As the group and I trotted back to the cart, I thought of the two wildling shapeshifters we had fought off earlier. Guilt, as well as relief, surfaced in my mind. I aided in hurting the poor woman physically, as well as her mate emotionally. But I know I saw Scald’s influence just before I had the chance to give the final blow, and decided not to end her life, but to save it. It was hard. One of the hardest decisions I had to make at such a last second. I hope that they continue to live without situations like these.
After we traveled a little farther up the road, we set up camp and rested, waiting until morning to travel again.
It was a fairly peaceful ride the rest of the way. I could see small houses and large plots of land for farming, and the people inhabiting them had those infamous blue blisters. Even with the blisters, they seemed to have high spirits. It was refreshing to see people with such carefree outlook on life, especially with the times growing darker. Javad, the old man, stopped at an acquaintance of his, and traded some of his barley for some dried pork. He seemed very insistant on sharing some with us, as if he was paying off a large debt. I almost declined out of habit so that I wouldn’t use up any of Javad’s food, but I decided it was best that thankfully accepting someone’s gratitude was good once in a while.
Along the way, Able and Verick decided it was a good idea to pour one of the blue elixers (the Tears of Sylander I think they were called at some point), into a river that traveled through multiple towns in the south to relieve some of the people of the blue blisters. Vyertinn granted permission to use his great eagle, Orion, and they flew off. Adrian, on the other hand, decided it was best to use the time we had to train Tryndamere, his drake nephew, in hunting. I decided to simply stay and watch the cart, as did Vyertinn. Not an hour or so later, Able and Verick returned, conversing on the sights that they saw and the good deed they had done. Soon after, Adrian and Tryndamere came back with a large haul; a bear and an elk. He told us he was following tracks that just happened to be the same male shapeshifter we had encountered last night. The shapeshifter was gathering materials (which happened to be the entrails from the bear Adrian was carrying) for healing the female. It seemed like she was going to be alright, which swept the guilt from my mind of the matter. “Thank Halis…” I muttered to myself.
The hours of the day seemed to pass by slowly, but finally the moment for us to depart arrived. In the distance, there stood a familiar building. It was tall, had stables and a garden outside, and had a dragon made out of red tile on the roof. Almost in unison, Able, Verick and I shouted in excitement over the Dragonroof Inn’s appearance, startling Javad and his wife. My mouth flooded with drool, remembering the taste of the succulent sandwich I had the previous visit. Urges to hop off the cart and sprint to the tavern crossed my mind once or twice but I quelled such thoughts. Patience, afterall, is a virtue.
Outside of the tavern, the old couple shook our hands as they bid us farewell.
“You…” as Javad shakes Verik’s hand, “remind me so much of Lynsyd. She defended us from everything. She is the reason why most of us are still alive. She kept Calisto from dominating the land. She still protects us, even after her fall.” He looks at us all. “I pray that you all don’t fall like she did.”
Gods, I’ll make sure that we don’t.
The rest of us shook hands with Javad (I managed to slip in a few more gold into his hands with my own handshake. He was almost speechless), bid farewell and walked into the tavern.
A most familiar feeling came unto me. The warm and homely feeling. The smell of good food and good drink. The whispers, conversations and cheers. The diversity of people. All of it washed over me like I was home in Malatin. But something was different. It was busier, the conversations had changed, and there were more people from different territories than before. Although it was only small, the overall aura of the tavern was more serious. It wasn’t something to fret over, however. Able, Verik and I were still elated to be back, and to show Adrian and Vyertinn why we had such stupid grins on our faces.
We walked up to the bar to see the bartender, Korg. Adrian, Verik and I ordered the ale and the Korg Sandwichd, while Adrian asked for Draconic Fire Ale and Vyertinn ordered some Elven wine from Fedoria. I immediately started to demolish the sandwich in front of me. It was heaven in my stomach. With my face stuffed with the sandwich I heard a familiar voice coming from behind us.
“I didn’t think I’d be seeing you boys again.” I turned to see the old man from the last time I was here holding a glass, taking frequent sips from it. He was the one who had told us about the murder in Val.
“The name’s Owen by the way.”
Formalities were made, and Owen continued.
“You’re Vyertinn Varfarrion, aren’t you?”
“My reputation precedes me,” Vyertinn responded. “I probably should leave.”
“No no.” Owen turns to us. “You’re all defenders of Malatin after all. And if memory serves, the attempted defenders of Olan Durf of Chunda.”
“A slightly less wanted title in my opinion.” Said Adrian.
Owen chuckled and focused on Adrian, Verik and me. “So did you all find out what happened with the murder with the bald boy I told you about?”
All three of us hesitating in responding. After a couple seconds of uncomfortable silence, I spoke. “Unfortunately…we could not. Mainly because of me…I don’t do well with the cold.” Maybe some humor would ease the disappointment I was expecting out of him.
“And yet you’re in Krato?” said Owen, in his obvious “Are you fuckin’ stupid?” tone of voice.
“I do what I must, and sometimes I have to do crazy things,” I said. Vyertinn and Adrian were obviously lost with what Owen was talking about so Owen gave them a recap of the murder in Val near Fridg.
“So it appears you all ended up west instead of north?” said Owen.
“How do you…know that?” I said.
Out of nowhere, Vyertinn spoke. “Because he’s a wizard?”
Owen chuckled. “So what made you go west?”
“Well we got lost in the blizzard,” I said.
“And I found this,” as Able points to the Mantle of the Mind Wyrm.
Owen seemed unfazed by it. “Well you all survived mostly intact and seem more healthy than when I saw you before.”
“And all it took was dying,” said Able, sarcasticly.
Owen grinned. Then the lines on his face deepened into a more serious complexion. “You all are here because of me. I am Seros.”
Well I didn’t expect for him to just say it out loud like that. I thought he’d make us guess. But that’s fine by me. Whatever makes things progress quickly.
“Since you seem to know everything already,” Adrian said, “why don’t we let you begin.”
“I don’t know everything,” said Seros, “I know what I was involved in. I gave you a test to see how well you could decifer enemies between friends. Investigating a murder of a potential Keeper.”
“I take it we failed,” I said.
“Well you headed west because of a blizzard conjured by the spirit inside him,” he points to Able, “that a priest and a paladin did not recognize and that a priest and a paladin did not get rid of. That was a test to see just how well you all could understand your enemies. But since then you have learned many lessons on discerning friend from foe. Luckily you have returned with one friend that showed many signs he needed to be turned upon. It is fortuitous. So for that, I say you’ve passed my test.”
“Thank you for being generous,” said Able.
“And for your understanding,” said Verick.
“…I still don’t feel good about it,” I mumbled.
Seros took a sip from his glass. “Tell me what you know of me so I know where to start.”
Vyertinn chimmed in. “You were one of the founders of the Wizard’s Councel in Xephos and you aided the Heros.”
“Well we all know how that worked out. They stalled things. Bought us time. Time to try to get people to act on 300 years ago. They called me a crazy old man,” said Seros.
“People tend to not look at things directly in front of their faces especially if they can convince themselves that everything is fine,” said Adrian.
“Exactly,” Seros nodded. “Please, continue. I’ve been listening to people and their rumors of what they think about me. I want to here yours.”
“From what I can tell, you’ve been on a bender for the past 300 years,” said Vyertinn. Good going. Way to insult the one man we need to help us.
Seros showed his glass to Vyertinn. “It’s water.”
“I stand corrected,” said Vyertinn.
“You have to endure this old fool, to get your help,” said a stern Seros. He turns to Adrian. “You know clearly what your blood is responsible for. And it is YOUR blood, that will fix it.”
“So you heard about that?” said Vyertinn, almost eager to possibly hear praise from Seros. He was talking about a ritual he was developing to use Adrian’s blood against Calisto.
Seros snapped his eyes to Vyertinn and with as much grace as a hammer to the head, said, “You’re a fool.” Well damn. Seems like Seros isn’t one to sugar coat things. “You’re ritual will not work because you do not have 150 years to devote yourself to the arcane arts to fabricate it properlly.”
He continued towards the rest of us. “What I will tell you is you have the ingredients to solve this puzzle, as did your ancestors. However, you all are taking a lot more action than they did.” He snaps back to Vyertinn. “Your father was supposed to fix that sword you carry. Your father was suppose to stand up and fight against those damn slavers in Fedoria, but instead chose to grab as many people as he could and leave.”
He looks at Able. “You’re as curious as Kanto the Wise. Kanto the Wise is the Bringer of the Calm.”
“I know this,” said Able. “I also know that Kanto is still alive.”
“Until his spell breaks, yes,” said Seros. “And, uh, I hate to be the one to tell you, but you’re the ones who will have to break the spell, to kill Kanto, because you must.”
The conversation shifted to certain falacies about our enemies that we’ve been told. For one, that Calisto is not a god. He has divine power, which he stole, but he is still not a god. Harrow, the Sentinel of Torture, was a puppet of Vexnill, the Gold Cloak of the Wizards Counsel, before he was a puppet of Calisto. Vexnill was actually the personal instructor of Calisto, and he destroyed the two lost wizardry schools.
He turns to Verik. “You know what you’ve done wrong. You’re mistake was taking on the challange too eager and too inexperienced. As far as your bloodline, you are a decendent of the Butcher, who is the decendent of the current crown of Fedoria, who is responsible for the near extinction the Gnomes. However, your human side, your mother comes from a great line. She was a priestess of Halis. Going back all the way to Keldstein, she was the shieldbearer who defended the city as the walls were torn down. She was the one who stood to defend the statue of Halis and the statue did not fall until she was dead. Halis would not have blessed you with a holy glaive if she did not believe that you couldn’t do great things.”
“So now,” Seros nodded, “Asher. You know what fortitude your father has.”
Memories of my father fighting to defend Malatin played crystal clear within my mind. I grinned when I remembered the hoard of goblins we fought off together, back to back, weaving our blades in perfect unison through the scourge. We were chaos incarnate when we defended our friends, family and home. I was proud to be his son. If only my mother was still alive to see it…
Seros continued. “Your entire bloodline has been like that. You have Halis’ blood in your vains.”
…..I’m sorry, what?
“You are a direct decendent of Halis. She had a son before she became a godess that noone knows about.”
I sat there, dumbfounded. It took me a couple of seconds to finally process it. “They didn’t tell me this,” I said.
Seros responded, “It’s my story to tell, because I delivered that child. So yes, I’ve seen your godess’ vagina.”
Everybody, even I (sorry, Halis) bursted out in laughter. Able chimed in, “So what has Asher, son of Halis the Pure done wrong? That seems to be the theme of the conversation.” I sobered up from the laughter. What exactly HAD I done wrong? I don’t want to know, but I must in order to learn from my mistakes.
“I am discussing the faults of the bloodlines as well as the purity of them. How you all have pieces of the puzzle, so to speak. And each of you have sins in your bloodlines. Out of all the bloodlines, your bloodline, Asher, is the one that has failed the least. Because they gave everything they had, but died in vain. Failure is the sin of your bloodline, and it is the one you must overcome.”
“And that I shall,” I said.
“Good. Able, I will only speak of the greatest sin, since your family tree has many branches. One of your mother’s ancestors is a Keeper who trained Scald. Now out of your whole family tree, I am extremely fond of Kanto, I am very fond of your father, and I am very fond of myself. Kanto is my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson.”
Gods damn, these fuckin’ bombshells. This is almost more that what I can handle.
“Now that I’ve berated all of you…” Seros said, drifting slightly towards the end.
“…Ah, I see,” Adrian chimed in, “You don’t feel the need to say my family sins because we’re all acutely aware of what they are.” Refering to his being the grandson to the one and only Calisto.
Seros nodded. “Now, you’re all here seeking my help, and I am willing to give my help, but probably not in the way you’re expecting. Tell me what things you need to accomplish. I will make a list. I will go around the table and you all will tell me something. Let’s start with you, Verick.”
“First of all, I need to take a pilgrimage to purge the land from these blue blisters.”
“Save my mother. Kill Scald.”
“I need to find out why I was concieved.”
“I have the answer to that.” He then turns to me. “Asher?”
I took longer to answer than the others. After all, I wasn’t given anything by Halis as far as quests go except for the obvious “Kill Calisto, Save the World” sort of thing. In fact, the most personal tasks to me were saving my home three times from goblin invasions. Of course, I don’t mean to say that all the good I’ve done so far is worthless compared to saving my home. It’s actually because I saw what could happen to my home, that I stayed with the group. I wanted to do my part in keeping other villages, towns and cities safe. Safe from the terrors of Calisto and his growing army. I saw my mother murdered right before my eyes, and I’ll be damned if I let another child see the same from their mother or father. And the only way to do so is to stay with these merry band of misfits I call my friends.
“…As…cliche as this sounds, I need to save the world.”
Seros chuckled. “Spoken like a true paladin of Halis.” Another stupid grin appeared on my face.
“Vyertinn, it’s your turn.”
“I need to have this sword reforged.”
“Let’s see,” Seros pondered. “You have a sword to reforge and you have a pilgrimage to make, and I will tell you that this pilgrimage needs to happen before the sword. As for why you were conceived, Adrian, Calisto’s son believed that he would one day need a vessel stronger than the one he currently has. He has been practicing necromancy under Harrow. Now, perhaps a God has given someone here,” nodding towards Able, “the ability to seal your soul within your body so it could not be removed or taken over by someone else. Now there’s a reason why your blood is so sought out, Adrian. Your blood can be used to transfer Calisto from his stuck state into another vessel. That’s the two reasons why you were conceived.”
The conversation continued. An hour and a half later, it ended with Seros snatching hair from Able’s head, tearing the lock of hair in half, throwing it on the ground and saying “Mother is home. But your father is walking into the Temple in Xephos. He seems quite irritated. Would you like to speak to him?”
“Uh, yeah.” Able said, matter-of-factly.
“Go upstairs and look in the tub before you jump in.”
Able hopped off the chair and hurried his way upstairs. While that was happening, Seros told us that the tavern was to leave in the morning for Krix. Then suddenly, Adrian stood up from his chair and bolted upstairs to Able. Wondering what the problem could be, I ran after him. I heard Adrian bellow “STOP!” I turned the corner in time to see Able chuck the spear he had made of Rabid Hate’s bones and sword into the tub. As it fell into the water, the spear turned into the goblin and I saw nothing else. All I could hear was the familiar gnarls of Rabid Hate, an explosion, and then nothing.
I haven’t a clue what happened, but I hope that Able’s father is safe. We went back to the bar.
It was a couple more minutes before the last odd event of the night happened. Although I wasn’t around to listen to the conversation, I had notice Able giving a ring to Seros, to which Seros walked outside to do something with it. Next thing I knew, the entire building tilted slightly, only to be slightly set back into place. Seros walked back in with his beard singed and clothes burned. It must’ve been a doozy because he drank a full cup of ale and said out loud “I’m going to bed.” He then walks upstairs to one of the rooms. Vyertinn followed to keep him safe.
The bartender had a peculiar look on his face. “I haven’t seen him drink in 200 years.”
I looked at my own pint of ale. After tonight, I might need something stronger than this.