Starvale Adventures: A Prelude to Darkness – Chapter 26

Ylivia looks sternly down upon you, Rowan, her face becoming more serious now. “By what God or Gods would you make such a sacred oath, bard?” She looks you up and down. “I see no sign, no trinket or band which would denote your faith, your magic comes from yon lyre upon thine back,” she points an elegant finger toward Rowan’s prized possession. “Your ilk and kin oft find no love in a God’s work, they find the prayer a chore and yearn for the open road.” Her eyes focus upon Rowan’s. “Would you forswear your life as you know it?”

Rowan squares her shoulders and looks back at the stern faced elf. “You are right, that my magic comes to me through my music, but my music is also the pulse of the land. The pulse of the world, the pulse of the sky and water. Music is the voice of all the gods, and is universal in its power.

“I do not swear to any single god. I honor all gods who value good in the world. All gods who would add to the joy and freedom and safety of the beings here. I honor all beings who have a good heart, who seek to protect the innocent, and who fight evil in all its forms. If I can help you, and this is good enough, then I will be honored to join you. If it is not. If I must choose a single god, or a single path, then perhaps you are right.”

She looks Ylivia clearly in the eyes. “All I know is that if you will have me, my heart and soul will be with the Order, and I will use all the strength of my music and my power to aid its cause against evil, wherever, and however, it should do harm.”

Ylivia holds your gaze and says, “Faith is the greatest weapon against evil; faith in one’s god, one’s friends, and one’s self.  Battling evil is an extraordinary task that requires extraordinary strength and bravery. Punishing an evil act is just. Punishing an evil thought is not. If you would swear by these tenants then go, find Zern Xerkstil, the Hammer of Impiltur, He will induct you into our order, by my recommendation.”

As the other two speak, Sebastian, Lanaver and Tallisk look around the room, attempting to garner any additional information they can before departing.  They realize the cavern and ancient halls are fragile and worn, the obelisks are probably all that holds this structure from collapse. and even those are frail and old. However, Sebastian did disable their magic, for now.

“Thank you.” Rowan says calmly. “With the magic disabled, if we tie ropes to the obelisks, perhaps with our combined strength we can pull them down from outside?”

Tallisk uses the mental and physical conditioning that has been beaten into her for so many years and forces her breathing to return to normal.  As always, she is finding it difficult to return to the normal world after the thrill of combat. The intoxicating effects of the adrenaline wore off and the horror of blood and death returned. She had done it. Again.

The feelings, the urges to fight and kill never seemed to go away. In spite of her best intentions, what her Master had told her was coming true. She was a killer, and nothing she could do would change it now.  The darkness would eventually swallow her just as Kizarvexius had predicted, but at least she had found some decent folk to accompany until her fall should occur.

“Cn we get otta here?” She asks, her voice sounding pleading and hoarse. She took a deep drag on her cigar and exhales twin streams of smoke from her nostrils. “I need a drink ye ken?”

Between them, Rowan and Sebastian loop ropes around one of the obelisks, letting out enough slack that they have a short way to go to get out of the the cavern.  Meanwhile, Lanaver and Hajima gather up weapons and armor from their fallen enemies, rolling it into a couple of bundles for easy transportation.  Tallisk seems to be uncomfortable with the looting of the dead, but doesn’t make an issue of it, instead following Ylivia and Villonah as they make their way to the exit.

When they reach the end of the rope, they all line up as though they were kids playing tug of war and with a few hard pulls tear down the obelisk.  With a rumble of falling rock, the cavern begins to collapse.

“I didn’t think it’d work quite that well!”  Lanaver yells with a madcap grin as they all run for the exit.

“The magic of the Obelisks must have been supporting the cavern.”  Sebastian says, as they make it out just ahead of a plume of dust and spattering of gravel.  “Job well done!”

“I thank you for my life.”  Villonah says, “We will be in touch Rowan Wildpiper, after you have met with Zern.  Fare thee well.”

“May yer cup be ever full.”  Tallisk says, gripping each of the other women firmly by the forearm.  “An stop by th Kettle ta leave us a note if ya need us.  I dinne take kindly ta them what tortures younguns.”

Rowan sighs in relief and says, “Let us go home, my friends. It’s been a long night.”

They cautiously make their way back into the city and quickly go to Madame Freia’s. Rillo was pacing about the hearth, wringing his hands in worry.  A bowl of stew and a flagon of mead sit untouched on the mantelpiece.

Rowan rushes to his side. “She is safe.”

He jumps, not noticing her until she spoke, “How? Where is she? What of her?”

“It’s a very long story, sir, and your daughter is far more than she seems.” Rowan smiles gently at him. You can be proud of her, sir.”

Rillo’s brow furrows, “How do I know she lives?”

Rowan smiles, “Do the words ‘When windfalls way has wound the woods and willows weep their weary wails, I’ll whisk away your worries’ woe with Western winds to fill your sails.’ hold meaning for you sir?”

“Of course!” He says as tears fill his eyes. “Oh thank you!  Please, I would hear the story.”

“Buy me a drink and I’ll spin ya a tale what’ll turn yer hair as red as mine sure an I will.”  Tallisk says with an easy smile.

Rillo hands over the promised gold and buys everyone a round of drinks.  Tallisk regales him with a dramatized retelling of Villonah’s rescue, glossing over the near deaths of Tuskor and Hajima.  With surprising skill she spins it into a grand adventure instead of the bitter fight to the death in a dank, dimly lit cellar smelling of torture and death.

Rowan picks up on her story and begins playing a counterpoint to Tallisk’s telling on her cittern.  By the end, a small group of patrons has gathered around and is listening.  Most of them applaud and a few even toss coins on the table.

Rillo smiles as he turns to go. “Tis great to have goodly folk like yourselves to help the commoners with their plights. Thank ye, once more.” He says, and contentedly strolls out of Madame Freia’s and off to home, whistling a merry tune.

“That was a goodly telling.”  Rowan says, giving Tallisk the full beam of her brilliant smile.  “I had no idea you had such a gift.”

“Eh?  Well…”  Tallisk sighs, “I used ta tell me rats tales ye ken?  Back in th day.”

“Rats?”  Rowan looks confused, but the other woman is already wandering off towards the bar.

Tallisk feels lost at sea with the talk of factions and gods. Her life was more simple, focusing only on the immediate needs and desires if the moment. To think that she has been caught up in something like this is daunting, but how can she escape it? Did she want to escape it?

The excitement, the companionship, the feeling of making a difference, albeit a small one. These things are gradually becoming her need and desire. Sipping at the thick ale and nibbling at a bit of bread, she tries to come to terms with the way the winds of life are taking her.

“You canne dip yer foot in th same stream twice.” She mutters. Only now do those words her Master used to say reveal their true meaning to her.

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