|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
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:
I haven’t much time as I write this, so I will be as brief as I can.
What I could not tell you before, what I could not say of the prophecy that drove me from you, has come. To be simple, what I was told was that a shadow would descend upon us. If it fell upon you, no matter what I did, you would die, as you could not endure its blackness. But if I parted from you and permitted that shadow to fall upon me, you would survive, and there remained a chance for you to save me as well. I didn’t understand what the shadow was then, but I do now. It was Lady Dahlia.
She is here, Matthias. She has come to my people and taken Oertan. I believe she wishes to make a trade, me for him, to use me against you somehow. I must answer her at moonrise or she swears he will die, and I believe her. I’m not sure precisely what will happen next, but I cannot let her have my son. I have no choice but to answer her, and trust that the goddess will watch over my people, Oertan, and you.
I am sorry for however this may bind you. Please know that I do this only for love of my son, as I left you for love of you. I am certain that Lady Dahlia intends to use me to force your hand. But something tells me that, at least for now, you must do as she asks, not just for my sake, but for your own. There is just a little prophecy in me, as I think you know by the way I have always known when there was danger. I know she will kill Oertan if I defy her, but I do not think she will kill me, not yet. And I do not think she will kill you either, as long as you can serve her. And I do know if you follow this where it leads, you will save us all. The prophecy I received told me that you must walk the road carved by another for a while, but that you will know when to leave that path for your own, and in doing so, you will be given one opportunity to triumph over more than that which is before you, and you will even be given the chance to seal two great evils. I don’t know yet what that means, but I hope you do.
It is nearly moonrise. I will entrust this letter to my kin, to deliver it to you as soon as they can. Please, Matthias, I am sorry. I am sorry for ever leaving your side, and I am sorry for anything that comes of this, but I could not let you die, no matter what came of it for me. I know we parted on terms that were a bit tense, but it changes nothing. My heart is yours, and always will be. I will lay down my life before Lady Dahlia if it will spare yours, and I trust that you will come for me before it is too late. She cannot hurt me while you live, and she will not take me from you while I love you.
Be safe, Matthias. Look after our people, and save us as I know only you can. I will be waiting for you, I promise.
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.