something ominous in the situation, though they did not yet know what these events could mean.
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