By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 8 - Misty Streets
Berdusk, 1371 DR, Eleint, 8th day, early evening
In the twilight, the city lies ahead, through the Woods Gate lights can be seen burning in some houses down the street. The street slopes upward on a hill, on which a proud castle stands. Mist floats at ground level, leaving moist surfaces behind. Though on the other side of Castle Hill, the evening mists rising from the Chionthar have crept this far. The horsemen approaching came down the street in full gallop through the Woods Gate. The lead rider notices the travelers and holds up his hand to signal the others to reign in their horses. The sound of skidding hooves on cobblestones can be heard, as the horses struggle to reduce their speed on the wet street. The lead horseman hails: “Who goes there?”
“Well met! My good folk, might I say those are beautiful vestments?” Pushing himself from his leaning position on Teri he approaches the men a smile on his face. “My name is Telsom Torentshed, a paladin of Lady Firehair.” The man quirks an eyebrow at the comment on his vestments, but relaxes a bit at the name of the Princess of Passion. The horses are lathered and seem to have been galloping at high speed through the city. The horsemen, Berdusk’s guards, are dressed in suits of banded mail under a tabard prominently displaying a silver dragon’s claw. They are armed with longswords, but these are still in their scabbards.
Stopping a short distance away from the speaker Telsom smiles up at the man, “You wouldn’t happen to be chasing down worshipers of Velsharoon would you? If you are, they rode off in that direction.” His last words accentuated by Telsom pointing his hand in the direction in which the riders departed. “I would have gone after them myself, for the stench of evil clung to them, but sharing my steed with the lovely Lady Jalarghar couldn’t hope to keep pace with the villains.”
“Velsharans… hmmm…” Then as if he realizes something important has been said, “…Lady Jalarghar?” The guardsman looks to where he sees the young woman on the ground, another person comforting her. “Lady Jalarghar!” He dismounts quickly and rushes passed Telsom to the young woman. Standing at attention near Ditalidas he addresses her: “Milady. Are you all right? Have you been hurt?” He looks darkly at Druth, then Telsom, before looking back at Ditalidas. When the guardsman looks back to Ditalidas a scowl crosses the paladin’s face. Holding back a retort he gives the lady a chance to set the story straight to the officer.
Still sniffing and tears still falling she looks up at the man that addressed her. “I’m still alive. I wouldn’t have been if it wasn’t for these two gentlemen here.” She looks at Druth and Telsom and gives them both a little smile trough her tears. When she turns to the horseman again she continues: “I think you want to send some men after those villains. They were invisible at first, but reappeared around here somewhere. One of them, a robed man, seemed to know me. I cannot help to think they had something to do with me being attacked.” She looks at the ground. “I would be grateful if you were able to bring them back. I have a lot of questions. I’m sure my father would be grateful too.”
Ditalidas blinks up at the man looking for his reaction. “Oh and if you find a horse running about, that should be my Alana. I really love to have her back.” Somehow she cannot stop her flow of words and goes on, “And there are a bunch of bodies laying further up the road. Somebody turned them into zombies and put them up against me. If you want to do me a favor, please let someone take care of them. But be careful there could still be more of those monsters running about. Bury them all except for a woman…” She swallows and blinks her eyes to fight off the on coming tears, failing miserably. “…With my family’s crest of on her tunic… I’m sure my father wants to see her. And I want to be sure it is her…” After that she falls silent and stares with pain in her eyes into the darkness of the oncoming night.
“Telsom my friend.” Druth says, “It seems our new found friend is a lady in more than one way…” Nodding his head to Druth in agreement Telsom turns his attention to the officer near Ditalidas. “Should you be going after the villains I would like to accompany you should I be permitted? We’ve brought the lady to safety, now it is time to bring justice to the Velsharans. My ability to sense the darkness of their souls might help in tracking them down.”
“That may not be necessary, my friend. I have a feeling we will meet them again, and that will be soon. After all, one of them manifested a clear interest in Ditalidas. I think it would be wiser for us to get her back safely to her father, then to find a good place to eat and rest.” Looking at Ditalidas, Druth adds with a smile: “That is, if Lady Jalarghar agrees with the plan.” Turning back to Telsom, he says: “Of course, if you do intend to chase these villains right away, I will not stop you.”
“Whether or not Lady Jalarghar agrees with the plan.” The officer replies, “I don’t think it is wise to go in pursuit of these villains, they have already a head start, and in this darkness, running the risk of having an accident is higher than the chance to catch these Velsharans.” In the gate tower, a person is leaning out over the parapets, holding a torch. After a quick glance the person disappears again behind the parapets. Shortly after the sound of hobnailed boots can be heard approaching from behind the city wall.
Pulled out of her thoughts by hearing her name Ditalidas looks up at Druth. “The plan? What plan? …Oh right, ehm well I was hoping you would both dine with me. As for a place to sleep, I would have offered you the spare bedrooms of my father’s house, but it’s not my place to invite you there. I will bring up the issue though.”
Druth smiles back at Ditalidas, “Well, it will never be said that I turned down an opportunity to dine with such graceful company.” Then Ditalidas turns to look at Telsom. “I will not with hold you from going on a chase, but I am afraid Druth is right. We haven’t heard the last of them.” Looking into darkness in the direction where the four men disappeared, she continuous: “To be honest, I’m pretty afraid right now and I, and maybe even my family, might need some protection. I hardly dare to ask you this, for we met so shortly.” The expression on her face shows several feelings. Confusion, sadness, pain and fear are fighting for priority.
“So my friend, what will it be, dinner or villains? And I will not take the later as an answer!” Druth looks at Telsom. “I appreciate your offer of help Saer Torentshed.” The officer continues, “It would be wise to start a more thorough investigation though. Certainly if there is a connection to the ambush targeted against Lady Jalarghar and the murder in Memblar’s Minstrelry.”
Telsom can see guards coming from the gate, a rotund sergeant hurries over, and with his left hand holding his helmet in place while the other has to keep his sword from tripping him. Smiling at the large man as he runs, Telsom gives up a silent prayer to Sune that the man not trip over his belly and wound himself. “No need to rush good saer.” He says. “We’re not going anywhere for the next few moments take your time.”
Huffing and puffing the rotund soldier arrives. “Well met saers… milady” He salutes to the officer, “We heard some disturbances saer… and came as quickly as possible. “He looks around uncertainly, “It… it seems though that everything is… is under control…” The officer watches the sergeant with mild amusement. “It’s okay sergeant. You can return to your post.” Turning to Telsom, “Maybe you can travel to Memblar’s. If there is any link between the events it might be wise to have both stories told. I’m certain captain Zaina would be interested.”
“To be honest, I’d rather stay home, but if you think we’re needed there, I don’t mind to look there for a moment. I do wish to go home first though.” She runs a hand trough her hair and blinks down to her clothing. She takes a piece of her destroyed riding suit and keeps it up. “I really need to get cleaned up to. Why don’t we first eat a warm meal and have a quick fresh up. After that we could go to the Memblar’s. I also need to talk to my father. Maybe he can explain some things.”
Slightly upset with himself for not being able to chase down the Velsharans, Telsom nods his head in agreement with the officer’s sound judgment. “Very well Saer, might I have your name so that I can tell the captain you asked us to see her, once we’ve finished at the lady’s home I will voyage there hopefully my two companions will accompany me?” The last he says as he gives each of them a quick look, quickly turning his attention back to the officer he continues. “I appreciate your letting us cooperate to some extent on this matter.”
“Barim Aluar, lieutenant of the City watch.” The officer replies, “I can provide an escort to Memblar’s, I have to pick up one of my sergeants there.”
“A pleasure Lieutenant.” Telsom says, giving the man a short bow. Looking to Ditalidas he smiles at her, his eyes sparkling in the torch light he motions to his horse. “Shall we milady?” Getting up her feet again she smiles back at Telsom quickly. “Yes, please.” She turns to the officer. “Do I sense here that you won’t check out the bodies further up the road?” She looks troubled. “Well if needs be we can check first thing in the morning, though I’m afraid we might find nothing anymore if we wait.” She sighs. “Let’s go, I long for a warm bath and descent clothing.”
“Sorry milady.” Lieutenant Aluar replies, “I’ll make sure a patrol is sent first thing in the morning.” Quickly hopping up onto Teri’s back and getting settled in the saddle Telsom reaches down for Ditalidas’ hand helping her into a position behind him. After a few moments he looks to the Lieutenant again. “Lieutenant would you mind stopping at the Jalarghar household while the lady cleans up? Afterwards I’m sure we can go directly to Memblar’s.
“That would be no problem saer.” Lieutenant Aluar turns around to his men. “Patrol, we’re gonna escort Lady Jalarghar and her friends to the Jalargharspires. I want four men behind, and two at point.” He remounts his horse, and waits for Telsom and Druth to ride, as the other guards are taking up their positions.
As Telsom helps Ditalidas into a seated position behind him he rubs his clean-shaven face up against hers lightly. Taking in her scent he whispers into her ear. “I think you were that petal that simply turned into a beautiful woman after a short voyage on the wind. No… no I’m sure no petal could smell this lovely.” Turning to face the Lieutenant Telsom once again brushes his cheek up against hers.
A soft blush colors her cheek. She laughs softly, for a moment forgetting the misery she’s in. “That’s sweet of you to say but I’m a wrinkled petal right now. I assure you, I’ll look and smell better when I’ve refreshed myself.” She whispers back. Suddenly aware of what is happening and what she’s saying she blushes deeply. She wraps her arms around him, forcing him to turn and look forward again. She holds him tightly and lays her head against his back.
“Please, take me home.” She says in a normal tone of voice, “And don’t leave me alone.” She finishes whispering really softly. “As you wish milady.” Urging Teri forward Telsom follows the guardsmen taking in the sights of the city on their way to the Jalarghar household. As the group moves through the streets Telsom brings his arm to rest on Ditalidas’ crossed arms, taking one hand in hers he holds it against his tight stomach enjoying the company on the ride through the city.
Silently Ditalidas sits behind Telsom. She dares not move, afraid to break the fragile bond that lingers around them. She’s afraid that when she moves the dream-like feeling will go, the light will disappear and darkness will build a cage around her. A shiver runs down her spine when she fully remembers what happened out there near the woods. But this time, feeling save, she’s able to withhold her tears. Talking to his back she asks just loud enough for Telsom to hear, “Did I thank you yet?”
Whispering over his shoulder to Ditalidas, Telsom keeps one eye trained on the road ahead. Removing his hand from hers he brings it up over his shoulder wiping a stray strand of her hair from her beautiful face and brushing the tips of his fingers along her cheekbone ending it on her earlobe where his fingers linger for a moment before retaking their place on her hand. “I should thank you for allowing us to rescue you my dear. I’ll see the villains brought to justice for what they’ve done; you have my word on that. Fret not gentle flower as long as I have breath in my lungs no more harm will come to you.” Throughout Telsom’s speech he maintains his wide smile, although his eyes declare that what he says is the truth.
Again a smile flashes over her face. Not able to read the truth in his eyes, she finds it hard to believe that he means what he said. Nevertheless the words give her a warm feeling that lingers about in her heart. “That’s really sweet of you to say. But I will thank you though. I surely will… As for the Villains, if you want I’ll be at your side while chasing them.” In a soft tone, not meant to be heard by anyone she continuous grimly to herself: “If not, I’ll have to do some chasing of my own.”
“Milady, you and your valiant canine companion would sure be of great assistance in the quest to track down the Velsharans, but I will fear for your well-being. Will you promise to stay close to me so that I can protect you?” “I promise.” Ditalidas answers plainly.
As the patrol turn onto Castle Hill Lane and the Jalargharspires comes in view, Ditalidas shifts a bit to be able to point out to the house. “That house over there, the big one on the corner, I live over there.” For a moment she sighs deeply. “I do hope you won’t have to meet my stepmother.” She blinks up to Telsom’s angelic features. “Well, maybe she won’t be too bad this time.” As they approach the house, the look on Ditalidas face gets concerned. “I have no idea how I should tell daddy about what happened today.”
As they reach the house, she dismounts quickly, waiting for the others to dismount as well. Behind her the door swings open and out the beam of light that falls out of the open doorway a man steps quickly forward. “Ah Uhlmyn, could you please take these horses and take care of them?” A smile flashes over her face as she turns to Telsom and Druth. “Please gentlemen, will you follow me? I’ll show you a place to rest for a moment and maybe, if Agey has something left in the kitchen a quick meal.” She winks at Druth and after that tosses a glance at Telsom, “That is, if Telsom doesn’t mind to eat while I get cleaned up.” She turns and walks into the house, expecting everybody to follow her. In the hallway stands a half-elf female.
“Soldier, you ride on to Memblar’s and inform Captain Zaina that we’ll be arriving shortly. These good folk might have something to add to her investigation.” Lieutenant Aluar commands one of his men. As the soldier remounts and heads south, the lieutenant then turns to the others; “You will follow Goodman Uhlmyn to take care of the horses, but keep them saddled in case we need to ride at a moments notice.” He then motions Telsom and Druth to precede him entering ‘The Jalargharspires’.
Dusting off his armor before entering the household, Telsom steps through the doorway and smiles at the half-elven woman. “Any food offered would be greatly appreciated milady, but is not necessary. I’ve day’s worth of trail food still on my steed and so need not deplete the household’s stores. As for your father… should you require help in telling him of the things which have transpired, allow good Druth and I to help you.” Winking at Ditalidas, Telsom moves to the side upon entering the building allowing the others to enter if they so choose.
“Oh my dear… Milady what have you done, what happened?” Suha covers her mouth with her hand a shocked expression on her face as she sees the state Ditalidas is in. She rushes up to her, “Milady, let me help you. Milord shouldn’t see you like this… I’ll have these clothes repaired, but first we’ll get you a bath to clean up and then a set of new clothes…” Suha practically drags Ditalidas away into the house. While dragged along Ditalidas glances over her shoulder and tosses Druth and Telsom an expression of disgust. “I’ll be back shortly. I’ll try to keep her out of nursing me to much!” Ruha stops only for a moment to clap her hands, “Ruldan please take care of our visitors. And have Agey fix something to eat.” Then she continues ushering Ditalidas to a bath.
Watching the women depart Telsom stands there brushing a hand absentmindedly through his hair ruffling it, miraculously however if falls right back to perfect form. Ruldan, a very dignified looking servant comes over to the three men standing in the grand hall, “Gentlesirs, if you would please follow me, I’ll show you to a room where you can refresh yourselves. I will be getting you something to eat and drink as well.” Ruldan leads the three men through the exquisitely decorated grand hall; several suits of armor are on display as well as some fine weapons and hunting trophies. The red and white marble floor is covered in a beautiful Calishite carpet. A balcony runs along the hall at the first floor, and a huge chandelier hangs from the ceiling.
Ruldan leads the men through a side corridor, to a small dining room. A round mahogany table dominates the room, eight plush covered chairs around it. A silver twelve armed candelabra on the table provides the light in the room. “Gentlesirs, for refreshing there is a room across the corridor.” Ruldan gestures to a door at the other side of the corridor opposite the small dining room, “There is both hot, and cold water available. And some scented towels… if you will excuse me for a moment, I will get the gentlesirs something to drink. A simple, yet nourishing meal will be served in a few moments.” Leaving the men to refresh and seat themselves, Ruldan leaves the room.
Nodding his thanks to the manservant as he departs Telsom walks into the other room to cleanse himself. Removing his leather armor Telsom quickly washes the sweat and dust of the road from his body, drying off with a scented towel he prims his hair in the mirror and then begins working on his armor. Taking a wet cloth he pays careful attention to the symbol of Sune on each of his shoulder pads.
Content after a few moments with the work he has done he dons the armor once again, prims his hair one final time and goes back out into the dining room, seating himself in one of the luxuriously cushioned chairs. A shudder goes through his frame, as his frame seems to collapse in on itself. Sighing contentedly he closes his eyes muttering something about this remind him of his home in Silverymoon. Waiting for the manservant to return Telsom reaches out with his senses. Relaxing in his chair Telsom prays silently to Sune, thanking the Lady Firehair for the abilities she has granted him throughout the day and for loving him, to some of the degree that he loves her. Reaching out with his senses Telsom maintains a vigil against evil. The way Ditalidas spoke of both her father, and stepmother he will be cautious of the two. He thinks there is definitely something shady going on in the household but will not let onto it, and will be polite to a fault.
As he returns to the room, Ruldan puts a tray with several decanters and crystal goblets on the table. He places the crystal goblets on the table. Each decorated with fine silver inlays. “Gentlesirs, there is chilled Mulhorandi wine, Berduskan dark, Arrabellan dry, and a less well known but excellent Tethyrian Highland wine.” Ruldan points out each of the wines on the tray. Looking at Telsom he asks, “Saer, what would you like?”
“Berduskan please.” Telsom answers the man with a polite smile. “And you saer?” looking at Lieutenant Aluar. “A glass of Berduskan Dark please.” The lieutenant replies. “The same for me please.” Druth says as Ruldan turns toward him. Ruldan pours each a glass of wine. “Lady Jalarghar will be down shortly. If the gentlesirs will excuse me, I will check to see if your meals are ready.” And he leaves the room.
“Saer Torentshed, what brings you here to our fair city?” Lieutenant Aluar asks, raising his glass to his lips. “To your health gentlemen.” He toasts and he takes a sip. Taking a sip of his wine after raising his glass to Lieutenant Aluar, Telsom salutes the man, “To your health.” Telsom returns the goblet to the table. “Being a chosen of Sune, I’m charged with tracking down objects of beauty, and if possible bringing them to her temples. I believe both Druth and I followed the same phenomenon leading us to the Lady Jalarghar. A beautiful rose would bloom each day, wilting as I approached it, indeed it was sad to see, but each time it wilted a single petal would remain floating on the breeze seemingly dragging me on towards whatever Sune would have me find and protect. Luckily the petal brought us to Ditalidas, as she was overrun by the undead. The poor girl’s mother was amongst their number, I’m afraid the vision of the attack will come back to haunt her sleep for some time to come. I believe that Sune led me on that path to protect Ditalidas in her time of need, there are not many more blemishes worse on beauty than the corrupting blight of the undead.” Taking his goblet once more in hand Telsom takes another small sip, holding the goblet while waiting for his meal.
“Oh please Suha, stop dragging me around. I will follow. As for what happened, that’s quite a long story. I wish I could take that bath, but I’m afraid a quick fresh up will have to do. I have to go out shortly after I’m cleaned up again.” Suha releases Ditalidas as soon as the two have disappeared into the Jalargharspires interior. “No milady, I insist that you take a bath before joining those gentlemen downstairs again.” Suha looks sternly at you, “And I broke no resistance from you in this young lady.”
As Suha releases her Ditalidas continuous with a quick sad smile. “Thank you.” She sighs deeply. “I’ll tell you what happened as soon as I feel a bit cleaned up okay? It would even be better if daddy were here to, than I could tell the story just once. I don’t even know if I can do it a second time.” Ditalidas sighs again, thinking about Memblar’s Minstrelry where she’ll have to do the story again. For one moment she wants to stay home and just go to bed for a deep dreamless sleep. But she pulls herself together and hopes she’ll see it trough all right.
Walking upstairs to Ditalidas’ private quarters, Vidya bounding enthusiastically up the stairs, Suha says “I will get milord, but not until after you have taken your bath and are presentable again.” Suha looks you up and down again, “Young lady I do not know what you have done, but you look like you been into the bowels of Darkhold. Just look at your dress. And your hair.” A disapproving look is clearly visible on the maid’s face.
She tosses Suha an injured look. “It is not if I did it on purpose. I’m not a little girl anymore that gets her dress messed up playing outside.” While tears almost start to fill her eyes again she continuous: “I was attacked…” She shivers at the memory she kept as far away as possible since retruning to the city. “…By a bunch of zombies.” With tears now really rolling down her cheeks she looks at Suha, in her eyes an expression of fear and helplessness.
“What…? And you’re only telling me now? Oh you poor girl.” Suha wraps her arm around Ditalidas to comfort her, “Come, we are gonna get you a bath. No doubt! We’ll wash away that stain of evilness.” Ditalidas and Suha walk on, Suha looking very concerned, comforting the crying girl as much as possible. Entering Ditalidas’ room, Suha picks up a large towel from a shelf, and offers it to Ditalidas, “Here girl, take off your clothes, I will fill the bath with hot and scented water.”
In silence Ditalidas gets undressed. Just an occasional sniffing sound comes from her as she checks out the condition of her body. Seeing no injuries or scratches at all, she smiles a little smile as she remembers Telsom’s kiss on her forehead.
Suha hurries to the small private bathroom next to Ditalidas’ room. She opens up one of the valves over the sink, and hot water pours out of the faucet, into a large wooden bucket. Placing the next bucket under the faucet, Suha hauls the first full bucket to the copper bathtub in the young woman’s bedroom, and pours it in. She repeats the process several times until she has filled the bath to her satisfaction. Walking over to the dressing table, she chooses on of the crystal bottles with scented oil, and pours a few drops into the bathwater. Immediately a smell of roses fills the room. “There Dita, a nice hot bath, I’ll help you scrub. And don’t worry about that dress, if I can’t fix it, we’ll have a new one made by one of Lady Angruatil’s seamstresses.”
Stepping in to the bath she slowly lowers herself in the hot water. When sitting she relaxes, closes her eyes and sighs deeply. As Suha starts scrubbing Ditalidas lays her hand across Suha’s, “Thank you Suha. I needed this.” Releasing Suha’s hand again she enjoys the bath and relaxes for a moment.” The two men downstairs saved my life. If it weren’t for them… I don’t think I would have survived. The third is the lieutenant of the City watch.” She frowns “I forgot his name, He did mention it though. Anyway he thinks that what happened to me might connect to something that happened in Memblar’s. That’s why I have to go out again tonight.” She sighs again deeply. “Well I guess there’s no way to escape that.” For a while she holds silent, letting Suha do the talking or listening to the sounds that disturb the silence. When it’s silent for a while she looks up at Suha. “Suha? I don’t know if I can ask you this but, what do you know about my mother?”
“Your mother?” A look of surprise crosses Suha’s face, though that’s not visible for Ditalidas. “She was a fine woman, and a nice mistress of he house. Not at all like most other first folk. She had more of a free spirit in her.” She gives Ditalidas a reassuring pat on her shoulders. “You are a lot like her you know. That free spirit, that urge for freedom. Yeah you two have much in common. Imagine what it should have been for your father, if he had to cope with two such free spirits.” Suha can’t suppress a giggle at that thought. “She was a great woman.”
Ditalidas closes her eyes and with a little smile she imagines the woman on the painting, walking alive in the fields. Her smile fades as the living woman makes place for the undead woman in her brief fantasy. “What happened to her?” She asks softly. “As she did very often, she now and then would travel toward Iriaebor or Scornubel to visit friends, staying away for a couple of days. One or two of our guards would accompany her or one of her friends here in Berdusk.” Suha stops massaging your shoulders as she remembers back into time. “In the Year of the Bow, she went out again. It was only her second trip since you were born. She went out early in the morning, saying that one of her friends was waiting for her at the Vale Gate. She had her horse saddled, and went away never to be seen again.”
A chill runs down Suha’s spine. “The guards at the Vale Gate and some of the farmers say that they have seen a single rider huddled in a cloak galloping toward Asbravn on the Uldoon Trail. The description of the cloak seemed to match with the cloak Lady Tiahna was wearing that day. The only other traces were the remains of a horse, your mother’s, found by a ranger a few miles of the Uldoon Trail. The brand on the horse indicating that it belonged to Lord Jalarghar.”
For a moment Ditalidas let’s the information sink in. She blinks up to Suha. “I didn’t know that.” A frown wrinkles her forehead. “So anything could have happened to her.” Slowly she rises from the bath water. “Thank you Suha” she says, giving the woman a grateful smile. “I wish I could bathe some longer, but guest are awaiting me downstairs. If daddy is home I really like to talk to him for a moment to. I believe he needs to hear what happened to me today.” Picking up the towel, she starts to rub herself off. When done, she wraps herself in the towel taking a second to wrap her hair in. “I was thinking about the silk black dress for tonight.”
Trying to get the conversation to a lighter tone, Suha remarks on the fine smell of the bath perfume. “What a wonderful smell do Tiahna’s roses have, I never can get enough of them. I would suggest wearing one in your hair with that dress. It very much becomes you.” Suha walks over to the clothes cabinet and pulls out the dress Ditalidas indicated. “As for your father, I will see if I can bring Lord Ashwin up to your room.” She hangs the dress ready for Ditalidas to wear, and walks from the room.
Ditalidas hurries into her dress. She walks up to the mirror and starts to brush her hair, while she thoughtful examines her face. She notices the sad shine in here eyes and the small blushes that cover her cheeks. Her thoughts shift to the happenings of today. The brush is forgotten and she doesn’t see the mirror anymore while she remembers the little things Telsom had said and done. As the door behind her opens again, she blinks up in the mirror and sees that her blushes have deepened. She swirls about to see who entered, afraid to see her father, who she has to tell a difficult tale.
It is indeed Lord Ashwin that enters the room, a worried frown creasing his face. “Are you doing fine my daughter?” He says as he walks over to the mirror and Ditalidas. Seeing no outward signs of something wrong, he puts his hands on her shoulders and looks her in the eyes, “You look fine as ever to mine eyes, my precious…” The look in his eyes indicating that he senses something amiss.
She looks up into her father eyes, her own eyes drowned with tears. “I had the most awful experience today…” Ditalidas hesitates for a moment before she continues. Her gaze drops to the ground, and her hands are nervously playing with a hem of her dress. “I was riding that trail that runs parallel to the reaching woods. Vidya was running ahead, but stopped and started to growl.” She swallows for a moment. “There was an undead woman coming out of the woods… more undead were behind her. The woman… she… she called me daughter.” Her gaze blinks up to her father crying out for forgiveness for what she has to tell him. Tears flowing freely down her face again.
Lord Ashwin’s face goes pale, and his eyes get a hard look. The veins in his temples pulse with controlled anger; “What…?” And he pulls Ditalidas close to him, giving the girl a comforting hug. Ditalidas wraps her arms around him. “Daddy, she wore a tunic with our families crest on it! It wasn’t mom was it? Please tell me it wasn’t mom.” She cries uncontrollable now. “Hush, hush my dear… no, it wasn’t mommy, it wasn’t mommy.” Lord Ashwin hugs his daughter tightly, a cold look of anger entering his eyes. “Someone’s going to pay for that.” He mutters softly through clenched teeth, not intending Ditalidas to hear the words.
Slowly, as her father’s words sink in, her crying softens. “The zombies attacked me. A strange power came over me and some of them dropped and didn’t move again. There were too much of them though and from the woods there were more approaching. If it weren’t for the good men downstairs, I wouldn’t have been here to tell you this. They saved my life. I’m sorry; I was convinced that it was mommy. I still doubt it wasn’t her. We were not able to take her with us. The officer of the city guards, who is also downstairs, promised to take a look first thing in the morning, but I’m afraid he’ll find nothing there anymore…”
Carefully she loosens her grip on her father and makes a little room, just enough to look up at him with a worried expression on her face. “Something happened at Memblar’s. The guards were in pursuit of some villains who escaped the city. We saw the villains leave the city and one of them seemed to recognize me. In their hurry they dropped a symbol of Velsharoon. You wouldn’t have trouble with the Velsharans would you? They didn’t do this to me to get to you did they?”
“The Velsharans? Not that I’m aware of my dear.” Lord Ashwin replies gravely, a worried frown still creasing his brow. “And using Tiahna’s likeliness on an undead, that’s a very grave insult to our House. Though in this viper’s nest of first folk, one never knows. House Jalarghar has stood strong, and will continue to stand strong. If anyone attacks us through whatever means, I will make sure that we will retaliate in an appropriate way.” Ditalidas can feel her father’s hands clenching into fists. “I will have a discussion on the morrow with Captain Zaina, and make sure she puts someone on the case to investigate this matter.” Lord Ashwin falls silent for a moment as he ponders on the issue, “I will also have to talk to Brimmerbold. Maybe his priests can help, especially if Velsharans are involved…”
Ditalidas nods at her dad’s propositions. “I’ll have to go to Memblar’s in a few moments. The Lieutenant wants me to talk to captain Zaina. There might be a connection between what happened to me and what happened there.” She looks at her father, her love for him shining in her eyes. She wraps her arm around him and gives him a hug. “I love you daddy.” After that she takes half a step back. “I’m afraid we don’t have much time to talk right now. Can you and I discuss matters with each other soon? I also hope you want to tell me once, what exactly happened to mom. I don’t know why you didn’t tell me before, but I believe it’s now time for me to know. “The expression on her face shows how difficult she finds it to ask him that.
A pained look shows on Lord Ashwin’s face at the words of his daughter, and moisture gathers in the corners of his eyes. “Yes, we will have to sit together, and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. But I did it for your own good.” Ditalidas has never seen her father like this before, he seems so vulnerable at the moment unlike the loving – yet stern man she knows.
The sound of someone discreetly coughing distracts Ditalidas and, she sees her stepmother standing in the doorway. Lady Riqua throws her stepdaughter an icy look. “Milord Ashwin, shall we leave for the party the Lothkarrs are throwing? They want to bring up the Highharvestide festival activities. And we can’t afford not to be seen during that ‘boring’ party.” Lady Riqua makes it sound as if the party is both, a must to go to, and yet very disinteresting as well.
Lord Ashwin, oblivious to Lady Riqua’s stare, gives Ditalidas a kiss on her forehead. “We will talk later Dita, I promise.” “Ehm… Dad? One last question, do you mind if I offer our guests downstairs a place sleep? They could use the spare bedrooms…” “Of course my dear.” Lord Ashwin smiles, “Just have Suha prepare the rooms.” Hugging her once more, Lord Ashwin leaves the room, offering his wife gently his arm; they both walk away to their private quarters, leaving Ditalidas alone in her room.
“To your health Lieutenant.” Druth raises his goblet in salute to the other two gentlemen, “I believe it must have been the divine which has sent us here, for I had followed a trail of roses as well before I met Saer Torentshed. These roses followed a peculiar time stream. They grew before my eyes from a seedling to a full blooming rose in mere seconds, then wilting before my eyes. And just as Saer Torentshed told, only one single perfect petal remained. The drifting petals led us to each other and then onward to Lady Jalarghar.”
“A peculiar tale indeed. And you said that one of the undead was Lady Jalarghar’s mother? This bodes no good for the Jalarghar household.” Lieutenant Aluar’s frowns as he ponders on the matter, “I will have my men check the site of the ambush first thing on the morrow. It might be wise to send one of the priests of the Crystal Mansion along. The priests of Kelemvor seek to return all undead to their rightful peace, and will be upset to hear of this blasphemy against their tenets.”
Ruldan enters the room again, this time pushing a small trolley with four bowls of soup. A delicious smell fills the room, and mouths start to water. Ruldan places the bowl on the table, “Gentlesirs, a hot and spicy soup to warm the bones, and to still the stomach.” He then proceeds to stand behind the fourth chair.
A delicious smell of roses enters the room, mingling subtly with the spicy smell of the soup. Seconds after followed by a refreshed Lady Jalarghar “Milady…” Ruldan holds the chair ready for Ditalidas so she can join the others at the table. As Ditalidas enters the room Telsom immediately pushes back his chair and stands up. “I hope you feel better now milady.” He says smiling approvingly at the way she looks cleaned up.
Walking into the room she smiles as Telsom rises from his chair. She’s dressed in a beautiful silken black dress that seems to accent every curve positively in her slender figure. Her long dark hair falls as a waterfall over her shoulders with a beautiful red rose in it. Her skin shines with a little blush of health, but it could also be the left over warmth of a hot bath. The only thing left to remind about the events earlier this evening is the pain that still lingers in her eyes.
She makes a small curtsey to her guests. “Gentlemen.” She greets before she answers Telsom’s question. “Thank you for asking. I feel refreshed and even a little better.” With a natural grace, she seems to float across the floor; she walks up to the table and accepts the seat Ruldan offers her. “Thank you Ruldan.” When seated she looks to the men around the table. “I hope you feel comfortable. If there’s anything you need, please let me know. What were you talking about? Did I interrupt something?”
“You look splendid milady, I hope the events of today will not linger long to haunt you.” Raising his glass to Ditalidas and the others, “Cheers to the young rose of Berdusk!” “Indeed, a rose and a beautiful one at that. Milady, the roses on fabled Evermeet pale in comparison to you.” Druth also raises his glass, “Too your health milady.” “Hah, no offense my friend, but I think our lady here could make a Nymph envious.” Lieutenant Aluar says, looking at Druth, a playful smile on his face as he raises his glass once more. Without taking his eyes off Ditalidas, Druth says, “Indeed, my friend, indeed…” Realizing he is staring, he looks back at the lieutenant and adds, “But I would never say that to the nymph’s face!”
When Ruldan offers her something to eat, she wrinkles her nose. “Oh no, thank you very much, but I don’t want to even think about food just now. Maybe I’ll be more in the mood for something to eat when I return from Memblar’s. But to be honest I doubt it.” She gives the dignified looking man a warm smile with a somewhat apologizing look before she turns her attention back to the table again. “As you wish milady.” Ruldan removes Ditalidas’ bowl of soup from the table, in a fluid and graceful move, and retreats from the room. All the attention and compliments make Ditalidas blush.
Telsom continues to gaze at Ditalidas fondly as the others offer up praise. The look in Telsom’s eyes says he will not spout poetry at the moment for it is not necessary. Once Ditalidas has seated herself he retakes his own chair, looking to the soup for a moment and then back to Ditalidas. “Would milady find it impolite for us to eat in front of her, where she herself has declined the food?” He asks her genuine concern over insulting their guest in his voice.”
“No no of course not… Please enjoy the soup.” Ditalidas replies courteously. Since Ditalidas has already refused the meal, Druth sees no problem in it and proceeds to eat it heartily. “It’s good to have some proper warm food once in a while. You know, I’ve been traveling for a long while, and even though I’m a decent cook myself, there’s only so much you can do with improvised camping facilities. But this soup is simply great!”
“I’m glad you like it. Agey is a great cook, she makes the most delicious meals, and her soups are almost famous.” Turning to Telsom she continues, “I will make sure she’ll get the compliment.” Smiling at her Telsom, winks. “Thank you fair one.” Looking to Druth and the Lieutenant he continues. “Shall we be off?”
“If everyone has finished eating, I’ll make sure the horses are ready.” When everybody has finished she gets up and walks to the door. She pulls at the cord that hangs down besides the door. The sound of a bell can be heard. She turns around to face her guests again. “Somebody will be here shortly.” When the servant comes in she asks: “We are about to leave. Would you please see to it that the horses are kept ready? And I think I will need my cloak.”
Soon thereafter Ruldan returns with a warm cloak in his hands. “Here you are milady, it’s going to be a chilly night.” And he hands her the cloak. Ruldan lets everyone exit the room; he then proceeds to walk them to the front door. “Milady, gentlesirs, your horses are ready and saddled.” And indeed outside four horses are waiting, along with the rest of the patrol.
Lieutenant Aluar mounts his horse and commands his men, “Patrol, make ready to escort the lady and gentlemen to the harbor.” Telsom moves to Ditalidas’ horse and assists her up into the saddle, after he walks over to his own steed pulling himself up and guiding Teri over to Ditalidas. Nodding to the Lieutenant Telsom signals that he is ready to proceed.
Telsom moves to Ditalidas’ horse and assists her up into the saddle. “Pretty words would not do you justice Dita. Were I to compare you to a thousand stars twinkling merrily upon a placid lagoon, their reflection making you think you were among them, it would not be fair to you.” Running the back of his hand along the side of Ditalidas’ leg gently he turns and moves to his steed.
A blush appears on her cheeks. Not able to think of anything to say she stares at him. She follows him with her eyes while he mounts his horse and doesn’t look away until they start to ride and she has to divide her attention. And even after that, she can’t help looking at him from the corners of her eyes several times. Ditalidas allows Telsom to help her into the saddle. She watches him mounting his horse before she turns her attention to her own horse and rides besides him towards Memblar’s.
Reining his horse in close to that of Ditalidas, Telsom gives her a small smile. “I’m sorry if I have embarrassed you milady. That was not my intent. I’ve only just met you but already I see that you are much more than meets the eye. Of noble birth, that is evident but unimportant in the grander scheme of things. Oh but if my father could hear me say that…” Chuckling Telsom looks away for a moment and then looks back to Ditalidas. “My father has never and will never approve of my lifestyle. Back to the topic though, for certain you are beautiful milady, but there is much, much more to you than just that, the gleam of your perfect eyes says that, the raging emotions you must be feeling today… I… I’m sorry.” Reining his horse away Telsom continues on in silence unless spoken to.”
Laughing softly, she reins her horse next to his again. “You didn’t embarrass me good saer and I must say I can appreciate that you look further than meets the eye.” She throws Telsom a wink and a warm smile. “Though you indeed confuse me, you also warm me up inside.” The latter is said in a soft tone. Blushing again she turns away and concentrates at the road before her. She dares not look at him and meet his eyes, afraid for what she might find in there. Her attention is drawn to the men at the barges. She lays her hand on Telsom’s arm. “Look, there are people sitting over there.” suddenly uncomfortable she looks around into the darkness. She shivers but quickly shakes off the feeling again. She laughs quietly. “I’ve never been on the docks before at this time of the day.” She keeps her hand at Telsom’s arm and keeps her horse close to his.
Lieutenant Aluar has his patrol ride down Castle Hill lane onto the Minstrelride, past the Roseportal House and the Ready House of the Right Strong Hand down toward the harbor. When the group gets closer to the harbor, the sounds of the evening drift through the evening mists. The lieutenant turns right and heads for the Handspan Bridge. In the lantern light shining across the harbor, a group of people can be seen on one of two barges moored at the quay.
Telsom continues to follow the riders, his attention torn between the woman at his side and the road ahead. Looking down to her arm on his Telsom smiles at the sight. Turning his attention to the docks he concentrates hard for a moment. “Humph… the docks as usually carry the stench of evil, albeit nothing noteworthy. Please stay close to the Lieutenant, Druth or myself while we are here. It is probably nothing to be afraid of but it’s something to avoid nonetheless.”
Spurring his horse so as to catch up Telsom and Ditalidas, Druth looks at Dita, smiles and says: “Pardon my insolence, milady, but I have to agree with my friend’s feelings”, he turns to Telsom and keeps speaking with a smile, “and even if I am not as well gifted with the art of the word as he is, you are indeed a very beautiful sight” he finally says while turning back to Ditalidas. “And I must add, you do have a wonderful taste for clothing and jewelry.”
He gets closer to Ditalidas, and slightly touches her hair, next to the spot where a flower adorns her head. Smiling at her, he adds in a lower tone, but loud enough so that Telsom can hear. “That rose you are wearing is very beautiful, although it pales in comparison to yourself.” He turns then to Telsom: “You may want to have a closer look at that flower, my friend, for I’m sure you’ll find yet another ‘revelation’ of your goddess, though I may not agree with you – not everything is the work of gods and goddesses, after all.”
Telsom first turns to Druth a curious look on his face, looking to Ditalidas his mouth drops open. “How could I have missed that?” He mutters, his mouth closing, a perplexed look crosses his face as he continues to stare at the flower before moving his horse apart from Ditalidas’, not willing to get into a competition for her affection.
Slightly amused by the look on Telsom’s face, Druth says: “Indeed, it’s the same flower. It seems the path we have chosen will be full of surprises, and this just one of them… The same flower, or the same type my friend?” Wetting his lips while staring at the flower he goes on, “Milady where did you get that flower? Was it from your father’s gardens? …That is a mere detail, but…” Druth looks back at Ditalidas and adds: “The fact is that we found our mysterious rose at last.” He then stops, as if his thoughts were far away. “Yet I am curious about the origin of this particular rose. Perhaps you could enlighten, us, milady?”
A bit surprised and unsure of what to think about the attention for the rose in her hair Ditalidas blinks from Telsom to Druth and back again. “The flower? Ehm… Suha got it for me. My mother used to favor these roses and yes, it’s from my father’s gardens.” A questioning look flashes over her face. “What’s wrong about this rose?”
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