August 11th/Tuesday Evening
Eldarast/Thollin Capital/Lave's Cathedral
Lave’s Cathedral rose like a massive, stone crown atop a stout, sloping hill just outside the northern outer walls of Eldarast. One of the many structural jewels that the kingdom’s capitol bragged, it was the largest theocratical building in Thollin, and by far the most beautiful. Built long ago, originally as a temple to Lavuria, its seven, golden-capped spires shone so famously that windship pilots enroute to Eldarast could often close in their coordinates on the city, by the golden glimmer alone, long before the city itself came into view.
The sanctuary itself sat in the midst of the seven, gold capped sentinels. Even from outside, the massive, brilliantly colored stain glass windows were a site of awe, but from inside, the true beauty of Lave’s Cathedral literally shone through. The lofty, white marble walls were more of stone windowpanes, than actual walls, encasing massive windows, spun like brilliant jewels. In the sun’s light, it seemed the very air within the sanctuary glimmered and danced, reveling in the grace of it’s mistress’ splendor.
Standing from his worked, red leather chair and sliding the massive, crimson curtains shut, Bishop Floncius sighed, rubbing his temples. The day had been long, and still he had much to do. Deciding that his office overlooking the hills west of Eldarast was not the best for late afternoon paperwork; and that bright sunlight and pounding headaches never mix well, he collapsed back into his chair and took a long sip of his red, fire-fern tea. Despite the name, its relaxing properties worked so well that it seemed to him that it’s category as “Mundane” warranted investigation.
Shuffling his stack of papers, and scanning the contents of the stiff parchment of a scroll before him, he delicately lifted the quillpen from it’s glass jar, and prepared to continue his note taking in the brown, leather bound tome before him, when a soft knock sounded from the door. Hesitating, he quickly dropped the pen back into it’s vile, before the ink ran onto his paper. Glaring at the door, he sighed and said
The door creaked open, and Paula Nightgale stepped hesitantly within, sliding the door shut once more behind her. Looking up from his book, the old man studied the pretty young girl for a moment, before saying
“Yes, Paula? What is it?”
Furrowing her brow, and shifting in her gold-trimmed, white gown, she asked
“Bishop Floncius, didn’t you summon me? I’m sorry I’m late. I didn’t get home until this afternoon, which is when I saw the note.”
She held up the parchment as testimony, tilting her head, spilling her long golden hair over her round shoulders. The old man stared blankly at the note for a moment, before twitching with the memory.
“Ah yes! Yes, I am sorry. I have been terribly busy, and had nearly forgotten.”
Glancing at the stack of papers on his heavy wooden desk, he added dryly
“One would have never guessed how many documents on our Lady exist in the northern realms. I’m beginning to doubt that I alone can compile what we have collected into a single text. But alas, that isn’t your problem. I did call you here, and I had a purpose.”
Opening his desk and digging through it’s contents, he pulled out a small envelope. The wax seal bore the symbol of the Church of Radiance, a brother organization to Celgereth Xai, the church that Paula belonged to and, obviously the branch that Lave’s Cathedral claimed.
The seal was broken. Floncius had a habit of prereading others mail. Apparently one of his many unstated duties. Handing the package to Paula, the old man explained
“Father Brennon expresses the deepest of gratitude on behalf of the Temple of Thall (The name of his individual church building), and the Church of Radiance(The branch of worship…like Methodist and Baptist), for your recent and…very generous donation of 2,000 gold pieces.”
Raising an eyebrow at the beautiful young woman, the bishop asked
“Where on earth did you get such money? Ah, I shouldn’t ask. Everything you do come by you deserve. You are by far our most prized cleric, and what with some of the recent missions you have been sent on, why there’s no wonder the gold you come by. But I will suggest that you do a little better for yourself. There’s no need for you to still be living in that tiny shack downtown. Why just a little of what you come by can set you more comfortably!”
Paula just mumbled and nodded. She had dealt with Bishop Floncius more than enough times to know he was chuck full of advice, most of it being empty. But it seemed to be a customary part of any meeting with him.
“Now about why I called you here, my dear, is this.”
Reaching into his robes, the old man pulled forth a small, fist sized bundle. Untying the hemp twine, and folding back the black cloth, he revealed a strange, cube shaped stone. Along all 6 of it’s weathered gray sides were carven odd, runic symbols. Paula did not recognize them.
“It came from the recently uncovered Lavurian temple north, in Throndell. Noone can read it, thus, we are sending it far south, to Ranara, to be studied in the Temple of El Jalnine.”
Wrapping the cube back up, he slid it forward towards Paula.
“We would be honored if you brought it for us.”
Before she could respond in any way, he held up his wrinkled hands and exclaimed
“Now listen to me, my dear. We all understand how much you love your work, and we appreciate it to the fullest. Which is in part why we want you to be the one to deliver it. You will get to travel to the Ralnarian Desert, Lavuria’s sacred land. You will get to go to the capitol, El Jalnine. The Holy City! And then, when you have completed your delivery, we ask that you take some time off, to yourself.”
At this, Paula opened her mouth to protest, but the old man hushed her once more.
“You are young, and you have been working so hard. Too hard if you ask me. Your duty to Lavuria is a dangerous one. I insist that you take some time to yourself. Visit Ranara and the south while you are at it. Those are some blessed lands, and I believe you will enjoy it. We have many other capable individuals amongst the Clergy that can deal with the ever constant bothers of this Church. I order you. Take a year or so. Walk beneath Lavuria’s rays, and enjoy yourself.”
Grudgingly, Paula took the package, and listened as Bishop Floncius explained her orders. The following day she would go to the Windship Lifts, within the Outer Curtain of Elethorn II’s castle in the midst of Eldarast. She was given a small scroll, rolled in smooth, dark oak. It would be her travel pass. She was of the Church. She needn’t pay. One flight would be leaving tomorrow. A cargo ship, bringing shipments south. It would make a short pit stop in Lethonann, a peninsula in the Arnakian Sea, before west, to El Jalnine on the Siris River, in the heart of the Ralnarian Desert. She would deliver the package to the Temple of El Jalnine, and from there, she would do as she pleased.
Leaving the Bishops office, Paula wandered into the sanctuary. The sun hung just over the western hills, and the sanctuary basked in a dancing fire of color. Collapsing in a front pew, she stared at the podium, absently fingering her yellow painted mace. It would be nice to take some time to herself, she decided. Sometimes she grew weary of the constant demands of the church, and the commonfolk of Thollin. Though she reveled in the satisfaction she received from exorcisms, her most common duty, and well known specialty; there were times when she just wanted peace. The undead didn’t scare her. They never had. And under the arms of her Lady, she considered it her duty to purge the land of the dark horrors that always seemed to worm their way under it’s skin.
Recently she found herself busier than ever. Normally this wouldn’t have bothered her, but her recent missions had been leaving her increasingly disturbed. The past year or so had sprung a massive uprising of undead accounts, linked with active necromancy, and cultic behavior. All of which seemed to be connected with one another. It was as if some dark, dreaded society was slowly creeping into the kingdom. The thought gave her shudders, though she hadn’t had much trouble in dealing with them. Still. What could be the cause? Most of the ceremonial grounds she had leveled and cleansed bore many, many signs of Gerugoth, the long dead God of Darkness, and the Narogs who served him. What could be the meaning of this, she did not know. But she had begun delving into these accounts, on her own mission to find the truths behind the mysteries.
Now they wanted her to take a vacation? A year long one?! Sighing, Paula laid her smooth face in her hands. After a moment she looked up. A slight smile graced her lips. Perhaps a vacation wouldn’t be so bad. After all, she had never been ordered to stop her “hobbies”. She could work in the name of Lavuria without being in the name of Celgereth Xai (Her branch of worship).
Bowing her head and whispering a brief prayer, she gathered her things and stood to leave, when suddenly the arched, wooden doors to the sanctuary were shoved open, and a middle aged woman in a maroon dress and wrapped in a white apron nearly flung herself into the isle. Her breathing was heavy and her face was white with fear.
“Ghosts! By the Gods I cannot take it any longer…”
Pausing to look around the sanctuary, she spotted Paula and nearly crawled to the Cleric’s feet.
“Praise Lavuria I have found you! Paula, Cleric of the Sun! I beg you for your help.”
(Welcome to **Noldaria*Final War** Carmen! I hope you find this game to be as fun to play in as I find it to run. As you can see, I…conjured detailed…life, for her. She lives here in Eldarast, and has done so for…as long as you want her to have…She is well known in the area, especially for her Exorcism abilities. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me. Obviously, the situation you stand in is…you can aid the woman, or tell her you are busy…what with needing to pack and stuff.)
Paula had just been pondering perhaps having another look at this unusual cube that had been entrusted to her when the woman came barging in, and immediately requested her assistance.. Paula quickly bent down and helped the poor woman to her feet as she spoke, "Come now, calm down, I will assist in any way I can! Just take a nice breath, and tell me what has you troubled so.. Oh, and do remember one thing, won't you? It's just Paula, none of that Nightgale nonsense!" She said, helping to brush the woman's clothes off.. She tried to search her mind to see if she perhaps knew this woman.. and then something flickered across her thoughts a moment..
"Did you say ghosts?" She said, and could barely contain the smile that itched to cross her lips, but the sparkle in her blue eyes gave her away by a long shot.. Maybe she could have a little fun in the line of duty before her trip.. They may have told her to take a vacation from her tasks, but they couldn't make her take a vacation from her service under Lavuria!
"The room would be better. What I have to tell you is meant for your ears alone..." Marie's eyes scanned those at the table and blinked. "It is urgent that we must speak. I have information that concerns your quest."
"Then we must gather the others," Vilyamar said, rising from his chair. Teros rose as well, striding over to the bard who had sat with a pretty barmaid who had brought him something. The man looked uncomfortable to Vilyamar, and little as he knew about the emotions that took the man on a dragonflight each day, Damien seemed attracted to the young woman. Vilyamar could see why, she was quite pretty to look at, but there was nothing so out of the ordinary that the man should ask her to sit, yet shy away at any thought of even making the slightest bit of conversation.
Something must have happened to the man, Vilyamar decided. None of my concern, yet.
The monk moved swiftly and deftly in the tavern paths through the chairs and tables, dodging one as a man who looked as if he would pitch back over onto the floor arose suddenly in front of him. One hand went to his hood as he jumped, securly keeping it in place, but it fell again as soon as he settled back into the easy walking pace. Scourge and Elandor sat at the bar, each enjoying some form of something or other, but Elandor made glances at the booths in the corner of the inn, sometimes those glances ended on the verge of staring, but the kender always wrenched his eyes away and busied himself with the bird simply to make himself look preoccupied.
"There seems to be...a...new development that has arisen. Perhaps like the one that you caused, Scourge," Vilyamar said. Derak was close by, and Vilyamar added something of the like to the large man as he downed his mug of ale in one last swig and after wiping his sleeve dropped his pennies onto the counter, nodding.
"Hopefully Damien has secured rooms for us all, we shall gather there, at least as soon as we can." Vilyamar said. He motioned for them to follow as he walked back to where Damien was getting up again, dropping his eyes and flashing a single bronze key that disappeared back into his pockets. Vilyamar's frown deepened beneath his hood, but he said nothing to the others, should they notice, then Erenall has made such a judgement and it shall be.
"I know you have concerns, young kender, and I hope none of the others mind, but I would not say that you must hear what the woman has to say, not unless you wish to. You may watch your quarry and I shall inform you of the proceedings, should anything arise." He said one final time, nothing in his voice indicating that there was possibly a scheme in the works on the other side of the room.
Scourge was tiring of the evenings festivities. It had been a long road travelled to get here, and the large man wanted nothing more than to ready the vessel for launch and be left with Elderast growing smaller as it faded from view in the distance.
Vilyamar had approached and made mention of everyone gathering in more private quarters, and Scourge was more than welcome to get this little show on the road. He placed a large hand on Elandor's shoulder, and Orion sopke quietly while the Kender stroked his feathers. "Go on with the others, hear the information gathered while I, keep watch on those which have gathered your interest so. I will inform Scourge of anything relevant should it arise. We have our duties; and cannot be running about on every side interest which presents us." With that, Orion flies over to the innkeep and asks for directions to the Lifts for the morning, as well as drops sufficient coin to pay for a room, preferably one with two beds. with a key returned to Scourge he flies to the rafters and keeps watch over all within the common room. (Spot and listen predominantly on the group in the shadows)
Scourge will then stand and motion for Elandor and other's to follow upstairs, a tilt of the head made towards Marie to show her invitation. He then makes his way towards the sleeping quarters and motions everyone inside without a word.
August 11th/Tuesday Evening
Eldarast/Thollin Capital/Lave's Cathedral
Gripping Paula’s arm as she was helped to her shaky feet, the woman followed the Cleric’s advice, pausing for a long moment to take several deep breaths; yet she still held a tight grip on Paula’s home. It was as if the Cleric was her only anchor to sanity.
Paula studied the woman, faint lines of age had been weathered into her pale skin, and her eyes heavily shadowed. Her once brown hair was streaked gray. She did not recall ever seeing the woman before. When it seemed the woman had at last gathered some control over herself, Paula asked in quivering excitement
"Did you say ghosts?"
At her question, the woman’s grip tightened and she spun to face Paula, staring pleadingly into her eyes.
“It’s horrible! We moved to this city several weeks ago. Johan was offered the job of Overseer during the construction of the outer wall. It’s a good job with good pay, but the house! Oh the house we moved into!”
Her eyes seemed to go dark for a moment, and it took further coaxing from Paula to get her to continue
“We didn’t know it was haunted until after we had spent our first few days in. But the occurances…Oh I haven’t the heart to explain them to you. Maybe Johan will tell you on the way. Please come! He waits in the carriage outside. Please, I beg you to help us! We haven’t much to offer in return, only our undying gratitude, and perhaps a nice supper. It is all we have at this time.” Starting for the door, she begins to tug at Paula to follow
Paula was almost literally beaming now! With her golden, shimmering hair and bright blue eyes, she did seem to be a ray of the sun whenever she smiled, which was a rise of hope for those of the world of good and living, but a wave of terror over those who were evil and undead..
"Come now, there is no need to beg!" She said happily, smiling to the heckled woman. "If I had known of this, I would have come whether or not you asked for my help. It is my duty as a cleric of Lavuria that I hunt down the dreaded lifeless wherever they may rear their fearsome heads." She said as she followed the woman out to the carriage.
"Now, I will need to know as much about the situation as possible when we meet your husband. Hauntings are no simple matter, you see. Ghosts are not the evil and twisted beings that most undead are, they do not plague the living without a purpose. There is, no doubt, something within your house that these spirits have become attached to, and it is holding them within the realm of the living." She explained on the way..
Sure, it wasn't ghouls or something a bit more entertaining to vanquish, but ghosts were a pest all-right, and had to be dealt with. At the very least, it would keep Paula entertained for a bit, and even more importantly, it would help ease these people's minds.
If there was one person in the party that Elandor trusted it was Scourge’s bird. Orion proved a nice companion during their journey and now the bird seemed to understand Elandor’s curiosity. With a thankful nod and a soft pat on Orion’s smooth silky feathers he jumped from the barstool and walked after Vil. Elandor shot a final glance at the booth before leaving the room. He knew Orion would do a good job spying on the two men. He didn’t really know why they were going into another room, having missed the conversation with the new woman. He was calm, compared to what he usually felt like. He hoped something really thrilling would happen in the other room, because he was starting to get bored. And a bored kender…. well, I won’t go into that.
(Yep, it’s short… VERY short… but there’s not a lot to write, sorry. My next update will be much longer.)
August 11th/Tuesday Night
Eldarast/Thollin Capital/Jesters Hour
(EHH….I apologize for this post, but Im sure you all realize the necessity of it’s briefness. I’m Just trying to move things on…As im sure you realize…nobody is doing much of anything, save Damien….And the only reason this is dragging on is because of the introduction of a new character…they always lag the game. Thus, lets try and get this behind us. I promise. This is the one and only time I’m writing a post this short and without detail)
With the introduction of the strange young lady, and the supposed information she heralded, the party had decided it was time to abandon the common room and its possible eavesdroppers for the privacy of a rented room. For the time being, they knew nothing about who could be trusted and, constantly wary of unknown enemies…Though, it was safe to assume that this routy inn held no such threats. A room still held consolation.
Rising and wading his way through the drunken masses towards the corner where Damien had fled, Teros found him sitting across from a pretty young lady with hair like spun onyx, and eyes as green as Spring Equinox. His feelings for the bard were pushed aside by the urgency of their situation. And though his question surprised the bard, it was certainly repaid when the bard apologized and stood, asking the maid he was with to pardon him, and strode to the dias. His pale face was chizzled in determination. He would win the party their rooms.
And as he stood, the monk, still hidden deep within the green hood of his robes, appeared beside Teros, and waited patiently.
Marie and Mahuo remained at their table as Teros and Vilyamar got up and made their way towards the dais, where Damien now stood. Scourge, however, paid for his own room, and after sharing a word with Elandor, stood and, followed by the kender, made his way towards the stairs, where he halted, waiting for the others.
It was a wait transpiring several minutes. For Damien had begun a new song, perhaps surprising his entire company with it’s nature. It was far from the dark, melodious tunes he had become known for. Rather, his voice seemed to pump life into the inn, gathering the attention of all. Soon enough, the patrons were clapping to the beat and signing the well known verses along with the bard. And as it was, it took several encores before he was set free from the dias, and was handed three keys from the fat innkeeper, who informed him that they were to double bedded rooms.
After handing the keys to Teros and Vilyamar, Damien is able to spot the maid, standing near where he had sat with her. Apparently she had waited for him.
(Once again, It’s only like that because I wanted to move things on. I recommend you all simply post that you, follow Scourge, after saying anything you would like to say to Damien. Scourges room is the first to the left upstairs. The inside is small, but will fit you all. There is no fireplace, leading one to wonder how comfortable a stay in the winter would be, but there are two, plain beds, and a table. There are 4 wooden chairs around the table. Once again, I recommend you simply follow him up and into the room. Marie, when you tell the story, tell it all in one post. Damien, you can obviously stay downstairs as long as you like, and do as you wish.)
Teros was surprised as the bard seemed to change. He looked to the barmaid and realized that she might be the link this new attitude change. Was this what he did whenever he found an attractive female that was of the same race? He didn't know, but as the bard handed him his key he was the first to move to the stairs.
Before he did, however, he stopped and placed a hand on his shoulder and gave gripped it tightly shaking him very slightly in an appreciative way with a small smile on his face. He knew that this could be the time to bring this man out of his own darkness.
Was all he said as he let go and turned to follow Scourge up the stairs and to enter his room and wait for the others to arrive.
Vilyamar stood, waiting. The bard moved away almost meekly, but determination radiated from him. The monk frowned as he moved to lean against the wall near the stairway. His human blood seemed to give him an innate sense of the chaotic emotions that seemed to radiate from the humans. But his cooler elven half remained almost totally apart from the conflicts. Perhaps it was his training. A sigh let all the confusion pour out of him, along with any thoughts of emotion.
The bard's song made the common room come alive, and Vilyamar's frown of confusion returned. Damien was proving to be quite the moody human, though he was before one of the most shadowed people the monk had ever met. His eyes peered out from beneath his hood, but eventually Damien ended his arousing tunes, stepping off the dais amid rounds of applause from the patrons. Vilyamar clapped his own hands out of respect, but he had realized that he knew very few of the words to the tunes. The songs he knew were sweet, yet sour, beautiful and ugly all at the same time. He did not know if Damien had the skill to play or sing them, and at the moment he did not care. The music of his mother was in the past only.
The innkeeper gave them two keys, telling them they were to double-bedded rooms, and Vilyamar gave a slight nod of approval. Scourge seemingly had paid for his own rooms and he went up the stairs followed by Elandor. Vilyamar noticed that Orion remained behind, his beady eyes keeping watch on the kender's quarry.
The monk looked at Damien, who's gaze had returned to the fair barmaid who he had been sitting with before Teros had approached them. She had stayed sitting, and Vilyamar was surprised that she had not been reproached by her employer. Perhaps there was something between the two, perhaps not. Vilyamar had seen innkeepers before who had caught their serving girls floating away off of their duties, and some had been punished severly. Perhaps this man was simply kinder. Perhaps.
The monk gave none of it a second thought and once the others had gone up the stairs, he gave a nod to the bard once again and followed the others. Taking the steps two at a time, he arrived just behind the last member. He looked back to see if Damien was following, but that was only to know whether or not to shut the door behind him. Moving into the room, he closed the door by the iron knobs and leaning to the side of the doorway, awaiting the tale of the young ranger.
August 11th/Tuesday Night
Outskirts of Eldarast/Thollin's Capital
Grabbing the massive, brass handle, and opening the front, double doors to Lave’s Cathedral, Both Paula and the woman froze for a moment, blinking in the golden rays of the setting sun. Only one road led to the Cathedral, branching off the main highway that flowed out the eastern gates of the city Eldarast. It was more of a wide path, lined with ancient, mossy walls and towering, green spruces. It was a long, winding path that climbed the domed hill that the Cathedral crowned, but it tended to be very peaceful, and very scenic. The perfect journey to a house of worship.
Yet it didn’t seem as if this poor woman, or her family had much enjoyed the path up the hill. A black, close-topped carriage sat out front. The two, brown and red horses that pulled it snorted and panted, obviously they had been worked hard, and had traveled quickly. Pacing about the carriage was a tall man in a brown tunic and a weathered, broad brimmed hat. A pointed, brown beard hung to his chest. When he saw Paula and his wife, he rushed towards them.
“Belldonna, my dear! Did you find someone? Is this lady here to…”
His voice staggered, as his blue eyes settled on the Cleric.
“Praise be to Erenal and all who throne beside him! It is Paula! Paula of Lavuria?! Of all the clerics, my dear, you have found the best!”
Reaching forward and gripping Paula’s hand in a firm, clammy handshake, he added
“My name is Johan, Belldonna’s husband. Come, come. We must be on our way.”
Taking his wife’s hand, the man started for the carriage, holding the door open for the two women, before climbing into his perch and taking hold of the reigns.
“She needs you to explain everything you can, dear.”
Belldonna began, leaning forward and speaking to her husband as the carriage lurched forward on its bumpy journey down the hill. This wasn’t the best of roads to take a carriage on….obviously they were desperate…or anxious.
“Of course, of course….Ah..I don’t know much…Not much at all. I’m sure my wife told you that we’ve only recently moved in, thankful of a low price, and a good paying job. I’m an overseer to the construction of the cities new outer wall. Anyways. We moved in during the end of May, once the ground had thawed and work could pick up. At first the house seemed well enough. Perhaps a bit dreary…old, you know. But Belldonna has a thing for decorations, and within days the place was looking more homely.”
Johan paused, slowing the carriage to steer around a rather large boulder that lay in the middle of the path. Paula noticed Belldonna’s hands wringing themselves over and over again. She was nervous.
“Where was I?”
“We moved in May.”
“Oh! Yes. In May, and for the first week, nothing really happened. It wasn’t until after…I believe our first Sunday, over a week and a half after we moved in, that we had our first encounter. Belldonna was cooking, and I was fixing my boots…tanning the leather. Suddenly we thought we heard voices upstairs. Obviously we stopped what we were doing and listened. It was clear. I thought I heard a woman crying. So I grabbed one of the pokers to the fireplace and crept upstairs. The crying was coming from our bedroom. Make no mistake, it was a woman crying. She sounded most grieved. I held my ear to the door to our room for several moments. And when finally I shoved open the door, I saw nothing…But the room was dreadfully cold. We didn’t know what to make of it, so we said nothing. Yet…over the next several weeks, we have had more, and more encounters. They become more and more vivid. We have seen the woman, and two children. It’s terrible. The woman is so gaunt. And she wails in agony. Once we woke up to her standing over our bed, staring down at us. The room was frigid. She held a knife to her breast. When we leapt to our feet, she disappeared.”
“The children are worse.”
Spoke up Belldonna
“Some days they will suddenly run through the living room and up the stairs, laughing all the way. But others…Other days we will find them crying, and retching terribly. Oh so sick. Gripped in each others arms.”
Belldonna shuddered, and Paula realized the woman had gripped her arm once again. The carriage had long reached the bottom of the hill and had turned onto the main road.
“We live on the outskirts of the city, a little ways from the other houses.”
“We’re almost there.”
“And so I should tell you of our most recent encounter.”
Belldonna’s voice quivered, but she licked her thin lips and continued
“Johan had just returned from work. I was upstairs, sewing in our room. Which is where the woman, who we believe is the children’s mother, appears most. Anyways. Johan walked into the house, and saw, in the living room. All three of the ghosts. The mother was hugging the children, who were retching everywhere. She was apologizing….but she said “It must be done.”. Then, she stood, and walked upstairs. Johan did not know where I was, and did not care to walk past the children, who remained, laying on the floor, crying and vomiting. I had heard nothing, but the room suddenly became very, very cold. Nervous, I stood and spun around to see her, standing in the doorway. She stared straight ahead, into me. She was covered in vomit, and held a dagger. She walked towards me, and I skittered out of the way. She didn’t seem to see me. Instead she walked THROUGH the cabinet. She must have stopped once she stood where the cabinet stood, because I could hear her. She must have punctured herself with the blade, because I could hear her groaning. In a panic, I fled downstairs. Past the children, whom I had not noticed until it was too late. I dove into Johan’s arms, and we fled here.”
Paula saw that the woman was crying.
“I cannot take it anymore! It’s terrible! You must do something!”
“Now now, Belldonna. Do not fret. Paula will be able to handle this problem.”
Even Johan’s voice cracked. The sun had settled over the city to the west. The sky was a dull lavender, and the hills basked in shadow. The carriage had turned onto a small lane. In the distance Paula could see houses, their lights glimmering. Now and then they passed a lone home. The smell of woodfire and cooking bread laced the cool night air.
“When I asked around, about the history of the house. I learned that, about 30 years ago, there lived a family. They had been happy, or so it had always seemed. But when the husband up and left his wife and children for a younger woman, she went crazy. They say she never left the house. Not for months. People brought food to her and her family out of the kindness of their hearts. But, one day, when old Lady Wighter brought them a basket of bread, noone answered. She entered the house and found the children dead...right where I had seen them. The mother had killed herself upstairs….”
The carriage slowed to a stop, and Paula peered out the window. A large and very worn house stood before her. A newer shed had been built on the yard, obviously for the horses and carriage. No lights where on.
Climbing down from his perch, Johan opened the door for the two women. Pulling out a torch, he struck it, casting a comforting, orange glow over the face of the house.
“I cannot enter.”
Hugging his wife close, Johan looked at Paula.
“I will go with you. You may have questions, and I can guide you through the house.”
Letting go of His wife, he coaxed her back into the carriage.
“Wait here until we return.”
Turning back to Paula, he nodded, and will listen to anything she has to say, before serving as her guide.
Marie listened to the lovely melody, “Its beautiful…” She whispered to herself after it was over and clapped as well, feeling a deep sadness that the song was over so soon. “I haven’t heard something so beautiful in years.” She glances around the inn and notices that the members of the sought after party are going up the stairs. –Here goes nothing.-
She entered the room and walked over to a far corner, leaning against it for support. She heard the door close and her breath came a little heavier. –I hope they don’t kill me if they find my story not up to their expectations.- With the eyes of the room turned to her she drew one final shuttering breath and began, “I am Marie Tanner.” She began and toyed with the handle of her sword as she was prone to do when nervous. “I am part of a ranger’s group called ‘Wolf’s Pack’ you may have heard of us.” She pauses and takes a deep breath, steadying herself. “I was sent out to see if the rumors we have been hearing are true and was on my way back when I was intercepted be emissary from the elves. At the mention of this she glances at the man in the green cloak to see his reaction but sees only the shadows cast by his hood.
She blinks and glances down at the floor, noticing the pattern of the wood grains and wished to be anywhere but here. “I was told that the Dark God was raising.” She looked up to see the others reaction and continued, “Through my affiliation with my pack, I have sworn an oath to protect this land.” A look of determination crossed her face and she folded her arms across her chest. “I was told that in order to best help my land, my home, I would have to join your party.”
She looked at the assembled people and sighed. “I have been traveling for months, through places that I thought never to see in my life. I have traveled many miles, lived to tell tales that many have not. All for the sake of keeping the oath I swore so many years ago.” She closes her eyes and remembers that night: The whole pack was gathered around the campfire, all there just to see her and her fellow sworn into the pack that they made up. “Marie.” She had been asked, “Do you swear to protect this land that you so love? The land that has given you life, the land that has raised you, cared for you. Do you swear to protect the life and…” He had gone on for what had seemed for hours in that same regard. Then, finally, he had asked her the most important question any ranger could ever be asked. “Marie, are you ready to be a Wolf?” She had glanced around the circle of familiar faces, faces that she had seen since the early years of her childhood and smiled. “Yes. I am ready.”
She blinked and returned to the present. “I have done everything in my power to uphold that vow. Please, don’t make me break it now. All I ask is to join your party, if I cannot I will return to my commander and be striped of my station. I will have failed my obligation to this fine land, I would have failed my obligation to myself.” With this she kneels and bows her head in a gesture of trust. “Please…” She whispers that last word as a plea, a cry for understanding.
Paula listened intently to the information given as she quietly enjoyed the ride to the house. She loved this little scenic trip that made up the journey to the temple she knew as her home, so much so that practically knew every little bump and jolt by heart!
"It seems the children may be some kind of key to this whole mess.." She mused a bit, thoughtfully tapping her chin.. "I suspect the mother spirit is drawn to the house because the spirits of the children are trapped there by the memories of their experience.." She said, and then sighed as she sadly shook her head.. "Those poor things.. it sounds like the mother poisoned them in her madness."
As they stood in front of the house, Paula quietly glanced over to Belladonna.. "My dear woman, you seem to be utterly shaken up about something.. Is there something you are reluctant to speak about?" She asked, before heading on into the house..
"Now, the first thing I noted in that conversation was that she passed into a cabinet.. So now I must ask what has happened to this house since the incident, thirty years ago. What I'm looking for is if it has been remodeled in that time.. You see, ghosts are somewhat.. 'stuck' in their place.. They often do not perceive changes to the living world, instead opting to continue to see the world in which they once lived."
At this point, Paula withdrew her holy symbol from beneath her dress, a dazzling, gold-plated sun symbol with the face of the Shining Goddess herself emblazoned on the front with intense yellow diamond eyes.. Paula ran her thumbs fondly along the sunny spirals extending off the disc, and securely wrapped the chain it hung by about her fist..
"Take me to this cabinet she passes into. I suspect there's more to it than what meets the eye!"
((Of course, Paula is going to search that cabinet up and down, left and right! She'll have her holy symbol at ready to fry any meanies that pop up. ^_^))
August 11th/Tuesday Night
Outskirts of Eldarast/Thollin's Capital
Nodding, the skinny man led her to the front door. It was old and slightly warped; and when he pushed it open it creaked in dry protest. Stepping in and to the side, he held the lantern high, flooding what seemed to be the cooking area in warm light. Unless directed otherwise, he will light the lanterns on the walls and ceiling. The hearth sat against the far wall. It’s flat, stone surface was black from many, many fires, and a small, tin cauldron hung from a slender, copper reign. The half burnt firewood beneath it sat, gray and sullen. On the ancient planked floor beside it sat a large tin basin. Lined along the top of the fireplace where many, odd dolls, crocheted, obviously by Belldonna. Their palled faces smiled blankly across the room at them.
Before the hearth was an old, oak table and chair set. It seemed obviously part of the original house design. To the left there was an open room and in its center was an ancient, maroon rug. A second, larger fireplace sat here, and facing it was a large, newer looking, leather chair. A stairwell led upstairs from here.
To the right, against the wall was a closed wooden door.
Leading her into the sitting room, Johan explained
“This is where the children were today. Right there!”
He pointed towards a corner near the fireplace. There was no vomit. The air smelled of soot and burnt soup. Leading her towards the fireplace, they crept up it. With each, groaning step, Paula became aware that the air was becoming cooler. It could very well have been the cool night air, and the lack of a fire. She wasn’t sure.
Upstairs, Johan held his lantern aloft. They were in a narrow hallway. To the right, not five feet away was an open doorway. Her guide explained that beyond the light of his lantern were two more rooms. They had once been the children’s bedroom, but now served as a catch-all, and a guest room. The door before them was Johan and Belldonna’s bedroom.
Ushering her inside, Johan was quick, almost frantic in lighting the several candles that were used to light the room. It was obviously old, like the rest of the house, but it had been graced with several, newer objects, which seemed to dull the gloom. The bed was large and obviously new. It’s four, intricately carven posts rose like masts, to the ceiling, and the bed was draped with a crimson veil. A newer modeled spinning wheel sat before the window, which was draped with new, white curtains.
To the left, against the wall sat what was obviously the cabinet. As Paula approached it, Johan held the lantern aloft, spilling it’s warm light against the wooden surface, as if to absolve whatever sin had apparently had been committed here.
Paula could feel the smooth, cool surface of Lavuria’s sun, as she fingered it. Narrowing her blue eyes, she studied the cabinet. It was old, but even in the lurid lantern and candle light, she could tell it was not as old as the rest of the house. When asked if he or Belldonna had placed it here, Johan shakes his head.
Opening both it’s doors, it took Paula only moments to realize there was nothing out of the ordinary about it. Already it had been filled with the clothes of the houses new tenants.
“It was empty when we got here.”
Johan explains, looking on curiously
“I doubt you will find anything save our clothes within it.”
Having finished digging through the boots, and several pairs of shoes that lay in a cluttered pile in the bottom, Paula closed the doors, but remained crouching, pondering.
Suddenly, something caught her eye. The floorboards, though up here, they were severly warped, and, in places, retained nearly a half inch gap between one another, had seemingly been sanded. But it seemed only the floor beneath the cabinet had been resurfaced. The smooth grooves of the sand ended only inches out from under the cabinet. The cabinet was not connected to the floor…
August 11th/Tuesday Night
ELDARAST/Jester's Hour/Thollin's Capital
The party had gone upstairs, save perhaps Damien. Not that the bard concerned the raven who sat now, draped by the shadows of the inns rafters. Infact, none of the party meant a thing to Orion, save his companion, and perhaps the little kender, who scratched beneath his feathers, and fed him nuts. It was for Elandor infact, that the bird sat now, just above the two men whom the kender had taken such a strange affinity to. For a long while the raven sat, unmoving, listening to the words of the men.
They spoke of construction on the wall, and it’s rather smooth progress. Apparently both were carpenters, and had found the erecting of the newest outer wall to be a wonderful boost in their income. They spoke of the weather, and how, if the summer remained as dry as it had been, the wall may be complete by first snowfall. They spoke of their wives. Both were married, it seemed. At last, one of them spoke of, what seemed to the raven, the subject that the kender had been disturbed by.
“Now…yer sister. Yer sure she aint gonna be home?” “Yes im sure! Why’r ya so concerned? I only asked yer help in moving the new set in fer her. If she catches us, it’s me whos surprise is ruined!” “Aaye. But er husband don’t like me. Suspects the unthinkable. I’de rather him not find out I was helping with such a gift as this….”
If he was human, he would half laughed. Instead, however, Orion ruffled his feathers and fluttered back upstairs to find Scourge, and relay the news to him. When he left, the men were finishing their final mugs of ale.
Marie told her story once the door closed. Vilyamar was not adept at figuring out human emotions, but in her place, he would be nervous. The group assembeled around her, in a closed room was more than simple travellers. And her story was not one that some might take to kindly. He saw her glance at him when she mentioned elves and knew then that she at least suspected that he was an elf. He wasn't sure there could be another good reason for him to keep his features hidden, than he was a less than normal race in the human lands of Thollin. Scourge did not go about flaunting his features either.
He did not react to her glance, except for a tightness that grew in his facial expression. His pale skin tightened around his almond-shaped eyes, but none could know because of the shadows cast by the hood. Marie finished with her plea, but something tickled the back of the monk's mind. An unanswered question came to mind and he muttered it out as soon as she was done.
"How did you know?" He said in a quiet voice.
All he got was a confused look and a grunt from more than a few people, so he elaborated.
"How did you know we were to be found here?" He said in a clearer voice. "We did not project our coming, nor is our quest known to more than the elves, and now your 'pack'. How did you know when and where we were to be? The way you tell it, the elves told you of this quest at almost the same time as we ourselves were told. Did they tell you our departure to the Ralnurrian (OOC: sp? you know what I mean) Desert? No matter. As much as I would like to know, I must admit that little more is known between the rest of us than you have just told us about thyself. But this must be put to a vote, and only consensus shall remain. I have no objection to the young woman joining us in our quest. What say you, Teros? Scourge? Derak? Elandor? Mahou?"
The monk looked at each of them in turn before turning back to look at Marie in her kneeling form before them.